Breaking mental barriers with a positive outlook

October 23, 2013

Breaking mental barriers with a positive outlook

by Dr. David Kulla

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had times where we felt lost, weak, and ineffectual. It just seems like we can’t get going in the right direction. It’s tough to break through those mental barriers and allow ourselves to be the people we want to be. It can create vicious cycles of procrastination, submission, and even depression. But, there are ways to break through these mental barriers. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as pretending to have a more positive outlook. You would be surprised at quickly a drop of optimism turns into a deluge of positive emotions. Here are some tips for breaking through mental barriers with a positive outlook.

Don’t waste time worrying. If you have a problem, there is either something you can do about it, or nothing you can do about it. Those are the only two options. Either you can fix it or you can’t, so why waste time and energy worrying? If you can fix it, do it. If you can’t, ignore it and move on. So many other things in life demand your time, energy, and attention. Useless worrying isn’t one of them.

Celebrate small victories. Our lives are so full of inboxes, to-do lists, voicemails, etc. It’s easy to feel like we’ll never get everything done. This leads to analysis paralysis and second-guessing, which in turn lead to blown deadlines and more worry. Don’t let that happen to you. Allow yourself to feel good about accomplishments, no matter how small. You responded to an email. Good job! You’ve made a dent in your wall of work. Felt good, didn’t it? Let’s see if we can get that feeling, only better! Before you know it, you’ll have a full outbox and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.

Picture where you want to be. A lot has been written about vision boards, Pinterest, and the power of images to inspire people. And it’s true. Pictures (even mental ones) can cause vague ideas or notions to coalesce into actions. Instead of fretting about paying off debts, picture yourself debt-free. What would that be like, what could you direct your energy toward instead? What good could you do with the extra money? This exercise will make you feel positive about yourself and your abilities, inspiring you to work hard and achieve your goals.

Perfection is the enemy of the good. Sometimes, when we’re working on a project, we get bogged down in minute details and try to make sure every little thing is exactly as it should be. And, when it invariably is not perfect and needs more work, we start getting down on ourselves and our ability to finish. We’re not measuring up to our own impossible ideals. Step back for a moment and realize that nothing is ever perfect. There could always be more tweaks, more brushstrokes, more bells and whistles. However, we can quickly reach the point of diminishing returns. Spending one hour on a report will make it good. Spending two hours will only make it a little better than good. We spent twice the time and worry on only a marginal gain in quality. Try to allow yourself to be merely great, instead of absolutely perfect.

Realize that others feel the same way you do. Too often we feel like the protagonist of a movie, where every event and decision is designed to impact us directly and every other person is there to help or hinder our journey. What we must realize is that everyone is on their own journey and they all have their own sets of worries, fears, and aspirations. Your boss isn’t giving you more work because she is mean; she recognizes your value and needs your help to meet her own responsibilities. Recognize your value and the value of others, and you will be on the way to being truly happy.

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