What Do You Really Want?
When we think about making positive changes in our lives, we usually start with the things we want less of. Less anxiety, less sugar, less loneliness, less caffeine, whatever. But research tells us that thinking like this isn’t actually the best way to reach our goals. A better practice is to decide what we want more of in our lives. When we think about the things that make us excited about and invested in our futures, we feel better about our goals and are more likely to achieve them.
How Does Thinking Positive Help?
Over time, our thoughts become habitual. Holding onto negative thoughts and cognitive patterns literally rewires our brains. This strengthens the neural connections that cause us to think and believe that change is too difficult, that we aren’t capable of doing better, that nothing will ever get better for us.
Sound hopeless? It’s not. Neuroscientists have shown, time and time again, that our brains are flexible. This is called neuroplasticity and it’s worth researching if you’re a self-help junkie.
Basically, our brains wire and rewire themselves all the time. That means that the human brain is wholly capable of forming new connections that facilitate healthier beliefs and behaviors.
At the same time, your automatic thoughts and behaviors will occur less frequently if you stop “practicing” them as often. It’s like when you stop exercising a particular muscle. Like a muscle, an idle neural connection will eventually weaken and atrophy. When you deliberately change your thoughts and behaviors, you change your brain, too.
Want to put these ideas into practice? Let’s start by focusing on the things you want more of in your life. These are called approach goals, by the way (as opposed to avoidance goals) – and they’re your new best friend.
Here’s a quick journaling exercise to get you in the right headspace:
1 | What do you want to make more space for in your life? Think about what your happiest, healthiest life would look like and lean into it.
2 | Write down 10 things you want more of in your life next month – or tomorrow, or next year. (Just set a specific time frame!)
3 | Don’t overthink or worry about how you’re going to make it happen. Just write.
If you have some extra time and want to dive deeper into this prompt, here are a few suggestions:
- Draw or doodle ideas from your list
- Create a vision board, collage, or Pinterest board
- Write a letter to your future self and save it to open later
- Try this exercise with a close friend and share your lists with each other
- Write a story feat. you as the protagonist living your best life (just this once, it’s okay to write a story without conflict)
Here’s My List For This Fall, If You Need Some Inspiration:
1 | More time in nature
2 | More movement
3 | More library days and books
4 | More sleep
5 | More patience with myself
6 | More weekend trips
7 | More journaling
8 | More time with friends
9 | More new experiences
10 | More living in the moment
What’s the Next Step?
Turn your good intentions into actionable steps with the SMART goal-setting method. You can learn how to set better goals in this post! I def didn’t come up with the SMART method, but I have used it to get more of what I want – from healthier habits, more balanced relationships, and a work life I love. It’s definitely worth checking out, if you need a refresher on effective goal-setting.
What about you? Feel free to share your list in the comments! And for more journaling tips and prompts, check out this post on gratitude journaling for beginners (complete with a month’s worth of prompts!)