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Following on from last month’s article on motivation, Changes Welcome now aims to dig deeper and take a closer look into goal setting for maximising future success.

The optimism and revitalisation that most of us experience when first setting a goal often fade when day to day worries and pressures begin to cloud our focus and weaken our resolve. There are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is firmly rooted in the past.

“Ruminating about the past is one of the biggest obstacles to success,” explains Liane, a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist from Germany currently practising at the Marybrook Medical Centre in Berkeley.“

So what is rumination? Wikipedia defines this ‘as the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions’. It very often goes hand in hand with worry and self-blame, but there is a difference. Whilst rumination focuses on negative past experiences, worry is all about what may or may not happen in the future.

People often find it difficult to develop the new habits required to achieve their goals, because they consistently repeat old behaviours, whether those behaviours relate to food, relationships, exercise, studying or household finances.

Initial momentum becomes dissipated when people unconsciously remind themselves of past unsuccessful attempts; they erroneously believe that because that’s how they behaved in the past, they will inevitably repeat the same behaviour. In the end, they spend more time with their attention focused on how not to succeed than they do visualising their success – in other words ruminating”.

The negative effects of ruminating were also highlighted in a BBC Stress Experiment carried out in June 2011. Preliminary results from the study of over 30,000 participants indicate very clearly that ‘a tendency to blame yourself for problems and, most importantly, a tendency to ruminate and worry are the most important factors when it comes to predicting your chances of suffering from stress.’

The good news is that rumination is actually fairly easy to do something about. Solution Focused Hypnotherapists actively discourage clients from ruminating about the past. Instead they encourage clients to talk about their ‘preferred future,’ a future in which they are closer to achieving their goal. New clients often express themselves in terms of what they don’t want, hanging on to their past behaviours. Here, it’s the therapist’s job to help clients let go of those unhelpful thinking patterns, encouraging them to express themselves positively, and helping them to maintain motivation to achieve their goal.

Liane explains, “We learn by repetition. When we were learning to drive a car, we kept practising the same manoeuvre until we could do it automatically, subconsciously. It’s the same with any new skill. I help clients by encouraging them to think about what they want, not what they don’t want. I also help them to identify times when they have been successful, thus breaking the unhelpful, negative self-talk. By letting go of the past, they are better equipped to achieve their goals in the future.”