Self help: forget positive thinking, try positive action

For years self-help gurus have preached the same simple mantra: if you want to improve your life then you need to change how you think. Force yourself to have positive thoughts and you will become happier. Visualise your dream self and you will enjoy increased success. Think like a millionaire and you will magically grow rich. In principle, this idea sounds perfectly reasonable. However, in practice it often proves ineffective.

Take visualisation. Hundreds of self-improvement books encourage readers to close their eyes and imagine their perfect selves; to see themselves in a huge office at the top of the corporate ladder, or sipping a cocktail as they feel the warm Caribbean sand between their toes. Unfortunately, research suggests this technique does not work.

In one study led by Lien Pham at the University of California, students were asked to spend a few moments each day visualising themselves getting a high grade in an upcoming exam. Even though the daydreaming exercise only lasted a few minutes, it caused the students to study less and obtain lower marks. In another experiment led by Gabriele Oettingen from New York University, graduates were asked to note down how often they fantasised about getting their dream job after leaving college. The students who reported that they frequently fantasised about such success received fewer job offers and ended up with significantly smaller salaries.

Why should this be so? Maybe those who fantasise about a wonderful life are ill-prepared for setbacks, or become reluctant to put in the effort required to achieve their goal. Either way, the message is clear – imagining the perfect you is not good for your life.

However, when it comes to change, the message is not all gloom and doom. Decades of research show that there is indeed a simple but highly effective way to transform how you think and feel. The technique turns common sense on its head but is grounded in science. Strangely, the story begins with a world-renowned Victorian thinker and an imaginary bear.

Working at Harvard University in the late 19th century, William James, brother of the novelist Henry James, was attracted to the unconventional, often walking around campus sporting a silk hat and red-checked trousers, and describing his theories using amusing prose (“As long as one poor cockroach feels the pangs of unrequited love, this world is not a moral world”). This unconventional approach paid off. First published in 1890, James’s two-volume magnum opus The Principles ofPsychology is still required reading for students of behavioural science.

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Towards the end of the 1880s, James turned his attention to the relationship between emotion and behaviour. Our everyday experience tells us that your emotions cause you to behave in certain ways. Feeling happy makes you smile, and feeling sad makes you frown. Case closed, mystery solved. However, James became convinced that this commonsense view was incomplete and proposed a radical new theory.

James hypothesised that the relationship between emotion and behaviour was a two-way street, and that behaviour can cause emotion. According to James, smiling can make you feel happy and frowning can make you feel sad. Or, to use James’s favourite way of putting it: “You do not run from a bear because you are afraid of it, but rather become afraid of the bear because you run from it.”

James’s theory was quickly relegated to the filing drawer marked “years ahead of its time”, and there it lay for more than six decades.

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Really Simple Goal Setting

My favorite simplicity blog, Unclutterer, recently did a good post on goal-setting software called Lifetick, which is actually pretty cool. But as I was playing around with its nice little interface, I realized that for me, such a program is overkill.

I believe in keeping your goals simple, and if you do that, goal-setting and goal-management doesn’t require software.

In fact, you can do it with a single index card.

The key to simple goal setting is to not have too many goals. In fact, regular readers know that I advocate One Goal when possible. While that’s not always possible for some people, having too many goals makes things complicated and requires a more complicated system for keeping track of your goals.

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Keep things as simple as possible if you can. That has the added benefit of allowing you to focus your energies on a small number of goals, making you far more effective with them.

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Brainstorm. If you don’t already have a list of things you’d like to accomplish, start out by making such a list. Throw anything on the list — you don’t actually have to do them. This is just to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  2. The one thing that will change your life the most this year. Now take a look at the list and figure out which goal will change your life the most — within the next year or so. Is it something that can be accomplished in a year? It can take less than a year — one month or three or six if you like. If it will take several years, you might want to create a sub-goal that will take a year or less — any longer and it’s hard to stay motivated. Is it a goal that will really make a big difference in your life? Is it something you REALLY want to achieve? Be sure it’s something you’ll be passionate about, or you’ll lose motivation.
  3. Create a mantra. Once you’ve chosen your goal, turn it into a personal mantra. This is an idea from Guy Kawasaki, who said that a business should abandon a mission statement (which are usually useless) and create a 2-5 word mantra instead (his was something like “empower entrepreneurs”). So use this idea for your personal mantra — how can you put your goal into 2-5 words? Write those words on an index card, or make it your desktop picture/wallpaper, or post it on the wall next to your computer. Do something to ensure that you never forget this mantra — and repeat it out loud every single day.

