Productive goals versus non-productive goals

My daughter shared a powerful tool that her counselor shared with her this week:  learning to chose non-productive goals over productive goals.  My initial response was, “If a goal is non-productive, what is the point?  The purpose of a goal is to produce a desired outcome, right?”  Turns out, that is not always the case. For those of us that find ourselves impacted by anxiety, depression, or increased stress as a result of our fight over pornography addiction we may find that setting more non-productive goals will be a lot healthier to our recovery, our personal well being, and even to our relationships with others.

A productive goal is one that is measured by the output.  A non-productive goal is one that is usually measured by the input.  Here is a useful example using the 12 steps:

Productive goal:  I will have my 4th step list of past misdeeds, fears, resentments, and angers written up by Friday.

Non-productive goal:  I will work on my 4th step for 15 minutes every morning before work.

Both of these goals will lead to the same result, namely a completed list for your 4th step.  However, the measurement of the first is absolute and therefore, easily tied to stress and anxiety.  It may even lead to depression when not met.  For example, what if you get to Friday and realize, “Oh, I forgot about these 10 things and it’ll take me more time than I have to finish today?”  What is the resulting impact to your mental well being?  What if you’ve shared this goal with your spouse or partner and they are counting on you to live up to your promise?  In a word, you’ve failed to achieve your goal.  This could lead to additional anxiety, depression, mistrust from a partner, self-loathing, and a whole other list of other nasty results.

But, had you set a non-productive goal of 15 minutes of work on your 4th step every morning, imagine the difference in the results and the impact on your mental health as well as the perception from a spouse or partner.  You would have a boost from successfully achieving your goal.  You would have positive thoughts running in your head (Way to go! Good job! You did it! You’ve got this! One step closer!) instead of negative ones.  Your spouse or partner would not be disappointed.  AND most importantly, if you continue on this path of positive non-productive achievement, you will one day be done with your 4th step — which is the real goal here afterall!

Give this a try and let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about setting and achieving goals in a healthy way to continue your path to recovery, especially if you have other ideas or methods I could try.  Even though I’m recovered from my addiction and I’m actively helping others, I still continue to work on how to better balance my life and find peaceful happiness every day.

My name is Mike

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