counseling for married couples Los Gatos
The Path to an Amazing Life
by Patrice Wolters, Licensed Psychologist
You can think of your path like a New Trail you are on to cultivate the best version of you with life-lifting habits and resiliency traits. Two issues people all over the world have is stalling (procrastination) and lack of motivation to truly make an effort to bust through to new experiences of you.
With years of experience and a strong mission, I can teach you the skills needed to get on your Trail to Amazing. People starting out on their journey often do not know how far they can go. I want each and every person to get a clear vision of what they want to realize and to dare to think big. In this section, you will learn the four key steps to define and refine over time!
- Identify stuck points, unresolved conflicts, or barriers that may be getting in your way (you may not be stuck, but you may have trouble moving forward). Examples might be trouble setting effective boundaries, bringing up difficult topics with your partner, or some type of depression.
- Formulate motivating and measurable goals. Examples might be increased self-esteem, a flourishing relationship full of intimacy and fun, developing empowerment, or moving from depression to Vitality.
- Develop the skills and habits to achieve your short-term goals. Common skills people learn in my office include: a) learning how to initiate a difficult conversation with their partner; b) learning to listen with empathy so their partner feels understood; and c) learning the habits to bust various types of procrastination and move forward to vitality.
- Celebrate your success – rewarding yourself is an important part of the process. Far too many people think negatively and a crucial life-enhancing habit is to train your brain to: a) slow down; b) recognize your progress and results; and c) praise yourself or decide on some prize (and there are dozens of potential prizes to give yourself). I am not talking abut material things but it might be: “I get to listen to YouTube, watch a super movie, call a friend, or go bargain shopping.” Think of 3 simple bonuses you can give yourself.
As you repeat these steps, you are embarking on the Trail to achieve things you never thought possible. The achievement of your short-term goals leads to the accomplishment of your bigger goals, and the positive energy that comes with developing You and achieving results!
Where Are You Stuck?
While there are multiple ways people can be stuck, here are a few questions to get you thinking:
- Are you overwhelmed by your child or teen who seems to be getting off track?
- Do you have trouble resolving conflicts with your friend, partner or spouse, while you’re feeling distant or resentful?
- Are you regularly feeling misunderstood in a significant relationship due to ineffective communication patterns?
- Do you have a health or mental health challenge (diabetes, lower-back pain, headaches, depression or anxiety) that gets in the way of forward movement?
- Are you stuck in a pattern of mediocre income due to negative money messages from your parents, lack of healthy financial habits, or old beliefs about scarcity?
- Do you have trouble making decisions because of a lack of clarity, a fear of taking risks, or indecisiveness?
- Do you have problems in your marriage that are leading to resentment and a lack of intimacy?
- Do you have difficulties getting things done because of procrastination?
These are just a few of the common places where people feel stuck, and too many people waste valuable time because they are not clear about their core issues. Getting moving requires a clear identification of the problem or issue, which opens the door to a clear, motivating and measurable goal. Most people do not realize it, but a measurable goal is essential to facilitate change. Formulating a goal is a creative process in itself, and I will work with your to find your motivational goal.
Set a Goal
Jack, a certified public accountant, took many months to clarify that he wanted to double his income. He could achieve this goal because he owned his own business, but there were several factors sabotaging his success.
The messages that he got from his parents were: 1) to not be too successful; 2) to live a very average lifestyle; and 3) to not buy the things he felt excited about. As a result, Jack often felt deprived and poor and came to me for success coaching. Jack had to do some personal work to realize that he deserved to live in abundance and that he was not turning his back on his parents by doing so. With some powerful work in the office, Jack made the key shift to realizing he deserved to be successful. With this important shift achieved, Jack was able to settle on the motivating and measurable goal of doubling his income over a three-year period. However, what Jack really wanted was a solid sense of financial security so he could live the life he wanted.
SOME NEW HABITS JACK MADE WITH COACHING
A major habit Jack learned was to think like compassionate rich people, and he regularly practiced new ways of thinking and behaving daily. He learned awareness to catch himself when he was engaging in scarcity thinking and used it as a trigger to practice abundant thinking. Best of all, he learned to view money as a challenge, as he loved a challenge. One year, he also took a course called “The Energy of Money” to help him learn how money works and how to develop positive money habits. He began putting money in his mutual fund weekly and got a good financial counselor to get educated and to get good at the money game.
When Jack finished our work, he was strongly on his New Trail to financial freedom. He loved knowing he was moving toward the lifestyle he wanted, and he felt highly confident and positive. Best of all, Jack realized he could set and accomplish more meaningful goals because he had “gone from a maze to amazing.” He now had days when he was just happy to be alive and felt that his life was a vibrant, beautiful adventure.
