make behavior change easier woman on bed contemplating behavior change

Behavior Change: why is it so hard?

Behavior change might be on your agenda this time of year. Maybe besides losing the holiday weight, it’d be nice to drop a few additional pounds and get in shape. You’ve been swearing you’ll afford that vacation and this is it! Maybe this is the year to find love or really improve relationship once and for all. You’ve said it before but this truly is the year to pay attention to your health, finances, or relationship!

I know you’re ready and you’ve been trying really hard for the past couple weeks.

Still, some stats tell us only 8% (or up to 18% in the optimistic findings) successfully keep our New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve almost given up already, you’re not alone.

But don’t let the statistics fool you. Humans are highly capable of behavior change. It’s part of what separates us from other life forms.

The way you go about doing it is what sets apart those who manage to transform their lives (er, their bodies, bank accounts, or relationship experience) and those whose movement in the world remains relatively the same year after year, decade after decade.

Successful Behavior Change

It helps to understand some things about the human animal. We were made to conserve energy. Keep that in mind when you decide what and how to change and make it as easy on yourself as possible. You’ll give yourself the best chance of making that change permanent and be more likely to achieve your desired outcome.

Here are three great things to do to make it as easy as possible (and 10x more likely it will stick.)

1. Combine behaviors

Combine an already-habit with a desired one for easy behavior change. For instance, examine what you do automatically that produces a “good” return on your investment. It might be brushing your teeth. Do you automatically brew coffee first thing? Maybe it’s watching your favorite show. Every single one of these things you do “almost without thinking” has a positive return for you (or you wouldn’t have made it a habit in the first place.)

Just so you know, I am not arguing the good in caffeine or TV viewing… or brushing your teeth, for that matter. I’m not arguing anything. The point is to pick something that you do automatically and that you LIKE because it’s pleasurable, easy, or has a good payoff…even as small as liking the feeling of a clean mouth.

Now, marry that to something else beneficial. Maybe you want to drink more water. Or add a daily stretching routine. Maybe you’re trying to add some meditation. Do it while the coffee brews. The stretches don’t have to be long. Even three minutes of meditation makes a difference. Getting hydrated in the am while the coffee brews is a perfect time for that. Meditating while brushing your teeth? I say it’s possible.

And yes, combine a good thing with a less healthy habit: drinking a beer after work for example. If you already drink the beer, adding the additional more healthy behavior will, in fact, still make a significant difference.

2. Small behavior change first

… because small behavior changes last. (See what I did there?)

We all get pretty gung-ho when it comes to behavior changes. And yes, when you get good insight and put action to it, you will see some pay offs that make a difference right away.

But do not underestimate the power of small, incremental changes added over time. These will change your life. And if you combine them with things you already do, you will barely feel the difference.

Don’t believe me? I just committed to contributing an additional 3%…just THREE percent… to my long-term investing. At a super-moderate yield, in ten short years, that 3% alone will net an additional 75 THOUSAND dollars. SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND BIG ONES. And that’s not even combining it with other investing. That’s JUST the 3% figured alone.

Not a friend of compound interest yet? You need to meet.

I will barely feel that three percent allocation. In fact, I pretty much won’t. It’s being moved from one account draw (where it earns absolutely ZERO) to the other.

Is that the only financial change I’ll make and call it good? No. But I am not all black and white and hot and bothered about this one either. I am not waiting until I have something HUGE to invest. I am not requiring myself to get all my ducks in a row before I start moving small amounts that will make a big difference. Which leads me to this:

3. Conquer all-or-nothing thinking

It never helped anyone. Ever. Honestly.

All-or-nothing thinking just keeps people stuck. It keeps them having the same experience in life and in relationship over and over and over again. It fosters paralysis. And a collasping, “ah just screw it” response when a little snag comes up.

Just change one little thing today. One little thing next week. (Not tomorrow either…give yourself at least a week if not THREE weeks to make a real adjustment.) At the end of the year, that’s 52 (and if you did one every 21 days that’s still SEVENTEEN) additional corrective improvements. That’s a lot of improvements.

