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The Cliff: That Critical Moment when Behavior Goes Bad

Appreciating the moment when your best intended plans for creating new, healthier behaviors go bad. That was the topic of our previous post. Now let's identify that moment. The critical moment when your possibility for successful change begins to crash.

What if that key moment happens sooner than you think?

Let's say you had a goal to sit up straight while working at the computer to reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders. After reading the previous post, you agreed it would be a good plan to appreciate yourself the moment you notice things start to go bad. That said, wouldn't it be great to notice the very tip of a trend -- so you can get more and more appreciation? I think so!!

Now the question is, "How am I going to notice a mis-step as soon as possible?"

In the case of improving seated posture, a fairly common goal amongst my clients, here are a few ideas they have come up with for catching slips right away:

  • Set an alarm for, say, once an hour. Check yourself when the alarm sounds.
  • Add a small mirror to your work station. Periodically check your posture in the mirror.
  • Enlist the help of a sympathetic friend or co-worker to gently tap you on the shoulder should they notice you're out of your desired configuration.
  • Place a post-it reminder on your screen where you can see it easily.

And each time you see the mirror, shut off the alarm tone, or feel the tap from your friend, appreciate the awareness it brings.

That example was kind of obvious. For the next one, we'll dig deeper. Let's say that, having mastered the art of sitting upright while working on the computer, you've now decided it's time to eliminate soda in favor of healthier beverages. "Drink only health-promoting beverages" is your goal. When you notice yourself slipping off your planned behavior, you'll pat yourself on the back for noticing, turn on a dime, and then get back on track.

Since picking up a can of Mountain Dew or a Big Gulp is a conscious choice and not an unconsious habit, we'll have to handle this a little differently. Friends, this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to creating new, healthier habits.

Let's backtrack.

There are certain obvious things to do. One part of your success strategy would be planning to have healthful beverages that you like on hand. (I'm on a kick with kombucha and water kefir right now. Yum!)

The next thing, though, is to begin tracking back to find the moment when your plans went astray. When was it? Not at the moment you picked up the can. That's a choice, not an unconscious habit. It doesn't require any particular great awareness. Something was already off kilter by the time your hand reached the can.

So we'll track back further. When did you decide it was ok to choose a Big Gulp, given that you'd clearly set a goal to only drink health promoting beverages? Why did you decide it was ok to do it? Here are some possible reasons:

  • I didn't have anything else handy.
  • I was in a mid-afternoon slump and wanted the caffeine buzz.
  • I was really tired and wanted the caffeine buzz.
  • Everyone else was doing it.
  • I deserved it after the morning I just finished at work.

So what is it that you're really out to catch? The moment when your hand reaches out to pick up the can? The moment when you decide it's ok to not follow through on your promise to yourself, as we just described?

Or possibly something even deeper. The reason behind that decision. Which might go something like this:

  • I was out of kombucha.
  • I ate too many carbs for lunch.
  • I stayed up way too late last night.
  • I'm afraid the others will judge me.
  • My job and I are at odds right now.

We started with a simple plan to drink healthful beverages, but oh looky it might have gotten derailed by something entirely different! It would be valuable to learn what that was, right? Because if it's derailing your beverage choices, it's probably also impacting your life in other ways you don't like.

So now you've got a really great reason to appreciate yourself!! You not only noticed when your intent had gotten derailed, but you also tracked back honestly to figure out what went wrong. You explored enough to find the hidden vulnerability that left you open to cheating yourself out of the success you want and deserve. Woo hoo! Yay you!!

Of course the next step is to fix the leak in your vulnerability, right? You knew that, right? Make extra kombucha, minimize carbs at lunch, be diligent about getting enough sleep, and all that. Or at the very least, to recognize that under those conditions you are more likely to be tempted to veer from the path of integrity and prepare accordingly!

The real trick is to back up a step and identify why you "really" picked up that can of soda. Pat yourself on the back for the newfound awareness and take a deep breath. Acknowledge the vulnerability. And get back on track! You can do anything you put your mind to, remember?

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Elizabeth Eckert can help you explore how simple everyday choices create health — or undermine even the best of intentions. With a background that ranges from energy medicine to structural bodywork to developmental psychology, this "Stick-To-It Coach" has the experience to support you in creating the healthiest possible expression of — you!

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Elizabeth Eckert, Healthy Living & Wellness Coach

Elizabeth Eckert, PhD

I enjoy observing human nature and helping people be healthy. I'm author of Word Cures and creator of the WordCures.com healthy living website. (more)

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Note: The information and ideas offered here are personal opinions of a general nature. No opinion posted here constitutes medical advice, either general or personal. If you have a health concern, please consult with your medical doctor and follow his or her advice. The author disclaims responsibility for any misuse or misinterpretation of any opinion posted here.

(c) 2006-09 Elizabeth Eckert

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