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How to Not Talk Yourself Out of Your Goals and Dreams

How to Not Talk Yourself Out of Your Goals and Dreams

    We talk a lot about setting goals, living your dreams, reaching your full potential and even give you some great ways to plan out those goals and dreams. But, I have found that it isn’t the thinking and planning process of goals and dreams that is the hard part, oh, no.

    The difficult part of reaching your goals and dreams is following through and not letting yourself talk yourself out of them. That’s a mouthful, so let me clarify.

    Why we fail at accomplishing our goals

    Call them goal, dreams, projects, whatever. If you are a Lifehack reader then you have a list of them somewhere. These are the things that you want to accomplish or the things that someone else wants you to accomplish.

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    Even after intense brainstorming, planning, and following through with some of the steps that you have outlined to reach your goals; something happens. Plans change, people quit, things get tough, your idea doesn’t seem so revolutionary anymore; you get stuck and with that your goal starts to fly away to failure.

    Don’t get me wrong, failure is a good thing and we must fail and fail often, but what about those things that you truly want to accomplish? What about your “life’s work” that you must do? What happens when those goals go up in a puff of smoke?

    There are four reasons we fail to accomplish our goals and reach our dreams:

    1. The goal is more of a “pipe-dream” than you thought and should be thought through more thoroughly. Maybe you don’t have the resources you need to accomplish it or something in your environment or life has changed. Your plan may need some work and you may have to “regroup” on the entire goal/dream/project all together.
    2. Your priorities completely changed and the goal isn’t important anymore. Maybe that’s not a complete failure, but the goal is now gone.
    3. Your goal/dream/project just sucked and you found out it wasn’t worth doing.
    4. Things got too hard to accomplish and you thought your way out of your goals. This is the worst of all offenders.

    We have a decent amount of content at Lifehack about how to plan things more effectively and how to deal with priorities and “areas of focus”, let’s look at how not to think yourself out of your goals and dreams.

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    The “Stinking Thinking” thought process

    Sometimes we think too much. So much that we can think ourselves out of a good idea. Not good.

    How does it happen?

    Yesterday I was doing a bike ride (know about our Fitness Challenge?) and I was about 20 minutes into it. My legs were burning, I was cramping up (not enough water, again), and I was sort of close to home. I reached a slower point in my biking and a thought entered my head, “you’ve done enough and you are spent, just head home”.

    I’m working on a personal project that I am extremely excited about and I got to a place in code where I ran myself into a wall. I thought, “I should probably just start over with a different framework” which led to, “I’m never going get this done or make it right.”

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    This is where most goals stop dead in their tracks. The going gets tough, and we flee from the task at hand.

    How to stop the process

    Stopping “stinking thinking” is somewhat easy. Instead of convincing yourself that failing at your goal is the right thing to do, stop yourself, take a breather and regroup until your thoughts become more positive. Then act.

    It only took me about 1 minute to change my tune completely from, “I can’t make this last ten minutes” to “I’ve come this far, push yourself forward.” Once you hit that “positive self-talk”, that’s when you push forward. Don’t second guess yourself and don’t consider alternatives.

    Another way to get your positive thinking back is to review your goal and write about it a little bit. This will bring you back to a more positive state as your thoughts can be better organized and will be much clearer on paper (or screen). Once you find the positives, act.

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    Of course this only works with goals and projects that are good ideas or good for you; the others will be weeded out by priority and planning processes.

    Don’t let your negativity get to you and destroy your dreams. Any goal worth anything will be difficult and you will reach the elusive “I can’t do this anymore” moment. Don’t give up. Wait for positive thinking to take over and move forward.

    (Photo credit: boy drawing sales report on the wall via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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