goal setting

Action Over Insight: Why You Should Be Asking “What?”


There’s the old saying that, “deeds are more powerful than words.” It means that action is just as important, if not more so than simply talking. Although finding insight and discussing your intentions are valuable, the more critical step is actually taking action. It’s also the hardest as it means committing to a path, course, or direction.

Also, it means taking a risk, with the haunting possibility of failure. Yet, an action also has the greatest chance of success. After all, if you choose to do nothing then there will certainly be no benefit. Therefore, consider the importance of action and why you should be asking “what?”

Understand Action and Empowerment

When you commit to action and focus on the “what” you are empowering yourself. You are the person who is choosing to do something. This is much more strength-based as opposed to letting others do things for you. Or, to allow events to direct you instead of you being the one to take direction. If this is new for you then taking action may be intimidating or even scary. However, it is also thrilling and exciting to be the one committing to action. It’s led to some of the defining moments of our history. For example, it was the simple act of refusing to move from a bus seat that sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Focus on the “What” Versus “What Ifs”

When considering action, it’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” rather than the “what.” For example, you may spin your wheels considering all of the possible outcomes of a situation. Although both the positive and negatives outcomes exist, it’s not uncommon to solely focus on the negative ones. In turn, this can quickly lead to inaction. Instead, direct your attention to the “what” and doing the action. Yes, considering the outcome of your decision is important. Yet, if you get too stuck on the “what ifs” then you will never actually do anything.

Know That There Is No Perfect Choice

Another problem that you might have is focusing on the “perfect” decision. If you don’t make the perfect decision, what could happen? The possibilities are endless, no doubt. The reality is that there is no perfect choice. There is simply the choice (or choices) in front of you. Therefore, decide what you can do right now. In short, choose your “what.” Otherwise, you will again be stuck in the zone of crippling indecisiveness.

Find Purpose with Your “What”

You may feel that you don’t have any purpose in life. Thus, you are listless, drifting about in the world. This doesn’t have to relate only to your professional life or job. It could have to do with anything in your life. Are you just waiting for something to happen? Maybe you’re waiting for life to come to find you, fulfilling your goals and dreams. Waiting won’t fill the void that you are looking to fill.

Instead, the fastest way to discover your purpose is to choose your “what.” The reason is that your “what may take you down a path you weren’t expecting, leading to new possibilities that you never even considered. Or, perhaps you discover that you have chosen a dead-end. So what do you do now? Make a new choice and take a different course of action. Both paths are ways to finding your purpose.

Be Willing to Commit

When you choose your “what,” you are committing to something. Despite commitment being a word you may frequently hear, do you truly understand its meaning? Committing to something means a willingness to stick with it, even with the ups and downs. It means being in it for the long haul and being dedicated to the action. It’s easy to be scared away from your “what” because of the commitment. Yet, committing is necessary in order to find success. When you are asking “what,” you are directing yourself toward action. Even if you decide later on down the road that it was the wrong decision, you’re still on a successful journey to your purpose. You can always make another choice. For now, being willing to commit to the “what” and to the direction you take.

Guest post written by Brenda Bomgardner, LPC, BCC, ACS

Guest post written by Brenda Bomgardner, LPC, BCC, ACS

After completing a successful 17-year career in Human Resources at a Fortune 500 Company Brenda returned to school to earn her master’s degree in community counseling and a certificate as a board certified coach. She then launched a private practice, Creating Your Beyond, LLC.  Working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and providing entrepreneurial guidance along with career coaching brings her fulfillment and joy. She is described by her peers as an expert on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Her new book, Sweet Spot: Finding Your Private Practice Groove with Principles for ACT, will be released in the summer of 2019. Chocolate is her favorite food group and adventure is her passion pursuit. She loves visitors and invites you pop on over to her website at Creating Your Beyond and take a look around. https://brendabomgardner.com  

Getting To The Goals - The Journey of Setting Them And Getting Them


When doing a “goals list” exercise in therapy sessions, start by telling telling clients to DREAM BIG!

Formulating a goals list is different for every individual. Counselors can be interested not only in the goals people choose but also in their reaction to creating the list itself. Sometimes people say they can’t think of any goals, which is an informative statement. It sends an important message about the person’s sense of value in the world. When a therapy client makes this statement, he/she provides the counselor with incentive and direction. It is rewarding to watch clients who start out by saying they have no goals, or can’t think of any goals, only to end the session with a goals list to take away with them for future reference.

In developing this exercise, counselors can work with clients to tap into their resilience, a tool which is helpful when attempting to work through a personal or professional setback. Also, the hope is that by creating this goals list a client will be improving their positive self-esteem. Next is the hope that a client will utilize the goals list to open his/her mind to a positive outlook - a world where the glass might be half full as opposed to half empty. Even if the goals list is not ‘realistic’ in terms of real life, just the actual act of writing down any dream or thought or hope a client might have is an exercise for the mind and the spirit.

