What Do You Want To Change?

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL? What do you want to change?
It is surprising how many people try to change a habit and never stop to think about the goal they are setting before them. Let’s see if we can zero in on what you want to change.

1. Be specific – What is the actual Habit you want to add or take away?

Many times, our goal is too general, for instance, “I want to be healthy.” Okay, what does that mean? What habits does that effect? Exercise, eating, sleeping, reducing stress or nutrition? Be specific and write down your goal.

2. What reasons do you want to drop this habit or start a new one?
This is key. It will help you when the going gets tough. Write down why you want to pursue this goal. What are the rewards you will get from it?

3. Be realistic – How difficult will it be?
Is this your first time? Have you tried before and relapsed? Either way, as you think of this habit you are going to break or new one you are going to add–rate the difficulty on a scale 1-5 (1 = should be a snap, 5 It will be a very difficult challenge).
Circle the level of difficulty 1…2…3…4…5

Do you need to start with a mini-goal?
A mini-goal can help you get going. Here is my rule of thumb. If you are stopping a habit, jump all in! It is difficult to wean yourself from a habit. If you drag it out over an extended* period, it only continues the habit longer and keeps the craving coming. Your habit may be the exception, but most people are better off going cold turkey.

*If you want to progressively wean yourself, then go into it with a schedule and stick to it. Don’t fool yourself.

Where a mini-goal really works is when you are adding a new habit.
When I first started running, my goal was to eventually run 3-4 miles a day. However, I started with a ½ mile on the first day (after all, how far do you need to run to be a runner?). In my mind, the first ½ mile qualified me. So, I began! The first few days, I ran ¼ mile–sat down, and then ran back a ¼ mile! I got stronger every day and since that humble beginning, I have logged over 20,000 miles, either running or walking!

What is the goal you want to add? Start off with small, achievable increments, then increase until you get to your goal.

Here are some of the ways I approached my habits
Running – Started with a mini goal and worked up
Lifting weights – mini-goal – light weight, low reps, built my way up.
Quit caffeine – Cold turkey
Quit sugar and carbs- Cold turkey
Quit biting nails – Cold turkey
Daily devotions – Mini-goal, read one chapter of the Bible a day, worked my way up

What is your goal? What would be a great starting mini-goal?

How long will you give yourself to get up to your goal? _______________________________

4. PreLive it.
PreLive™ is an exercise where we imagine accomplishing the task at hand. We use all our senses. We visualize it, hear it, taste it, feel it, touch it. Whatever senses we can incorporate–we use them to create a vivid and realistic vision of accomplishing the goal.

STOP! Take 3 minutes and visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. See it, feel it.
Feel the excitement and satisfaction of accomplishing it!

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If You Are Going To Change You Have To Manage Your Relationships

One of the hardest things to do is make a change if your friends and family are not on board. It’s like trying to canoe upstream! What can you do? Here are three ideas.

1. Sit down and ask them for help – Share with them how sincere you are about making a change. Explain to them that you need help with triggers and temptation. Hopefully, they will cooperate with you and not trip you up in your effort to overcome your habit. If they seem cooperative perhaps you could enlist them to be an accountability partner, an encourager or even a participant in the same program with you.

2. Change your patterns – Sometimes it is hard for our friends and family to change. For example, you may be trying to stay away from drinking, yet going out with your family and/or friends on Friday nights to the bar is a long time tradition. The best solution is to keep the friendships tight but see them a different place or time. If you have stopped sugar and processed flour and everyone is eating your Aunt’s favorite pie she baked for you, thank her for her kindness and respectfully decline. Hopefully, they will understand. Remember this is your survival and it must come first!

3. Be prepared for fallout – You are an adult and as one, you may have to make choices that have unpleasant consequences. Every home has some dysfunction and your family and friends just may not understand why you are making such a drastic habit change. That is their problem. You have resolved to make this change and it must come first. You can love them without giving into to behavior that activities that will cause you to relapse. As you change and your new habits stick you will find that your loving attitude will allow a continued relationship.

What do you think? Have you struggled to try to change and have had friends or family become a hindrance? What did you do?

Why Do Most Attempts At Change Fail?

