Why What You Believe About Yourself Matters So Much In Goal Setting

Why What You Believe About Yourself Matters So Much In Goal Setting

by: Emily Thomas

Here at the beginning of the year, the most impactful action you might take isn't an action at all, but instead, a reexamination of the beliefs you hold about yourself.

Isn't it much easier, though, to race ahead without thinking too much? To share the shiny list of goals! To make the multi-step plan! To launch yourself into new habits!

Your energy and hustle and new-year adrenaline might work for awhile. They might work for a few days, or a few weeks. But before long, you'll fall back into old habits or give up on your goals altogether. It's hard to change the way you behave if you never changed the underlying beliefs that led to your past behavior. You may have a SMART goal and a fancy plan, but you haven't changed what you believe about yourself.

Make no mistake: our actions are a direct outcome of what we believe about ourselves. And if we're here setting goals, there must be something about our actions we'd like to change -- and so it follows that there must be something about our mindset we need to change, too. That's healthy! That's good! As people, we're meant to always be learning and growing. In fact, a cornerstone of the PowerSheets® process is this: you have the power to change your beliefs about yourself. Who you are is not set in stone. You have a choice in every moment.

And once you've changed what you believe about yourself, you can much more easily change your actions. And as your actions add up, they'll provide validation for who you are, which will provide more motivation to keep going. It's the best kind of feedback loop!

Let's look at an example.

For years, you've wanted to get your space organized, and you set a 2022 goal to declutter your home. When you look up from your PowerSheets, though, there are piles of paper everywhere, your pantry is stuffed with out-of-date condiments, and every closet is filled to overflowing. "I'm a mess," you think. "I've never been able to keep anything organized." 

You may not say those words out loud. Even still, you hear them loud and clear. You likely feel defeated even before you tackle the first junk drawer.

First, even if it feels icky, write those invisible words down. We invite you to do this on page 14 of your PowerSheets: what lies have you believed about yourself or your life? In our example, you might write, "I am lazy," or "I am messy," or "I am unorganized."

Then, take a minute to write some new "I am" statements in direct response to the ones you just wrote: "I am organized. I take care of my home."

Does this feel disingenuous? Try this: "I am becoming more organized. I am learning to take care of my home."

The moment you create an "I am" statement, you begin moving in that direction. You begin training your mind. You begin taking on a new identity.

Then, once your new I am statements are in place, you get to ask yourself this question: what would an organized person do? What would a good leader do? What would a patient mom do? What would a caring friend do? 

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis. He's writing in a Christian context, but it works just as well here:

"The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."

When we are acting as if we're an organized person, we will find ourselves becoming an organized person. When we're acting as a patient mom would, we're becoming a patient mom. "The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do," writes James Clear in Atomic Habits. "Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it with small wins."

What we think about ourselves determines where we'll go. Before we can change what we do, we must change what we believe.

What "I am" statements can you pair with your 2022 goals? We'd love to hear!

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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