Just because you can does not mean you should

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

You shouldn’t do everything just because you can.

One place many of us get off track is to start thinking because something is possible, we should do it.

This problem is common in the two primary life problem areas, Romances and finances.

You meet someone and they seem to like you. You feel some attraction back. A relationship is possible. Many people end up in relationships for no more reason than that the other person is interested. We fall in love because we think the other person might like us.   Just because this relationship is possible does not mean it would be healthy to get involved.

Not every potential mate should be your child’s parent.

Many a person’s baby’s father or mother became a part of their and their children’s lives for no better reason than that relationship was possible. We pick partners because we can have this relationship not because you should.

Pick your baby’s other parent carefully. You can break up with your partner but baby’s fathers and mothers are forever.

Don’t take jobs and spend money just because.

It is easy to sabotage your finances or your work life for similar reasons reason.

Lots of people drift into their work lives in the same way. You don’t know what you want to do. You know you need a job so when something comes along, you take that job.  Maybe the job is low pay. Maybe the working conditions are terrible. So eventually we get fed up, maybe even quit.

Just because you can get a particular job does not mean you should take it.

Don’t misunderstand me. If you need money you need to work. So sometimes we have to take a job that is less than the perfect job dream we have in our head. But please do not stop there. Think in terms of the rest of your life. What kind of career do you want? Are you working towards that?

What about you’re spending? Do you buy things because you can?

Many people have trouble with compulsive, emotional spending. You see something and you want it. You have the money or maybe the room on your credit card. The pleasure of the immediate purchase exceeds the happiness you might have from having more money in the bank or fewer, smaller bills.

Some of us drift through life always in debt, owing on cards and loans, for no better reason than that we bought things because we could not because we should.

Do you drift through life doing things because you can or do you focus on the things that you should do or not do?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Why you can’t make up your mind – Decisions.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Choice.

Choice.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Why is hard to make up your mind when you have multiple choices?

Choosing when you have multiple options can be difficult for several reasons.

There are two basic methods for making decisions, logical and emotional. As we saw in a previous post about Intuition neither way of making your choices is infallible.

Most choices are not clear-cut, all good or all bad. So we have to weigh the choices and then find some way of evaluating the good and the bad of each choice. When we get all done many of us fall back on our default mode to make our decision.

Not all choices are equal, so a fixed set of decision-making rules does not always work even though some people and some institutions adopt a systematic procedure for making those decisions. Below are some examples of choices

A good choice vs. a bad choice.

Which do you want ice cream or a beating? Ice cream good, beating bad, take the ice cream. Anyone having trouble making that decision?

Good vs. good.

At the party do you want cake or ice cream? This is a matter of preference, may take longer to decide but either is OK. It might be better if you could have both but that was not an option offered.

Good with the bad vs. bad with the good.

Your friend is having a party with cake ice cream and some champagne. You just went on a diet to get in shape for that reunion and you are trying to give up drinking. See friend and go off your diet?

You promised your workout friend that you would join her today at the gym. Last time you made an appointment she did not show.  Go to the gym and work out to lose the weight but risk her standing you up again?

Now add more good and bad.

There is this cute guy from work that may be at the party, so might your ex.

There is this other cute guy that you met at the gym but your ex’s new girlfriend is now working there.

The more pros and cons we add the more difficult it becomes to make a decision.

Remember that whether you try to choose rationally or emotionally you run into problems making that decision.

Rationally you never have all the info you would need. Who will show up where? You can’t know ahead of time and if you attribute probabilities to these events that still does not solve the problem.

Which would be worse? Running into your ex or his new girlfriend or both of them together?

One common approach to solving this dilemma is to take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle put the reasons for choice one in one column and the reasons for choice two in column 2.

Not much help is it. Is the risk of getting ice cream instead of cake more or less important than the risk of seeing your ex or his new girlfriend? Not all reasons are equal. We get into some calculus to solve this equation.

Worst of all by the time you get all the info you need and get the math done, the party is over and the gym has closed.

Also, choice decisions do not always s include all the alternatives. Make sure that the best choice is not left off your list. Also as with the cake or ice cream example, sometimes our action as in asking for both can alter the options available.

One last decision problem – time.

A dollar today is not equal to a dollar a year from now. Neither is exercising or eating cake. You could go to the party now and then exercise next week. A few weeks of that and you will not need your gym membership. You also will not be in top shape for the class reunion and that was the reason for your exercise and get healthy program in the first place.

Sometimes you need to trust your gut.

This impossibility of getting enough info and then assigning probabilities and so on is why much of the time we humans use intuition. Based on past experiences and the degree of your preference you will choose one way or the other and then have to live the consequences.

One last factor you need to consider is the importance of your goal. You might do something distasteful for money. Say your boss asked you to go to a function and make a speech and your ex might be there. Would you do it to please him? Would you do it for $1.00 how about $1,000,000? The bigger the rewards the more you might choose one option over the other.

