Measuring Progress

When I started counseling 9 months ago I was asked to envision a vessel that could hold all my hurt and unanswered questions. . . I pictured the trunk of a car. I was encouraged to visually place my painful thoughts and heartbreak in the trunk I envisioned to “save them for later”, and in each session we pulled from that collection of hurt, fear, and sadness to methodically work toward the goal of processing and healing. This exercise provided a sense of freedom – instead of holding pain close and allowing it to sabotage other areas of my life, I could set it aside to be addressed later while keeping it “safe”, which is different from suppressing and ignoring, an approach I’ve definitely employed over the years that isn’t recommended if healing is the goal. Additionally, we created a set of goals (my treatment plan), and I was asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 where I felt my current understanding or awareness was in multiple categories, and where I wanted to end up. For those of you who don’t know me personally, here are some truths: I am quick to under-estimate myself and also quick to set very high goals. So I rated myself in each category between 3-4, with the expectation that I’d finish at 10 (naturally).

Fast forward to present, and my vessel is my journal. I no longer need a trunk or suitcase or cigar box. This isn’t to say that I’m free of worry or that I would rate myself a “10” in any of my treatment planned categories, but what I’ve gained through this journey are tools for recognizing and addressing triggers, and a deeper appreciation for myself, my feelings, my reactions, and my fears. I now have a set of real-time tools to help organize my thoughts, and both process and understand my feelings without the need for further discussion, or the ability to “save it for later” without heaviness or the need for storage space.

While I deeply appreciate the journey of healing hurts from my childhood and past relationships, and addressing fears associated with my present and future, there are things I’ve gained on this counseling journey that I didn’t anticipate and can’t imagine living without.

  • Freedom from my need to always be okay.
  • Peace in areas of hurt that will always remain unanswered.
  • Embracing “limbo” and recognizing that sometimes fear & hope need to co-exist.
  • Vulnerability doesn’t equal weakness.
  • I would rather leap and fall then regret never trying.
  • My heart is resilient and my dreams are worth chasing.

I no longer care about the rating scale associated with my treatment plan, because when you accomplish something you’re done, and with each day, each new experience, each new dream, hope, wish, and desire, I evolve. I don’t have a finish line, therefore my personal development also doesn’t have a “perfect score”. Any previous version of myself would find this concept discouraging, but I find it exhilarating, like an open door, an invitation to try, do, grow, explore, and dream without limitation because there’s no boundaries. When I consider my human experience, heart, and potential without an “end goal” I’m no longer striving to check a box, and instead embracing life as a beautiful, crazy journey that I’m more and more capable of enjoying without self-imposed restrictions. So I’ll dream bigger, love deeper, try harder, care freely, and transform whenever necessary to continue living life to the fullest.

I love measuring progress and setting goals that support the lifestyle and heart-health I’m seeking. While I’m not striving for perfection anymore there is powerful motivation in feeling accomplished and holding yourself accountable. Success comes out of positive, consistent actions, not periodic big gestures. My childhood piano teacher always said “practice makes permanent” – meaning poor practice will result in poor performance. Because I have big goals for my life and a desire to experience peace and love everyday, I’m dedicated to daily practices that positively move me forward and support my desired lifestyle.

  • Gratitude: I write 10 things I’m thankful for everyday.
  • Healthy eating, to support physical and emotional health, and quality sleep.
  • Drink 100+ ounces of water everyday.
  • Fitness: I push myself hard physically 5+ times a week, which is powerful for mood & emotional health, not just physical strength and weight management.
  • Play all out: I find a reason to laugh, dance, act goofy, and embrace my inner dork, to experience freedom from the seriousness and weight of adulting.
  • Meditation for re-centering myself, slowing down, and clearing my mental clutter.
  • Love: I give my heart freely to my inner circle. Caring deeply without restriction honors my need for emotional freedom after a “lifetime” of being guarded and living in fear.
  • Pay attention to feelings & desires that are outside of my comfort zone or make me timid, and push myself to try new things and experience life with less resistance.

It is my belief that when the heart, mind, and body align from a spiritual and emotional perspective, everything else in life is elevated. Professional passion, the desire to dream big, work ethic, the ability to face and accomplish hard things, embrace change, and pivot when necessary, are all easier when there are healthy habits in place. I have had dozens of daily habits over the past few years, and re-evaluate them periodically because life circumstances change, goals transform, and I’m continually evolving. What I’ve discovered is that the habits themselves don’t matter as much as doing them every-single-day. I have a chart to track my actions, which measures progress, holds me accountable, and gives me something to celebrate. Accomplishing little and big goals & challenges always feels amazing, and while life is about the journey not a finish line, it feels great to win at your own game.

I’m thankful for the highs and lows of the past year, for all the new experiences I’ve had because I’m living “heart-open”, for a forced slow-down that resulted in deeper friendships and a more meaningful self-love, and for the ability to face change and challenge with more peace and confidence because I’m not worried about “arriving” at a destination, I’m simply focused on making each day meaningful.

Published by Brooke Oliphant

I'm an aspiring author exploring the art of writing as an avenue to dive deep into my human experience; to learn, grow, spread light, and inspire others. Together we can live authentically, push ourselves to new heights, face our demons and put them to rest, and live and love without holding back!

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