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3 Agents that Can Derail Goals and Dreams (And Negatively Shape Your Life)

images-252This is a great time of year to energize your dreams and goals, with momentum and high expectations for your success to unfold. In moments of stress, however, or when a set back occurs, you want to remain aware of certain negative agents that can automatically take over and influence your outcomes. By remaining consciously aware of agents that mostly operate subconsciously, hidden from view, the power is in your hands to rewire many of these pre-programmed emotion-command neural pathways.

The idea is to capitalize on positive-change mental imagery your mind is capable of producing, and in part, this means you are actively disallowing certain agents from blocking your capacity to visualize your future, the way you want it, and to make it an optimal sensory experience, one that involves all five of your senses, and puts you in charge of powerful creative processes.

There are at least three thinking patterns that need to be stopped from derailing your goals and dreams, they are:

1. Negative thought patterns

Your thoughts are an inner dialogue. Scientists speculate an average of about sixty thousand thoughts cross your mind a day, many of which you habitually repeat to yourself, and for the most part, have been repeating from early childhood! These thoughts, or “self-talk,” activate emotions accordingly. While certain persons or events may trigger painful emotions, they are not the cause. The real cause is what you tell yourself, this inner dialogue, in particular, your interpretative thoughts. Negative thoughts form more negative thoughts, and repeated over and over form toxic thinking patterns. Characteristically, toxic patterns are associated with either-or, black-and-white type of thinking that occurs when the body’s fear-response gets activated — at which time the higher, reflective thinking part of your brain is put offline, and reactive, defensive, on guard thinking automatically takes over. “Rehearsal” is a process you can learn and practice, if you do not already, that can put you, rather than your fear-based emotions, in charge of what you think, and do, and how events unfold.

2. Old limiting beliefs

Your thoughts are a powerful energy because they are linked to your beliefs, in particular, certain emotion-laden core beliefs regarding what it means to be a man, a woman, a human being in relation to your self, life and others. The power of these beliefs lies in that they produce thought-imagery in your mind, which activate emotion molecules that literally shape and direct chemical reactions accordingly within the cells of your body. Beliefs are limiting when they persuade you to view life, self and others, within the confines of black-and-white thinking categories. In essence, limiting beliefs are learned, habitual ways of automatically — and continuously — judging whether you or others fall into dichotomous categories of either “deserving” of love, respect, etc., on the basis of preset arbitrary standards of what ‘has to’ happen for you or another to … avoid punishment. 

The answers to questions of what it means to be a man or a woman, a human being in relation to another human being, however, should never imprison or dehumanize—but rather free you, as a human being, to relate to your self and others as miracle-making beings, ever yearning to be treated with dignity. 

When a positively charged state of emotional energy displaces a negative one, it has the power to permanently transform (heal) limiting beliefs. In any moment, you always have the power to connect to miracle-making resources inside, and must especially consider doing so to identify any fear-activating limiting beliefs as they surface—so you may replace them with ones that instead produce life-enriching attitudes and images, healing choices. This process directs your subconscious mind, the part of the brain that controls the autonomic functions of the body, to create new neurons and neural pathways, ones that will better support you to make optimal choices, actions, in the future in the direction of creating your best life and relationships.                  

3. Change-Blocking Associations

Your brain is always gathering data, subconsciously or not, and the most important data it collects pertains to its prized subject: you. It is continually collecting data, for example, regarding what you like and do not, what stresses and relaxes, what you find pleasurable and uncomfortable, and so on, and puts special emphasis on what triggers and calms your fears. Accordingly this forms associations, or neural pathways that connect neurons. Positive associations are ones that connect certain events, substances, activities with feel-good emotions and physical sensations, and negative associations connect experiences with feel-bad feelings. Naturally, because negative associations elevate fear, to the extent they do so, they have the power to block change. If your thinking has trained your body, unwittingly, to associate one of your goals, i.e., realizing a healthy relationship or a trim, fit body, with painful emotions, such as disappointment, guilt or anxiety, this may block change. Why? It means that whenever you think of what you want, your body activates thoughts and images of what you “lack” at present, perhaps past mistakes, or even failures. This negative association controls your behaviors.

For example, each time you see someone with a fit, healthy body, for example, you make feel disgusted or unhappy with your self. The result? Your subconscious mind may interpret this to mean that “your dream” is something you want to avoid – a clear miscommunication! It’s just the way the brain works. Its operating system is hardwired this way. With “rehearsals” you can correct limiting associations, and be in charge of the process. You are more likely to be energized to take sustained actions toward reaching a goal, when thinking of your goals makes you feel emotions of determination, hope, belief, confidence, excitement, and the like.

In sum, you want to remain aware of any thought patterns, such as the above, which have the power to derail your goals and dreams, and negatively shape your future.

Often incorrectly described as “self-destructive,” among other self-blame and accusatory labels, describing yourself as against yourself only contribute to the problem by doing more of what the real problem is: energy draining thought habits.

It is more helpful to work with and heal these old patterns by understanding that, while misguided, their primary intent is benevolent and well meaning: to protect, to defend, to ensure your survival.

While the effect of the above thought patterns may be destructive, it’s more accurate to describe them as benevolent and well meaning in their intent, merely misguided ways your brain and body have been subconsciously trained (i.e., by your experience and exposure to other brains) to automatically protect you.

Protect your goals and dreams from the above “interfering” agents. One way is to energize your behaviors and chart your momentum in a certain direction by … rehearsing your future.

Imagery works because it allows the bright future you imagine to unfold, layer after later, step by step, to keep creating your masterpiece, regardless of any challenges or setbacks. It’s up to you to protect your power for possibility thinking and imagination from any
“interfering” emotional states that certain “agents,” or pre-programmed emotion-command neural pathways have the power to automatically activate. It’s your job to stay energized when you think of your highest goals and plans for the future. 


3 Agents that Can Derail Goals and Dreams (And Negatively Shape Your Life)

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2015). 3 Agents that Can Derail Goals and Dreams (And Negatively Shape Your Life). Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Jan 2015
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