If it were easy to make radical lifestyle changes…we would all do it! Set SMALL goals (and larger goals) and then start taking steps toward the small steps. Sometimes the success of those small steps becomes self-reinforcing, and you will find yourself taking larger steps than planned.
(Example: I wanted to read for one hour this week; I found time to read three times for forty minutes each time!)
Did you know that today, July 15th, is officially #givesomethingawayday? I must tell you that I am here for it! Most people that know me personally know that I am not the most sentimental person when it comes to keepsakes and storing away items that once meant something to me. I accept this about myself and I do not see it as a fault; rather, I see it as a nod to sustainability, minimalism and whatever the opposite of greed is. I believe that less is more and that if something doesn’t serve a purpose in my life, then it is better off being loved and used by someone else.
I don’t take it as far as some (ahem Marie Kondo…); after all, I do have two totes of keepsakes from my childhood (my old girl scout sash, my first rosary, a high school uniform, my first “cool” watch featuring Tweety Bird, my piggie bank, etc) stored in my basement! I kept all of my Barbie’s and their accessories from childhood and my girls currently play with them! I think there is value in being able to pass down and reflect back on these items; however, as the present moment is where I choose to live, I want to minimize the likelihood of falling into the past accidentally.
In honor of #givesomethingawayday I am asking you to do a few things for me and then I will gladly give you a SIGNED copy of my book, shipping is on me as well!
Share one of my blog posts to a social media account of yours. Any post is fine, whichever you prefer. Bonus points if you tag someone else who might want to read it.
Go follow me on another social media platform (links below) and interact with one post. Bonus points if you tag someone who might enjoy the content!
Actually read my book if you are chosen and then tell someone about it!
If you want to be entered into the drawing for a free, signed copy of my book Adulting Well, please comment a self care action you enjoy below on this post and then follow me on any of these pages in addition to following my blog here on WordPress!
Let’s face it…change is difficult, complex, and overwhelming at times. Everyone struggles with different parts of the change process, and I have found a visual reference (no citation was given for me to provide) that will help you find where you might missing the stepping stone to achieve the meaningful change that you want in life!
If you have read this far then I know you want change. Change is the outcome of the top row; if you follow the equation provided, you are likely to experience change. The reality is though, that we often end up trying to change but get confused, anxious, resistant, frustrated or we end up preparing to change but never actually doing it (false start)! I will walk you through the grid below; however, you first need to identify what one situation is that you are struggling to get change with, and which of the 5 outcomes you keep ending up with (aside from the change).
After defining the concepts below, I will walk you through my problem with consistent exercise as it can be an uphill battle for me, and I have experienced all of the listed outcomes during different seasons of life!
Key concepts needed:
Vision is what you want to see your life become. It is the goal you set for yourself. Your personal vision is an idealistic future that you are setting for yourself related to one facet of life. Your vision helps for you to identify what to strive for and what you want to achieve. Having a vision will empower you to steer all relevant decisions toward achievement of the idealized future. This is important it will allow you to know when you’ve achieved your goal! Articulating your vision should ideally help you feel motivated and will comfort your anxiety by defining the goal.
A vision statement is generally short, sweet and to the point. It is generally simple enough for anyone to read and understand; this is important for you as well, I do not want you to read it months later and forget what you meant by the words you used! Vision statements will require time to achieve; I’d suggest setting personal goals that take at least one year to achieve but don’t extend beyond a five-year goal. We need to set something that is achievable in a time frame that keeps us motivated AND that is realistic. Change does not happen overnight and I see many people stumble with this…we all want the quick fix.
An ideal vision statement contains measurable components, a personal component that makes sense based on your circumstances, and how it will improve connection to others.
As you can see in the grid, if you do not have clearly defined vision statement, you will end up with confusion! You are likely to jump on fad bandwagons (fitness, diets, trends, etc.) and you will lack direction overall in life. A vision statement is a necessary part of change!
For my vision related to my physical fitness, I state: My vision is: I will feel able to keep up with my kids and husband when hiking the National Parks and will live my life with minimal joint pain and exhaustion. I will be saying “yes” more than I say “no” as it relates to physical activities with those I love.
Skills, skills, skills. We are taught a lot of things in elementary school. I can sing the 50 United States in alphabetical order, I can tell you random facts about history and I can tell you about primary, secondary and tertiary colors…but did we learn how to problem solve, budget or communicate….? (nope!). It is not your fault if you are lacking in the skills needed to achieve your goal but it is something you can work to change.
