Goals & Success in Therapy
It is very common when people come to therapy that there is a struggle for clients to identify their goals. Whether it is the goals of therapy or life goals in general, it is impossible to avoid being influenced by information and the people around us. However, there is a fine line between deeply important goals and goals that are only meant to please other people.
I see people who are struggling to identify goals that are important to them all the time. This is true for people who are dealing with addictions, dealing with relationship problems, and dealing with really hard issues. I really blame my field for this. There are 100 expert voices in the psychotherapy field who will tell you they have ways to get over difficult feelings, situations, and more. A lot of it is for selling products, sadly!
So here’s a takeaway that I want you to take with you after reading this. If you can’t name a goal or why that goal matters to you, you’re not going to make lasting change. You can make some temporary changes. For example, you may avoid some conflict in your relationship, so your relationship may feel a little better temporarily, but you are likely to deal with internal or relationship problems down the road.
In fact, I believe it is this lack of inner awareness that drives people into a cyclical loop where things fail to make long-lasting change. What do I mean by loop? A loop is when someone tries to make a change and you take the logical step to make that change, only to realize that nothing has changed. In these situations, you may find that you feel the same way, your relationships remain unchanged (or may even get worse), or that you continue to engage in the same behavior.
These loops are often created to satisfy the people around you, more than they are finding out what is most important and valuable to you. There is something logical about pleasing the people around you. At first, it can keep you from dealing with some uncomfortable or painful truths. It can also make you feel secure (more on that later in this article). However, people don’t give up easily when logic doesn’t work out. When everything around you tells you that you should be able to make a change by following a particular path, it can seem like you probably didn’t do it right and that you need to do it more thoroughly. . I’ve worked with literally hundreds of clients who have spent decades trying to work out this logical line, only to continue to feel frustrated and unworthy when it doesn’t work.
So what is missing from the equation? It’s not really an equation at all! Instead, it is a daily practice. You have to be aware of certain things and continue to practice that awareness. Then you can make a plan to change things in your life.
To make real change, you have to create authentic, personal goals. Think of it like a business plan.
Any good business plan begins with asking you personal questions about who you are. You can then focus on making changes in your career, relationships, or any other behavioral goal you may have.
Here are some ideas to help you build that business personal plan.
It is a journey, not a destination.
Although you can have long-term goals, have smaller daily goals at the same time. There are also ever-changing life circumstances and feelings. Goals develop as you make authentic changes in your life, as you will change in the process. It can be an illusion that you will reach a final destination where you never have to aim again. It’s just a mirage. Day by day, you will make small goals. You also have to do small experiments regularly.
There will be tremors.
You have to learn form setback. Expect them. Make a plan about how you can practice dealing with setbacks and setbacks, rather than working to create a perfect plan for overcoming them altogether. Not all of your experiments will work, but you can learn from them all.
What is important to you and why?
Know what is most valuable to you. What are the things you have to stand on? Where did those values come from? Recognizing how your values have evolved can prompt you to look inside yourself to identify why you are making the choices you are making. They can also help you when you fail to remember why you were ever trying.
Be aware of your feelings instead of just trying to change them.
Many people want to “just feel better” or “good”. I could have written a blog post on this topic myself. Our society teaches us that successful people are always happy. So a logical conclusion is to just try to feel better or better. But real human beings are complicated by all kinds of emotions. Some of them are more enjoyable than others. Instead of trying to force your feelings to be different from what they are, you can practice learning about them. When do you feel happy, sad, angry, worried etc.? For example, anger can give you a lot of information about how you feel about boundaries. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to act on every emotion you have. Plus, they can teach you a lot about yourself. So practice asking yourself “What is this feeling trying to convey to me right now?”
As you can see, when you make changes, there are a lot of potholes. Have a support system around you when you get stuck or fail. These are the people who will support you to try. They may also be people from whom you can tolerate feedback. But overall, you want people who don’t judge you for trying. Instead, they will encourage you to try again.
When you have these things, you can identify what you are going to do. What is it that you want to change in your life? What action are you ready to take? What caution risks are you considering? I often ask my clients, what is the one thing you can start today?