This blog post is a continuation of my worksheet from my CBT session on Thursday. But it’s also struck me that I have seem some parallels on others’ blogs, specifically around plans and goals. I have found these others so inspiring for a number of reasons: So often I can’t untangle my thoughts in my own mind, let alone put them on paper (or computer screen). What others write so eloquently is like them putting a dollop of olive oil in my sticky strands of grey matter. It is also heartening to see others’ face their challenges with such strength, and to show me that my ‘issues’ are really not that important. Not in a demeaning way, but helps me see things in the bigger picture. Recently I’ve had the tendency to ‘not see the forest for the trees’ (or whatever that saying is).

The rule that I’ve identified as causing me problems, ‘I must push myself to try ever hard to reach my high standards, to the exclusion of everything else’, stems from my belief that I’m not good enough/as good as others.

The worksheet has the following headings:

Origins/’It is understandable that I hold this rule because…’

Irrationality/’However, the rule is unreasonable because…’

Dysfunctionality/’It is helpful/unhelpful because…

Reformulation/’A more helpful fule would be…’

Action plan/’Given that I have held the rule for a long while, it will take time and effort to change it. What I need to do is…’

GO! Let the games begin…

Origins:

I think I’ve mostly covered that in my previous worksheet: I had a supportive upbringing given lots of opportunities and encouragement. Did well at school, seen as a high achiever. Because of support, encouragement and that I did well early on, I’ve had the luxury to set myself high standards and mostly achieve them. Now I still have those high standards and feel I need to achieve them because I expect that of myself, as well as to ensure that the good start I was given by my parents, and the effort I’ve put in til now, are not wasted. I want everything to count, and not waste more time either.

Irrationality & disfunctionality…

Helpful:

I’m rather goal orientated, and have good perseverance. This has payed dividends in the past, so I don’t think that in itself is a bad thing, or irrational. It has served me well in the past with lots of things, eg getting myself from the operating table and onto the international hockey pitch in under two weeks was only achieved through sheer determination and encouragement from my nurse/hockey team manager. I wonder at my younger self how I managed to fit everything in: playing ‘cello, hockey training & matches (each x 3: school, youth and national squads/orchestras), volunteering at an old folks’ home and at the local aquarium, playing tennis and at the same time doing well with school work. I know at the time I had some low points and wished I wasn’t good at things, as that wasn’t ‘cool’, but I think I enjoyed it and wanted to do everything. No one ever forced anything on me (which I’m grateful for).

Unhelpful:

The problem for me arises when I end up with such a narrow perspective that all I can see is that goal, and focusing on it is to the detriment of everything else. Unfortunately my view isn’t so narrow that I can’t see that, so my real problem arises when I can see that my perspective is becoming so narrow and that I’m missing out on other things that I would like to be doing at the same time. Everything then cascades on from there:

  • I start to resent my work towards that goal.
  • I try harder to reach the goal so that what I’m missing out on isn’t missed out on in vain. Except then I exhaust myself – which I know isn’t good and doesn’t actually help anything.
  • I end up not enjoying the work, not being able to enjoying the other things that I could be doing, or even properly enjoy what I do fit in, because then I think they’re taking away from the goal I’m trying to get to.
  • As well as lack of enjoyment, then I have regrets for not doing the other things I would like to do and guilty when I do do the things that should be fun.
  • Maybe the goals I’ve set myself are unachievable anyway. (I still argue against the perfection label: generally when I achieve what I’ve set out to achieve, then I am happy. I don’t do the thing of moving goal posts. Promise.)
  • At the bottom of the spiral is me in a low mood, which isn’t enjoyable for anyone.

Go me…grr. Yet I can’t seem to get myself to not focus only on the goal I’ve set out to achieve.

If it were a goal that I only thought I should be aiming for or to fulfill others’ wishes, then I might be happier to take my eyes off it. But at the moment, my goal is to complete university with a portfolio that I can be proud of and willing to discuss at job interviews, and a good reference from uni tutors. This is really is something I want, because the field of landscape architecture is really what I want to get into and brings together my interests (now I remember all the other things I used to do too, like lots of art and photography –  winning competitions etc, each year I would grow tons of plants to enter in the local Agricultural Exhibition and I studied [sorry, read] geography at undergrad). So working in that would be my ideal job. Also I rather need a job if I’m going to have money to live off, so I need show myself well to be employable.

Reformulating a more helpful rule…

Previously I haven’t been able to challenge that goal with a more rational one that I can believe.

Though just writing this much has been eye-opening for me: I can see that when I was younger I had lots of goals all at the same time – everything I did was working towards a goal, so it never felt that I was taking time away from the end goal, and I could enjoy it all.

Therefore the key isn’t to take away goals, it’s just to make sure I don’t get focused on just one thing and blow it out of proportion. While I’m not 16 anymore and what I used to do may not be possible any more, so simply doing again what I used to do isn’t realistic, I need to find away of ensuring that I can follow the rule: “I must push myself to try ever harder to reach my high standards” without the caveat “to the exclusion of everything else”.

Action Plan…

  1. Get through this final week of university. A distinction doesn’t matter. I can put together a portfolio that shows my best work that I have already done. If this final piece of work isn’t what I would like then I can improve it over the summer. The tutors know I’ve been conscientious throughout the course, so will probably write a good reference regardless of this last piece of work (providing I do at least bother to submit it).
  2. Finish making summer plans, be a good crew member on the Tall Ships, enjoy the time off. Those are goals in themselves and I should approach them as such as I always used to do, and not see them simply as frivolous activities that waste time.
  3. Join clubs/societies/groups for my different interests, including sports, music, art/photography, gardening. As above, these are goals and not time wasters. They are fun, good for being social as well as improving my skills.
  4. Volunteer again.
  5. Adopt a cat from the SPCA. As well as the enjoyment and therapeutic qualities of stroking cats blah blah blah, this is will help make sure I go home in the evenings to look after it and don’t spend unreasonable amounts of time at work. My goal is to become Cat Lady (if all else fails…)
  6. Don’t be worried about interviews. I am good enough. Get a job, preferably one that is meaningful and also fits with my interests and uses my skills. This is number 6 on the list, and should be treated just as that. It is not the be all and end all.

<I am tagging this ‘step in the right direction’, as I do feel somewhat happier even just writing this stuff down. I feel like I have a plan that I want to do and can see myself enjoying it, without it being too arduous>

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