Here are some other examples of measurable goals:
- Developing a strong, positive self-esteem
- Reaching a certain weight, such as moving from 145 pounds to the “feel good” weight of 130 pounds
- Purchasing a house, a fabulous outfit, a new car, a great book, a camera, getting yourself a puppy, or taking your family on a trip – anything that gives you a sense of fulfillment
- Overcoming depressive tendencies and becoming motivated and optimistic about life
- Replacing conflict-avoidant patterns with efficient conflict-resolution skills to experience harmony, understanding, and fun
- Developing enjoyable intimacy skills that can lead to a flourishing relationship
- Developing emotional regulation and brain fitness, which lead to higher states of well-being
A wide range of tests are available that can measure the above goals and many others. These goals are global, which means that there are measurable small steps within each overall goal. For example, developing positive self-esteem could involve completing a degree that leads to work you love. Overcoming depressive tendencies could involve exercising for 25 minutes, five days per week.
The above goals are good therapeutic “contract goals,” because each person knows when the goal has been met. I will work with you to set a realistic goal that you feel excited to achieve. If you do not know your goals, we will set a goal of discovering an exciting one for you. It is common for people to not know what they want, and experimentation is the key to finding it.
Learn Some Important Skills
Rosetta and José had been married for 15 years and came to see me for relationship therapy because of their marital issues. In our first meeting, I learned that both of them wanted to have an amazing relationship with a higher level of intimacy and pleasure. They had a solid goal and the motivation to reach it; however, both of them had problems with conflict avoidance. In fact, they described feeling stuck and truly wanted to “go from a maze to amazing.”
José worked long hours to avoid difficult discussions with Rosetta because he felt that most of their conversations turned into fights. He told her that his boss needed him, but she knew it was mostly just an excuse. On the other hand, Rosetta would get defensive whenever José brought up what he perceived as a dull sex life. The central problem in their communication was that José was attacking and critical when they got into their discussions, and Rosetta was highly defensive and kept changing the topic. Sometimes she would break down in sadness and pain. The result was that they both felt misunderstood, and their problems were left hanging because of their impaired habits. This pattern made compromise impossible.
When they came to see me, a lot of resentment had built up and they had not been sexually intimate for months. Fortunately each partner was able to own their part of the problem, which hastened the development of necessary skills and capacities. Rosetta and José both had to learn to do the following:
- Tolerate their own feelings while listening to their partner’s side of the story – this is also called developing emotional muscle. Learning to manage your own feelings while engaged in a conflict is challenging, yet it can make a huge difference in your relationship.
- Ask good questions so they each could have a deep understanding of the other’s side of the story by learning the beliefs and messages that shaped their partner’s position. This can help partners discover aspects of themselves that can motivate positive change.
- Develop the ability to soothe themselves when they felt like engaging in over-reactive behaviors, such as escalating anger, getting defensive, or breaking down into tears.
- Dare to be courageous and speak the truth when they felt like fibbing or wanted to avoid the situation.
- Negotiate with each other reasonably and fairly.
While these skills may appear easy to learn, each one is often a challenge to develop and involves risk-taking, tolerating the possibility of loss, dealing with uncertainty, and learning to persist when one wants to resist. On a positive note, both Rosetta and José were highly motivated. This was partly due to their previously good sexual relationship, which they wanted to get back. With tenacious work they were able to ask good questions, tolerate their feelings, speak truthfully, and negotiate in a relatively short period of time. Remember that relationships are our most precious resource, and with effort and practice you can learn to make your relationship flourish.
Move Forward with Resiliency
Of course, loss, disappointment and rejection are part of life and require us to develop resiliency in order to keep going and actually live exceptional lives. Resiliency is the ability to master the psychological and biological challenges of life. In my work with people, I help them develop the traits of the resilient personality. Resiliency traits overlap with the skills and capacities needed to develop your amazing potential. Several important resilient capacities include:
- A strong and supple sense of self-esteem
- Independence of thought and action, instead of codependency
- A strong sense of responsibility
- A well-established network of personal friends
- A high level of personal discipline
- An openness to new ideas, activities and creativity
For many people, the above traits may actually be goals, and achieving them will help you “get to amazing.” As you develop these traits on your journey to a wonderful life, you will be able to bounce back from the losses and disappointments that are a very normal part of life. Having overcome much adversity in my own life, I can help you develop the attitude it takes to be a fighter. You can learn to believe in yourself and “do way more than you give yourself credit for.” And remember there is hope, there is help and it can be just a phone call away.