I love how normalized self-help books, blogs and topics are in our world. If you feel that you need the skills associated with achieving goals, I’d encourage you to check out my book Adulting Well for practical and relatable help in different life domains (if you tell me you are buying as a result of this blog post, I will gladly sign it for you)!
Skills are required to gain the confidence needed to tackle difficult goals and not end up in the pit of anxious despair, beating yourself up! There is not one magic skill; rather you will have to continually assess and reassess where you are in life and alter your course accordantly.
I gained the skills needed to achieve my goals in several ways: I consult with personal trainers every few years to fine tune my plan, I have accountability buddies in my life to help remind me to get to the gym and eat well, in seasons where my motivation is lacking I find fitness classes to be helpful.
Humans are animals. Animals can be trained. To be trained, animals need reinforcement. A reinforcer is anything that is likely to increase the odds of the behavior happening again. A positive reinforcer is something given that you want (treat, item, kind words, sticker) and a negative reinforcer is the removal of something that you want removed (removal of an unpleasant task, removal of discomfort, removal of guilt). The reinforcer can come from an external source such as an accountability partner, a spouse, a friend, or a paid professional or from within yourself. I suggest building in both!
I have noticed that we are quicker to jump to self-punishment instead of reinforcers. We think that it will help motivate us; however, research and your own experience continues to prove that idea WRONG. If beating yourself up with your words and actions helped, we would all be perfectly productive in our goals! Scientific research has shown again and again that punishment is the least effective method for changing behavior. If you would like to learn more on this, check out Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot The Dog.
Without incentives animals/humans do not engage in behaviors that are difficult or cause discomfort. Without incentives, you will be resistant to change and can end up being resentful of the change! Resistance is not the desired outcome, change is.
In order to reinforce myself for my goal of increasing and maintaining consistent physical exercise, I use a few reinforcers. I have a behavior chart in my journal in which I check off the days that I exercise (my definition of exercise is important. Initially I gave myself credit if I went to the gym, went on a hike or bike ride, or walked 7000 steps per day. As I found myself achieving the goal most days, I raised the bar and separated exercise from 7000 steps per day. I wanted 7000 steps to be my baseline and wanted to do physical exercise at least four times per week. My other rewards have included but are not limited to a new water bottle/workout clothes after hitting pre-defined goals, allowing myself to watch a show only after I exercise, certain “gym-only” playlists, encouragement from my friends, kids and husband, positive self-talk and self-encouragement, and noticing my gains such as improved energy and stamina. Please notice that there is not one answer, there will need to be a variety of reinforcers that come together for the benefit of incentivizing your success.
What in the world do we mean by resources? Resources are assets that can be pulled from by a person or function effectively. Without resources you will be very frustrated because you will not be able to achieve your goals! If your goal requires you to pay a fee, the needed resource is money. If your goal includes producing artwork, your resource would be the art supplies. If your goal includes socializing, your resources might include therapy to learn the anxiety management skills.
Your resources are the items, funds, and/or people required to achieve the goal. I say required to highlight the fact that without the appropriate resources, you will not be able to achieve the goal! You can have a clear vision, great motivators, and amazing skills; but without the resources required, the goal will be intangible.
The resources I needed to achieve my goal included: the money required for a Beachbody on Demand subscription for at home workouts (as I have three kids and cannot always get to a gym), the money for a gym membership to Planet Fitness for days that I can get to the gym, weights and at home workout gear which I purchased used, workout clothing and a water bottle. Money was a resource needed for each step of the way. When money was tight, I skipped the Beachbody subscription and used free workouts on Youtube which was adequate; however, Wifi and a device were still needed resources. Time is also a needed resource, so I have had to hone my time management skills to make time.
Our action plan needs to take reality into account. It is not realistic that you will move from A to Z with ease. It is not likely that you will avoid the storms and unexpected barriers that life throws at us (which often require skill and resources to overcome). Full acceptance that there will be unpredicted upsets will allow you to develop and action plan that builds in the needed coping skills and reinforcers to move past the storms without giving up.
Examples of these pitfalls include but are certainly not limited to family crisis, financial difficulties, medical problems and injury, hormonal fluctuations, dips in motivation, temptations to engage in other activities. I encourage you to do introspection on what has gotten in the way in the past to be sure you add them to your plan.
Aside from your awareness and plan for the pitfalls, your action plan needs to be a specific set of steps that attend to all logistical concerns you can think of the where, what, when, how, and who of your goal. An action plan needs to be broken down into a simple, easy to follow set of guidelines and steps. Your action plan likely needs to include:
a list of people you can delegate tasks to.
the logistics of who, what, when, where and how.
your supporters and reinforcers and how/when you will use them.
a clearly defined outcome so that you will know whether you met your goal.
clearly defined steps to take to achieve identified tasks.
Without an action plan, you will end up experiencing “false starts”. You might hear yourself say “I intending to change but never actually change” or “I’ve wanted this for years; I don’t know why I can’t get myself to do it”. Without an action plan, the goal remains too vague and abstract.
My action plan includes sitting down on Sunday evening to review my schedule (including my kids and husband’s) and the weather. I plug in times that I can get to the gym (bearing in mind that I need a two-hour window at minimum to be able to drive to and from the gym, workout, shower and do my hair and make up for the next part of my day. If I have a shorter window, I often do go to the gym still but have a plan to only do weights and to try not to sweat since I will not have time for the shower. The weather comes into play because we look for a few “pick days” to engage in outdoor activities which count as exercise: hiking, biking, swimming. My action plan for the night before includes planning what I am going to wear at the gym, whether I need to take it to work with me, and planning food so that I have the energy to go. My action plan includes communicating the proposed schedule to my husband so that he can let me know if he sees any barriers. I have also noticed that I have a habit of driving to the gym but sitting in my car and scrolling social media before I go in (thus wasting my time resource). I have addressed that by making social media an incentive: if I work hard at the gym, I allow myself down time on the stationary bike to cool down and scroll.
I believe you can do this. I believe you can make meaningful change. This grid can help guide you and help you to identify stumbling blocks PRIOR to them causing you to face plant. I encourage you to take some time to journal on the points mentioned here so that you can make the changes that you want to see in your life!
Thanks to Calm for producing this calendar! May is Mental Health Awareness month, I challenge you to join me in this idea for improving or starting your own daily mindfulness practice.
I am setting an alarm in my phone for 8am and 8pm every, reminding me to attend to this calendar. I have also printed it and posted it on my fridge so that it crosses my mind more often. We all need “cues” to remind us to engage in new patterns of behavior. A cue is something that will pop up in your day (such as an alarm) that will remind you to attend to the behavior. This blog, the calendar, a reminder and friends can all join together to serve as cues for one another to practice and learn.
I will do my best each week to blog on the experience, I hope that you can join me and we can hold one another accountable!
– racism (white privilege isn’t an insult! It isn’t anything a white person has done wrong! I don’t fully understand how much easier my life is because I’m white…and yet since having the girls in my life, I can see how real it is. I see how they’re looked at as being “bad” when they misbehave I’m public whereas white kids are “just being kids”. Attend Undivided at Crossroads Church or read White Fragility. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.- the environment (we are killing our world. Instant gratification and convenience are KILLING our planet and everyone thinks the next generation will take care of it). Watch some documentaries and educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.
– gender (my husband is AMAZING and doesn’t treat chores and parenting as woman’s work) …and yet for every single country in the world, women are expected to take care of more unpaid work than men – childcare, housework, cooking, caring for their aging relatives, etc. – while also taking care of their jobs, self-care and marriage. Men get paid more. Women endure procedures without anesthesia that men wouldn’t be expected to. Women are not represented equally in politics. Etc. Read The Moment of Lift. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.
– healthy living – people are more willing to take a pill than exercise or eat healthier. Parents feed their kids more and more sugar and caffeine. Look at the sugar content of foods vs the World Health Organization or FDAs recommendations. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.
– screen time for kids – it’s horrible and dangerous for their brains. Read Glow Kids. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.
My fears are:
1. I’m white so I look like a hypocrite (re: race)
2. I’m a woman so it looks like I’m whining or being “too emotional” (re: gender)
3. You will just roll your eyes and turn back to avoidance and full your news feed with whatever serves your opinions (re: all of it)
4. Someone will ask a question that I don’t know the answer to which will “prove” to you that I’m wrong and you can keep ignoring the points
Those might be fighting words in our divided society… and I’ll say it again: THERE IS NOT A RIGHT WAY. Why are we so quick to insist that our way is the correct way? Why are we hell-bent on getting people to see our point of view? Why are people willing to end relationships over different opinions on how to achieve a task? Why do schools and workplaces insist on procedures and refuse to allow for creative thinking?
