Heal Thy-Self: Goal Setting for Self
Darren Hopgood, MBACP NCS, child counsellor, adult carer support counsellor, online counsellor
As my dissertation word count is not increasing in any way, and my deadline getting closer and closer, and the realisation that I am getting less present-motivated and more future-anxious, I needed help. While the storm outside kept me awake, and counselling videos playing on YouTube blurred into one, the thought was, ‘No amount of my planning has helped get this “£$”£$^&* thing done!’ It dawned on me, ‘Why don’t I just write out a Goals Form and explore this the way I would explore it with a client? I have done this with Albert Ellis’s ‘ABC’ forms while in training, and I found it useful: not only to help myself but to help me really get to grips using it with clients.
I got out of bed, went downstairs into my home office, found my counselling bag, and got out a Goals Form that I use with face to face clients when out of the office. I sat down and wrote my goal, which was ‘Finish my dissertation by 20/05/20.’ I am two-thirds through it but stumbling on the last straight. I don’t think it is a too big or complex a goal, not like, ‘Write one hundred bestselling books and revolutionarise counselling and psychotherapist work forever.’ So, I think this is a good starting point.
For me, in my typical essay planning stage, I first list the questions I want to ask, and then as I research these question I start to add the answers (later edit). So at this stage, I had the questions. The necessary information answered already in a basic way, at least. So my second goal was ‘Expand by 500 (min) words “what is imposter syndrome/phenomenon”‘ (my dissertation topic). I have done the research, and I have a fundamental framework and a list of source references already written out, so five hundred words is not a massive goal to achieve at this stage. For myself, I judged how far I have come on this question and ticked off ‘4’ on the Goals Form attainment scale. As I worked through I ticked off the next number until I reached ‘6’, then ‘7’ when I rewrote and edited this section.
Having written this out and built an internal rationale behind my goal, I completed a little over five-hundred words, rewrote and edited before what I have done today, all before 8am. With a happy flourish, I ticked of ‘7’ and put a smiley face next to its rectangle. Enjoying the focus of the goal setting and on a slight relief-high from being blocked for too long in writing the darn thing, I sat down and started to write this blog, though in the back of my mind I am half thinking Goal 3: ‘Expand on psychoeducational use in counselling for imposter syndrome.’
The choice is now: ‘Do I just chill for an hour after writing this and start on my next question?’ ‘Do I close word and let myself ruminate on the next question?’, or ‘Do I reread the research I have done and let my imagination run to where it is going to go when writing it down on paper?’ Looking at how I tend to learn and to work I realise that any one of these options at this stage are all viable options. After all, my self-care routine is screaming at me that it is Sunday: Sunday is mindless TV and video game day, least till this bad weather lasts.
I chuckled a little bit to myself, ‘You are a pluralistic counsellor, look at your options, listen to your emotions, and formulate your forward-moving action plan!’ So, I have decided: Sunday is my self-care day, self-care to me is achieving something to quieten my thoughts and feelings, do something mindless, do something else mindfully. This kind of pattern works for me. So, ‘Work on my dissertation…’ tick; ‘Write this…’ almost ticked; achievement phase ticked off; ‘Binge-watch some more “Arrow Season Two”‘–my mindless stage– still pending; ‘Listen to some more of the “shelter of stones” by Jean M. Auel while having a bubble bath, use the lavender wash and bath salt for this…’ still pending.
Ironically as I write this, I realised I should maybe tick off ‘Stop writing out a forward-moving action plan for every moment of my day off!’