Although they say it in a thousand different ways, virtually all self-help authors preach, "If you want your life to be different, you've got to picture what you want in your mind's eye. That picture has to be compelling and inviting. When it is, you'll do what it takes to make it happen."
I've been working with women in a halfway house. I find they consistently are driven by what they fear, not what they want. Their fears of the streets, abusive men, homelessness and addictions prevent them from looking forward to life.When I ask what they want, they say things like, "To stay away from him," "To stay out of jail," "To not get drunk." Their lack of hope translates to a lack of enthusiasm for making changes. My goal is to help them see a positive future.
We've made treasure maps, collages of what they want.
I asked them questions about their futures. As answers like "a room for my baby," "a car," "a career" began to emerge, I asked them to cut pictures from magazines that matched their mental pictures.
Each put those pictures on a poster. Then we began setting goals and identifying steps they could take toward reaching them.
For one that meant filling out a job application and checking weekly for openings. For another it meant enrolling in a word processing course. Another made arrangements to see her son, in foster care.
Certainly, there will be disappointments. Goals don't happen without obstacles. But as we work together, we talk about the obstacles, joke about them and begin to make them an expected part of life, not a signal to give up.