How do we G.R.O.W? Life in Learn Mode with “Goals”

In the world of positive psychology, you are what you think.  It is not the magic trick in the hat sort of thinking, but a structured and definite way to learn and live in life.  When is this really helpful?  It’s helpful in the construction and goal setting of a life lived intentionally, full on, authentically.  Good times to check on the internal self compass and esteem?

  • For the significant changes in life like the loss of job, spouse, child, self esteem though grief or emotional trauma.
  • For midlife changes when it is imperative that you honor who you are and what legacy you want to have in life.
  • For new phases in life like graduating from a college program or technical school; to life live for the love of it.

The most important step on a journey of a million miles? The first one.

In a word: anytime in your life when you want to take care of yourself, be healthy and be happy.

We’re going to focus on nine questions over the next three articles to supercharge your ability to live a happy life.  Where do you start?  Right where you’re standing.

Yes, that is right: redemption is right where you’re standing.  This is the day that you’re going to take a deep breath and for this moment, know that you’re in exactly the right place for you at the right time.  Crappy circumstances?  That’s okay.  Pain?  I understand.  Tough diagnosis and problems adjusting?  Yes.  You’re where you need to be.  What you need: a growth journal.  Nothing fancy, plain paper will do.  I want you to begin by writing yourself – yourself ten years from now – a letter.

Let’s begin this letter with five words…your five biggest strengths.  We all have attributes, skills, and talents that can be developed further, and focusing on these areas can provide us continued confidence and purpose.   Can you identify five strengths?  How can they be used in everyday life?  Can’t think of five solid things that you’ll hang your life on? That is okay – this article comes with homework.  I’d like you to stop here and take the VIA Strengths Analysis.  A word: this is a 240 question test designed to help you identify these strengths.  You will have a chance to spend $40 on a in depth analysis of you, or opt for the free report that will tell you about your leading character strengths.  I want you to print these off and add them to your journal.  Now you know what you’re working with.  Can you appreciate what strengths you offer the universe?  Can you expand on the love inside you? Conversely, did the “240” number scare you off? Not willing to spend the time? You’re also not willing to do that hard work that comes with fulfilling goals.  This is a first step: take the challenge.

Question One: What is going on in your life right now? 

What matters to you most? What do you really want? 

It’s easy to answer these questions flippantly or with the most obvious answer.  “I want my spouse/significant other to not cheat,” or “I want to get a job.”  Yeah – that isn’t it.   Let’s think about what we might say to future you.

“Today was the day that I decided I can’t change anyone else.  I can speak into their lives and love, but I can’t save anyone from their circumstances.  Not long term.  My (husband/wife/daughter/son/friend/sibling) is capable and able to make decisions, bad and good.  It’s my job to be the best me I can, to be as healthy as I can.  I am miserable in (codependency/addiction/isolation/emotional abuse).  I want to live my life, not just slave it out to someone else, even if they are the (fill in blank) person in my life.”

“Today is also the day that I decided what I want in life.  I’m going to do something that I am really passionate about, that I truly LOVE.  I want to be excited when my feet hit the ground, every day.  Grateful, joyful. I really always wanted to study (——-) and work as a (—-).  I didn’t because (—-).  This ends now.  I am going to set a goal, take a step and be that person that I long to be.  From here on out, I will love people and give into their lives by being whole and happy, setting the example of how to be fulfilled and giving that to my family and friends.  I live in the positive of becoming, not in avoidance of what might happen if I don’t (—-).”

A Word About Goal Setting in Emotionally Painful Times:

For all of you who are here in the “how do I let go of him/her” vein of reading, go back and write last part down again.  You’re going to find yourself letting go of the unhealthy when you decide that you’re going to be healthy.  If that shaman of great love returns to you, it’s going to be to find a healthy complete person that expects him or her to bring game.  You can let go of the heartbreak and give yourself into the life that you desire when you’re more important than what you’ve left behind – or what has left you behind.  There is to much at stake…you’re worth a whole and complete love.  Codependency is never the answer, no matter it’s duration.  If the pattern of your life in the last few years has been saving “his/her ass” from one thing after another, you have to stop, look in the mirror and ask “what part am I am playing in this?”  Enabling an unhealthy relationship is only weakening you; that includes relationships with adult children, parents, siblings, church people, pastors, confidants and all sorts of “friends.”

For those who deal with past abuse fueling their need to enable or “fix”:

I was thinking of a story that I was told of a sexual abuse survivor like me – only way, way worse.  This young girl of less than eighteen was in protective custody by the state when the “Mom” showed back up, blaming the child for “telling” and sending her husband to jail.  A horrific story.  That is the dark side of enablement and codependency; it grows into the darkest forms of abuse, and the smallest of us get hurt.  Were you once the smallest like me?  If you were, find a trusted counselor that is based in faith and well respected.  The pain can end. Do you find yourself attracting the same romance over and over, just to find that they hurt you?  It’s your abuse coming to talk with you.  Don’t be afraid.  It’s okay….but you have to address it, set new goals and learn about you.  You past will continue to live with you until you stare it straight down and tell it that you – YOU – will survive, did survive, you’re here.  Don’t let go. Peace is out there, happiness for you.

