What is the difference between Identity and Personality ?

Discover the definition of identity and how it differs from personality.

Have you ever found yourself questioning who you are or your role in society? Do you think about what makes you unique? This kind of contemplation is only natural, and everyone deals with these existential questions occasionally to reassess or confirm their perception of themselves. After all, a person’s subjective sense of self is an essential factor that guides the way they carry themselves, who they associate with, and how they make certain decisions.

In the most general sense, we can define identity as a person’s sense of self, established by their unique characteristics, affiliations, and social roles. Moreover, identity has continuity, as one feels to be the same person over time despite many changes in their circumstances.

The seeds of identity are planted during a person’s childhood when their caregivers influence them the most. Yet, as individuals transition from childhood to adolescence, they start questioning who they are and how they fit in society. Hence, adolescents set out to discover their senses of self by experimenting with different roles and behaviors (Erikson, 1956). Although adults continue to reassess their identities throughout their lives, the changes to their identities are relatively small. Therefore, according to the famous psychologist Erik Erikson, this significant identity development during adolescence is essential for forming a solid self-concept and developing a direction in life (Erikson, 1956).

Identity vs. Role Confusion

The explorations during adolescence are vital for the development of our identities. However, this identity formation process isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds. For instance, some adolescents’ caregivers and social circumstances may restrict their abilities to experiment with different roles and identities. As a result, these adolescents may not fully discover a sense of self or a life purpose for a while.

Erikson calls the adolescence stage of self-discovery “identity vs. role confusion.” According to this notion, individuals form their identities after testing various roles, behaviors, and social strategies. When they can’t complete this stage effectively, it leads to role confusion (Erikson, 1956).

Simply, role confusion can be considered to be a lack of a solid identity. A person with role confusion may feel unsure about themselves and how they fit in society. Not knowing who they are meant to be or what they really want in life, they may struggle to settle into a career path or have healthy relationships. These experiences may lower their self-esteem and fulfillment in life.

Types of Identity

  • Racial identity refers to a person’s sense of belonging to a racial group, such as Asian-American, white, etc. This identity trait remains constant throughout a person’s life.
  • Ethnic identity indicates a person’s affiliation with a specific ethnic group, such as Japanese, Malaysian, etc.
  • Geographical identity is the identity that indicates the local affiliation of a person. For instance, a person living in the United States may identify as a Mid-westerner, Southerner, New Yorker, Texan, etc.
  • Sexual orientation is an identity trait that indicates the sexual preference of an individual, such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc.
  • Family identity is made up of all the roles a person plays in their family life. Typically, a person has a primary role (i.e., daughter) despite having multiple functions at a given time (such as daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin). Yet, these roles, and thus a person’s primary family identity, can change over time as new functions are added to their repertoire (such as wife, mother, aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother, etc.).
  • Ability is a form of identity that reflects an individual’s ability/disability status. Non-disabled individuals may not feel the implications of this form of identity as much as persons with disabilities.
  • Body identity stems from a person’s body shape and size. Although some traits remain constant over time (i.e., height), others may fluctuate (i.e., weight, body shape, etc.)
  • Generational identity is also referred to as age identity. It reflects a person’s affiliation with an age group, such as child, adolescent, or elderly, among others.
  • The religious identity of a person reflects their spiritual belief system. People may be born to families that practice a specific religion. Yet, sometimes individuals adopt a different religious identity as they get older or become more or less religious.
  • Class identity of an individual reflects the social stratum they belong to, such as middle-class, upper-middle-class, etc. A person may not notice their class identity until they interact with someone from another social class.
  • Educational identity depends on the level of education a person has or the types of schools they have attended. Examples include ivy-league educated, high-school drop-out, private school student, and public school graduate, among others.
  • Career identity forms when a person selects a career path and may evolve with the changes to the person’s job titles and responsibilities. Some examples are doctors, scientists, teachers, superintendents, CEOs, artists, miners, etc.

Although the identities in this list are common, they aren’t the only ones we come across. Some identities are related to or encompass multiple types of identity or are frequently debated in our society.

In Sum

A solid sense of identity means that you know who you are, what you value, and how you see yourself in society. There are many components of our identities, such as religious, political, and gender, among others, and knowing yourself fully is essential to feel integrated into society. ​

References

  • Erikson, E. H. (1956). The problem of ego identity. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4, 56–121.

The Top 10 Cognitive Distortions and how to recognize them!

Learn about cognitive distortions and how to challenge them.

Try to recall the last time you were waiting for a friend, or maybe your partner, to join you for dinner. As you sat at the restaurant, resisting the urge to check your phone, did you have a thought such as, “they always do this”, or “they’re never on time”? If so, you were experiencing a cognitive distortion – an immediate and inaccurate thought about a situation.​

It’s unlikely that your partner or friend is late every single time you make dinner plans. If I had asked you the day before about their punctuality, you might have said that they are usually on time. In the moment, though, you experienced a very human – and very impactful – phenomenon.

