Recently, a client came to me and told me, “I feel really discouraged. None of my wishes ever come true. No matter what I try, nothing ever comes of them. They’re just wishes and hopes that never comes true. Help!” He told me he’s tired of the “Same Old-Same Old”, but doesn’t know how to turn his wishes into reality. That is the subject of this column. Here’s my advice to him:
See your desires as goals, not wishes. Wishes imply that you need the Good Fairy to wave his magic wand and make it happen. No offense, but you can’t always count on Good Fairies to come along when you need them. By seeing your desires as goals, you reframe them into something that you have more control over. They don’t seem so distant this way. Let’s look at how you can achieve these goals.
Change comes gradually.
Break your goals down into easy-to-do steps. For example, save up money to buy a condo; what are the steps you’d need to take in order to begin to make this a reality? If you don’t break down your goals into steps you can actually do, the goals will always elude you. No one can take on a huge goal like buying a condo without planning. Your first step may be to make a budget, another could be to look at condo prices in the neighborhoods you want to live in. If you have a habit of being bad with money, then you may need to look at that and do some work with that before you begin saving money. Many people subconsciously don’t think they deserve to have a nice home, a beautiful car, a big bank account, etc. On some level, they may be punishing themselves for something in the past. I’m talking about getting clear on the obstacles in the way of reaching your goal(s).
Identify the obstacles in your way
When I work with clients on goals, it is crucial to look at the obstacles in the way. For example, what has stopped you in the past from saving money, or volunteering, or eating better? Take each goal and ask yourself, In the past, what has stopped me from achieving this? And write it down. In therapy, I help my clients to chip away at the obstacles, bit by bit. You can do the same thing on your own, but it goes much faster if you get support from a therapist, friend, parent, counselor, someone who will be there for you to check-in and see how you’re doing and to encourage you when it gets tough.
Build in a reward system for yourself
And it WILL get tough. You’ve listed some pretty major goals. It’s skillful to expect that your interest in achieving your goals will ebb and flow over time: so how will you stay motivated when you feel discouraged? This is another obstacle to get clear about. I suggest you create a system of rewards as you progress toward your goal(s). For example, after you make a budget, celebrate! Do something enjoyable for yourself (it can be free or inexpensive). This is a simple behavior modification, and it works. Reward yourself each step of the way, and you’ll find your progress towards your goals is both more pleasurable and sustainable.
It’s doubtful that you can work on all your goals at once. Prioritize them. I encourage my clients to take their goals and rate them (#1 is the most important, #2 is next, etc.). Start with the goals that are most important to you; you’ll automatically be more motivated to work toward these. Put the less important ones aside, for now, it’s usually best to focus on no more than 3 goals at a time, otherwise, you dissipate your energy and are likely to feel overwhelmed and give up on all of them.
It is Do-able
Try these ideas and replace your discouragement and helplessness with competence and optimism. Use these tools (or any other methods that work for you) and get support all along the way from people who love you and want you to be happy.