But what about the size of the negatives? If one choice might alter your life forever in a bad way would that affect your decision?

So these kinds of choices are very personal and reflect not just the pros and the cons or the chances one thing or the other will work out, they also reflect your personal goals and values.

Your goals and values shape your choices.

To make better choices on difficult decisions you really need to get to know yourself, your goals and your values. Then pick what is best for you.

Any comments from out there? Have you had to make a difficult choice and how did you finally go about deciding.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What should I do?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Counseling questions

Counseling questions.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Wondering what to do with your life?

When you came home from the hospital that first day of your life, did you get a guide to life, where to go and what to do? I didn’t get mine either. People frequently come to counselors for the answers from that book. Unfortunately, there are no such books. There are some lessons we have learned from living our lives but I am not sure we should recommend those to you. Your life is after all yours. So how could you decide what to do? Let me suggest some options.

There are some guides to having a good life, those general things on proper living, like the Ten Commandments and ethical principles. But it is hard to apply that instruction to daily life, like job and children. People look for guidance everywhere. Some people visit fortune tellers and some read columns by economists. The hope is the same; that some expert will be able to tell us what will happen and what we should do.  These sources of information may inform your choices but they won’t tell you what to do. It’s your life and you need to make the decisions. Sorry to have to tell you that. So how might a counselor help you with a decision?  What are the things that the counselor should do and what are the parts of this process you should do yourself?

What are your values?

What are your religious or moral values? How strongly do you hold these concepts? Is the course of action consistent with these values? How will you feel about that choice after you have made it? A counselor can help here by letting you “talk this out.” You can explore conflicts between what you are thinking of doing and what you value. Many people have never looked carefully at their values. Do you believe this or is this something that you learned from a parent of authority figure? Though shalt not kill is a good value – unless you are in the army or on the police force.

What if you learned that money is all important. Make money your family told you when you were young. Now you have the chance to do something you truly love but the pay is not so good. Which values are more important to you?

No one in the helping professions should impose their values on you. Some counselors firmly believe that a couple should always stay together, no divorce no matter what. Another counselor may be a “feminist” or strong believer in woman’s rights. They may encourage all their clients to divorce. As a profession, most counselors believe we should not make those decisions for you. If we have strong opinions one way or the other we should tell you at the start. We can work with you on improving the relationship if that is what you want. We might also work with you on a safety plan to protect you and the children from domestic violence.

What are your options?

People often stay trapped in a bad situation because they have become stuck and hopeless. They don’t know they have choices. Career changes are a good example of this. The counselor should help you learn to find answers not find them for you. This issue causes a lot of frustration among clients. Some counselors are so reluctant to impose any idea on their client they listen to them talk about their unhappiness but never think to point to the answer even when the counselor knows where it is. An example might help here.

You are stuck in a low paying job you hate. You can’t find anything better and you become depressed and angry with your family as a result. You could work on your anger and your depression. That might help. You could also learn some new job search skills. There are online resources that a career counselor might tell you about where you could look at pay scales and requirements for other careers. There might be one that is perfect for you, just what you want, but you need more education. So the counselor might tell you about schools that offer this training and were to go to research them.

If you were homeless would you want a counselor that listens to your pain or one that gave you the number of an agency that could find you a place to stay? Maybe you would want one that did both. So a good counselor will show you how to find options but won’t tell you which one to choose. It is your life after all.

Many counselors strongly believe in an approach called “Bibliotherapy.”  They will recommend books for you to read and then discuss what you read with you. Did the ideas in the book help you make a decision? What else do you need to know?

The counselor should help with reality testing. So what is that?

When people are very angry, depressed or fearful, Ideas come to them that sound like a possible solution to their problem. Suicide and Homicide are extreme examples of this. But there are milder possibilities. Someone who just had a fight with their boss may be in a hurry to quit their job and tell their boss off. When upset we humans seem to lose the ability to think things over and are prone to act impulsively. That is not an excuse for bad behavior, only the truly “legally insane” can’t tell right from wrong.

Say a person comes in and tells their counselor that they feel that God is punishing them for their sins. That, they say, is why they are having all these troubles. If this is consistent with their beliefs the counselor needs to consider the client may really believe this. Who am I to decide what God is up to?

So this client decides to quit his job, give up his family and become a Missionary to Burma. Here is where reality testing kicks in. There is a process in most religious groups for selecting missionaries. Is he willing to go through the selection process? Does he speak the language?  How will he support himself? Who will take care of his family? So the idea to drop everything is probably not reality. If he is a doctor and is willing to go through a several year process, this is a lot more possible than if he works in fast food and wants to start tomorrow.

Should the counselor and the client discount this idea all together? Maybe not. He might decide to donate money to a group that is already working in that area. He might support literacy efforts or a medical program. He could decide to volunteer at a nonprofit near home.

So there you have it, for now. Three ways in which counseling could help you decide what to do without imposing the counselor’s values and will on you.

Hope you are moving towards a truly happy life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.