My Journey from Discovery to Acceptance to Change
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Hope Through Authenticity

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Pulling My Hair Out for This?? When Good Habits Go Away, Part 2

Obstacles Do Not Block the Path … Obstacles ARE the Path

Last week, I started to talk to you about keeping good habits – or, more accurately, why we don’t keep good habits.  I’m going to keep this theme going because right now I’m really struggling to re-build some good habits and stop some bad habits that have crept back in.  I don’t think I’m alone!

I’ve discovered that many people make goals and start an action plan …. and then it all goes south.  Think of the number of New Year’s Resolutions NOT met!  How many diets have you started?  How many exercise plans?  Have you promised to do a gratitude journal and stopped?  Maybe you committed to not watching TV or playing silly electronic games or sitting on Facebook so much.  Maybe you decided to do Morning Pages every day.  Maybe you decided to slow your spending or stop going to fast food places or stop drinking soda … I’m sure you can find something you wish to change or create in your life that has stumped all your abilities.

As I open myself to people, I’m learning that people who struggle with Excess Emotional Energy (or whatever mental health label you choose), use these setbacks as a excuses to beat themselves to death or just give up.  I know I do it.  Sometimes I wonder if I sabotage my own success because beating myself up is more comfortable.  That’s sounds counter-intuitive, I know.  Why would beating myself up be comfortable?

Comfortable With That Beating Myself with a Bat

Do you like to receive compliments?  Do you get all gooey and warm?  Or, do you immediately begin to refute and back away (mentally or physically)?  You may say a simple, “Thank you,” but what’s going on inside?  Most people don’t feel comfortable receiving compliments. 

What about internal compliments?  Yesterday I completed more than I had expected.  I started being all peacock-y and internally telling myself how awesome I am.  That lasted about 20 seconds (or two seconds) … quickly I turned to a review of all that I had NOT accomplished and how what I had done wasn’t necessarily my best work.  I moved from there into all the goals I have for myself that I’ve let crash and burn.  The bat got a great workout.

It seems I’m more comfortable being critical that I am with praise.  I don’t think I’m alone.  So now what?  (We can talk about ‘why’ we use beat on ourselves in another post.)

Make This Post Useful

JOIN IN:  Before you keep reading, please identify one goal you’ve tried to accomplish that  just won’t stick.  Jot down that unrealized goal.  I’ll be using “eliminate soda.”  That’s an easy one.  I have much more difficult unrealized goals.  But for demonstration, I thought I’d use something simple.  If you want to discuss this process with my more complex goals, just send me an email.  I plan to work this process on my most troublesome goals.  Hint:  for now, focus on a good habit you want back rather than a bad habit you want to stop.  We’ll get to the bad guys later.

Bringing This To Therapy

In my group therapy this week, I mentioned my struggle with not meeting goals and the subsequent beating I give myself.  We started by strategizing on ways to meet the goals:

  • What steps do I need to take to get there?
  • How can I put structure and accountability around those steps?
  • What obstacles are in my path?

While the answers are complex, I want to demonstrate using my goal:

Goal:  Eliminate Soda

Steps: 

  • Make sure there is no soda in the house.
  • Don’t carry cash (b/c then it’s easy for me to buy a quick soda but I won’t use a debit card for $1 drink).
  • Tell my husband and family so they don’t bring that stuff around.  (Sometimes I ask my husband to grab me a soda when we get gas.  I’ve asked him to ‘forget’ to do that knowing I won’t ask him to go back in).
  • Immediately tell the server to bring me water AND tell her not to bring soda even if I beg.  (I’ve even gone so far – when I’m really craving a soda – to tell the server their tip will go from 15% to 20% if they help me.)
  • Keep myself hydrated and not hungry (I want a soda when my body is really calling for food).

