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How to Harness a Strengths-Based Approach to Reach Your Goals in the New Year

How to Harness a Strengths-Based Approach to Reach Your Goals in the New Year

How to Harness a Strengths-Based Approach to Reach Your Goals in the New Year

Using The Strengths-Based Approach

The start of a new year can be full of hope and promise, and the idea of starting over — particularly in a new decade — can fill some with excitement and others with dread. If you’ve ever experienced the act of overpromising to yourself and underdelivering on your goals, you’re certainly not alone.

While New Year’s resolutions are intended to motivate us and improve our lives, they can also make us focus on all the things we are not. Let’s face it, eating healthier, losing 15 pounds, joining a book club, going back to school, and having a REAL savings account (Hello new home, 2025!) sure sounds exciting but how do you actually do it all? Is it even possible to start chasing after new goals with your already busy work/social/family life schedule?

The thing is, we often wait and wait and wait to get started on our goals or give up early on our New Year’s resolutions because we get lost focusing on what we consider to be our “downfalls”. We hinder our progress before even starting. 

I have some good news for you today. This year, 2020, is YOUR year. Here’s why! In my work as a life coach and individual therapist, I like to take a Strengths-Based Approach to help my clients reach their personal goals and I’m sharing it with you today! In this article I am going to be talking about:

  1. What is the Strengths-Based Approach?
  2. Why is the Strengths-Based Approach successful time and time again?
  3. Who is the Strengths-Based Approach For (hint: YOU! And here’s why…)?
  4. How you can start using the Strengths-Based Approach today, and practical tips for getting started!

Everything You Need To Know About The Strengths-Based Approach

What is the Strengths-Based Approach?

Focusing on one’s strengths falls under the Positive Psychology umbrella, and essentially entails focusing on your internal strengths and resourcefulness. This inherently begins building a more positive mindset and can help increase resilience.

How often do you sit and think of your positive qualities? In the hustle and bustle of daily life, my guess is…NEVER. Our brains are wired to watch out for danger and to identify patterns, and our brains tend to pay more attention to negative information than positive information. We might not notice every time we do something successfully, but we sure do notice if we mess up. 

Many people might feel like focusing on your good qualities is being self-centered or arrogant, but I’m going to call BS on that one. It is extremely important to be able to articulate what we like about ourselves. This is a key component of self-worth and self-love, and is something we are pushed to think about as children but not as much as adults. 

Here is where the Strength-Based Approach comes into play. Thinking about our strengths involves considering what we are good at or what is already going well in our lives.

I like using a Strengths-Based Approach with my coaching and therapy clients because it starts a dialogue around how we feel about ourselves and our self-esteem. If you find yourself struggling to think of anything you do well or like about yourself, this is a huge indication that your self-esteem is in need of a tune-up. Focusing on the positive aspects of ourselves has the potential to be transformational, starting with how we feel about ourselves. 

Why is the Strengths-Based Approach Successful Time and Time Again?

When we are solely focused on the ‘problem’ or what we want to change, we can self-sabotage ourselves by failing to recognize what we are already good at, and how that can help us! 

Every time we remind ourselves of our good qualities and the ways we feel we excel, we get a little boost of those feel-good hormones and brain reactions. It sounds simple, but it’s true. Being positive and focusing on the good can make us happier. Focusing on what is going wrong or on our negative qualities can make change seem impossible and overwhelming. Instead, start focusing on your inner strengths, resourcefulness, and resilience. This way of thinking can create hope and confidence to push on, especially when the going gets tough. Another reason the Strengths-Based Approach is successful is because it can generate long-standing change in how you think about yourself, others, and life events. Looking for the positives and strengths within yourself and others turns into a habit, and eventually won’t need conscious effort.

Focusing on your strengths is about cultivating a positive mindset, and recognizing the resources and resilience you already possess within. Honing in on what you do well can open up possibilities and new strategies that may never have occurred to you if you’re steeped in ‘the problem’, and can open your mind to creative new solutions to try.

Creating a more positive mindset can empower you to push through the difficult times, and even increase your confidence. This occurs as a key part of the Strengths-Based Approach in the idea of resilience, or being able to “bounce back” from difficult times. Resilience also includes being able to overcome obstacles and cope with them, and realizing your own resilience that you possess is extremely powerful. 

You might not believe that you are a resilient person, but you absolutely are and I have proof! You have survived and made it through the difficulties of life thus far. You are here. Now take a moment to reflect on how you did that. Were you able to handle stress well to see a problem through? Were you able to access resources or help from family and friends? Maybe it was your drive and determination that helped you get through those long hours at work and school without giving up. Either way, this aspect of your strengths is essential for building up self-esteem and confidence.

