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  • Writer's picturePatricia Faust

Success in Reaching Your Goals - Through Neuroscience

The start of the New Year 2020!! This number seems somewhat surreal to me. When I was in grad school, I learned that there was a big study started about women’s health, that would end in 2020. It seemed like that was eons in the future. Now the study is complete! That raises questions about my goal setting practices at the beginning of each new year. Do I have a big accomplishment as the result of fulfilling the goals I set for myself? Truth? – uh No. So, my attention came around to the Neuroscience of Goal – Setting. Why do I have such difficulty when I follow the ‘steps’ in setting and making my goals? I have found that when I go to the core of a question – (the brain) – to find an answer I have an aha moment. And true to form, I learned a lot about what I did right and what I did wrong in my goal-setting practices. Now I would like to share that with you.

Understanding Your RAS

What is your RAS? It is the Reticular Activating System and it functions as the sorting center of your brain. Your RAS filters out non-essential messages and provides you with the information that is most important to you at the time.

Here is how it works:

Your RAS is a collection of cells at the base of your brainstem. All signals coming into the brain pass through the RAS. Each of the five senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell) gather information and send it to the brain for processing. Your brain literally receives thousands of pieces of information every second. That is way too much for you to take in at one time. This is where your RAS comes into play. It processes all of the information that the senses create and prioritizes the things that need your immediate attention. Have you ever noticed that when you decide to do something you begin to see signs of it everywhere? This happens to me all the time. When I choose a topic to write about, I start to see all kinds of articles pop up about that topic. I thought it was just me (haha) and that I had some sort of energy attracting these articles. As it turns out – it is my RAS in action. There were no more articles or studies than usual on my topic but now my RAS classifies this information as ‘important information’. Prior to me being interested in a topic my RAS would have filtered them out, classing them as ‘unimportant information’.

How Your RAS Helps in Goal Setting

There are two ways your RAS benefits your goal setting.

1. The written word

The act of putting your pen to paper engages many of the senses. The feel of the pen in your hand stimulates your touch. Seeing the words appear before your eyes engages your sight. The scent of the ink, the sound of the pen when you write the paper, and the auditory experience of saying the words in your head as you write them. Engaging your senses in this way puts your RAS on high alert that this is ‘important information’. Your RAS then filters all of this information related to your goals through to you.

2. Imagination

Your mind cannot distinguish between reality and something that is vividly imagined. It only believes the messages it receives. That makes mastering the Art of Visualization such an important part of success in goal setting. To do this, you will need to have a clear visual in your mind of how you will feel, where you will be, and what it will look like when you have achieved your goal. Then, repeatedly visualize the same situation in your mind at least once a day.

Put your passion and energy into the visualization, really feel it, and if you do, your mind will begin to accept this visual as normal and achievable.

How Your RAS Gets Your Mind in Focus

When you get your RAS onboard with your goal setting, suddenly you will be focused on achieving those goals. Your RAS will recognize all the goal related things you had previously missed before and reclassify them as important information and bring them to your attention automatically.

Now there is a caveat with this process. Remember, your mind cannot distinguish between reality and a vivid visual. If you allow negative thoughts and self-doubt to invade, then it can make your positive visualizations less powerful. If you start to doubt yourself and believe that you can’t succeed, your RAS will stop filtering the messages you need to succeed. Counteract the potential for any negativity by ensuring that your goal is well thought out and planned.

“Your RAS is a powerful resource you it comes to achieving your goals. Use it to your advantage by fully immersing yourself in your goals. Be passionate and positive when it comes to visualizing your dream life. Truly believe it and it will happen.” (


The Neuroscience Behind Goal Setting: Understanding Your RAS

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