Cognitive distortions are unrealistic, irrational or automatic thoughts. Sometimes we can catch a cognitive distortion as it’s happening or recognize it in hindsight; often we carry on with our lives without recognizing the inaccuracy of the thought. The more that we perceive these thoughts as truthful, the more difficult our lives are likely to be, as these distortions make us see the world as a more negative or dangerous place than it really is.

Causes of Cognitive Distortions

The idea of cognitive distortions took its current form with the creation of cognitive therapy (Beck, 1963). Coming from a long tradition of philosophical traditions that have tried to understand how thinking and feeling interact (Ellis, 1962), cognitive therapy tells us that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interrelated (Beck, 1964). Experiencing a certain emotion, for example, can lead us to a thought that would not have been prompted by a different emotion.

While we can change our thoughts to change our emotions, it is also natural and automatic for us to think after we feel. Emotions are generated by older and more primitive parts of the brain than the more cognition-oriented brain regions, and those older parts evolved not to be logical, but to keep us alive (Gilbert, 1998). Most cognitive distortions are related to experiences of negative emotions, such as feeling threatened (Beck, 1963), and with good reason: we have evolved to make quick decisions about whether we are safe, so we can take quick action to protect ourselves.

In other words, our brains evolved to bypass slow, logical thinking when immediate, gut reactions are required (Krebs & Denton, 1997). This is especially true when our brains aren’t fully developed; in fact, it is as children that we first develop these cognitive distortions (Beck, 1963).

Types of Cognitive Distortions

Here are some types of thinking errors (Burns, 1980). How many of these can you recognize from your own thinking?

  • All-or-nothing thinking: All-or-nothing thoughts (sometimes called black-and-white thinking, too) categorize the world into absolutes, leaving out the possibility of any gray area.
  • Mindreading: When we mindread, we assume that somebody else is having certain thoughts, often negative, about us. Anytime you’ve decided your partners, supervisor, or even just a person on the street is judging you – without consulting them to find out whether it’s true – you’re engaged in mindreading.
  • Catastrophizing: When you create a disaster scenario in your head, based on little or no concrete evidence that the event will actually happen, you are catastrophizing.
  • Emotional reasoning: We engage in emotional reasoning when our thoughts are driven by our emotions, not objective facts.
  • Labeling: When you classify yourself as a categorically bad or unworthy person because of one event that happened, you are engaged in labeling.
  • Mental filtering: Cognitive distortions can be driven by focusing only on negative information and ignoring or devaluing positive information.
  • Overgeneralization: Similar to catastrophizing, overgeneralizing means expecting more bad things to happen because one negative event has occurred.
  • Personalization: The act of blaming yourself for events that you aren’t (fully) responsible for is called personalization.
  • Should statements: Thoughts based on the idea that the world “should” or “shouldn’t” be a certain way are cognitive distortions, too.
  • Disqualifying the positive: When you dismiss positive things that have happened, you are distorting the way things are.

If you have identified a thought that you think might be a cognitive distortion, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • How do I know what I’m thinking is true? Simply “feeling like” it’s true isn’t enough. What is the evidence that someone else, who isn’t feeling the way you are and isn’t in your situation, would see or not see? If you’re thinking, “I am a bad person,” what is all the evidence that you have both positive and negative qualities? Cognitive distortions usually have very little concrete evidence — things other people would agree are facts — to support them.
  • What other explanations might there be? Would you feel this way if you were experiencing a different emotion? How much of this situation is truly in your control (and what’s your evidence for that?)?
  • What’s the worst that could happen? How likely is that to actually happen? How would you deal with it if it did happen?

Ultimately, the goal is to recognize that the thought is a distortion in some way, and then come up with a different coping thought that successfully challenges the cognitive distortion.

In Sum

Cognitive distortions are an inevitable part of our daily lives, and they’re often thoughts with a history, going back years. Each of us can catch some of these thoughts and expose their distorted natures – and now you know some useful tools for doing that.

References

  • Beck, A. T. (1963). Thinking and depression: I. Idiosyncratic content and cognitive distortions. Archives of General Psychiatry, 9, 324–333.
  • Beck, A. T. (1964). Thinking and depression: II. Theory and therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 10, 561–571.
  • Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York, NY: Signet.
  • Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy.New York: Lyle Stuart.
  • Gilbert, P. (1998). The evolved basis and adaptive functions of cognitive distortions. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 71, 447-463.

Krebs, D. L. & Denton, K. (1997). Social illusions and self-deception: The evolution of biases in person perception. In J. A. Simpson & D. T. Kendrick (Eds), Evolutionary Social Psychology, pp. 21-47. Hill

What You Need to Know to Write a Personal Mission Statement

Want to write a personal mission statement? Here are some tips.

