It is not unusual for people who have survived a catastrophic trauma such as a shooting, rape or childhood sexual abuse to not feel hopeful and that life is not worth living. I could spend time trying to figure out WHY survivors feel discouraged. However, I want to focus on how to move forward in creating a more vibrant life. First I want to acknowledge the survivor’s journey as a unique trial of challenges and obstacles.
Deep down inside, what do you really want? What’s important to you? What’s your hearts deepest desire? People often answer with such things, as “I just want to be happy.” “I want to be rich.” “I want to be successful.” “I want respect.” “I want a great job. “I want to be thinner.”
Now these are truthful answers, and they may not be helpful in pointing to a direction for how to live. Also, how we set these intention in our minds may not keep you motivated. To find direction and motivation you can ask questions like “How would I behave differently in relationships if I were rich, successful or thin?” “What sort of relationships do I want to build with myself and others if I were living my idea self?” These questions point to the underlying values connected to your heart and soul’s deepest desire.
Connecting with your values can give you a sense of meaning and purpose. Living and creating a life guided by values allows you to gain a sense of vitality and joyfulness. Life becomes rich, full, and meaningful, even when bad things happen. Values are about ongoing action, a way of being in the world. They are about what you want to do in your life while you are here. Like a compass, values point us in a direction to live our life.
Life involves hard work. All meaningful projects require effort, whether you’re raising kids, renovating your house, learning a new healthy life style, or starting your own business. Often we think, “It’s too hard,” and we give up or avoid trying. Values motivate us to stick with it. They help us to engage in the process of achieving our goals.
It’s importance to recognize that values are not the same as goals. As mentioned earlier, values are a life direction like going west. You never reach the end of west. For example, let’s say you value being a loving parent, you can continue to be loving indefinitely. It’s more than a to do list where you put a check mark next to the item as complete. Let’s say you want to lose ten pounds. That is a goal. However, the value underneath the goal is what speaks to your heart. Ask yourself, “How does this goal serve my purpose?”
Goals become part of the ongoing action connected to values. Hence, you may decide you have a goal of spending time playing with your kids, planning and going on outings with them or reading with them. These specific activities can be crossed off a list. Hence, they are the goals connected to your value of being a loving parent.
Goal setting is quite a skill and it does require a bit of practice to get the hang of it. After you have reflected on your values write them down so you can refer back to them as you develop your action plan.
Next, you want to set a SMART goal. Here is what the acronym means:
- S = specific (Be as clear as possible when describing the action you are will to take towards your goal.).
- M = meaningful (Make sure your goal is connected to your value).
- A = adaptive (Is the goal likely to improve your life in some way?)
- R = realistic (Are the resources available to you to accomplish the goal?)
- T = time bound (Put a specific time frame with date or even hour you will take proposed action.)
Now that you set a goal take some time to identify the benefits. Clarify to yourself the positive outcomes to achieving your goal. Finally, be willing to identify obstacles that may present difficulties in achieving your goal and possible ways to deal with the obstacles. Obstacles can be external such as lack of money, transportation or lack of skills. Other obstacles can be internal difficulties such as thoughts of insecurity, low self-esteem, and self-doubt. If the goal seems too big break it down into smaller parts. The important thing is to start to take action toward your goals and value based living.
Tell other people about your intention to achieve the goal. Research shows that if you make a public commitment you are more likely to follow through. Values clarification and goal setting (committed action) are part of the process in Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT).
I use ACT in helping people create a life they love living by helping them get clear on what’s importance. The aim of ACT is to help people reduce their struggle with pain and suffering and choose behaviors that work. It does not mean you will not experience difficult feelings, it means you can have a sense of life being fulfilling and with purpose based your unique set of values.
A word of caution with goal setting. The realistic part is very important so you don’t turn it into a tool of self-punishment.
- Marriage, Couples and Intimate Relationships
- Values: Life Domains: Career/Employment and Education, Personal Growth and Development
- Values, Citizenship, Environment and Community
(C) Copyright Brenda Bomgardner 2015