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Popular Articles

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

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Panic Assistance

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Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

PsychNotes January 2015
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist

Index        Previous        Next
January 27, 2015

Do You Trust Your Partner's Expression of Acceptance?

Some people negate their partner's support and positive expressions of regard and acceptance. When they have a negative self-image, they believe their partner is only saying nice things to not cause distress but that the partner doesn't really mean it. A series of studies by researchers Lemay and Clark (2008) shows how people who desperately want to be loved may create a perpetual cycle of feeling rejected instead.

The researchers described how people, in general, believe that others will praise and show approval towards those who are insecure because they don't want to upset them. Due to this belief, when people share their vulnerabilities with a romantic partner or close friend, they are suspicious of the other's positive response because they think it is due to being cautious and not wanting to hurt them. These doubts about the genuineness of the other's positive regard causes the individual to be more negative and more insecure about the relationship.

Thus, there is no way out of this cycle. At least not as long as the person continues to believe the original premise that if a person expresses vulnerabilities, others will say nice things to not cause distress. As a result, no matter how positive the partner is, the individual believes the partner truly has an unexpressed negative opinion of them.

How can this cycle be stopped? Accept compliments. Period. If we have the potential to be wrong, it is better to be wrong in a positive direction. Don't try to evaluate what you think someone else really means. Accept what they say has genuine. Even if someone is saying nice things because they don't want to hurt you, isn't that a good thing? At least the person cares enough to not want to cause you pain.

Lemay, E.P. and Clark, M.S. (2008). “Walking on Eggshells”: How Expressing Relationship Insecurities Perpetuates Them. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 420–441. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.2.420

January 25, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Co-worker Doesn't Like Me

EVENT: My co-worker acts like she doesn't like me.

EMOTIONS: rejected, insulted, apprehensive

DISTRESS RATING: 6--Feeling bad

THOUGHTS: “She looks at me funny when I pass her desk and the other day she turned and walked the other way when she saw me. She's probably talking behind my back like happened at my last job. I know she's a good friend of the boss. What if she says something to him that makes me look bad?”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of rejection, feeling insulted, and apprehension?


January 23, 2015

Do You Have Gelotophobia? More Than 11% of People Do

When you hear other people laughing, do you think it might be about you? Does it bother you when you are teased? Are you afraid to draw attention because others might laugh? Do you get embarrassed easily? Do you avoid people who have teased you? Are you careful about your behavior so you won't be laughed at? Do you avoid situations that might attract negative attention?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might have gelotophobia, the fear of being laughed at. But don't feel alone, more than 11% of people have this fear and may organize their life in some way to avoid feeling the shame of other people's laughter (Ruchand and Proyer, 2008).

The problem with this type of fear is that it is self-perpetuating. In other words, if you hear laughter and believe it is about you, it is difficult to obtain evidence that it is not about you. Most fears can be challenged with the evidence of probability: “I've never been bitten by a snake (ophidiophobia)” or “People don't just fall off high areas when surrounded by safety rails (acrophobia).” However, the evidence for people with gelotophobia is that they hear laughter. They are not likely to ask “Are you laughing at me?” because then they truly might be laughed at. Instead, hearing laughter reinforces the fear because they believe that what they feared DID occur.

Two primary methods help challenge this fear:

1) Cognitive restructuring. Learn to think about laughter in a different way: “People laugh all the time. It is probably not about me. Even if it is directed at me, it is probably not malicious. If it is malicious, then it is about the bully and not about me. Laughter can't hurt me unless I let it.”

2) Behavioral exposure. Learn to not be emotionally reactive to laughter by putting yourself in situations where people WILL notice you negatively or laugh at you. For instance, Albert Ellis, one of the founding fathers of cognitive therapy, would engage in behaviors such as spontaneously singing on a street corner to overcome his fear (personal communication during Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, 1984). By doing so, you learn that you can survive it and it doesn't have to rule your life.

Ruchand, W. and Proyer, R.T. (2008). Who is Gelotophobic? Assessment Criteria for the Fear of Being Laughed. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 67, 19–27.

