Goal Setting – Revisited

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on August 29, 2011 12:00 pm

So, I didn’t quite finish the last entry completely.  Implications of my mountain climbing experience in counseling?  I think the most important thing I wanted to express and what really struck me during the climb was just how impactful the “chatter” that goes on in the conscious mind can be to achieving personal goals.  I trust, as therapists, that we already know that, but to be aware of the chatter myself perhaps gives me a better understanding of how debilitating it can be to our clients. 

The other thought that had exemplifies a belief that I have had for some time now.  I talked a lot about setting appropriate SMART goals as an important element of the counseling interaction; however, I do also realize that if you spend all your time looking for/reaching for/intensely focused on the end goal;  the summit of the mountain (just to carry this metaphor on further), there is the risk of not relishing in the moment.  I found, during the climb that although the breaks were necessary to prevent me from passing out, or from stumbling over the rocks, I sure enjoyed the moments to stop along the way and look around; to build a small inookshook, to snap a picture, or whatever. 

The completion of a goal lasts only a brief moment.  The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.  Somewhere between those two moments is the climb.  Helping our clients set their sights on a goal is important, but so is helping them realize that it is a process that they can be aware of.  Clients can know that there will be distractions or challenges that may take a person off track a bit or a lot.  They can also take some understanding of the control they have within themselves simply by being meta-aware of the process.  They can notice they are off track, be curiously scientific about the process, then simply, without judgment, return to the path. In fact, the journey may be more important to the actual achievement of the final goal.  Evaluation of this process has forced me to understand that my goal was not to reach the summit of the mountain, but to simply climb.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

0 comments on “Goal Setting – Revisited”

  1. SS says:

    As a relatively new Psychologist, I have sometimes struggled with finding the right balance between working toward a particular goal, but also being able to focus on the “climb” if sessions fall off track in some way.

    My career initially started with volunteering for a crisis intervention/suicide hotline, where the focus was on identifying the crisis, de-escalating the situation, setting goals (short and long term), and connecting callers with community resources. Several years later, when I first started seeing clients on a longer-term basis in a private practice setting, I often felt at a loss — it was challenging for me to work with clients whose goals were not necessarily immediate. If sessions strayed from *the goal*, I became anxious myself, and rather than staying with my client and exploring this new path, I’d constantly be thinking to myself, “okay, so, how can I bring this back to what we’re actually supposed to be working on and talking about?”

    I now feel much more comfortable in allowing sessions to naturally unfold and to trust in the process of therapy rather than being hyper-focused on the end-goal. I embrace the “distractions and challenges” as factors that are a natural (perhaps even expected) component in my clients’ journey to self-discovery and that can be openly explored.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking and insightful article. 🙂

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