Dr. Keith - Change Your Life, Step 7

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Plan your most powerful future.

Once you have opened your mind and heart to the chapters of your life story to date, you are ready to embark on the most exciting part of the Living the Truthjourney: Planning the next chapters, unencumbered by denial, free from the weight of all the shields you have been carrying.

The seventh step is about vision. We believe there is great power and possibility in envisioning what you want, but only when you are confident that your dreams for yourself are true to your heart and mind.

Before beginning Living the Truth, you ran the risk that you were dreaming about, hoping for, and working toward things that weren't good for you, or gravitating towards people, places, jobs, and relationships that were self-defeating. Even dreams that appeared healthy to the outside world might have, on closer examination, turned out to have been other people's dreams for you. Living the Truth means that the horizons that you see ahead really belong to you. They reflect a need to please yourself, not others. They are a result of careful and determined introspection about who you are-your authentic self.

Imagine a woman who grew up in the shadow of a powerful, very busy father. As an adult, she based all of her self-esteem on meeting the expectations of powerful people around her. It is no accident that she found herself rising through the ranks of a male-dominated corporation, succeeding largely because of her willingness to exhaust herself to earn the praise of her superiors. By using the eight steps of Living the Truth, she realized this job was not her heart's desire, but the result of a pattern; she wanted to attract the attention and approval of her powerful dad, or authority figures like him. Her shield was the "high" she got when these men and her family praised her, and she was able, for a time, to convince herself that this meant she was in the right place. The discovery that she actually found her career dull and stressful, and that she did not even respect the men whose approbation she so desperately craved, was, of course, unsettling. It was also sad to confront the fact that she was, at age 35, in pursuit of love she hadn't gotten as a child. But all these realizations were the truth, and ultimately the path to personal freedom. She was able to forgive herself for letting her entire life revolve around pleasing others. She was able to forgive her family for having misguided dreams for her. She was even able to forgive her father, whose neglect of her in service to his job was merely what he'd been taught by his own family. Free of anger, free of the need to be a reflection of other's ideas for her, and fully cognizant of the unconscious dynamic she wished to stop, she was now ready for Step Seven. She found herself thinking back to being a camp counselor in college. That was work she had truly loved, and this memory led to her vision: what she really wanted to be was a teacher. At first this seemed strange to her, because she'd always made lots of money, and thought that was important to her. More work in Step Seven led her to realize that she herself didn't place a lot of value of the things that money provided. Wealth was just one more thing she thought she needed to gain outside approval. Over time, she did leave her job and became a teacher, and is now living a life in service to her truth - a life she enjoys and cherishes rather than regrets.

It is very possible that before you began this work, you felt, as this woman did, that your future was not really yours to plan. But the factors that gave you this false belief will not bear the scrutiny you can now give them. Like her, you can now finally let yourself feel the emotions you've spent your whole life running away from, emotions that you were afraid might overwhelm you. They will not. You will emerge intact and ready to put the past behind you. Your fear will be replaced with strength and your resentments with forgiveness. Doubt and anxiety will be replaced with self-esteem and a growing sense of possibility. All the energy you spent suppressing these emotions and avoiding reality will now be available for positive use, to move your life in the direction you want to take it.

Ask yourself some of the following questions: If I could choose my work, what would it be? What kind of relationship would be the most healing and joyful and would enable me to give what I have to give and to get what I need? If I am in a relationship, what do I want from it? What kind of people can I surround myself with so that I feel empowered, supported, loved and challenged? How do I keep lowering the shields that I identified, so that I am not again held hostage to patterns of behavior and emotion that keep me from my truth?

As you ask yourself these questions over time - questions that may initially frighten or overwhelm you- notice that you will begin instead to feel a sense of well-being and empowerment. Those feelings come from the realization that you have reached a point where your dreams can resound deeply with your truth, and at which you are also entirely capable of doing whatever it takes to turn those dreams into reality.

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 livingthetruth.com.