Science

Better dream realistic!

It all started with the resentment the jewelry designer felt when she saw her workbench. The customers of Doris Virchow (name changed) love their simple modern chains and modern earrings. But the creation is only annoyance for the artist. The same hand movements remind her of cooking stew.

At 52 years, the Berlin designer wants to do something different from her profession. She loves designing with other people – jewelry workshops for lay people, she thinks it is. That would irritate them.

Goals that lure us in the spirit, that we wish for, give color to our lives. We hope for that; we strive to meet them. Sometimes there are seemingly profane desires to lose weight or go on a trip around the world, not infrequently material desires to buy a house, for example, but sometimes also elementary visions of personal development. The classic is self-employment, the exotic the emigration.

But no matter what goal you set yourself – many never achieve it. And soon, good intentions turn into resentment, disappointment, sometimes even self-reproach – wrongly: “It is very human that we are constantly projecting wishes into the future, but fail to achieve some of them,” says organizational psychologist Cornelius König from Saarland University. “This is not a drama as long as we are satisfied overall.” But if the goals are permanently transformed into walls that you run against, if the repeated failure leads to a loop of misery, then it is high time to ask yourself a critical question: Why is it that self-management fails permanently?

Three prerequisites to get to your goal

The way to most goals is not a short distance, rather a half marathon. There are almost always critical phases during the run that self-management experts pay particular attention to:

1. The mental preparation before we start the starting block. If you skip them, you run frivolously in the wrong direction and startle when you cross the finish line that there is no inner cheering.

2. Overcoming the dry spell after a successful start. Often the runner runs out of breath, he gives in.

3. The release of the inner brake to really reach the goal. Quite a few make peculiar hooks on the career track because fears and lack of trust prevent them from staying on course and at full speed.

For all three phases, however, there is equipment – the methods of self-management to reach the goal.

Let's start with the warming-up behind the starting block. This is primarily mental, not physical: “Many people set too many goals that are not at all,” says neuroscientist and self-management expert Joachim Bauer from the University of Freiburg. Therefore they never reach them or when they finally arrive they feel unhappy because they were not real. Goals of this kind are more a fixed idea than a serious project, such as the office worker who just sees himself going on tour with a band. The wish has not matured, and the possible ways to achieve it have not been considered. Bauer often warns that such castles in the air even hide real, deep-seated longings for personal change: the employee longs for a different way of life, perhaps for a different job, which offers his creativity more space. But as a musician with a small salary without the security of a permanent position, he would actually not be satisfied.

Get out of the hamster wheel – and just try it out

Therefore: When a new goal appears in the mind's eye, Bauer advises that you take a step back. “It takes times of leisure, reflection and reflection without time pressure. This is the only way we can find out whether we really want a goal with our whole self. Once a goal is well anchored in its motifs, it almost reaches itself. ”

Without time, no goal, warns Bauer. “Anyone running hectically in everyday life should neither make private nor professional decisions.” The brain would then be in stimulus-reaction mode – perfect for doing tasks briskly, but unsuitable for perceiving yourself, exploring options for action and playing through solutions , However, these mental skills are needed to sound out a goal.

However, nobody has to sit pondering in the quiet closet before setting off to a new goal. Phases of leisure are crucial, but sometimes also testing. The self-management expert Cordula Nussbaum recommends that the runner tries to get into the starting block before the sprint and does some starts: “It is important to try it out on a small scale.”

Jewelry designer Doris Virchow did just that. She gave workshops in the courtyard of her studio: children and adults cast old silver and gold jewelry into new shapes. “It was very nice when the group was small and the preparation was not too time-consuming,” was her first experience.

Experiments from the show also show how important it is to explore your own motives before you set off Brain research. The psychologist Shelley Taylor from the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, described 2015 in the journal “PNAS” an experiment with 67 adults who were not moving enough and in the study encouraged more physical activity. Before the start, some of the test subjects were asked to think about their creativity, their attitude to money, their faith and other values ​​and even to write a treatise on the most important value for them. The participants, attuned to their own needs and motivations, moved much more than the others in the following four weeks.