A personal mission statement is a written declaration of our unique direction or purpose. This statement makes it clear not just what you intend to do in this world, but how you intend to do it. It’s sometimes just one sentence, but it can be as long as you want.

Each of us has our own unique values, purpose, and desired direction, but often we don’t know exactly what they are. That’s why we can benefit from having a mission statement—something that gives us clarity about how we want to live our lives and ultimately achieve personal fulfillment and well-being. Writing a mission statement can help us get clear on our values and better understand whether we are spending our time in the best ways. It can also provide a sense of inner stability during times of change (Searight & Searight, 2011).

What’s Your Personal Mission?

Many of us have spent little time thinking about our personal mission in life. We’re too busy dealing with immediate, urgent tasks to think about what we want to do in this life and where we want to end up. As a result, we might feel this low level of discontent—we know the way we are living our lives is not making us happy, but we’re not sure why. Thinking about our mission can be one way to begin to resolve this discontent.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to explore your mission:

  1. What impact do you want to have in the world?
  2. How do you want to make an impact?
  3. Who do you want to have an impact on?
  4. What makes you feel most happy and alive?

Answering these questions can help you gain more clarity on your life’s mission. ​

Tip: Think of the end and work backward

Another way to gain more clarity on what you want to do in life is to think about the end of your life and what you hope to have accomplished. Then, work backward. Some people have suggested that we could imagine attending our own funeral. Think about what would be said in the eulogy and whether it reflects your values and goals (Searight & Searight, 2011). If you find that the eulogy of today’s version of you isn’t what you really want, clarify for yourself what you do want and consider how your mission statement may guide you to that end goal.

What are Your Values?

Next, ask yourself, what are your values? That is, what are the underlying traits, beliefs, or experiences that drive you and make you feel like you?

Some values might be Love, Freedom, Creativity, Kindness, Adventure, Loyalty, etc…

Make sure that your mission reflects these values so that you don’t end up pursuing a goal in ways that are not a good fit for your values. This way you’ll have a better chance of feeling more fulfilled as you strive to achieve your mission.

What Are Your Goals?

In addition to your values, it can be helpful to get even more clear on your goals. It can be easy to focus on short-term goals, but thinking about medium-term and long-term goals can help you make sure your short-term goals don’t lead you astray.

Ask yourself a few quick questions about your goals:

  • What do you want to have accomplished in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
  • Where do you want to be in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
  • How do you want to be spending your time in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

Take a moment to think about your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals like a pathway. Ask yourself, how will your current goals lead to medium-term goals, and how will those lead to your longer-term goals?

Write Your Personal Mission Statement

Sometimes a personal mission statement is just one sentence. In that case, it could be:

To do [X Action] for [Y group of people] to [have Z impact]  with [optional: other details].

It’s okay to revise, rewrite, or make it longer. For most of us, creating a personal mission statement takes some work. This process doesn’t have to be a “one and done”. In fact, it is quite common for personal mission statements to change and evolve over time, just as we do (Li, Frohna, & Bostwick, 2017).

References

7 Ways to Build Happy Relationships

How do you create a happy, healthy relationship? Read on to find out.

In psychology, many researchers conceptualize relationship quality in terms of how satisfied each partner is in the relationship. This focuses on the hedonic dimension of the relationship (pleasure or happiness). But of course, there is more to healthy relationships than how good you feel. For example, relationships can be a source of meaning, which may include commitment, sacrifice, and personal growth (Fincham et al., 2007; Stanley et al., 2006; Finkel et al., 2014).

To better understand your own relationship quality, you might explore:

  1. Meaning: Is the relationship is a source of meaning?
  2. Personal growth: Is the relationship is a key source of inspiration, support, and encouragement for self-development?
  3. Goal sharing: Does the couple have shared goals and to also support and celebrate each other’s independent goals?
  4. Relational giving: Does each partner prioritize the other partner more than themself?

Unhappy Relationships

Although it’s important to learn how to identify when a relationship is going well, it’s just as important to look out for signals that a relationship is not going well. Researchers have identified four key aspects of communication that can contribute to unhealthy relationships (Gottman & Levenson, 2000)

1. Criticism. When you criticize someone, you are attacking them to the core of their character. This is different from offering a helpful opinion or voicing a complaint.

2. Contempt. Contempt goes beyond criticism as it encompasses your moral superiority over the other person. This can include mocking them, ridiculing, calling them names, mimicking their body language, or scoffing. The intention is to make them feel despised or unworthy, which is a terrible feeling to instill or receive from someone.

3. Defensiveness. It’s natural to be defensive sometimes, especially if you’re particularly stressed or tired. Sometimes you might feel that you’re not receiving the right treatment or you might play the victim so that the blame is no longer on you. But defensive responses often shift the blame onto the partner, which usually isn’t the best way to go. It tells the other person that you may not be taking them seriously and that you won’t own up to your mistakes.

