Goals

Struggling to Reach Your Goals? 6 Steps to Get Unstuck

Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

“Write down your goals, make plans to achieve them, and work on your plans every single day.” – Brian Tracy

 

Do your goals seem too lofty and far-off to reasonably achieve? Do you sometimes feel stymied by lack of discernible progress? Does this dearth of accomplishment make you lose interest and diminish momentum toward doing what’s necessary to get to the next level? It isn’t your goals that may need attention, but how you go about reaching them. Here are some thought-starters on how to make progress without struggle.

1.    Review your list of goals to ensure they’re ones you really want.

“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of the one you don’t.” – Stephen Kellogg

Compiling a long list of goals you have no real desire to achieve is a worthless endeavor. Not only will you toss the list in a deep drawer never to revisit it, you’ll likely feel a twinge of guilt that you did so. Why? When everyone seems to want to talk about how much they want to do in life, how long their goal or bucket list is, you know that you’ve given short shrift to what you really want out of life. You have nothing to talk about, let alone motivate you to go beyond what you now know.

The simplest way to get around this is to dig out that list of goals and go through it, weeding out each one that hasn’t a remote chance of ever getting done and retaining those that may spark your interest, if only slightly. There’ll be time to flesh them out later. For now, you need to pare that unwieldy list to one that’s more manageable. In fact, if you wind up with a handful of life goals that you may be able to rework into some that will energize you, that’s making progress right away.

2.    Single out a goal you want to achieve above all others. This is the one to focus on.

“This one step – choosing a goal and sticking to it – changes everything.” – Scott Reed

You must begin somewhere, and that starts when you identify one goal on your pared-down list that you most want to achieve. There’s no sense diluting your energy by trying to go after too many goals at once. By zeroing in on a single goal, the right goal, you’re honing your focus to a laser sharp concentration.

Note that you may need to sleep on this goal in order to allow your subconscious to link threads of possibilities for you to review upon waking. Why is this important? What may be a natural progression of steps might not be readily apparent when you first think about what approach to take with this goal. You may, for example, be tempted to jot down easy-to-do steps that may look like you’ll be making progress when, in fact, they’re more busywork than anything else. What you want is a coherent plan, something that makes sense while it also spurs you to action. This may seem like an impossible outcome, yet you’ll be surprised what your subconscious can come up with. Let it go to work for you.

3.    Fan the fire within.

“When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

When you can’t wait to get started working on your goal, you know this is something you really want in your life. It will not matter how arduous the path or how many times you stumble along the way, the vision you have of success is firmly imprinted in your mind and nothing will deter you. What’s so beautiful about having this fire within is that obstacles that might otherwise stall momentum have little chance. Instead, novel solutions may appear, seemingly out of nowhere.

Granted, there will be twists and turns as you work towards the goal. That’s to be expected and is nothing to worry about. If you find that you’re making phenomenal strides with little effort and no problems, it may mean that your plan was so well-crafted and executed that nothing could stand in the way. On the other hand, it could also mean that the goal you chose was not lofty enough.

It is good to have minor goals, ones that you can work on and accomplish so you have a track record of success. Just be sure you always put in time on the highest-value and most-desirable goal as well.

4.    All goals are possible – even those that seem impossible.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.” – Norman Vincent Peale

If there was no challenge, there would be no satisfaction in success. The journey to achieving a heartfelt goal is perhaps as important as the realization of accomplishment. Goals that rank as highly impossible, as compared with just impossible, a comment generally used to dismiss difficult, time-consuming or seemingly improbable goals out of hand, may very well be the ones that others will talk about for years to come. After all, didn’t the world’s great inventors put their energy into solving riddles that confounded, perplexed, and for which no answer seemed possible?

They didn’t give up. They did persist, with enthusiasm, determination and follow-through. As a study from the American Psychological Association points out, monitoring the progress made toward goals helps promote goal achievement, especially when such progress is recorded or written down.

5.    Add variety to your action plan.

“The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.” – Cato the Elder

Researchers at the University of Sussex found that pond snails learned and remembered more when learning two totally unrelated tasks. How does this relate to making progress reaching your goals? By adding variety to the action plan you’ve put together for achieving the goal, you’re more likely to learn faster what works and remember it than if you keep doing the same step (or one that’s very similar) over and over.

6.    Recognize that where you live is now.

“Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.” – Robin Sharma

Attaining that all-important goal may take some time, yet you do make progress on the end result with action you take today. This is, after all, where you live: in the here and now. Put your best work into making little improvements today. Do the same tomorrow. You’re bound to make progress – and it won’t even seem like a struggle. Research shows that immediate rewards today can help with long-term goal achievement.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Identify and Overcome Frustration

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

 

“I was an accomplice in my own frustration.” – Peter Shaffer

 

While we may not recognize when we do it, or even admit to it when we know we do, we all sometimes have a tendency to sabotage our efforts, thus leading to unnecessary and sometimes disruptive frustration. The key to being able to overcome frustration is to learn how to identify it and then implement strategies to combat it.

Where Does Frustration Come From?

In the simplest terms, frustration is an emotion that comes from being blocked from achieving an intended goal. There are internal sources of frustration, as well as external sources.

Internal sources: If you are not able to get what you want, the disappointment and frustration you feel may well be the outcome. This may be due to a loss of self-confidence or self-esteem or you may be afraid of certain social situations.

External sources: Often, it’s the conditions you encounter outside yourself that are the sources of some frustration. These include the people, places and things that serve as roadblocks to getting things you want done. Perhaps the most universal source of frustration is anything that causes you to waste time. We’re all familiar with and likely have to deal with on a regular basis the time lost due to traffic delays, waiting in line, getting to a store or establishment only to find that it’s closed or doesn’t have what you want in stock.

How Does Frustration Make You Feel?

People react to frustration in a number of ways. In response to frustration, they can:

  • Get angry
  • Give up or quit
  • Lose self-esteem
  • Feel a loss of self-confidence
  • Experience stress
  • Feel sad, uncertain, depressed or anxious
  • Turn to substance abuse
  • Engage in other negative, self-destructive or addictive behaviors

A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience analyzed facial expressions and brain-activation mechanisms using functional near-infrared spectroscopy to detect frustration in drivers. Researchers found that frustrated drivers tend to activate mouth region muscles, such as chin raiser, lip pucker and lip pressor). Frustrated driving can result in aggressive behavior, as well as having negative effects on cognitive processes important for driving, including attentiveness, judgment, and decision-making. Another study published in 2016 in Frontiers in Psychology listed some of the emotional and affective responses in the aftermath of frustration, including acute stress, lasting anger, rage, and sadness.