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Get Off Your Butt: 16 Ways to Get Motivated When You’re in a Slump

Even the most motivated of us — you, me, Tony Robbins — can feel unmotivated at times. In fact, sometimes we get into such a slump that even thinking about making positive changes seems too difficult.

But it’s not hopeless: with some small steps, baby ones in fact, you can get started down the road to positive change.

Yes, I know, it seems impossible at times. You don’t feel like doing anything. I’ve been there, and in fact I still feel that way from time to time. You’re not alone. But I’ve learned a few ways to break out of a slump, and we’ll take a look at those today.

This post was inspired by reader Roy C. Carlson, who asked:

“I was wondering if you could do a piece on why it can be hard for someone to change direction and start taking control of their life. I have to say I’m in this boat and advice on getting out of my slump would be great.”

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Roy is just one of many with a slump like that. Again, I feel that way sometimes myself, and in fact sometimes I struggle to motivate myself to exercise — and I’ll use that as an example of how to break out of the slump.

When I fall out of exercise, due to illness or injury or disruption from things going on in my life, it’s hard to get started again. I don’t even feel like thinking about it, sometimes. But I’ve always found a way to break out of that slump, and here are some things I’ve learned that have helped:

  1. One Goal. Whenever I’ve been in a slump, I’ve discovered that it’s often because I have too much going on in my life. I’m trying to do too much. And it saps my energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make: they try to take on too much, try to accomplish too many goals at once. You cannot maintain energy and focus (the two most important things in accomplishing a goal) if you are trying to do two or more goals at once. It’s not possible — I’ve tried it many times. You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it completely. I know, that’s hard. Still, I speak from experience. You can always do your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.
  2. Find inspiration. Inspiration, for me, comes from others who have achieved what I want to achieve, or who are currently doing it. I read other blogs, books, magazines. I Google my goal, and read success stories. Zen Habits is just one place for inspiration, not only from me but from many readers who have achieved amazing things.
  3. Get excited. This sounds obvious, but most people don’t think about it much: if you want to break out of a slump, get yourself excited about a goal. But how can you do that when you don’t feel motivated? Well, it starts with inspiration from others (see above), but you have to take that excitement and build on it. For me, I’ve learned that by talking to my wife about it, and to others, and reading as much about it as possible, and visualizing what it would be like to be successful (seeing the benefits of the goal in my head), I get excited about a goal. Once I’ve done that, it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.
  4. Build anticipation. This will sound hard, and many people will skip this tip. But it really works. It helped me quit smoking after many failed attempts. If you find inspiration and want to do a goal, don’t start right away. Many of us will get excited and want to start today. That’s a mistake. Set a date in the future — a week or two, or even a month — and make that your Start Date. Mark it on the calendar. Get excited about that date. Make it the most important date in your life. In the meantime, start writing out a plan. And do some of the steps below. Because by delaying your start, you are building anticipation, and increasing your focus and energy for your goal.
  5. Post your goal. Print out your goal in big words. Make your goal just a few words long, like a mantra (“Exercise 15 mins. Daily”), and post it up on your wall or refrigerator. Post it at home and work. Put it on your computer desktop. You want to have big reminders about your goal, to keep your focus and keep your excitement going. A picture of your goal (like a model with sexy abs, for example) also helps.
  6. Commit publicly. None of us likes to look bad in front of others. We will go the extra mile to do something we’ve said publicly. For example, when I wanted to run my first marathon, I started writing a column about it in my local daily newspaper. The entire island of Guam (pop. 160K) knew about my goal. I couldn’t back down, and even though my motivation came and went, I stuck with it and completed it. Now, you don’t have to commit to your goal in your daily newspaper, but you can do it with friends and family and co-workers, and you can do it on your blog if you have one. And hold yourself accountable — don’t just commit once, but commit to giving progress updates to everyone every week or so.
  7. Think about it daily. If you think about your goal every day, it is much more likely to become true. To this end, posting the goal on your wall or computer desktop (as mentioned above) helps a lot. Sending yourself daily reminders also helps. And if you can commit to doing one small thing to further your goal (even just 5 minutes) every single day, your goal will almost certainly come true.
  8. Get support. It’s hard to accomplish something alone. When I decided to run my marathon, I had the help of friends and family, and I had a great running community on Guam who encouraged me at 5K races and did long runs with me. When I decided to quit smoking, I joined an online forum and that helped tremendously. And of course, my wife Eva helped every step of the way. I couldn’t have done these goals without her, or without the others who supported me. Find your support network, either in the real world or online, or both.

