If you find it easier to state what you don’t want in life than what you do want, you’re not alone. In fact, in my experience, you’re in the majority. Pain and displeasure are more compelling drivers for change than the prospect of more satisfaction and joy. As Martin Seligman, pioneer of the field of positive psychology, points out, “bad is stronger than good.” Our ancestor’s survival depended on heightened awareness on risks to survival. Congratulations! They survived and now you’re here with an innate, outdated bias toward the negative and a propensity to move away from what you don’t want rather than toward what you do want. Many of us have stronger instincts to avoid risk than to pursue rewards and we navigate accordingly.
In my coaching work with women in science, we continually develop and strengthen behaviors characteristic of a “towards” approach to navigating change in life. In this modern era, you have the luxury of defining what it means to thrive and the tools and resources to succeed. And, we’re the first generation(s) to have the emerging science of positive psychology, essentially, the science of thriving.
Today I want share one basic method to frequently focus on what you want and make micro-shifts in your thoughts and actions to move you towards it. These frequent micro-shifts can add up to big, positive impacts. I adapted foundational coaching concepts into this simple method that can be applied to any timescale, project size or issue you choose. Whenever I notice friction in my day or week or experience a sense that something is off, I use this process to make adjustments and get back into flow with peace and ease.
Use this 5-step process to increasingly become a person who moves towards what you want:
- Consider an aspect of your life that is a source of frustration, displeasure, or perhaps just a resistive force impeding your desired state.
- “How is it now?” Describe the facts of the current situation.
- “How do I want it to be?” Describe what a better outcome looks like.
- What steps, within your control, can you take to have the outcome you want?
- What specific things do you need to say yes to have the better outcome? What do you need to say no to?
Here are just a few examples of how I’ve used this process to hone a “towards” mind style and keep moving toward what I want.
How is it now?
How do I want it to be?
What steps can I take?
What will I say yes to?
What will I say no to?
Distracted, ineffective time use
Focused, making progress
Reduce email frequency, limit news consumption, realistic daily to-do list
Completing existing projects, celebrating successes
New projects, social media scrolling
Stand up and move every 30 to 60 min.
Active outings with friends, daily walks, scheduled workouts
Staying seated > 60 min., skipping scheduled workouts
Audit which tasks drain my energy and devise a strategy to manage my energy
Continual learning, connection with peers, keeping it simple
Choices that don’t support my long term goals, taking on too much at once
Use your energy and emotions as a cue. When you notice you’re feeling off/frazzled/cranky/any-way-that-doesn’t-feel-empowering-or-motivating, consider how are things now and how you want them to be. What changes do you need to make to move toward what you want?
This basic process can help you become increasingly empowered to create changes you want in your life and nip ineffective behaviors in the bud before they become established habits that are harder to break.
I use a different process for setting and achieving larger goals. And I find this method helps me catch ineffective behaviors early and train my brain to quickly consider what I do want when I notice I’m in a funk. It helps keep my behaviors and thoughts aligned with my desired outcomes.
I’d love to hear from you if you try this process or use another, similar method to strengthen behaviors to keep moving toward what you want.