It’s not true that you need to figure it all out or make drastic changes or that you can’t move until everything is prepped and ready to go. It’s not that six sessions of marriage or relationship counseling will transform your relationship forever. (There should be some movement in six sessions, and you should gain insight but a lot of that is going to be small, internal, and make the biggest difference implemented in real changes practiced over time.)

Look, we love dramatic transformations. We love rags-to-riches and underdog victories and come-from-behind wins. We love get-rich-quick schemes and fast happy relationships that form and gel into a “happily ever after” in an hour and 43 minutes. That’s all good. These are pretty sweet stories. But they are not common, realistic, and they are not even the whole story.

Gentleness, my friends, is the key to getting over black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking. Just try being gentle and rigid at the same time. You can’t. You CAN, however, be gentle and loving while being firm at the same time.

Gentle is key in Behavior Change

I know some of you think you need to be hard on yourself to get results. You think if you’re not punishing or pushing yourself, you’ll wimp out and cave to the other extreme. That’s the very nature of all-or-nothing thinking and it does not serve you. Not sure what gentleness looks or sounds like?

It’s a good loving, inner cheerleader. One that doesn’t let you off the hook (indulgent or permissive) and doesn’t have you feeling like a piece of crap (harsh and shaming.) It sounds a bit like this: “hmmm, my pants are tight. Back to salads and fruit for lunch and no snacks from the break room. You can do that.” And then when considering the snacks while walking by them says something like, “You’re good. That impulse will pass in a few minutes. Keep walking.”

That gentle voice does not say things like “Holy crap, you’re fat! You deserve to wear tight pants as a reminder to get your ass in gear.” And then, walking by the snacks says “Your damn pants are tight. Don’t even look at those cookies, Fatso. That’s right, keep walking.”

One of those voices is loving and the other is not. Loving always wins in the (short and the) long run. Choose loving, gentle, and firm. No matter what the topic for your desired behavior change, gentleness will serve you. Harshness will just add to you feeling worse. Who wants that?

You can do it.

Real change happens over time when it’s combined with other habits, starts and stays small and incremental, and allows for gentleness in the process. Real change is woven into the fabric of daily life and compounds into transformation over time.

Need help? Of course, I’m here for you. Whether you want help setting incremental, helpful goals, being accountable to someone, understanding how gentleness works in your life and inner dialogue, or finding the right approach to meeting your goals and objectives, I am here to help.

heartache loneliness grief

How do you Decide?

Remember back when George W took flack for saying “I’m the Decider! I decide what’s best.”

Well, no matter what your political leanings, it’s actually true. I mean, he wasn’t the Decider of the entire free world as a stand-alone be-all dictator (thankfully!) but he was the President of the United States and he was The Boss in charge of keeping or not keeping Donald Rumsfeld as Speaker of the House. It just sounds funny! (You might not recall the context, so I supplied it for you.)

Well, he was the Decider.

More importantly,YOU actually are the Decider. You are the Lead, the Star, the Romantic Hero in the story which is your life. Also, guess what?! You are the creator, writer, and director as well!

It doesn’t need to get any bigger than that. You shape your own life. Period.

You get to Decide

After all, you are a grown up and you get to do what you want. It’s one of the things that separates children from adults.

So why do some of you have such a hard time actually DOING this?

Could be you’re scared you’ll choose wrongly. Maybe every option includes pain and treading water seems more manageable than venturing through shark-infested waters.

It might be more comfortable blaming other people: your parents, society, your mate, your lousy luck! Realizing that it’s up to you can be terrifying at first… and ultimately liberating. Once you realize this, next comes agency and POWER.

(I help people with this whole process all the time, so don’t fear if you need help with it. I’ve got you covered.)

Keep this in mind:

Not deciding is a decision.

You’re choosing limbo. More treading. Using energy just to stay afloat. And, I mean, that’s fine as long as you realize you are choosing not to choose and it is costing you time, energy, and (often it’s also costing lots of ) moola.

Of those three, time is the one that actually does not regenerate (so far anyway.) It’s your time. I think it’s time for the next step…but untimately, YOU get to decide when to move.

