The theme of this week’s blog is Schechter’s Equation for Life: S=R-E, or Satisfaction equals Reality minus Expectations. It tells us that for you to be satisfied, reality has to exceed your expectations. Simply put…when expectations are high, reality has to be higher still for you to be satisfied.
This leads us to discuss therapy and the idea of getting help. When crisis hits, people look to others for help: a church, a friend, a school program, or even a counselor. Even though many participants attend unwillingly, parents are still hopeful that these experts can and will help. After all, it is hard not to hold out high levels of hope for our children. We so desperately want to see growth and change that we are often willing to make great sacrifices to ensure the best care that we can find.
With these high investments, it is almost impossible not to have high expectations and believe that change is inevitable. Subtract those very high expectations from the reality that unmotivated teens struggle to create change in their lives, and Schechter’s Equation for Life tells us that, barring big changes, the intervention will result in negative satisfaction. So what might change? How can a counseling experience produce positive satisfaction?
The key is recognizing that, in Schechter’s Equation, satisfaction is affected by both reality and expectations. In this case, the teen is struggling with something real and tangible. So let’s focus on properly aligning expectations with what has the potential to be a difficult reality.
How do we do this? Start by acknowledging that the problem is a long-term issue. Say up front, “Attendance in this program alone is not going to fix the problem.” Go on to say, “Instead, this program is going to kick off a strategic planning process by addressing a fundamental question: Where are we?”
The core of any strategic plan explores three basic questions: Where am I? Where do I want to be? How will I get there? Sounds simple, but it’s often not. Too often the strategic planning process gets derailed when we skip ahead to questions two and three without first truly understanding where we are.
It sure is easy to get lost when you don’t know where you are to begin with. When you visit a mall and look at the display map that highlights all the stores, the first thing you look for is the little sticker that says, “You Are Here.” Even if you know your destination beforehand, it’s hard to move forward in any logical way until you make this determination. Sadly, many parents simply want a counselor to get their teen to the exit of adulthood on the other side of the building. Without understanding the reality of their teen, the expectation of growth and health are almost unreasonable. Making assumptions about their current location and the destination will always lead to a teen becoming more lost, which leads to unsatisfied parents.
Unfortunately, as much as we might talk about our kids and believe we know them, most teens are not very open and maintain many secrets. With a lack of knowledge we tend to rely on assumptions and predictions from our own past, but these memories rarely provide much insight. As weird as it sounds, we might not know that much about them. Their reality and our understanding of their reality might be completely different. Without first addressing these knowledge gaps, any plans we might make will be doomed to fail.
So as a first step, the primary focus of this year with your teen should be considering what information you need to know about them and develop a plan to collect it on a regular basis. Do this, and reality and expectations will be aligned, thus creating satisfaction.