Step one – Thoughts and step two – Reality; are the two fundamental steps to making some long-term changes to your life.
Being able to identify that it is your thinking that causes you stress and then being able to replace this thinking will be what makes a difference to how you feel. Sometimes these two steps are the only ones that you need to make. Sometimes all you will need is a little reminder that you are out of touch with the reality of the situation, reality of being a parenting, reality of life and the reality of your self-worth and a quick adjustment of your mindset can help you get back to feeling good about yourself, or at least not totally consumed by the situation.
Because these two steps are significant to change, the rest of the process will continually be reverting back to these new thinking practices in order to keep moving up the ladder of the TRACK process.
So now that you have completed steps one and two, you are now aligned with the reality of what this situation really means about you and your life. You are probably feeling a little bit better about the situation and not so consumed by it. However, this does not mean that you have to just put up with a situation if it’s not working for you or if it’s a particularly challenging scenario (for example, with your child’s behaviour, or a problem with your relationship).
Step three of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process starts directing your attention away from the perceived problem and towards its potential solution by establishing and setting an AIM.
This step is really important particularly for someone suffering from postnatal depression. When someone suffers from PND, as explained, they stop setting goals in one or more areas of their life. This is because you have attached your self-worth to getting life to go a certain way or to obtaining those goals, and because you feel like a failure when you can’t meet these expectations, you protect yourself from the pain of feeling like a failure and stop setting goals.
By the time you have gotten to this step you will be looking at the situation from a different perspective and you will know that your worth cannot be altered – that you are 100% worthy every moment of your life. Knowing this you can begin to set goals again. But this time you will know that whether you achieve the goal or not, your worth always remains intact.
It’s really important for someone with PND to learn how to start setting goals again, this time with an accurate understanding of the true purpose of goals and what they mean about your self-worth. As we explore this step further in week seven, you will come to understand much more about setting your aim.
But for now, we don’t just want to set any aim, we need to look closely at what aim you are setting and address a few key points to be sure that your aim isn’t going to cause you more stress.
These points are:
- What do you want? What is the ideal of the situation? What am I going to do about this situation?
- Why do I want this aim?
- Is this aim in conflict with reality?
Let’s look at each one individually:
What do you want? What is the ideal of the situation? What am I going to do about this situation?
Just think about how much time you spend thinking about what it is you aren’t getting and putting your attention on the problems you are having. If you put more attention on what you wanted instead, you would find a lot more answers to your problems. After becoming aligned with the reality of the situation you can now say, “Okay, this is what is happening, so what do I want to do about it? What is the aim that I would like to experience? What is the ideal of this scenario?”
Whether you are dealing with an unsleeping child, a behavioural problem, a financial problem, a health problem or a relationship problem, simply by putting your attention on the potential solution, you will begin tossing up ideas that could end up being your aim.
If there are so many areas of your life that you need to work on, then just pick one small area for now to work on. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with trying to change too much all at once. Remember that you are learning this method for the first time, so you need to allow yourself some time to practice it and become skilled at it – just like becoming a parent.
Choose that one area of your life and really work at changing it so that you experientially get to see that this process works and then you will be encouraged to use it in other areas of your life.
List some possible aims that could work as solutions to your problems. Perhaps there is just one obvious solution (for example, get my baby into a sleep routine).
Why do I want this aim?
Now we start to look a little deeper at this aim of yours. We take a look at what’s underneath what you want and check that your agenda for achieving your aim is not about trying to increase your self-worth (by trying to gain approval, avoid judgments etc). You will be able to assess what your priority is for choosing this aim and what your ‘story’ is about what it will mean about your life when you achieve this aim.
Is my aim in conflict with reality?
Sometimes when we set goals we are not really considering whether they are do-able or not. It is more of a ‘this is what I want’ goal as opposed to ‘this is what I can logically do’ or ‘this is something that I have control over’.
For example, let’s say you would like to get your child into a sleep routine. This aim is okay, however whether your child sleeps or not, is not in your control. It is difficult to set and achieve goals that rely on the behaviour of someone else. A much better goal would be to find a sleep technique that works for your child. That way if you try something and it doesn’t work, you are not feeling disheartened. It just means that this is not the right sleep technique for your child and you need to try another.
Another example, is having a goal for the behaviour of your child. If you expect that your child will behave well at all times, or even every time you go and do your grocery shopping, then this aim is again, not in your control. It is also in conflict with the reality that children are developing at their own rate and logic and reasoning is one of the last stages of brain development. Sometimes their priorities will not match yours and they will not behave in the way you think they should, regardless of whether you have told them a thousand times how to behave when you are at the shops.
You need to consider all of the elements of the situation surrounding your goal and check whether you have a healthy level of expectation when moving towards the achievement of your aim. You don’t want to be feeling worth-less again should things not go to plan and you have a hiccup along your journey towards your aim. You need to be in full alignment with the reality of achieving goals when you are a parent. As my girlfriend used to say – ‘You figure out what it is you want to do and then you plot and scheme around your kids to do it’. This is the reality of being a parent. Gone are the days where you can do what you want, when you want, so this reality needs to be considered when setting your aim.
In week seven, once you have a very thorough understanding of the thoughts step, the reality step and why you are 100% worthy just the way you are, I am going to help you to establish some goals that you can start going for in your own life.
But for now here’s how to apply this step to your life:
Ask yourself, “What do I want to do about this situation?” What is the ideal scenario to establish here? What do I want?
These questions will begin to send your attention in a solution focused direction where answers can be found.
Be specific about your aims. Be clear about how it will look and what it will entail. Set goals that are measurable, achievable and, if possible, set time limits on them. Be aware though that sometimes life doesn’t go to plan and if you don’t achieve these goals on time, then there will always be learning that has taken place. By the time you learn this step more thoroughly in week seven, you will have the ability to see the learning that takes place when we can’t or don’t achieve our goals.
Do a bit of questioning as to why you want what you want. Check that your thoughts or your ‘story’ about getting your aim does not reflect anything about your self-worth.
And finally, be sure that your thoughts are not in conflict with the reality of your life and what is doable within your current circumstances. If it is not do-able right now, what other aim do you need to set first before you can then achieve the original aim?
In tomorrow’s lesson, we will start to look at how you are going to achieve your goals with Step Four of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process – Choices.