John Ernst, PhD, LPC

Talks About…



In my practice, I often meet people who report that they’ve misplaced the ability to move forward in their lives. They say they are 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.

Tips for 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 take proactive control of their lives rather than having life 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.    


Copyright 2021 – John Ernst, Ph.D., LPC


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 and ask for him specifically to discuss your initial questions.