Are we addicted to the self in our New Year planning?
One teenage client of mine told me recently that he had no plan for 2020 as he did not have any motivation to work on anything. With deep inquiry, I found out that he was frequently highly praised by his parents and relatives in the first seven years of his life, as he was good at anything he did. Thereafter, he started to feel himself being inadequate because things he did at older age required more practice, self-discipline and persistence. He started to receive less praise from others. Gradually, he lost motivation in study and all other activities in life as he was not willing to pay effort but tended to set very high expectations on himself.
Another client of mine made very ambitious plan for 2020. She wanted to write a book, direct a few dramas, and start PhD study. Her parents were strict disciplinarian and never praised her in her childhood. Despite her talents and hard work, she was not receiving the recognition she wanted from her family. When she grew up, she was so addicted to self-improvement and achievements. Underlying all her plans, the core belief is “I’m not good enough”.
These two clients remind me of our addiction to the self. From childhood, we form a self-image basing on the feedback we obtained from our parents or other significant others. Every time we were praised, our brain reward system activated. The first client that I mentioned formed a biased image of himself that he was extraordinary. Gradually, he started to set extremely high standards for himself. However, to achieve such high standards, he needed to pay a lot of effort and have persistence and self-discipline. Without the willingness, the goals he set for himself become unrealistic.
The second client was deprived of positive feedback from her parents and significant others. Her view towards herself was negative all along, despite her high achievements. Her biased self image making her addicted to self-improvement. No matter how high she achieved, she still wanted to achieve more. She ended up being very exhausted likes a dog keeps chasing its tail.
With these two cases in mind, I start to do my new year planning with self-reflection. I ask myself, is there any bias that affects me to plan ahead? What are my underlying driving forces for my New Year plan? To seek others’ approval or to boost my own ego? We all need an effective compass to direct ourselves in doing our new year plan. With such an uncertain future we are facing, let’s put down our underlying assumptions and biases before we follow our compass to plan for 2020.