Find Your WHYPower: Inspiration for Breaking Bad Habits

Put-Down-the-Phone-Positively-Present

You might recall that, a few weeks ago, I wrote about phone addiction. Shortly after I wrote that post, my friend Reba Riley offered to help me work on it! As Reba and I work through this, I'll be sharing some guest posts from her here, featuring her wisdom and insights, so you can learn along with me. Check out the last post Reba wrote, Strategies for Phone Overuse (and Other Struggles), and stay tuned for more strategies, info, and (hopefully!) progress as Reba and I work together on this! Check out the paragraph below this post for my thoughts on the great strategies Reba has suggested for me. 


Week #1 : Review

In the last post, we talked about recognizing the courage it take to ask for help, and lowering our expectations to create small, doable steps of positive change.

Dani’s first assignments were to practice self-love by “putting down the whip” of mental judgment and giving herself permission (including an official permission slip!) to pay attention to her actions, emotions, and triggers around phone overuse—without judging herself.

As Dani practiced these steps, she found:

  1. Giving herself permission helped her be much more kind to herself
  2. Paying close attention—and often writing down—thoughts, feelings and surroundings made using the phone feel more like work instead of fun
  3. Knowing she had accountability made her question if scrolling was really worth it (knowing she would have to ‘fess up to me!)
  4. Triggering factors included exhaustion, boredom, rewarding herself after tasks, stress, escaping discomfort of any kind, and—especially—going to bed and waking up
  5. Using the phone less opened up space and time for reading (she even read my book), more work, writing and drawing, so she felt much more productive

Also, she became an aunt! The excitement and family time surrounding her sister and the new baby made her to put down her phone, creating a perfect mind reset. She reported “three hours would go by and I realized I hadn’t missed the phone at all. Then when I checked it, I hadn’t missed anything important.” So many positive changes in just seven days! #proudcoachmoment 

I reminded Dani Progress > Perfection, always. Recovery of any kind never goes in a straight line up. It zigs and zags forward and back—the most important thing is traction in the right direction.

Week #2 : Find Your WHYpower

Dani and I talked about willpower, and I explained how it comes and goes—unless you are a machine, like my husband, who has the willpower of Superman. (If you are, you don’t need to be reading this.)

For the rest of us mere mortals, willpower is strongest in the morning and at the beginning of the week, and gets progressively weaker as the day and week wear us down. Willpower is also affected by mood, stress, fatigue—the list is endless.

Basically, willpower is the unreliable friend we can’t count on. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn’t, which means it alone is not enough to create lasting change.

Fortunately, we have access to something much better than willpower: WHYpower.

WHYpower is what happens when our WHY to change becomes bigger than our why to stay as we are.

I learned about WHYpower when I was writing a memoir, a process that lasted 4 years, 3 months and 10 days. (Not that I was counting, ahem.) My willpower ran out somewhere around, oh, week two—and I realized if I was in it for the long haul, I had to dig deeper. Much, MUCH deeper. I had to find a reason so compelling I would wake up at 5am to write before work, sit down and write until 10pm after work, and work through weekends and holidays. (PS: I do not recommend working 7 days a week unless you actively want an epic burnout; I was waaaaaay too hard on myself back then!)

Anyway. I stumbled over WHYpower out of necessity: I knew I needed to tell my story, but I also knew willpower would not sustain me.

So I plopped on the couch with my journal, and I asked myself: “WHY?” Why do I want to do this impossible thing? The reason I came up with was so strong I can still close my eyes and feel it: For everyone who hurts like I did.

I imagined I could reach forward in time and put my arms around a reader who needed to hear my story, who needed to know s/he was not alone. That was my WHYpower. Every time I wanted to quit I thought about that person who needed me.

Now, not every WHY will be this dramatic, but my story illustrates a larger point. You can accomplish anything if your WHY is big enough.

Find Your WHY PowerYou can find your WHYpower to transform a behavior by asking yourself three questions:

  1. WHY do you want to change?
  2. HOW will this change affect your life (or the lives of others)?
  3. YOUR ultimate goal is what?

Our amazing Dani created a TransforMotion worksheet you can use to find your WHYpower. Once you have it, use your WHY to silence all your doubts and fears, and pull it out when willpower fails.

