What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

One of the benefits of having a mother-in-law who is a licensed counselor is having free, expert advice at my disposal anytime. I try to not abuse it, in fact maybe she wishes I’d go to her for advice more, but when I do get her input on something I really cherish her words and take them to heart.

About a year ago, I needed Virginia’s help. I was debating on sending someone a letter, one that divulged my true feelings, anger, and disgust about his actions. I felt he needed to be put in his place, and I drafted the most perfect letter to do so. All the way from up on my soap box, too! I explained the situation to Virginia and while she was very understanding of my side, she asked me one simple question that changed my perspective completely. It is a question that I have thought about at least once every single week since she asked it a year ago- and I’m so thankful for her inquiry. She asked me, “what is your ultimate goal – what are you are trying to accomplish here? Think about what your ideal end result is for this conflict and think “is this act/letter going to help you accomplish that?””

Mind blown. It seems so simple when you look at it objectively and in hindsight like that, but when so many feelings and emotions are involved, it is hard to separate lashing out vs constructive confrontation and discussion.

My answer was “no.” My ideal end result was the opposite of what my letter would have prompted. My letter would have escalated things, brought claws out, and fallen on deaf ears. It would have been pointless, and I may have regretted sending it.

I thought about what I wanted to happen with the person, and chose a different path. It can be really easy to lash out at somebody and justify it by saying I’m just getting my feelings out or simply trying to come to an understanding. But there is a difference- and deep down we know where the line is.

Not only is Virginia’s questioning tool useful for conflict, but it can be applied almost anywhere in life. Try it out, you might be surprised at the decisions and choices you make when you take the time to think about them before moving forward.

What are you trying to accomplish, and does this action really and truly help you get there?

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16 thoughts on “What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

  1. I learned that quite a long time ago and I try to live by it often. However, sometimes it doesn’t give you the answer you want and that makes me mad too. I think, ultimately, it makes you realize that you have no control over other people’s emotions, behaviours, or choices and that leaves us feeling helpless. No lone likes to feel helpless. However, I think once we get used to asking that question, we get into the habit of figuring out what we can do for ourselves to get over the issues.

    • I think you make an excellent point- and realizing you have NO control over other people’s emotions or reactions is a definite key to happiness. We can only do so much, and love what is. Thanks for your insight, it’s spot on.

  2. Oh …. that is a good question to ask oneself … and perhaps a different way of looking at things at times.

    Hmmm …. I wonder how many times I have pursued an issue in a way that ensured my end goal would not be met? Hmmm….I can almost feel myself analyzing things from the past now …..

      • Isn’t it amazing to think about it that way? I just keep thinking “it seems so logical, why WOULDN’T I think that way all the time?” But…it’s not our natural tendency. Most people anyway. I would bet that 90% of the time I choose an action that actually doesn’t promote the outcome I want, hah! A lot of times we take the more difficult, dramatic, drawn out route because of our feelings and emotions. At least it used to be that way, thinking about that question has helped a lot.

        Glad you find it useful! You’re right, it’s kind of fun/scary to look at things in hindsight and wonder how you would have done it differently had you thought about it this way. Very interesting…

  3. I JUST went through this *exact* same thing (only without a therapists help – I’ve been in therapy my whole life, LOL). My father has denied he’s my father since I was 15 and refused to communicate with me at all. When I was 26, I harassed him until he finally responded to an email I wrote him. I received a scathing response where he said I was not the product of love; just the product of promiscuity, blahblah all this AWFUL hateful things.

    I just wrote the post about DNA testing. I had it done, and so did his sister. The system connected her to me as being my aunt, which – from my perspective – pretty conclusively says that he is in fact my mother. Everyone was urging me to email him or confront him and I wanted to. But when I thought about it, I was like “What do I actually want from this or him?” and the answer was nothing. I want peace, and confrontation would not bring peace. The only thing that would bring that for me, is letting go and focusing on the future, not the past.

    ANNNNYWAAAAAAAAAY, long story short is that I think Virginia gave you some great advice. It’s easy to want to react in an emotional way but sometimes it’s not the best way to proceed.

    • Wow Amanda, I’m sorry you’ve had to work through all that stuff with your dad. I imagine that DOES make you want to say a lot of nasty stuff to him. I was definitely thinking some colorful words about him as I was reading about your situation! It is so amazing that you are able to take a step back and handle it so maturely! Isn’t it funny how hard it can seem? It is so much easier to just lash out, but it doesn’t always feel so good later.

      Funny how we are/were both in similar situations (letter writing-wise), but decided to take the same path. I too decided to do nothing, as what I REALLY wanted was peace and distance, not to keep talking to him. I wanted to move on with my life and learn from it, as you did too.

      Major props to you, you are a strong woman. I’m seriously impressed. Thanks so much for sharing that!

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