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Ask Yourself This Question to Better Meet Your Goals

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ghada Ali youssef, Jan 17, 2017.

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  1. Ghada Ali youssef

    Ghada Ali youssef Golden Member

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    In doing research for my new book, Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World, I dove into the study of Alfred Adler, among thirty-six other noteworthy theorists from psychology's Hall of Fame. Adler's ideas have long been of interest to me: he got away from some of the darkness of Freud and was interested in personal growth, looking at things such as birth order and its effect on personality, and self-sabotage. He originated the idea of the inferiority complex.

    Better yet, he was known for being generous with his ideas and not particularly concerned with being given credit, as long as the study was continuing. But perhaps one of his most practical theories-- even if not one of his most famous-- is that of the magical question.

    Let's say you have been struggling with an unmet goal. It could be something as specific as finishing your college degree, or something as general as being a more civic-minded person. It could be something that seems short-term: lose five pounds. Or something that seems much longer: find a life partner and settle down.

    We may tell ourselves many stories about why we can't meet these goals. It's too hard to do classwork while working a job; it's impossible to find time to exercise. Or the datingworld is rife with bad apples, or there aren't any interesting volunteer opportunities. So we already think we know why we're not meeting our goals, and we focus on getting rid of these barriers (if we're so motivated.) But we still seem to drag our feet.

    The excuses are always there if we look for them. Time goes by and we grow more frustrated with ourselves. Why can't we just buckle down and conquer what we so desperately want to conquer?

    Enter Adler's magical question, which basically says this: if you had a magic wand and could wave it and solve that problem, or meet that goal-- just magically, overnight-- what would your life look like?

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    "That's easy!" you say. "If I finally finished the degree, then I'd no longer be a student. I'd be able to get a real job and start my career. I'd finally be more financially independent.... stop relying on my parents, and could live on my own. I'd find time to start dating. I could really feel like I was grown up and starting a true adult life. Finally."

    And so it seems, that's what you've always wanted. There's your picture-perfect outcome, spelled out in detail. You believe more than anything that if you had that magic wand, you'd wave it in a second.

    Not so fast! Adler theorized that that perfect outcome actually contains a lot of negatives-- and that's what you're afraid of. Perhaps the reason you haven't met your goals is not as cut-and-dried as you think, like being too busy, not having enough time, not having enough discipline. Perhaps the real reason is that there is a part of you rebelling against meeting your goals because you are simply afraid.

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    All those things you think you want-- in the example of finishing your degree, it's the independence, the real-life job, the mortgage, the dating, the adult responsibilities-- maybe, deep down, are quite frightening to you. And there's a part of you that stalls against them to avoid them, because they're scary, like a young child dragging their feet, not letting go of his or her parent, terrified to walk into the first day of preschool.

    When you think of the things you want to accomplish in life-- that checklist so many of us have, somewhere deep within our psyche-- it might help to take Adler's magical question to heart.

    Take a closer look at the fuller picture of the life you think you want, warts and all. Once you can come up with a plan to acknowledge and manage those not-so-great aspects of it, you might be surprised how much more confidently you can move toward getting there, once and for all.


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