4. Stonewalling. Stonewalling is often in response to contempt. This happens when the listener who is receiving sarcastic remarks or ridiculing comments ends up shutting down and no longer responds to the partner. They ‘stonewall’ the partner and try to avoid confrontation by acting busy, disengaging from the conservation, or simply leaving their presence.

How to Build Happy Relationships

1. Develop a strong emotional connection: According to psychology research, one of the most important predictors of a healthy relationship is being emotionally responsive (Lemay et al., 2007). This involves sending cues (e.g., verbal, physical) to your partner and having them respond to it (e.g., soothing, encouraging, etc).

2. Be vulnerable with each other: When partners open up to each other, this helps develop and strengthen mutual trust.

3. Be honest: This can go hand-in-hand with vulnerability, but also encompasses other forms of communication. A healthy relationship will likely not be based on lies.

4. Have ‘healthy’ conflicts: Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship, but how you go about dealing with them is essential.

5. Try something new. This is especially helpful if your relationship feels stale, and it can reignite the spark (e.g., going to a new restaurant for date night).

6. Solve problems as a team: This can help strengthen your identity as an “us” instead of a “me” and “you” and develop your problem-solving skills together (e.g., this can range from an escape room to asking your partner for help with a problem at work).

7. Talk about your goals and dreams: Sharing similar hopes and values can help you reignite what attracted you to each other in the first place.

​In Sum

Relationships require work from each partner, and it’s normal for relationships to go through hard times. By using the strategies outlined here, you can improve your relationships and hopefully keep them going strong.

References

  • Fincham, F., Stanley, S., & Beach, S. (2007). Transformative processes in marriage: An analysis of emerging trends. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 275-292.
  • Finkel, E. J., Hui, C. M., Carswell, K. L., & Larson, G. M. (2014). The suffocation of marriage: Climbing Mount Maslow without enough oxygen. Psychological Inquiry, 25, 1-41.
  • Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2000). The timing of divorce: Predicting when a couple will divorce over a 14‐year period. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(3), 737-745.
  • Lemay Jr, E. P., Clark, M. S., & Feeney, B. C. (2007). Projection of responsiveness to needs and the construction of satisfying communal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(5), 834.
  • Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., Sadberry, S. L., Clements, M. L., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Sacrifice as a predictor of marital outcomes. Family Process, 45, 289-303.

4 Ways to Reframe Rejection

Learn why some of us feel so rejected and how to cope with it.

Have you recently been rejected? Rejection involves being excluded from a social relationship or interaction. It can be active—for example in acts of bullying or teasing. Or it can be passive—for example in the acts of giving the silent treatment or ignoring someone (DeWall & Bushman, 2011). We might respond to rejection with feelings of hostility, dejection, withdrawal, and even jealousy (Downey & Feldman, 1996).

Although rejection is often deliberate—that is, the rejector does it on purpose—it doesn’t have to be. We actually differ in the extent to which we are sensitive to rejection and may think that someone is rejecting us when they are not. For example, the lack of a smile or laughter at our jokes may be perceived as rejection even though the person is not intending to reject us.

We feel rejection because human beings have a fundamental need to belong. Some believe that this is because in our history, being part of a group helped us survive. Those of us who were more group-oriented were more likely to survive. This may explain why modern humans are all very group-oriented (DeWall & Bushman, 2011) and why we try to avoid rejection whenever possible.

And rejection is indeed quite unpleasant. Some fascinating research shows that social rejection actually feels similar to physical pain. It activates regions of the brain involved in both the sensory components of pain and the emotional components of pain. The more intense the rejection, the more intense the pain response. Specifically, thinking about a recent romantic relationship breakup elicited both emotional and physical pain responses in the brain (Kross et al., 2011). So, when people say rejection is painful, they really mean it!

What Is Rejection Sensitivity?

It turns out that we differ in the extent to which we perceive and react to rejection. While some of us might perceive our friend’s failure to invite us to lunch as a rejection, others may rationalize that they forgot or didn’t realize we would want to come.

Those of us who tend to notice when we are rejected in even the smallest ways—or even perceive that we are being rejected when we are not—are said to be rejection sensitive. Therefore, rejection sensitivity is defined as the tendency to “anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection” (Downey & Feldman, 1996). This tendency to be rejection sensitive likely arose in childhood as a result of rejection from parents or others in our environment.