Click Here for 8 more great tips.

 

7 Reasons To Think Positive

Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health. Practice overcoming negative self-talk with examples provided.

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.

Indeed, some studies show that personality traits like optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that typically comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don’t despair — you can learn positive thinking skills. Here’s how.

Understanding positive thinking and self-talk

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.

Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head every day. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.

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If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.

The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

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The Awesome Power of Goal Setting: 10 Tips for Triumph

Heed the advice offered by Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and Stephen Covey. When you begin your new year with solid direction and desired outcomes in mind, you set yourself up for awesome success.

The new year is a beginning, so new goals and resolutions, new plans, new dreams and new directions fuel your thoughts. Whether it’s your fiscal year, your budget year, your religious year or the calendar new year, goals and resolutions are on your mind. These tips will help you achieve your goals and live your resolutions.

What is it about this annual “new” that causes us to reflect upon our lives and our accomplishments? I believe each of us has a natural inclination to grow our self-esteem and capability through new accomplishments. Most of us want to make a difference in the world. Most of us want to live life as fully as we can. Thus, we annually draw a new line in the sand and claim a starting point for our next chapter.

Goal Setting Success

Yet, for all the initial enthusiasm, keeping yourself motivated, committed and moving toward the accomplishment of your goals, is often tough. Tired of setting goals and making resolutions which fade fast from your daily thoughts and actions? Consider adopting some or all of these tips to experience awesome success in accomplishing your goals and living your resolutions.

From my Favorite Quotation Series:

Lewis Carroll from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“‘Cheshire Puss,’ she began, rather timidly,as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. `Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–’ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
`–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.’”

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–Project Gutenberg, 1991

The Goal Is Yours – You Own the Goal

Whether the goal is a promotion at work, a streamlined work process, a new customer, a published article, an exercise program or weight loss, the goal must be your goal. You are unlikely to achieve your manager’s goal, your spouse’s goal or the goal you think you “ought” to work on this year. Your goals must generate excitement when you ponder their accomplishment. You must believe there is something in it for you to accomplish them.

Sometimes, especially at work, if you perceive the end reward is worth the work, you will take on challenges in support of the organization’s goals. These goals might not be as close to your heart as your personal goals, but you work to achieve them for the good of the organization and your success there.

For the full article, Click Here.

 

 

10 Terrific Self Motivating Tips

No one can motivate anyone to do anything. All a person can do for another is
provide them with incentives to motivate themselves. Here are ten very effective
strategies to help you get up and get moving toward actualizing your enormous,
untapped potential.

* Be willing to leave your comfort zone. The greatest barrier to achieving your
potential is your comfort zone. Great things happen when you make friends with your discomfort zone.

* Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Wisdom helps us avoid making mistakes and comes from making a million of them.

* Don’t indulge in self-limiting thinking. Think empowering, expansive thoughts.

*Choose to be happy. Happy people are easily motivated. Happiness is your
birthright so don’t settle for anything else.

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* Spend at least one hour a day in self-development. Read good books or listen to inspiring tapes. Driving to and from work provides an excellent opportunity to listen to self-improvement tapes.

* Train yourself to finish what you start. So many of us become scattered as we
try to accomplish a task. Finish one task before you begin another.

* Live fully in the present moment. When you live in the past or the future you
aren’t able to make things happen in the present.

For more tips Click Here.

10 Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts: Positive Thinking Made Easy

Even though I’m a yoga teacher, I still find it’s easy to fall prey to negative thinking. Having negative thoughts play out like a movie can only bring you pain, something that I’ve experienced many times throughout my life.

Negative thoughts drain you of energy and keep you from being in the present moment. The more you give in to your negative thoughts, the stronger they become. I like the imagery of a small ball rolling along the ground, and as it rolls, it becomes bigger and faster.

That’s what one small negative thought can turn into: a huge, speeding ball of ugliness. On the contrary, a small positive thought can have the same effect blossoming into a beautiful outcome.

I’d like to share with you an example of how one small thought can turn into a very negative experience.