Make it Easier to Decide

I promised three steps to making it easier. I already outlined the first two. ūüėČ

1. Accept that YOU are in charge.

2. Acknowledge that not-deciding might be painful and costly itself.

3. Make a Change Benefits Matrix.

I use this with clients all the time. It can be helpful to have an “objective someone” identify what you emphasize as you talk, reflect back to you, help you organize your thoughts, and listen for how you actually weight components of the activity. (Good therapists are not just staying quiet and nodding their heads. We do more.)

And the Change Benefits Matrix is also something you can do at home.

Make a double pros and cons list which has two headings. At the top write down your contemplated change. Underneath you’ll list the pros and cons. On the second long horizontal line is NOT the change.¬† Don’t write what is the opposite or a different solution or two opposing options. You’re considering ONE CHANGE at a time. It looks like this:

For example, maybe you’re contemplating the change of “Buy a gym membership.” The Not is “Don’t buy a gym membership.” The second line is not something like, Join a Hiking group or Start running on your own. In other words, it’s not an alternate solution.

So it’s not even something like “break-up” and “stay together.” It is directly not that change. It matters. So, it would be “break up” and “don’t break up.”

In this way you’ll be thinking precisely and only about the pros and cons of making or not making the change and avoid confusing the issue with other possible solutions.

A couple more hints for using this to decide

  • Yes, some of the pros above will be related to the cons below, but you’ll also find they have their unique flavor and weight. Go ahead and complete a whole square or jump around the matrix filling it up.
  • When you’re done, what stands out most notably? Is something weightier than all the rest? Pay attention to that.

Some purveyors of the Change Benefits Matrix will have you assigning percentages to weight your pros and cons. Knock yourself out if you think the math will tell you what’s most important.

I don’t do that. For most people, you won’t need numbers to make the decision.

You’ll discover what matters most to you. It will unfold as you spell it out. You might suddenly know the thing holding you back. Or you identify the hurdle you want to address. Maybe it’s the thing that makes you decide this contemplated change is not for you. Could be now is not the time for the change.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll see that you really are motivated to get moving and make the change.

After all, you get to decide.

This is gonna help many of you. And it might bring up some sticky spots for some of you. Let me know if I can help. Send a message and I’ll let you know how we get started.

CONNECT

Got New Year’s goals coming up? This is a great thing to use getting prepped for transformation and growth big and small.

 

 

stress less and find more peace, manage stress

Choices and Guilt

Call him an old soul; we do sometimes.

What would you give to be free of shame and guilt? I bet you’ve been on a few guilt trips in your lifetime.

My son, age 22, speaks precise truths that took me 45 years to learn. The hard way. Well, okay, maybe 40 years. And my youngest son helped me learn.

I can’t quote verbatim because his words are more precise. They hold in their brevity more than I can possibly capture. Here’s my best try:

“We only have so much time on the planet. I make choices by asking myself¬† ‘will this add value to my life or to the life of someone important to me? Will it matter?’ If the answer is no, I don’t waste my time.”

And he does not feel guilty about his choices. That also is a “waste of time.”

HE DOES NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT HIS CHOICES. EVER.

He allows that he doesn’t have to make perfect ones, after all. He does not have to never miss out on something. He doesn’t even think that way, in fact. He shows up for his own life and lives it. I know part of this is the way he’s made and it comes easier to him than to some of us.

I love this about him.

I know some of the hard he’s experienced in life encourages such vision. I wouldn’t wish it on others even though he has grown into a fine man (whose frontal lobe probably closed about 4 years ahead of schedule!)

I love this about him too.

Such perspective is rare for his age, but it’s a good one we can learn at any age – even those of us who’ve spent years responding to the pull of shame and the leverage of the guilt trip.

And those of us who have actually repeated such techniques on others can (and will almost naturally) STOP doing this to others when we stop doing it to ourselves.

Magic almost. Miracle, if you prefer.

Health! Ahhhhhh yes.

There’s enormous freedom in living like this. And I’m convinced it doesn’t have to feel like artful tight-rope-walking between self-centered asshole and sappy, people-pleaser doormat. It does get comfortable.

As in, true-nature-comfortable, not zero-conflict-ever-comfortable.

