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Ping Pong and Life

adjustment change counseling goals

     Here we are a few days before the New Year. Do you set goals and brainstorm resolutions? A lot of people do, but few keep them. Just check out a gym in January and return in March, according to US News, 12% join in January compared to 8.3% on average other months. Why wait till January to change your life. When people decide to join a gym, they want to change something about themselves. Losing weight, feeling better, meeting someone new, and other changes are possible when you exercise.  Physical, mental and relationship changes are only three of the seven categories I address in goal setting therapy sessions. The other 4 areas are: Spiritual, Financial, Intellectual, and Social.
     Often in session, I give an example of a ping pong game. What on earth does Ping-Pong have to do with life? Allow me to explain. Think about the last time you played, if you never have, stop reading and go watch a YouTube video. If I want to keep the ball in play, I continue doing the same thing. My partner must also do the same thing, one little adjustment whether it be a tilt or stronger push with the paddle and the ball will do something different. One small adjustment and the game has changed. My partner must also adjust in order to continue playing.
     How many areas of the seven goal setting categories have you continued to hit the “ball” the same way and wondering why you have no change in your life. You may even feel stuck. Let’s pretend my partner is life. Life is across the table from me gearing up for a long game, years of adventure, excitement and even tragedy.  I, on the other end am stretching, maybe even planning my strategy how to beat life, but of course I also want to play a long long long game in which of course, I win in the end.  We each hold our paddles in the air ready to start, the referee blows the whistle, I drop the ball on the table and the game begins. We go through many years hitting the ball back and forth, back and forth. Neither of us adjusting, just keeping the ball at the same speed and the paddles in the exact same spot over and over. I wake up from autopilot and realize, I want different. I’m bored, or I am frustrated with this game. All I have to do it shift my position or speed. It is that simple. The hard part comes with identifying what I need to do to shift. If I want to continue playing, then the shift must be low risk. If I want my partner to quit, then I can hit a grand slam right between the eyes of life. 
     In reality, life has been adjusting, even when I haven’t initiated my own adjustment. For example, I get in a car accident, life adjusted and I shifted in order to keep playing. A loved one passes, I get hurt in a relationship, I lose my job, are a few ways in which life happens to us. I must adjust in order to continue playing this game of life. Now, imagine a life in which I adjust first. I have that power, I hold a paddle just like life does.
     My turn to serve, I drop the ball and swing, I decide that when the ball returns to me I am going to tilt my finance paddle and not go to Starbucks one of the 3 days a week I treat myself. Instead I will put that money in a jar and when it reaches $150.00 I will buy a Keurig machine and make my own latte. This will take me approximately 35 weeks. At that time I can make my own delicious lattes saving myself an average $12 a week. Over a month I can stuff in the jar almost $50. If I then make a deposit into a good growth mutual fund and let it sit, untouched, brewing and turning into a warm and cozy nest egg for the next 20 years. I will have, according to bankrate.com $22, 371 after taxes. I only contributed $12,000. Hope you weren’t drinking that latte when you just read that.  Subtract the cost of a new electronic device.
     All it takes is one small adjustment that overtime looks like the winning backspin in the Olympics against the Japanese. I did this exercise with a past client. We used his cigarette habit of one pack a day, reduced it to half and calculated the savings monthly. He got so excited, we then entered his car payment into the calculator. If he sold his car and bought a “beater” with cash, put the loan payment and cigarette cost into investments, never adding another penny, he could retire a million at the age of 65. No one in his family, that he is aware of, has ever been a millionaire. One small shift CAN change a life.
     I challenge you today to list the seven categories on a piece of paper using a pencil, you will most likely need to erase. Next to each categories, brainstorm one small thing you can do to shift. In one year, if you continue, what will be the grand slam outcome that has altered your life for the better? When you live with intention and purpose, it can be an exciting and adventurous life.  Lift up your paddle and adjust your next move.
     If you would like help at being competitive in your life, call us for a goal setting session. It may take only one session to get you started.
Author: Elizabeth Havens, MFT Registered Intern, IMT 2522- ehavens@providencecounseling.org
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