Habit 7: using your personal responsibility as the path to living with optimism and joy.
What would it be like to dream again? To believe you can achieve goals that inspire you?
How would it feel to set a goal you believe you can achieve, even in the midst of your responsibilities at home and work?
Would you like to dream again and think bigger than where you are now?
A problem we face as busy women is forgetting to imagine, dream and believe in our goals.
We risk becoming distracted from believing our goals are worthwhile and achievable because we spend the bulk of our time meeting our tasks at home and work.
Sometimes it’s taxing to imagine a goal in the first place because we’re so busy and don’t have much time.
Brandon Burchard, in his book High Performance Habits  states “Isn’t it true that you already know how to get stuff done, yet sometimes you limit your vision for the future because you’re already so busy, so stressed, so overextended?” (in the introduction).
We are built to dream
It’s not that we aren’t dreamers or goal setters. To come as far as we have in our careers required dreaming, hoping, planning and building.
It’s just the demands take over because we are responsible and dependable. In this life of responsibility, the word “responsible” becomes a requirement, not a joy. Then joy becomes a luxury we forget to carry. This doesn’t mean we’re miserable, just busy, occupied and distracted.
How stress hinders the process of setting goals
Researchers here looked at how people set goals when they are depressed. This article interested me because, even if we’re not depressed, we are sometimes burned out, tired or overworked. This deflates our motivation and expectancy for new joys and achievements. Depression is different to feeling a bit low or deflated by our busy lives, but the findings in this study are helpful for setting goals and building habits for achievement.
The researchers found, when it comes to goal setting, people with depression:
- Avoid setting “approach goals” (things desired) such as “prepare for the promotion”
- Are pessimistic about achieving goals. For example, “it’s too hard and It probably won’t happen so why bother”
- Disengage from goals and desires.
- Look to avoidance goals. For example, “don’t lose my job”
So how do we overcome mental roadblocks so we can reach for our dreams and goals?
What if we define responsibility in a new way so we can build motivation again?
What if we choose to look at the responsibilities we carry as the way to optimism and hope and the propulsion towards the dreams we hide?
Responsibility as decision and opportunity, versus a feeling or hindrance
We can be responsible even if we are deflated, overworked or depressed. By now, in our careers and families, we probably do this without giving ourselves credit.
Being responsible isn’t just doing what has to be done. Instead, it’s knowing our gifts and talents and viewing ourselves as responsible to use them to better ourselves and others.
Rather than just doing what we have to do because we’re skilled and obligated to be responsible, we can look at responsibility as the opposite of pessimism and the means to optimism and achievement.
The distance between pessimism and optimism
Normally the opposite of pessimism is defined as optimism, and this is true as pure opposites like dark and light. But even in dark and light, our eyes still see variations such as shapes in the dark and shadows in the light.
So our initial visualization of pessimism and optimism are opposite ends of one line. Instead, I propose we see responsibility placed in the middle of this line. It is the mediator or vehicle to a life of hope and expectancy.
The task here is to reframe our responsibilities and obligations as part of a fulfilling life.
Five tips to dreaming again, loving your responsibilities, and believing in your goals with optimism:
- When you have negative emotions, try accepting them rather than trying to suppress them. This is a tenet of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy , which notes when we try to remove negative emotions, we give them attention and tend to feel more negative. A mix of positive and negative emotions is human and healthy. Try noticing and accepting yourself and your current feelings. For example, you are exhausted after work and resent cooking dinner so you feel grumpy. That’s ok.
- Write your preferred future. Dream and imagine. Give yourself the chance to write without borders around what you think your can or cannot do.
- Practice self acceptance. This includes your gifts, talents, and weaknesses and is a core habit for life. This research article  shows our self-evaluations impact on how optimistic we feel and how much we enjoy our lives. Our self evaluations affect how we view our abilities and how optimistic we feel.
- Choose responsibility thinking versus just feelings and emotions. For example “I have this skill and i’m helping other people when I use it to the best of my ability, even with my fears or doubts”
- Consider your responsibilities as resources and the means to being optimistic about your goals. For example, my years as an Audiologist have kept me very busy. However, this initiated my motivation to help women in professions become their best selves, enjoy their days and love their lives.
If a dream or a life goal seems out of reach, we need a way to believe again. We might think our current reality and roles we carry hinder our dreams. But what if we looked at our responsibilities through a new frame? What if we saw our obligations as revealing our abilities and resources so we can pursue a new dream?
Write two lists of five items. One list is for your work responsibilities. The other for your home responsibilities.
Below each list of five items, write for a few minutes about how these roles reveal your skills.
Now choose one life dream and write how you can use your talents to take a small step towards your dream?
 Dickson JM, Moberly NJ, O’Dea C, Field M (2016) Goal Fluency, Pessimism and Disengagement in Depression. PLOS ONE 11(11): e0166259. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166259
 Book: High Performance habits by Brendon Burchard
 Jiang W, Li F, Jiang H, Yu L, Liu W, Li Q, et al. (2014) Core Self-Evaluations Mediate the Associations of Dispositional Optimism and Life Satisfaction. PLoS ONE 9(6): e97752. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097752