Be encouraged!

Because sometimes there IS fall-out from living like this. At least until other people get used to the change. You’re upsetting relationship status, after all.

And for some of us, this means learning to carry our own pain and to NOT shoulder others’ pain. The good news is our own pain is not going to kill us. It’s only pain.

Everyone else’s pain piled on us might kill us.

It might cost us more than we can afford to pay. It might keep us from being awake for the good. It might cost us our very selves.

Taking responsibility for our own lives, knowing, allowing that our choices will not be perfect is the beginning of healthy relationship.

Far from being selfish, making choices that honor our limits and respects our own values frees others to do the same. Then, when we connect with those we love, it’s a healthy decision and a joyful experience, free from the weight of obligation and guilt.

Saying all this is easier than weathering the weight of guilt the first time you do something different. I realize that.

Still, I know what it’s like both ways. I know which is better. You will get over the guilt when you realize it keeps you trapped. And you will allow the shame to drop away and never attach to you again when you realize how much life and freedom awaits.

Need help getting there? It’s my job. Let’s get started.

 

 

Love is Easy; Love is Abundant

Love is easier than you think.

Question what you think you know about love. Good love might actually be easy, at least much easier than you think.

We’re bombarded with messages about it everywhere. You might hear music:

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me.) Is love a mystery?

Love is a Battlefield.

Remember M*A*S*H*’s theme song: Suicide is Painless? That’s daft. No it’s not. That sentiment is a big fat, stupid lie. It makes a poignant song title because it’s so tragically ironic. And wrong. (Ask anyone who has lost someone to suicide-and that, unfortunately, includes LOTS of us!)

Have you heard, “love takes work” or “good love is hard to find” or “love hurts, love stinks”?

Trust me. These are also big, fat, stupid lies. We just believe them because we’ve heard them so many times and then when something happens (like we get rejected) we hear them again, only this time in our own voice.

Just because people say things thousands of times and we think them and we think life “proves” them right does not mean they are true.

Read that again. It can be a bit of a mind-twister.

If you give yourself one gift this year, let it be replacing these lies with the truth.

Allow me to be an example.

I spent years (believe me) struggling in relationship, convinced that giving 110% should yield a happy love (because everyone should give of themselves, compromise, and give as much as possible. This is what good Christian women -fill in that blank with whatever description applies to you- do, after all.)

This thinking and behavior never produced more harmony, or more love, or better intimacy, or any peace.

I was undeterred! I had plenty of evidence that I just needed to “work harder” and “love more.” I soothed myself with chocolate and mantras like “love hurts.”

I was, after all, really smart and I did not have the love I wanted so I concluded that people must not actually experience good love or at least not very often and therefore, “love is scarce” and “good love is hard to find.” This made perfect sense. I had years of proof!

I had plenty of supportive company and comforting commiseration from other people who also did not have a clue about how love works.

And then, something incredible happened.

I read the truth. Someone wrote, “Love is easy. Love is abundant. Love is not hard.” And even though I thought these were CRAZY notions, maybe even blasphemous, I allowed myself to entertain the possibility that what I knew about love was ALL WRONG.

It changed my approach to solving this problem. Instantly. I went from taking all those underlying beliefs for granted and operating on them to ASKING the right question.

How DOES love work?

Almost miraculously, in a way that felt almost like the heavens opening and the angels singing, and actually was one of those waaaaaaaaaa, low-effort, fantastic revelations, I made a shift in my thinking and it changed my life for the better for-EVERRRRRHHHH! I’m not kidding you!

This is why I am doing what I do as a therapist and life coach. This is why I KNOW I know things that can help and why I feel compelled to DO THIS!

I had no idea until I studied that there was scientific support for the claims that “love is abundant” and “love is easy.” Oh man, I have things to share! This stuff is gonna change YOUR life too. I’m singing at the thought of it and I hope you’ll give me the chance to teach you what I know.

Here a a few things to keep in mind:

  • It can be very difficult to come to the humble conclusion the way you’ve always done things AND the way you think about things MIGHT NOT BE right.
  • Making that shift is essential for growth. THIS is where growth happens: Pinpointing the untruth, examining it, and replacing it!
  • Just because something is simple, does not guarantee it’ll be easy.

