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Here in the USA we have tremendous freedom to GO FOR IT! The sky's the limit, so-to-speak, and oftentimes aspirations flow to lofty heights.

Yet, there's an undercurrent of emptiness. I see it most clearly in teenagers and young adults. Young people have lived long enough to see their parents living the American Dream, but what has the payoff been?

About three years ago I was word-wrestling with a teenager, trying to evoke some glint of what he his dreams and aspirations were for his future. At the time he was in trouble at school and home, and had begun to abuse drugs. He was/is a good kid. He taught me something that day that has stuck with me ever since.

He caught onto my line of questioning, and figuring out where I was headed, he says, "I don't want anything for my future. Look at my parents. They work all the time. I never see them and don't know what they're doing all the time they are away. We have more stuff than most families I know and my parents are among the unhappiest people I know. If that's the way it works... you go to college, work like crazy with the desire to have all these THINGS, just to end up unhappy then what's the purpose?"

Do you believe our youth have something to teach us? I've had many a flattering moment, sitting with someone in pain and realizing I was learning as much, if not more than the person in front of me. This was certainly one of those times.

I had just read a short piece on "desire" the other day. It referenced a study done across 39 countries, including 18,000 college students. It asked that each student rate their personal level of happiness in addition to rating how close they were to having everything they wanted. 

Here's the very interesting result. People who had far-reaching desires, way beyond where they were, experienced much less happiness. In fact, the size of the gap between desire and what current reality is predicts happiness 500% more effectively than income level. In other words, the bigger the gap the less happy a person is; the shorter the gap the happier the person is.

Additional research has proven that the more you achieve your list of desires, the longer your list grows. The bad news is that there is no quality difference shown in overall contentedness or happiness with more achieved. It seems that the more we have, the more we want. It's never enough...

Alcoholics Anonymous has a slogan for everything. One that rings true to this desire discrepancy is "Lord, help me want what I have!" When was the last time you prayed for contentment -- contentment that what you have in your life is enough? Quite a paradox, huh?

The goal then is not to eliminate all your goals, but to respect and know yourself well enough to set "worthy" goals. What is a worthy goal? 

A worthy goal clearly answers three questions: 

  1. Is this goal in the highest interest of your central purpose in life?

  2. Is it the right time for this particular goal? How do you know this?

  3. Will the accomplishment of this goal bring you, your family and/or your community blessings?

In other words, will the accomplishment of this desire bring happiness into your life?

Busy-ness, goals on top of goals, the pursuit of more things have all become "soul clutter" which gets in the way of navigating a happy life. 

It's a proven fact, less is more.



Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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Ask Dave!


Hello Dave,

Here's my question.  How can I stop the medicine?




Hi Jesse,

First of all it's important to know that the great majority of people do not want to be on medication. Overall,  I am pleased that folks do not want to be on medicine.  The bad news is that medication compliance is terrible in statistical studies because resistance is not dealt with up front and in a proactive fashion..  

Knowing how to go off of medication should begin before medication is even started.  First, you should know for what reasons, very specific and measurable, your doctor is recommending you take medication.  You should keep record of these symptoms and everything you have tried to combat these symptoms on your own.  You and your doctor should consider medication only after setting a reasonable time frame for positive change, implementing measurable goals and measuring whether or not there has been acceptable change.  

Once medication is an agreed upon option, you should set an initial time commitment to take the medication regularly.  Usually, in cases of moderate-to-severe depression, 6 -12 months is a good starting point.  I can't stress enough that behavioral goals should continue during this period of time.  

Once the depression improves, it is natural to wonder if you need to continue on the medication.  As you can see above, if you and your doctor have done your homework, designing this medicine experiment is a piece of cake.  First and foremost, don't do this on your own.  Talk with your doctor about taking a medicine vacation.  S/He will teach how to safely go off the medication.  

Now, you'll want to cast a safety net.  Create a symptom list including all those symptoms that may recur if the depression returns.  Make this list a literal check list.  Ask someone you trust to go over this list with you once per month for the first 6 months off the medicine and then once quarterly after that.  If you begin to experience a set number of symptoms again, agree, in the writing of this safety net exactly what action(s) you will take.

If all goes well, you will recover from depression and be successfully off medication.  If not, you will catch it and respond before it becomes severe.

Best wishes,

Dave Turo-Shields


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