January 22, 2015

Be Sure to Sleep After Exposure Treatment

One of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders is exposure therapy which involves confronting the feared situation. This can be done in a gradual way or all at once depending upon the therapeutic plan for the individual. Either way, however, the goal is to stay in the situation until the fear reduces. If you are afraid of having a panic attack while driving so that driving causes anxiety, an exposure could be to drive while focused on reducing your anxiety. Or, if you have OCD and are afraid of touching contaminated objects, an exposure could be touching something and, instead of washing, let the anxiety reduce.

This process is referred to as “extinction” which means that whatever caused the initial fear no longer provokes anxiety. Research has shown that extinction is strengthened during sleep. In other words, during sleep you are reinforcing the new memories of successfully confronting the fear. Since persistent memories of a feared situation are a core feature of anxiety disorders, creating new memories focused on facing the situation while reducing the anxiety response is critical to treatment.

Although researchers Datta and O'Malley (2013) replicated this finding, they also showed that only about 57% of the subjects (rats in this instance) that slept after extinction showed a strengthening of memories and that it was associated with pontine-wave (p-wave) activity in the brain during REM sleep. Unfortunately, it is still unclear how to increase p-wave activity in the brain. Hopefully, future research can provide more direction.

In the meantime, be sure to sleep well after exposure treatment. If you have trouble sleeping, try using natural methods such as relaxation audios because sleep medications can interfere with brainwave activity.

Datta, S. and O'Malley, M.W. (2013). Fear Extinction Memory Consolidation Requires Potentiation of Pontine-Wave Activity during REM Sleep. Journal of Neuroscience, 33, 4561-4569. DOI:10-1523/JNEUROSCI.5525-12.2013

January 21, 2015

Treatment for Long-term Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) May Differ from Short-Term GAD

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for Generalized Anxiety Disorder targets the thinking, imagination, and physical symptoms with the intention to provide coping skills to replace the worrying that triggers the anxiety. The two major components of this treatment are identifying triggers and developing a coping response.

1) Identify triggers. Identify what tends to set off your worrying and use a coping response immediately.

2) Coping response. By using the coping response consistently, the brain begins to associate anxiety with using a coping strategy. Instead of the anxiety being reinforced in the brain, the coping response is reinforced and more likely to be used in the future.

Coping responses include:
1) Examining the evidence.
2) Identifying probabilities.
3) Labeling errors in thinking.
4) Challenging catastrophic thoughts.
5) Developing alternative thoughts and beliefs.
6) Progressive relaxation.
7) Slow breathing.
8) Relaxing imagery.

The coping responses consist of either identifying and relabeling thinking (cognitive restructuring) or using a behavioral method to calm the body. Researchers Newman and Fisher (2013) examined which type of coping response (cognitive or behavioral) was more effective. What they found was that it didn't matter. However, they did find that those with long-term GAD benefited from the addition of supportive listening. Those with short-term GAD responded well to learning how to identify the triggers and replace the anxiety response with the coping response.

This finding seems to be consistent with my clinical experience. When clients with recent onset of anxiety come in for treatment, they respond fairly quickly to CBT. However, those who have had anxiety for many years often need more support. My opinion is this is due to the anxiety becoming associated with many different aspects of their lives and having caused a cascade of other problems (loss of relationships, career, etc.).

What does this mean if you have long-term GAD? Don't be discouraged if CBT doesn't work effectively. You may need the combination of CBT and supportive listening. Usually, the supportive listening component helps you grieve the losses you've experienced in your life due to the GAD. Combined with the CBT you can learn how to view and approach situations differently.

Newman, M. G., & Fisher, A. J. (2013). Mediated Moderation in Combined Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Versus Component Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81, 405– 414. DOI: 10.1037/a0031690

January 20, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Adult Son Deliberately Upsetting Mother

Question: I had my son and my lovely daughter-in-law over for dinner. My son invaded the kitchen space and started to turn the burners down when I turned them up. The potatoes burned and I put on a new batch which only took a few moments to do. He continued switching the burners on and off. He said I was trying to impress which I was not. His eyes were dark and angry. I was so upset I was shaking hours later. This is not the first time I felt like this. He comes back and says he is sorry afterwards but it takes me a long time to recover from his behaviour.