Anger

Relapse is when a person who has stopped or started a behavior lapses back into their old ways. A person who has been sober suddenly is using again. A person who has been losing weight is binge eating again. A person who bought a health club membership quits going. They have relapsed back into old behavior.  Relapse is a serious problem with habits and cravings. People quit a program thinking that is the end of their problem only to find out that within months they are using all over again. In fact, many people find themselves relapsing several times (some many more times) before they are able to maintain their new lifestyle. Does this mean you don’t have a chance? No! We believe you can go through this program and maintain your habit changes. Part of that reason is that we take relapse seriously. That is why we are talking about it right in the beginning. As we have done research here are some of the reasons that people fail at changing habits.

People fail in programs because…

  1. They commit to a program not a way of life. They looked at habit change as an event, a destination instead of a journey

Change is not a magic formula. It is changing a way of life. It is a routine, a paradigm shift, an attitude adjustment. There are ways of changing things by using desperate measures and gritting it out with pure willpower. But how long does that last? Instead, we are teaching principles for living. Not techniques but disciplines that will serve you well throughout the rest of your life. Programs are good but what happens when the structure is gone? There needs to be a change in the way we see things. In what we believe.

  1. They don’t change their environment

There are too many triggers that have not been changed. The proximity of those triggers were also too convenient. Friends did not help either. They often coaxed the person into doing their habit again.  If we are going to succeed, then we need to work on our environment. The who and what, the people, places and things of our habit.

  1. They don’t like the discomfort of change

This is often because they have taken on too large of a habit. We mean well but starting with a large objective can become or own worst enemy. It is better to start a habit with something that you can do and build from there.

  1. It’s their normal and hard to do live any other reality

Many habits are birthed and sustained in a person’s normal lifestyle. Now it may be far from what should be normal (A person who living high everyday) but it’s their normal. It feels right. Change is needed but moving from their normal feels like jumping from a plane. Soon they find themselves back in the comfort zone.

  1. There is some emotional reason in staying where they are.

Fear is a strong motivator. Many of us are fear or shame based. When you are that way, the last thing you want is another test. You don’t want to fail. You have worked hard at being acceptable, a success at what you do. (At least not worse than you already are) We think, “We are as good as we are going to get.” This is a “fixed” mindset, and the thought of trying something and failing is frightening. Instead we need to develop a “change” mindset. One that says, “I have all sorts of potential. Learning and trying different things is fun. I do not have to be perfect. It is okay to grow and mature. There are no failures, just learning opportunities.”

  1. They have unrealistic expectations

We want a magic pill, an easy answer, an instant solution. When it doesn’t happen we get discouraged and quit. The truth is that habits are stubborn and are not going to give up that easily. Some changes will happen quickly but most take time and discipline. It will take time to make lasting changes.

  1. They chose to change a habit on an impulse, no preplanning

Good intentions are not enough. In order to succeed you need a plan. There is a lot involved in changing habits and there is no need to rush into failure. Instead, we want to set a date and prepare for lasting change.

  1. They do not have an accountability partner, coach or group

Changing habits is not a single player mode. It is too easy to fail by our self. Things are the way they are for reasons and in order to succeed you will need to have a team to support, encourage and challenge you.

  1. They worked out of guilt or fear not positive optimism

When it comes to changing a habit it is also better to run TO something instead of running FROM something. Optimism is key in keeping the patience and endurance you will need to make change happen. Here again, we must fight the temptation to have a fixed mindset that says, “It must come easily to me. I must succeed.” When we think that way and failure comes all that is left is guilt, fear, and pessimism. Instead, we need a “Change” mindset that says “growth and process” are the norm. Be your own detective, your own scientist as well as the subject and enjoy the journey of discovery as you become all that you were meant to be.

  1. They did not go deep enough

Some programs just work on behavior. Others on people, places, and things. Often that is not deep enough? It will not produce lasting change. If change is to be lasting then we need to help change our emotions, attitudes, beliefs, lifestyle, and environment behind the behavior.

