Many people have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy and to “self-actualize” would mean you were at the top of what one can reach as a “whole” person. What is missing is the fact that we are social creatures. Often, when people come to therapy, the problems more often than not are discussed in the context of their relationships with others. Unless we have goals involving striving to be alive, healthy, happy as well as healthy relationships with others, we are likely to develop problems to our problems.
The following are potential goals you can choose to take on in your personal growth that can certainly enhance your mental health and happiness, but of course we know your journey is an individual choice and that you must do what is right for you:
Living cooperatively with yourself and others – You can strive to be “your own person” and work toward your own life goals, while also trying to live cooperative with others remembering you are a member of a social system. Shifting from an “either/or” to an “and/also” mindset that includes interests that are individual as well as social. Though you work to become a good role-model, you do not insist that your way is the “right” way, but encourage others to find their “right” way.
Look to increase your self-awareness of your positive and negative emotions (and refuse to be ashamed for them, or to “act” on the negative ones). You can strive to change yourself, keeping any rage or panic to yourself as you work on making self and environmental changes to improve them. Accept that you know yourself and that you probably do not know yourself as much as you think you do and keeping learning. Continually seek to discover what you want and take steps toward it, not fretting about looking down different paths.
Accept you will never have 100% certainty in anything and there will be times of ambiguity in your life. Look to life as an adventure and an experience where you can learn and where mistakes are tolerable.
Build tolerance. Look to open your mind to things being neither all black or all white/all good or all bad. People who are emotionally sophisticated have a cognitive flexibility, and take an unbigoted view of the people are world around them.
Commit yourself to not just short-term fun, but to longer-term pursuits where you can deepen your interests, skills and connections. Engage in projects or tasks. Take healthy risks and look to double your failures so you may increase your successes.
Build creativity by wanting the approval but never having to have the approval of others. You can strengthen your creativity and innovation to solve problems in your own way instead of what you feel you need-to go along with for others approval. You can share your ideas with others but not be dependent on their approval of your ultimate solution or execution of it.
Build a scientific mindset. Look at events through an empirical lens. Look at the evidence, logicalness, and helpfulness of the beliefs and assumptions that you hold. Be willing to put them on trial and test them out when possible.
Refuse to globally rate yourself or anyone else for that matter – Judge your and other’s specific behaviors as good or bad not yourself or others in a global manner.
Engage in “hedonic calculus.” Many pursue happiness today because they are afraid they may not be here tomorrow so they over drink, spend, or game, etc. – though, tomorrow they may very well wake with a hangover, broke, and falling far behind in their work. Strive to balance the pleasure in the short-term with more long-term pleasures. Spend time enjoying the now, but invest time that will make tomorrow better and that will not have long-term consequences.
These goals are likely held in the back of many cognitive behavioral therapy practitioners minds. Of course we would want to hear about what is most important to you and collaborate with you on how to get there.
Dr. Paul DePompo
Let us know your thoughts at info@CBTIofSoCal.com