January 18, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Happiness Dependent Upon Wife

EVENT: My wife won't get help for her problems

EMOTIONS: sad, helpless, hopeless

DISTRESS RATING: 9--Feeling desperate

THOUGHTS: “My wife is always angry and never happy. She is always criticizing and blaming me and others. I always try to do what she wants to make her happy. No matter what I do I can't make her happy. I've suggested therapy. She won't get help even though she agrees she is angry and unhappy. I'll never be happy. I need to find a solution.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness?


January 17, 2015

Rule 12: Gathering Your Tools is Half the Job

Gathering Your Tools is Half the Job My husband, the carpenter, says when starting a big task, “Gathering your tools is half the job.” I never really thought about that until more recently when it occurred to me that it applies to almost any activity.

In other words, preparation is half the job. So often, I think, we are held back from accomplishing something because we are either overwhelmed by the preparation or bored by it. Either way we don't want to do it. How many times have you gotten started on a task and then said to yourself, “That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.” Many times we avoid not because we don't want to do the job, but because we don't want to do the preparation.

Once we are engaged in the task we often are able to focus in a mindful way. For instance, I enjoy gardening and so it doesn't seem like work. However, getting everything together is not something I enjoy so it seems like a chore.

Mindfulness is not just about focusing when we enjoy something, but is the ability to be in the present moment even when we don't enjoy it. For instance, what gets in my way when I am gathering my tools to garden? My thinking: “I really don't want to spend all that time in the garage getting the tools that I need.” It doesn't matter that it might only take mere minutes.

We often think of the preparation stage as something that gets in our way of doing the actual job. Instead, if we think of it as part of the job itself, and approach it mindfully, we can feel we accomplished something once we have prepared everything we need. When I approach the preparation stage in the same way I approach the gardening, then I'm more likely to enjoy the entire activity.


January 16, 2015

Aggressive Children Can Learn Control

Throughout our nation much discussion about bullying and violence in the schools is occurring. We have the solution but it takes the effort of teachers, parents, and counselors to implement. Researchers Liber and colleagues (2013) demonstrated that children who already had identified aggression problems could be taught greater control.

The key word here is “taught.” Too often, people believe that children should just “do” as they are told, but, instead, it is necessary to teach them how to behave. Which takes the effort of all those involved with the children. Punishment takes less effort but only teaches children what not to do and is not effective because it doesn't provide alternative behaviors to solve problems. If a child is frustrated, the child needs options to manage that frustration.

The researchers examined the outcome of a nine session group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) program for children around age 10. The program involved topics such as goal-setting, social skills training using role-playing, cognitive restructuring, understanding emotions, modeling, and positive reinforcement. In addition, education for parents and teachers was provided. The research showed that if children are provided with specific instruction and skills training they can gain greater control over their behavior.

Liber, J.M., De Boo, G.M., Huizenga, H. and Prins, P.J.M. (2013). School-Based Intervention for Childhood Disruptive Behavior in Disadvantaged Settings: A Randomized Controlled Trial With and Without Active Teacher Support. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81, 975–987. DOI: 10.1037/a0033577

January 15, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Hopelessness Due to Depression

EVENT: My medication isn't helping my depression

EMOTIONS: despair, grief, defeated

DISTRESS RATING: 9--Feeling desperate

THOUGHTS: “I've tried everything for my depression. Nothing seems to help. It is so hard to do anything. I'll never get my life back on track. My future is hopeless. I'm just weak and useless.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of despair, grief, and defeat?


January 14, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Insulted by Thank You Notes as a Gift

Question: When I graduated from college my aunt gave me a box of thank you cards along with a generous amount of cash. I feel the thank you notes were a passive-aggressive insult implying that I don't have proper manners. How do I respond to this?


January 13, 2015

The Difference Between Normal Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be described as excessive worrying and frequent anxiety to the extent that it interferes with quality of life. How is this different from normal worrying? Typically, when people worry they are focused on the object of their concern. For those with GAD, researchers Andor and colleagues (2008) showed they are more likely to be aware of physical symptoms of anxiety. When they notice symptoms it proves the validity of their worries which then causes them to engage in more worrying. In other words, “If I'm feeling distressed, there must be some cause of my distress.”

