" For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. " Song of Solomon

September 27, 2008

Make a List, Check It Twice

All too often my intentions don't become reality. I set my intentions but they aren't realized. I think I may have found a way to change that.

If you're like me, you make lists so you'll remember things at the grocery store. Or you'll make a list of errands you need to run. And what happens? If you remember to look at the list, you do what's on the list short of unforeseen circumstances.

So the other day I made a list of behaviors I wanted to change. But they were specific, not general. Compare: I will go to bed no later than 11:00 pm, versus I will get in bed earlier each night. See the difference?--11:00 p.m. is specific, "earlier" is general.

I had some behaviors that weren't serving me well and all my good intentions were too general to make a difference, so I thought on it a bit and came up with 4 specific things I could do to achieve the desired behavior. Imagine how surprised I was when I actually "did" my list!!

You may be thinking--why was she surprised?!! Didn't she know what she was doing? Well I did know, but when I made that list I imagined the outcome would again be failure--par for the course. My "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." We all suffer with that.

But this time I got specific. Specifics are to the point. Generalities are not. Generalities leave to much room for free will to be exercised.

Remember when you were a kid? Mom told you what to do, you did it. Then you grew up--and there was no one around to dole out the cookies or tell you what to do. You opened the cookie bag--started eating--and stopped when either the bag was empty or your gut was full. You didn't make any conscious decision about how many cookies you'd eat. And that became the established pattern in your life.

That pretty much describes how I arrived at so many of the behaviors I practice. No forethought, no intention. And now I'm paying the price with my weight. And having to do some real work to change things.

So, I'm going to share my list, but let me give you some background to the behaviors that needed changing.

One was I've been staying up too late, falling asleep not having brushed my teeth (in case I wanted to eat--didn't want to re-brush!!), and then awaking, remembering that I needed to brush, getting up, doing so, and being wider awake than ever, unable to return to sleep.

Another problem area was the mornings. I work at home. But instead of getting up and getting dressed right away, I stay in my p.j.'s, not getting dressed until around 11:am each day.

Food behavior was part of the list too. I enjoy snacks between meals, but all too often it was pushing me over my desired calorie range. And I'd have to choose between having my snack and going over my range or skipping the snack, feeling deprived and forgoing the pleasure--not just the pleasure of eating, but the comfort that having tea and a snack gives in the middle of the afternoon.

A second food issue was at bedtime. I find it comforting to have a hot milk drink before bedtime and it helps me sleep. But again, the calorie thing was an issue.

These are issues I've wrangled with, in my head, for months now. Since my diet has taken a turn and the focus is on the mental mechanics and not just the food mechanics, I used a mental approach to change my behavior: I came up with a specific strategy, wrote it down and voila!! Success. D'oh!

Here's the list:

1. Get dressed at 1 hour after getting up.
2. Floss and brush prior to Last of the Summer Wine (a Brit-com I watch nightly).
3. Save calories for an afternoon treat of coffee/tea and cookies/muffin (215 K)
4. Save calories for hot milk beverage to drink with Last of the Summer Wine. (100K)

Understand: General goals are not good goals to have. For example, you may have a goal, a desire to be happy. That's too general. To achieve that goal you must be specific. What will make you happy, give you happiness? Figure that out, write it down, then do it. Take note though--the specifics must be things you yourself can can control. If they depend on another person or can be thwarted by another person, they are not good as goals.

For example, if you put down "have a husband" as a goal on your happy list, unless you meet someone and marry--which is dependent upon another person--you don't have the power to achieve that specific goal in and of yourself.

Many have a goal of having a happy marriage. That's not a good goal. A rotten spouse can prevent a happy marriage. A better goal for marriage is to be a good spouse--you can make that happen. But to have a good spouse? That's dependent upon another person who has free will and can make your life hell, should he/she desire--and for no good reason.

Try this list making thing if you are frustrated--and be specific. Now, while you're being specific, be realistic too. If you make the specifics difficult to achieve you're just setting yourself up for failure.

You can bet that making a list of specific achievable behaviors I can accomplish to help me attain my goal is something I plan to utilize in the future.
"....there have been many times when I have shed bitter tears, when if I had understood the situation better, I would have celebrated my good luck instead."


I am not a doctor and all information, suggestions, etc are my personal opinion only.