Reframe Your Goals to Move Past Roadblocks

From Shape Magazine

You set your sights on a goal—running more, getting promoted, eating better. Yet something is impeding your path. “Certain ways of thinking can obstruct you without your even realizing it,” says Leslie Sokol, Ph.D., a co-author of Think Confident, Be Confident. If you’re feeling a little stuck, try these cognitive tweaks. They seem minor, but they may help you move past mental roadblocks, so you can make strides faster and easier.

Assume you’ll get a yes.

Going into a situation with hesitation can make you think and act defensively, and that can drown your confidence, Sokol explains. Say you want to ask your manager for a raise. If you enter her office already worried that she’ll turn you down, you’ll be focused on how to cope or change her mind, rather than on the impulses that made you think you deserve the raise in the first place.

Here’s how to break this habit: Right before a potentially stressful situation, tell yourself that everything will work out the way you want it to—you’ll get your yes or perhaps some other unforeseen perks. This confidence boost short-circuits the negativity, Sokol says, helping you perform better and shape the conversation to work for you.

Rewrite your story.

To uncover hidden barriers to success, start by jotting down a desired, but so far unfulfilled, goal and what’s holding you up. For example, “I want to go to the gym after work every day, but by the time I get home and eat, it’s usually too late.” A day later, try again, this time beginning with the phrase The truth is.

“It’s easy to mentally dismiss troubling truths about yourself, but the act of rewriting forces you to confront the reality of what’s driving your behavior,” explains Jack Groppel, Ph.D., a co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. You might find yourself admitting, on paper, “The truth is, once I get home I just want to watch TV and zone out.” This kind of honesty identifies the real roadblock. Now, you can address it.

Think big. Even bigger!

We often ignore our most visceral reactions, telling ourselves they’re too extreme to be feasible, notes psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D., author of Emotional First Aid. After watching the Boston Marathon, for instance, you might think, I want to run this next year! But then you immediately start backtracking: I can barely finish a 5K, and I’d need to start training for a qualifying marathon soon, so probably not. This means you miss out on what could be a fulfilling opportunity.

Instead, “visualize what would happen if you did decide to run, ignoring those ‘buts’ for a bit,” Winch suggests. This gets you in the habit of respecting your core instincts. Remember: You can worry about logistics later, once you decide you’re truly game.

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