How To Change Your Life & Step Into Your Purpose When Therapy Isn't Cutting It

Photo: Mae Small

Allison wanted what everyone wants: stability, an amazing relationship, a sense of purpose. Like most, she’d gone to therapists for the answers. But she’d been going to them for years, and at 30, she was no closer to happiness than her 20-year-old self.

She was successful, beautiful, and fit, but she just felt stuck. That’s when Allison came to me.

After sharing her story and her problems during our first session—including all the meltdowns and anxiety—Allison put her head in her hands and murmured, "I’ll always need a therapist. I’m just too much."

My response left her nonplussed. Maybe she expected sympathy; maybe she wanted me to commiserate. But that’s not what she got.

"Therapists have their place," I told her. "But it seems you’re putting the responsibility to be happy in their hands. That’s never going to work. So, why don’t you try taking responsibility for how you feel?"

She looked like she’d seen a ghost. No response. I continued:

"Starting today, you are going to take responsibility for every thought that enters your mind. You will no longer accept the negative thoughts that caused your meltdowns. Instead, you’ll choose only thoughts that benefit you. Crazy simple. Are you in?"

She shot back a determined gaze with her steel-blue eyes and nodded. "Tell me what to do," she said. Ten days later I received this email from her:

"Just wanted to let you know that I officially broke up with my therapist. Before we started working together, I had cried every single f*cking day. But that’s over. I have my life back. And for the first time in five years I’m happy. Thank you."

Here's how Allison got her results:

First, she set a new standard for her inner dialogue.

Before, Allison would feed negative thoughts like, "I’m too much" with more negative thoughts—"I’ll never be what I need to be. That’s why my relationships never worked out."

That dialogue spawned negative emotions like anxiety and fear, which made thinking positive thoughts that much harder. This cycle was completely unconscious, and it started with her waking thoughts.

So, I set a goal for Allison: Choose only positive thoughts. Start as soon as you wake up.

She started with affirmations. And whatever negative thoughts she had most identified with—I’m too much, I’m not responsible, etc.—I had her write a list of 30 traits that affirmed the opposite.

Along with her morning routine, I instructed Allison to make these affirmations her default thoughts. And when she noticed the negativity creeping up, she was to immediately practice her affirmations. Simple.

After the first day, Allison ceased her spontaneous bursts of crying and felt better. But on the third day, even though she’d done everything she was supposed to, she had a setback.

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Then she learned to overcome mental hurdles.

One of her bosses had inappropriately gossiped about her work performance to another colleague, and he informed Allison of it in a demeaning way. She froze, then told me about it later, ending the message with, "I never stand up for myself."

I told her to do two things:

1. Write "I always stand up for myself" on a notecard, put it where you can always see it, and say that out loud every time you see it.

2. Confront your boss immediately and stand up for yourself—to make "I always stand up for myself" a reality.

The next day, Allison wrote an ecstatic message to me:

"I did it!!! I told my boss that his behavior was unacceptable and wrong and that if he has a problem with my work, he needs to come to me directly. Then I asked for an apology, which I got. And it felt so good! I now know that 'I will always stand up for myself.' And I can’t say it enough."

In one week, Allison made her weaknesses her biggest strengths—she rewrote her life script. And in the span of one short month, Allison eliminated the negative thoughts and habits that had made her miserable for years. She became so positively confident after just two weeks that she finally dumped her therapist.

These are the habits that helped her the most:

1. Setting 10 daily self-coaching check-ins.

Before, Allison would let one little thought ruin her whole day because she didn’t have any tools to change the momentum. So I set a daily goal for her to have 10 mini self-coaching sessions a day.

She wrote the goal down in her daily planner and took one to two minutes every hour to check in and encourage herself. Seems like a little step, right? But those little check-ins made a huge difference in allowing her to control her dialogue. She finally was able to stop the negative thoughts in their tracks and choose thoughts that benefited her—like gratitude and appreciation for all the good things she does.

Setting that goal and checking off those mini-sessions makes Allison feel confident, grounded, and in charge of her life—everything she lacked before.

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2. Writing in her journal every night.

I had Allison commit to a 10- to 20-minute journaling session every night. And when she reflected on what she was grateful for, where she excelled, and what she was proud of, Allison started noticing all the little things that made her life better. Like writing affirmations on notecards—that made her feel so empowered and inspired that she decided to write positive statements for every area she struggled in, which dramatically improved her quality of life and her happiness in and out of work.

She found inspiration to do that by narrating her experiences in a journal.

3. Sharing her self-improvement triumphs and struggles each week.

In the perfect world, everyone would have a friend to meet up with once a week and share their self-improvement journeys together. But that’s not reality. Most friends just aren’t dedicated and interested enough in self-improvement to play the role of a coach.

In her weekly sessions with me, Allison got tons of encouragement and advice to keep moving forward. She finally had someone who wouldn’t bullshit her and who’d tell her the hard truths when she needed to hear them. Most importantly, Allison had someone to keep her accountable to her new ways of thinking and behaving and who’d brainstorm the solutions that worked best for her.

So, no matter where you’re at in your journey, find someone to play that part—be it a friend, a family member, or a coach.

If you've tried therapy without results, try what Allison did:

1. Take control of your thoughts. Get in the habit of denying negative thoughts all day, choosing useful thoughts instead. Make that your mission in life!

2. Start an affirmations routine first thing in the morning, making a list of 30 that are the opposite of your greatest weaknesses.

3. Check in with yourself 10 times a day for encouragement and self-coaching, praising your efforts and expressing gratitude for all that you have and all that you do.

4. Reflect on your improvements and struggles each night with a journal.

5. Find someone who will celebrate your successes and keep you accountable.

Want more insights on how to level up your life? Check out your July horoscope, then find out why holding on to past relationships is the worst thing you can do for yourself.

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