Q | Can you give an example of how a woman might compose a goal map?
A | Look at the map on the left. Note that the starting point, at the bottom of the chart, is specific and nonjudgmental: “Weight: 167 pounds” rather than “I hate my thighs.” The mapmaker’s goal, written at the top of the page, is simple and positive: to weigh 140 pounds. She’s come up with three possible pathways to achieve that. Her main one, “Create a calorie deficit” is flanked by two routes: “Attend Weight Watchers” and “Increase healthy eating.” By visualizing each route, she’s been able to anticipate the potential obstacles that could block her way. “Can’t get out to the gym” and “Can’t get motivated” both sit squarely across her main pathway, potentially derailing her plan to burn more calories. Instead of giving up on the pathway, however, she now comes up with strategies (“Wii Fit or walking in neighborhood” and “Find workout partner”) that will circumvent the obstacle and put her back on the pathway to her goal.
Q | Supposing you follow all these steps but still can’t make progress in meeting your goals. Won’t that leave you feeling even more hopeless?
A | Let’s be clear. Sometimes we need someone to help us. Find a support system, whether that’s a psychologist or social worker, a church group, a book club, a diet group or a personal trainer at the gym. I’m not a proponent of always having to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. It can be incredibly useful to have somebody give you a little agency boost.
I’d also recommend a 1999 book called Making Hope Happen: A Workbook for Turning Possibilities into Reality, by Diane McDermott and C. R. Snyder. You can find new or used copies online. We used the book as a basis for our study, and I think it’s a good starting point for anyone trying the self-help approach.