John Ernst, Ph.D.

Talks about…

In my practice, I often meet people who find that they’ve misplaced the ability to move forward in their lives.  They feel dissatisfied with their existence and they don’t like how they feel. Although day-to-day functioning may not necessarily be a problem for them, they just aren’t as happy as they’d like to be.  Quite simply, they’re ‘stuck in a rut’, wishing that they could get more satisfaction out of their lives, but without an effective plan to make changes for the future.


Obstacles to change:


Some of life’s ‘trickier’ problems are often the subtle ones.  They don’t necessarily need immediate fixing, yet they can exist in the background for months or years. For example:


-Procrastination: (“I should do that tomorrow”) can result in inactivity.


-Denial: (“I just don’t want to think about that because it’s too depressing”) can cause a person to ignore truly important issues.


-Daily routines: (job, household activities) can tempt us to focus only on immediate details while ignoring the bigger picture in our lives.


Adjusting your outlook:


An important first step toward making personal changes is to develop an appreciation that over a life span, a person has just so much time to live.  But the quality of a person’s life may be even more important than the quantity of it.  This raises an important question: Do you want to ignore opportunities to better yourself, or will you instead begin to take greater charge over the direction of your life?  You don’t need to wait until the New Year to make a commitment to personal progress.


A few tips to aid personal change:


- Take some quiet time to jump off the ‘hamster wheel’ of daily routines and reflect on the direction you’ve allowed your life to take – are you spending your life the way you’d truly like to?


- Take a personal inventory and make a list of the positives and negatives in your life as well as outlining specific goals that you choose to achieve.


- Break down your goals into attainable short, medium, and long–term categories in order to achieve them in a step-wise fashion.


-Remember that good intentions are worth very little unless they’re linked to action. Don’t wait for motivation to knock on your door; if you take action first, motivation will soon follow.


Some final thoughts:


Performing this type of personal maintenance is a powerful way to live in a conscious, intentional, and focused manner.  It can help people to take active control of their lives rather than having life simply act on them. The sense of accomplishment obtained from setting and pursuing new directions in life can often lead to enhanced self-esteem, increased personal satisfaction, and greater happiness.    


John Ernst, PhD, LPC, treats children, adolescents, families, individual adults and couples. He is presently accepting new patients. To establish an appointment, please contact Dr. Ernst at 414-329-7000.



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Christmas and New Year's were times of joy and celebration for most people. Not only were the actual events pleasant, the time spent with anticipation and preparation for the holidays gave you something to look forward to. But the party's over, so where do you go from here? In my practice, I really don't see as many people trying to work through seasonal 'blues' during November and December as I do after the holidays. However, with a little insight into some of the potential post-holiday challenges, 2019 can be one of your best years ever.


Be on the alert for negative thinking:


Here are a few post-holiday problem areas that people often report:

  • It was fun looking forward to Christmas and New Year's (but now I dont have anything to anticipate except for the usual routine of my life).

  • The Christmas credit card bill arrived in the mail (and I'm depressed about it).

  • The weather during the first few months of the year is cold, and the lack of sunlight makes things dreary (and I wish I lived somewhere else).

  • I made a New Year's resolution that I really wasn't prepared to meet (and now I feel guilty about it).


Be a realist, and don't dwell on the negatives:


I've never heard anyone say that it's more fun cleaning up after a party than it was preparing for it. Realize what's under your control to change at this time of year as well as which life events you should simply cope with the best you can. You can't wish away your holiday credit card bill, but you can perhaps curtail your spending right now until you're more financially settled. Hoping for warmer, sunnier weather this time of year won't change the forecast, but you can make the most of what you do during the available sunlight hours. If your New Year's resolution is providing to be too lofty, don't abandon it- just revise it into more attainable steps.


Have a positive outlook and move ahead:


So, keep the fond memories of the holidays, but have the courage to move beyond the challenges that they've left behind. Sure, it takes less effort to hold onto negative thoughts than it does to move forward, but in the end it's usually worth the energy to make constructive changes, It's time to set some goals for the new year, not only to achieve them, but also to have something to anticipate. We all need something to look forward to- that's what gives our lives a sense of purpose. The holidays are over, but don't forget the energy and positive attitude that you had getting ready for them. You can re-create that spirit a little bit each day in 2019.


John Ernst, PhD, LPC, treats children, adolescents, families, individual adults and couples. He is presently accepting new patients. To establish an appointment, please contact Dr. Ernst at 414-329-7000.



John Ernst, Ph.D.

Talks About....