Perhaps my impending 50th birthday, as well as the soon to be high school graduation of my first born, have me thinking about my life worth living (LWL) goals. DBT is based on the premise that therapeutic goals are not complete until a client has built their LWL. Clients who perpetually attempt suicide or engage in self-harming / maladaptive behaviors cannot achieve their LWL. One of my initial treatment goals is to support my clients in figuring out what their LWL looks like, fully and whole heartedly. During initial treatment, when hope seems hopeless, I like to remind my clients of their LWL goals. In many instances, I hold tight their dreams and goals when they are unable to do so for themselves.
When a client begins therapy, they frequently fluctuate between self-harming / maladaptive behaviors and the resultant behavioral consequences of such actions. Many clients feel hopeless, disconnected, empty, demoralized, and depressed. A large part of my initial therapy work is to focus on symptom and harm reduction and build commitment toward LWL goals. I am a strong believer that purpose motivates behavior change and a lack of such purpose breeds depression and anxiety. Attuning to one’s LWL allows clients to dream, and I encourage them to dream BIG. Establishing LWL goals also helps to organize therapy sessions as we begin to notice what thoughts, feelings, choices, and reactions derail us from living our best lives.
I think it is important to note that our LWL goals fluctuate throughout the course of our lives. In DBT skills group, we have clients examine whether they are living a value based life. Are they clear about what is important to them at their given stage of life? Are they engaging in behaviors consistent with these values? If not, we examine how they can close this gap. For instance, if someone desires a stable relationship but cannot dedicate time to this endeavor, we begin by looking at their priorities and demands in order to evaluate whether they are dedicating time to activities that are not as important or fulfilling.
In therapy, it is important to help clients understand what emotional blocks and barriers prohibit them from moving toward their LWL. Core beliefs such as, “I am not deserving” or “It doesn’t matter, I will never achieve this goal anyways” not only fuel mood disorders but impede any possibility of building a LWL. Many clients are unaware that these negative beliefs are even operating or impacting important life decisions. Bringing mindful awareness to our belief system ultimately gives us power and choice to make necessary behavioral changes.
So, as I embark on the next decade of my own life, I am clear that my LWL includes lots of time with family and friends while continuing to work hard AND play hard (which always includes exploring new cultures and traveling to exciting places). I challenge you to take a moment to reflect on your LWL goals too!