Positive, think positive! That seems to be the modern age’s credo. Be positive, think positive, just live in a positive bubble so no evil can ever harm you. But how effective is this life approach, really?
When we set goals we naturally try and be positive about them. We think of the end-point where our goal is achieved and our confidence reaches a new sky-high record. But what really happens is that until we get there, until we achieve our goals, it’s a constant personal internal struggle of sidestepping negative thinking and idealizing the positive side of things. Although positive thinking has certain advantages it’s not completely without flaws.
You see, when you’re focusing on something like improving your vocabulary, what you wish to concentrate on is mastering a certain amount of words daily, or reaching new difficulty level each month, and so on. Inevitably, you’ll choose to focus on the outcome. You might say to yourself, “I will be more confident conversing with my boss,” or “I will finally sound and look more professional thanks to my broadened vocabulary.” These are realistic images of success, and such images are motivations that can help you attain your goals. However, they have one substantial thing lacking: they entirely overlook any obstacles and hindrances you might face during your practicing. Yes, it’s good to concentrate on the positive outcome, but losing sight of the potential obstacles can be both naive and careless.
To ensure success you need to look at a goal realistically. This doesn’t mean that you stop being positive and optimistic about it, but instead that you see it as it really is. What this means is that you need to adopt an open-minded viewpoint and use that perspective to predict and tackle the hindrances as well as the benefits that might be generated during the process of working towards your goal. This means that if you wish to realistically reach your goals you need to balance the positive with the negative. Take note of the obstacles you’re bound to face as well as the advantages. Continuing with our vocabulary example, your obstacles might be a lack of time to practice, not being sure what words to study, or difficulty using words in context (good vocabulary software will help overcome these obstacles).
A well-balanced, realistic approach to any goal is the path to success. Choose to overlook the obstacles you’re bound to face, and you set up yourself for disaster.
So what does that mean in practical terms?
Next time you set up a new goal, before rushing to idealize the winning moment when you picture yourself 5 pounds lighter, a home owner, a CEO, or whatever you’re working towards, take time to size up what’s involved in achieving your goal.
If your goal is to get promoted, write down 5 things that motivate you or ways the promotion will benefit you. This “Positive List” will function as your incentive and motivation. Then go on and write a second list, the “Realistic List.” On this list, you note the 5 most important obstacles you think you’ll face; for instance, competition, lack of work experience, or a supervisor’s predilection for another employee. The Realistic List will keep you grounded, focused and surprisingly motivated. This balanced list makes your goals feasible. Remember, you need the whole picture to understand what you’re looking at, and the “Realistic List” helps you do exactly that.