Here are a few simple steps you can take to make your life more difficult! Think of a task or goal that you are having a problem completing. Ask yourself why you have not been able to complete it. Add a value judgment to your reason — I’m a procrastinator, I don’t have the skills to do this, etc. Take another step and doubt your self-worth because you have not been able to complete this project and there must be something wrong with you. Ruminate on this day and night, limiting your sleep, tying your stomach in knots. You are now on your way to a more stressful and less satisfying life!
Okay, so how do we not go down this road?
The value judgment phase is often where problems begin: “I am…, I don’t…, I can’t…” Unfortunately, our thoughts often end up valuing or devaluing ourselves rather than the goal or task we have chosen. How often do we question the goals instead of our ability to achieve them? Goals, tasks and accomplishments are often concrete things we can see. So are the steps we take to reach them. However, for the things we want, there is also an emotional involvement. This emotional involvement creates interesting scenarios when we are striving for just one goal. Life is not that easy, however, because we are always striving towards many things at once. We may have a strong intellecutal desire to reach one goal, but our emotional attachment may be elsewhere. Life is full of such examples. As is literature, movies and sitcoms.
I may want to have more money, a nicer house and car, a beautiful wife and kids and time to spend with them. Decent enough goals, but for most of us, there will be some conflicts here. We do not need to psychoanalyze ourselves, but it is worthwhile asking what we are reaching for. If I get A and B, but this excludes C, will I be okay with this? Or did I only want A and B because I thought it would get me C? Would C and D be okay without A? Sometimes the answer to why we want something will be evident, other times we have to dig deeper. Oftentimes we will not find the answer until we have worked towards, reached, or failed to reach a goal.
Conflicting goals create emotional confusion and havoc and make it more difficult to attain what we want. Does it make more sense to question my self-worth in regard to not reaching certain goals, or would a reframing of competing goals be a better idea? More symmetrical goals can likely lead to more goal attainment and better self-valuation.
We will not see all the conflicts in all the goals we have in our lives, but if we can limit the conflict as much as possible — limiting the confusion — we will be in a better place to attain our desires. We will have a more satisfying life.
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.