Last week we reviewed some of the most important ingredients for goal attainment. This week, we will delve deeper into what is perhaps the most important one of all; self-image. We touched on this in our last post when we stated that it is impossible to accomplish anything that is inconsistent with our self-image, i.e. the way we conceive of ourselves, and the things we believe about ourselves. For example, if you want to fall in love with a suitable partner, but hold a deep-rooted belief that you are awkward, socially anxious, and essentially an undesirable person, no matter how badly you want it, or how aggressively you “put yourself out there,” it just won’t happen. And if it does, it likely won’t last. In this post, we will be offering some tips to help you uncover your subconscious negative beliefs about yourself, and work on replacing them with positive truths to rewire yourself for success.
1. Relax and access your subconscious: *disclaimer* we are not referring to Freudian psychoanalysis here. What we are getting at, is the idea that there is a part of our minds that we do not have immediate access to. This is the part that goes to work when we are asleep and dreaming, or that makes seemingly automatic decisions for us without giving them rational thought. It could take years of psychotherapy (and research) to truly understand the depths of the subconscious mind, however there are some ways to facilitate accessing it. Because our objective is to uncover unconscious beliefs about ourselves, the best way to bring such information to the surface is to engage in deep relaxation. When we vacate the mind and calm the body, by way of meditation or relaxation exercises, for example, many important thoughts can materialize. Some of the best creative ideas and “epiphanies” have come to individuals when they are relaxed and disengaged. Reflecting on your behaviour and entertaining plausible theories about yourself can also be helpful in revealing subconscious thoughts and beliefs.
2. Challenge negative beliefs with fact: once you have identified some of the limiting negative beliefs you hold about yourself, challenge them with positive truths that suggest otherwise. For example, if you believe yourself to be unintelligent, and thus incapable of finding respectable and lucrative employment, search your mind and your memory for examples of yourself acting intelligently and solving problems rationally and successfully. It is highly unlikely that every memory you have of yourself performing in any capacity, has consisted of failures, or in the case of our present example, acting irresponsible or unwise. Research shows that if you strongly identify with a certain belief, especially when negative, you will seek further information from the environment to support your existing belief. This is ever-present in the case of self-image. If I maintain that I am an absent-minded and disorganized person, every time I do something that confirms this theory, the alarm bells in my mind will go off giving me the proverbial “I told you so.” As humans, we love to be right and feel vindicated. Not in an egotistical way, but in an effort to gain positive reinforcement. This is no different for negative information. Now, we are not suggesting that every time you make a mistake or something unfortunate happens, you should shrug it off and insist that you are a genius who makes no errors. Quite the contrary. We are suggesting that the next time you make a mistake, or act in a way that reinforces your negative self-image, take notice, and see if for what it is; a mistake. Likewise, when you act in a way that contradicts your negative self-image, for example, you earn a high score on an exam, or get recognition from your boss for a job well done, store these examples in your mind as evidence of competence, and then continue building your storage box of positive experiences so that they may surpass the negative ones. What is perhaps my favourite example Dr. Maxwell Maltz gives in his world-renown book, Psychocybernetics, is that of Babe Ruth who to this day holds the record for the highest number of home run hits. What most people don’t know, however, is that he also has the highest record for strikeouts. It is you who decides what to make of your blunders.
3. Act the Part: I suppose this could fall under the category of faking it till you make it, but that doesn’t really seem to do it justice. What we mean by “acting the part” is imagining what it would feel like to achieve your goal and feeling those feelings today. Think about the sense of accomplishment, the rewards, the pride that will accompany the realization of something you are striving for and embody them in the here and now. When you act like the kind of person that has all the characteristics needed to meet your goals, and possess all that you desire, you will begin to identify with them, and it will only be a matter of time before they begin to ring true. What does that person look like? How does that person communicate with others? How does that person dress? Think of the details and practice them. This tip can easily be misinterpreted as superficial – don’t be fooled, it is everything but. It has to do with famous researcher Albert Bandura’s idea of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is defined as one’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations and accomplish any given task. Years of research in motivation and goal achievement, among other sub-fields of psychology, have concluded that it plays a major role in how we approach our goals, and how successful we are at attaining them and overcoming our challenges. Success can only follow the belief that we possess the characteristics and tools necessary to reach it. If you feel like wearing a straw fedora is going to help you “act the part,” go for it with conviction.
We hope this has helped shed some light on the great importance of self-image in goal achievement. Many of these principles were derived from world renown physician Maxwell Maltz’s theory of Psychocybernetics; an excellent system for achieving health, happiness, and success. We will be posting more articles on this topic throughout the course of the month in hopes of providing more valuable information on how to successfully accomplish the things that are most important to you in your life.