That is what I’m here for: to assist you in implementing.

Give me a call or send an email!

 

Before you date again

What are the first things you want to know before jumping back into the pool of “plenty of fish?”

How to stay away from the slimy, stinky ones? Maybe you’re just wishing you could skip all the painful parts.

If you’re angry at all the advice about “wait a year” and “go find yourself first,” I’m here to tell you that is soooo normal! You should be angry! Who is this person telling you what you need to do? (here’s an example of a checklist for becoming self-actualized before dating again)

You are in pain!

It’s just overwhelming thinking about all the obstacles you must first overcome before you are going to get to the relationship you really want again! If it can ever work, that is!

Besides, when pain is your reality, a year feels like FOR-ehhhhh-VERRRRRR. (Sandlot, anyone?)

I bet you get equally annoyed when people answer your earnest question “when IS the right time to re-enter the dating world?” with “only you can answer that question.” That’s no help!

I might scandalize hoards of people, but truly, let’s cut to the chase about a few concerns:

Either you are wondering when it will EVER be an “appropriate” time to HAVE SEX again, (based on your values and this strangely shifting dating scene) or you may just want to stay away from any potential mates altogether.

Maybe you feel both ways in between secretly, literally, crying in your coffee. Maybe it’s easy enough finding willing sex partners but that has nothing to do with finding the committed relationship you actually want.

Everyone knows that late at night, in the cold dark of your single-occupied bed is THE TIME, no matter what, when you come painfully face-to-face with the reality of your new single-hood.

Have I said that sucks? It does!

Rather than assure you by saying “you will figure this out; you’ll know when the time is right” or give you a list of MUST-DO-FIRSTS, here are a couple of things that RIGHT NOW can be a small comfort.

  1. Keep in mind your pain is real. It’s normal. It IS painful. Oh man, it hurts! Sometimes it hurts to breathe!
  2. Put your pain in perspective. Humans get to experience pain. It is part of what makes us human. That said… (don’t get mad at me for this one-it comes from a really smart, sweet, older woman who had learned a thing or two by the time I heard her share it…)
  3. Tell yourself the truth about your pain: It’s not going to kill you; it’s only your own pain. Make it a sweet, soothing “mantra”, if you like. “It’s not going to kill me; it’s only my own pain.” (Bonus nugget of truth that helps lots of people: when you learn to experience your own pain instead of taking on everyone else’s or trying to AVOID IT,- through busy-ness or¬† denial- there’s actually LESS of it.) “It’s just my own pain.” Try that one on for size.
  4. ¬†On the practical side, make your bed a sanctuary of COMFORT. Get new sheets and bedding, new pillows that DON’T smell like or remind you of your ex-lover. Make it YOUR space. And then sleep in the middle, thrash about with abandon and SPREAD OUT, man! if you need to cry there, go ahead. (This works for women¬† AND MEN!)
  5. Be grateful. Seriously. Count whatever you can. No matter what your spiritual approach and even if you don’t really engage one, noticing the good not only multiplies it (you notice MORE!) but it increases your daily satisfaction.

It’s not rocket science. Simple things can make a big difference. Of course, you know I’m going to tell you to find a skilled, trustworthy counselor or coach. Of course!

Depression is a wily snake

Maybe you know you’re depressed.

Could be your doctor gave you the PHQ9 and expressed concern at your result. Could be people in your life have noticed a change and wondered aloud.

It’s also just as possible you “feel uneasy” are “not yourself” or are “just blah” and it may never have occurred to you this feeling has a diagnosis, much less a treatment!

All around the globe, common depression symptoms include¬†low moods, sadness, crying, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping, but that’s just for starters. Other symptoms (like decreased concentration, illogical thinking, or physical symptoms) and the very nature of depression can make it one wily snake to pin down!

(Another tricky thing about symptoms is they can be shared by bipolar, major depressive episode, or chronic depression as well as other maladies and it can take a trained professional time make an accurate, specific diagnosis…but enough talk about symptoms!)

