Written for & published by In Her Shoes Foundation (2013)
By Melissa Doman, M.A.
“What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?” - Unknown
It’s always interesting to me when people, personal or professional, ask what our 5-year plan is.
Often times we talk of our plan as a series of steps, with each step based on what we "assume" we can accomplish.
What if I told you to take that 5-year plan, throw out every preconceived limit to your success, and make the grandest design of a future accomplishment you could ever hope for?
Crazy you say? I think not!
Our mindset, the frame of reference in which we view ourselves, our capabilities, and how we relate to the world around us, is not a fixed characteristic of our identity; it's a malleable feature that can be shaped at our whim. As a mental health counselor, please trust me when I say I’ve seen more people blame external factors for their lack of success, rather than examining themselves.
Whether it’s getting additional education, learning a new skill, trying something new that previously scared you, or going for that job you think you’d never get – the key to actually putting the wheels in motion is BELIEVING IN YOURSELF.
In our society, women are made to feel they aren’t good enough, and they need to compete against their female peers in order to be successful. Fortunately, women’s empowerment has really gained steam in recent years. We are now encouraged to view ourselves positively, to work collaboratively with our sisters, and to set grand goals more than ever before.
Remember, empowerment and success are especially hard to achieve if you are around people who tear themselves, or others, down. Their gratification comes not from bettering themselves, but from trying to damage others. Become the horse with the blinders at your side – and move forward unabashedly! Change is viewed by most as scary, but, I dare you to view it as exciting! Making big changes takes courage – you must believe that it exists within you.
Flipping the switch from complacent to motivated is neither easy nor quick. It takes a long time to undo a lifetime of habits and patterns, and we need to accept that we may stumble along the way. The best way is to start small, build on that success, and celebrate milestones in our journey. Some ways that I have advised clients and friends, and friends/family have advised me, are through the following tips:
- Daily positive affirmations (i.e. I am strong, I am creative, I am successful)
- Setting short and long term goals (allowing room for error – because we’re human)
- Practice negative thought replacement (when negative thoughts occur – switch them out for positive alternatives)
- Turning your “I wish I could” list into your “I will do this” list
- Realizing that no one will push you to achieve your goals as hard as yourself
- Pose positive questions to yourself: “what do I want to accomplish today, this week, this month, this year?”
- Have positive people/fellow do-ers in your life that will reinforce your goals and positive self-image
For those of you who question if this will work for you, ask yourself, “why do I believe I can’t do this?” Often times, when we truly examine our beliefs, we can really pinpoint the holes in our so-called negative theories of ourselves. I dare you – go down that road – and lots of holes will be found in your “Negative Nancy” view of yourselves.
Make room for Positive Polly!
My own personal example: if you had asked me seven years ago if I thought I would have a master’s degree, teach English in Asia, become a published columnist, have songs released on iTunes, and salsa dance 4 days a week religiously – I would've said you were talking about a different person. Well, I’ve done all of these, purely based on the fact that I chose and allowed myself to succeed.
In 2013, with a struggling economy, high competition for jobs, and an ever-raising barrier to entry, the conditions have become rough out there. I remember after college my sister gave me a handmade binder with cutouts of inspirational words from magazines taped all over it. Inside the covers were tabs marked with different types of goals I could make lists of for the future career I imagined for myself. It’s a resource I use to this day and I recommend you make one for yourself too.
Besides, any excuse for arts and crafts is awesome!
I am not immune to experiencing self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. I’ve been through those times too. The key is what you do to get yourself out of it. That feeling you have when you’re at the bottom of a muddy hole and keep sliding down as you’re climbing up the sides. A very near and dear college friend of mine gave me a wonderful resource that I read and I’d love to recommend to all of you. Paying it forward if you will. Go out and buy “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr. Carol Dweck. It’s a short, but amazing, book on lighting a fire in your motivation engine.