Set your 2012 goals with Defensive Pessimism!

30 Dec

Yep, you read that correctly! I’m telling you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and be a pessimist!

If you’re like the millions of people getting geared up for a New Year’s celebration that includes a setting of new, inspiring, and perhaps self-improvement related goals, there are some things you’ll want to know before you get started.

Good intentions do not equate to action. How many times have you said you’d like to do something and not one step is taken in the direction of that endeavor?! Right now you’re likely feeling motivated and ready to dive into 2012 with gusto. A new year. New possibilities. Fresh starts. Yet while it is a new year, you’re still the same person, with the same hang ups, behavioral patterns, thought processes, and obstacles to achievement.

No, MY intention is not to discourage you! Positive thinking opens up the world to possibility, motivates us to explore, and sets us up for exploiting the areas we’ve deemed as interesting and intriguing. Pessimistic thinking, however, puts us on a path of perspective-taking and gives us the reality check we need in order to discern what our competing interests are and what could present barriers to following through with our intentions!

It’s not typically motivation that we’re lacking. I hear it all the time– “I’m so unmotivated! I can’t seem to find the drive to do________(fill in the blank).” If you weren’t motivated though, you wouldn’t even be making that statement! The motivation is there- you’re thinking about that thing you want to accomplish! So what is it that’s holding you back?

The things you want to do are countered by other things you want to do. Or put another way, you are motivated to do something, for example, lose 50 lbs, but you have counter-motivations that trump your weight loss motivations.  Spend more time with family, write a book, get more sleep, start meditating.  All of these endeavors may  be just as important, but they can be barriers to the first one and deserve attention as well. If you’re not taking a look at all of them, they will continue to drive a wedge in the best of intentions.

It’s important to understand the “why’s” of the goal you’re setting. But equally if not more important, is gaining an understanding of the “how’s and what’s.” What will get in the way of my goal? How am I going to manage those barriers? If a barrier to exercising is that I get home late at night from work and I’m just too exhausted, what are the alternatives? Exercise in the morning perhaps? What might in the way of that plan? We’re not planning to fail here, but we are asking what might the roadblocks be that could lead to failure.

One more thing to think about before you start writing down your long list of resolutions: Remorse is powerful.

I often ask my clients to engage in a game of  “playing it forward.” Interested in sleeping in and skipping that workout you had scheduled? Ask yourself how you will feel if you DON’T do it.  This sort of assessment is much more powerful than asking yourself how you will feel if you DO exercise.  Anticipating regret is a good enough impetus for me to forego the chocolate cake, get up at 3am to exercise before a 6am flight out of town, and say “no thanks” to the saucy, fat-laden appetizer that’s in front of me when I’m out with friends.

Here’s to ringing in 2012 as a defensive pessimist!



One Response to “Set your 2012 goals with Defensive Pessimism!”


  1. Set your 2012 goals with Defensive Pessimism! | - January 1, 2012

    […] your 2012 goals with Defensive Pessimism! Posted on December 30, 2011 by […]

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