Utilizing your strengths can better connect you to your identity and remind you of who you are, while also building up your self-worth. 

Realizing your self-worth and recognizing your strengths helps your relationships too, such as through enforcing boundaries when needed and helping others realize their strengths as well.

Who is the Strengths-Based Approach For (hint: YOU! And here’s why…)?

Whether your goal is to create healthier habits, improve your relationships, or move up in your job, your strengths can help you get there! No matter the goal and even if your strengths don’t seem related to it, it is all connected and the common denominator here is you.

Since a common New Year’s resolution is weight loss, let’s use that as an example to see how this approach works. If someone feels that a strength of theirs is being kind, we can use that to help them be successful in their weight loss goals. I know what you’re thinking, how can being nice or kind help someone lose weight? Well first, what is being kind? A part of it is being nice, but other parts of kindness might be being considerate, thoughtful, and supportive. 

Instead of using negative self-talk to bully oneself into not eating certain foods or using other “punishing” tactics, why not use kindness to lift yourself up? Kindness in this scenario might be giving yourself grace or compassion if you slip up, but also setting yourself up for success through creating realistic expectations for yourself

Setting yourself up for success might be meal planning for the week, preparing healthy meals or snacks before the work week starts, and going to bed at a reasonable time so you have energy to exercise. You wouldn’t expect someone to jump into a new task without proper preparation and do it perfectly, so why put that on yourself?

Kindness might be having daily mantras of gratitude for how hard our body works and what it does for us every day, and letting that guide our thoughts and behaviors rather than focusing on what our body isn’t or what we want it to be. Kindness could be changing our view on food and nourishment, and wanting to be kind to our bodies through nourishing it with the food it needs and is good for us. 

How you can start using the Strengths-Based Approach today, and practical tips for getting started!

Okay dear reader, here is my advice to you on how to get started harnessing your strengths for success in the New Year! 

Start by sitting with a notepad and paper, and really think a minute about the things you love and value about yourself. Think about the things that have helped you in life thus far, what you think is a strength and sets you apart from others. Write these things down, and then also write out a goal. If you have multiple goals, do one at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself. 

Now look at your strengths and goal together and see where there is overlap, and put your creative thinking cap on to see how you can use your strengths to help you reach that goal! 

If one of your strengths is being friendly and you want to advance in your career, consider reaching out to a mentor or supervisor about grabbing lunch or offer to buy them a coffee to pick their brain about an idea you have. Connect with this person and tell them about your goal, and how you would appreciate some extra support from them in that. I think you see where I am going with this, and the goal and strength combos could be endless. Don’t be afraid to be creative, as you possess the tools and power to create the life that you want! 

Five Practical Tips to the Strengths-Based Approach

#1 Make a gratitude list of things you are grateful for about yourself

#2 Start practicing self-compassion

#3 Set yourself up for success: create a plan, write it down, and leave it somewhere you can see it

#4 Create realistic expectations

#5 When you slip up (yes I said when, because it is only a matter of time before we slip up or miss a goal and that is OKAY people) do not engage in negative self-talk, and remember all the things you successfully did that day or week. There will be times we slip up, the point is to not let that make us give up but to keep going.

Here’s to a happy and successful new year!
Josephine Marin M.S., MFTC

 

 

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

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How To Get Your S**t Together When You Feel Overwhelmed

How To Get Your S**t Together When You Feel Overwhelmed

How To Get Your S**t Together When You Feel Overwhelmed

Re-Set and Re-Focus

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your life? Like you have so much to do and you’re always busy, but also like you’re not actually getting things done? This is incredibly stressful, and yet so many people are struggling with it: Especially conscientious, hardworking and responsible types. Many of my life coaching clients meet this description, yet here’s a a surprising thing: Ironically, even though they are the ones who are often viewed by others as being the MOST competent and productive, many secretly feel on the inside like they are failing.

How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

In our life coaching sessions I hear words like, “spiraling,” “drowning,” and “completely overwhelmed.” These amazing people are pushing themselves to exhaustion, feeling mentally and emotionally depleted, and continuing to heap more and more on themselves. Because it is not literally possible to do it all, they feel like they’re dropping balls in every direction. Their anxiety builds, their stress levels spike, and they start to feel out of control.

How about you? Can you relate?

This is SUCH a common experience, especially for slightly perfectionistic superstars. If this is a familiar feeling for you too, you’ve probably also tried the standard advice for getting it together: Making lists! Scheduling things! Organizing your home differently! Decluttering!

So why do you still feel crazed?

It’s because the issue is not actually about what you’re doing, and it never was. It’s about how you’re thinking and feeling about what you’re doing. Once you learn how to manage your thoughts and feelings differently, stress fades, calm control comes back, and things get done.

Getting “More Organized” Isn’t Going to Cut It

While this sounds easy, the struggle to do a hard reset on your approach to life and so that you can feel calm, centered, in control and genuinely productive is a real one. As a therapist, life coach (and human being who struggles with the same things) I’ve learned over the years that the path to real and lasting change is not about the latest productivity hack or organizational system, but rather a personal growth process that puts you back in contact with your authentic self — and then changes the relationship that you have with yourself. (Really!)

At the start of our work together, my hard-driving clients often have not yet come to terms with the fact that they are actually mortals like the rest of us, and that there are limits to what they can do. They are trying to do it all, often comparing themselves to others, and feeling like they’re doing nothing well. Things sometimes do start slipping though the cracks. People work faster, harder and more. They try new systems. But the harder they work, the less they get done.

Hardcore perfectionists hate hearing this, but it’s my duty as a therapist and life coach who is devoted to your wellbeing to say this anyway. The answer is not figuring out some “hack” to stuff more stuff into less time, or clone yourself: It’s about learning how to approach life (and yourself) in a more intentional, compassionate, reality-based, and mindful way.

Or not, and slide into the predictable consequences.

Burnout Is Real (And Awful)

Sometimes, if you don’t catch yourself soon enough, and keep pushing and working and going, you can develop a full-fledged case of burnout. Think about it this way: If overwhelm is the waterslide burnout is the pool that you land into at the end of the ride. If you don’t make a change — a real, lasting change that attends to the core issues of chronic stress and overwhelm — burnout is the final destination.

Real, clinical burnout is an experience akin to depression: People feel apathetic, they have no motivation, and feel exhausted even thinking about tackling the “to dos.” Then things start piling up for real, and the process of digging out needs to happen on every level: Physically, mentally, emotionally, AND in terms of all of the stuff that still needs to get done.

It takes a long time to bounce back from burnout. Better not to go there at all, honestly. By listening to what your emotional guidance system is telling you and taking your feelings of overwhelm and stress seriously, you can get back on track before you slide into burnout.

How to Get Your S**t Together, and Back In Control

“Okay Lisa,” you’re probably thinking, “Sure, sounds good. But how exactly do you propose that I do everything I need to do (so much!) and also stay balanced, calm and healthy?”

I’m here for you: Because so many people struggle with this, I’ve devoted a whole podcast episode to sharing my top tips for how to understand WHY you feel overwhelmed (knowledge is power) and then walking it back into a state of calm, focused control. Join me on this episode, to learn about:

  • What types of core belief and approaches to life lead to feelings of overwhelm
  • How perfectionism and over achievement is correlated with being LESS successful
  • How stress leads to anxiety (and too much anxiety leads to paralysis)
  • The type of mindset that helps you do more (and feel happier at the same time)
  • How to recognize when you’re spiraling into burnout and how to stop it
  • How to do a “hard reset” on overwhelm
  • How to get reconnected to your true values, goals and priorities
  • What to focus on first if you’re spiraling
  • Strategies to help you identify and focus on what is truly important (and say buh-bye to the rest)
  • Surprising tips and tricks to relax your body and mind, and enter a state of focused productivity

All for YOU, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: I mentioned a number of resources in this program. Here are some links:

 

 

 

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How to Get Your S**t Together When You Feel Overwhelmed

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Four Tips To Inspire Change

Four Tips To Inspire Change

Four Tips To Inspire Change

Take Action Today

It’s always the right time to make positive changes in your life. When I think about the times I’ve felt most inspired to make changes was when I was sick of my current behavior. I tell my life coaching clients often that the pain of staying the same has to outweigh the pain of change. So why is it so hard to begin the process and stay the course? We lack inspiration and healthy habits that keep us focused and seeing results. Here are four tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine to keep you moving forward.

Take Daily Time To Dream 

Take 5 minutes per day, say 3 times per week to start. Just journal or allow yourself to let your mind wander to bigger things. What does it feel like to step off the plane and see that destination you’ve been wanting to visit your whole life? See yourself in the mirror with that amazing dress you saw last week. Do you picture a board room with all faces fixed on you as you deliver a kick-ass presentation? Whatever it is, picture every detail using all 5 senses. Your brain can’t differentiate if it’s your imagination or if it is actually happening. That means you can enjoy all the pleasure hormones running through your system without having to do anything but dream. 

Remove Barriers

If you’re anything like me, you have a long to-do list always breathing down your neck. I am an expert procrastinator and I will wait to do something until I absolutely have to. This drains so much mental energy. It’s there, you know it is, and you’re not doing anything about it. Write down all the things rolling through you mind that have to get done and start with the easiest, less complicated thing first. I love checking things off my list. It helps me feel like I’m making progress. You get your power back when you start accomplishing small tasks that usually steal your joy, energy, and present mindedness. 

Set Daily Intentions

I took on this new discipline and I LOVE it! I get out my journal for 2 minutes at the beginning of the day and write “I’m intending to do ___ today”. I then list out all the things I want to accomplish that day. It may be as simple as drinking 4 bottles of water or putting together an outline for a book. I write things on there that I know I can do (easy) and one or two more challenging items to push me forward. 

Empowerment Journal

At the end of the night, I write myself a love letter. I know, cheesy, but it works! I tell myself how much I accomplished, and the things I did that I’m proud of. I write about being inspired and my focus, as well as the moments that I loved about the day. Many of us need verbal affirmation of the things we do, and we often hardly get it. You can do this for yourself and it will change you to your core. There is nothing more inspiring than being your own cheerleader. You’ll then feel more inspired to cheer others on instead of focusing on what others are doing that you’re not or have that you don’t. 

Nothing changes unless you change the things you do daily. Do you have a daily practice that keeps you focused and intentional? Share it with us in the comments section! 

Kindly, 
Sonya Jensen M.A., LMFT

Sonya Jensen, M.A., LMFT is a kind, effective marriage counselor, couples therapist, premarital counselor, dating coach, life coach, and breakup counselor, who is devoted to helping you create the life and love you want.

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How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

Can You Love Yourself, No Matter What?

Self-love is much harder for many people than it is for them to be unconditionally loving and compassionate with others. It is much easier to pick yourself apart, ruthlessly, for all your failures and imperfections than it is to be your own ally, your own cheerleader, and your own source of strength and compassion.

Why is it so hard to love yourself? Often, it’s due to a deep and enduring core narrative that is rooted in shame and criticism, particularly early in life. Over the years as a therapist and life coach, and talking with hundreds of people about this issue, (and making this topic a primary focus of The Happiness Class) I have come to the conclusion that difficulty with self-love, and harboring feelings of unworthiness are largely due to the negative automatic thoughts, and the negative “stories” that people started to tell themselves about themselves as children and teens.

Why It’s So Hard To Love Yourself

The proclivity we all have to beat ourselves up is often simply an unhappy byproduct of the psychology of children. Children are, inherently, narcissistic in the sense that they only know their own experience and have limited insight into why other people behave the way they do, or the larger context of situations. Because of this, when kids experience shaming, criticism, rejection or hostility from peers or parents (but especially peers) it boils down to one central takeaway: “I’m bad / wrong / unlovable / unlikeable” and they carry that message into adulthood with them.

Can you relate?

How Difficulty Loving Yourself Impacts Your Life

If you, like many, have a hard time accepting yourself and feeling generally good about who you are, it may negatively impact many areas of your life.  Not being able to love yourself is damaging to your other relationships is because when you struggle with beliefs of low self-worth you don’t feel okay inside of yourself. This makes you look to other people for affirmation and acceptance in order to feel good about you. Or, you might start linking your intrinsic “goodness” to other things, like what you achieve, how you look, how much money you earn, what you weigh, etc.

This can turn into a roller coaster of chasing perfection that you can never quite attain. You might work so hard to do everything “right,” and drive yourself into exhaustion attempting to prove to yourself and others that you really are good enough as evidenced by all the amazing things you’re doing. [For more on this, read “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

The truth is that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. If you strive, you will fail sometimes. As a fellow human, you are just as imperfect as the rest of us. Not everyone will like you, much less love you. A lot of living is not really that fabulous, just the day-to-day slog of adulting, interspersed by peak moments that may feel long in between. You will occasionally make bad decisions. You might even get fired or laid off. Time will come for you, too, changing your body, the way you look, and eventually, your mind.