Do Certain People, Places and Things Make You Frustrated?

Sometime, just the sight of a person you’ve had disagreements with is enough to trigger feelings of frustration. Another instance where frustration might crop up is passing by or having to go to a place where you’ve suffered frustration in the past. Maybe it’s trying to help your child with homework that’s a source of frustration, or some other activity that regularly ends with you being frustrated.

Knowing when and where you get frustrated is important to your ability to devise effective strategies for removing and/or coping with the sources of frustration in the safest and most effective manner.

Do You Get More Frustrated at Certain Times?

Undoubtedly, if you’re keeping a calendar or making notes on instances where you’ve experienced frustration, you may notice a pattern. For example, are you more frustrated when you have to pay bills, knowing that you may have to move some finances around or are over-budget this month? Do you become more frustrated on Friday at work because you know you haven’t accomplished key goals for the week? Or is it Monday that frustrates you because you know of important deadlines looming and you’re not sure you’ll be able to fulfill your obligations.

Like taking notice of the people, place and things that cause you frustration, you need to be able to see the patterns in timing for your frustration. This will better allow you to construct coping mechanisms that will be readily available to employ the next time you get frustrated.

What Other Things Contribute to Frustration?

Even after you’ve made a list of the people, places and things and certain times when you’re likely to become frustrated (based on experience), there may be other things that serve as contributing factors to your frustration. Certainly the level of frustration may be affected by:

  • Your state of health, and any physical or medical conditions
  • Financial situation, including bankruptcy, being overextended, wasteful spending
  • Emotional difficulties or loss, including bereavement, a diagnosable psychological condition, loss of a friend
  • Stagnation at work, or loss of a job, losing a promotion

Indeed, knowing how some of these contributors to frustration affect you is instrumental in putting together a plan to overcome further frustration. It isn’t avoiding the source of the frustration, but approaching it with optimism and a carefully-constructed strategy.

When You are Frustrated, What Works to Get Past It?

Perhaps one of the greatest quotes about wisdom is one from Oscar Wilde: “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” The takeaway here is that as you get older, you have the ability to learn from prior experience – positive and negative ones. And older brains are not necessarily slower brains, since older adults are able to benefit from accumulated wisdom. In other words, they cope better in certain situations because they know what works or has worked in the past, they’re more impervious to criticism and have the confidence to know how to make the right decisions.

Various coping methods for frustration recommended by psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals include some that are no-cost or low-cost, as well as some that may involve a financial expenditure from consulting with a professional.

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation practice
  • Yoga
  • Communications skills
  • Emotional and/or physical techniques to release frustration
  • Physical exercise
  • Relaxation activities
  • Travel
  • Taking up a hobby or pastime
  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Learning how to release emotion
  • Psychological counseling or therapy

Why not take up exercise as one of the first lines of defense against frustration? A 2015 study reported in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that exercise offers an acute stress-buffering effect. Besides, it’s quick and convenient to take a walk outside, getting fresh air into your lungs and gaining a fresh perspective, all of which may temper your frustration and boost your mood.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

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Realistic Ways to Achieve Happiness: An Interview With Tim Bono

Photo by Michele Hohner

Photo by Michele Hohner

Every year, many people make themselves promises to engage in healthier behaviors, to jumpstart in earnest a pursuit of personal happiness. Resolutions notwithstanding, the pursuit of happiness is not only a worthwhile endeavor, it’s also life-affirming and can result in lasting change to overall well-being.

To delve deeper into realistic ways to achieve happiness, I recently spoke with Tim Bono, a psychology lecturer in Arts & Sciences who teaches courses in happiness at Washington University in St. Louis. Bono is the author of “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness.”

You say “life-changing” and that there’s a science to happiness. Can you explain what you mean by that?

TB: People have been interested in pursuing the good life for as long as there have been people. Over the last few decades, the field of psychology has applied the scientific method to the age-old questions around how we can increase our well-being and strengthen our psychological health. Beyond just intuition and conventional wisdom, the scientific method tests hypotheses by collecting data on large groups of people to identify the behaviors and mindsets that are most effective at increasing our happiness.

What are your top tips for making this a happier year – by doing something proactive to get a handle on personal happiness?

TB: I have a few I recommend, as follows:

  • Get outside, move around, take a walk.
  • Get more happiness for your money. Buy experiences instead of things and spend your money on others.
  • Carve out time to be happy, then give it away. Thirty minutes helping others is more rewarding and actually leaves us feeling empowered to tackle the next project, helping us feel more in control of our lives and even less pressed for time. This translates to higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.
  • Delay the positive, dispatch the negative. Anticipation itself is pleasurable, and looking forward to an enjoyable experience can make it all that much sweeter.
  • Enjoy the ride. People who focus more on process than outcome tend to remain motivated in the face of setbacks.
  • Embrace failure. How we think about failure determines whether it makes us happy or sad.
  • Sweet dreams. Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis.
  • Strengthen your willpower muscles. Exercising willpower muscles in small, everyday behaviors strengthens our ability to stay focused at work.
  • Introduce variety into your day-to-day activities.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Reach out and connect with someone.
  • Limit time on social media.
  • Use your phone in the way phones were originally intended.
  • Practice gratitude.

The most effective interventions in my view are gratitude, sleep, exercise, and social connection.

Are most of your tips on how to achieve happiness – like going outside for a walk – more physical than mental? That is, do you initiate the code to happiness by doing something physical? Or is it more of a balance between the two?

TB: We know there is a strong link between our psychological health and our physical health. One of the most effective ways to take care of our minds is to take care of our bodies. Physical activity releases neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which are the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. There’s also a feeling of accomplishment (what psychologists call “self-efficacy”) that comes from completing the hard work of an intense exercise or workout routine. In this way, exercise is a very important way to strengthen psychological well-being. But there are, of course, many other ways to increase happiness that aren’t predicated on physical activity. Gratitude, meditation, and prosocial behavior are chief among them and do not require physical labor of any kind.

Do different stages of life have anything to do with how easy or difficult it is to achieve happiness?

TB: On average, there doesn’t seem to be a strong relationship between age and happiness. However, there is evidence to suggest that older adults tend to be slightly happier than younger people, which could be due, in part, to a tendency to savor life more during its later stages instead of striving for the next promotion or worrying whether their career is on the right track for optimal future success. Older adults are more likely to live in there here and now, and that kind of mindfulness is important for our well-being.

