It is common in my practice to encounter people choosing to seek counseling in hopes of finding happiness and fulfillment in life, but it is most common among men. With the natural wiring to strive for success and provide for those they may care for, they spend a lot of their life working a job with hopes they will not only be able to make a living for themselves, achieve success, but also hope they will find fulfillment and satisfaction as well. I am happy to have Nathan Hansen (a Licensed Professional Counselor in Grand Rapids Michigan, and a colleague of mine) guest blog today to help men figure out what they may be doing to prevent themselves from finding satisfaction and how they can move towards achieving it. Enjoy!
There’s a question out there for men, and women, that seems to plague us day in and day out. Men are struggling with it. Some people seem to find the answer and the rest of us keep looking. It is kind of like finding the fountain of youth. We all think it’s out there somewhere and we keep looking. Maybe it’s hiding in plain sight? Maybe it is fake?
The question many men struggle with is ‘how do I find satisfaction in life?’
We ask ourselves over and over, how do we get off the hamster wheel of repetition. It’s like the movie Ground Hogs Day with Bill Murray. His character wakes up every day experiencing the same thing no matter how many times he tries to change it.
I bet there’s many men like you out there right now waking up day after day wondering if everything will change. You feel lost. You look around and see all your friends getting promotions. You see them getting bigger houses. You see them having nicer cars and going on vacations. You’re trying to manage stress. You get the promotion and it doesn’t do much. You work out. You have the toys. You have the girl, the kids, and the dog. But, at the end of the day you still feel like something is missing.
I think for men, the problem is part of the solution. A default mode with how many men view and interact with life, for better or worse is by compartmentalizing the various areas of our lives. I liken the man’s brain to a hallway with a bunch of doors. These rooms have labels on them: work, family, faith, money, sex, friends, projects, hobbies, emotions, etc. When we’re in one room that’s where our time and energy is spent until we leave that room, close the door, walk down the hallway and enter then next room. Each room is only a part of who we are but they’re separate. Individually they may seem fulfilling but in reality they’re not. We spend too much time in some of the rooms while other rooms are ignored, not cleaned, or left a mess.
I think the answer to finding satisfaction in life is knowing how we’re created to be and interacting with it in a healthy way. It’s not dumping all of our energy into one room and then not having more energy for others. It’s ok to compartmentalize certain areas of our lives for a particular purpose. However, we have to be intentional about caring for all of those rooms in that hallway.
One easy way to do that is to make goals. You might have goals. That’s fine. But when is the last time you actually took a look and figured out which goals you’ve accomplished and how they all impact one another?
If you’re not sure how to make goals write them down and be specific about them. Make them measurable, and give yourself an appropriate amount of time to complete them. I think most importantly, you need to tell someone about your goals! Accountability significantly increases our ability to accomplish our goals. When we tell someone we’re also not isolating ourselves in only one of those rooms. We’re also including someone else who’s in one of those rooms—chances are more than one of those rooms. For those of us who are married it’s our spouse. For others that person is our boyfriend or girlfriend, or a parent, or best friend.
As a professional counselor I believe that many problems we face are caused by experiencing dissatisfaction in relationships. I’m willing to be that if we invite others along with us on accomplishing our goals we will find the fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives that will be greater as a whole than the individual parts.
© 2017 Nathan Hansen, LPC & Great Lakes Wellness Counseling LLC
Nathan Hansen, LPC is owner of Great Lakes Wellness Counseling located in Grandville, MI. He helps couples feel closer and individuals find freedom from the frustrations and problems they are trying to overcome. He enjoys helping his clients find real solutions, experience changed lives, and receive expert care. His goal is to partner with you to help you make your life more enjoyable and free from the problems or struggles you are experiencing.
When life throws you for a loop, we typically have our go-to coping mechanisms to ease the tension of the uncomfortable feelings that go with the troubling situations life puts us in. A lot of the time the coping we choose tends to cause more stress than actual comfort. We eat to stuff our feelings, causing us to struggle with self-image and self-hatred. We isolate ourselves and over think the situation we are dealing with, often causing us to think negatively and struggle with finding solutions because we over emphasize the emotional impact rather than giving ourselves credit that we can deal with this situation like the countless other situations we have found ourselves in. We stuff our feelings down in order to avoid them and not deal with them, causing us to emotionally over react in other non-related situations and relationships we encounter every day and then struggle with understanding ourselves in the process, which leads to self-doubt and lowers our confidence and self-esteem.
As a therapist, I strive to help people gain confidence in working through and feeling their emotions in the moment or shortly after in order to not bury them. When we attempt to experience them and accept them, we gain a better understanding of ourselves and are able to recognize how certain situations influence and impact us. When one gains that understanding we are able to more proactively make changes in our lives in order to gain confidence in dealing with certain people and situations because we understand how it is going to affect us emotionally so we don't criticize or judge ourselves for how we do react when things happen. If we no longer judge or criticize ourselves, we are able to build self-esteem and awareness which makes us more confident in dealing with more situations we face on a daily basis and doesn't throw us off nearly as much. We gain control in ourselves, which far outweighs feeling in control of what is going on around you... because, lets be honest, you can't control what is going on in life outside of yourself anyways and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will become more capable of controlling what we can and letting go of what we can't. This will lead to a higher level of life satisfaction. Who doesn't want that?!
