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! 


5 Tactics for Tackling Pain

 

Positively-Present-Pain
  

For the past few months, I've been struggling with physical pain, something I've never been great at dealing with. (Though, admittedly, I've gotten better at it since 2015, when I had my first surgery!) Waking up day after day with physical pain is a strange experience if you've never been through it before. Obviously the physical part isn't ideal, but the toll it takes on your mental state is even more of a challenge. When pain starts impacting your whole life — where you can go, what you can do, how much work you can accomplish in a day — it goes from unpleasant to frustrating to depressing really quickly, making maintaining a positively present attitude difficult, to say the least! 

Since 2015, I've be dealing with a string of health issues — all of them different but connected to one another — and, needless to say, I'm quite over all of this pain and doctor's appointments and lying around trying all kinds of tips and tricks to see what will alleviate some of the pain. It's both time-consuming and boring, which is a pretty bad combo. Over the weekend I was in a bit of a funk, frustrated and angry and in a bit of a woe-is-me state, when I realized that, once again, I was being handed a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. 

"What advice would I give someone in pain?" I asked myself, "What tactics could I try to improve my mental state, even if I can't seem to figure out how to get the physical pain to go away?" After hours of avoidance, I finally got myself to sit down and write, and here are some of the things that have worked for me. If you're dealing with pain (physical or emotional!), maybe give some of these a try and see if they work for you.   

 

1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. 

When you're not used to worrying about your health, it can be difficult to pay attention to your body. Since my first surgery in 2015, I've gotten better at listening to my aches and pains and arranging my schedule in such a way that I can make myself as comfortable as possible, but it's taken a long time for me to get used to paying attention. When I first started feeling pain, I tried to ignore it, and when it came back again, my mind was like, Nope, this is NOT happening again. Just ignore it and it'll go away. Funny how that doesn't work with physical (or emotional) pain. If you don't face it, and do whatever you can to help alleviate it, it'll come back. Paying attention the pain, no matter how badly you'd rather ignore it, is the first step to making any sort of positive progress.

2. DISCOVER A GOOD DISTRACTION. 

Distracting yourself might sound like the opposite of the previous tip, but what I mean by this is: once you've identified the pain and done what you could do help it (gone to the doctor, taken medicine, done your exercises or whatever else the doctor recommended), it's time to stop dwelling on it. Feeling sorry for yourself might feel like a luxury you deserve when you're not feeling well, but it only brings you down further. Instead of wallowing (as I wasted part of my weekend doing, ugh!), find a (positive!) distraction that will keep your mind off the pain. Anything that brings your spirits up — a new book, a favorite funny film, a friend stopping by — is worth trying. And don't be discouraged if your usual go-to mood-lifter doesn't do the trick. Pain, especially if it's new, might require discovering a new distraction! (To find a new one, consider what's worked in the past. If it's funny films, scour Netflix for a comedy special. If it's a good book, treat yourself to one you've been looking forward to or ask a friend to stop by the library and select a bunch from your favorite genre!)

3. STAY AS POSITIVE AS POSSIBLE. 

Thoughts are incredibly powerful, and, while staying positive during times of pain is most certainly a challenge, it's worth every ounce of extra effort. When pain is chronic it can be hard to stay positive because there's no clear end in sight, there's no "take these pills and you'll be better in a week" to hold on to, but there's scientific proof that a negative attitude can make health worse and a positive one can make it better, so, at the very least, you can think of an optimistic outlook as a kind of medicine. If it's really hard to do (and I know how hard it can be when things aren't looking great), think of it a physical (mental) therapy exercise. It's not really fun to do and you don't always see instant improve me, but if you keep at it, it'll most likely help in some way. (The trick to staying positive is to pay attention to your thoughts. If this is hard to do, enlist the help of someone else to tell you to knock if off when you're in a woe-is-me state.)

4. LOOK FOR YOUR LUCK. 

Sure, you might not feel particularly lucky when you're in pain (in fact, it's probably the last thing you feel), but, cliche as this advice sounds, shifting your focus to all the ways you are lucky can make a hugely positive impact on your attitude. Each time you dread visiting the doctor, focus on the care you're fortunate to receive. Each time you feel like you're missing out on fun things, focus on the small joys of getting to rest and recover (and remember that someone else would probably love to be resting right now but for whatever reason, cannot). Each time you compare your current state to someone else's, remind yourself that you're lucky to have that person in your life. Gratitude can be arduous when you feel down on your luck, but when you start practicing it, it really does make you feel better. 

5. FIXATE ON WHAT YOU CAN DO. 

When you've tried all kinds of remedies and doctor recommendations and you're still in pain, your mind might turn to the fruitless task of contemplating all that you're unable to do. In times of pain, it's not surprising to feel frustrated and unproductive and useless, but dwelling on those feelings doesn't do you any good. Instead of focusing on all the things you can't do — work missed, plans cancelled, dreams delayed — direct your attention to what you are capable of doing. Some days I even write a list of all the things I've done (even if it's just showering, walking Barkley, and reading) so I can remind myself that, even on days when I can't do much, I've still done something. And even if you can't physically do a thing, you can still listen to a podcast or watch a film or daydream about all the cool things you'll do when you feel better. This mindset can be tricky to master, particularly if you're in pain for long periods of time and wonder if you'll ever be able to do certain things again, but when you fixate on what you can do instead of what you can't, you'll be surprised at how much better you feel emotionally.

 

Over the past few years, I've really gotten a life lesson on just how important health is, and how quickly pain can take charge and change your life. I've also been reminded that pain isn't always visible. Someone might look fine, might even act fine, while combatting a pain you can't see. If you're pain right now, I hope these tips helped in some small way. If you've been through chronic pain (emotional or physical) and have any additional advice to add, I'd love to hear it. In the comments section below, let me know what you do when you're facing pain 'cause you never know when a tip that worked for you might help someone else too! 

 

 

PPGTL-Footer Love-Self-Footer Find-Self-Footer


 

 


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.