Life is a mixed bag, and things are going to happen. But when your feelings of self worth hinge upon achievements and how you’re viewed in the eyes of others (because you struggle do it yourself) it puts you in a precarious position, emotionally and psychologically.

How Difficulty Loving Yourself Impacts Your Relationships

While struggling to love yourself seems like it would only impact the primary target (you), it does impact others too. Here’s why: As we have discussed, people who really, fundamentally don’t feel good about themselves on the inside must look to others for affirmation, acceptance, and positive regard to regulate themselves. They often need a constant stream of praise and validation from other people in order to feel okay about themselves.

When their partners turn out to be fellow humans who also have complex needs, rights and feelings, (and complaints! and get upset sometimes too!) people who struggle with low self-worth often feel anxious, criticized, and unloved. When their partner can’t always be kind and patient and overtly loving and approving of them, they tend to fall apart and get pretty anxious and even angry.

Because they are unable to support themselves emotionally from the inside out when their partners are upset with them or needing something from them, their partner not being okay feels very threatening to them. It is not uncommon for people who struggle to love themselves to be emotionally reactive, lashing out at their partners, or withdrawing emotionally from relationships as a form of self protection.

Furthermore, because people with low self-worth will often twist themselves into knots to be pleasing if not perfect, they can struggle with authenticity and vulnerability. Because they struggle to love themselves, and worry they’re not good enough, they fear that if people really get to know them they will be rejected. This can make them withhold their true thoughts and feelings from others, and make them feel like they need to maintain a “perfect” facade that, while helping them feel safer, truthfully deprives them of the ability to connect on a deep level with others.

In other, even sadder situations, people who struggle to love themselves can find themselves in bad relationships with people who do not treat them well at all. People with low self-worth may wind up staying in these toxic relationships for too long, because the criticism, shaming, and bullying they experience with their partner matches the abusive inner dialogue they have inside of themselves. It’s difficult for them to believe that they deserve better, and they have a hard time leaving the toxic relationship they feel stuck in. [More on this: “How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity”]

How to Love Yourself Unconditionally

Healing these wounds and developing authentic self-love and self-worth is a process, not a decision or an event.

People are damaged by experiences and in relationships with others, and they are healed by experiences and in relationships with others. The first step in being able to love yourself is often to cultivate a supportive, unconditionally positive relationship with a great therapist who is able to be emotionally safe and affirming. This emotionally safe relationship creates the crucible whereby the person who struggles with low self worth can finally feel safe and accepted enough to begin revealing their true selves and the old core beliefs about themselves that they’ve been carrying.

Over the months, sometimes years, this precious, fragile person and their therapist can begin to question some of those beliefs (carefully, so as not to trigger too much self criticism and shame) and explore — from an adult perspective — the fact that there may have been other explanations for their life experiences besides their being inherently bad and unworthy of love. They can begin to create a new narrative about themselves and new core beliefs that include a deep sense of security, rooted in the fact that they are actually good people, worthy of love and respect… and they always have been.

Self Love = Emotional Strength

Over time, healing happens. People working through low self-worth often need to process a great deal of anger and pain in later stages of healing. But in doing so, they begin the process of learning how to validate themselves. They begin unhooking their sense of self-worth from how other people view them, as well as their achievements. They acquire the ability to decide, for themselves, that they deserve to be angry when mistreated, and that they have the right to set boundaries.

Most importantly, they develop the ability to internalize a self-supporting inner dialogue that coaches them through challenging moments and reminds them of their inherent worthiness even when other people are upset with them, when they fail, or are not as perfect as they’d like to be. Through the development of this self-supporting adult core, they become able to finally feel okay about themselves and emotionally stable no matter what is going on around them. They develop self-compassion, the ability to forgive themselves, and often start practicing good self-care. They become able to assertively advocate for themselves, make healthy decisions, and not fall apart when other people aren’t mirroring admiration back at them.

As they become more self-stabilizing, their relationships stabilize. Over time, this creates a positive spiral up where they start feeling good about themselves, and genuinely have a great life and healthy relationships — all of which supports the new narrative they internalize that says, “See? You are worthy of love and respect.”

The path is long and hard, but so, so worth it.

If my sharing this perspective has resonated with you, I sincerely hope that you seek the support of a great therapist who can be a safe person for you as you embark upon this journey of growth and healing. You deserve it.

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: When you read this article it may have made you think not of yourself, but of someone else in your life. If so, I hope you share this with them so that these words might provide them with clarity and direction, as well as hope and affirmation. On behalf of them, thank you for supporting their growth and personal evolution…. LMB

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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