Very often I hear of people talking about “knowing your Why”, and setting goals – long-term and short-term. This has been challenging for me. I’m learning, now, how to do these things. I’m testing the waters, building life goals, recognizing my personal “why’s”. Not everyone knows how to do these things, yet too many assume that everyone does.
Growing up, I struggled to simply make it through the day. Making career goals was hard. I choose a college based on distance from home more than what would be best for my future. Moving far from home was a good choice, it helped me discover and figure out who I was. It was the beginning of my healing journey. I couldn’t see myself in 2 years, let alone 5 or 10.
Children who grow up with childhood trauma are frequently unable to make goals, they are focused on surviving today, not about planning for tomorrow. Without proper supports, purposeful skill training, and determination, this is very challenging to overcome. If the family has parents who are able to model goal-setting, if they are able they may even focus some time on training this. If the parent is also experiencing trauma, or has not healed from their own childhood trauma, they are less likely to be able to help their child set goals and understand Why’s.
Asking someone to talk about their “why” is asking how aware they are of themselves. To know your “why” means you must be able to understand your past and able to plan a future. To know a “why” is to be able to summarize who you are, it’s like a 30-second personal pitch. To have a “why” means you believe in yourself.
Goal-setting means you have to be able to see a future for yourself. It isn’t just about planning, or knowing how to set S.MA.R.T. goals. I’ve spent so many years just surviving the moment that I often can’t see past the next few days. As I continue working on my healing journey, I’m starting to see past tomorrow. I’m starting to set longer goals. I’m starting to recognize and understand the reasons behind my choices, my goals, my desires. I’ve started small. I started with a vision board, I put it where I can see it. It starts to sink in that I want those things. I tend to think in literal terms, so my “why” for exercising is to lose weight. Is that strong enough? Does it matter if it is or isn’t? A “Why” and a goal are personal. It doesn’t have to be weighed by anyone other than me.
Here’s the win. I am making goals. I am recognizing “why’s”. As I become more confident and comfortable, the why’s become more specific, the goals become more detailed, and more expansive. Like any other skill, it must be cultivated and practiced. If it doesn’t come naturally, if it isn’t taught in childhood, it must be learned in adulthood. This can be done through psychotherapy to heal trauma-related wounds. It can be done through setting healthy boundaries, and building safe relationships.