Setting Goals and Changing Behaviors to Feel Better with Dr. Victoria Dalton, PsyD
Speaker 1: (Singing)
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Hello, this is Rebecca Fleetwood- Hession, host of the Badass Women's Council Podcast. We're here for reflection and connection for the bad- ass, high- achieving woman like you. So thanks for being here. And since you're here, you might as well just hit the subscribe button. I mean, don't be silly. You don't want to miss a minute of any of the episodes coming up. Okay, we have Dr. Vicki Dalton back today. If you're just joining us and you want to jump back to the last episode, Dr. Dalton has been covering what it means to feel better. Because the majority of her clients come to her and that's what they say," I just want to feel better." So in the last episode we covered, what are the barriers to feeling better? And in this episode, we're going to look at the solutions. And just rich with nuggets in today's episode. All this free therapy I'm giving you, don't you love that? Now I got to tell you that when we get to the solutions and we summarize them at the end of this episode, guess what? The solution is reflection and connection. Which is the tagline of the bad- Ass Women's Council Podcast, reflection and recognizing our own thoughts and abilities to make changes and to do big, bold, beautiful things. And connection to surround ourselves with a well- built community. So I love working with Vicki, and I think you're going to love what you hear today. Here we go.
Speaker 1: (Singing).
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Hey, Vicki.
Vicki Dalton: Hello.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Now that I have permission to call you Vicki.
Vicki Dalton: You do, I've given it to you.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: So we're back to follow up from our previous episode, where we looked at the aspect of many of your clients come to you to feel better. And in the first episode, we looked at some of the barriers to that. Do you want to summarize that?
Vicki Dalton: Yeah, so really, I guess when we kind of break this down, you can kind of describe this sort of the ABC model that we operate a lot in, in the mental health world, and quite frankly, science in general. The a is the antecedent, or sort of the precursors or the triggers. The situation, perhaps, if you want. B is the behavior. And then C is the consequences, the outcome. And we kind of spent a lot of time talking about sort of the antecedents, which is often the thought pattern. And perhaps the things that were unhappy. Noticing those sort of pieces of that. And then we moved a little bit into behavior, talking about what role did we play? What role do we maybe need to change? Identifying some of those pieces. And we talked about some of the thought patterns. And then now we're kind of, probably should transition over to consequences. Or the outcome that we want. And I think we could probably break that down in terms of goals.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Okay.
Vicki Dalton: I think is probably a pretty good way for us to summarize this next part.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: So if you've, saying to yourself, driving to work this morning," I would like to feel better." And you've listened to that first episode, and you're recognizing some of your thoughts and things that may be contributing in a way that's not helping you feel better. Now, you're saying," Well, what are the goals that you have for feeling better? What does that look like? Feel like?" Is that what we're talking about?
Vicki Dalton: Yeah. When they come in and I ask them, how do you know you're depressed? How do you know you're anxious? How to know you're unhappy with work or in your relationships? And I make them kind of break it down to what is the problem. And then, by definition, that kind of lends itself then to our goal development. How will you know, you're feeling better? What will that look like? How will you know? And can we have measurable things, or is it going to be more of an internal state? In which case, you have to be pretty introspective and work at that. Is it going to be an actual, tangible outcome, or is it going to be a sense of enjoyment in life? And we really have to kind of define what that looks like. Because, like I said, they come in like," I want to feel happier. I want to feel better." And that's a fleeting thing, or it's situational and environmental, and we have to talk about more of an internal state. So again, we break it down to goals. How will you know when you're not as depressed, or not depressed at all? What would that look like? What would that feel like? And that's where we started with the behaviors. I said earlier, and I don't know if we were on air yet or not, but we were talking about the idea that Human beings, we don't repeat behaviors that don't work. They may seem like they don't work to other people, but they must serve some purpose.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: They're serving something in us.