This research showed they do not experience more symptoms than those without GAD but are more likely to notice the symptoms they experience. Interestingly, when these researchers gave those with GAD false feedback about a relaxation exercise by telling them their level of symptoms was reduced, they worried less. Thus, the perception of a reduction in symptoms indicated (at a subconscious level) that worrying was no longer necessary.

What this seems to show is that people with GAD worry as a way of trying to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety whereas normal worrying is about problem-solving. However, a worry approach is ineffective as worrying tends to increase physical symptoms rather than reduce them.

It seems that the purpose of worrying for those with GAD is to avoid the discomfort of noticing the anxiety symptoms. Methods that reduce these symptoms such as relaxation exercises tend to reduce worrying. Another way to address GAD is to change the awareness and evaluation of the physical symptoms. Developing a tolerance for physical symptoms through the practice of mindfulness or meditation can help to manage the excessive worrying.

Andor, T., Gerlach, A.L. and Rist, F. (2008). Superior Perception of Phasic Physiological Arousal and the Detrimental Consequences of the Conviction to Be Aroused on Worrying and Metacognitions in GAD. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117, 193–205. DOI: 10.1037/0021-843X.117.1.193

January 12, 2015

Do You Want an Education or Do You Want a Grade?

When I graduated from college, I felt disappointed because apart from a few outstanding classes I only learned how to regurgitate information and didn't learn how to think. Not until graduate school did I truly receive an education because I had to process and integrate information, not just show that I had listened during class. My disappointment was partially due to the structure of the classes and partially my fault because I was focused on obtaining grades that would allow me to be competitive when applying to graduate schools.

Although setting academic goals for the purpose of demonstrating ability or outperforming others has been shown to be related to academic success, researchers Crouzevialle and Butera (2013) believe that such competitive goals actually impair memory and ability to solve problems. They indicate that the relation to academic success may be because those who are concerned about their grades or class standing are more likely to engage in behaviors that improve outcome of grades (how academic success is defined) but aren't favorable to learning.

In other words, these students are more likely to cheat or study only material necessary to pass the course (“surface” studying). How the professor assesses student outcome can allow these behaviors more or less. For instance, multiple choice tests allow students to study only what is necessary to be able to recognize the correct answer and papers give students a chance to cheat. Essay tests and presentations require the student to truly know the material, process the information, and show what they have learned. However, these methods require more effort on the part of the instructors. As a result, students oriented towards outcome are more likely to achieve a good outcome even though, according to these researchers, a focus on grades reduces ability to learn effectively.

To test their hypothesis, these researchers examined students in a laboratory setting to prevent behaviors such as cheating or “surface” studying so as to understand what the true impact of outcome-oriented goals are on learning. The results of their research showed that focusing on outcome goals such as grades increases distraction from the task which interferes with problem-solving and effective learning.

In other words, this research shows that students may be able to achieve academic success but have not truly been educated to think, process and integrate information, and effectively problem-solve. Worrying about grades interferes with this process.

Crouzevialle, M. and Butera, F. (2013). Performance-Approach Goals Deplete Working Memory and Impair Cognitive Performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142, 666–678. DOI: 10.1037/a0029632

January 11, 2015

Why Do You Have Trouble Delaying Gratification?

The ability to wait for reward has been associated with success. Those who have the ability to delay gratification will often work harder and longer to achieve a goal which leads to successful outcomes. What determines why or when it is difficult to wait for a reward? And how do you increase your ability to wait for long-term goals? Researchers McGuire and Kable (2013) propose several elements contribute to the ability to delay gratification.

What affects the ability to wait for reward?

1) When it is unknown how long before the outcome goal will be achieved, people are less likely to delay gratification because they don't want to wait indefinitely. There's a point when people don't believe persistence will pay off and they need to set limits on their efforts. In other words, the reward isn't large enough to continue to persist when it is uncertain the goal will be achieved.

2) How large of a reward also factors into how much effort and time people will give towards a goal.

3) People will consider the interaction between reward and time so that they are willing to wait longer for a more attractive reward.

What does this mean for setting goals?

1) Set rewards for goals. Too often, people think that achieving the goal itself should be reward enough. If the goal is to lose weight, they believe they shouldn't need to give themselves rewards along the way. However, the rewards can help keep a person motivated towards longer term goals.

