Many people set a new year's resolution with the hope of starting a new habit, discontinuing some old ones, or just setting some brand new goals for a new year. The words and focus we choose for this commitment are more important than we might think.
We brainwash ourselves with our thoughts and the language we choose.
Here are some ways to make it easier for our words and attention to help us reach our goals:
Change language from negative to positive.
Negatively stated goals can sound like, "I do not want to smoke," "I do not want to overeat," or "I'm not going to lose my temper this year." The problem with stating goals this way is we lose half of our brain power with the word "not". The language part of our brains understands what this means, but the visual part has no idea what to do with the word not - so it just leaves it out. Here's an example: Do not think of a pink elephant. Too late. The visual part or our brain has already created an image of the pink elephant. What does "not smoking", "not overeating", or "not losing my temper" look like in my mind? It looks like smoking, overeating, and losing my temper. The visual cortex just loses the word not, and we find ourselves inadvertently triggered to do the very thing we are trying to avoid!
It's easy to get around this by using our words to create new, healthier images of the changes we want to make. For example, instead of, "I'm not going to smoke," say, "If I have the urge to smoke, I'll breathe some fresh air, drink some cold water, and stretch." Now we have a healthy image linked to the urge to smoke. Instead of saying, "I do not want to overeat," try saying, "If I get the urge to keep eating, I will wait ten minutes, see if I'm hungry, and if so, I'll eat something healthy." If you want to "not" lose your temper, try saying, "If I am feeling angry, I'll remember that I want to keep myself calm." We can see ourselves making these changes, and tap into more of our brain power.
Move from stagnation to motivation with a shift of focus.
Many times we find ourselves dwelling on things we would like to change or leave behind. That keeps our focus on negativity, like staring at a door that we don't want to go through. The problem with this is that it leaves us stuck, motionless, killing our motivation. People can and do remain stuck for long periods of time.
If you have been feeling stuck, it's likely that your focus is stuck, keeping you dwelling on the negatives, squashing hope and optimism. To get unstuck, first visualize another door you would like to move towards, and ask yourself what steps you can take to move in that direction.
Our minds were built to wander, and often return to old thought pathways. Bringing your attention to your thoughts, or using mindfulness to be present in the here and now, will help you notice your focus shifting back to negativity. If this happens, just shift your attention back to the door you want to move towards and the way you would like to be.
The parts of ourselves we would like to develop are there; they just need our attention to grow. The more we do this, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Using visualization to think and see what you want more of in your life helps you
break free from negativity, and makes your goals more easily attainable.
MARSHA MANDEL, MA, LMHC, CCTP
Master Accelerated Resolution Therapy Clinician
National Accelerated Resolution Therapy Trainer
National SAF-T Trainer
Certified Clinical Trauma Professional