How to Deal With Rejection

Regardless of whether we are rejection sensitive or not, we can benefit from learning to deal with our rejection in healthier ways. This can help us decrease both the emotional and physical pain that accompanies rejection. We might use these strategies to handle job rejection, rejection in romantic relationships, and social rejection from friends or family. Here are some science-based tips:

  1. Write about your rejected feelings. Research suggests that writing about your feelings and the potential implications following an experience of rejection may be an effective way to process those feelings more quickly and move past them (Rude, Mazzetti, Pal, & Stauble, 2011).
  2. Practice accepting rejection. Accepting rejection (versus evaluating it or describing it) may help decrease negative emotional responses more quickly (Rude, Mazzetti, Pal, & Stauble, 2011). Acceptance does not mean being a “doormat” or tolerating an unhealthy situation. Acceptance simply means that you acknowledge and accept yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions. Then from a place of acceptance, you can take action if needed.
  3. Focus on the positive. Although rejection can feel terrible, some evidence suggests that it can make positive emotions more accessible (DeWall et al., 2011). This may mean that trying to increase positive emotions—for example by doing an activity you enjoy—may be beneficial.
  4. Try emotionally distancing yourself from the rejection. Emotional distancing involves imagining your rejection as if you were a fly on the wall or a stranger on the street. When you take a look at your situation from an outsider’s perspective, it can help the negative emotions dissipate more quickly (Ayduk & Kross, 2010).

In Sum

Rejection hurts and it’s unpreventable. Luckily, there are some things we can do to diminish the pain or reduce how long it lasts. Hopefully, the tips here will help you deal with rejection more easily.

References

  • Ayduk, Ö., & Kross, E. (2010). From a distance: Implications of spontaneous self-distancing for adaptive self-reflection. Journal of personality and social psychology, 98(5), 809.
  • DeWall, C. N., & Bushman, B. J. (2011). Social acceptance and rejection: The sweet and the bitter. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 256-260.
  • DeWall, C. N., Twenge, J. M., Koole, S. L., Baumeister, R. F., Marquez, A., & Reid, M. W. (2011). Automatic emotion regulation after social exclusion: Tuning to positivity. Emotion, 11(3), 623.
  • Downey, G., & Feldman, S. I. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 70(6), 1327.
  • Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Mischel, W., Smith, E. E., & Wager, T. D. (2011). Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(15), 6270-6275.
  • Rude, S. S., Mazzetti, F. A., Pal, H., & Stauble, M. R. (2011). Social rejection: How best to think about it?. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 35(3), 209-216.

5 Tips on How to Set Goals for Your Life

The different types of life goals and how you can set yours.

Life goals are the desired states that people seek to obtain, maintain or avoid (Nair, 2003). Our lives include many different pieces so life goals can include relationship goals, career goals, financial goals, and more.

Why We Might Set Life Goals

Researchers believe that the reason we set life goals is to resolve “discontent” with aspects of our present situation. Indeed, we may want something in our lives to be different—our relationship, career, or health, for example. And indeed, the simple act of setting a goal makes it more likely that we will reach it.

How to Set Life Goals

Setting specific and slightly difficult goals—like “I will run a marathon by running a little further each day for a year”—tends to go better than setting vague or abstract goals, like “I’m going to be rich!” Commitment to the goal also seems to help us achieve it. And getting feedback from others and tracking our progress also help us achieve our goals (Locke & Latham, 2006).

To set effective life goals, we can use the “SMART” acronym. Although there are some variations in what SMART stands for (Rubin, 2002), here is one example:

  • S: Specific
  • M: Meaningful
  • A: Achievable
  • R: Realistic
  • T: Trackable (or time-based)

What Are Short-Term and Long-Term Life Goals?

Achieving easier, shorter-term goals can help us feel like we’re making progress and motivate us to keep going towards long-term goals. That’s why it can be helpful to break longer-term goals up into a bunch of short and mid-term goals—things that we could accomplish in an hour, day, or week. For example, if I want to go to college, I might study for the SAT one hour per day for several months. Over time, these short-term goals allow me to accomplish my longer-term goal.

Turning Life Goals Into Objectives

Most short-term goals can be broken down even further into objectives—or actionable parts. For example, if my goal is to get into college, I might plan to study an hour per day (a short-term goal), but what I do during that time would be to accomplish my objectives. I might complete 10 math problems, memorize 10 vocabulary words, and quiz myself each evening on my vocabulary works. Those would be my objectives.

Examples of Life Goals

  • Career Goals. Career goals are goals that have to do with your work or maybe even your purpose. Career goals might involve achieving a particular title, income, role, position, or employer.
  • Financial Goals. Financial goals might help us live our values, change our lifestyle, take care of our families, or even promote the well-being of others in some way.
  • Relationship Goals. Regardless of whether we are in a romantic relationship, we might have goals about the quality or function of our closest relationships.
  • Wellness Goals. Your life goals might include fitness, body, health, or emotional wellness goals—things you’d like to change to feel better or healthier.
  • Educational Goals. We might have a life goal of getting an education, perhaps as a precursor to pursuing a particular career.
  • Other Personal Life Goals. Most of us have other life goals unrelated to the big categories. For example, I have a goal of living mostly sustainably. What about you? What are your other life goals?

More examples

  • Getting good at a hobby or sport
  • Spending more time doing your favorite things
  • Developing a new skill
  • Cultivating a soft skill like listening, resilience, or emotion regulation
  • Getting to know new people

Goal-Setting Tips

  • Create a list of goals.
  • For each goal, break it down into smaller steps.
  • Plan out how you’ll take these smaller steps.
  • Think about how you’ll overcome barriers that block your goals.
  • Be kind to yourself along the way.