What additional methods, if any, do those in recovery from addiction (alcohol, painkillers, polydrug use) and/or mental health disorder (anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorder) need to employ in order to get on the road toward feeling happier?

TB: One of the most important ways to recover from addiction or disorder and get back on track toward mental health is with a strong social support system. Caring people who provide a shoulder to lean on during the inevitable difficult times along the way, as well as people who are there to help you celebrate your successes, are extremely valuable on the road to recovery. When people you trust know about your goals to improve your well-being, they hold you accountable and provide support, both of which can go a long way toward making progress.

Any advice on how to deal with obstructive others – that is, those closest to you (family, loved ones, friends, even co-workers) who try to dampen your enthusiasm or are critical of your efforts to prioritize you and work on your personal happiness?

TB: As difficult as it may be, bring sympathy toward your interaction with that person. Anyone who stands to obstruct another person from improving their own happiness and well-being is likely battling their own inner demons. If someone criticizes you or otherwise attempts to derail your efforts, you might choose to acknowledge that you’ve heard them, but do not modify your behaviors to accommodate their negativity. Find friends or colleagues who support you—or better yet, want to join you in these efforts—and spend more time with them. Negative people are unavoidable in our daily lives but that does not mean that we have to allow them to dictate our behaviors. As you make progress toward your own psychological health goals, you might also consider serving as a model for those who were not initially supportive. Don’t do this to show off, but merely to show that it can be done. I’m a strong believer in the sentiment that we should be kind to unkind people—they’re the ones who need it the most.

How best to cope with disappointments? Maybe you’ve been on a great trajectory, but some unexpected glitch or problem has suddenly derailed your progress. How do you get back on track and not feel like you’ve failed?

TB: First, use failures and setbacks as learning opportunities. Like a lot of other things, failure is neither inherently positive nor is it negative, but the beliefs we hold about it make is positive or negative. As Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Maybe something didn’t turn out as we hoped or expected, but there are likely important lessons that could be gleaned from the experience, which can serve us well in the future. Plus, we are gaining more and more awareness today of how successful people have gotten to where they are, and we now see that for most it has involved a circuitous path with stumbles along the way. The most successful people will tell you that in order to achieve their success they had to learn a lot along the way. Often, a very effective way to learn where there’s still work to be done, or to figure out what needs to change in our approach, is through failure–trying things one way, identifying what doesn’t work, and then making the appropriate modifications.

Second, acknowledge that failure is important for growth. There’s other research showing that adults who had to overcome a moderate level of adversity while growing up tend to have the greatest outcomes later in life because they have had to engage their social support networks and develop the coping mechanisms that are necessary to negotiate life’s challenges. Developing these skills early on comes in handy for bouncing back from later hardships and responding to future adversity. The people who have the strongest psychological health later in life are often those who have learned how to fail. They’ve learned how to pick themselves back up after being knocked down, reflect on the experience, grow from it, and soldier on.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How You Can Be More Confident

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter T. McIntyre

 

I suffered from a lack of self-esteem and little confidence when I was an adolescent. The feeling of loss and not being good enough, or smart enough to get things done and fearful of trying anything new lasted through my teens and throughout the early part of my adult life. It wasn’t that I was brought up deprived of love or lacking a comfortable environment, for my parents loved me dearly and I never knew hunger or felt diminished by our standard of living. I did, however, take notice of the confidence my peers at school and wanted desperately to be so confidant myself. Thus, my journey of building my self-confidence began.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can benefit from some of the tips that helped me become more confident.

Reward yourself for little victories.

I didn’t have much to start with, especially after my dad died when I was 13. I was utterly bereft, couldn’t even cry, tossed and turned every night and had horrible nightmares for years. At the core of my sadness was the mistaken belief that I had somehow caused my father to die. Nothing even close to that was true, as he died from a massive myocardial infarction and was dead in minutes, yet my teen brain and devastated heart didn’t process reality.

Being numb to life, I went to school and pushed myself to do my homework, knowing that my dad would want me to continue getting good grades. I did love learning, so pursuing my studies seemed like a way I could honor my father and do something valuable for me. Like he did when I came home with top grades, my mother praised my efforts. I incorporated that habit and began to give myself small rewards for these victories. For example, if I exceeded my previous grades by getting more A’s than B’s, I allowed myself more fiction books to read in the coming month. Maybe I wore a brightly-colored ribbon in my hair braids that week, or took pleasure watching a Sunday movie with my mom so we could both be together and begin to heal.

Years later, even though I am long past having to deal with no self-confidence, I still find it worthwhile to reward myself for the little wins. For one thing, it feels good to do so. For another, it’s a healthy behavior that can help reduce everyday stress and tension. Besides, every little win boosts your self-confidence – even if you have plenty – during particularly challenging or stressful times. Everybody can use a little help in such instances.

Do more of what you’re good at – and what you enjoy doing.

We all have certain responsibilities and obligations that necessitate us doing things we’d much rather not do, or that we’d like to get through quickly, so we can get on to doing something else. If it’s a job that isn’t very rewarding, involving or exciting, such everyday drudgery can exact a toll on your self-confidence. Even if you’re a top-notch bookkeeper or budget analyst – as I was at one point in my corporate career – it may not be your avocation. Furthermore, perhaps your talents lie elsewhere. For my part, I was always a writer. I yearned to be able to do that in my career. Eventually, I did. Of course, there were the inevitable setbacks (call them downsizing, budget cutting and layoffs) when I had to return to financial duties, but those didn’t last forever. I was able to return to the kind of work I loved: writing.

Now that I’ve left corporate life and have my own business freelancing, I do what I’m good at and thoroughly enjoy. This doesn’t mean my work isn’t work, for it is. It’s not always easy and certainly not quick. Yet, the time doesn’t matter when you do what you love. It’s also a tremendous self-confidence booster. I highly recommend it.

If you can’t do what you’re good at and enjoy in your job, find a way to indulge your talents and dreams in your free time. Take up a hobby where you can exercise your gifts, meet others and share companionship doing something the community enjoys. Find your passion and make it part of your life.

Learning from your mistakes makes you stronger and more self-confidant.

