How To Achieve Your Goals When You Are Down: Getting "Unhooked"

How To Achieve Your Goals When You Are Feeling Down: Getting “Unhooked”


As you may recall, in the 2 previous posts in the How To Achieve Your Goals When You Are Feeling Down series, we covered several key points:

  • Exploring and establishing what your values are is essential for setting good goals.
  • Setting goals that are congruent with your values increase the likelihood that those goals (when achieved) will improve your overall quality of life.
  • Generally speaking, there are 4 basic categories of values, including Love, Work, Play, and Health.
  • How to conceptualize the Values “Bullseye” and use it to visualize where you are in terms of living in conjunction with your values.
  • Defined GOOD GOALS as any planned action or set of actions which brings you closer to the center of the Values “Bullseye.”

Setting Goals

As we previously examined, the Values “Bullseye” offers a simple and straightforward way of visualizing how our current life situation lines up with our values.

Let’s consider again, the example from last week:

Example Values "Bullseye"
In this example, the hypothetical person values: their marriage (relationships), reading mystery novels (leisure), staying informed about current events (work/education), and stay healthy and fit (personal growth / health).

In this example, a good goal would be any planned action, or set of actions, that helps this individual move closer to the center of the bullseye.

Some possible goals in this example:

  • Joining a gym membership
  • Seeking marriage counseling
  • Building a daily habit of watching the news, or reading about current events

Each of these are good goals in the sense that they are aimed at aligning the individual’s life with their values.

The Choice Point

At this point you may be thinking:

Sure, this all makes sense and everything, but what if it’s difficult to actually achieve these goals!?

This is where taking a closer look at small everyday choices can be important.

Psychologists familiar with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), refer to these moments as “Choice Points”, and any action which moves one closer to living fully by their values as a “toward” move. Conversely, any action which drives you further away from living fully by your values is refereed to as an “away” move.

Additionally, there is the concept of being “hooked”, which refers to the tendency of situations, thoughts, and feelings to compel us to move away from our values.

If this all seems a bit complicated, consider this visual aid:

Toward VS Away: Getting Unhooked
Depending on the nature of certain situations, thoughts, and feelings, we are often “hooked” by them, leading us to make small choices that go against our values.

How We Get “Hooked”

Let’s try a little experiment. If you are able, take a few minutes to brainstorm any recent choices that you made which conflicted with your values. Some examples might include:

  • Making a rude or smug comment toward a partner
  • Having two helpings of dessert
  • Choosing to procrastinate on a big project or homework assignment

Now imagine what it is that you were likely feeling/thinking when you made one of those choices. Examples:

  • “She’s always trying to talk about finances when I’m trying to relax” Feelings: annoyed, stressed.
  • “I didn’t have sugar earlier today… It’s been a long day”
  • “I’ll just get it done tomorrow… I’d rather watch a show on tv.”

How did it go? If you’re like a lot of people, you may have noticed that certain thoughts creep up that “hook” you in and compel you toward “away moves.”

How To Get “Unhooked”

If there is one central point to this blog post it is this:

The primary reason why we often act in ways that conflict with our values is that we get “hooked” by certain situations, thoughts, and feelings. Therefore, if we want to live a happier more fulfilling life, we must learn how to get “unhooked” 

One could write a whole book about getting “unhooked”, but I won’t bore you with that today. Suffice it to say, there are a few important steps to getting “unhooked”:

  • Keeping a journal and tracking situations, thoughts, and feelings that are getting you “hooked”
  • Engaging in activities that are less likely to “hook” you
  • Challenging thoughts and beliefs that are causing you to get “hooked”
  • Practicing Mindfulness when you are caught up in thought

Next week we will dive into the concept of DIFFUSION, which may be one of the best approaches to getting “unhooked” and living a happier and more intentional life.

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How To Achieve Your Goals When You Are Down: Getting "Unhooked" Infographic

Further Reading

Over To You

How have situations, thoughts, and feelings “hooked” you into acting against your values? How have you been able to “unhook” yourself ?

James Voss, MA, LMHCA

James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

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