Setting life goals can be good for us. If we take just a little more time to set the right goals in the right ways, we’ll have a greater chance of reaching those goals and manifesting some of our dreams.

References

  • Nair, K. S. (2003). Life goals: the concept and its relevance to rehabilitation. Clinical Rehabilitation, 17(2), 192-202.
  • Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current directions in psychological science, 15(5), 265-268.
  • Rubin, R. S. (2002). Will the real SMART goals please stand up. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 39(4), 26-27.

How to Make a Vision Board

Need a more creative way to think through your goals? Vision boards may help.

What Is a Vision Board?
A vision board is usually a collage of images that represent goals and dreams. It can include cut-out pictures from magazines and words that help inspire you to manifest your dreams and get where you want to go.

Although vision boarding is a commonly used tool, there is not a lot of research on its effectiveness. Initial research suggests it can help us more easily reach our goals. This may be due to how vision boards help us gain self-awareness and self-reflect on what is important to us.
Vision boards may also help us imagine what a positive future could look like for us. Imagining a positive future is a helpful way to increase positive emotions and optimism. And positive emotions often create opportunities and increase the chances of success.

Even though this research doesn’t directly assess the benefits of making a vision board, it suggests that many of the components of vision boarding have potential benefits for our well-being and success. It’s just key to remember that vision boards are not magic. Rather, they can help you better understand what it is you’d like to manifest.

How to Make a Vision Board
Start by exploring your values. If your goals are not aligned with your personal values, achieving these goals won’t provide the sense of satisfaction and well-being that you’re seeking. Ask yourself, what really matters to you? What gives you meaning? Who do you want to be? Who do you want to help? And how do you want to spend your time? When making a vision board and thinking through your goals, keep these values-focused questions in mind.

Think about what motivates you. If you pursue goals that you find motivating, you’ll have an easier time reaching them. So ask yourself, what do you want and why do you want it? Does it have anything to do with your childhood or past experiences? Does it have to do with your personality?

Try to better understand why the goals you’ve set are so important to you. Or revise them if you discover they are not as important as you once thought.

Set priorities. Sometimes vision boards can end up being a collection of all the goals we aspire to—being rich, beautiful, and successful. If we really want to achieve these goals, we need to be more realistic with them. What can we reasonably accomplish in a year or five years? You can visualize your priorities by focusing a vision board on your most important life goals or by placing them above, in the center, or over a greater majority of the board.

Potential Problems With Vision Boards
Vision boarding is somewhat controversial in the scientific community. Because vision boards are often associated with the “law of attraction,” which doesn’t have scientific support behind it, many assume vision boards are not a useful tool.

It’s true that we don’t fully understand the precise benefits of vision boards, but the truth is we don’t understand the precise benefits of many tools that are used in coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy. That’s because testing each one of these tools without the others is quite burdensome research. Anyway, given we know that the very act of setting goals is better than not setting goals, vision boards are indeed likely to be a useful tool, at least for some people.

Vision Board Ideas
Here are some types of goals that you may want to include in a vision board.
● Career
● Money
● Love
● Health
● Travel
● Social Goals

You can include all of these or make a vision board for each goal, focusing on the details of each. It’s up to you. Now it’s time to get creative.

References

● Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Positive interventions: An emotion regulation perspective. Psychological bulletin, 141(3), 655.
● Burton, L., & Lent, J. (2016). The use of vision boards as a therapeutic intervention. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 11(1), 52-65.
● Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803.

How to Figure Out Your Priorities

How do you set the right priorities for you? Here are some tips and guidance to help you clarify your top priorities and stick to them.

Do you know what is high-priority for you? Or do you feel like everything is high-priority and don’t know what to do first? Or, are you just too plain busy to ever get to the high-priority stuff? If you’re reading this, then you’re likely looking for more help figuring out your priorities. Don’t worry, we can help.

What, Exactly, Is High-Priority?

What, exactly, is high-priority? Well, the answer depends on who you ask and which aspect of life we’re looking at. Are we talking about work priorities, relationship priorities, family priorities, or figuring out which is the highest priority of these high priority items?

To start, let’s take a look at each of these life domains to better understand different types of priorities, how they fit together, and how they may compete with each other.

Work Priorities

To set priorities for work, make a list of the major tasks that you need to accomplish. Then list these tasks in order of importance. Be sure to also note whether one task needs to come before another or is dependent on another task being completed first. For example, maybe you need a website before you can start selling things in your online business.

Relationship Priorities

Maybe there are some people we want to see more than others. Or, maybe there are certain activities that we feel are more important to ensure the success of our romantic relationships and friendships. Some examples of relationship priorities could also include: being honest, making time for fun, practicing kindness, or talking about fears and difficulties.

