How to craft an effective behavior challenge:1. Focus on the Positive— You're trying to change behaviors to make your life better. Stating your challenge in a positive way makes you feel like you are striving toward something, rather than depriving yourself. You want to feel optimistic and excited about making your life better.
Negative: “I won’t snack at night”
Positive: “A healthy dinner will be my last food for the day.”
Negative: "I won't drink my coffee until I've had 24 oz. of water."
Positive: "I will drink 24 oz. of water before I drink my coffee"
Negative: "I won't stay up too late"
Positive: "I will be in bed, ready for sleep by __:__"
2. Choose behavior that is Specific and Measurable– At the end of a day, you should be able to answer "yes" or "no" to the simple question, did I fulfill my behavior challenge today? Here are two possible challenge statements:
Statement 1: “I will eat healthier.”
Statement 2: “I will eat 5 servings of vegetables a day”
The second statement is much more powerful because it clearly lays out exactly what you expect of yourself and makes it easy to check your progress. If it's the afternoon and you're about to have a snack, check how many servings of vegetables you've already had and eat accordingly.
3. Make sure the behavior is Achievable – If you're a basically sedentary person, stating that you will run 5 miles a day this week is not realistic. We all have lofty goals and believing in your ability to take on a challenge is very important to your success. Think carefully, however, about how big a challenge you are actually prepared for. Too often we bite off more than we can chew, get discouraged, and give up. Make sure your challenge is something you are truly ready to take on and that you have the resources you need in place.
4. Use terms that are Process-oriented rather than outcome-oriented – I would imagine you've had times that you did everything "right" and still didn't get the outcome you wanted. It's frustrating and discouraging, and sometimes, it makes us want to give up. We can't control all of the variables that affect our lives, but we can control our own choices and behaviors. Focus your challenge on your behavior and the outcome should follow. Again, two examples:
Statement 1: “I will lose 5 lbs.”
Statement 2:“I will follow my eating and exercise plan”
I've weighed on my own scale and the scales at Weight Watchers often enough to know that my body does crazy things when it comes to weight. If my measure of success came only from the number on the scale each week, I'd have given up a long time ago. Statement 1 above sets you up for frustration. What if you lose 4.5 lbs? Does that mean that you failed? The second statement is something that you control completely. At the end of each day you can simply state "yes" or "no" to the question, "did I follow my eating and exercise plan".
Now that you've learned how to state your behavior challenge, you need to decide how you will log each day. There are many options for keeping track of your progress. Here are a few I've used:
Spreadsheet: Make a chart to track your challenge(s). You can keep it on your computer or print it out. I am a big fan of charts; especially when marked off with glittery happy face stickers. Make sure it is in a place where you will see it often!
Calendar: I simply chose a different color marker for each behavior and made a star on my calendar when I'd completed that challenge for the day.
irunurun app: The first "greatness" app. If you are a smart phone user, this app is perfect for tracking your challenge behaviors. You can check it out here.
Now your task is to choose ONE behavior to focus on this week. Think about the following:
1. A challenge statement that is Positive, Specific and Measurable, Achievable and Process-Oriented.
2. What are possible obstacles to engaging in the desired behavior? How will you handle those obstacles?
3. How will this behavior positively impact your life (and maybe even the lives of those around you)?
Now you can share your challenge with the rest of us so we can cheer you on this week. Feel free to check in as often as you'd like for encouragement and ideas. I'll be checking the post and responding as frequently as possible but this should be a group effort. Think of yourselves as a team working together and cheering each other on!