Yesterday I received a query for a media interview beginning “So many people struggle to get the things they want in life…others struggle and NEVER get the things they want in life. And still other people seem to effortlessly live out their dreams. What causes the differences in results?”
I believe the answer lies in positive psychology. Positive psychology is not about wading around in the dumpster of past trauma and broken dreams, but rather in defining your possibilities, harnessing your strengths and moving forward, pulling your dreams into reality.
One of my mentors once said to me, “I used to think that mindset was 5% of my business success and now I think it’s more like 95%.”
At that time, I thought my roadblocks were 95% business processes and techniques that I needed to master, and maybe my habits and beliefs about myself were 5% of the problem.
Guess what? She was right, I was wrong. Positive psychology is a powerful tool for creating business results. I believe this is true for the vast majority of us who wonder why realizing our dreams is such a struggle.
When you are interested, you do what is convenient. When you are committed to a vision, you do whatever is necessary to make it a reality. Ironically, living our dreams often is not so much about making something happen as it is about getting out of our own way and allowing it to unfold.
You can know exactly what you need to do next, and still be frozen like a deer in the headlights.
Or, you can think you know what you want, but stay where you are because you can’t see how to get there.
Once you are utterly committed to the “what,” the “how” appears, often in unexpected and serendipitous ways. But developing commitment, a no-excuses determination to move forward toward your dream requires clarity and focus, and a willingness to spend some time examining some of the darker corners of your psyche.
The problem with limiting beliefs and habits is that they are rooted in the subconscious, which is much more powerful than your conscious mind. Willpower won’t help you, because will comes from the conscious mind. Reasoning won’t help you, because the subconscious isn’t rational. You can’t talk it into or out of anything, because the language it speaks isn’t verbal and there’s nobody home anyway.
Your subconscious is a semi-autonomous package of automated tapes from your past, and to change those automated routines you have to speak its language, which isn’t verbal. The language of the subconscious is rooted in the body, in the senses, and in your emotions.
There are some positive psychology techniques that do work to shift old beliefs to make room for new ones that serve you better. They will help you drop for good the old habits that no longer serve you and replace them with new ones that move you forward:
- Affirmations. If you are just repeating words, this won’t work, because you have an emotional and physical (i.e. subconscious) reaction that says, “I don’t believe that. That isn’t me.” Emotions trump words every time. However combining affirmations with some of the techniques below can be very powerful.
- EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. EFT is not just for the tassels on the lunatic fringe. It uses the same principles as acupuncture, tapping on specific points to sooth organ systems disrupted by stress or anxiety. Tapping while doing the affirmations short circuits the physical “I don’t believe that” reaction, putting your body and hence your subconscious mind into a much more receptive state.
- Active imagination. If while doing the affirmations you see what you are affirming as something that has already happened, with all of the excitement, confidence, satisfaction and gratitude your success brings, the shift can be swift and profound. Repeatedly imagine the reality you want in detail. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? What is your day like? What is your lifestyle? And especially, what do you FEEL? Focus all your attention on that new reality. With senses and emotions awakened your subconscious becomes a heat-seeking missile, locking onto the target you present to it. You train your awareness to notice every opportunity moving you in that direction.
- Hypnosis. Hypnosis takes active imagination a step further, actually altering your brainwaves. It takes you into an altered state of awareness similar to dreaming, where the subconscious is much more receptive to new programming.
- Meditation. Like hypnosis, meditation shifts your brainwaves and hence your mental state, soothing both mind and body. It quiets the mind chatter that most of us accept as natural, and opens a space for the still, small voice we all carry around inside ourselves to be heard. That voice knows exactly where you need to go and how to get there.
- Dreamwork. Not to be confused with dream analysis, or talking about the dream. Dreams are messages directly from your unconscious mind. When you enter into the felt reality of the dream by “trying on” the characters and images and speaking from their perspective, or bringing them into waking life as writing, artwork, and practical problem solving, interesting shifts take place. For examples of this, check out the library page on this website.
Experiment with one of these approaches for at least one week. Three weeks is better because it takes that long for a new habit or way of thinking to become subconsciously embedded, operating on autopilot. And you can contact me to explore how I can help you use specific positive psychology practices to shift your business results.
- Ann Hollier provides strategic consulting and performance coaching to high achieving senior executives and management teams. She specializes in change management, strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, and building world-class collaborative teams. Learn more at