Obstacles:

  • My primary obstacle is that my husband 1) likes soda too and he doesn’t have a goal not to drink them; 2) my husband likes to please so when I ask for one, he wants to give it to me.
  • I let myself get too hungry.
  • It’s summer – I have a neighborhood pool – soda is just yummy!

Helpful – sort of.  But, I had implemented all of those steps and kept the obstacles in mind on a daily basis.  My problem, my worry, was that I couldn’t seem to make anything stick. 

Going Deeper

My therapist turned to me and changed tactics (she loves to do that).  Ready to plunge in with me? Here are some rapid fire questions to consider (go with your gut answer – you can analyze and think more later).  My answers are in red.

  1. What do you have to endure to realize this goal?  (watching other people enjoying something I want; that 20 minutes of craving, that horrible deprivation feeling that makes me want it more)
  2. What does that “feel” like – what does your body and mind go through – when you are having to endure?  (anxiety, racing heart, a touch of anger, jealousy, clenched jaw, start beating myself up)
  3. What is painful about accomplishing this goal?  (I really like a soda – the fizzy, the refreshing-ness.)
  4. What is painful about NOT accomplishing this goal?  (my brain is not giving me an answer to this one)
  5. What is the REAL goal?  Is this ‘smaller’ goal the best way to accomplish the real goal?  (The REAL goal is to live a healthy life so I don’t turn out like my parents – is one soda a day really going to keep me from that??)
  6. What would the best boss in the world say and how would your brain respond?  Note:  it’s not what you would say to this boss.  The point is understand what you would ‘want’ to say.  (don’t give up, you can do it, think of all the other things you’ve accomplished ….blah blah blah --- my brain would respond with all the ways I’ve failed in life, how she doesn’t understand how hard it is, then I’d turn on her with all the ways she doesn’t live a healthy life)

Deeper Still

Take a few seconds to read your rapid-fire answers.  Do those answers simply scratch the surface OR are they your “should” answers OR are they just complete crap?  This analysis will take longer and may be excruciating … push through.

I’m still working on this Deeper Still analysis for eliminating soda.  But here are my first thoughts:

I shouldn’t have to give it up.  It’s only one a day for God’s sake.  I gave up so much to lose this weight, do I have to give up everything?  It’s just not f-ing fair that Dave can eat and drink whatever he wants without any consequences.  I drink so much water ... surely that makes up for the soda thing.  I already do so much for healthy living – food choice, exercise fiend.  Maybe I should just be satisfied with where I’m at!  Why do I always have to find more and more ways to be healthy?  Am I seeking perfection?  Why am I spending so much energy worrying over something so minor/so insignificant?  Do you just want to have something hard so you can fail?  Why can’t you just be satisfied with who you are in this moment?

This went on for a lot longer but would bore you to tears. 

The Results of My Analysis

This analysis was so useful because here is my ultimate decision:

Eliminating one soda a day is NOT worth it to me at this time in my life.  Since drinking one soda is neutral toward my REAL goal of good health (in other words, one soda will not make me unhealthy and eliminating one soda won’t really make me any healthier), I’m going to bag this goal completely for now (I can always bring it back). 

And, I’m not going to get out the bat because I understand my decision – I was both rational and emotional!  I was intentional.  Life didn’t happen to me … I designed my life.

Now, there will be other goals that won’t get eliminated.  For example, one of my goals is to complete that novel – this requires some major daily steps that I keeping avoiding.  Today, I’ll be analyzing why I’m struggling.  Next week, I’ll share this analysis because it will be much more significant/painful/revealing than this simple eliminate soda goal.

A goal today does not have to be a goal tomorrow.  Just make the decision intentionally!

Ready to Share??

It’s my desire that this blog become a safe place for all of us to share our struggles, our strategies, our analyses.  If you are willing to share about a goal that just keeps knocking you down, please send it to me in an email.  I will eliminate anything that mentions your name and post it. 

A SIDE NOTE:  My wonderful husband in coming home for lunch with a soda 🙂 

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    June with Purple Hair

    In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....

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