If you are a new years resolution kind of person, how are your goals going so far? How did you choose what goals you were going to set and how have you decided to go about changing yourself to achieve those goals? I don't know about you guys, but typically I create about 15 goals (5 for family, 5 for personal, and 5 for career) and I usually only achieve 2 or 3 of them. I often wonder to myself why I wasn't able to make them all successful. Choosing goals that work together and feed off of each other is usually what I do in hopes of optimizing on my desire to change. Unfortately, I have found that I am not typically ready to set out to change in certain areas, I fall into believing false beliefs about change, or my approach is not a long-term change approach. I am going to lay out some of this stuff for you and, in a few days, give you a simple way to help you figure out what stage of change you are in. I really hope this will help give you perspective on the changes you want to make so you will be more successful now and in the future.
False beliefs of change:
1. Change on your own is SIMPLE: Think again!! Typically this is very difficult because we constantly remind ourselves of our past failures and are tempted to believe we can't change and we don't have what it takes.
2. Willpower is ALL I need: If only! Willpower is only one piece of the puzzle of change as it only effects our ability to commit. So you start by committing to your goal, but don't have self-awareness of why you are doing it so you start failing and soon begin to believe that you have no willpower and give up.
3. Nothing works, I've tried it all before: (If I got a dollar for every time I heard that...) This is not typically true as we often don't use our change method frequently enough or at the right times. For example, if you think about how you look in a negative way 100 times a day but you only work on thinking positively about yourself 24 times a day, the change will never happen. You would have to think about yourself positively 100 times in order to make any change possible.
4. People don't change: Being pessimistic is one of the biggest obstacles of change. We often don't credit ourselves, or those around us, for their attempts to change and give them advice to try something different. This breaks down our confidence in ourselves. Not many people succeed at change their first time around because we learn new mistakes every time we set out to on our change method. It takes multiple attempts to get things right.
Change fails to be long term if you begin your change process by jumping right in because one does not typically attempt to figure out their awareness and readiness to change. Jumping right in to action will result in temporary change. Some examples of trying change in the action phase is by using rewards (ex: earn $1 every time you go to the gym) or trying to control your environment (ex: avoid going to fast food restaurants). A person needs to evaluate themselves and figure out what is keeping them in their undesirable behavior or state in order to make a substantial and lasting bridge into the action phase of change.
I hope this proves to be helpful to you and gives you more motivation to believe in the change process. I can't wait to explain the different stages more thoroughly in order to help you make some more long term changes on your own. In a few days, I will be posting four statements that the book, "Changing for Good," recommends for you to think through in order to help you better understand what stage you are currently in for the change you want to work through. I''d love to hear comments and feedback!
(As I said before, I am currently using the book "Changing for Good" by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemnte in order to help me articulate change correctly. I would HIGHLY recommend reading this book in its entirety in order to understand the process of change better, as I am only highlighting on portions that I, myself, found useful to my practice and personal change practice.)
Self-talk can be described as having a conversation with yourself. We tend to repeat the same statements to ourselves over and over, which soon become silent messages that we believe as fact and don't even think through the accuracy of anymore. Negative self-talk might look something like this...
"I cannot do anything right."
"I'm so stupid."
"There's no point even trying."
"I'm just don't measure up."
Thinking negatively leads to feeling badly about ourselves and not doing as well when dealing with work, relationships, or school. Negative thinking infects our being and leads us to feeling worthless and increases our anxiety. Pretty soon our brain becomes a pac-man running around searching for the negative statements in order to feed, or provide evidence, to the negative beliefs we are telling ourselves.
If we were to shift our self-talk to more positive statements we would find that we feel better about ourselves and more confident and competent to accomplish things we are faced with. Positive self-talk might sound something like this...
"Nobody is perfect."
"I can try my best, that doesn't mean I have to be the best."
"I will do better if I relax."
Self-talk is a skill. Just like any other muscle in our body, it requires focus to get results we desire. The more effort we put into shifting our thoughts to positive, the easier it becomes over time. We change the pac-man from a negative feeder to a pac-man running around looking to feed off evidence that supports our positive belief, rather than our negatives. When you are feeling discouraged, angry, anxious, or afraid, positive self-talk has a way of alleviating these feelings and replacing them with feelings that are more positive and self-enhancing, rather than self-defeating.
I would encourage you to rehearse and memorize self-talk statements that work well for you so that you have a repertoire to use when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or upset.
Magnifying is a type of thinking that takes away from your confidence and self-esteem. When you magnify, you intensify a problem out of proportion to its actual importance. Minor suggestions become harsh criticism. Slight headaches become a brain tumor. A sore tooth becomes my teeth are falling out. Minor setbacks become cause for despair. A great way to catch yourself magnifying is to pay attention for words like "huge," "impossible," and "overwhelming." The most common phrase is "I can't stand it." Magnifying issues is bad enough, but the reason it takes away from your confidence is because magnifying is typically paired with minimizing. You minimize your ability to deal with the problems you are facing.