Create New Goals

Once your WHYpower is in place, you can create new goals (still small, still achieveable, but slightly more challenging).

Dani’s goals for this week are:

  • Change Morning and Evening Routines. Dani identified going to bed and waking up as her top triggers for scrolling on her phone. So we came up with a plan to help her change her am and pm routine to circumvent the habit.

    Barrier method: Put phone in a box out of reach from the bed. Previously, Dani watched Netflix on her phone in bed before sleeping—which meant easy access to scrolling. Then she would reach for it first thing in the morning. To change this, we decided she would watch Netflix on another device, try a noise machine, and keep a book beside her bed.

    Substitute Task: Since she usually gets up with the phone, Dani said she would try to have breakfast and take out Barkley before getting the phone out of its box. Try is key; remember Progress > Perfection!

  • Look For Patterns and Be Willing to Be Uncomfortable. To make more changes like the ones above, Dani needs to continue paying attention to the when, where, why, and how of her phone use. We will use that information to create goals for next week. When Dani finds a trigger or pattern, she needs to pause and be willing to sit with the discomfort of not picking up her phone, if only for a few minutes. Being willing to be uncomfortable (which she definitely will be in the morning and at night), is key to eliminating negative behaviors.

We are all rooting for you, Dani! Keep up the great work!


 

I'm so thankful for Reba's help. (To connect with Reba about speaking or coaching, email her at connect@rebariley.com!) Week #1 was so amazing, and I never would have taken such positive action on my own. By paying attention whenever I picked up the phone, I learned so much about my habit (and that information has been so essential to continuing to tackle this problem). Week #1 had me feeling like a rockstar, taking note of what I was doing and doing my best not to judge myself whenever spent too much time scrolling. I went into Week #2 feeling empowered and encouraged. Breaking habits is so difficult and it's been so helpful to have Reba's insights and encouragement as I work on this. If you're struggling with phone overuse (or any other bad habit!), I hope these posts are helping you make positive progress! 


Strategies for Phone Overuse (and Other Struggles)


Courage Shoes
 

A few weeks ago, you might remember that I wrote about phone addiction, which is something I'm really struggling with. Shortly after I wrote that post, I was talking to my friend Reba Riley about my problem, and she offered to help me out! I'm so thrilled to have someone to work with as a I strive to overcome this, as we all know how hard it can be doing it alone. As Reba and I work through this, I'll be sharing some guest posts from her here, featuring her wisdom and insights, so you can learn along with me.

Reba-RileyA bit about Reba... She is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, television commentator, and life coach, who created TransforMotion: a coaching method focused on emotional transformation through physical action. Above all Reba is a friend committed to helping me — and our Positively Present community — overcome the challenges we face. My issue is the phone, but I think you’ll find her advice applicable to a wide range of struggles. Keep reading to learn about how Reba is helping me to tackle this tough situation! 

 

When Dani reached out to me about her compulsive phone use, my first thought was Courage.

I told Dani it takes tremendous courage to recognize a problem behavior and even more to ask for help.

We often overlook this everyday valor, because it doesn’t square with our idea of being brave. Firefighters and soldiers are the courageous ones, we think — which is true! But their bravery does not negate our own.

Courage is not about comparison: it is the act of taking the next right step in any situation you find yourself in.

I call this “Couraging” — because brave is a verb. It is something you choose to do. Dani is couraging right now; if you are attempting to change something negative in your life, you are couraging, too.

Dani’s illustration of my quote: “Courage is dreams with shoes on” is a reminder that every positive change first requires being brave enough to lace up your Courage Shoes and take the first step toward change.

After we discussed courage, Dani and I talked about Lowering Expectations.

Dani (and most of us!) want overnight change — and then expect ourselves to be able to change overnight.

Okay, loves: to put it as nicely as I can… it doesn’t work that way.

It took time to get into our mess; it takes time to get out. So, we must lower our expectations of how much we can accomplish and how quickly, until we come up with an action step that is easy.

That’s right, I said easy. We keep lowering expectations until we find something we are absolutely able to accomplish: the one or two small steps we know we can take in the right direction.

Like this: EXPECTATIONS. LOWER. Lower, Lower…even lower…easy… there.

The reason is simple: success builds on success. We need early success to keep ourselves going, so we can get to the point where our small successes grow exponentially.

