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Dear Dr. Debra,
This is the time of year for "resolutions", but sometimes I feel like it's self-defeating to make a list. I'm already working as hard as I can towards my goals. Maybe I'm scared to write things down and be reminded of how far I am from achieving many of them. Any help you can offer? Any ideas?

Dear goal-setter,

I'm glad to see you're working hard toward your goals. That's the most important part of being successful. The second vital component of success is positive thinking, visualization and affirmations toward your goals.

Perhaps you've heard the saying, "Work smarter, not harder." I interpret this phrase to mean, make sure you include positive thoughts in your life as well as positive actions. I know it's hard to think and act positively when you're scared or discouraged. Yet that's the very time you need to double your efforts.

An ongoing theme of this column is about working toward a positive attitude. Years of research and anecdotal evidence show that people who have a positive, motivated attitude weather life's challenges better, have more successful relationships, are better at accomplishing their goals and have more self-esteem. A positive mindset doesn't always come easy; however, it's important to strive for.

Every New Year's Day, I get out my journal and write down my goals. Then I also write them in a file on my computer. I set goals in several areas--physical, financial, emotional, family and writing. When I write goals down, I write them as if I'd already accomplished them. For example: I weigh 128 pounds. I earn $100,000 in my psychotherapy practice. I take auntie time with my nieces twice a month. Ideally, I'd like to read them every day, but that doesn't always happen.

Why set goals? Years of research shows that people who set goals, write them down and regularly review them are the ones who obtain their goals. Don't skip this step just because you're afraid you won't achieve them. In fact, make sure you set your goals high. Not so high that you don't believe them, but just on the edge of stretching what you believe. Many times people who do this later tell me that they didn't set their goal high enough. A personal example is my consulting business. I thought it would be a stretch for me to double the amount I made from consulting jobs. I recently added up my income and saw that I am going to be a bit over that goal by the end of the year. I thought the goal was a BIG stretch at the time. Now, I wish I'd made it higher. My new goal is to double that amount.

I try to take some time--five to fifteen minutes--every morning to read some uplifting, spiritual or motivational kind of books. Then I pick an affirmation for the day and say it out loud several times. Sometimes it's specific, "My creative energy flows into wonderful writing." Sometimes it's general, "Now is the appointed time. Today is the day of my amazing good fortune." The last affirmation is one from Florence Scoval Shinn. Sometimes if I'm struggling with low spirits or a difficult problem, I fall back on, "The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want." I choose this because after years of a Lutheran upbringing, including parochial school, this affirmation is deeply engraved in my subconscious mind and brings me immediate comfort. I also make sure to say my affirmation several times throughout the day.

Then I do some prayer and visualization. To visualize, take some deep breaths then imagine a movie screen in front of your mind. See your goal unfolding on the screen as if it were a movie. Feel the positive emotions you feel by accomplishing your goal. Enjoy the feeling of success.

I recently read an article that talked about writing out your goal nine times. I've just started doing this and like how it's keeping me focused. I make sure to say the goal out loud as I write. Seeing the words, hearing my voice and doing the writing covers the three ways humans learn--visual, auditory and kinesthetic. I have a lot of goals, so I don't do this every day for all the goals. But I try to do it for at least one.

A fun thing to do with goals is to draw pictures of them. I use a poster board and color pictures or symbols for my goals. Then I hang the picture up where I can see it. Another variation is to cut pictures from magazines and glue them on a poster board.

In the evening, right before you go to sleep, is another good time to imprint your goals on your psyche. Takes some time to say or write a gratitude list for all that happened that day. Do some motivational or spiritual reading. Visualize how you want your day to go tomorrow. Then say your affirmation as you are falling asleep.

A friend recently recommended the book I'm currently using for my morning readings, The Power of the Subconscious Mind by Joe Murphy. I highly recommend it.

May this New Year bring you all the blessings that your heart desires.

Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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