What sufferers want is to feel better. Duh!

Nearly all practitioners, whether medical personnel, psychologists, counselors, or social workers, agree there are physical factors involved in mood disorders which- in the VAST majority of cases- will respond well to medication even if some trial and change is needed.

Let me be clear: a good practitioner won’t force meds on you even when they heartily believe in them. A good practitioner will take the time to explore your reasoning or any worry you might have. You’ll make a decision together and she’ll continue to respect your position and concerns each step of the way. (For 50 signs of a good therapist, read here.)

The good news is there is MUCH you and a therapist can explore as additional ways to feel better, cope better, and hopefully GET better. Therapy is no guarantee your depression will be cured or that life will no longer hurt. Good, productive therapy aims to point you toward solution and support you as you walk through the challenges. Just having that support can mean a significant improvement in your life!

Yes, you could tough it out some more. You could just try the meds your doctor prescribed. Or you can do more to feel better sooner. And no matter what your current state of mind is telling you, the TRUTH is, you deserve a good life.

This Buzzfeed article makes some good points about the downward-spiral and vicious-cycle-perceptions that keep people trapped in depression. Gently intervening in these “thinking distortions” takes the safety and skill of a trustworthy therapist.

Of course I’m going to promote therapy as a solution. I’m definitely biased toward therapy! I’ve seen it make a positive difference again and again and again and again and again…

You get what I’m saying.

If you have energy to do just one thing this week, let it be reaching our to connect with a good therapist. If you’ve landed here and finished reading, it means you’re already well on your way.

midlife love couple

Midlife Dating, Mating, and Relating

What makes Midlife Love so challenging?

You’d think midlife love would be a piece of cake. After all, we don’t have the same naivete we possessed as young 20-somethings just starting out. Now that we’re a little older, we’re supposed to be wiser. Yet, honestly, for many of us, we’re not sure we actually know what we’re doing.

We might feel wounded by life and the reality of circumstances. And we’re afraid the landscape has changed in ways we don’t understand. Maybe we think we’ve never been good at this stuff. Maybe there’s a long, awful track record of heartache and pain. Maybe it has ALMOST become easier to give up than to actually try for what we want.

Love and attachment, the forming of bonds, romance, sex, relationship… often a mix of fulfillment and pain. It doesn’t matter how old we get, romantic love is still a huge factor in life satisfaction.

It’s not too late!

Even though you don’t need the census bureau to tell you there are scads of single women and men (of all preferences btw) still longing for love, let’s start with some facts:

In Cincinnati alone there are 120 thousand men and 120 thousand women.  About 61 thousand of each have never married. About 13 thousand men and 16.5 thousand women are divorced. Sad stat?  About 33 thousand of each gender are currently married and separated. Chances of staying married 20 years or longer is still about 50/50 for both genders.

What does this mean?

Midlife love is statistically still possible

It means if you’re single at age 35 and beyond, the available pool is back to what it was in our early to mid-20’s! No wonder there’s a boom in baby boomer dating, mating, and relating! And there’s a plethora of advice about how to go about it.¬† That’s the good news.

What’s the flip side?

It means people could use some help finding, keeping, and relating to a mate! I have a theory that healthy relationships last. That’s why coaching in this area is a five phase process including: Preparation, Attraction, Connection, Evaluation, and Relationship.

If you are ready to actually be in a relationship with someone who can be a partner in life, I am here to help! Or if you want help in any of the areas listed above, even in a long-term marriage or relationship, it’s what I do!

Look for FREE wisdom in the blog because I’m not stingy. I’ll share some good stuff that will cost you only the time to read.

Of course, you can READ about things and TRY STUFF til you’re worn out. And for some of you that will be sufficient for you to get where you want to go!

But if you find yourself stuck, or just in a hurry to get where you want to be – no matter what you suspect might be getting in your way – we can do some very good work on-on-one. And no matter what your situation, if you want a good mate, there is someone for you. I can help you get there. Read more about the process of individual coaching here.

Ready to start? CALL to make an appointment or schedule your FREE 15 minute in-person consultation. 513-530-5888

demographics taken from American FactFinder, US Census, available at: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk