"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:..." (Proverbs 23:7)
When I was at Syracuse, my department chair asked me to provide clinical supervision to a masters level student. This process required that I keep process notes and tape my supervision sessions with the student in order that my department chair could provide supervision to me as I supervised the student. This was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences that I experienced in all of my doctoral education. My department chair was the authority on clinical supervision and her textbook on the topic, was one of the most purchased in the nation. Not being able to avoid the process, I embraced it. Although I thought I was "horrible" and cringed at hearing myself on tape, I learned that I was NOT "horrible." During the process I was given very constructive and personally tailored feedback, which made me a profoundly better clinical supervisor. For example, I learned that I was very "cognitive" in my approach to working with students. I had never really thought about the fact that I really believe that how one thinks impacts how one behaves AND how one behaves impacts how one thinks---a reciprocal process. I'm now aware that even if I have to use other therapeutic modalities in my work with students and clients, I very often come back to the "cognitive-behavioral" approach.
All too often we "think" ourselves out of not only achieving our goals, but also attempting them in the first place. Very briefly here, use your thinking processes to research and develop our goals for change. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your goals and refine them, but do NOT use your thoughts to prevent yourself from attempting a worthwhile goal.
Will there be times when you will have to change or or not reach your goal? Of course. This may simply be due to the fact that your goal was unrealistic or not the right goal in the first place. Although you may be disappointed, learn from the experience and move on to a modified or new goal. Do not spend a lot of time "thinking" about what a "failure" you are. Thinking you are a failure can have you "acting" like one and that, indeed, is a huge barrier to overcome!
Our more intimate personal relationships can have a huge impact on our reaching our goals. If positive, they facilitate our success. If dysfunctional, they create huge barriers. In this section will briefly touch upon family, friendship, and romantic relationships as they relate to achieving our behavior change goals.
We don't have any choice concerning our family of origins. What I know from study and experience, living in my family, and working with other families is that all of our families contain a certain level of dysfunction. Families have patterns of interactions, communication, dysfunction, strengths, and weaknesses that can be passed down through generations. It is my sincere wish that most families, in spite of some dysfunction, are loving and supportive. I know, however, that this is not always the case. Families are systems and each member of the family is connected. If the connections are positive, our efforts to change will be supported and might even spur positive change in the entire family. If not, one might experience hostility and even sabotage of our efforts to change our behavior and reach our goals. It appears to me that sometimes when a family member attempts to change his or her behavior positively, the family looks at this change as a reflection of a "weakness" or "fault" inherent within the family. There can be a coalescing of the family unit against the "rebellious" member who wants to change. Often enough peer pressure can be applied to cause the changing family member to give up his or her efforts to change in order to preserve the "peace" in the family unit. What has happened, in essence, is the family has moved back to equilibrium or the status quo. Change is not easy. Even when positive, it is disruptive and uncomfortable. Some families find dysfunction more comfortable than change.
When facing this type of challenge, it may be best to try to explain to the family why you need to change. Try to find an ally within the family and reassure the family with his or her help that your change is for your own good and, ultimately, for the good of the family. Should this fail, seek support outside of the family by finding friends, peers, community leaders, online communities, clergy, and other people to assist you in reaching your goals. Often once you have reached your goal, the family unit will view your success differently and may be sufficiently "inspired" to make changes. Do not, however, use this as a motivating factor for your change. Change for yourself.
People seem genuinely surprised that their friendships can be "dysfunctional" or "toxic" when they come in for therapy. Not all friendships are created equally. I would hazard to say that some friendships should not be created at all! LOL! People often choose friends to meet unmet needs, overlooking negative behavioral and personality traits for the sake of friendship. Invariably, this leads to an imbalance within the relationship where one person feels used (This also occurs in many romantic relationships). Make sure that you are a good friend and that you have good friends. Good friends will want what is best for you and will support you in positive areas of growth and change. They will also, however, tell you when you are out of line and will "supportively" put you in your place. Interestingly enough, I did not find my two best friends until I started my university studies. Both are very bright, sober, and thoughtful with quick wits. Hopefully, they would say the same of me! LOL! Actually, we are close enough that we can tell by an e-mail or telephone call when something is wrong. We can go months without seeing one another, but when we get together, it is as if we've never been apart. We will, however, when needed, be brutally honest with each other. This leads to interesting and spirited discussion, but never anger. They've both been suggesting that I leave my present professions (education and counseling), which has been tough to hear, but has sunk in. They think I deserve more and have been honest in letting me know that. This, of course, necessitates a "change process" for me.
A good friend supports and sometimes spurs you to change for the better. They will also have high standards for you and for themselves. Finally, good friends, because there is usually no blood tie (They love you for you.), can be more objective in their appraisal of you. Often when I have a particularly difficult problem, I will think about the problem, formulate my solution, and then take it to each of my two friends separately. The vast majority of the time they will give the same advice, even if different from my solution. This a valuable alternative opinion. On those times we disagree, the spirited debate takes place. We work though the problem, eat a good meal, and knock back a few beers or something suitable for the occasion. The beauty of this is that all of us are free to to do this with one another. If this is NOT happening for you, reconsider your friendships. Friends should not take you away from that which is positive in your life. If they do, there is a barrier to eliminate.
Romantic relationships present some of the same problems that friendships do. However, there is a differing degree of intimacy that makes us more vulnerable. Certain types of intimacy can make us feel "loved" or "in love." The biggest problem I saw when working with clients, particularly college students, was the failure to recognize the truly complex nature of romantic relationships.
The pursuit of unhealthy relationships has derailed many a man and woman, personally, developmentally, academically, socially, and in other ways. We all want to feel loved and will often haphazardly pursue relationships that detract from our personal goals and development. How many of us know people in relationships where one person does all of the work while the other seems to "take"? I've seen this many times. A person gives themselves to a marriage and family without having had the benefit of setting proper goals and pursuing some self-development before marriage. The children are grown and now divorce looms. The divorced person finds himself or herself without an identify, outside of that as a spouse and/or parent, for example, and has no clue to do without the marital relationship. In working with such a person, there is a period of self-exploration to learn about himself or herself (e.g. finding talents, gifts, likes and dislikes, attitudes, beliefs, etc.) and then learning a new paradigm for relationships and way of "being" in the world.
In short, look for a person who wants the best for you. Look for someone who is a "whole" person with interests, friends, hobbies, and a life. Make sure that you are also a "whole" person and have a life as well. There certainly should be compatibility across a number of dimensions in order to create a stable relational bond and life with your partner. However, there should be the opportunity to pursue some personal goals and interests that are not necessarily shared by both of you, but will make both of your lives richer and more satisfying together.
Finally, I believe that the best goals are those that conform to the will and laws of the Creator. Make sure that your goals are not only good for you, but are in accordance with that which He deems best for you. Doing this will not necessarily make it easier to reach your goals, but will give you the perseverance, strength, and faith to pursue your goals, and ultimately achieve them. Take time to read and study the Word. Pray that you learn His will for you. Is this not the ULTIMATE GOAL?
Ideally, the goals you pursue should be a blessing to not only you, but to others. As I watch the world get more dangerous and crueler by the day, it is my sincere wish that those of you who read this blog set a goal to help someone else live a better life. Mentor a child, visit the elderly, give someone a ride, help someone workout and get in shape, take someone to worship, share a meal, or spend some quality time with family, friends, loved ones or others. If you don't know what you can do to help, simply ask someone what you can do to be of service. Apply the Golden Rule. As we bless others we are blessed!
I end this blog, by wishing you in advance, a safe, productive, healthy and blessed 2013!