10: Commit to Your Goals

This can be a tough one. It can be scary to commit to something that might or might not work out.

I went to see Carol Dweck yesterday in a small talk given in central London. She spoke about her book, Mindset, and the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that effort means that you aren’t smart or talented, and so you if it doesn’t come easily, they won’t do anything to get better. Those with a growth mindset believe that you can work toward becoming better at something and that mistakes are a good way to continue learning.

In order to fully commit to a goal, you HAVE to have a growth mindset. There will be set-backs and you may have to learn new skills. You have to work on optimising your strengths and figuring out how to work around or strengthening your weaknesses. Do Not go for perfection in the way a fixed mindset sees it – as nothing can go wrong. Go for “perfection” in the way a growth mindset sees it – working toward making what you do better and better along the way.

My goal is to start and improve a private practice in psychotherapy. I have begun to follow this goal by getting into a CBT programme at Oxford, finding a space to do my therapy, starting a twitter & facebook page that will eventually be linked to a website (as will this blog), and through networking as much as I can!

So, make those goals and go for them! They can be a small goal or a big one, it doesn’t matter, but find that passion!

2. Cultivate Optimism

The second thing that happy people tend to do differently is to cultivate optimism. When the students ask me how I can be so positive and optimistic, I ask them if they would want to talk to a counsellor who isn’t. They laugh and see my point. Optimism can be an amazing thing.

Optimism can have a very positive effect, particularly if you think about the idea of a self-fulfilling prophesy. In a self-fulfilling prophesy, you predict that something is going to happen in your future. This prediction tends to come true due to a feedback system. If I am optimistic that things are going to go well, then I will act in this way and thus it’s more likely that things will go well. The opposite applies too.

Optimism is part of a growth mindset (if you haven’t read Carol Dweck’s book, you need to!). For example, if you have a failure, instead of seeing it as horrible, you’ll see it as a mistake to learn from, an opportunity to grow.

So, every day, take a minute or two to imagine just how well the day is going to go. Visualize yourself doing an activity the way you want it to go. It’s more likely to happen that way.