Welcome back everyone! Today, I want to look at one of my favorite old points from a slightly different direction than usual. We talk a lot here on the blog about the dangers of expectations, and how bad goals for the future can place us in a state of chronic stress. But I’m quick to add that of course, one still plans, and there is such a thing as good goals. Today, I’d like to discuss what these look like.

There’s a little test I like to use with many of my clients to determine how our time would best be spent, which I call the genie question. It starts with a simple question: imagine that a genie appears before you and grants you a single wish. You can wish for anything at all, and it will happen, just as you want. There are only two catches: this is the only wish you’ll ever receive, and you have to make it in the next ten seconds. Go ahead and close your eyes, your 10 seconds start now…

Done? Okay, now most people—in fact, around 98% of people—give an external circumstance as their answer. They want more money, a better job, a health problem healed, or someone in their life to start or stop acting in a certain way. Mine was money the first time. The reason none of these are good goals is because, first, they are not truly under your control. You can’t fully control your health, or how others act, or what the economy will yield for you. Second, that’s not really what you want anyway. Ask yourself these follow-ups: if you got your wish, how would it change the circumstances of your life? What would be different? Now, if you got those changed circumstances, how would you feel? What would be the internal change?

I believe that it is your answer to the last question, the internal change, that you really want. And that much is under your control. Circumstances can make it more difficult, certainly, but they can’t actually stop you from changing your outlook or your attitude.

I have said before that humility is simply believing the truth about yourself. I might now add that good goals—a good drive, you might say—are a matter of believing the truth about your wants and needs. We need love, community, our basic needs met… and that’s about it, really. I wouldn’t claim that it’s easy, but it is simple.

We tend to get our ideas about what we need—or even stranger, what we should have—from all sorts of places other than that basic truth. From our friends and parents, from the culture in which we live, from things we’ve had before and now feel that we must maintain or be seen as a failure. I think some of the best advice I can give is not to allow these expectations to accrete. Clear them out, the same way you might clear detritus out of a gutter.

Have a blessed, wonderful day!

Dr. Alex Loyd


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