You’re not always going to be right, yet you cannot fear making a mistake. If you do, it will eat away at your confidence. You’ll always wonder if there’s another mistake around the corner ready to set you back. That’s no way to live. Furthermore, when you fear making an error, you’re less likely to give your full effort to whatever task or activity you’re doing. In a way, it’s like being open to vulnerability when you’re putting yourself out there in a relationship. Sure, it may feel a little uncomfortable, even risky, yet that’s the only way to truly experience life. If you stumble, making a mistake, figure out what happened and why. When you learn from what you did and determine how to avoid that mistake the next time, you’re stocking your emotional recovery toolkit with useful information that helps increase your confidence that you have what it takes to get the job done.

In addition, when you make a mistake and own up to it, if you have good supervisors, they’ll recognize the value of an employee who has the courage to do so and the sense to learn from their mistake. In this case, everyone wins. If your bosses don’t like mistakes and ding you for making them, maybe you can work on finding work elsewhere somewhere down the line. I know that sounds hard to do, but it happened to me and I did put together a plan to find new employment – more suitable employment – and eventually was successful. Another self-confidence booster – and it works. If I can do it, you can too.

Get help from therapy.

If you’re seriously lacking in self-confidence, have low self-esteem – and particularly if you experience prolonged sadness, grief, depression or anxiety, get professional assistance in the form of counseling or psychiatric therapy. How do I know this works? While I wasn’t clinically depressed, after years of feeling I was performing at less than my full potential, and making some decidedly wrong behavioral choices to cope, I sought counseling and benefitted immensely from it. Note that this was years before getting therapy was considered socially acceptable and was something you hid from friends, family and everyone else. Today, actually for quite a few years, it’s considered healthy to seek counseling when you have emotional and/or compulsive, dependent or addictive behaviors that are wreaking havoc on your life.

Therapy can give you a significant boost of self-confidence when you stick with it and truly make the kind of lifestyle changes that add value, bring you to a fuller realization of your life’s purpose and help you pursue your hopes and dreams.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

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15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

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To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

 

 

10 Dangers of Always Making Safe Choices

Photo by Elena Prokofyeva on Unsplash

Photo by Elena Prokofyeva on Unsplash

“I don’t want an uneventful and safe life. I prefer an adventurous one.” – Isabel Allende

 

Every day you make choices. Some you make without thinking, part of a routine you’ve become accustomed to. Others you think about for a long time before deciding – if you do – to act. What most of us don’t realize, however, is that the time for making choices is not infinite. You can procrastinate too long in making a decision and the opposite of that, acting too quickly and always going for the safe choice isn’t wise either.

What are some dangers of always making safe choices? You might be surprised. Yet there are proactive steps you can take to modify your decision-making approach, so you avoid these dangers and enjoy the rewards from taking calculated risks.

1.    Life lacks excitement.

A boring life may be safe, yet who wants to live bored all the time? That’s the trouble with safe choices – you’re not likely to get into trouble, yet you’re not likely to find yourself excited about too much either. Think of excitement as a vitamin you need for health and well-being. Life is all about opportunities to sample myriad experiences. Adjust your mindset to welcome the slightly less safe choice with more potential to add excitement to your life.

2.    Growth may stall.

When you stick with what you know, what you’re familiar with and comfortable doing, you may never challenge yourself to add more skills or increase your knowledge base. That can be detrimental to future growth, not to mention current satisfaction with life. It’s tough to venture outside your familiar routine, yet you can take incremental steps to encourage positive growth with some calculated choices.

3.    Fear prevents discovery.

If you’d like to make a bold choice, yet you’re afraid of what you may encounter, you’ll stymie discovery. This is just as bad as stalling growth and usually accompanies always making safe choices. Perhaps you can take a reasonable risk to overcome fear and help broaden your world-view, enhance your experiences, see or try something new. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

4.    It’s difficult to meet new people.

Still seeing the same people, the ones you always know will be the same no matter what? There’s nothing wrong with lasting friendships, yet there comes a time when you must move beyond childhood friends or broaden your sphere of friends to add new ones who share your changing interests, attitudes, values or are in a career or vocation you aspire to. Join different types of groups, from those pertaining to hobbies and recreational activities, to travel, educational, sports and other desirable pursuits.

5.    Intimate relationships may suffer.

No doubt you know some individuals whose partners or spouses left them for someone more exciting, a companion who knew how to keep their interest and was brimming with life, active, happy and engaged in proactive pursuits. Who wouldn’t want to be with such a vibrant personality? When your daily life and interaction with the man or woman closest to you is just so-so, expect some turbulence ahead. Besides, life consists of change, some good, some heartbreaking, some in-between. Wouldn’t you want to share your deepest experiences with your loved one in a forthright and loving manner? This, however, requires that you step off the safe choice path and embark on a bit of a risk-taking journey. Most importantly, you must be willing to be vulnerable for true emotional intimacy. That’s a scary choice, yet one worth making.

6.    Potential goes unrealized.

How can you ever reach your true potential if you stay in the same course you’ve always taken? Not only do you forego the many opportunities that come your way because you won’t allow yourself to entertain them or don’t see them in the first place, you also have no idea just what you can become or how good your skills and talents are. Instead of wasting your potential, create your ideal scenario, what your life would look like if you achieved everything you ever wanted and more. This isn’t the end of striving to achieve your potential, just the beginning.

7.    Happiness remains an elusive goal.

If you remain stunted, lacking excitement, fearful of what you may discover by making bolder choices, still sticking with a safe daily routine, you may find that you’re always somewhat less happy than you’d like to be. This may be because happiness involves energy, involvement, challenging yourself and working to achieve desirable goals. Think of something you’d like to be successful at. Then, craft a plan and a strategy to achieve it. Start small, keeping in mind that success builds upon success. There’s plenty of time to get more creative after you’ve embarked on a path of smart and motivating choices in your decision-making.

8.    You’re never the go-to expert, only the go-along guy.

The employee who always takes the safe route, never going beyond what’s acceptable, customary and familiar, will never be a leader. Others will gravitate toward the individual who dares to be bold, who is engaging, or who is smart enough to recognize that what’s needed are new ideas with a likelihood to succeed. To counter a tendency to be middle-of-the-road in your work decision-making, try stepping a little outside your normal safe course of action. You won’t know how much of a difference it will make until you try.

9.    Nothing motivates you.

Like boredom, lack of motivation is a quick way to smother joy of life. Doing the same safe thing every day starts to look like a lifelong pattern. No wonder it’s difficult to get motivated to do anything, especially anything new. Remembering how jazzed you felt when you enthusiastically went after something you really wanted? Recapture that feeling and apply it to some new task or pursuit today. Positive motivation can be powerfully rewarding as a stepping-stone to success.

