This step is about clarity. You take this step because you want to be sure that you're moving forward with a real, actionable goal. Maybe it's to revitalize your marriage. Maybe it's to find work you really love. Or, it could be to stop using food as a crutch.
Many of us have multiple areas in our lives that could use some improvement. But Living the Truth techniques work in part by acknowledging that problems in life are linked. Often, they share root causes. Identifying any area of your life that needs immediate attention and beginning to work on it will lead you naturally to related life issues that can also benefit from the insights you are achieving.
Having an initial goal starts the LTT process in earnest. When we are dissatisfied, we can feel overwhelmed. There's often a contagious nature to emotional distress from one problem that can color everything we see and feel. And that can stop specific, liberating changes before they begin.
In what area of your life do you want to achieve positive change first?
If the answer doesn't come to you immediately, that's OK. Find a quiet place to think for a little while. Let your mind and heart focus.
You might want to begin with a general statement like, "I don't like my job. Half the time I don't even feel like getting out of bed to go to work." Write down your statement, so you have a record of this very first sentence, the start of your journey toward insight and empowerment.
Next, examine your statement. Hone in on the specific aspect of the problem you've identified that troubles you most. Is your boss someone who criticizes you in a way that is painful to you? Does work not leave you enough time for your family or for pursuing a goal you are tremendously passionate about? Perhaps you feel that you have been assigned an impossible amount of work and can't seem to set boundaries between your personal and professional lives.
If you identified your marriage as the part of your life that troubles you, be specific. What is it about your marriage that is disappointing you? Do you feel emotionally alone because there's too little communication? Is sex infrequent? Is your spouse's obsession with his or her own career mean you rarely spend time together?
Write down the most specific statement that describes what you're struggling with. Remember, writing a problem down makes it easier to focus on and should give you the sense that you are already committed to working to solve it.
Don't stop at just one attempt in making your statement specific. Keep refining what you've written. Add your emotional reactions to your statement. If your problem is with an employer, you might ultimately write, "I feel as though I am assigned my boss' work all the time and get no credit for doing it. I end up being angry at myself for not setting boundaries."
As another example, if you identified your sex life with your partner as the issue you are focusing on, you might come up with something like: "Having to ask for sex makes me feel unattractive and unwanted. So, I've stopped initiating romance between us. "
Here are some other examples:
-- I want to end the co-dependent relationship I am in with a drug user, (in which I am valued mostly as a kind of nurse) and make myself available to someone who will nurture me, too.
-- I want to stop letting my mother tell me (and my husband) how to raise my children. Her intrusiveness makes me feel like a child and disrupts my relationship with my new family.
-- I want to quit smoking by understanding the underlying factors that make me feel stressed, so I can address them.
-- I want to create a marriage in which I feel understood and valued, and where my career goals are considered as important as my spouse's.
It is important that you not rush this step. Allow yourself the time and space to sit alone with your thoughts and hone in on the specific kind of growth you hope to achieve. If you feel a little uncomfortable, that's good. As we peel away the layers of denial we have accumulated over the years and move toward the truth, we will inevitably experience some amount of discomfort. It's like working out muscles that you haven't used for a long time. Your heart and soul feel you calling on them to do more. But asking more of yourself is the way to become what you need to be.
And you're already on your way.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.