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  • Writer's pictureKelsee Keitel

Goal-Setting, Personal Development, and How To Follow-Thru

A lot of times the people who come to see me for counseling have a desire to implement more healthy habits into their life. Whether this is better sleep hygiene, exercise and movement, healthy eating patterns, engaging in more general self-care, staying better connected with loved ones, etc etc.

I see no shortage of goals throughout the year, due to the nature of my work and the population i work with, however we are definitely at the PEAK of this right now with it being mid January. 

And the demographic I tend to work with a lot are high achievers, dreamers, go-getters, and perfectionists. I work with high level athletes and business owners. Award-winners and trail-balzers of all kinds. 

Within this territory I’ve noticed a lot of rigid, black-and-white or all or nothing thinking and very tough self criticism. Paired together this makes for unsustainable and non-pleasurable approaches to self-development. People are discouraged, ashamed, and even self-loathing on a journey that I think needs to be viewed from more of a birds eye view. 

So in episode 48 I hope I can give you some practical examples, to help you follow through and commit to some of your personal development  in a sustainable way that is also graceful. And I hope I challenge some of your preconceived ideas around goal setting and self-improvement.

Here are some of the major concepts of Episode 48:

Panera Bread Choose 2. It is possible to still maintain healthy habits even when life throws you curveballs. I call this the Panera Bread Approach. This strategy will help you establish patterns in a way that is INTUITIVE and flexible with the ebbs and flows of life. Essentially, you should create a menu of the healthy behavior options that you could do in a day and would like to do in a day. Then, commit to doing just 2 everyday. You can do more than 2 but COMMIT to just 2. The rest is extra credit gravy. It allows you to show up for yourself, trust yourself, and show that you are reliable. It also allows for variation and flexibility when life is challenging.

Lets say that you have a goal of going to the gym every single day. Then one day your car breaks down and so you don't go to the gym and then you feel like a failure because you didn't work out. But with more flexibility, instead of “going to the gym every day” your menu was “move my body everyday” suddenly, you didn't make it to the gym, but you worked form home instead and then on your lunch break went for a walk around your neighborhood. You chose another option from the movement menu. 

is sticking to something even when it is less than perfect or less than ideal. Commitment actually requires adaptability and flexibility and grace, rather than hardcore rigidity. 

What I've come to realize is that a lot of people are committed to tasks (going to the gym) when they should be committed to a vision (moving body every day).

So I hope that the Panera Bread example shows that commitment runs deeper than just the specific item on your to do list.

And so the question really is what are you committed to? Are you committed to a task or are you committed to a vision?

Why doesn’t always matter. Maybe this is weird for a therapist to say, but I don't think "why" always matters that much. I see that a lot of people wait until they know WHY they do something in order to change the behavior. But understanding the why tends to just use the reasoning part of our brain. Real change doesn’t come from reasoning alone though. It comes from a deeper desire to actually change, something more emotional. But as I'm sure you know emotion alone doesn’t guide us in making changes either. 

Enter into the chat: DBT. Sometimes I use a therapeutic modality with folks called DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). One of the components of DBT includes a concept called the Wise Mind. Many of us have ready access to our Emotional Mind. And many of us have easy access to our reasoning mind. But when we can tap into both our emotion AND reasoning, we engage the Wise mind. And the wise mind uses this well balance combo to guide us in making values aligned decisions. 

Sticky Notes are Short Term Tools not Long term solutions. A lot of us have heard advice that we should put something on a sticky note where we can see it every single day, whether that is a mantra or a reminder or a to-do item. I recently learned on the Huberman Lab podcast that having the same reminder in the same place every day actually does NOT help wit memory/motivation because by being exposed to it that consistently and frequently, we actually become desensitized to it. The better advice would be to mix it up. So change the sticky note, change the reminder, change the place, every so often. This creates the effect that the sticky note is a new stimuli that you must pay attention to. 

Consider that A-B is more impressive than A-Z. Most people I work with would benefit from viewing improvement as a spectrum. Many folks can imagine clearly what A-Z looks like. But can you visualize what A-J looks like? Can you articulate what A-B looks like? Visualizing is the first step to making something a reality. This is a more graceful approach to self-improvement.

And on that note I want to share an even more important concept with you regarding self-improvement and its that be sure that you are still living and enjoying life in the present. 

This is a quote from Chris Williamson, host of the Modern Wisdom podcast, which I listen to dang-near religiously. This came from his newsletter a few weeks ago, regarding a concept that he has coined “deferred happiness syndrome” 

(begin quote)

" There are two types of people; those who don’t know how to improve their lives, and those who don’t know when to stop.

And people who can improve their lives will always struggle to be around people who can’t.

Personal growth and self improvement is liberating, fulfilling and exciting.

But it’s also a trap that convinces you that you’re an unfinished article who doesn’t need to start enjoying life yet.

One who can defer happiness until you’ve reached a certain level of development.

“I’ll really start living when I’ve finally… mastered this new meditation technique/got to single digit bodyfat/hit 6 figures a year income/bought that new house/read 100 books/grown my channel to 1m subscribers.”

Personal growthers have learned a sacrifice-reward dynamic that is useful in the micro but malignant in the macro.

We teach ourselves that we need to do the tough things first so we can enjoy the fun things later.

And if that’s “go to the gym” before “watch some YouTube”, that’s fine.

But if it’s “complete an arbitrary amount of life-improving” before we “actually feel like we can let ourselves enjoy life”, it’s not fine.

“Deferred Happiness Syndrome is the common feeling that your life has not begun, that your present reality is a mere prelude to some idyllic future.

This idyll is a mirage that'll fade as you approach, revealing that the prelude you rushed through was in fact the one to your death.” — Gurwinder Bhogal

The perennially difficult balance of the personal growther is between being and becoming.

Between feeling enough and wanting to be better.

Between a desire for more and a satisfaction for what you already have.

You want to leave it all out on the field of play, but you realise that if you’re constantly driven by desiring more, it’s difficult to take time to enjoy the process of playing the game.

It’s tough. This is THE personal growth problem."

(end quote)

I hope that this encourages you to commit t yourself in a new way a way that is flexible and graceful and honoring of who and where you are. That you can take non-linear, baby steps towards becoming a better version of you and reassess as you go, celebrate the little victories, and know that you can still enjoy presence along the way too. 

Next episode I am going to share the sort of step by step process of what happens in therapy from the moment that you reach out to a therapist until you end your time together and everything in between. Be sure you're subscribed and to the show!  


If you are a resident of Indiana and are interested in hiring Kelsee as your therapist (virtually or in person in Indy) visit her website: To connect further with Kelsee, find her on instagram @kelseekeitel and @evergreenthinkingpod or visit the show's website: If you're all caught up on Evergreen Thinking and looking for some other shows that hit on similar themes (aka meaningful conversation and outdoor inspiration) follow @plugtoneaudio on Instagram and Spotify to check out the other shows involved with Kelsee's podcast community. You'll love these insightful, adventurous, and hilarious folks as much as we do.

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