10 Tips to Taking Positive Action

In this Observer article ‘Self help: forget positive thinking, try positive action’ last year Richard Wiseman gave 10 very practical self help tips about how to take positive action.

Now there are a lot of self help tips about positive thinking. They get you saying encouraging words to yourself in order to make those words come true. Many of the techniques that go by the name of positive thinking may be quite ineffective or down right harmful Wiseman explains.

As an alternative to positive thinking Richard Wiseman describes a simpler more behaviouristic approach of deliberately changing your behaviour.

1. To be happy… smile!
2. To have more will power… tense your muscles.
3. To eat less… become more self-conscious by using your non-dominant hand
4. To overcome procrastination… make a start!
5. To be more persistent… sit up and cross your arms!
6. To increase your self-esteem and confidence… adopt a power pose.
7. To be a more effective negotiator… use soft chairs.
8. To deal with your guilt… wash your hands.
9. To be more persusive… nod more often.
10. To improve your love life… open up and talk more to your partner.

Making deliberate choices to act in these ways externally can effect your internal emotions and your subsequent effectiveness.

Wiseman’s self help books such as The Luck Factor, 59 Seconds have been described by the science writer Simon Singh as “a self-help guide based on proper research”. His more recent book Rip It Up goes even deeper into the science of self help.


An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make any News Year’s resolutions this year? Have you managed to keep them yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t. The problem with many resolutions is that they involve not doing something and the moment you do it the resolution is broken. This can lead to feeling guilty and giving up. As we enter this new year I just thought I’d share with you a simple alternative.

Set yourself goals and make action plans

A far better approach than new year’s resolutions is to set yourself a goal and a specific plan of how you are going to achieve that goal. Goals will most likely dramatically increase your achievement especially if you also have a specific step by step action plan of how you can reach those goals.

What sort of goals and plans should I make?

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Setting goals works!

If these goals are going to increase your happiness they should not be exclusively career goals or goals to make more money. Goals that will increase your happiness are often those that take others into account – your friends, your family and maybe even society in general.

Research in positive psychology indicates that unless you live in extreme poverty more money does not bring more happiness. But goals that include helping others or goals that involve adjusting your attitudes and developing your character strengths have been shown to make people happier.

By all means have career and monetary goals but ensure that they come second to goals that are more concerned with others or goals that involve you challenging your own motives.

I’ll give you a simple example of a goal that challenged my motives. Last year I set myself a goal to lose weight when I realised how greedy I was being eating big suppers every night.

Regularly review your goals

It is also important to review your goals. You will need to look at how far have you progressed with your action plans at some point. Don’t worry if you have not achieved what you expected by this time. Just set new targets and keep plugging away.

It also helps to have goals that are flexible enough to take into account feedback from others. If as you work towards it you find that your career goal is hampering your family life then you may want to modify or change it completely.

Let’s go for it

Perhaps you’ve already made a resolution this year. Perhaps you’ve already broken it. It doesn’t matter.

Why not make two or three goals for yourself and for each one jot down a couple of steps that you can take towards them? Look at these in a few months and see how you got on. And then repeat the excerise. It’s as simple as that.

Let me know how you get on.

Further Reading

Will Goals Help or Hinder Your Life Achievement