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How to Get What You Want in Life

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How to Get What You Want in Life
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Once upon a time, there was a ruler of the ancient Greek city of Sipylus called Tantalus. He was invited to dine with the great Greek gods on Mount Olympia, where he stole some exotic fruits to share with the common people. Of course, this made the Gods angry for betraying their hospitality. To please them, Tantalus then sacrificed his own son and offered him to the Gods. Goes without saying, this made things even worse.

As a punishment, the Gods threw Tantalus in the deepest part of the Underworld, reserved for evildoers. His damnation? — He was sentenced to sit in a pool of water, with fruits over his head. Every time he wanted to take a sip, the water receded. And when he reached for the fruit, it moved up. Simply put, it was a life of eternal frustration and dissatisfaction.

This story of King Tantalus very likely echoes to anyone with big goals who’s tried to achieve them all and have fallen short—which captures most of us really. It’s certainly a tantalizing feeling. 

Often, success seems so close on the horizon and yet—so far when we try to go after what we want. And every time we fail, we sit there, stewing in the juices of our own humiliation and disappointment, paralysed and frequently discouraged.

If you take it a bit further and do a post-mortem analysis of what happened, the reasons for not succeeding boil down to a few common reasons.

So, here is my advice on how to get over these hurdles and get closer to everything you want in life:

1. Know What You Want

Don’t fall into the too-broad fallacy. We often fail because we have our goals are too general or too vague. Don’t just say: “I want to be rich,” or “I want to be successful.” That’s very undefined. Success has many faces, and it means something different to every one of us.

Be explicit. For example, “I want to finish my book by the end of the year, I want to become a vice president next year, I want to have my own business by the time I’m 30.” It doesn’t matter how big or “crazy” your dream is. To be able to plan to “get there,” you must have a very good idea what and where “there” is.  So, get down to the nitty-gritty details and set for yourself some S.M.A.R.T goals.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar

2. Believe in You

We sometimes think that our goals are out of our league—that they are too big and impossible, and that we are mad for dreaming about them. We also think we don’t have what it takes to achieve them or the needed skills, abilities, mojos. But remember that it may be all subjective, a perception. So, if you think you are lacking something which stops you from shooting for your stars, assess realistically—is it your low self-esteem talking, or you actually need to take some additional training or practice more.

What psychologists call self-efficacy, or the belief that we can achieve our goals, has been found to be paramount in successfully completing them. To build belief in you, run a strength inventory. Remind yourself of past successes. Often, we are so focused on the negative, our shortcomings, the dark in us, that we forget to look at the light and what makes us worthy.

3. See Yourself as the Person You Want to Become

How we see ourselves and what we think of ourselves is a major protagonist in our success story. It’s called self-image and generally has nothing to do with the image we see in the mirror. It’s internal. But how we view ourselves dictates our behavior, actions and outcomes.

Bob Proctor, the famous coach and public speaker, calls that picture of ourselves we hold deep in our subconscious minds “prime cause of success and failure in life.” If you have a low self-image, you have a slim chance at winning. It’s that powerful.

The best ways to build a more favorable self-image are through visualisation and priming. Creative visualization is the practice of purposely creating a visual imagery in your mind of the things you want to achieve and have. “A thought, in its substance, produces the thing that is imagined by the thought,” according to one of its first advocates Wallace D. Watters in his book “The Science of Getting Rich”.

That is, your subconscious mind drives your performance and successes. Priming is another technique for upgrading your self-image. It’s a way out of the gloom and the “I can’t do it” feelings. Tony Robbins admits practicing it every day and often talks about the ritual as the step toward turning around your life.

The main idea with these tactics is to challenge the comfort of the status quo. Seeing yourself in your mind succeeding day in and out will help you believe that it can actually play out in real life.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn

4. Try (and See What Happens)

Have you ever been rejected? It stinks, right? It rarely feels as a blessing in disguise, no matter what we are told by the gurus. But what about if you were deliberately seeking rejection, to get more used to it? This is exactly what tech entrepreneur Jia Jiang did, which he also talked about in his famous Ted Talk “What I learned from 100 days of rejection.”

And guess what—if you try or ask, he tells us, you will be surprised how many people are willing to say “yes.” And of course, not every door you knock on will be answered, but his point is to get more intimate with rejection. It’s psychologically freeing to know that not every goal has a happy ending and that’s also perfectly fine.

To advance this a bit further—Prof.  Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University, talks about the Challenge List in her book “How to be yourself.” It’s a list of all the things that make us anxious, which we need to purposely start doing anyway such as public speaking to being more assertive to socializing. It’s a successful technique in psychology, called desensitization—continuous exposure to the fear breaks its spell. 

In the end, going after what you want can be scary and intimidating. Often, it feels like a long shot at best. Of course, the easiest way out is to dismantle your tent and just leave—move on. But can you constantly run away when things get too challenging? Doesn’t sound like the winning strategy, does it? There are better ways to approach your goals—and amp up your chances of success.

In the times when I need to remind myself of this, I always remember a line I read a while ago from Venus Williams: “Games are won and lost long before you step on the court.” And judging by her strong track record, I believe she got it right. 

What do you want to get out of life within these next few months? Share your goals with us below!

Evelyn Marinoff is a writer and an aspiring author. She holds a degree in Finance and Marketing,  works in client consulting, and spends her free time reading, writing and researching ideas in psychology, leadership, well-being and self-improvement. On her website evelynmarinoff.com, she writes tips and pieces on self-enhancement and confidence. You can also find her on Twitter at @Evelyn_Marinoff.

Life

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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