Family Priorities

What are the highest priority actions you need to take to ensure your family is taken care of? This might depend a lot on whether you have kids, aging parents, or a small family. So take a moment to think about high-priority actions within your family. Remember, your priorities don’t necessarily have to be engagement related. For example, your priority may be to set boundaries or take time off rather than spending a lot of time with family. Everyone is different.

​Life Priorities

Do you have other priorities related to your mental or physical health, finances, purpose, or personal growth? Think about what these priorities are.

What Are Your Top Priorities?

Now that you’ve thought about your priorities in each of the life domains, you’re probably now wondering, How do I prioritize my priorities?!

Well, pause here to look over or think about your top priorities in each life domain. Combine these into one long list. Put the most important things at the top to hopefully get a sense of which things are most important to you. This can be a bit tricky, so try not to be too hard on yourself—just do the best you can. Your priorities might also change over time, and that’s okay too.

Managing competing priorities

There are only so many hours in the day. If we spend all day doing our top priority, then we’ll have no time for our second priority. But if we spend an equal amount of time on each priority, we’ll move forward so slowly on all of them that we may get frustrated and give up. So knowing our priorities isn’t always the solution to sticking to our priorities.

Sometimes it can be easiest to focus on a few high priority items at a time. For example, maybe you spend one month really focusing on your family but the next month, you need to prioritize more work. It’s okay to try to find a balance that works for you and experiment as you go.

Taking action on your priorities

Another thing to consider is what things make it easier or harder for us to stick to our priorities. For example, are there people who make it difficult to stick to your priorities? Are there situations that make it hard to stick to your priorities? Or, are there things about you that make it hard to stick to your priorities? By taking the time to better understand your own unique challenges, you’ll also better understand what solution might best work for you.

References

6 Ways to Take Action on Your Goals

Here are some tips to help you create your action plan and achieve your purpose.

If you’ve got a dream you’re hoping to bring to life or an idea that you want to manifest, hopefully, the tips below can help. If some of the steps don’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s OK. Feel free to take what’s helpful and ignore the rest.

1. Set smart goals

SMART goals are Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Realistic, and Trackable. If our goal is not SMART, it may be harder to take action. For example, if our goal is not specific enough, we might not know what to do to reach it. Or, if our goal is not meaningful enough, then we might have a hard time staying motivated enough to do it.

So, before taking action, ask yourself these “SMART” questions:

  • What exactly is your goal?
  • Why does this goal matter to you?
  • Who is involved in this goal?
  • How will you achieve this goal?
  • What specific times will you work on this goal?

2. Write down your action steps

Once you know your goal, write down the steps you plan to take to reach it. The more detail you can include, the better. For example, if you want to write a book, make a plan for exactly how many pages you plan to write per hour, day, week, or month. Note any other related tasks that will need to be done as well so that you know what needs to be accomplished to reach your goal.

3. Schedule your action steps

Once you have your action steps, schedule each of them in your calendar. Block out enough time for each action step. As you are getting started, you might not estimate quite right, so it’s OK to modify this at any point.

Another helpful tip is to try and schedule a blank time to catch up on things you missed or anything that took longer than expected. In time, you’ll be able to estimate task time more easily.

4. Commit to your action steps

If you have a realistic plan with clear action steps, then you’re ready to commit to your goal. By making a commitment—either a written or verbal commitment will do—we actually make it more likely that we’ll do something. One way to do this can be to write up a statement of the efforts you agree to complete and then sign it. Post it somewhere where you’ll see it frequently.

5. Link potential problems to goal-directed actions

Once you’ve gotten started taking actions to manifest your goal, you’ll eventually encounter challenges, even if just small ones. This is why it can be helpful to create implementation intentions (Gollwitzer, 1999). Implementation intentions are simple cause-and-effect: If problem situation X happens, then I will do Y.

6. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Taking action on your goals should push you out of your comfort zone a bit. But if taking action towards your goals means that you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, then it is likely not sustainable. Here are some tips to avoid overwhelm:

Set your success rate

Rather than trying to aim for 100 percent all the time, set a secondary goal to complete your action steps some percentage of the time. Eighty percent feels right to me. Missing your goals sometimes is totally normal, so being realistic about it can help you practice more self-compassion.

Give yourself a “get out of jail free card”

It can actually be helpful to let yourself off the hook every now and then. Especially for those perfectionists out there, a break will probably do you more good than you realize.

Re-evaluate as needed

Sometimes we set goals that are too easy, too hard, or need to be changed to be effective moving forward. Remember, it’s OK to change your plan.

In Sum

Taking action is an essential part of reaching any goal. But it is often the hardest part. Hopefully, these resources will help you feel more confident that you can successfully take action and reach your goals.

References

  • Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: strong effects of simple plans. American psychologist, 54(7), 493.