2) Set goals that have very specific time limits to obtain the reward. For example, “If I save $10 a week for 10 weeks, I can spend half of it on something I want.”

3) Make sure the reward is attractive to you: “If I eat healthy all day, I can have a treat.”

4) Determine a reasonable reward that will keep you motivated for the length of time you need to exert effort. If the length of time is long, set a reward that is attractive enough to you for you to persist. You might need to break larger goals up into smaller ones.

McGuire, J.T. and Kable, J.W. (2013). Rational Temporal Predictions Can Underlie Apparent Failures to Delay Gratification. Psychological Review, 120, 395–410. DOI: 10.1037/a0031910

January 10, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: "I will take care of it, just as I ALWAYS do!"

Question: When I don't respond to my wife's request as quickly as she believes I should, she heaves a sigh and says "I will take care of it, just as I ALWAYS do!" I find this very irritating as I intended to do what she wanted but instead I am criticized for not responding on her time schedule. How do I handle this without getting in a big argument?


January 9, 2015

Rejection Elicits Positive Coping Among Those With High Self-Esteem

Many times clients have asked me, “Why should I have to do all this work to cope when other people don't have to?” My response is that other people are doing these things but they learned them naturally as they were growing up and so the coping strategies are automatic responses they might not even be aware of. For instance, how often have you heard somebody tell a story about something difficult they had to do and they said something similar to, “I took a deep breath and told myself...?” That statement includes both a behavioral (breathing) and a cognitive (self-talk) component.

Among those with good mental health, automatic coping strategies occur to help manage the emotional distress of rejection. Researchers DeWall and colleagues (2011) found these coping strategies include recalling happy childhood memories, connecting happy thoughts to other happy thoughts, and tuning in to positive information and emotions. What occurs at a unconscious level for mentally healthy people is the same thing that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches those who have low self-esteem.

People who have low self-esteem have usually been taught inaccurate beliefs that have sidetracked the natural process. For example, if a child is struggling in school, how that child is taught to handle the situation will influence the child's self-esteem. Criticizing the child “You're just not trying” obviously hurts the child's self-esteem. However, artificially building self-esteem, “You're really smart!” can also harm the child's sense of competence because the child can clearly see how he or she compares to other children and so the child doesn't learn how to compensate or handle adversity.

Instead, learning to recognize his or her talents as well as weaknesses in a non-judgmental way helps the child to not only feel better about him or herself but also teaches positive coping strategies: “Sure, this is harder for you than others, but it is teaching you to be persistent which will help you be successful in life. Just like when you play ball, you keep trying even when you make mistakes.” In this way, the child focuses on positive qualities (persistence) and memories (playing ball) when confronted by something difficult.

Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, many people weren't taught this growing up. Therefore, when confronted by difficult situations, their automatic process may be to associate rejection with negative memories or qualities. CBT helps to change this process.

DeWall, C.N, Twenge, J.M., Koole, S.L., Baumeister, R.F., Marquez, A. and Reid, M.W. (2011). Automatic Emotion Regulation After Social Exclusion: Tuning to Positivity. Emotion, 11, 623–636. DOI: 10.1037/a0023534

January 8, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Sister Marrying the Wrong Man

EVENT: Sister won't listen to me about the mistake she is making

EMOTIONS: frantic, frustrated, worried

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: “My sister has always been so impulsive and now she's deciding to get married without thinking it through. She hasn't really known him that long. I think this will be disastrous and I'll have to pick up the pieces like I always do. How can I get her to listen to me?”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of being frantic, frustrated, and worried?


January 7, 2014

Cognitive Story Audio: Sharing Exciting Day

This is a cognitive story for children. The purpose is to help children learn how to handle different situations. A cognitive story teaches children how to think rationally about problems that commonly occur in childhood. These stories are often good at bedtime because the end of the story focuses on relaxing and drifting off to sleep.

This audio is a conversation between a wise old parrot and a child. The parrot advises the child when the child is feeling excited about something good that happened but not wanting to brag and make friends feel bad. This story is to help the child know to handle the situation including ways to think about it and how to share in a way that friends may be more receptive. The story the audio is based on is also included so that it can be read to a child.