10. Success seems unattainable.

Speaking of success, if it always seems just out of reach, could the reason be that you’re always taking the safe route, making choices destined to create no waves – or cause any excitement? To succeed in anything, you must be willing to entertain risks – calculated ones, that is – to do the hard work despite minor or major setbacks, and to keep on even when you’d rather quit. The results will be worth the emotional journey you may experience in the process. For, as Socrates reportedly said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

*  *  *

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How Do You Figure Out Your Life’s Purpose?

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from them.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

Someone asked me the other day how I figured out my purpose in life. It’s a question I don’t often think about, yet it is a good one. For one thing, when I was in my early 30s with two children to raise on my own, I struggled with life’s purpose. Indeed, everything that could go wrong in my life seemed like it did go wrong. Much of the damage was due to my own choices, although I seemed either unaware or incapable of recognizing my part in the outcomes at the time. Fortunately, through intensive psychotherapy and creating and developing a strong support network, I was able to build self-esteem, gradually add self-confidence, belief in myself, learn to make better decisions, and, yes, figure out my life’s purpose.

What is my life’s purpose, you might ask? I think the simplest answer is also the most appropriate: to be the best version of myself I can be. This may seem too easy, although the statement covers all there is to know about what I value. Here, allow me to share what helped me figure out my life’s purpose, in the hope that it will provide a preliminary glimpse at what might work for others in the same quest.

Make a list of your strengths.

Everyone is good at something. Take the time to think about what you do well, what comes easily to you and you enjoy doing. If you’re really good at an activity, yet don’t particularly enjoy it, list it anyway. There may well be value in the activity that you’re not capitalizing on. Perhaps by changing your approach, when you do it, the tools and resources you use or don’t, who’s dependent on you for results and your own perception of the activity’s importance in your life can turn this strength into a clear option to help you navigate toward what is meaningful in your life. In other words, help you find your life’s purpose.

By way of personal example, I have always been a good writer. I haven’t however, always made use of my talent in ways that could benefit my career, personal life or happiness. Indeed, I almost gave writing the heave-ho to pursue a career more lofty, prestigious, stable and extremely well-paid. I took the LSAT in the hopes of getting accepted to law school. Even though I did well enough, I quickly learned that the field was not for me. I found it tedious, hard work, not creative at all and not worth the expense and time. Instead, I returned to writing, taking night school college courses that gave me the opportunity in various formats (term papers, homework, writing scripts, commercials, crafting business plans, and so on) to grow and nurture my skill.

Find a mentor.

Starting off in a field or endeavor you think may hold promise for your life’s purpose can be intimidating, confusing and scary. You don’t know a lot at first, and you need allies to help guide you as you make choices. A mentor is excellent for this. Should you concentrate on this area or opt for a more diverse approach? Do you need additional education or a period of internship or practice? Who are the best role models, people you look up to whose success, demeanor and well-roundedness you hope to emulate? If possible, single out a few men and women who fit the role of a mentor and ask if they’d be willing to assist you in this manner. It may be someone where you already work, or a professor or instructor in a class or activity you find enticing, enjoyable and with potential. It could be a close friend, acquaintance, family member or loved one, although it’s more likely to be someone outside your immediate social circles. A mentor can help you steer clear of time-wasting projects and point out where you may get more favorable return for your efforts. Listening to his or her stories about how they got where they are today and what drives them to pursue their purpose in life may inspire you to chart your own course.

I was fortunate to encounter several mentors in my career. Two were naturals: I worked for them. One was a college professor, a man who served as my master’s advisor. Another was a psychotherapist who helped me navigate emotional turmoil to zero in on my core beliefs and solidify my feelings of self-worth. In fact, there were others who served in less official mentorship roles throughout my life to date. I am grateful for their commitment and ability to motivate and guide me to make my own successful life choices.

Learn to see the positive in every situation.

It might be difficult to get past certain negatives in a given situation, yet the process of figuring out your life’s purpose depends on your ability to see past roadblocks, seemingly insurmountable challenges, lack of support, medical conditions, financial hurdles and more. What may be a stretch to find the plus in such circumstances is going to be one of your best strategies to make progress toward finding your purpose in life. Indeed, have you ever known someone who seemingly had one failure or disappointment after another, yet somehow managed to always maintain an upbeat, optimistic view on life? Did he or she appear happy in a genuine way, regardless of circumstance? If you were to ask this person whether they knew their purpose in life, chances are they’d answer in the affirmative. Positive thinking encourages positive action, motivates desire to make necessary changes and pursue them to completion.

I know this works, because it worked for me. Once I stopped seeing everything as failure waiting to happen and overcame the belief that I deserved to fail because I was inherently bad, my life began to change. No, it didn’t happen overnight. I had many little successes and unfortunate experiences along the way. What did happen, and I began to notice it (with the help of my therapist, mentor(s), close friends, loved ones and family members) more often, was that my outlook became decidedly positive. People started asking me for advice and to give my opinion. I was regarded as a kind of expert on various topics. Imagine what a boost to my self-confidence that was. Once you adopt positivity, you can find work-arounds for every problem, or find someone to help you discover and implement a workable solution. This is effective for everyday challenges as well as making headway toward your life’s purpose.

Pay attention to the signs.

Getting caught up in an activity, project, pursuit or endeavor may blind you to helpful signs along the way. For example, you may be so focused on making sure you craft a department budget that comes in on time and under budget in every category that you fail to find creative ways to fund an activity that’s deemed high-priority. Maybe you’re recognized as the best in your class and others ask for your help, yet you’re so enamored of your newfound celebrity status that you allow your ego to get in the way. When you ignore others to pat yourself on the back, you’re chipping away at your integrity and doing yourself no good in being generous of self. You’ll know the signs when you see them – if others don’t point them out to you.

In the case of my writing, I was fortunate to win several writing contests at UCLA, first in professional program of screenwriting and then in the MFA screenwriting program. I loved every minute of class, all the assignments, getting together with other writers, talking about and sharing the craft. The awards and recognition were terrific morale boosters, yet they were also the most prominent signs that I was pursuing my life’s purpose. Find your signs and pay attention to what they’re telling you.

If it feels good and time flies when you’re doing it, you’re on the right track.

