With the beginning of the school year approaching, it is a good time to reflect on our own behavior and the behavior of others we can influence. We all are eager to grow as people and to help develop the people in our charge. But, the real challenge is how can we make lasting and meaningful changes? The answer is NOT by denying, screaming, and focusing on the negative. Instead what we know is that in order to make lasting and real change, we need to come from a place of JOY and a place of “YES”!
To see how this is true, try doing a simple exercise with me. First, shake your head “no”. When you shook your head “no”, what did you feel? Now, shake your head “yes”. What feelings come up now? If you are like most people when you shook your head “no” you might have felt the muscles of your face tighten, an increase in negative emotions, and even a tendency to take a step back. However, what happened when you shook your head “yes”? Shaking your head “yes” is often accompanied with feelings of peace, acceptance, and lightness. So what does this have to do with change? We often go about changing ourselves and others by telling ourselves and others “no”! For example, no more computer, no more cake, or no more running in the halls. However, when we focus on the no, it is human nature to fight it (we actually take a step back). You may know the famous pink elephant experiment. It is a good example of how saying “NO” backfires. If I ask you, do NOT think of pink elephants; do not think of pink elephants dancing, ice skating, or running down the halls, what happens? All you can think of are pink elephants engaged in some unusual activities. What would happen instead if we focused on the “yes”? Yes, to more meaningful activities, yes, to healthy bodies, yes, to foods that energizes us and promotes health, and yes, to being productive, calm, and thoughtful in our everyday life.
I have used the philosophy of “YES” in my own life. I lost 20 pounds about two years ago. I had tried in the past to lose weight, but it was always from a place of “no”. What I did differently this time and I continually do now was to focus on the positive aspects of the journey rather than on the deprivation. So instead of focusing on “not eating that marshmallow” I focus on why this decision is good for me, my health, and the clothes I can buy.
This attitude is not only true about weight loss. It is true for all behaviors we want to change. Whether it is getting yourself to stop yelling at home, or helping your child bring home his/her agenda book home every night – try to create these new behaviors by emphasizing the value in them and making it a win-win (a yes). My challenge to you is to take one behavior for yourself and one behavior for the children in your life and address it from a place of “yes”. Follow these three simple rules.
- Frame the Behavior in the Positive (e.g., I will be calm with my children, I will eat healthier, I will be on time). Many people try to change a habit by resisting urges, using willpower and saying, “no”, However, the human mind doesn’t like being told “no”. Highlight the positive aspects rather than focusing on the deprivation. This positive outlook will lead to less resistance and ultimately to more success.
- Stand Firm, No Wavering: This notion of “standing firm” has been for me, one of the most important ones. The idea is that whatever behavior you decide to change, once you commit, you need to tell yourself that there is no choice. “This is what I am doing!” It is the wavering that causes all the trouble. Once you start having a dialogue, “Should I eat the cookie, it is only one, I was so good today,” or “I know I am late, but it is only a few minutes, I’m sure it will be fine,” you have lost the battle! Don’t get into the dialogue, instead stand firm. I often think about this in terms of me being kosher. I don’t eat lobster. I am not tempted by lobster. It is a no-brainer and takes no willpower. It is because there is no choice and I never waver from that decision that it is easy for me.
- Bring the Behavior to the Forefront By Making an Advantage Card: An advantage card lists the advantages of the new behavior(s). An advantage card for losing weight may include: will feel healthier, fit in my clothes better, not have pain in my feet, etc. An advantage card for being patient with your child during homework time may include: will feel better afterwards, my child will listen to me more, my son/daughter won’t be putting me in a nursing home, etc. Whatever behavior you are trying to work on, make an advantage card and read it every day before you start your day. By reading the advantage card every day, you are setting yourself up for the day you want, rather than experiencing the day you fall into.
Remember, when we individually choose to be more positive we don’t affect ourselves,
we affect our whole community.
Warm Regards- Caren Baruch-Feldman