Week Seven / Day Five – Aims for Everyday situations

 

Click here for the audio version of the lesson 

This lesson is where you get solution focussed about the day to day situations that occur in your life.  Even though the current situation is the inner layer of the reality thinking model, I have left it to last because it is really important to set your aims in the the bigger picture areas of your life first. 

Setting these aims gives you something bigger to focus on, a plan for your life that is bigger than what you are currently experiencing.  This stops you from being so consumed with the little things. 

In Richard Carlson’s book “Don’t Sweat the small stuff… and it’s all small stuff”, Chapter sixteen is titled “Ask yourself this question, Will this Matter a Year from Now?” 

He says:  “to play ‘time warp,’ all you have to do is imagine that whatever circumstance you are dealing with isn’t happening right now but a year from now.  Then, simply ask yourself, ‘Is this situation really as important as I’m making it out to be?’  Once in a great while it may be–but a vast majority of the time, it simply isn’t” 

When you have goals that are bigger than ‘right now’  you learn to do exactly what Richard Carlson is suggesting.  You learn to look past the current moment and look to the future, comparing this event to other things that you aspire to have in your future;  that is the aims for being a parent, the aims for your life and the aims for your self-worth.  This stops you feeling like these current events are the ‘be all and end all’ to life and gives you something bigger to aspire to. 

However even though you have these bigger picture aims, you will still want to do something about the present situation that you’re finding challenging.  If the kids are continually having tantrums, aren’t sleeping properly, you are having relationship issues, financial issues or struggling to be organised, then these thing need to be addressed.  This is what we are focusing on in today’s lesson. 

The first question you need to ask yourself to set your aim for the current situation that you’re finding challenging, is: 

What do I want? 

Instead of focussing on the problem, let’s focus on its potential solutions – the potential aims that will move you past this present situation.  What do I need for this situation to be improved or for this problem to be solved?  What is the ideal of the situation?  If I had a genie who would grant me three wishes, what would I ask for so that this problem would disappear? Make sure you are specific with your answer. 

These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves.   At this point, don’t worry about how you are going to achieve your aim, or even if the aim is achievable or not, we will fine tune this list, test it and analyse it as we continue. 

Step One 

Write down all of the potential solutions to your problem, even if it is outside of the norms of what you would do.  Stretch your imagination and include the ‘crazy’ ideas you may have, as sometimes, when assessed, these actually become the most logical responses 

Here are some examples to  help you to get started, categorising these examples into small issues,  moderate issues or major issues: 

Small Issues 

Problem:  My child is having a tantrum in the shops and I’m in a hurry. 

Potential solutions (aims):
Stop her from having a tantrum
Stay calm and let it pass
Distract her
Ignore her and let it pass by
Walk away from her and let her finish her tantrum when she is ready 

Problem:  My child wakes up before he is supposed to and is very cranky because he’s not had enough sleep 

Potential solutions (aims):
Put him back to bed and let him cry himself back to sleep
Cuddle him until he calms down
Stay calm and let him calm himself down
Try to pat him back to sleep and re-settle him to continue his sleep 

Problem:  My child won’t stop crying. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Stop my child from crying
Establish why she is crying
Use the process of elimination to check nappies, too warm/too cold or other factors that may contribute to the crying.
Call a child health nurse to seek some extra information on why she may be crying.
Call a friend of mine to ask for some advice
Resource information from books I have or online to figure out what I can do
Stay calm and rational 

Problem:  I’m bored right now. 

Potential Solutions (aims):              
Put some music on
Do something for me
Go for a walk
Call a girlfriend (I used to call  my girlfriend who was also at home with her kids and we would walk around the house doing housework while chatting.  There were many breaks in the conversation while one or the other had to stop the conversation to tend to our child, or even hang up and call back. It made it all quite amusing instead of stressful). 

Moderate Issues 

Problem:  I don’t have enough support to give me time out. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Don’t worry about support, change my thinking instead
Just deal with it
See what community support is available (for example – occasional care)
Consider putting my child into a child care facility to give me a break
Talk to my partner about the possibility of re-arranging his work hours to help
Organise with a friend to take turns at looking after each other’s child for a few hours a week. 