I could spend days writing about how to discover your life’s purpose, but this is probably a good start. Getting to the crux of the matter, I’ll offer this. If what you do makes you feel good, productive, alive, refreshed and satisfied, let alone happy, and time goes by unnoticed, it’s another of those signs to pay attention to. It’s highly likely you’re on the right track to living your life’s purpose, one day at a time.

*  *  *

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Best Way to Effect Change

Best Way to Effect Change

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

 

When something’s not right and you want it to change, there are several ways to go about it. No doubt you want to tailor your actions, so they reflect the best way to effect change. While taking the initiative and acting may be the quickest and most efficient approach, there are some caveats to consider. You might not have all the facts, for example, or what you do know may be distorted by perception or long-held belief. It is also quite possible that your viewpoint is skewed, thus leading to erroneous conclusions and poor judgment.

Considering that there are always going to be situations and instances where change is desirable, as well as times when only you can do something about what needs changing, perhaps the best way to effect personal and situational change is by changing the way you look at things.

Granted, this isn’t easy to do, especially if you grew up in an atmosphere of rigid compliance where any testing of authority was not tolerated, and you were constrained to act within certain boundaries. Questioning the status quo may feel like anathema now that you’re an adult may feel like an impossible task, one that you’re loathe to entertain. A little-known yet very powerful way to begin to assert your independence is by thinking outside the box you were put in when growing up.

Suppose you were always called stupid and told you’d never amount to anything. Many well-meaning parents fall into the trap of being overly critical of their children, perhaps projecting their own insecurities while wanting in good faith to ensure their offspring have a better life. That their thoughtless remarks and labels have the opposite effect may never occur to them, at least without parenting counseling. That kind of cruelty on the part of parents, siblings or others is enough to stunt anyone’s growth. Finding your own path under such circumstances was likely difficult because you believed the criticism was right. Difficult, but not impossible.

Maybe you’ve attempted to change things in your life and failed repeatedly. This also tends to put a damper on any motivation to seek further change. Again, the prospects for self-change are difficult, yet not impossible.

It is important to note that there is no directive of human behavior that requires any individual to steadfastly accept their circumstance. You have the power to effect change for yourself above all else. It doesn’t matter if you grew up impoverished, in a dysfunctional family, with no support system, suffering childhood illness, mental health disorder or some other condition. Nor does an upbringing in an affluent household guarantee the ability to enact change, even if such changed is steadfastly desired. What is necessary, however, no matter the circumstances or conditions under which you grew up, is the willingness to put aside old beliefs and negativity and look at the world around you with open eyes and an unbiased heart.

Is there a wrong you seek to make amends for? What about an injustice you believe came about as the result of your actions? What avenues can you take to create a better life for yourself than that which you came into the world to? Can you find the path to follow to achieve greater success? Is it possible to mend your ways, repair your reputation, begin to love again, heal damaged relationships, find a way to balance work and home, explore your true potential and achieve almost any goal?

You bet there is.

If you are willing to cast aside the barriers and suspend judgment so that you can take in the reality that is now, you may be surprised that what you thought was so, what seemed impossible to change, is false. What is available to you, what you can change, will not only astound but also invigorate you.

How to get started with a plan.

Once you’ve cast aside beliefs that may have held you back in the past and resolved to move forward with determination and enthusiasm, you still need a plan. Venturing forth without a firm grasp of the change you’d like to effect, or a timetable to help guide your actions and help you stay the course, or a guide to refer to so you know if you are making progress or not, the mere desire to effect change will stall. To help you navigate effecting change, your plan must consist of the following:

  • The plan must be motivating, a course of action that you can not only see yourself taking, but one that fills you with vigor and excitement. The more internally motivated you are, the more likely your chances of success. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

 

  • It must be workable, a blueprint that you readily accept and believe yourself capable of putting into action. Deciding on a plan that’s going to put you in a position of tackling goals currently far out of reach is not the way to go. You need incremental stages, perhaps smaller goals or ones that are shorter in duration, before you can feel confident of your ability to take on harder goals or ones that require skills you don’t now possess. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities. Without reasonable but humble confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Norman Vincent Peale

 

  • To increase likelihood of success, the plan must consider potential hurdles and contain alternate scenarios and courses of action. Weigh each one according to its merits, gauging how close it gets you to your goal. “I have a number of alternatives, and each one gives me something different.” – Glenn Hoddle

 

  • The plan must also be modifiable, a guide that you can modify as conditions or needs change, or you’ve attained the goal and want to proceed to something else. Being constrained to a rigid plan is a quick recipe for disappointment and abandonment of the impetus to change. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Expect the unexpected when proceeding to effect change. To the extent that you can bounce back from setbacks, learn from your mistakes and missteps and find the lesson that’s often hidden within seeming failure, you’ll be developing and enhancing resilience, a crucial self-strength that allows you to overcome life-changing situations and stressful circumstances.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

Why Its Good That Youre Not Perfect

Photo by Monica Galentino on Unsplash

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” — Brené Brown

 

It’s practically a universal fact that almost everyone wants to get ahead. If I’m being honest, I must confess that I do. Even though I’m no longer striving to achieve a lofty career goal at a large corporation, I still have goals and want to succeed at them. It’s just that striving for recognition, money and advancement is no longer at the top of my wish list. I used to want that more than anything. Now I prefer to live a life of abundance: of spirit, joy, surrounded by loving family and friends, healthy, content and curious, willing to go out of my way to help others, to rejoice in the goodness of others.

I also know that I’m not perfect. The fact that I can readily admit that alleviates a certain amount of tension.

Trying too hard to be perfect never gets you anywhere. I learned that a long time ago. Granted, you make mistakes. Everyone does. Some of mine have been colossal blunders, while others were the result of being too hasty or careless or skipping some steps in pursuit of a goal. After beating myself up about it, I finally figured out that such hyper self-criticism was a waste of time. It made more sense to determine the lesson from the failure, if for no other reason than to not repeat it again. But perfectionism, trying to be perfect? According to experts, that’s an impossibility and a losing strategy.

On the other hand, striving to do better is an effective approach. With a worthwhile goal providing motivation, healthy striving can lead to a richer and more fulfilling life. I’ve found that to be true with goals large and small, some more immediate and others requiring considerable time and effort to achieve.

