In setting a self-improvement goal, strategic assessment of your chances of success can be a huge motivator, says philosopher Jim Stone, Ph.D., who develops personal productivity software and workshops.
Say you want to give up smoking (or another vice): You’d typically think, If I smoke, I have failed. But if you mentally open yourself to many ways not to smoke (versus that one singular failure scenario), you view success as likelier: I will do push-ups instead of smoking, I will call a friend instead of smoking, I will read a magazine instead of smoking, or I will drink coffee instead of smoking. In other words, there’s only one way to fail and so many ways to succeed. Your success chances seem much stronger, and you harness the power of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Related: 10 Steps to Achieve Any Goal
The same mindset can aid the launch of a positive habit, such as logging 20 minutes of exercise a day. Think of failure as I won’t get 20 minutes of exercise today. Then embrace the many favorable outcomes (I will walk for 20 minutes at lunch, I will jog around the block twice before breakfast, I will ride my stationary bicycle during my favorite sitcom, or I will review my printouts while I walk the treadmill at the gym), and your willpower—and your odds—improve.
Let your mind play tricks on you… in a good way!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.