Problem:  I am really unorganised and I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Discuss and Delegate some of the chores to my husband or older children in the house.
Hire outside help.
Learn more about time management skills. 

Problem:  I’m bored all the time, not just a once off. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Take up a hobby that you can do with the kids around
Create a list of things to do for those times when you are bored.
Create a social schedule of things to do and places to go with the kids to break up the monotony of everyday.
Plan social outings with your girlfriends without the kids.
Find a passion that inspires, motivates and drives you. 

Problem:  I have no friends around me because I’ve just moved, or none of my other friends have children. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Join a local mother’s group or play group. (c’mon they aren’t all that bad)
Join a popular chat forum online and see if you can meet up with any mums from your area
Go to your local park and strike up a conversation with another mum there (chances are she might be bored and lonely too)
Join a community group to get to know other people. 

Major Issues 

Problem:  My husband and I fight all of the time.  I just don’t know whether we should be together anymore. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Learn about how to communicate effectively and talk to him about our problems
Get him to stop being so nasty and unreasonable
Just leave him
Fix our relationship
NB – Remember this is a long-term Aim that may have lots of mini goals.  We will explore this problem and its potential aims further as we continue through this week’s and the following week’s lessons. 

Problem:  I am overweight or don’t like my body shape anymore. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Lose ‘x’ amount of kilograms/pounds
Stop eating junk food
Get some plastic surgery
See my doctor about a weight loss plan
Join the local gym
Create an eating plan and exercise regime 

Problem:  We have no money and are always struggling financially. 

Potential solutions (aims):              
Discover ways to earn money while at home with the kids
Reassess our spending
Reassess our financial priorities
Work a night job
Seek help from someone I know who knows a lot about financial planning
Learn money management
Find someone who has a rags to riches story, learn what they did and copy it.
Create a budget 

The lists that I have created here are by no means conclusive and you may already have been come up with ideas that could be added to the ones I’ve listed.  I have given you these examples to show you an idea of how you can shift your attention on to the solutions 

You may have noticed that some of the aims that I listed here seem ridiculous, like ‘just deal with it’ which I’ve listed as a potential aim for lack of support.  It seems crazy to put this in the list, and a little insensitive, however it may just be the type of thing you have been saying to yourself, or what other people have been saying to you.  If this is what you are thinking, then know that this in itself is a choice or something that you have aimed to do, possibly without success.  

Once you start writing a list of all the potential solutions to your problem, you already start to feel much better about your issues.  Because you have deliberately put your attention on solutions, your brain starts to search for more and more of what you have your attention on.  You begin to see more solutions to your problems. 

It’s kind of like a brainstorming activity which many businesses use to list potential solutions to business issues faced.  You are doing the same thing and you will find it amazing once you start doing it, just how many ideas come out on how you can approach your problem. 

So if you haven’t done so already, move on to listing all of your current situation’s problems and the potential solutions to these problems, just as I have above. 

Testing your Aims

Because your habitual thinking is aligned with the tendency to think stressful, depressive or anxious thoughts, it is important to conscious analyse the aims that we set and contemplate what is driving our choices to set this aim. 

As we learnt last week, our priorities are governed by our beliefs, so if your habitual thinking is to access beliefs that cause stress and are in conflict with the realities of life and self-worth, then while you are working on changing these habitual beliefs, you need to continue to be conscious of your choices and decisions to make sure that they are in alignment with reality. 

To test whether our goals are in alignment with reality we ask the following two questions: 

  1. Why do I want this?
  2. Is what I want in conflict with reality?

Question one asks yourself, what is my agenda for setting this aim?  What do I think that I will get out of achieving this aim?  Every decision you make and action you take will be a priority to protect your self-worth or increase it, because we are all constantly on the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, and we’re rating ourselves in accordance with our beliefs. 

With this in mind, what you will find is that any one of your aims will be aimed at making yourself feel good. There is nothing wrong with this, but what we want to test, is that you are not feeling worth-less because of what is happening right now. 

Remember there is value in everything so no situation is lacking benefits to some degree.  Yes, you will want to improve or change situations that are challenging you and pursue an outcome that will help you enjoy life again, but you must always be conscious of any thinking that is resisting what is currently happening and making you feel like your life is going wrong, that you are missing out or that you are worth-less because it is happening. 

