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The Trouble with Achievement

Let’s talk about ‘achievement.’ What does it mean to you? For me, and I think for a lot of people, it’s a mythical place at the top of a mountain I’ll never get to. Or maybe it’s a cattle prod at my back. Either way, it’s an exhausting pursuit which means that no matter what I do, it never feels like enough. Not feeling good enough is one of the most common issues that comes up in my work with clients, and it causes them to feel everything from dissatisfaction to shame to paralysing anxiety and depression. Sometimes it even makes them wonder whether they want to continue living.

Instead of working with clients to recognise their own achievements (I find they rarely do, no matter how accomplished they may be on paper) I work with them to recognise what they do that brings some joy, and what they do that feels meaningful to them. Thinking about what makes your actions feel personally meaningful often seems less judgemental than someone else’s arbitrary assessment of your achievement: a grade, a job, a certain car, a certain salary, etc.

Meaning can be found in the smallest of actions: a walk, a song, a story, a coffee with a friend, a meal. These things we often forget to make time for when we’re chasing acheivement are often the things that make life feel worth living.

What meaningful thing will you do today?

Identity: Who Am I, Anyway?

Identity. Who am I? How do I live in a way that feels true to myself? How can I be truly myself, instead of the person I think others want to see? How can I keep hold of who I am when so many things around me are out of my control? Does identity change over time?

I’ve been having different versions of this conversation with a lot of people lately: clients, my kids, my partner, friends, and myself.

Questions of identity cut to the heart of everything: where we come from, what we do, what we believe, who we choose to have relationships with, how we make decisions about our future. And yet, we don’t often talk about it in our everyday lives, maybe because it feels like navel gazing. Counselling can be the perfect place to explore all of this messy, deep and fundamental stuff.

I was born in Boulder, Colorado. I haven’t lived there for a long time, but when I think about my own identity, these mountains, the Flatirons, always form the backdrop. Nature has always been important for me, which is why I prioritise making time for walks, hikes, wild swimming, trips to the beach or the hills. Being outside helps me put other human problems into perspective, and helps me stay grounded.

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