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Archive for March, 2011

Motivation for Change: Part 1

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao-tzu

Making a change can seem like a huge undertaking, if not completely overwhelming.  To counteract that feeling, it can help to remember that change is a process that occurs little step by little step by little step.  The cumulative effect of those little steps creates the change that you want!

Once you have identified the change that you want to make (whether it is exercising or being on time or cleaning out a cluttered closet), the next thing to do is to break it down into parts.  Often we do not move forward because our goal is in too big of a chunk.  It’s actually several actions instead of one.  Each action may be simple enough in itself, but our brain is attempting, in some way, to do them simultaneously.  It’s doing its best, but it will not succeed unless you first back up and break down your goal into simple, concrete, manageable actions.  Then, you and your brain can go for it.  That’s where the SMART goal format can come into play.

A SMART goal is an acronym for a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-based.

Specific – Take, for example, “exercise.”  That is not specific.  It is vague.  What kind of exercise?  Swimming?  Walking?  Racquetball?  Where will you exercise?  Outside?  A particular gym?  Do you already belong to that gym?  Will you be exercising by yourself, or do you want to work-out with someone?  Who is that “someone”?  Do they have an interest and time available when you do?  These are questions that seems obvious but can kill the success of a goal if they are not clearly answered!

Measurable – How often?  Once each week?  Three times each week?  And how long for each time?  One game?  Thirty minutes?  If you’re looking at a goal like exercise that is best done with a gradual progression from starting out small to building on your successes, it helps to have short-term, intermediate and long-term goals.  Perhaps you’ll start out by just walking for 20 minutes three times the first week, then building to 25 minutes each time the second week, then 30 minutes the third week, and so on, until you have built up to the amount and frequency that you are wanting.  You can increase your likelihood of success by identifying which days you will exercise on:  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?  Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays?  Your long-term goal may be to run a 5K by a certain date.

Attainable (or Achievable) – Is the goal something that is possible for you to achieve?  Do you really believe that it is possible?  If you decide to exercise every single day but have three days each week that are already so jam-packed full of commitments that you really don’t have the time or energy to exercise on those days, then daily exercise is not an attainable goal for you!  However, by modifying your goal to perhaps three times each week, it becomes attainable.  Seems like a very simple and obvious point, but you’d be amazed how many of us tend to overlook the importance of really looking squarely at this guideline.

Realistic (or Relevant) – “Is your goal realistic?” is very similar to “Is your goal attainable or achievable?”  “Is your goal relevant?” addresses whether or not your goal fits with your vision and values and what is important to you.  How does your goal matter in the overall picture of what you want for yourself?

Time-based – If you leave this one out, your brain doesn’t have a way to wrap itself around your goal and go to work for you.  Having a definite date for getting started on your goal and a definite date for completing your goal increases the structure for your goal and, therefore, helps support you in accomplishing that goal.  Dates also help by providing you with some motivation to get going (because, for example, you want to be ready for the 5K!)

Little step by little step by little step.  But before you take any steps, put the change you want to make into a SMART goal format to increase your likelihood for success.  You want to use the resources you already have to give yourself the support you need!

Reversing the Irreversible

“One can never change the past, only the hold it has on you, and while nothing in your life is reversible, you can reverse it nevertheless.”    — Merle Shain

What a juicy quote!  I love the challenge to our thinking of this quote.  There’s nothing for us to do about the past because it remains as it is.  However, “the hold it has on you” can be changed.  This is ever so important for all of us but is especially important for those with AD/HD.  Most of us with AD/HD have leftover negative experiences, judgments (from ourselves and others), criticisms that haunt us, or just a more negative view of ourselves than is accurate.  That’s because the symptoms of AD/HD can be so frustrating and challenging — to us and to others!

So, if it is indeed possible to change the hold that your past has on you, what might that look like?  One of the most powerful things to do is to change our perspective, and one of the ways to do that is to simply back away a bit.  Instead of “not being able to see the forest for the trees,” back away from the trees enough to be able to see that there is a forest there!  Sounds really simple, and it is, in some ways.  But it can feel a bit more tricky when it comes to our own lives, which can feel like they’re “up close and personal” because they are!

Nevertheless, when it comes to our past, that is a little bit easier than what is current.  Sometimes it can be helpful to imagine that you are telling something about your past to the most compassionate person in the world that you can imagine — someone who is always able to see how a past situation might have been really challenging and how you might not have responded as well as you would have liked to have responded.  And they always see you with compassion in that situation, having done the very best you could have.  And guess what?  That’s because you did do the best you could have.  If you had been able to do any better, you would have.  You did as well as was possible for you at that time, at that age, with whatever internal and external resources were available to you.  We were often missing some resource that would have allowed us to respond differently somehow.

Practice seeing yourself with that kind of perspective, with the perspective that comes from having a broader view of things and is more compassionate.  It does take practice, especially because we may have become used to being judged by others or judging ourselves harshly.  And it is so very worth it.  Then, you can begin to experience what Merle Shain was talking about when she wrote “…while nothing in your life is reversible, you can reverse it nevertheless.”