Vicki Dalton: Mm-hm. Otherwise we change, we tweak them. It is a fundamental aspect, I think, why we're at the top of the food chain. That and our thumbs, like I said earlier. We learn and we adapt. And sometimes we adapt and maladaptive kind of ways, because of some of those thought patterns or beliefs, or a lack of confidence in ourselves, or a lack of positive fortune-telling. So we have to pay attention to then, how do we change that? And that's where it comes into this real personal journey. And one of the things that I had said earlier was, as you're sort of taking a look and evaluating the consequences of my situation and what my goals are to be, how much of that do we have influence over? Our situation, our work environment, the people that we have in our world or the outcome in the product of our jobs or our lives, where do we have the ability to make and bring about change? And quite frankly, who we surround ourselves with is a pretty huge piece.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: It's a piece I care deeply about, is that career women are intentionally building community for themselves that are supportive. That appreciate that we love our careers as much as we love our families and our kids. And maybe not as much, but it's an important part of our life, not something that we should feel ashamed of or diminish in any way, is to surround yourself with people that will cheer that love that you have of your career. Has been an integral part of my journey the last few years. But let's talk a little bit about an example. Let's say that you work for a complete jerk.
Vicki Dalton: Okay.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: And let's say that you're headed to work right now, and you're recognizing that your thoughts are a little bit fortune- telling, that you might be assuming that he or she is going to derail the day no matter what your plan. And now you're thinking, okay, how can I do this differently? And how can I go into today looking at my own thoughts and behaviors, and dealing with the situation that I'm in. What would you recommend in that situation?
Well, I think we focus on sort of the here and now. And if this is a situation that you're currently in and you're not planning to change it, and we all know that we can't change other people. So if your boss is a jerk, they're probably going to continue to maintain their behaviors, unless we have the ability to influence them. So what is in our control is our thought pattern, our perceptions. And if you come in, that fortune telling concept's a really good one. If I believe they're going to be very negative with me, they're going to challenge me, they're going to put me down or put barriers in my way towards success, whatever the case would be. When you start spinning in that direction, catastrophizing perhaps, investing in that sort of negative thought pattern. And it may be a reality, but what do you do with that reality becomes the question. And so When you can become aware that you're starting to engage in that negativity if you can catch it and sort of shift it a little bit, take it almost a little bit more of a scientific kind of approach. Okay, if it is what it is, what do I have the ability to influence and control? And truthfully, mindset matters. If you go into this anticipating some difficulties, you could be working on problem solving and planning if you keep your mindset in a more positive manner. Perhaps avoiding as much of the boss as you can as possible, or sort of presenting them with something that might derail their negativity, even if you can't change it. But: The reality is that when you're engaging in that catastrophizing when you're engaging in that negative fortune-telling, you're not really capable of effectively engaging in problem-solving or growth. And therefore you're going to be stuck and spinning, and then you'll believe when it happens, it was going to always happen.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: See, I told you he was a jerk. And I absolutely have had experience with this, where the more I dreaded and thought about the other person's behavior, I gave away all of my own control and influence, and just was surviving that relationship. And when I was able to shift it and say," But hold on, my job is more than just my relationship with this person. What kind of impact am I having with my clients, with my team? What am I good at and what am I going to focus on today that feels good, instead of just playing defense to try to not deal with him."
Vicki Dalton: Yeah, that's a great approach. And recognizing that if you are going to have a negative interaction that you can't avoid, doing your best to sort of encapsulate it, to not allowing it to own your whole morning or own the whole afternoon, influence how you interact with other people that if there is that kind of negativity that you can't externally influence, make sure it doesn't allow it to internally influence you, for an extended period of time at least. I mean, that's part of what I have to do with my clients, is we have to live in reality. I don't want to present this as some sort of Pollyanna type of approach where, just, it's all sunshine and roses.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Right.
Vicki Dalton: I mean, sometimes we have tough jobs. Sometimes we have really tough coworkers. It's not always just the boss, the jerk. Sometimes it's easier to deal with the boss as opposed to the person next to you. So we have to find ways to recognize what influence are they having. That's sort of the mindfulness, awareness. All right, how is this person influencing me? How much power am I giving them right now? How much ability do I have to influence that? And oftentimes it's very little in other people. It's how we perceive it and how we allow it to impact us. And you can only really effectively do that if you're paying attention to what's going on inside your head.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Yeah. It's allowed me to evoke a ton of empathy for people that are kind of jerks with bad behavior. Because I recognize that they're likely hurting in some real, internal way themselves. Because that whole concept of people that are hurting tend to hurt others and lash out in that way. So I can evoke empathy and not have to receive it.