Suppose you’re not very good at math and want to become more proficient. Or you want to train yourself to be better at differentiating differences and spotting changes, as in identifying what’s different in a field of changing icons and images in a brain teaser game online. With diligent practice and the belief that you can improve your skill, you do indeed get better. That’s not trying to be perfect but striving to improve. The former is a hopeless pursuit, the latter laudable and likely to succeed.

In an average day, most of us experience a few disappointments, make the wrong turn, put the wrong ingredient in a recipe, rush through a quiz and make a few mistakes, forget what we were going to say, say the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time. These are examples of what we’d consider a failure, blunder, mistake or stupid move. With the mindset that always demands perfectionism, we’re likely to continue to spiral down, never quite making the mark and sinking deeper into a less hopeful and more negative state of mind.

In contrast, by taking mistakes, disappointments and failures in stride and striving to do better, we’re bolstering our resilience, maintaining good balance and promoting a healthy way of living. Sure, it may take practice to overcome a tendency to get things right every time, as well as learning to ignore the comments from others about “Better luck next time.” This is especially true if perfectionism has become ingrained and those who know you expect you to be perfect all the time.

Having witnessed a few friends and acquaintances who’ve succumbed to the tantalizing and wrong siren song of perfectionism – and coming close myself on one or two occasions – I know that the preferred and much more effective and satisfying way to live is to engage in healthy pursuit of achievable goals.

If you tend to believe the same way I do, you’re not perfect – hooray! Neither am I, thankfully. Life is so much more enjoyable this way and that’s why it’s good that you’re not perfect. Keep in mind, though, that just because you’ve let go of pursuit of perfectionism does not mean you relinquish your goals. Adding incrementally to your strengths, skills and accomplishments boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem and intensifies your sense of purpose in life.

 

*  *  *

 

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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5 Secrets to a Happy and More Productive Life

5 Secrets to a Happy and More Productive Life

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” – Keri Russell

 

Everyone has a favorite theory about what constitutes a happy life. Likely you know a few people who’ll readily tell you theirs. Allow me to share my five secrets to a happy and more productive life.

Only do what matters.

On any given day, we’re assailed with nonstop demands on our time, from the insatiable fount of hard-to-discern-what’s-valuable information on the Internet, to work, home, entertainment, invitations from friends and colleagues, junk mail, spoof robocalls and more. No wonder it’s become paralyzingly difficult to carve out chunks of time to devote to yourself. By prioritizing everything you must do, however, and giving weight only to what matters most to you, what you deem essential to accomplish today, you’ll find that you’re less distracted, cut down on daily stress, and find pleasure in completing task, projects and pursuits that are paramount.

Instead of letting others dictate what should matter to you, make sure you are the sole arbiter of this distinction. When you control what you feel is important, you’re taking the first proactive step to not only simplifying your life, you’re also enriching the precious 24 hours you have to live today.

Love what you do.

No doubt many have found themselves in dead-end jobs, forced by economic circumstance to take and keep whatever gainful employment was available. By resigning yourself to forever being less-than-satisfied with your means of bringing income into the home, however, you’re likely to lose out on a priceless and crucial ingredient in living a happy and more productive life. When you love what you do, every day is filled with opportunity, hope, discovery and purpose. Even challenges, major or minor, will not dissuade you from your enthusiasm, diligence, willingness to take risks, or forego immediate gains for long-term progress.

Here’s what happened to me. When I was raising two small children myself, I took an entry-level job in the purchasing department of a major automaker. I did very well there, all the while earning two college degrees at night. My supervisors wanted to promote me to the position of buyer, but I declined. I heard about a job in the public relations department, interviewed for it and got the position. At last, I was able to make use of what I had learned in school and every day flew by. I received incremental promotions and eventually rose to the executive level, even though there were some disappointments along the way (losing a plum reporter’s job during a major financial downturn and being reassigned to financial analyst position, for example).

Granted, it takes some imagination and a well-thought-out plan to see past the pigeonhole job you may be in right now (like my stint doing budgets, paying bills, analyzing and forecasting how the department could afford a mid-year new-car press preview). You can get beyond this unsatisfying stint and leave depression behind, starting with an adjustment to your mindset. Do the best you can with everything you do, no matter how menial, whether it’s considered drudge work no one else wants, or beneath your talents. How you meet challenges is a testament to your creativity and problem-solving, two traits that will serve you well wherever you go in life. So, be the best barista ever. Welcome guests as you park their cars. Find satisfaction in creating an efficient filing system. Think how you’re instilling a sense of wonder in your small children as you distract them from sibling rivalry or engage their curiosity when they complain of boredom. Offer suggestions when asked in company meetings. Become an expert in your area, so that you’re looked to for answers.

It’s by loving your part in excellence that you widen your sphere of influence, expand your horizons, and go on to bigger and better things.

Engage in your passions.

Think about what gets you excited, what you can’t wait to do. The origin of this excitement is your passion. And passion is what makes life extraordinarily rich and rewarding. How sad that so many people put off doing what they find pleasurable because of a sense of duty, citing lack of time, or that it’s not right to have fun when there’s so much work to do, or some other excuse that robs them of vitality and fulfillment.

What I love is a lengthy list of pursuits and hobbies. These include reading, writing, gardening, travel, trying out new recipes, mastering a difficult challenge, getting several degrees in my chosen fields. When I’ve deprived myself of my passions, I’ve suffered the consequences. There’s no point in telling yourself that you can do this another time or that you just shouldn’t waste time on this, for tomorrow may never come. You don’t have to take all day to do what you want for free or play time, just take a small amount of time for yourself. Watch that comedy. Stroll through the mall and check out interesting sales. Linger on the nature trail to notice what’s changed since last you were here. Engage in continuous learning so you’re always reaching for the next level, expanding your horizons, and making new friends.

Be true to yourself and your values.

When you live in accordance with your values, you are living in integrity. No one can take your values from you, although many people hide what they believe and are afraid to live according to their core values out of a mistaken idea that they’ll do better by going along with what others or the majority believe and do. Herd mentality never serves anyone well, least of all the person of integrity.

Granted, you may have to buck the trend to be true to yourself and your values, but isn’t living in harmony with what you believe worth it? It is so much more life-affirming to live what you believe than to exist in a discordant state. For my part, among the many instances where I was torn between my beliefs and values and doing what was considered appropriate for me (by others), was when I took the exam to get into law school. Attorneys make a very good living, and if I became a lawyer, I thought, all my money troubles would be over. I did well enough on the test and began to take law classes. I hated every minute of it. That career choice was short-lived. I did a deep soul search and realized I owed it to myself to believe in my talent to write, and to find a career that allowed me to make use of my gifts.

