Forcing Yourself To Make Progress On Your Outer Goals Vs. Working On The Core Baggage Holding You Back

When you're trying to work past your mental health and social struggles, whether by yourself or with the help of a therapist, here are two broad approaches you can take:

  1. Use various hands-on strategies to make yourself do the behaviors that move you toward your real life goals, even if you feel uncomfortable or your heart isn't in it as you go after them.
  2. Focus on resolving the root of your anxiety, insecurities, depression, or whatnot.

Of course, it's not really an either-or choice. In practice most people try to make themselves go after their outer goals as much as they're able, and either try to work on their deeper scars at the same time, or only begrudgingly dive into those waters when their real world progress hits a snag.

Here are more thoughts on each approach. Nothing I'm going to say is mind blowing, but it's something you should be aware of as you work on your own problems, so you can make conscious decisions about where you'll put your energy, rather than stumble along. It's similar to knowing whether any one treatment method you use is trying to suppress your surface-level symptoms or truly heal your core wounds.

Using various methods to make yourself take action on your outer goals

Here are some examples of situations where someone could use this angle:

Some tools for making yourself bulldoze forward:

If nothing else, if you can pull off this approach and achieve your tangible goals, your outer life will be better. If you're going to be anxious, insecure, or depressed for the foreseeable future, it may as well be while you have friends, are able to travel, have a better job, and so on.

Though ideally in the process of forcing yourself toward your goals, you'll end up addressing your core mental blocks. Like maybe by making yourself meet people you'll have some positive social experiences, and your conviction that you're dull and unlikable starts to crumble. Or by making yourself search for a new job, in the process you'll realize you have a lot to offer, then feel happier about your career once you've ended up in a new company.

Whether this happens depends on each individual and the factors underlying their struggles. One person may be able to get over their social or flying anxiety as they push themselves to take outer action. Another may progress to a point where they can function better, but their core fears haven't shifted much.

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A few reasons people are often drawn to this approach

The wall

Like I said, in practice many people start by trying to achieve as much as they can in real life. Some accomplish everything they set out to do, and see no need to try to address their deeper wounds. The rest hit a wall at some point. Even if they believe it makes sense to pursue their outer goals despite still feeling some doubts or painful emotions, they just can't get themselves take the next step. For example:

That's when life forces them to try to resolve their deeper issues. They have to start exploring their thought patterns, childhood, and unconscious motivations to figure out what's holding them up on a foundational level. Even if they never believed in that kind of work, now they don't have a choice.

Truly healing the core issues holding you back

Obviously the idea here is that if you can resolve your core baggage once and for all, then it will be easy to go after your outer goals. Whatever originally created your fear or resistance will be gone, or at least diminished. It's not even that you have to heal every last childhood scar. You just have to address enough of them that you can achieve what you want in real life. However, if you want to make a project of deeply exploring yourself and stamping out every last unhealthy pattern from your life, you can do that too.

I can't list everything, but here are some broad ways someone may try to heal their root issues:

The clear drawback of this approach is that it can take a lot of time and effort to dig up and truly heal your deeper hang ups. It's not always a multi-year process, but if you haven't had the best childhood it usually takes longer than you'd like.

Going down this path can also be an excuse to procrastinate. You may tell yourself you have to put any real world action on hold until you resolve every last bit of childhood trauma, when you could really reduce it by 25%, and that would be enough to allow you to get out there again.

Like I said, hopefully this article will help you think about the way you want to tackle your own issues. At the moment what could you do to go after your outer goals? At what point will you have to hunker down and work on some of your older baggage? Once you've done that for a while, how might you be able to make a bit more real world progress?