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way. It doesn’t exist” – Friedrich Nietzhce
I believe that there are many ways to achieve one’s goals. I believe that if we stop judging others we might be able to see that. I encourage you to take some time today (quiet, uninterpreted time) to really ponder this idea.
I’m not going to share any advice on how to achieve this goal…as you see, there are many ways to achieve introspection.
While we are on the topic of legal, over-the-counter drugs that people consume on a daily basis without any thought to how it will impact their mental health, let’s take a look at caffeine!
I am human…I like coffee as much as the next person! Especially some cold brew iced coffee! I am not innocent; I treat myself to coffee every once in a while. I am very aware of the effects; which is why I limit myself AND take efforts to avoid any excess consumption of caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant. It has been studied and found that caffeine is linked to increased anxiety, sleep disturbance, and can lead to symptoms of mania. Caffeine can lead to restlessness, agitation, excitement, rambling thought and speech, and insomnia. For those with psychiatric diagnoses, it exacerbates agitation, psychosis and the above mentioned symptoms. We grab a mug when we want a mood boost (instant gratification) while ignoring the problematic crash and anxiety that is generally sure to follow!
While caffeine isn’t all bad, low doses can improve cognitive functioning and mood, it is common for dependence and abuse to occur. Caffeine withdrawal leads to fatigue, headaches, irritability and depressive symptoms.
If you are already an anxious person or are seeking treatment for an anxiety, sleep, impulse control, or bipolar disorder, I would absolutely recommend that you avoid caffeine. Why fuel the fire?! I personally and professionally do not agree with minors (those under the age of 18) drinking coffee or energy drinks. This means that parents need to say no and have contingencies in place if the rule is breached. I believe there are more holistic methods to improve alertness in all people (Think healthy sleep and exercise)! Teaching kids, teens and young adults to reach for a quick fix has horrific implications later in life (think drugs, promiscuity, risk taking).
You have your eyes on your future goals, keep going!
You survived one year of a pandemic, keep going.
You can do so much more than you realize, keep going.
Did you know that you are strong, capable and worthy of your own love and affection? I know that you are. For a lot of my life, I didn’t know that I was worth my own time, my own love or my own affection. It took a long time for me to realize that my worth is MY worth. Whenever I struggle to remember this message, I find empowerment with this song by Demi Lovato!
What is toxic positivity? Have you been hearing this phrase lately? I sure have and I think it’s crucial that you understand what it means.
Toxic positivity is the concept that being overly positive, optimistic and encouraging can actually be hurtful! When life is difficult and the Susie Sunshine in your life comes at you with the cliche’s “there is always a silver lining” or “Chin up, buttercup! Tomorrow’s a new day” you might notice an urge to punch her square in the jaw…but why is that? Furthermore, you were taught in childhood that Susie is right and that if you could only swallow your feelings and put a smile on your face, that it would all be ok!
What is happening in this scenario is that Susie strolled on by and your distress made her uncomfortable. She, doing what she was taught in childhood, tries to “fix” the situation by insisting you feel better. This is INVALIDATING (which means that she is giving you the message that your interpretation and emotions are wrong). When you did what you were taught and thought “she’s right, I should suck it up…other people have it worse”, you invalidated yourself which compounds the situation.
I have no problem, and in fact I do encourage people at times to use self-encouragement and positive self talk to overcome difficulties. Is that hypocritical? No! And here’s why: It all comes down to intention, mindfulness and comfort with pain.
What is the intention of the positive statement? Is it to shut down your (or someone else’s) emotions? That would be toxic positivity. Is it to try and jazz yourself up to overcome or battle a situation that you (or they)’re feeling nervous about? That would be self-encouragement!
Are you making the choice to speak mindfully or mindlessly? If the words just fly out of your mouth without stopping to check in with yourself on the purpose, it is likely going to be an invalidating statement. If you stop and think “What would I want to hear in this situation? Do my feelings (or their feelings) makes sense?” it’s likely going to be a more effective comment.
Pain is a normal part of life. Pain will happen (emotional and physical). We need to get comfortable being around ourselves and others when they are in pain! It’s on to sit with someone (or yourself) in a painful situation and just be in it. It’s actually helpful to call out what you see “This situation is difficult” or “that was a painful experience” without trying to swoop in and be the fixer!
So what to do instead of offering toxic positivity? Here’s your equation: offer validation and zip it. That’s all! Validation means that you communicate to them (or to yourself) that the feelings make sense. You can always ask the person if they would like help problem solving the scenario …but you need to be open to them saying no.