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Pondering life

Discovering autism

Autism and goal setting

Society has become obsessed with goal setting as the key to success in life. This mindset is setting an unrealistic path for true purpose in life.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of life coaches or coaches in general. I’m an autistic person and I mentored both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals for 20 years before retiring. I saw first hand how this get out of your comfort zone nonsense took a toll on their lives.

I think autistic people should stay away from life coaches, and their one trick pony and one size fits all play book to reaching our potential in life. I believe these methods trigger demand avoidance and create trauma in autistic people who already don’t think they are good enough, or fit into society’s unrealistic projections of living a successful life.

A so-called comfort zone may be the exact place we are serving our purpose in this point of time. It is only an illusion that we need to push ourselves every day to succeed in life. The personal growth industry wants us to think if we are not constantly looking for ways to stretch ourselves, we are not growing. This is not only untrue but is adding to the amount of depression and anxiety we have in society among people in general.

I also don’t believe in setting long term goals for neurotypicals either. Setting goals do not keep a person motivated over the long term. Goals can guide us forward in the short term but in the long run having a system in place, thus what we practice daily to keep progressing will make the real difference. These approaches will be different for autistic people, because autistic people process information and emotions differently to neurotypical people. Push approaches may trigger overwhelm, stress and anxiety that may also lead to meltdowns.

If we continually measure our success or happiness by goal setting, we are constantly telling ourselves we are not good enough until we reach a goal. The problem with mind setting is it teaches people to put off being happy or successful until they have reached their next milestone, and so the cycle begins again.

Long term goal setting puts unnecessary stress on a person. Focusing on practice rather than performance keeps us in the present moment which keeps us real, while making progress at the same time. Most people consider, given what they have been told, that setting goals is plain common sense. However, it is not realistic when we don’t have control over outside influences that could interfere with setting long term goals. It’s better to be in the present and focus on the journey rather than the destination.

It's better to make a commitment to improvement everyday rather than defining limitations through long term goals. People will make progress beyond what their goals would be this way as there is no limitations defining where we want to be.

A high percentage of autistic people have demand avoidance including myself so I wouldn’t recommend autistic people make long to do lists, as this has a strong potential to trigger demand avoidance and overwhelm. There is no one size fits all, so it may be better to have a list of potential things that we may need for the long haul without attachment to them being important, as things change as the bigger picture evolves.

We can then choose to prioritise a couple of things on a short list that we have the potential to complete in a day. Its better not to hold attachment to all things being completed as unseen things or disruptions can derail this for an autistic person.

  • Late autistic diagnosis
  • Autistic burnout
  • Co-occurring conditions
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