Vicki Dalton: Yeah. I mean, it's a higher order emotional kind of a thing. It's emotional maturity that's taking place, when you can sort of step outside of your own self and see what might be going on for this person. Why might they behaving this way? What purpose do they think it's serving? Sometimes that's pretty helpful if you go back to the philosophy of, people don't repeat behaviors unless they work. So on some level, this must be working sort of for them, in which case you'll be at risk for taking it less personal, which is another cognitive distortion that we do. We take things personal and make assumptions about why they're doing something to us, when I'd say 95% of the time, maybe even more, people do things for themselves, not to you. It's their own goals and motives. And when you can see that, that enables the empathy piece, but it also enables it to bounce off of you a bit more. And then you're in control and more, at least in your own head, in your own world.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Well, let's talk about that control. Because one of the things I hear from high- achieving women is, when we can evoke that sense of empathy for others, then sometimes we think we have the ability to fix, or control, or help those people. And most of the time, that's not the case. So I've given up on what I call the role of the fixer. That's not my job.
Vicki Dalton: Right. And I would say that's probably not a bad thing to be aware of. Engaging in the empathy process and trying to understand what might be their other motives, or what other purposes that their behaviors could be serving, rather than just to torment you or to make the world a less happy place. It's helpful to have that context. But very rarely do you inspire change in other people unless they're interested in it. I have been told more than once, I have to remember not everybody is paying me to hear my advice or to get my support. That is not my job, to fix or change the world. And so remembering that can be helpful. In terms of just sort of a cost- benefit use of your energy. Not necessarily that we say we have a truly limited amount of energy, but will this derive any benefit? Will it be helpful? That doesn't mean, necessarily, that you go out of your way to ignore if there's an opportunity to be supportive. But to have the expectation that it will change someone else is not always a very effective use of your time and energy.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: I encourage people to make a list each week, where can they have the most impact in a positive way. And then look for activities, and meetings and conversations that will give them that sense of, I didn't just check the box this week. I didn't just habitually go through a list of tasks and activities. But what's the impact that some of these things has had? Which always, for me, has helped derive a greater sense of satisfaction in my work.
Vicki Dalton: Absolutely. And recognizing where are there inefficiencies in what you're doing already? When we think about the amount of behaviors that we go through, the patterns that we go through almost sort of mindlessly, are they bringing benefit to us in some way, or to our work product or to our team? And if you really take some time to evaluate, you'll probably see there's probably quite a few things that we do out of habit, or out of maybe external expectation, or our perception of external expectation, but really don't serve purpose.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Yeah. I say, do things intentionally, not habitually.
Vicki Dalton: Okay, yeah, I like it.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: I always think, I think about the story that's gone around for decades. Where grandma always cut off the ends of the ham and it got passed on for generations at every family dinner and gathering, that you always cut off the ends of the ham. And somebody thought it was because it tasted better, and somebody thought it was... Everybody had their thoughts on why that was. And finally it came to be known that grandma had a really small pan and always bought big ham, and it wouldn't fit in the pan. But for decades after that, her children and children's children were cutting off the ends of the ham. So sometimes I'll use that as an example of, know why you're doing things. Don't just do it because it's always been done that.
Vicki Dalton: Yeah, yeah. There's some famous philosophies like, do we really have a good plan, or has this plan actually been applied or challenged? Is it the right thing to do, the best way to do it, the most efficient way? And again, looking at that without judgment, that's the external peace that can help us towards our goals and towards positive consequences and changes, things that make us feel better. When we identify inefficiencies or disappointments, or these negative cognitive distortions. When we identify them, it really is pretty counter- productive to beat yourself up for beating yourself up. So you become aware that you maybe have identified some of these things that you need to change, and then work towards those goals. Making the change, not necessarily beating yourself up that the previous plan that you had was ineffective. There's no point in lamenting the last pieces of ham that were out there. But instead, now embracing the whole ham. Which I feel like should be on a T- shirt somewhere.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: I read the other day, a quote. It said something about, no need to stick to a plan. Focus on a mistake that you made just because you spend a lot of time making it. Right? So don't just stay with it because, I've spent so much time making this bad mistake. I should probably just stick with it. But just acknowledging, and then moving on to something that provides better outcomes.
