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Many of us are struggling with a problem in our lives, and want to fix it. For example, maybe you are struggling with depression or anxiety. Maybe you are dealing with a physical problem, like being overweight. Or maybe you have a relationship problem with your spouse.

We often want to get rid of our problems, but this is easier said than done. Many of our problems are consistent, and seem to always be hanging around.

Sometimes it can be helpful to turn your problem into a want.

Avoidance vs. Approach Goals

Let me unpack that a bit. When you are trying to get rid of a problem in your life, you have what’s called an avoidance goal. You want to move away from your depression or anxiety, and not feel that way anymore. You want your excess fat to go away. You want the relationship problem with your spouse to disappear.

It’s hard to figure out how to make concrete steps toward an avoidance goal. What could you do today, for example, to stop feeling depressed? You just feel depressed, it’s tough to will yourself to stop feeling that way. It’s the same way with the other problems in your life. When you have an avoidance goal, it’s difficult to make progress.

It’s better to have an approach goal, which means you are moving toward something. An approach goal is more motivating, and it’s easier to come up with concrete steps for how to move forward.

The Opposite of Your Problem

This brings us back to the idea of turning your problem into a want. Take whatever problem you are dealing with, and think about the opposite of the problem. If the problem were to go away, what would your life look like? How would you be different? What are you moving toward?

For example, instead of moving away from depression, move toward happiness. Instead of moving away from anxiety, move toward peace. Instead of moving away from being overweight, move toward health and activity. Instead of moving away from your relationship problem, move toward a great relationship with your spouse.

Clarify Your Next Steps

Turning your problem into a want helps to clarify your goal and next steps. For example:

  1. Instead of trying to be less depressed, think about the activities that tend to make you happy. Maybe it’s being around people, or doing something outside. Try to do one of those things today.
  2. Instead of trying to be less anxious, think about what it would look like to be a person at peace. Try out your relaxation techniques, or engage with the thing that is scary rather than running away from it.
  3. Instead of trying to lose weight, think about the choices that a healthy person would make. Maybe you need to get up and go to the gym today, or order a salad when you go out to eat.
  4. Instead of trying to make your relationship problem go away, think about what a person who has a happy marriage would do. Buy your wife flowers, plan a date night, or initiate sex.

Discussion: What is one problem you are dealing with today? What would it look like to turn that problem into a want?

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