A house in the south of France? Prefer the camper

Quite a few, on the other hand, run away in blind action and prefer to use their energy to paint the goal in the most dazzling colors. “You dream of a house in the south of France with a veranda. Then they search elaborately, go there and only notice there that they don't really want that at all, ”Nussbaum gives an example. For the brain researcher Bauer, this would be a typical case of a mistake due to a lack of mental warming-ups. Nussbaum advises that the course be corrected immediately: “Steadfastly holding on to your goal would be the wrong thing to do. Letting go was nothing. ”In order to avoid errors due to sheer belief in goals, she advises a wide target corridor. The goal itself should never be too detailed, just the direction you have chosen based on your own needs. “I love freedom and I like property, so a house could suit me. Perhaps a camper will do it, ”explains Nussbaum.

On the way to each destination, there is often at least one dry spell just after the start. Most people quickly run out of steam, especially when they jumped out of the starting block at full power. Virchow also experiences this feeling. Her website for her new concept is online, but she still makes her money with the tiresome jewelry. She does not know whether and how her new business idea of ​​jewelry workshops can become viable.

In Nussbaum's experience, the dry spell is the most common reason why people drop a goal they have set themselves. This can be prevented by going step by step towards the goal beforehand. Organizational psychologist Cornelius König explains this methodology using the example of house building: “The central question is how experience has shown it: What can go wrong? Construction work is almost always delayed and more expensive – has there been sufficient time buffers for moving and also financial reserves? And who drives to the construction site every day to make sure that everything is in order? ”Since these questions require experience, in this phase the exchange with knowledgeable people, with house owners and builders, and research is the only way to make up for the lack of knowledge. Before you start running, you should get involved in the thought of the small steps, advises König. However, it continues during the half marathon, since not every eventuality occurs, but other unforeseen events happen.

Fatal for the exchange during the dry spell, however, are envious, miserable and fearful. “I would like to go jogging to lose a few pounds and then they'll say,” You? You don’t even come up the next mountain? ’, Bauer gives an example. “That demotivates to the core.” Often, paralyzing concerns can even be found within the family and among friends. For example, some partners secretly do not want their girlfriend to change their careers and are therefore the worst possible adviser for this goal.

Friends should encourage – and ask critical questions

The better choice are friends or acquaintances who cheer you on to the goal in the marathon, says Nussbaum. One should therefore regularly exchange or even make a fixed appointment with them on the way to their destination. You should encourage, but also ask uncomfortably, how things are going with the goals you have set yourself and show unconventional solutions. This carries through frustrating phases.

It is not uncommon for your own personality structures to prevent you from achieving goals. Bauer remembers one case: “A student of economics, very gifted, allegedly suffered from a work disorder. He had loved studying, top grades and suddenly he couldn't write his thesis. ”People hesitate before the finish line. They back away and miss opportunities. From the outside, this shy, this zigzag run seems inexplicable. But there is often an inner brake behind it, which you can feel every time you run. “You absolutely have to solve them,” says Nussbaum. “Otherwise you end up getting in your way.”

The brake often comes from childhood. Bauer, who internalized these negative announcements as a child or adolescent, often “let that happen, you can't do that”. These people don't dare to do anything. The inner brake is one reason why children from families with little education sometimes shy away from being academically successful, even if they have all the prerequisites for it, says Bauer. Or it prevents children from families with an educational background from following an unorthodox path, for example as an artist.

It was also an inner brake that prevented the students from completing their degree. The parents had never studied and both worked in unskilled jobs. Out of an unconscious fear of estrangement from them, he was stuck shortly before graduation. When Bauer made this clear to him, he overcame the blockade and graduated. Self-awareness also helped Doris Virchow to get closer to her goal. Her parents had suggested to her that she was the creative calm one who withdraws and does not easily get in touch with people. It was only when she became aware of this that she was able to get up and say: “No, I am not like that. I have outgrown this role ”and advance their workshop project.

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