This is why steps one and two of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process are the foundation of this entire process. 

Question Two – Is what I want in conflict with reality?  This question tests how realistic your aim is. 

Sometimes we set out to achieve something that is just not within our control (for example, winning lotto) or we set goals that are in conflict with the reality of where we are at in life at the moment (for example – becoming a millionaire by next month when you can’t rub two cents together today). 

While these are extremes and quite logical examples of unrealistic goals, we can often set our aims without really giving them careful consideration and then when we cannot achieve them, we get upset and feel like we are failing again. 

We must check our aims to see if they are in conflict with reality by asking yourself ‘Is what I want in conflict with reality?’ 

What you might also find is that an aim that you set is something that is out of your control (getting someone else to behave a certain way), but you still might make that your aim.  This is fine, as long as you remain conscious that you don’t have control over another person’s behaviour and you cannot determine when or if you will achieve your aim.  It is always better to set your aim for something that you can work towards achieving, not relying on someone else. 

Finally, the answers to the first question ‘why do I want this aim’ may bring up a whole lot of thinking that is in conflict with reality and all aligned with ‘get your life right’ thinking (what is wrong, what you are missing out on, how things should be different and how worth-less you or your life is because of this situation), so in this second question you are also testing this too, as you will see in the examples below. 

I will now apply these two questions to some of the examples used above to show you how it is done.  Because we don’t have time to go through every single option mentioned above, I will just pick out a few options to test against our two questions, so that we can cover all three of the categories of issues we face. 

Minor Issues

Problem One:  My child is having a tantrum in the shops and I’m in a hurry. 

Potential solutions (aims): Stop her from having a tantrum 

Why do I want this aim?  Because she is embarrassing me and I’ve had enough of her behaving this way?
Is what I want in conflict with reality?  Yes, because I can’t control my daughter’s behaviour and also, I am believing that her behaviour means something about me (I am embarrassed therefore worried what other people are thinking of me). 

NB – Now that you have established that your thoughts are in conflict with reality, you can go ahead and upgrade your thinking to be in alignment with the reality thinking model.  You might just find that after doing this you will have a different perspective on this aim.  You may still set this aim after upgrading your thoughts, however you are consciously aware that a) it is not in your control and; b) her behaviour is not about you. 

Is this a good aim?  Hmmm it’s not the best aim because you would have to keep reminding yourself of these two points so that you didn’t fall back into stressful thinking, so perhaps it is better to continue onto your list and see if there are any others that might be more in alignment with reality.
  

Potential aim (2):  Stay calm and let it pass 

Why do I want this aim?  Because tantrums are a normal part of her development and she has to learn that she won’t get what she wants just because she has a tantrum. It’ll pass eventually.
Is what I want in conflict with reality?  No because I can change my reactions and the mindset that will help me to remain calm and because I am in alignment with the reality of being a parent and seeing her reaction as being developmental, not a reflection of my worth. 

NB – At this stage of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process, after doing step two – reality, you should be at a place of accepting the current situation in your life anyway, however your mind can very quickly see you straight back in conflict with reality.  This is why when setting your aim you still need to check on what you are thinking about your aim and what it’s going to give you when you achieve it.   

In the first potential aim for this scenario, you can see that the aim was created with the priority to protect her self-worth from embarrassment because this mother had rated the tantrum to mean that she was worth-less (meaning  a little less than 100%, which is what we feel when we’re embarrassed).  In the second aim the thinking was all in alignment with reality. 

Is this a good aim then?  Yes because it was made to be in alignment with reality.   

Moderate Issues 

Problem:  I don’t have enough support to give me time out. 

Potential solutions/aims (1):    Don’t worry about support, change my thinking instead 

Why do I want this aim?  Because I should be able to change my thinking about the situation. I don’t need support, I am the mother.  I should be able to look after my children 24/7 without problem.  After all my mother did and thousands of other mothers do it, so I should just suck it up and deal with it.  In fact, aim #2 ‘just deal with it’ is factored in here too. 

