Look Inward, Then Strive

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BetterUp Studios

10 min

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We hear a lot about success, but we don't hear as much about the mixed emotions one can expect when chasing a dream. Some experience a sense of emptiness that may follow a great success. Others find themselves unsure what comes next after overcoming adversity. Many struggle to reach goals because of the unanticipated emotions that can arise when changing behaviors

We adapted the following writing exercise from Leahy, Tirch, and Napolitano (2011). It can help you prepare for the emotional journey of striving to achieve your most important goals. Answering these questions will help you anticipate challenges and create a roadmap to navigate whatever feelings and thoughts your brain throws your way on your path to success. It is designed to enhance your capacity to regulate your emotions as you strive to reach your goals.


Identify a quiet place, free of distractions, and plan to take the next 30-45 minutes for reflective writing. Choose one of those goals you have identified within your BetterUp journey to reflect upon in this activity. Feel free to replicate this process for other meaningful goals. Next, write your responses to the following questions.

There are no right or wrong answers — this exercise is to help raise your emotional awareness of the types of experiences you can expect while you pursue what matters to you.

  1. What it will take to reach this goal? What will you have to do differently? Which specific behaviors will be required? How do you expect to feel upon reaching this valued direction, or goal?
  2. What emotional contexts might be problematic for you as you pursue this goal? Are there any particular internal obstacles, like fear or anxiety, that might take you off track? Are there any past experiences that might make it more difficult for you to behave as you have planned?
  3. Think of as many contexts or challenging situations as you can and describe these circumstances in detail.
  4. If you were to give a label to the emotions you experience in these different contexts, how would you describe them? What physical sensations do you experience when you’re in this context? Where in your body are you experiencing the sensations related to your emotion? What thoughts are going through your mind?
  5. What needs, wants, or urges to action do you associate with this emotional experience? How can you best cope with and tolerate that emotion in that situation and take care of yourself in the moment?
  6. Without giving up on your goal, are there other strategies or actions that you can take which would still get you there, but be less emotionally challenging?

Surprises still lie ahead for you. However, this reflection has given you the self-awareness and mental preparation you need to navigate both expected and unexpected emotional challenges. Understand that striving goes hand-in-hand with complex emotions, and be compassionate and understanding with yourself when feelings get messy.

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If your emotional abilities aren't in hand... then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.
- Daniel Goleman
BetterUp Studios
BetterUp Studios creates and curates research-backed content, activities, and tools to help people everywhere pursue their lives with greater clarity, purpose, and passion.

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