For the last ten years, I have lived on my own. Obviously during this time, I’ve grown accustomed to living in a particular way; I have my routines with cooking, cleaning and living happily in my place.

My boyfriend of two years who I have had a long distance relationship with will soon be moving here and we will be living together. Lately, I’ve had negative thoughts of moving in with him knowing that my living routine will have to change and we will have to create a new routine together.

Unfortunately, I’ve already jumped into the future and have had thoughts that we will not be able to come up with a living arrangement that will make us both happy. In my mind, I have seen myself already getting angry about our cooking and cleaning situation.

He came for a surprise visit this past weekend and boy, was it a surprise for him. We had a miserable weekend together. I did not enjoy his company because I was already angry with him and he was confused and equally frustrated with me. What could have been a really fabulous weekend ended up being a painful and heavy weekend.

When we start to have negative thoughts, it’s hard to stop them. And it’s much easier said than done to shift your focus to positive thoughts. But, it’s the only way—especially if you want to avoid going down a path that is painful and unnecessary.

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Here are 10 things I did to help overcome my negative thoughts that you can also try:

1. Meditate or do yoga.

One of the first things I did was head to a yoga class. It took my focus away from my thoughts and brought my attention to my breath. Yoga is also very relaxing which helped ease my mind. Yoga helped me stay present to my experience so instead of jumping to what could happen, it brought me back to the now—the only moment, the most important moment.

2. Smile.

I didn’t do much of this during the weekend so I literally had to bring myself in front of a mirror and force myself to smile. It really does help change your mood and relieve stress. I also felt lighter because it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.

I called a friend who I knew could give me constructive, yet loving feedback. When you’re stuck in a negative spiral, talk to people who can put things into perspective and won’t feed your negative thinking.

 

4. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive.

For example, instead of thinking We are going to have a hard time adjusting to our living situation, replace that with We will face some challenges in our living situation, but we will come up with solutions that we will both be happy with.t

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Goal Setting – Powerful Written Goals In 7 Easy Steps!

by Gene Donohue
The car is packed and you’re ready to go, your first ever cross-country trip. From the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the rolling hills of San Francisco, you’re going to see it all.

You put the car in gear and off you go. First stop, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

A little while into the trip you need to check the map because you’ve reached an intersection you’re not familiar with. You panic for a moment because you realize you’ve forgotten your map.

But you say the heck with it because you know where you’re going. You take a right, change the radio station and keep on going. Unfortunately, you never reach your destination.

Too many of us treat goal setting the same way. We dream about where we want to go,
but we don’t have a map to get there.

What is a map? In essence, the written word.

What is the difference between a dream and a goal? Once again, the written word.

But we need to do more then simply scribble down some ideas on a piece of paper. Our
goals need to be complete and focused, much like a road map, and that is the purpose
behind the rest of this article.

If you follow the 7 steps I’ve outlined below you will be well on your way to becoming an
expert in building the road maps to your goals.

1. Make sure the goal you are working for is something you really want, not just something that sounds good.

I remember when I started taking baseball umpiring more seriously. I began to set my sites on the NCAA Division 1 level. Why? I new there was no way I could get onto the road to the major leagues, so the next best thing was the highest college level. Pretty cool, right. Wrong.

Sure, when I was talking to people about my umpiring goals it sounded pretty good, and many people where quite impressed. Fortunately I began to see through my own charade.

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I have been involved in youth sports for a long time. I’ve coached, I’ve been the President of leagues, I’ve been a treasurer and I’m currently a District Commissioner for Cal Ripken Baseball. Youth sports is where I belong, it is where my heart belongs, not on some college diamond where the only thing at stake is a high draft spot.

When setting goals it is very important to remember that your goals must be consistent with your values.

2. A goal can not contradict any of your other goals.

For example, you can’t buy a $750,000 house if your income goal is only $50,000 per year. This is called non-integrated thinking and will sabotage all of the hard work you put into your goals. Non-integrated thinking can also hamper your everyday thoughts as well. We should continually strive to eliminate contradictory ideas from our thinking.

3. Develop goals in the 6 areas of life:

Family and Home

Financial and Career

Spiritual and Ethical

Physical and Health

Social and Cultural
Mental and Educational

Setting goals in each area of life will ensure a more balanced life as you begin to examine and change the fundamentals of everyday living. Setting goals in each area of live also helps in eliminating the non-integrated thinking we talked about in the 2nd step.

For the next four steps, Click Here.