  1. They did not work on emotional lies behind triggers

There is a difference between a simple trigger and a craving. A trigger is to a craving like anxiety is to a phobia. It is much more intense and comes from a different place. Often what is triggering us comes from sensations that are similar to those left behind from our implicit memories of childhood trauma. The self-beliefs associated with those memories had severe consequences. To be unlovable means you will be abandoned if you don’t behave and being abandoned to a child is a death sentence. It is a scary consequence of being unlovable. So when a sensation that is similar to that event triggers in us that we are unlovable, we go into a habit that is sure to make us feel better, give us relief or help us escape the emotional pain. It is true that we engage in many of our habits in order to regulate our emotions.

  1. They did not include spiritual treatment as part of our recovery

Many people do not succeed in their habit change because they have not taken advantage of the spiritual resources available to them. This is much more than acknowledging that there is a Higher Power. It is having a relationship with God. Spirituality provides the hope and resilience needed when it comes to making a change. A relationship with God is foundational to making the kind of changes we want. Think about it. Who better to help you with change than the one who designed and created you? That is why, along with sharing the latest in change science, we will be having you go through Spiritual exercises in order to draw upon all the Spiritual resources of change that God provides.

When you consider the list that we have just discussed do any of them resonate with you. How have you done in the past with changing habits? Have you experienced relapse in some of the changes you have made? Have you lived with the yo-yo effect where you succeed at a habit change, fall back to old routines and then rebound again, over and over? Be your own detective. As you consider the list above, why do you think this happened to you?

 

Change The Way You React To Anxiety

A lot of our habits are fear based or the result of anxiety. Anxiety is so pervasive. It creeps into all areas of our life. Just like the weeds in my garden! But I have to wonder, how much of it was invited? Okay, maybe not invited but certainly the door was wide open and no one was there to stop it. I believe we can get into the habit of anxiety! Or at least the habit of not doing anything about it. We can’t always help what comes into our head, but we can do something with it once it is there. The pie is on the table cooling and your dog gets on its hind legs and sniffs at the table. Two more seconds and there will be no dessert for dinner. What do you do? You yell, “Get down from there!” and the dog leaves. Likewise, we have more control over our anxiety than we think we do. Here are three things you can do when you feel anxiety coming in the door.

1. Shut the door! – Most of what we get anxious about is not going to happen. I like to think of it as faulty wiring or at least premature timing. Like the kids in the back seat shouting out five minutes after you leave the house heading for vacation, “Are we there yet?” It’s the proverbial Chicken Little crying out, “The sky is falling!” As a child we had no choice. As far as we knew, there WAS a monster in the basement! But today we are an adult. Even if it feels like there is a monster down there, there isn’t. I had to face that. I was a “phobic” child. I had all kinds of obsessive fears. I had to come out of a lot of immature fears as I matured into an adult. So can you. Standing up to the anxiety, calling it “faulty wiring” and distracting yourself while the sensation (that really is what emotions are in the first place) dissipates will help you with a lot of anxiety.

2. ReLive™ – This is what I call visualizing a time when we have done something positive in the past. Think of a time when you were not anxious in a similar situation. Picture it in your mind. Feel it in your body. Take a deep breath and as you exhale let your body sense the peace you had in that moment. Now switch to PreLive™. This is where you visualize something before it happens. Take the same feeling you just had and transpose it onto the situation you are going into. Feel the peace, the freedom of going through it without fear. But what if you still have the anxiety? You can contain it.

3. Contain it – Once you know that you have successfully went through this experience without fear before, then you can begin to understand that this is just a sensation. Sure, it feels real. It shouts, “You are going to die!” But, this is important, “You are NOT going to die.” Remember, you didn’t die before, have never died and you are not going to die this time. Feel the sensation and then contain it. Picture the area in your body where you feel the sensation like a strong metal container. Picture the sensation exploding and you being able to contain it. I usually say out loud, “CONTAIN! I am not going to die if I ignore this!” I then feel the sensation dissipate. Then I do it again. I would encourage you to do the same. Take deep relaxing breaths as you do it and let your body know that it is true. You are not going to die! This is also when I bring God into the picture. He is with me. He is my protector. He will not leave me. I am safe in Him.

I am going to spend a lot of time on this blog talking about anxiety, shame, depression and anger. I hope you join me and let others know.

Share a time when you overcame anxiety.

Is Your God Big Enough?

