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Positive thinking – Is it enough to make your dreams come true?

 Positive thinking

Many books and articles you read tell you about the power of positive thinking.  You could fill a small town library with the self-help books whose subscribe to this simple idea.  The idea is also all the rage among research psychologists everywhere.

The world loves an optimist and optimism comes pretty naturally to most of us.  There is more than one way to think positively about your goal.  Let’s say that you have a goal of losing weight

               You could say to yourself:  “I have the ability to lose weight, and I am confident I can reach my goal.”  You could think positively about your chances of success.

               You could say to yourself: “I will easily be able to avoid temptations like doughnuts and potato chips, and have no problems sticking to my new exercise regimen.”  In other words, you could think positively about easily overcoming obstacles to success.

Both statements are positive.  Can you hear the difference in the statements?  No? 

One is focused on success – having the ability to lose weight and the confidence to reach your goal.  Is that enough to make it happen?  Maybe.

The other is positive and focused on overcoming obstacles.  It includes the thoughts (negative) of what the person will have to endure to reach their goal.  Is that important?

Absolutely!  If you are not clear that goal setting includes the knowing your will run into obstacles and what those obstacles are for you, you may never reach your intended goal. 

Yes, I am saying that the negative thinking has a place in you reaching your goal.  A bigger part than you may think.  You see having success is about having the self-belief that you will eventually succeed, but also the confidence that you will have a tough time getting there. 

Is believing the road will be rocky important to achieving your goal?  For starters, negative emotions like anxiety and worry are useful, although they are seen as negative.  Those negative thoughts can motivate us to take extra effort or to plan how we will deal with problems before they occur. 

Why?  In recent studies, the participants have proven people put in more effort if they feel the goal will be hard to achieve.  They take more action to achieve the goal.  In other areas of life like getting a job after college for instance, if a person feels that it will be easy to get a job after college, they send out fewer resumes.  If a person feels that the exam will be a piece of cake, they studied far less than others in the class. 

So, what is the best way to set goals so that you will reach them?  The optimal strategy to use when setting a goal seems to be to think positively about how it will be when you achieve your goal, while thinking realistically about what it will take to get there.  It is called mental contrasting –first you imagine attaining your goal, then you reflect on the obstacles that stand in your way.

Mental contrasting only helps you commit to achieving a goal if the goal is something you really believe you can achieve.    If you don’t believe you will achieve the goal, mental contrasting will help you abandon an unattainable daydream.  You may go through a grief period as it is not easy to give up your idea.

Considering both what you want and what stands in your way will give you the clarity to make good decisions.  When the chances for success are high, it will increase your commitment to your goal.  When your chances are not so good, it will help you recognize that fact and move on.

Here are the steps using Mental Contrasting

  1.  Write down a wish or concern you currently have.  Something like taking a vacation to the Caribbean or moving to Hollywood to become an actor, or losing ten pounds.
  2. Think about what a happy ending would look like for your wish.  Write down one positive aspect of this happy ending (for example: how great it would be to have a fabulous body to tan on the beach).
  3. Next, think about the obstacles that stand in your way… between you and the happy ending (for example: my love of sugar tends to stand in the way between me and the thinner me who lives in my weight-loss happy ending).
  4. List another positive aspect.
  5. List another obstacle.
  6. List another positive aspect.
  7. List another obstacle.

 Do you think your chances for success are better now?  From this information, should you pursue this goal?  You have data that will help you decide.  With this information you should have a better sense of your success rate and how committed you really are to that success.

Armed with this information, you are ready to be more successful in the attainment of your goals.

Share in the comments about your experience.  Have you used Mental Contrasting?  Has it worked for you?

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