“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Four Steps for Making a Change

If you have been reading my blog, you know I have been talking about taking care of yourself by first changing what you believe about yourself. Making changes starts with addressing your core beliefs and thoughts. If you make those changes then you are more likely to be successful in making outward changes. Once you've mastered changing your beliefs about yourself, follow these four steps to start taking care of yourself.

First step: assess your goal. What do you need to change? Exercising? Eating right? Spending time in daily devotions? For one of my friends, she rarely shops for herself. Everyone in her family will get new clothes, but her. Her goal may be to take time to shop for herself. Can you relate? Take a moment and prayerfully think about what it is you need to do to take care of yourself. Next, take a piece of paper (or in your journal) and write your goal as if you’ve already done it. For example, “I spend 20 minutes every morning reading the Bible.” Or “I shop for clothes for myself before everything is worn out.”

Second step: stop sabotaging yourself! Just realize it is a natural part of the change process. Instead of denying it will happen, take a serious look at how it might happen. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to change your eating habits. Cookies are your temptation. If you were to look through your cabinets right now, would you find cookies? You might say to yourself, “They’re for the kids.” Yes, but how many have you eaten out of the package? Ok, cookies may not be your weakness, but I’m sure you get the point. Take a moment to think about ways you sabotage yourself. Is it your environment? Your thought life? Your habits? Or maybe your relationships? Most likely, you will sabotage yourself in a combination of ways. On a separate piece of paper (or again in your journal), write down your thoughts.

Step three: add structure. What do I mean by structure? Think of it as scaffolding to support your goals. Go back to your list of ways you might sabotage yourself and assess each area. As you go through each area, think of a way that you can support yourself. For example, if cookies are your weakness, when you go to the grocery store, don’t buy cookies. Or at least don’t buy the kind of cookies you like. I’ll admit it, “I love cookies.” Growing up, my mom would hide a package of cookies, but somehow I could still find them. It was like a sixth sense for me. With my own son, I learned that I couldn’t keep cookies around the house or I would eat them until they were GONE. My solution was I would buy snacks that he liked but I didn’t. Other examples may be to post notes for yourself, find inspirational quotes or pictures or track your progress on a chart. Some women find journaling a great way to add structure. Whatever you decide, it needs to be something that is natural for you. Particularly, remember to plan ahead and schedule time for your self-care goal everyday. Protect your goal as if it is the most important thing in the world, because in God’s eyes you are important.

Fourth step: be accountable. Ecclesiastes 4:9 & 10 tells us two people are better off than one, because they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can support and help. The person who falls alone is in real big trouble. Accountability helps ensure success. Find a friend that you trust. Ask her if she will be your accountability partner. Then tell her exactly what would help you stay accountable. It might be that you need someone to email you once a week to remind you of your goal. Again, this has to be something that feels natural for you. If you don’t read your email regularly, then an email once a week would be worthless. There are other ways to find people to be accountable. You can join a support group such as Weight Watchers or Workaholics Anonymous. Whatever you decide make it an important part of your life. Schedule a permanent time in your daily or weekly routine for accountability. If you don’t schedule the time, other obligations will creep in and you will be right back in the same trap. Remember what Proverbs 15:22 says our plans will fail without sufficient advice, the more people supporting us the greater our success.

An important thing to note is how our changes will affect those around us. Sitting down and having a conversation with our loved ones, boss or friends will be in order. Maybe your goal is to leave the office at 6:00 PM every night instead of 9:00 PM. Your boss may take notice. Make an appointment with your boss and explain that you are making changes in your life to take better care of yourself. Or if you stop buying double stuffed chocolate cookies, tell your family why. In most cases, people just want to know. If you tell them, they will probably be supportive. However, if they are not, remember God’s plan for your life. Our lives are the primary testimony to our children, spouse and others. What are you saying to them?

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