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Stress Management: Construct an Optimistic Future

If you think you are overstressed by negative thoughts, you can examine and challenge those thoughts. You probably have many stories you tell yourself about your life that give it meaning and shape the way you think, feel, and act. Three such stories concern your past, present, and future.

  • Your history — the story of where you came from and how you got to be who you are today.

  • Your present life — a description of where you are right now in life.

  • Your future — what your life will look like in the future.

These stories play an incredibly important role in determining how you look at yourself and the direction your life will take. Particularly important is the story of where your life will be in the future.

Try this exercise: Take a piece of paper (or use your tablet or computer) and construct a realistically positive picture of where you want to be in five or even ten years. Be specific, describing your goals, dreams, and aspirations.

Include your relationship goals (marriage? children?), career goals, and any other important goals. Don’t censor yourself, but be realistic. Allow your thoughts to go in optimistic directions. Repeat this exercise on a regular basis, updating your goals and wish list.

Research has shown that writing this way on a regular basis can make you think more optimistically. This is more than just positive thinking (“If I think about it, it will happen”). The writing and thinking help you escape the barriers of negative, limiting thought.

Writing down your goals certainly makes you feel happier and shows you that you have a choice in the way you view your world. It suggests more options and helps you identify unrealistic goals and potential roadblocks. The more you practice optimistic thinking, the more internalized these thoughts become. And when you really believe them, they become more possible.

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