Some clients have no problem coming up with long and varied goals lists. For them, the challenge is the move toward action in achieving the goals on their lists. In other instances, however, clients say they can’t think of goals because they believe they are not “allowed” to have goals for themselves. For whatever reason, throughout their lives, these clients were “programmed” not to consider their own individual thoughts, feelings, hopes, plans and dreams. Resistance is high with these clients, and asking them to think of goals for themselves stumps them, because it almost feels “wrong” for them to consider what THEY want.

There are other clients who come up with well planned and realistic goals, only to reject them because to follow these would somehow be “too good.” It’s as if they are so invested in the chaos of being “stuck” that even a glimmer of the possible is too scary, because then they have to give up a lifetime of investment in the chaotic lifestyles they have come to find “safe” or “comfortable” which is really code for “familiar” or “known.” Again, this gives the counselor clues in terms of directions forward therapeutically, in that the counselor is faced with massive resistance to change, even though the client talks the game of wanting change - a typical paradox.

When formulating goals lists with clients, there are some guidelines. First and most important, the items on the lists are to be goals they want for themselves, not based on the others in their lives, and not based on what they think they are “supposed to” want as goals. For example, of course I’m not opposed to the “get married and have a family” goal or the “graduate from college” goal, if those are on someone’s list. However, that still seems like something someone else (society, our parents, peers, etc.) tells us we’re “supposed to” want or do.

In terms of considering goals, counselors can encourage people not to think in terms of “supposed to.” Also, there are no restrictions - money or time or age or marital status or children or aging parents - or any of the other “reasons” people will identify as obstacles preventing them from achieving their goals. For example, people with children don’t need to write down, “I want to see my kids grow up and be happy and successful.” Counselors can remind people who are parents that the goals lists are to be about nobody else but themselves. Also, there can be no time deadlines - the “by a certain age I have to make a certain amount of money,” kind of thinking. And regarding the the subject of money, there can’t be dictates from others about how much money is “enough,” or that earning some amount of money will imply success. Again, it’s about what the individual believes for him or herself, not what someone has “programmed” the person to believe about money or success.

As mentioned above, the point of this exercise is to help clients open their minds to the limitless possibilities of life. For some, this is a difficult concept because they believe life is about a certain way of doing things, usually whatever way they were taught to believe as they were growing up. Then the ideas they were taught were further reinforced by others in their peer group. After all, most people want to “fit in” or be the “same as.” To be different from, or be the rugged individual in the group is sometimes to feel isolated and outcast. However, at this stage, clients are in a counselor’s office because of trying to fit in or be like everyone else, and discovering the emotional problems that go along with those efforts. They come in with their resistance, their unwillingness to change, even as they are acknowledging that they want things to be different from how they have been in the past. A paradox to be sure.

With the goals list, therefore, the counselor introduces the concept of all things possible, including the exercise of thinking about themselves in a selfish way. The counselor challenges clients to put their own needs first, to think in terms of their own personal priorities. The counselor encourages clients to define success as it relates to them personally, not in terms of money or possessions, but in terms of emotional well being. The role of the counselor is to provide a brainstorming conversation with the client in which resistance may be addressed, because there may be resistance to even attempting a goals list. Sometimes clients ask why they even need to have goals. Just the fact that they choose the word ‘need’ answers the question, doesn’t it?

Once the guidelines are out there, counselors can again encourage people to dream big! Some folks have an understanding of how this is helpful, and they start to write down their goals - large and small, real or imagined, practical or impractical, perhaps possible, perhaps not. For others there are still difficulties around feeling compelled to “be practical” or using phrases like, “that could never happen.” Not everyone is able to envision right away what it feels like to be selfish in a good way, thinking of self not in terms of anyone else. For them, the counselor can encourage continued talking and thinking and imagining. Eventually, just about every client understands how this exercise is worthwhile, because it takes clients out of the problem place and into the possible place - never a bad thing, right?

Do you have a goals list? Try it for yourself, and then keep it and refer to it from time to time. For one thing it’s a chance to dream, always worth some head time and space. For another, isn’t

it satisfying to achieve what you strive for? And lastly, it keeps clients in touch with forward motion, with listening to and following their hearts and thinking from a self place. Remember, when clients learn to put themselves and what they need at the head of their lists, they have that much more to give to the others in their lives who are valuable to them. Learning to do that and then putting it into action is in itself an excellent goal. When this is achieved, so much else is able to be done, and clients will know what it is to live life in that possible place.

Guest post written by Valerie J. Shinbaum, MS, LPC, MAC, NCC

Guest post written by Valerie J. Shinbaum, MS, LPC, MAC, NCC

Valerie J. Shinbaum, MS, LPC, MAC, NCC, is a practicing psychotherapist since 1992. She is a published author, national speaker, college professor, and former radio talk show host. Ms. Shinbaum is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Master Addictions Counselor and National Certified Counselor. She works with individuals, couples, teens, and families. Her areas of expertise include addictions (process and substance), marital/couples treatment, adolescent issues, family of origin/inner child work, empowerment/self esteem building, career choices/changes, trauma, learning differences, relationship obstacles, mindfulness, grief/loss, and more. www.bodymindandbalance.com.