The best way to help yourself correct this type of thinking is to remind yourself of the times you have overcome problems and focus on your ability to handle most problems you come across. Attempting to focus on the solution instead of the problem is key! Also, not allowing your emotions to get the best of you. Try asking yourself, "If I had to rate my emotion on a scale of 0 - 100, what would I rate how I feel? Is this an appropriate level of intensity for this type of situation? If I experienced this on a different day in different circumstances, would it be different?"
Do you find yourself thinking thoughts similar to these?
"I could have enjoyed the party, but the food was cold,"
"My car broke down, now the whole day is ruined,"
"I'm struggling to understand a new concept, this always happens, I can't stand it!"
This is another example of thinking in a limited way. Filtering your thoughts could be seen as using tunnel vision. A single detail is picked out, and the entire event or situation is colored by that single detail. Not only does this awfulize your thoughts, but it tends to magnify them, and makes you ignore all the good experiences that may have come along with it. Typical words that are used when filtering or awfulizing are terrible, awful, horrible, horrendous, and "I can't stand it."
Filtering also causes our memory to be selective. If you focus on negative aspects of situations, it stores your memories this way too. You start to flood your mind with evidence to support negative beliefs because of the negatively filtered memories. When your memories are filtered in this way, you skip past positive experiences and dwell only in memories that may leave you angry, anxious, or depressed.
The best way to balance this way of thinking is to shift your focus. First, try to pay attention on your coping strategies of dealing with a problem rather than obsessing about the problem itself. Second, try to focus on the opposite mental theme you find yourself stuck in. For example, if you tend to focus on a theme of not being good enough, instead focus on what you have and do that gives you value and worth.
Good luck and happy thinking!
Mind reading is described as a belief that you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do without them saying so. You believe you have certain knowledge about how people think and feel about you. Not only do we think we know what people are thinking and feeling but we also think we can predict the future.
These thoughts may sound like,
"He's just acting that way because he's jealous."
"She's afraid to show she cares."
"She thinks I'm really immature."
"He's always smiling but I know he doesn't like me."
Our intuitions, hunches, past experiences, and vague misgivings lead us to have certain assumptions about people and situations. This typically leads people to feel misunderstood, unvalued, and can cause conflict where it doesn't need to be. In order to avoid this, slow down and think about the facts. Like the age old saying says, "Never assume. It makes an ass of me and you."
If you find yourself being controlled by food and are ready to take BACK control,
come learn some useful ways to break the cycle and FIGHT BACK!
WHEN: Starts Monday, October 21st @ 6pm
HOW LONG: 8 week class
HOW MUCH: $25 per group meeting or $180 up front (SAVE $20!)
WHAT IS IT: This group will inform you about the common types of struggles, patterns, thinking and emotions that keep us in the cycle. You will learn useful ways to challenge your way of doing things and be inspired to stay on track and take control of your life in a way that it won’t bite back.
*SPACE LIMITED! Contact me if interested in joining the group.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 616-929-0189
How many times do you catch yourself saying things like, "I don't do well in social situations," "I don't like going to the city." "I don't like animals." This type of thinking is called overgeneralized thinking; which means, you store one single negative event in your memory, and then use it to make wide, across-the-board generalizations. It's not ALWAYS bad to think in this way IF you have gathered sufficient evidence to make such a claim. Sometimes, thinking negatively going into a situation can cause the situation to go sour because of a sour attitude. Overgeneralizing is a way for your brain to skip over thinking deeply about what caused frustration, anxiety, fear, or disappointment in a situation. Your brain will create an untrue belief based on a sweeping statement. This type of thinking is MORE likely to cause more frustration, anxiety, fear, and/or disappointment because it is making a negative generalization about your self that usually infects your thinking to make you believe it can span other situations too.
Take control of your thinking by recognizing when you are overgeneralizing and you may realize that your days might start going better because you are giving yourself the benefit of the doubt in situations you have already encountered that may just not have gone well once.
I love this time of year. September is my "happy new year." It may have been the 18 1/2 years of school that make me think of fresh starts in September but I fully embrace and accept it. I enjoy this new year much more than the actual new year. New school supplies. New school clothes. Favorite TV shows returning or new shows beginning. I have created a renewal time for myself in September. Fall is almost easier for me to embrace change because of all the changes happening all around me already. Leaves changing from green to gorgeous yellows, oranges, and reds. The weather changing to the incredibly enjoyable sweatshirts and jeans weather. And the beloved return of pumpkins, apples, and pumpkin spice lattes.
I figure, if I can focus on how positive and beautiful all those other changes are, I might be able to convince myself that my change is going to be positive and "beautiful" as well - which is really an accomplishment in itself because change can sometimes be pretty "messy" in my eyes. The fighting that happens in my head between old habits and new habits seems like a war zone sometimes. My brain definitely is not all about switching from a four lane highway of habit to a dirt road of uncertainty. Fall helps me see that sometimes we fight change too much when it's really such a natural thing of life. (read more here!)