Believe to Achieve: Practical Tips Based on Science

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Numerous psychological studies show our mindset is the fundamental determining factor enabling us to change our behavior.

If you believe, you can achieve, on the condition you possess or can develop with steady practice the ability to accomplish your goal. Whether you rely on visualization, group expectations, peer support, self confidence or “willpower” (more about this in a moment), any change begins with BELIEF prior to action.

Everyone struggles to start, regardless of what anyone claims. Our cave dweller brains still today trigger fearful thoughts to protect us from sabertooth tigers so combating negativity and overcoming inactivity is your first obstacle to move beyond doing nothing, known technically as status quo bias. Research shows positive and negative thinking produce exactly those results because both create feedback loops we act upon, or don’t act upon, and give us the good or bad thing we thought. In other words, working out at the gym isn’t the hard part, getting off your fanny into the gym is.

Is this when you rely upon motivation and willpower? Willpower is still hotly debated whether it’s actually a thing. What is generally accepted is willpower and/or motivation are limited in supply and wane, just like our physical energy levels. We give up after only a few false starts. Therefore merely starting, what’s known as “activation energy”, and frequent repetition are critical for long-term change.

How do you fight negativity and act?

Counterintuitively, don’t fight it, instead expect, accept and acknowledge to prevent a pessimistic feedback loop. Regardless of whether you believe, actually say to yourself, “Everything will be OK” or “This will work”, then let your worry go after facing your doubts and fears. Wallowing in defeatism adds energy to it and will produce exactly that!

Confidence is more important than ability in your first attempt. Women, especially anxiety sufferers, typically ruminate in minute detail. Researchers have found a confidence gene that impacts self-esteem. What if you don’t have it? Good news, genes may predict behavior but don’t determine it so you can develop ways to cope and overcome.

So get moving!

Start small and slow to leave your comfort zone. Fail fast and often and you’ll begin to stop worrying about your shortcomings because you’ll realize life doesn’t end. As you progressively improve with small gains and remembering what went well, you’ll gain confidence and feel more comfortable as you increase your levels of the good brain chemicals: dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin.

Imagine as if you’ve already achieved the dream or goal but also, like athletes do, visualize performing each part of the process completing THE thing as if you already mastered. If you want to start walking or jogging, imagine every step from lacing up your shoes to the scenery along the route.

Break resistance as Stanford researcher BJ Fogg instructs by starting tiny (floss one tooth) or practice Harvard’s Shawn Achor’s “20-second rule” (sleep in your gym clothes).

Believe and achieve by:

  • combatting pessimism and dread by acknowledging and letting go with, “It’s OK”

  • breaking down goals into smaller, even tiny steps

  • imagining performing successfully each part of the process

  • taking baby steps and practicing often

  • participating within a group for peer support and improved odds of success

Small gains add up quickly, and taking your time going slower for longer is better than punishing yourself in strenuous, stop-start bursts. Your new behavior or habit will blossom in between a few months to a year if you don’t quit, build step-by-step and imagine your success along the way.