Inside Disruption Blog

Goal Oriented, not Target Fixated

Tyler Arvig
July 12, 2017

If we are honest, it is incredibly hard at times to not focus on problems. As humans, we are simply very good at it. In disability, it becomes almost impossible to not focus on the problem.


To keep with my previous theme, let’s look at driving as an example. A key concept in performance driving is vision. The car is driven not by our extremities, but by our eyes. If we look where we want the car to go, our hands will move the wheel just the right amount, our feet will apply the appropriate amount of brake or throttle, and just like that, we have navigated that section of the road or race track. But what if we are focused on the wrong thing? Think of a child learning how to ride a bike. Mom or dad will have the child in an open parking lot with just a single light post and thousands of square feet of open pavement. As the child finally gets going on his/her own, they hit the one thing they possibly could – the light pole. Their hands followed their eyes, and their eyes were focused on the problem, not every other square inch of open, safe pavement.


In disability, it becomes too easy to focus on the problem. Doing so prevents us from solving the problem. Fibromyalgia is a great example of this. Over-focus on the pain pulls focus away from a solution. We know that the best treatment for chronic pain is activity and the more we focus on activity, the less focused we are on the pain. Similarly, individuals with major depression may not feel like interacting with others, and will limit socialization. However, doing so usually is a positive experience, as a meaningful activity. As we succeed in these behaviors, we move toward our goal of improving functioning.


We want people on disability to be goal oriented, not target fixated. The fibromyalgia or depression deserve attention, but should not be the aim of our vision. The light pole is indeed there, after all, but the open pavement is our effective way forward.


While humans are amazing in their ability to overcome barriers, this is rarely done in isolation. In disability, physicians, psychologists, family, or friends are all integral to helping someone stay goal oriented. As you probably well know, it is truly rewarding to help someone move forward, in whatever way we can.

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

About the Author: Tyler has over thirteen years of domestic and international experience in behavioral health workplace absence—including disability and worker’s compensation assessment, consultation with employers and insurers on complex claims, effective return to work strategies, program development and improvement, and supervision and training of industry professionals. He is a sought-after speaker, writer and contributor in the field of workplace behavioral health and workplace trauma recovery.