Reality Check: Take a Look Over Your Shoulder

Whenever a New Year approaches, we look ahead. We think about, dream about, and make resolutions about all the changes and improvements that we plan to make with our fresh start.

Before we get too carried away with all of those hopes and dreams to come, how about taking a look back?

One of the most effective Reality Therapy processes that I’ve used is self-evaluation. That’s when we look thoughtfully at what we’ve been doing and ask, “How’s that working for me? Do I want to continue what I’ve been doing? Or do I want to make some changes?”

So before you make your New Year’s resolutions, take a look over your shoulder. I’ll use some of Dr. Glasser’s basic needs as a guide for this backward glance.

Let’s start with the need for security and survival. Do you feel more secure, less secure, or about the same as you did at the beginning of last year?

If you feel more secure, is this positive change because you have changed your situation and, in fact, become more secure? For example, do you feel more secure because you were able to save some money? Perhaps you developed a skill that makes you more employable.

Or, do you feel more secure because you perceive security differently? For example, do you now realize that you need fewer material goods than you previously believed? That is, you could feel more secure even if your situation hasn’t changed, but because you perceive your need for security differently now.

If you feel less secure, the same questions apply. Do you feel less secure because of an actual change in your situation? Or because of a change in perception?

Now, how’s your feeling of love and belonging? Are you more closely connected to the people who are important to you? Or are you more distant?

What have you been doing to satisfy your love and belonging need? Have you made new friends? Deepened existing relationships? Found a way to be part of a group? Spent time connecting with people important to you? What has worked for you?

Perhaps the year brought a loss of love and belonging. If so, it’s helpful to distinguish between what you have control over and what you don’t.

For example, you may have suffered a loss which was completely out of your control. Or perhaps you had a falling out, which may have been partly or fully within your control.

Also worth examining during your backward glance are any relationships that bring stress, unhappiness or dissatisfaction into your life. What is under your control? Can you arrange to spend less of your precious time and energy on relationships that don’t work well for you, so you can devote more time to folks who help you to be your best—happy and hopeful?

Next, how’s your feeling of power and recognition over the past year? Do you feel more satisfied now than before? If so, why?

If you’ve developed a skill that you are proud of, or if you met or exceeded your goals at home, school, or work, your satisfaction may have increased.

On the other hand, maybe you lost power and recognition. Perhaps you dropped out of school or left a goal unfinished. Perhaps you lost a job. Even a planned retirement can bring a feeling of loss of power and identity. How are you dealing with the changes in your life? Do you need to find new ways to get your power need satisfied?

One way to learn how to increase our satisfaction is to look back at what has worked for us already. What do you learn when you look back?

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