And I'd even take it a step further. I'm okay if you're going to focus on the mistake. But let's focus on it in a nonjudgmental way. What inspired that? What was the why behind, I did the thing that was ineffective or hurtful or damaging? What was, what I thought was going to be the goal, but obviously it wasn't the outcome? When you can remove the judgment piece and just sort of stay present in the moment and see the mistake is a behavior you need to learn from or a thought pattern you need to identify and then change, now you can do so. And yet, it's a reflex for a lot of people in an unfortunate way. That they feel like, almost like they have this mean coach in their head." I need to make sure..."
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: I call it The Little Bitch in Our Head.
Vicki Dalton: All right, fine. That'll work too.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: We named her a little differently at the Badass Women's Council.
Vicki Dalton: And so re- evaluating the idea of, okay, yelling at myself about this really doesn't actually make me get to that finish line better and faster. I might make it there, but I'm doing so with tears, as opposed to picking myself up and understanding, why did I trip? What happened? And learning from it, and then moving forward in a meaningful way. Take those mistakes with you and grow, as opposed to being afraid of repeating.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: I love that, without shame and judgment. And I say, when the little bitch in your head starts to say those things, you're always going to have her. But if we can just put her in the passenger seat with a seatbelt in a snack and say, you can ride along, but you don't get to drive. We're going this direction now. I get it. Here's what we did wrong. Now let's go this way.
Vicki Dalton: Maybe she doesn't always have to stay the bitch, I guess, if you look out like that.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: But we're giving her a snack.
Vicki Dalton: Yeah, maybe she was hangry. Maybe that's what it is. There actually is something to that. Not that this is necessarily relevant for our podcast-
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: No, go for it.
Vicki Dalton: But in the addictions world, when I was first working in my career, early on, I had some training in the addictions world. And it was in a women's inpatient residential facility for new moms who had their babies taken from them at the hospital because they were addicted. And the process was trying to reunite them. And there was this concept of HALT. And that is particularly true for women, but I would say it's probably true for everybody. Things that puts you at risk for repeating bad patterns, going back to old things like addictions, but also probably anything negative. These are things that pull you back and put you more at risk. HALT never get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Oh my gosh.
Vicki Dalton: I know, isn't that life- changing? Because we've all, we joke about the hangry thing, but it's legitimate. And anger is derailing and distracting, and always secondary to another emotion that's more vulnerable, you didn't want to feel. And we can understand, we talked earlier about you don't have to go this alone. Getting lonely really puts you at risk for making lots of different kinds of mistakes. And we all know what happens when we get tired. So those are really pretty good models to handle. But so maybe yeah, maybe to our little inner bitch is really just angry and tired and hungry.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Oh my gosh, that HALT thing is so profound. And the loneliness thing, isolation and loneliness is third to obesity and smoking in terms of health- related issues now, globally. I mean, the UK has appointed a minister of loneliness. It's a thing. We've grown to believe that we have to figure everything out, and we have to... It's it's up to us. Instead of, like you said earlier, somebody else might be able to help solve this problem, which also is connection. Let's work together on things more in our business, instead of thinking that we have to have all the answers. I know, for me, if I am sitting in my office, I'm an entrepreneur, so I could spend days alone and nobody would even know that I've been alone for days. Right? I could sit here and stew on a problem, and recognize that I'm getting more and more ineffective the longer I stay alone. And literally just, I'll feel it now and I'll be like, I got to go have coffee with a friend, or I got to go out and interact with someone and it gets my brain lit back up. And then I can come back and work on that problem very differently than if I would've just white knuckled it and said, I'm not going to do anything until I figured this thing out.
Vicki Dalton: Absolutely. And I would be willing to bet that for a lot of my clients that come in and talk about," I want to feel better," they really want to feel connected. They want to feel connected to people that are meaningful to them. That almost always ends up ultimately on the goal side of the page, how will we know when you're better? When you're feeling better, and it's going to be when you're connected to other people, you feel your goals almost always include another part of humanity. So I would say that that makes a great deal of sense.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: I hope so, because that's what my entire business model is based on, is helping build community for career women. Because I know personally, and then when I started to do the research, it just was slapping me in the face every day that we've just normalized busy and taking care of everyone else. And we've left ourselves out of the equation too often. And career women, high- achieving women, we don't really have a lot of patience for small talk. We don't want to sit around and just have people in our lives and conversation just for the sake of con- we really want to have meaningful conversation. We want to be around people that appreciate that our careers are important and to have those meaningful conversations. And in once I start to put people in these groups, you can just see them light up.