January 6, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Got His Way at a Cost

Question: I am the youngest of five brothers. Throughout my life I had crying fits to get what I wanted: bicycles, minibikes, motorcycles, cars. Even though I got what I wanted, I was ridiculed at family holiday gatherings: "He always gets what he wants!" My parents would give in to me but then I paid for it by them being angry with me about it. I thought to myself, "Why did Mom and Dad give in to me in the first place" and then make me pay emotionally?


January 5, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Just Trying to Be Helpful

EVENT: Girlfriend gets mad when I make helpful suggestions

EMOTIONS: annoyed, frustrated, perplexed

DISTRESS RATING: 5--Moderately upset but manageable

THOUGHTS: “I think life would be easier for my girlfriend if she were more organized. But when I make suggestions about rinsing dishes off so they are easier to clean or to put her things away when she's done with them, she gets mad. What is her problem? She's so touchy! I'm just trying to help her life to be easier. If she would do these things, then she would have less work in the long run and wouldn't be as stressed.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of annoyance, frustration, and being perplexed?


January 4, 2015

PsychNote: What is an Achievable Goal?

Knowing the difference between an achievable goal and one that is not can mean the difference between success and failure. Achieveable goals are specific, realistic, and performance-based.

Specific goals can be pictured clearly. For instance, a goal of "reduce debt" is not as clear as "I'm spending too much money on lunch. I will bring my lunch more often."

Realistic goal are reasonable and manageable. For instance, the difference between "I will lose 40 pounds" and "I will eat healthier lunches (because I'm bringing them)."

Performance-based goals are focused on what you will do, rather than what outcome you will see. For example, "The money I save from bringing my lunches I will use to pay down credit card debt" instead of "I will get rid of debt."

Read more: Guide to Setting Achievable Goals

January 3, 2015

PsychNote: Why Set Goals If 50% of New Year's Resolutions are Broken by Three Months?

1) 50% aren't broken by three months and almost 20% will be maintained by two years.

2) You are more likely to succeed than someone who recognizes a problem but doesn't set a goal.

3) People learn from their failures and are more likely to be successful in the future.

4) Major goals may take six or more tries to succeed but setting the goal eventually leads to success.

5) Resolving goals improves well-being, satisfaction, and happiness.

6) A positive cycle is created in that greater well-being leads to setting more life-enhancing goals.

7) Those who succeed are likely to have set their own goals, not based on others' demands, which creates more self-reliance.

Koestner, R. (2008). Reaching One’s Personal Goals: A Motivational Perspective Focused on Autonomy. Canadian Psychology, 49, 60–67. DOI: 10.1037/0708-5591.49.1.60

January 2, 2014

Cognitive Story Audio:
Hard to Make Friends

This is a cognitive story for children. The purpose is to help children learn how to handle different situations. A cognitive story teaches children how to think rationally about problems that commonly occur in childhood. These stories are often good at bedtime because the end of the story focuses on relaxing and drifting off to sleep.

This audio is a conversation between a wise old parrot and a child. The parrot advises the child when the child is feeling sad because it is hard to make friends. This story is to help the child know that nothing is wrong with him or her. Also, it encourages the child to keep trying to be friendly with others. The story the audio is based on is also included so that it can be read to a child.


January 1, 2015

PsychNote: What Determines the Success of New Year's Resolutions?

Two factors influence whether you will succeed with goals:

1) Are your goals consistent with your interests and desires or are they demands from others?
The more your goals are based on changes you desire in your life rather than for the purpose of pleasing others or meeting outside demands, the more likely you will achieve them. For instance, if you set a weight goal because you want to be healthier you are more likely to succeed versus believing that you need to achieve a certain weight to be acceptable to others.

2) Do you have specific means in place to help achieve your goals?
A goal needs some means of implementation. If you want to be successful, don't just set a general goal. Instead, decide upon specific steps and make those into goals. For example, a goal of “I'm going to be more organized” is not as likely to work as “Instead of piling my papers on the table, I will put them away each day.” You may notice that this goal is also more easily achieved than some vague idea of being more organized.

Koestner, R., Lekes, N., Powers, T.A. And Chicoine, E. (2002). Attaining Personal Goals: Self-Concordance Plus Implementation Intentions Equals Success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 231-244. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.83.1.231

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