How to Build Good Habits

Here you’ll learn about habits, review multiple strategies for building good habits, and get some tips for how to break bad habits.

Habits have been described as repeated actions that arise from some kind of internal or external trigger (Robbins & Costa, 2017). Often, these habits exist in particular contexts. For example, Billy might have a habit of smoking a cigarette when he drinks alcohol. Sharon might have a habit of brushing her teeth before bed. And Mark might have a habit of biting his nails when he’s nervous.

Habits—both good and bad—are closely related to our goals. Since habits are just things we do regularly, they can contribute to —or deter us from—achieving the things we want to achieve. That’s why building good habits—and perhaps getting rid of some bad ones—is so important for building the lives we want to lead. So what are some good habits to build?

Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is perhaps one of the most popular self-help books of all time. It suggests that there are 7 key habits that we should all strive to build. The habits are the key to being successful. According to the author, these are the the things we need to do:

  1. ​Be proactive. Take action and initiative to improve your situation. Don’t sit and wait for things to happen.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Think before acting. Know your long-term goals so that you can effectively work towards them.
  3. First things first. Focus on what is important. Try not to get caught up doing unimportant things.
  4. Think win-win. Look for mutually beneficial solutions that are good for everyone because they have a high-chance for success.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Use empathy to better understand others and create a culture of caring.
  6. Synergize. Combining the strengths of different people so that the group can achieve more than any one person could achieve alone.
  7. Sharpen the saw (keep growing). Remember that self-renewal and rest are essential for optimal functioning and success.

More Ways To Build Good Habits

The book, Atomic Habits, suggests even more tips for building good habits. Here are a few:

  • Make it obvious. Create cues in your environment to remind you to do your new habit.
  • Make it attractive. Try to make the habit something fun or enjoyable.
  • Make it easy. Try to make then habit simple, so you can do it more easily.
  • Make it satisfying. Find a way to reward yourself for doing you habit.
  • Never miss a habit twice in a row. This will keep you on track.
  • Stick to a sustainable pace. That way you won’t burnout.
  • Think about your habit as a way to grow 1% per day. Improving just a little bit each day results in big changes over time. ​

BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, Offers us a few more tips.

  • Attach a new habit to an existing habit. For example, if you want to build a habit to floss, then you can attach it to brushing your teeth. You can use this approach for anything by saying, After I do X, I’ll do Y.
  • Make the habit tiny. For example, rather than saying you’re going to meditate for 5 minutes, start with something like 1 deep breath. He says this makes it easier to accomplish.
  • Physically celebrate when you execute your tiny habit. For example, throw your hands up into the air and say “Yes!” This helps your body feel good about the habit.

Some Good Habits to Explore

Good habits tend to be good for the mind and body. Habits of the mind are what help us successfully engage in effective behaviors that lead to success over the long term (Costa & Kallick, 2009). Habits of the body can help keep us strong and healthy. Here are some examples:

Habits of the mind include:

  1. Persisting
  2. Striving for accuracy
  3. Questioning and problem posing
  4. Applying past knowledge to new situations
  5. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  6. Gathering data through all senses
  7. Creating, imaging, and innovating
  8. Taking responsible risks
  9. Finding humor
  10. Remaining open to continuous learning

Habits of the body include:

  1. Daily exercise
  2. Good nutrition habits
  3. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day
  4. Getting 8 hours of sleep per night

 

Beating Bad Habits?

The good (and bad) thing about habits is that after repeatedly engaging in them, they become automatic. That makes it somewhat easier to build good habits, but also harder to break bad ones.

Learning how to break a habit like smoking, drinking, gambling, overeating, or overspending is likely more difficult than starting a new habit. It requires more than building new patterns of behavior—it requires understanding how your existing patterns of behavior benefit you and finding other ways to get those benefits. For example, maybe smoking helps us calm down or drinking helps us feel more social or binging on cookies feels good. So we have to ask ourselves, how do we get these positive outcomes without the habit?

To start, it can be helpful to:

  • identify your triggers
  • keep yourself away from anything that might make you engage in the habit, and
  • be more mindful of your thoughts and actions

Be careful that you don’t end up swapping one bad habit for another. You might ask yourself these questions to better understand what helps and hurts your ability to stick to habits:

  1. Who makes it easier/harder for you to build good habits?
  2. Who makes it easier/harder for you to break bad habits?
  3. What situations make it easier/harder for you to build good habits?
  4. What situations make it easier/harder for you to break bad habits?
  5. Do you have any traits that make it easier/harder for you to build good habits?
  6. Do you have any traits that make it easier/harder for you to break bad habits?

Once you know the things that stand in your way and the things that help you, see if you can make changes in your life that help you create better support structures for the habits you want to build.

References

  • ​Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2009). Habits of mind across the curriculum: Practical and creative strategies for teachers. ASCD.
  • Robbins, T. W., & Costa, R. M. (2017). Habits. Current biology, 27(22), R1200-R1206.
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