In Dani’s case, we identified two action steps she could easily practice every day for the next 7-10 days:

 

STEP 1: PUT DOWN THE WHIP

Like many of us — especially those who identify as "Type-A" — Dani is good at criticizing herself mentally when it comes to overusing her phone. When dealing with the phone issue this is especially tricky because Dani knows what she should do, but does the opposite (using the phone compulsively) anyway. Then she gets even more frustrated with herself.

She gets sucked into the Cycle of Despair: Do harmful thing, “whip” yourself for doing harmful thing, feel even worse, do harmful thing again to feel better, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Anyone else been there? Me too. Which is how I know the only solution to the Cycle of Despair is self-love.

In case anyone out there is confused about what this means (I spent about a decade figuring it out) — self-love is treating yourself the same way you would treat a person you love. Would you say the things to a friend you say to yourself in your head? Didn’t think so. Would you punish/mentally torture a person you adore? Nope.

Consider how you would treat your best friend is he/she was struggling with an issue, and actively trying to make a positive life change. Now, turn that loving energy and kind action inward….and put down the whip for good.

 

STEP 2: GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION

Piggybacking on all that self-love is the idea of giving yourself permission to be exactly where you are, exactly as you are, without judgement. Since you’ve put down the whip, you can focus on being present with your behavior: observing it without the goal of massive overnight change.

Before you can make positive progress, you have to notice the negative. Since you can’t change anything until you figure out your patterns and triggers; give yourself permission to simply notice your actions and feelings as they arise.

By “notice,” I mean, whenever you find yourself engaging in or wanting to engage in a harmful behavior, take a step back and be present with it.

Pause, breathe, pay attention: What is the situation? What thoughts are you having? What is your emotional state? How does your body feel?

You can practice paying attention with or without taking notes, but writing is a great way to stay in the present moment

Dani finds it helpful to keep a notebook handy — a real live one with a pen, not on her phone! — to record her thoughts and feelings as they come up.

During our next coaching call, we’ll use her notes to create a strategy of next steps to move her closer to her goal of pain-free, helpful phone use.

To make the concept of giving yourself permission more tangible, Dani and I have created an actual permission slip that you can use to tackle any self-sabotaging behaviors you might be struggling with.



Permission Slip
Click here to download the Permission Slip PDF 

 

I'm so thankful that Reba is willing to work with me on this tricky phone overuse issue. I've only been focusing on it for a short while and already I feel like I've made so much positive progress! To connect with Reba Riley about coaching, speaking engagements, or television, please email connect@rebariley.com. You can find Reba online on Instagram @RebaRileyAuthor and Twitter @RebaRiley and Facebook @RebaRileyAuthor.


Encouragement for New Parents

Positively-Present-New-Parents
Check out this print in the shop! 

 

Over the years, I've received requests to write about staying positive as a parent or about how to be a good parent, but, since I'm not a parent and never plan to be one, it's not a topic I have any business writing about. However, over the weekend, I became an aunt for the first time so now it's time for me to sharing all of my positive parenting tips! I'm kidding. I don't have a clue what it's like to be a new parent, and, even those who have been new parents don't know what it's like to be my sister and her husband, new parents to this specific new little person (who I already love so much!!). 

It seems to me having all the seasoned parents offering you, a new parent, advice would get old pretty quickly. Yes, intentions are good, and, yes, someone who has already been a parent has insights and experience, but I'd imagine that hearing, "When I had my first baby..." isn't always helpful. Plus, you can literally google anything so it's not like, as a parent, you really need the unsolicited advice of other parents. I started thinking about what I'd want if I had just had a baby, and, based on my understanding of what it's like — amazing, surreal, terrifying, exciting, overwhelming, exhausting — I thought I'd offer some encouragement rather than advice. 

I drew the illustration above (also available in the shop if you know any new parents who might need it!) awhile back in preparation of the arrival of my little nephew, but here's a more in-depth take on what I was thinking while brainstorming some of these little bits of encouragement... (And, to be honest, most of us, parents or not, could use these reminders!)

 

LEARN AS YOU GO. 

