Frustrated That Your Goal-Setting Isn't Working?

I work with a lot of Type A people. High-achievers, entrepreneurs, go-getters....perfectionists. However they describe themselves, they have something in common:

They handle their shit. 

They pride themselves on being decisive, competent, adaptive, and reliable. They achieve whatever they set their mind to. Working hard works for them -- until it doesn't. That's when they start thinking about therapy.

Actually, that's often several weeks or months before they consider therapy. Before that, they throw all of their resources at the problem, and they have a lot of them! (Resources, not problems.) They're not afraid to do a little research and try new things when their usual methods for problem-solving don't work. These are viable options, and they often work! It's only after they've tried everything that people even think about reaching out to a therapist. 

People come to me because something has to change.

The first thing we do is figure out where you are in the change process. Yes, it's a very clear, predictable process, which luckily for us, Type A's LOVE. *The following is adapted from Prochaska & DiClemente's Transtheoretical Model or Stages of Change model. But here are the cliff's notes:

1. Pre-contemplation

You may not even know something is wrong. Perhaps you've heard about it from other people, but you haven't identified a problem and you have no intention of changing. For example, "What do you mean there's something wrong with our sex life? I thought everything was fine." Yes, this is still part of the process EVEN THOUGH you don't think there's a problem. 

2. Contemplation

OK, fine. Something's not right. You have an idea of what it is. But you haven't decided if you *really* need to change. You're contemplating it. (Get it??) For example: "Yeah, maybe I should find another job. But is it bad enough to quit? Don't most people dislike their job? What else would I even do?" 

3. Preparation

Now that you're aware there is an issue, you want to learn everything you can about it. This is done in any number of ways: Talking to friends and mentors, read books or articles, attending a free webinar or workshop, and our good friend internet research. You start to formulate a course of action. You might share it with others so they can hold you accountable. You pick a start date. For example, "I tried out a few gyms and found one that works for me. I'm going to sign up on the first of the month. I got these cute workout clothes and a few friends said they would join me. It's on my way home from work."

4. Action

This is Day 1. (Although, as you can see, this process started a long time ago!) Whether you start small or you jump in the deep end, you've started! For example: "Starting today, I'm going to only check and reply to email when I'm at work!" 

5. Maintenance

They say it takes 28 days to form a habit. I don't know if that's true. Either way, you've integrated this new behavior into your routine and it starts to feel natural to you. Congratulations, you've made a change! For example: "I adjusted my sleep schedule and I couldn't sleep in even if I wanted to. Now I'm a morning person!"

6. Relapse

Some people think of this as an "optional" step in the change process. I say it definitely comes with the territory. No, I'm not setting you up for failure, but creating new habits doesn't mean that you can't have slips or mistakes. The nice thing is that when you slip, you can go back to step #3 or 4. You don't have to start at square one! You can learn from your mistake and reinforce your plan of action for next time, instead of doing the same thing over and over.

The bottom line

If your goal-setting isn't working, it might be because you're focusing on the wrong tasks. Have you ever set a deadline...and then kept moving it? Do you want to be a marathon runner but don't know where to start?

If you're still just thinking about something and haven't done your research, setting a hard deadline won't work. Similarly, if you've already decided on a course of action, hearing opinions and advice will frustrate you. Each stage of change has a different task associated with it. 

Same goes for people in your life. If you've brought up the same issue repeatedly, it might be because they are in stage #1 instead of up in stage #4 with you. 

If you're confused about where you are in the process, a few sessions with a therapist can help you clarify your goals and make a plan that works for you. Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas. Call (562) 704-4736 and we can get you started on the path to your best day ever.

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