As a psychotherapist and career/life coach who has specialized working with gay men for over 20 years, much of my work involves helping my clients get what they want in life. But how do you KNOW what you really want? Some of my work with clients, at least at first, involves identifying the goals that are most important to them.
Sometimes a way to identify what you really want, is to know what you don’t want, and then think about its opposite. This is an exercise used by some psychotherapists, which is called the “Clarity through Contrast” worksheet. I’ve done this with myself, and also with my clients. It might be fun for you to try:
Take a sheet of paper (or create a fresh Word document online), and make a table with three columns, and about a dozen rows. At the top of the columns, write/type headings for “What I Don’t Wan’t”, “What I Want”, and “Core Value”.
First, start writing down the rows what you don’t want – in a relationship, job, new home, friend, or just life in general. What peeves you? What are you currently “tolerating” in your life that is a source of annoyance, frustration, sadness, or stress?
Second, across the row from the thing you listed that you don’t want, write its opposite. For example, if you wrote “Job Too Busy” in your first column, maybe its opposite is “More Free Time” in the second column.
Last, in the third column, think about what “Core Value” the contrast represents. Maybe the Core Value you’re going for , after “Job Too Busy” and “More Free Time”, is “Work-Life Balance.”
Let’s try another example, such as a medical condition. The first column, what you don’t want, could be “Itchy Rash on Neck.” In the second column, its opposite is, “Clear Healthy Skin.” The third column, the Core Value being served, could be “Taking Care of Myself Medically.”
When you complete about 12 rows of doing this, take a look at the Core Values column. These will give you a sense of the things that serve as guideposts for your life, from which your work, leisure activities, relationships, and other things will flow.
What are your “Core Values”? Here are some of mine, which guide both my personal and professional lives:
1. Continuous Personal Growth Across the Lifespan/Healthy Aging
2. Realizing Your Full Potential/Productivity
4. Achieving Justice after Injustice
5. Healing After Challenges
6. Creative Expression
7. Self-Love and Self-Acceptance
8. Appreciation for Beauty/Esthetics/Balance/Delight
9. Compassion for Others (people, animals, environment)
10. Prosperity with Ethics
11. Social Interaction/Engagement
When you have a clear idea of your Core Values, you gain increased insight into who you are as a person. You realize more fully what your purpose in life is, and what’s important to you. Your core values might differ from your partner, spouse, parents, siblings, children, colleagues, or bosses. They are your own. And since they come from your thoughts and feelings, they are genuine and specific to your authentic self.
What do you do with this knowledge? It can apply to a lot of things: what you do for your life’s work. How you spend your leisure time. The changes that you have to make in your life. The “house-cleaning” of life you might have to do. The agenda for behavioral change that you might have to embrace.
When you live life with a clear idea of what you want, and what your Core Values are, you are embracing concepts of Optimal Living, and an increased quality of life, with you being self-empowered and more fulfilled than ever before. It’s a noble goal: Go for it!
If you want help with sorting out your feelings, about your stressors, their opposites, and your core values, talk with someone about it. This often can be a function and purpose of your own counseling/therapy/coaching. If you want assistance with your specific list, I’m here to help. Call/text my cell at 310-339-5778, or email me (Ken@GayTherapyLA.com) for more information.