As we consider change in our life, as we wrestle with habits, craving and life direction it is wise to consider Spiritual wisdom and guidance. As a minister I have talked with many people seeking spiritual guidance and have encouraged them to consider how great and good God is and to build a deep and lasting relationship with Him. I was asked to share about Spirituality at an addictions treatment center’s graduation. I challenged the audience to consider if the God of their choice was big enough. Here are the thoughts I wrote down as my outline.

I am so glad to be here tonight. I love the spiritual emphasis in the twelve steps. Consider the following steps:

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Tonight I want to challenge us as we look at the spiritual implications of the 12 Steps, to look at number three, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” and consider this…
Is your God big enough?

You see I appreciate what the authors were doing. They were being sensitive to the fact that people have the freedom of choice when it comes to spirituality. I get this. However, we are not talking about dessert. “Let’s see I think I will have a piece of pie instead of cake.” No we are talking about God. So here are some things for us to think about.

1. Is your God the one who created you or did you create God? Yes, it is a God of your own choice but is it a God of your own making? It seems to me that the very definition of God would preclude that God would be the creator or life force behind all things.

2. Is your God one that chooses you? Yes you have a choice. A God of your own choice but what about a God who has initiative? I would look for a God who has chosen to love me, create me, sustain me and help me.

This brings up another strong attribute –
3. Can you have a personal relationship with your God? Is He a God who is there? Is He a God with a presence that can be approached? Do you have a connection that is real and vibrant?

4. Is your God all powerful, benevolent, all knowing and omnipresent? When we consider God we must consider God like attributes. Often we are tempted to give to God more human like characteristics. Ask yourself, is my God like…
A. A benevolent Santa Clause ready to give us presents based on our merit– looking to see if we have been naughty or nice.
B. The bloodhound of heaven – The austere judge low on mercy but high on justice chasing us down without mercy.
C. The aloof watchmaker – He created the galaxy and mankind but like the watchmaker, once the watch is made he abandons it to run on its own.
D. The critical parent – A God who is always criticizing, never satisfied, high on demands, low on acceptance and unconditional love.

Finally, ask yourself,
5. Is your God one that can forgive and absolve you of all guilt? Are you able to bring your humanness, your past, all your faults, wrongdoing to your God and find, understanding, love, forgiveness and encouragement? After all, what loving parent would not have a deep love, forgiveness and acceptance toward their child? How much more would the creator of humankind?

As a minister I have spent my life sharing with others how they can find God through the study of the scriptures, the Holy Bible. That they can have a personal relationship with God because of the work on the Cross by Jesus Christ. I would encourage you to also let this be part of your consideration. Whatever you do, seek Spiritual understanding. We were not meant to face this life on our own power. I encourage you to examine your faith and what you believe in and make sure that the God of your choice is big enough.

What do you think should be considered in a quest to know God?

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To Change A Habit You Need To Know When You Are Being Triggered

To Change A Habit You Need To Know When You Are Being Triggered

One of the first things we teach in changing a behavior is to know when you are being triggered. Most habits have what is called a Habit Loop This was discovered by scientists at MIT. This consists of what they called the Cue, Routine, and Reward. Many have substituted names for the different parts but they all say the same thing. There is a triggering event a response and a reward. The secret to many habit changing techniques is in the manipulation of the three elements. Let’s look at the cue.

If we are ever going to have a chance at changing a habit then we need to what is the cue. What is triggering our need to behave in a certain way?  This is not as easy as it sounds. The trouble with a cue or trigger is that it causes a reaction. This reaction is strong and immediate so we don’t have a lot of time thinking about the trigger. It is upon reflection that we can identify the cue.

One way we can discover the triggers in our life is to pay attention to our emotions or sensations. We tend to think of emotions as sadness, anger, joy, anxiety but these are words that we use to describe our feelings. Before we have the feelings we have an emotion or a sensory response. The word emotion has it’s root word, motion. It’s purpose is to get us to move. So a sensation comes into our purview and we have an aroused sensation. It is at this point that our brain starts to react. The sensation is like an alarm and it will not go off until we engage in the behavior that it is demanding. When we recognize the sensation we can then decide what to do with it. This is a great first step to changing a habit.

Think of a habit. Visualize yourself participating in it right now. Go right to the beginning of the behavior. Can you sense a triggering sensation? What does it feel like? Where is it in your body? How intense is it? Make a note of the trigger and the sensation. We will come back to it.