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Achieve Your Goals with Three Must-Have Psychological Assets

Goal setting, writing goals, marketing goals, business goals, life goals . . . everyone has heard of these terms, these strategies to creating and achieving goals. But, what’s involved in actually creating and achieving those goals? How do you get from an idea or desire to its fulfillment?

To begin, you need to have the ‘right stuff.’ You need three essential elements. The first of which is confidence.

1. Confidence

In a report published in Business Horizons, Fred Luthans, Distinguished Professor of Management, University of Nebraska, explains that confidence is one of four positive psychological capital assets needed for success. This asset has a “strong positive relationship to work-related performance,” and is considered the most important of the four assets. (1)

But, what if you find yourself on the low-end of confidence? What if you don’t think you have the talent, skills, or other abilities needed to succeed at your goals? This happens to most everyone at one time or another, whether factual or perceived.

 The good news is confidence can be learned and it can be increased.

In her article, “How to Build Confidence,” Amy Gallo, contributing editor with Harvard Business Review, quotes Tony Schwartz and Deborah H. Gruenfeld, experts in the area of confidence and achieving goals. (2)

According to Schwartz, “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it.” 

Gruenfeld concurs with this and takes it a bit further, “Practice can be very useful, and is highly recommended because in addition to building confidence, it also tends to improve quality.”

So, the old saying, ‘practice makes perfect,’ is a two-benefit strategy. It improves the quality of what you’re practicing and it builds confidence in that area as you practice.

2. Hope / Optimism

Numbers two and three in Luthans’ four positive psychological capital assets are hope and optimism. Since they’re so closely related, I’ve combined them into this article’s second must-have element needed for success.

According to an article at SharpBrains.com, “Hope is what you want to happen. Optimism is the belief that the outcome you hope for will happen.” (3)

This is a wonderful explanation of optimism. It’s not simply being upbeat and hoping for the best, it’s believing your desired results will really happen.

The optimism ideology is closely associated with positive psychology and reminds me of the scripture in Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. made it a bit more understandable when he said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t’ see the whole staircase.”

This optimistic attitude goes hand-in-hand with a positive mindset. You must believe that your goals or hopes will be fulfilled in order for them to actually be fulfilled.

As mentioned above, you need to believe in a successful outcome in order for it to come about.

But, what if you don’t feel optimistic? What if it’s not in your nature?

If you don’t ‘feel’ optimistic, you can use ‘positive thinking’ to become optimistic. One strategy is to say and read positive affirmations. Another strategy is to create a vision board. The key to both strategies is to keep them front and center – you need to see them, read them, and say them every day.

By doing this, you can actually teach your brain to think positive, to be optimistic.

Another strategy is meditation. Through this practice you can train yourself to think positive, to be optimistic. You can Google Deepak Chopra or other expert in this area for simple instructions on meditation.

3. Resilience / Perseverance

The Luthans report defines resilience as the “capacity to ‘bounce back’ from adversity or even dramatic positive changes.” (1)

It goes on to explain that resilient people are recognized to have “(a) a staunch acceptance of reality, (b) a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful, and (c) an uncanny ability to improvise and adapt to significant change.”

Resilient people have their feet on the ground, have strong values, and are flexible and durable.

Within the category of resilience is perseverance. According to The Resilience Scale, it’s considered a characteristic or trait of resilience. (4) Perseverance is the part of resilience that allows an individual to keep bouncing back, to keep getting up when knocked down.

The Free Dictionary defines perseverance as a “steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, belief, or a purpose.”

It might also be considered strong willed and steadfastness.

But, how does someone acquire the trait of perseverance?

In the Psychology Today article “The Neuroscience of Perseverance” by Christopher Bergland, it states: “Dopamine is the fuel that keeps people motivated to persevere and achieve a goal. You have the power to increase your production of dopamine by changing your attitude and behavior.  Scientists have identified higher levels of dopamine -- also known as the ‘reward molecule’ -- as being linked to forming lifelong habits, such as perseverance.” (5)

Bergland gives seven steps to help you create and increase perseverance. What the seven steps boil down to is creating a positive habit that will move you toward your goal and sticking with it until it becomes routine and even desired. It’s the repetition that reinforces “a mindset of perseverance.” Once the desired effect is established, the goal is reached and the perseverance trait is reinforced again.

It’s also advisable, along your goal-reaching path, to create smaller, attainable goals that can boost both confidence and further cement the perseverance mindset.

4. Focused Effort

While the article title says ‘three’ must-have psychological assets, without focused effort no amount of confidence or optimism will get you from point A to point B, so I’ve added a fourth goal-achieving element, focused effort.

It’s not enough to talk-the-talk. You must also walk-the-walk.

Simply wanting something won’t make it happen. You need to create a focused plan that includes focused actions steps to take you where you want to be, where you see yourself – achieving your goals or desired outcome. Then you need to implement those action steps and keep your eye on the goal. In other words, you need to work for what you want.

If you want to become a writer, your first action step will be to learn the craft. You’ll need to take classes, listen to lectures, and read lots on the topic. And, you’ll need to practice by writing, writing, and writing more.

Along with creating a plan to get you from point A to point B, you need to review, evaluate, and even analyze your progress along the way. This is important so you can see which of your actions are moving you forward and which are simply wasting your time, energy, and possibly your resources. Revise your plan as needed.

Confidence, optimism, perseverance, and focused effort are interwoven. Together they create a solid conscious and subconscious mind and body environment that will move you toward accomplishing what you set out to.

References:

(1) Business Horizons 47/1 January-February 2004 (45-50)
(2) http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2011/04/how-to-build-confidence.html
(3) http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2013/01/22/the-science-of-optimism-a-conversation-on-the-optimism-bias-with-neuroscientist-tali-sharot/
(4) http://www.resiliencescale.com/papers/resilience_core.html
(5) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201112/the-neuroscience-perseverance

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