There are a lot of things that I thought I might be doing by the time 2019 rolled around.

If you had asked me in high school what my plan for the future might look like, it included more “constantly traveling” than “constantly working.” More "cooking lavish Instagram-worthy meals," less "late-night takeout." More "journaling," less..."not journaling."

But while external factors stopped me from doing some things (jetsetting 24/7 does cost a pretty penny), much of what stops us from achieving the things we envision for ourselves has to do with the mental blocks we carry.

Whether it’s because of insecurities or other factors, our brains sometimes have sneaky ways of preventing us from pursuing our dreams—or even our day-to-day goals—and that can lead to a sense of failure that doesn’t feel too great.

According to cognitive psychologist Amanda Crowell, Ph.D., there are two different types of failure. One is productive failure, which Crowell described in a recent TED Talk as “what we all encounter when we are committed to a given goal and taking action to try to achieve it." The other is defensive failure—or that feeling when you set your sights on something but don’t see it through.

Slipping into a defensive failure loop is a totally normal, human thing—and Crowell has a tactic for defeating the loop, too. According to her TED Talk, the secret to overcoming the defensive failure loop lies in breaking down the three different types of blocks that creep in our thoughts and stop us from progressing forward.

1. If you think you just can’t do _

The feeling that you’re not cut out for whatever goals you have in mind is a very human feeling, but tapping into some positive self-talk might be the antidote to overcoming minor obstacles and preventing them from turning into major ones.

Researcher Caroline Dweck discusses the importance of owning a “growth mindset” to overcome mental blocks like these. Basically: It's the believe that you can improve and grow through the experiences you go through. It's trusting that your skills and abilities aren't forever stuck at a certain level.

A simple fix to pushing past the “I can’t do it” mentality lies in switching up your vocabulary. As Dweck suggests, try swapping your “never” for “not yet”—or sticking it at the end of your thoughts (Ex. I don’t think I can do this yet).

Reframing your mindset in this way can help you remember that you’re working towards a goal, and don’t have to achieve it all in one go or on your first attempt.

2. If you think people like you aren’t good at __

When it comes to taking on new goals, it’s easy to get discouraged if you feel like you’re the only one doing it. But spoiler alert: You’re not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes.

If the mental block of “people like me aren’t good at this” ever creeps up, one of Crowell’s solutions is to seek out groups of people that are like you, taking on the same goals.

Spoiler alert: You’re not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes.
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For me, practicing yoga consistently was a goal I always had in the back of my head but never acted on because I didn’t feel like it was a space I would fit into.

It wasn’t until I discovered a body positive studio founded by two black women that I felt at home and was able to dive into that goal of mine again.

It may take a bit of research, but recruiting your friends or co-workers, or finding communities online working towards the same goals as you can help push you forward and out of any mental rut.

3. If you feel like you have to do _ but don’t actually want to…

One way to overcome the feeling that you have to do something is to take a deep look at why you’re doing it (or thinking of doing it) in the first place. Once you find your “intrinsic reason,” motivation closely follows.

Prioritizing your passions can help you overcome any mental blocks, and it can also help you rethink whether or not a goal is meant for you. Reframing goals to incorporate more of what you want to do can help push you towards success.

One way to overcome the feeling that you have to do something is to take a deep look at why you’re doing it (or thinking of doing it) in the first place.
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By understanding these blockers that sneak into our heads—and being kind to ourselves once we notice them—we're able to catch them before they take hold.

That way: We can pave our own way instead of getting in our own way.


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