Parenting looks incredibly hard, and it seems to me that, no matter how much research you do, no matter how many parenting books you read or courses you take, a lot of the time you're going to have to just learn it as you're experiencing it. It seems like one of those things that, no matter how much you prepare, you're still going to be learning all the time. As a new parent, I'd imagine that this is important to remember because it probably seems, at times, like you don't know what you're doing. But, just like any other super important job, no matter how prepared you are, you're still going to learn as you go along because you're dealing with a brand new, unique little person. 

 

PERFECTION IS A MYTH. 

There is no perfect parent. There is no perfect parenting technique. Every parent is unique, every family dynamic is unique, and every baby is unique, so, while there are tons of great ideas and tips for being a good parent, there's no one-size-fits-all, "perfect" way to do it. Plus, parenting is a full-time, 24/7 job. If you're doing something literally all of the time, it's impossible to do it flawlessly. Being a parent is like being a person. You do the best you can with whatever skills and knowledge you have and you usually keep getting better and better at it. Parenthood (and personhood) is a crazy concoction of success and slip-ups, of trying your best and trying to figure out what the heck is going on. No one is doing it perfectly and that's perfectly okay. 

 

DON'T COMPARE. 

Even if you know that perfection is a myth, it's probably pretty tough to be a parent and see all of the "perfect" representations of parenthood online. All of the mommy bloggers and the Instagram celebrities showing off their post-baby bodies, their perfectly lit little bundles of joy, their immaculate nurseries. I'm obviously not a parent, but even get envious when I see how neat and tidy and perfect those lives look online. But none of that is real life. There is a behind-the-scenes to every perfect image shared online — the baby's post-photoshoot meltdown, the messy side of the room not shown in the photo, the not-Instagrammable emotional highs and lows of caring for a newborn. Parenting looks like the hardest thing ever and I bet there is no one, no matter how gorgeous their online presence looks, that isn't having a tough time with it. 

 

TAKE TIME FOR YOU. 

To be honest, this probably falls more in the "advice" category instead of "encouragement," but it seems like something that would be important as a new parent. Obviously, the baby is going to get a ton of attention and focus, but the parents deserve to get some alone time, to have a break, to relax (or at least try to) for a little bit. It's probably not an easy thing to do (and greatly depends on the situation and how much help the parents have available), but it seems like a good thing to at least strive for when becoming a new parent. Because, just like any relationship, the more you take care of yourself, the easier it is to take care of others. (That being said, new parents shouldn't beat themselves up if they can't find time for, or don't want, "me time." Everyone and every situation is different and new parents should do what's best for themselves and their baby.)

 

YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED. 

Considering what a massive and new undertaking parenting is, I bet most new parents feel some level of unpreparedness when they're given that adorable little swaddled baby. I'm guessing most parents feel they're lacking in something because being completely responsible for another human being is pretty much the most important job, and how in the world do you accurately prepare for such a thing?! But, when it comes down to it, if they've got love and are doing the best they can, parents have what they need. Just think of all the people who are, or have been, parents. Sure, some of them are terrible at it, but tons of them have done an amazing job. Babies mostly need love and food and if you can provide those things, you've got what you need to get started making an awesome human being. 

 

FEEL HOW YOU FEEL. 

When making the illustration, this one was the most important for me to include. From what I understand about parenting, it's both incredibly amazing and terrifyingly overwhelming, particularly the first time you do it. And it seems to me that one of the toughest things about it is being expected to feel a certain way about it. Everyone around you is so happy and excited about your new baby, but they all get to go home and go back to their normal lives, while you, as new parents, continue to have your life completely changed forever. (Not to be dramatic or anything, haha.) I'm guessing that a really tough part about being a new parent is feeling a crazy range of emotions, while also feeling that you should just be overjoyed and grateful. So it seems to me that one of the best bits of encouragement for a new parent would be a reminder that they should just feel how they feel (and a reminder that you can feel conflicting emotions at the same time and still be a wonderful, loving parent). Change, even when positive, is a lot to deal with and new parents should be allowed to literally feel all the feels. 

 

I couldn't be more thrilled to be an aunt for the first time! If you're an aunt or an uncle, I'd love to know if you have any tips or advice. Also, if you're a new parent, congratulations! :) If you — or any of the more experienced parents— have any additional bits of encouragement for me to pass along to my little sis, let me know in the comments below! 

 

 

 

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