Vicki Dalton: Right. They want to be one of people that inspire those conversations.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Yes.
Vicki Dalton: Not just that they can sort of be a part of it, but join in and inspire it. And it does take a mindset to get to that point. And it does take, to a certain extent in this world. I mean, this isn't my idea. This isn't just me. I mean, this has been around since the beginning of psychology, the idea of, I think it was Eric Maslow's hierarchy of need. Right?
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Yeah.
Vicki Dalton: Right. After food, shelter, clothing, what you have to have for basic survival, the next building block for any kind of healthy humanity is a sense of belonging. And preferably belonging to a group of people you want to belong to.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Right.
Vicki Dalton: And that usually involves part of the goal process. So we're talking about getting there, what would it look like? What would it feel like? And we end up at some point talking about, how do you surround yourself with, or who do you already have in your world that you can become more connected with, that would meet some of those needs? Or quite frankly, who do you have that you need to carve out?
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: That's a whole nother episode.
Vicki Dalton: Yes, it is.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: So let's summarize this, because I think that does it really well. Is the first step is recognizing your thoughts, and knowing that you have the ability to change your thoughts and your behaviors, habits, patterns that get you more of the goals, the consequences positively that you want, and to surround yourself with the people that can support you in that way, and never get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
Vicki Dalton: That's right.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: What did we leave out? Anything that we want to make sure that we highlight here as a capture at the end?
Vicki Dalton: I think that was pretty good. I mean, we sort of talked about the concept that people want to feel better, but they have to understand what that means, what are the barriers, and what will it look like when they're improved? And we sort of broke that down, I think, pretty well for folks.
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here.
Vicki Dalton: Thanks for inviting me.
Speaker 1: (Singing)
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: Okay. So this is one of those episodes that you want to save and go back and listen to, the last two episodes with Vicki. Save them, take notes, mark them so you can get to them quickly when you need them later. Oh my gosh, just the HALT thing in general is life- changing. Never make decisions when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. All right. That kind of describes the holiday season. Oh my goodness. Okay, speaking of the holidays, you need a gift for the bad- ass women in your life. And you need this yourself. So send this link to your significant other or your mom and say," Hey, you know what? I really want this holiday season? I want me a bad- ass Women's Council T- shirt to remind me that I'm a bad- ass." And you can get one at badasswomenscouncil. com, which is the podcast page, and then hit the tab, shop. I'd love it if you did. Enjoy your holiday season, and I can't wait to spend 2021 just doing amazing interviews and bringing you all the great stories.
Speaker 1: (Singing)
Rebecca Fleetwood-Hession: This is Rebecca Fleetwood- Hession. Thanks so much for being here. We'd love to stay connected. We can do that if you jump into the online community at badasswomenscouncil. community. We've got lots of cool people in there already. And if you come in, it'll just be cooler.
Speaker 1: (Singing)
Many of us want to feel better, but don’t know where to start. We have to define how we are feeling and set personal goals are in order to make any progress. To feel better, we often have to adapt our behaviors and patterns and connect with other meaningful people in our lives. We even have to step outside ourselves and empathize with other people around us. In the end, the most important part of this process is keeping a positive mindset, so that we can problem-solve and plan rather than catastrophize. In this week’s episode, we talk to Dr. Victoria Dalton again about how we can start to feel better. She talks about why humans repeat behaviors, and how we can adapt those same patterns and behaviors. Dr. Victoria Dalton also discusses how to change your mindset, and understand that you can’t always change other people. In her conversation with Rebecca, she emphasizes the importance of not allowing negative interactions to internally influence you and your experiences. She also discusses how and why you should evaluate which patterns and behaviors serve a purpose in your life and which ones are inefficient. She even explains how you can learn from your mistakes and focus on them in a nonjudgemental way. Listen in to learn more about how to set goals for yourself, adapt your behaviors and patterns, and connect with meaningful people in your life to feel better. This episode is the second part of last week’s episode, so if you haven’t listened to last week's yet, check it out now.