Maybe what you really want is a relationship that is edifying to you and the person that you’re with, to not be in codependent hell, or to feel invisible.  I really loved this article on relationships and recommend it.  Career things are the same; I’ve met executives that would be happier as construction guys, doctors who are crispy on burn out with whopping student loans; you imagine it, it’s probably nearer you than you think.  Money isn’t the answer of all things, it just makes life appear easier….what do you love to do?  What would you do if money were not the object, if you were released from all those “should’s” and other people’s rules that you’ve gathered through the years?

So we ask again…what do you really want in your life? What is the ideal position in your life?  Careful here- it cannot depend on someone else changing tor supporting your dream.  Its your dream. Your question. What is your ideal self; who are you now?

Question Two: What is the difference between who you are and who you want to be? 

“What would be different in your life if you woke up and by some miracle everything you ever wanted, everything good you could ever imagine for yourself, had actually happened?”  What I want to know about is your ideal self. Where are you living, what career or work are you doing? What would a future you think of your present choices? You can write a positive biography about your life for your future family…what will you say?. When you envision the details of living a satisfying and fruitful life, you will understand your ideal future more specifically.

Now on my 40th trip around the sun I know things that I didn’t on cycle 19. I know this now: I am only able to effect change in myself.  As a reformed codependent I have a pretty strong “savior complex.” I want to fix…I love to fix the people that I love.  In fact, if I am not fixing you, I may not have felt loved or connected to you in days gone past.  You see this in long term “I married my high school boy/girlfriend” dysfunctional sort of relationships where one person is always the drag on the universe and the other is the “responsible one” (not that this applies to all high school sweethearts), or the high visibility low communications dysfunctional family groups with a nucleus of children, activities and out of the world busy schedules.  If you live your life saving someone else suffering from addiction, dysfunction or just a constant stream on self defeating, inane behaviors – you may live only to find out that you’ve expended all that energy for nothing.  It’s a dual dance of dysfunction, but you can change it with communication and allowing consequences to happen. Lead…don’t force.  Lead with love.  Live your life.

These are the first blush two questions, the place where most people give up.  I am going to ask you to set a goal – any achievable goal, and take a first step before the words of this article fade from your eyes.  Never make a commitment to a goal without taking a first step.  Don’t’ think “impulsive”: that just results in manic-borderline behavior.  I am talking about adding a toning walk to your day, revising your resume, taking that class, reducing the amount of wine at dinner.  Then write it down, discuss it with a trusted friend, enroll, commit yourself.  First: think through a healthy, considerate goal that enriches your life.  Maybe it’s cleaning your house and losing the clutter.  Maybe it’s committing to finding a counselor that can take just you on, telling the truth no holds barred.  Maybe it’s writing a letter of apology.  What first step do you need to bring you one step closer to that ideal you?

How Emotions Can Work For Us Instead of Against Us

We’re going to focus on two emotions this week.  I’d like you to Google them, think about them, put pictures on your refrigerator, use them in sentences to everyone that you know – talk to yourself about them.

First up is “Joy”– This one may not be hard for many of you.   What is the most positive and memorable experience you’ve had i your lifetime, a space or moment when you felt safe, happy, encouraged and totally comfortable?  Breathe in the word “joy” and think of those moments that come to you.  Continue to dwell in joy, think about it, and give it to others as though it were light in your hand that silently and invisibly encompassed all of you and anyone that comes in contact with you.  Simple joy, requiring nothing.  Feel light and vibrant, alive and whole.


An attitude of gratitude – Are you grateful for your life?  I have battled life long clinical depression that robs me of my gratitude from time to time.  It reminds me of my failing health on some days, until my gratitude bounces back and talks about how healthy I am becoming.  I see the loss that happened in my life last year and feel so incredibly grateful that I was given the chance to understand how literally thousands of people from all over the world come to this site every week to find out that they are not alone in the pain of relationship recovery.  It will get better, life does go on.

I am incredibly grateful for the pain that brought me to understanding.  It’s taken a great deal of work, emotional understanding and forgiveness to say that.  I am thankful for my history, even for that mentally ill friend who in hurting me so badly helped me understand the pain that he experienced, too. There is a benefit or purpose to most of what happens in life if we are willing to see it, work with it and learn from it.  Steve Jobs used to say that being fired from Apple was the hardest, best thing that ever happened to him.  At the time, I am sure it didn’t feel that way.  Good things sometimes begin in utter devastation – but nothing grows in constant chaos.  Chaos is the recipe for preparing children and relationships for future failure.

So no, I am not going to tell you that God is behind the crappy things that happen in life or that there is a reason for all of this. Often, what happens is a consequence of things that we’ve done, or the choices of others that ripple into the lives around them.  Then, there are some things like sexual abuse or the death of a loved one that just rails the mind to find any purpose. I personally hate it when people tell me that “God has a reason.”  I think that in the grand scheme of things, life is just tough at times.  So focus on the gratitude – it can revolve around anything you feel great appreciation for, and occurs during the times when you feel thankful for someone or something in your life.

In love, grace and hope…until next time.  Part Two: new questions, new thoughts, same goal.  Happier, healthier you.  Send me an email at [email protected] if you’ve got a question or add a comment below.

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