I recently received advice from a friend that seemed simple and obvious but wasn't really either. In fact, it significantly shifted my perspective.
In expressing my goals to him I used the word need; for example, I need to exercise, I need to meditate, I need to do well on the GREs. He suggested that want is usually a more powerful motivating concept. That didn't seem right. Certainly need better illustrated my seriousness and commitment. As he elaborated, I realized that those are not what get people to act--especially me.
As some of you may have noticed in the time you've known me, I don't like being told what to do--I tend to resist and rebel against external pressures. You may have also noticed that I'm good at getting what I want. Whether these are positive or negative traits is not the issue but recognizing my strengths and weaknesses is. Being that needs are obligations, and not my personal choices, I'm resistant to them, which means that the way I chose to talk about my goals already established an impediment to them.
Even during this revealing conversation, I started to leave behind the "need"s, "should"s, and "have to"s and immediately found it more effective and empowering.
For one, this change has forced to be much more honest. If I do away with the word need, then it leaves me standing squarely in front of my biggest barrier: me. To be specific: I know I need to work out, but now that I'm pledging to state my goals as wants, I'm left with little to say. 'Cause quite honestly, I don't want to work out. I want to be strong, thin, active, and healthy, but I don't really want to have to do the work to get there. So now I have to... ahem, want to figure out a way to make exercising something I do want to do? While I knew before that making working out enjoyable was how to get it done, there was much more self-deprecation involved for not doing what I should be doing. So not only do I now have a better handle on how to achieve my objectives, I'm more forgiving along the way. What's not to like about that?
It was kind of a shock to realize how resistant I was to my own goals; that I hadn't really committed to them to the point where they were things I wanted to achieve. Now, I'm reassessing all of them; figuring out how to convince myself that they are genuinely what I want, and if they're not, then I have to ask myself why I'm doing it at all.
So to recap, if I express my objectives as wants, and I'm quite good at getting what I want, then this should be a cakewalk, right? Well, almost. It has been an excellent step toward self-awareness, -evaluation and -determination; and has clearly shown me that by not achieving my goals, I'm denying myself what I want. However, as with all things, it's a process. Changing habits of speech and mind take time, but now I can take a little more joy in knowing that this is helping me become the person that I want to be rather than the person I should be.