Monday, August 27, 2012

Giving Credit When Credit Is Due

Since it's back to school time, I have a little test for you:

1. Have you fulfilled your challenges?
    A. 100% perfectly the entire Challenge thus far.
    B. Mostly. I've had a few slip-ups or had to make some
        changes, but I'm doing pretty well.
    C. It's been a major struggle and I've barely made any changes.
    D. I gave up the first day and just eat Nutter Butters while I read the Blog

Hopefully you answered "B". If you answered "A" you are probably either delusional or a robot. If you answered "C", re-read some of the previous posts and see if there are some tweaks you can make either in how you articulate your challenges or how you structure your life in relation to them. If you answered "D", you should probably call me to set up a one-on-one session. Soon ;)

Interestingly, whether you answered "B" or "C" may have less to do with the percentage of change you actually made and more to do with your attitude toward yourself and your behaviors. Many times when we attempt behavior change, we pay a disproportionate amount of time beating ourselves up for "messing up" and very little time congratulating ourselves when we do well. If you've kept a log of your challenges this whole time, review it objectively and ask yourself how you would react if a friend or loved one showed you the same log. Would you berate them for the times they didn't follow through perfectly? Or would you congratulate them on their efforts and achievements thus far and encourage them to do better? Maybe you'd even have a conversation with them about the struggles they've had and try to help them problem solve. If you wouldn't have a log to show someone because you haven't been keeping track of your behaviors, START NOW!

I spent a lot of time last week thinking about this and paying attention to how I talk to myself about my behaviors. It was hard to force myself to give little mental pats on the back every time I made a good choice but even in just a few days, I got more comfortable with it. One day last week I was tired and busy and hungry. I had a Costco sized jar of peanut butter that was calling my name. I really wanted to sit on the couch just me, that jar of peanut butter and the Property Brothers. But I didn't! I cut up some melon, grabbed some turkey breast, and sat down at the dining room table with the kids while they ate their lunch. I was very proud of myself. Later that evening, I was hungry again and REALLY wanted peanut butter. So I spooned some out into a bowl and poured in a bunch of blueberries. I ate the mixture while I watched So You Think You Can Dance. It was more than a single serving of peanut butter and I know I shouldn't watch t.v. while I eat, but it was a reasonable amount and still better than sitting down with the whole jar (and possibly a carton of chocolate soy ice cream). So, baby steps. I finished the day feeling fairly positive about the choices I'd made and I felt like I'd strengthened my willpower muscle.

If you have a hard time giving yourself credit when you make a good choice, here are some ideas to make it a more conscious process.
  1. A chart with squares. Each time you make a good choice, put a sticker in a square or make a check mark.
  2. A clicker like the kind they use at the entrance to events. Click each time you make a good choice.
  3. A string you keep in your purse or pocket. Make a knot each time you make a good choice.
  4. A marble jar. Each time you make a good choice, drop a marble in the jar.
  5. Pennies in your pocket. Start the day with all of the pennies in one pocket and then transfer one to the other pocket each time you make a good choice.
  6. Use something on your smart phone. There has to be an app for that! (If not, please create one and give me royalties!)
Don't be afraid to give yourself credit for the little things or even for partial improvement. Something is better than nothing! After doing this for a few days, you should feel proud, encouraged, hopeful and more in control. I know I do.

Do you have any suggestions for how you can give yourself credit in a conscious way? Share them here please!


  1. I have had some major break throughs with myself over the last several weeks. Ive had ups and downs and have made changes for the better and long run. I have just realized that that I have a major entitlement issue with food. I use my healthy eating to justify the times when i just eat frosting, yeah the kind that decorates the cake.
    Im sure you can remember as children my addiction to pure sugar. Well , I still have it but not as bad as then. I have started to take note as to when I crave it and why so that I can break the cycle and move on. If i mess up I don't beat myself up but use it to better why.
    Thanks to you I am growing... just not sideways :)

  2. Sam -- I'm so glad to hear that this challenge is helping in some way. You are a smart, funny, amazing woman who can conquer anything. You'll figure it out and get a better handle on it, even if it's in baby steps. I'll keep writing and hopefully we'll figure it out together!Thanks for posting!

  3. I was reading a motivational book a few weeks ago. I've heard/read it all before, but it always bears repeating. Everything we do is a choice. So, when I'm good or bad, I remind myself that I am making a choice. It is helping me keep conscious of my decisions. I am actually making progress.

    1. "I am actually making progress." Yes you are. In so many ways :) I'm glad you're patting yourself on the back!