Get Your Goals In Focus
We all have aspirations, dreams or goals we would like to reach and achieve. Identifying those goals and dreams is the easy part, accomplishing them is where it gets a little tricky. With the help of some psychology reaching your goals can become a reality.
Think You Can: Self-Efficacy
Staying motivated and achieving your goals is very closely connected with what you believe about yourself and your ability to achieve those goals. Psychologist Albert Bandura calls this self-efficacy – the level of which you are convinced of your ability to effectively meet the demands of a certain situation. His research shows that people that have an optimistic sense of self-efficacy will look at challenges as tasks to master, they tend to make a strong motivational effort, are persistent, and find ways to overcome obstacles. If you see yourself as competent and capable, you are more likely to strive and achieve your goals. If you have self-doubts, motivation quickly dwindles because the task is perceived as too difficult. So how do you build your sense of confidence and self-efficacy? Through what Bandura calls mastery experiences.
Strengthen via Try and Fail: Mastery Experiences
According to Bandura, the most effective way to build your self-efficacy is through mastery experiences – experiencing success at moderately challenging tasks in which you have to overcome obstacles and persevere. On your first attempt at something challenging, strive for progressive improvement rather than perfection. Keep progressing to improve and keep in mind that there will be set backs, don’t give up, these are teaching moments. If the task is too easy, it doesn’t give you enough reward to keep you motivated. Remember, success usually requires sustained effort.
Another strategy is by watching and modeling others. Sometimes we have the motivation and desire but lack the skills or knowledge. In this case it’s helpful to watch another person who has the skills and knowledge and model their actions and ways of doing things. This is called observational learning. This can be applied to anything you wish to improve. Sports, organizing your life, exercise, study skills, managing people at work, speaking in public, making sales, cooking, etc.
Forming Goal Intentions
Sometimes you may have a good sense of self-efficacy and confidence that you can accomplish some goal but you still have trouble putting it into action. This often happens with New Years resolutions like losing weight or getting in shape. According to German psychologist Peter Gollwitzer, one way of accomplishing your goals is first to set a goal intention. Instead of making vague intentions like “I’m going to lose weight.” Make a specific intention. “I intend to go to a cardio class three times a week on these days and times.” By making a specific goal intention it creates a sense of commitment and obligation to make that goal happen. The more specific you get, the better, and linking your behavior to situational cues, the more likely you will start the behavior that helps accomplish those goals. For instance you could say, “After work today I will go and sign up for a yoga class for Mondays and Wednesdays.” Linking your behavior to a situation. This helps establish new habits and routines to help you maintain your goals. Research has shown that this is very effective.
Visualization Works Both Ways
Mental images that we conjure can work with us or against us. That is how powerful they can be. Seeing yourself fail a test, goof up a presentation or imagining other fears only help to undermine your confidence and influence you to fail. By reversing your mental images and seeing yourself as performing effectively and accomplishing your task can enhance your performance. Athletes use this to enhance them in competition. So control negative and self-sabotaging thoughts, focus on positive thoughts and your capabilities not your limitations or fears. Mentally rehearse your skills, the process and the steps you will take to achieve the outcome you desire.
On a personal note: If you practice these strategies, you will accomplish many goals and dreams. It’s not enough to have dreams – you must put them into action. Everyday have “little wins”. Strive everyday to accomplish some small task to a bigger goal. Every time you accomplish a small task it’s one step closer to that goal and it has an amazing super-booster affect keeping you motivated. If it’s not a “little win” for a personal goal, do something that helps your self-esteem, or helps another person. Don’t’ let the day end without accomplishing some small task. Also, get healthy, and your self-esteem will sky rocket. My motto is “Dream-Do”. It works!
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