Self-Care

As I have crossed the threshold of a decade birthday, I have been giving self-care a lot of thought.  It seems so ho-hum a topic, as in “Yeah, yeah, I know, eat “right,” exercise, get enough sleep…blah, blah, blah.”  Well, yes and no.  That is what makes self-care so tricky.  It’s sounds so easy, and you’ve heard what you should do, but many of us only give ourselves the attention we need in an inconsistent way or not at all until we’re presented with some medical crisis or diagnosis.  Or perhaps reality snuck up on us, and all of a sudden we notice (not very compassionately) that we’ve gained more pounds than we realized or we’re out of breath so easily.  The consequences of ignoring self-care are quite noticeable, particularly as we get older…

Self-care is important for everyone (who wants to enjoy life or have a body that works well and lasts a long time.)  However, for someone with AD/HD, self-care is absolutely essential … because, guess what?  Without it, your symptoms are going to be in-your-face.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not so fond of my symptoms being that glaring, to me and to those around me.  The symptoms of AD/HD are exaggerated without self-care.  That means that, minimally, life is more difficult.  At the other end, it can mean that life feels like it’s spinning out of control and that there’s no hope.  It is very hard to “do” daily life like that, much less enjoy it.

The good news is that, just as much as a lack of self-care can have such a negative impact on AD/HD, even a tiny change or two can have a very positive impact, which is often all we need to continue down the path where life feels better.  What might that tiny change be for you?  As a friend once pointed out, instead of trying to get in all five servings of fruits and veggies every day (when you’re only getting maybe one or two), what about just committing to eating an apple every day?  (Or whatever fruit most appeals to you.  I like bananas because they require nothing but pulling back the peel.  Easy!  And if I add some peanut butter, then I’m getting in a bit of protein to help keep my blood sugar steady and energy at a more even keel.)

With the weather finally getting warmer again and the days getting longer, what about just going for a walk around the block?  Or what about committing to shutting off your computer, iPod, cell phone, etc. by a certain time at night to give your brain a chance to wind down and get enough sleep?  (That’s my current challenge.)  You know your challenges.  We all have some area that could receive some needed attention.  What is yours?  No, not “I will start eating all five servings of fruits and veggies and exercising for an hour every day and going to bed at 9:00 every night and …”  No, not all of those.  Not even one of those!

Your goal is to start small.  Very tiny baby steps.  Think about the way that a baby walks.  That toddler take little steps because, if they step too big, they fall!  Let’s learn from the babes and take tiny steps so that we can keep our balance and improve our self-care!

Effective Wisdom

When I walked into my 13-year-old daughter’s room, the entire floor was covered — with clothes, shoes (including many, many pairs of flip-flops in assorted colors), baskets, dress-up clothes, folders, binders, pom-poms, and who knows what all else.  The sight completely freaked out my husband, who made some comment about a tornado having hit.  I, however, knew enough to know that she had finally decided to tackle her cluttered closet, which had been so jam-packed full of anything that needed a temporary place to be, that the doors would no longer close.

She was in one of those delightful moods when she wanted to share what was going on in her life.  Nothing particularly noteworthy, but appreciated by me nevertheless because, in the volatile world of a teenager, she could be completely mum all next week (of course in her appropriate desire to declare her own individuality as she makes her way down the path towards adulthood).  I took full advantage of the moment and sat down (in a small space that was not yet covered) and enjoyed listening to her relate her recent experiences with her friends at a restaurant after a gymnastics meet.

I tried not to overstay my welcome.  I realized that she was politely asking me to leave when she said that she wanted to continue to work on her room.  I went about my day and engaged in what was mine to do.

I heard the vacuum cleaner running and later walked by her room.  Wow.  What a transformation!  Every single item was not only off the floor but had been sorted — either thrown away or put in a pile to be given away, with the remaining items neatly reorganized in a closet that now had, by comparison, almost nothing in it.  Absolutely amazing.

I decided to ask her if she was aware of how she had motivated herself to tackle this project and bring it to completion, without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it.  Here’s what she said.

1) I start by just doing one little thing.

2) I don’t let myself get distracted by other things.

3) That one thing then turns into the next thing to do.

4) I take breaks, but I make sure that I go back to finishing whatever little thing I’m working on.

That’s it.  The wisdom of a 13-year-old.  I’m so grateful when I can be humble enough to be curious and to learn from whatever experience is right in front of me.  Otherwise I would have missed the wisdom and inspiration of this experience!

Joyful and Effective

Joyful? Effective? Yes, it IS possible to have more of both in your life. There are many paths to getting there. Getting there with a coach is one of those. Giving yourself support can be a kinder and gentler way to get there, not to mention more effective.

As I develop my website, I offer you suggestions for how you can get there. But it’s not really a destination, of course. It is indeed a journey. It’s about creating more joy and effectiveness in your life, not about being “here” or “there.” So if you’re wondering how to feel more joyful and be more effective, I invite you to look around. I’m continuing to add content with the goal of increasing the joy and effectiveness in your life!

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