Share your joy with others.

Spreading your enthusiasm and showing your happiness and joy can be contagious. If you are happy and filled with enthusiasm, others cannot help noticing. Your positivity can at least cause them to rethink their outlook for today, to entertain the possibility that things may be better than they thought and potentially improve their mood, subsequent interpersonal exchanges and action.

I’ve always enjoyed people-watching when I get my morning latte at my favorite coffeeshop. Instead of standing in line like a robot, waiting to be assisted, I find something congenial to say to the person in front or behind me. I do so with a smile. Invariably, I both surprise and delight the individual, who generally reciprocates with a smile and pleasant banter. It’s nothing consequential, yet it spreads a positive emotion and embraces human connection.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more.

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10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

“Having an aim is the key to achieving your best.” – Henry J. Kaiser

 

It’s normal to wonder what you want to accomplish with your life. Sometimes such thoughts occur only intermittently, typically at milestone events such as high school graduation, entering college, getting a first job, meeting someone who becomes a romantic interest. Other times, though, you might dismiss any focus on future goals due to a more immediate concentration on what’s happening now. Still, life goals are important, for nothing worthwhile can be achieved without having a plan and working to succeed. These 10 tips on reaching your life goals may be helpful to do just that.

View goals as growth and aim high.

Having a goal is part of the growth process in becoming an adult. What’s often underappreciated, however, is what it takes to achieve those goals. It is more than merely thinking of the goal, working on it and then succeeding. One point that’s both straightforward and can make the achievement of even the loftiest goal a bit less formidable is to aim high. There can be immense satisfaction in knowing that the process of goal attainment helps you grow. Another crucial aspect of successfully achieving important life goals is to put into place specific plans to help you realize the goals.

Include stretch goals.

Why is aiming high recommended? For one thing, it always helps to have stretch goals. Like it sounds, a stretch goal is one that you know is beyond your current reach, yet it is highly desirable. A stretch goal will require you to put in a great deal of thought, time and effort to be successful. It’s not something easily attainable or a goal that you can do with barely any thought or effort. While some successes you have are accomplishments, most aren’t all that memorable. Stretch goals involve challenges, going beyond your comfort zone, entertaining the possibility that you may be in a little over your head – for now. On the other hand, when organizations set stretch goals for employees, it may serve to undermine organizational performance.

Always have several goals.

In line with regarding goals as growth is the recommendation to always maintain a list of several goals. These can consist of starter goals, which can be goals you’re just investigating or want to try to see if they hold your interest, intermediate goals, such as a stepped approach to landing a coveted career, or long-term goals that may include where you want to one day retire, how many children to have, whether a one-on-one relationship is what you want. The reason to have several goals is so that you always have something to work toward that you consider valuable and worthwhile. The more a goal interests you, even if it’s considerably far off, the more motivated you’ll be to put in the time and effort required to see it through.

Give careful consideration to goals when planning.

To be truly memorable, and worthy of intense concentration and effort, your goal should cause you to think long and hard about how to approach it, when, where and how to revise or adapt it to changing circumstances, and what to take away from it one you either succeed, stumble, or discard it. For there is always a lesson or two to learn. Those who are most successful in achieving their stretch goals are the ones who’ve taken the time to master the lessons they learned during mistakes.

Stagger goals.

When putting your goals into a list, make sure to include a rough timetable for completion. It’s also wise to space out more complex, difficult or time-consuming goals so that you’re not trying to work on more than one of these at once. That’s scattering your focus and depleting your physical, emotional and psychological resources. Besides, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Sure, you can chip away at some of the easier goals to get some successes to your credit, while still putting in appropriate time, effort and attention before or after the no-brainer goals working on your high-value goals.

Be realistic, yet adventurous in goal-setting.

Does aiming high include taking risks? You bet. When a goal is stimulating, gets you excited and eager to begin, it’s also likely to contain an element of risk. You might not achieve it, at least not at first try. On the other hand, the journey toward life goal completion is an adventure, as it should be. Do be realistic about the goals you set, while still seeing yourself successful in some seemingly unattainable goals you’d like to master. Besides, research shows that goals that retain your interest can both improve your work and help reduce burnout.

Take note of past goal successes.

No matter what your goal, you’ve likely had some experience already in something similar. If not in totality, at least directionally, by aspiration, training, skill or talent. Such successes are the reservoir you can draw from for inspiration, motivation, and lessons learned. They can and will serve you well in any goal you want to pursue in life. You succeeded because you had a plan, persevered despite obstacles, found the lesson in mistakes, and were flexible enough to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

Be flexible in goal implementation and be sure to monitor progress.

Recognizing that you might not fully realize a goal the first time you attempt it, keep in mind that flexibility in how you proceed with goals is crucial to ultimate success. What appears to be a rock solid plan may turn out to be less than ideal. Revision is not only advisable, but necessary. If you’re locked in and refuse to adapt and adjust, you will not only increase your frustration and stress, but you’re also much more likely to abandon the goal altogether. It’s also good strategy to monitor your progress toward goal achievement, as such regular check-ups increase both motivation and likelihood of success.

Allow room for error.

You can’t know everything, nor can you anticipate every possible circumstance before working on your goals. Succeeding in important life goals involves acknowledging, allowing and even accepting that you’ll make errors, mistakes, fall short on some aspects, perhaps undershoot the mark. Seniors with cognitive impairment may find themselves making more errors and mistakes than they did when younger, yet they’re still able to work toward life goals and gain a measure of fulfillment from both the pursuit and completion of goals they deem worthwhile. Practice patience, both if you are older and have trouble with concentration, focus and follow-through, or if you are the adult child, sibling, co-worker, friend or neighbor of someone who’s having a tough time succeeding with their goals.

Recognize some goals may feel uncomfortable – and that’s good.

Perhaps the best advice on reaching your life goals is to go for goals that are a little disconcerting. That is, they give you a twinge of uncertainty, even feel a bit uncomfortable. Why is that good? You want to strive to achieve goals that are yet beyond your reach. If they’re too easy, or too quickly achieved, you may not gain as much satisfaction, wisdom or advancement from their completion. That’s not to say that quickly-accomplished goals shouldn’t be on your list, just that the ones you really need to work for may be more meaningful to your life goals.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related posts:

Success May Be Elusive, But It’s Possible

Success Means You Make Things Happen

How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

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