Past goals driving current choices? – Overcoming your inner teenager


Quick summary: What drives your choices, ambitions and behaviors? I am going to suggest that many (if not most) of us still carry values, goals, wants, wishes, desires etc that we forgot to let go of when we grew into adults. Being a teenager is truly difficult… you believe that you are an adult though you are not as biologically and emotionally developed as you think, you desire independence though you don’t truly even know what it is, you have the goal of being unique and different or the same and accepted… either way it is very important for you to have a uniquely identifiable identity, you want to be right and you believe that you are as life has not taught you that being right is subjective and relative, and you wish things to be fair but fairness was a judgment that required only your input. These teenage goals still encourage many of our behaviors as adults. In this post I will help you explore which goals you may still be carrying that you can let go of after you have gained a degree of insight.

With insight there is a freedom of choice… this exercise is not intended to make you feel bad about yourself… instead the intention is for you to learn something about the desires of your past teenage self that may still be driving your current choices… once you are aware you can take whatever action you so desire… you can keep your teenage drives or you can leave them, the point is that the insight will give you that freedom of choice.

I encourage you to contemplate your teenage self… what did he/she desire… what was the drive behind your past choices as a teenager?

  • What was most important to your teenage self? What did you value?


  • What objects were most important to you? Why?


  • How did your behaviors or activities represent who you were as an individual… who were you trying to be?


  • Why did you do what you did? If you dressed a specific way, what encouraged you to do so?


  • What were the characteristics that you wanted other people to notice about you (athletic, funny, attractive etc)?


  • If you rebelled against authority what was the purpose of doing such? If you followed all the rules, why was this important to you?


  • How did you wish to be labeled by your classmates, friends, family and society in general (jock, hippie, intelligent, moral etc)?


  • What role did you play in your family? What role did you play in your circle of friends?


  • Who or what did you not like? What was the reason for your feelings?


In what ways are your drives today the same as they were when you were a teenager? You can change all of the above questions to the present tense (ex what role do you play in your family? or why do you dress the way that you do?

Do you still long to be viewed the same way? Are you still trying to prove the same things about your self?

Take a look at these cliché teenage values and ask yourself how they impact you as an adult.

  • to be different or unique
  • to be independent
  • to be right or correct
  • for things to be fair
  • to prove that you are an adult


Now look at these cliché counter arguments as to why those teenage desires are ‘misguided’.

  • The easiest way to be different and unique is to be authentic… the easiest way to achieve authenticity is to stop trying to be something in particular so that you can simply be who you are.
  • There is no independence without dependence… it is with the security of dependence that we grow our ability to be independent. All things are dependant on other thing for survival.
  • Being right or correct is both relative and subjective… if there is no means of attaining truth then no one can ever be ‘right’.
  • Fair for one in unfair to the next… this makes life unfair (or fair and unfair at the same time).
  • You are an adult when you stop having to prove that you are an adult.


I want you now to think of some big or perhaps controversial or difficult choices that you have made as an adult… how were these choices impacted by the desires of your old teenage self?


Think of your choices related to:


  • Work (where, how, with whom etc)
  • Relationships
  • Where you live
  • Your habits or vices
  • Your political positions
  • Your hobbies
  • Your style
  • The way you recreate or the activities you commonly participate in
  • Your physical, spiritual, emotional, social and mental health
  • Your goals
  • The way that you treat people
  • The way that you present yourself
  • take advice or accept help


My teenage self was very concerned with being different and with not ‘blindly’ following authority. I recently realized that a big decision that I had made – which was to not accept insurance for my psychotherapy practice – was partially motivated by that outdated teenage goal. There are certainly good arguments for not taking insurance (as it allows an ‘authority’ to impact the way in which you conduct your practice), but my adult self can see that there are also good reasons to take insurance. By gaining insight surrounding my teenage self I will now be able to make a more open-minded and reasonable decision. Previously the topic was not truly up for open-minded analysis… I do not know exactly what my decision will be but I do know why I was previously close-minded about the topic…


Dialectic thinking can increase choice.


It is developmentally appropriate for a teenager to be a dichotomous thinker.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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