Is what I want in conflict with reality?  Actually yes, because everyone is different and I don’t necessarily think like other people.  Maybe my mother’s circumstances were different or she had different beliefs about staying at home, but I feel like I need the space to take time out, so I need to find the support to give me that.  I know that I will be a happier mother with time out from my kids to pursue other things that are important to me.  It doesn’t matter what thousands of other mothers do.  It only matters what works for me and my children.  If I find adequate support, my children will get appropriate care in other areas.  It doesn’t always have to come from me 

NB – As you can see by checking her thoughts about why she wanted this aim, this mother could see how her thinking was all in conflict with reality and thus, so was the goal.  Having realised this and upgrading it, she can then realise that this aim is not really the right one for her and can now go on to look for another aim for this situation. 

  

Major Issues

Problem:  My husband and I fight all of the time.  I just dont’ know whether we should be together anymore. 

Potential solutions/aims (1):  Fix our relationship 

Why do I want this aim?  Because our relationship is messed up right now.  We don’t stop fighting and I just want it all to stop.  We need to fix it before it ends in divorce.  We just can’t keep fighting like this anymore.  He needs to stop being the person that he is and I think it either needs to get fixed or it needs to end.  It’s as simple as that. 

Is what I want in conflict with reality?  Well, yes actually it is.  My thinking is all in conflict with the reality that the relationship is at where it is because of all the events that have unfolded leading up to right now.  Our relationship has consisted of both of us who have both contributed to its own demise in our own different ways.  We have two different belief systems that are no longer aligned and this is what the problem is and incidentally where the focus needs to go.  It’ not as simple as just ‘fix it and that is that’.  There are many issues that we need to sort through, investigate, reach new agreements on and this aim is just not specific enough, nor does it address the real immediate issue.  Let’s have a look at another aim: 

Potential solution/aim (2):  Learn about how to communicate effectively and talk to him about our problems. 

Why do I want this aim?   Because this is a good place to start.  We are yelling at each other all the time and it’s just not productive.  If I can start by learning how to talk to him without this happening, or at least without me reacting to him reacting then this is going to be a great start to changing how we can move forward from here.  

Is what I want in conflict with reality?  No because I am taking responsibility for the part I have played in how this relationship currently is and I am changing my part, which is fully within my control.  I am going to learn how to change myself and approach this relationship and these issues, from this perspective first. 

NB – It is important to note for this problem that there is not just one solution that will fix this problem.  There is a lot of work, new information, work and effort from both parties that will be involved in tackling this issue, but setting this aim is a great start. 

Before I get you to look at your chosen aims to your challenging situation, there is just one more question we are going to add in here that you can test your aims against.  That is: 

Does this aim align with my bigger picture goals (that is my goals on being a parent, my goals on my life and my goals on self-worth)? 

Take a look at the aims that you set over the past three days and check whether your situation aim works alongside your bigger picture aims.  For example, learning how to communicate effectively with your partner aligns with aims for being a good role model to your children.  It aligns with goals for having harmonious relationships with others and it aligns with respecting yourself, respecting others and being a calm person.  So this would be an aim that fulfills all of your desires.  

Now do you see the value in setting the bigger picture aims first?  It just gives your everyday aims a little more substance. 

Step Two

So now with your list of potential solutions to your current situation problem, go through your list of potential aims and pick out the aim that you believe is the best aim to set.  Then go ahead and test this aim against our two questions: 

  1. Why do I want this?
  2. Is what I want in conflict with reality

When you feel like your aim is in alignment with reality, now ask yourself the final question in the testing phase of setting our aims: 

Does this aim align with my bigger picture goals (the ones I set on being a parent, my goals on my life and my goals on my self-worth)? 

  

We are now starting to bring this whole aim setting process together by setting our everyday goals and comparing them with how they fit in with our bigger picture goals.  In the last lesson for this week – day seven – exercise day, I will show you how to pull all of this information together and document a clear list of the problems you are tackling and what your aims are that you are working towards.  That way you can keep this document close by for inspiration and reminder of what you are trying to achieve. 

Before we do that however, in tomorrow’s lesson we are going to discuss a few issues that might be popping up in your heading right now, that may be causing you some concerns when setting your aims.  Also we will be discussing the role affirmations have in helping you to achieve your aims and teaching you how to set them. 

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