Ask Dr. Debra
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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?
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
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
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
Feel free to
me with your questions.
Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who
specializes in relationships and communication techniques.
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