Support for Change

Questions came up in the recent workshop series about actually getting yourself to make change, to engage in these new behaviors. This seems like such an important and timely subject that I am pre-empting the planned topic, Frugal Organizing, in favor of this one. Especially, for those of you who took earlier versions of the workshops, it is appropriate because I have lately added sections on the Benefits of the new behaviors and Motivating Yourself, material that you can request and I will be happy to send. I hope you all have the patience to read all the way thru this longer issue than usual because this topic is so important and I don't want to make people wait til next month for the second half.

The numerous factors that support doing what you need to do are both internal, that is your thoughts and emotions, and external, environmental and social cues. Let's discuss these separately.

Internal factors consist of a lot of subtle and easily overlooked or discounted influences that set up our mental and emotional states and how we handle situations. Some of these are:
* Body position – sitting or standing straight will have an immediate and powerful effect on how you feel and your willingness to take better care of yourself

* Smile – even a slight smile has a major effect on mood and outlook, creating a lift that can be used to fuel improved habits

* Self-talk – how we describe events and our lives to ourselves is critical in determining everything else about our lives; indeed, one can fairly say that our lives really consist of nothing more than what we think about them. So identifying ways in which you undermine positive change in your thoughts and countering any negativity you find will make an enormous difference for all of your life as well as for new habits.

* Reviewing your motivation list (if you do not have a written list of WHY you want to change, now is the time. If you took the workshop before the recent addition of Benefits of Change and Motivators lists, please email me and I will send them). Change is often difficult but having a list of things that will motivate you and little tricks that will get you going is invaluable. In addition to the list I provided, writing out your own will help even more.

* Relaxing – being in a state of tension undermines making constructive change. Daily practice of the relaxation method provided in the workshop or any other method that works for you will help you see more clearly, focus on what is really important, and support moving in a healthy direction.

* Confront your excuses – challenging the excuses generated by the part of you (we all have them) that wants nothing to do with change will help keep those negative forces in check. Writing them out really helps to see how lame they are, and writing the reasons that they should not dominate your behavior will loosen their power over you.

External cues have great power over our behavior too and cannot be neglected in any plan to create new behavior. Because this arena is much bigger than the contents of your head, we will probably only scratch the surface of the world of possible influences, but I am hoping that this discussion will inspire you to look at your surroundings, both physical and social, and identify other factors that influence your actions for good or bad. Please SHARE your discoveries about what works and doesn’t to help others benefit too.

* Clutter disquiets the mind. Every object which is out of place at some level nags us until we deal with it. The more clutter we have, and the more central it is to where we work and spend time, the more disturbing it is. This impediment to peace of mind is why it is worthwhile to put exceptional effort into the clearing out process. It is also why beginning clearing by working on the area that will have the greatest positive emotional impact on you is so important. You need results that will give you a boost and help motivate you to keep going. I think it is especially important to tackle clutter around the area where you work, both to make your work easier and for the positive feelings that will result.

* Pamper yourself. Whatever you need to support your new habit, give it to yourself. Make your work area a little slice of heaven: music, nice scents, beautiful visuals, whatever you need to encourage your willingness to be there, do what you need to do, and build good habits. Sometimes little things like pretty file folders, gorgeous calendars, really nice pens, or a beautiful filing cabinet, can enhance your inclinations to do things the way you think you should rather than following counter-productive habits.

* Reminders – keeping your daily organizer with you, and, when seated, open to the page for the day, and checking it regularly throughout the day, will make keeping to your plans easier. Sticky notes on places where you often look (computer, fridge, TV) will remind you of your commitments to yourself and change.

* Plan ahead. Having materials with you to work on whenever you are stuck waiting can turn wasted time into productive time and help achieve the change you want. Having lists of things you can get done in small or unusual bits of time (I do exercise routines while waiting for buses) or when you are too tired to think will help keep things moving.

* Social – can you find supportive friends or family members who will encourage (in a way that works for you) the new behavior you are trying to develop? Maybe you can form a mutual assistance pact to help each other whatever self-improvement program you are working on. And, difficult though this may be, you need to minimize or eliminate the time you spend with people who discourage your efforts to change or undermine your self-esteem.

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