Very often, we set goals for ourselves to become better in many different ways, but somehow they are never fulfilled. This is especially apparent with our New Year’s resolutions. Whether it comes down to losing those extra pounds or pushing yourself that extra mile towards a new hobby, it seems like by the time February rolls around, that ever-so-important goal is long gone.
So, why does this happen? Why can we only fantasize about reaching the goal but never get around to making progress?
Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, a positive psychologist from New York University, just might have the answer. She stated that most of us are good at the first step towards making a better version of themselves: having a dream to become what they want to be, or rather trying to fulfill the desire for change. What come’s after is what we struggle with the most: hitting a psychological brick wall.
In order to overcome that brick wall that is stopping us from achieving those dreams, Dr. Oettingen poses this question:
“What is it in me that’s holding me back?”
Although imagining what you could become is important, as it can inspire you further goals, it may actually be holding you back. Psychological research, Dr. Oettingen states, has shown that simply fantasizing about a better version of you can have similar effects of actually achieving your goal. Even though no progress has been made, we already feel complacent and comfortable after day-dreaming about your desires.
Instead of focusing on the dream, it is better to focus on what’s holding us back. This approach is called mental contrasting.
“What we’ve found, in the many studies we’ve done, is that mental contrasting could help a lot. It means that I can take these positive fantasies and then shift gears and say, ‘What holds me back from meeting these positive fantasies? What is it in me that prevents this?”, says Dr. Oettingen.
The video below, featuring Paralympic champion Katy Sullivan, is a great example of determination.
Contrasting between what is hurting and helping can kickstart a productive cycle of change; a change that will achieve that New Years resolution. Asking the question posed by Dr. Oettingen will require being honest with yourself and realizing the problems you have. Although the entire process may not be comfortable or easy, going through it may be necessary to change a bad habit or end a deeply suppressed thought about yourself.
Give it a try! You may be surprised of what you find out about yourself and how confident you can be about achieving your dreams.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts about this topic in the comment section below.
h/t: The Huffington Post.