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Welcome to my RESET 2021 challenge.
This is the third day in the four-day countdown to launching RESET 2021 on Friday, January 1 2021, and today I will explore the strategies, activities and resources I will use to prepare for the blocks I know I will come across on this journey. I will also reflect on how I will manage triggers or challenges. Then if I do stumble and fall, how I can ensure that I use it as a learning opportunity, rather than an excuse to give up completely!
Just a quick reminder that the three goals:
- Abstaining from alcohol for 365 days
- Abstaining from sweets, chocolate, cake, biscuits etc for 365 days
- Developing a more positive work focus, where I protect time for personal interests and physical activity.
In addition to using SMART goals to increase your chances of achieving them, another powerful tool is to draw on previous experiences, when you have faced a difficult situation or challenge and overcome it. It not only provides evidence that you are capable of overcoming obstacles but even more importantly, reflecting on previous achievements offers you some inspiration for how to tackle a new challenge!
This is going to be a key strategy for me. Firstly, as I mentioned yesterday, I have had extended periods successfully abstaining from wine, without any cheating, so I can use that knowledge and experience, to prepare for the days when my willpower is weaker, and I might feel that temptation is getting stronger.
Secondly, and probably more usefully, I gave up smoking over 10 years ago, in a similar way I am giving up wine for a year. In fact, depending on how I feel, psychologically and physically, at the end of this challenge, I may even decide I don’t want to go back to wine, or any alcohol at all, but that decision is a long way off!
However, the strength I can draw from having achieved a positive behaviour change before, like stopping smoking, is that I am approaching this particular goal in a similar way. I went from smoking each day to then stopping for a few days a week, then for a few weeks and months, until I set the final goal to stop completely and I haven’t smoked since.
I will explore more about how using previously experiences increases your chances of setting and achieving goals in more detail in the weeks and months to come and in the group coaching sessions, which will be on the first Monday of each month at 11am, starting on the 1st February 2021. However, if you are starting on a pathway of changing a negative or unhelpful behaviour, this is a tool that you can think about now, to help you get started and stay on track when the going gets tough!
The practicalities of not having any alcohol for a year is actually quite easy for me. As a full-time carer, I buy all the shopping and my loved one doesn’t drink. Therefore, there will be no reason for me to buy wine or be tempted to buy any alternatives and have it in the house…so, no temptation!
However, when it comes to the second goal, my loved one really enjoys all the treats I will be giving up, particularly chocolates and biscuits and they have no issues with eating them. So, I will have to buy them and indeed, have them close to me on a daily basis. I know it is going to be a lot harder to resist temptation, at least for the first few months until I start to develop more positive, healthy behaviours towards sugary treats like that.
Therefore, the strategy this time will need to be different. I can still draw on my previous experience of having achieved goals which have involved restricting or removing particular food groups from my diet for a short periods. However, this time I will need to formulate a ‘crisis plan’ to implement when I can feel my willpower waning and I am reaching for the box of Quality Street (other chocolates are available!).
Following completing two training courses involving mindfulness and acceptance recently, I am confident that by using a combination of being present in the moment and accepting that I am tempted and recognising the thoughts and feelings that are associated with that emotion, I will be able to ride the wave of temptation, recalling why I have taken on this goal and what success will feel like if I do not give in.
To support developing this response, I will start practising this exercise by visualising what achieving this goal, all my goals will feel like on the night of the 31st December 2021. As I am visualising this scene, using all my senses, I will live that moment of success; notice where the feelings are coming from in my body and how it makes feel, emotionally and physically. So, when I know I am hitting a block or experiencing strong triggers, which are particularly likely in the first few days and week as my body adapts to less sugar, I have a rescue pack of prepared activities I can use to get me past those critical moments.
I know that it will be as these moments pass, and I am sure there will be a lot of them, that I will need to reward myself for having not given in to temptation BUT without treating myself to wine or sweets, which is the current, negative behaviour I am changing! So, the next part of my strategy is to consider what rewards and treats I can have, that are not on the naughty list!
One of these new rewards will be exercise, but in a way that I find enjoyable, so it will be a new behaviour that I can sustain, rather than starting something, like running, which with the best intentions I won’t keep up, I know, I’ve tried SO many times before, so just not realistic. Identifying new treats will include exploring new foods to find alternatives to the chocolates and biscuits, which like with the running, I will really need to enjoy, otherwise, it will be a five-minute fad, so nibbling on celery is out, boring!
The last strategy is focused on my third goal, ensuring that I develop a healthy focus on work, which includes protected times for personal hobbies and activities. The potential challenges for this goal are more subtle than for the other two goals. It is so easy for me to be distracted from actions I have set myself and often I don’t even notice until I have spent hours working on things that are not important or at least were not urgent. The consequences of not challenging myself when I know I am becoming sidetracked, have probably brought me to the position I am in now, having to take radical action to reset the balance and refocus on what it is really important in my life.
I will be drawing on all of the strategies above and also, I will utilise an extra level of accountability, regularly checking in with a friend and peer and using our weekly chats to reflect on how I am progressing in keeping to the work schedules I have set myself, celebrating the achievements for the week and setting clear, short term goals for the following week.
I now have four strong, tried and tested strategies prepared for when I am staring temptation in the face, but what happens if I do cheat? Well, firstly I am not going to be including the third goal in these plans. For the reasons I have already mentioned that goal is inherently more difficult to police due to the multiple roles I have and, I will be using my additional accountability strategy to realign with my goal if it does start to go off-piste!
So, for the first two goals, the very first thing I will do if I cheat is to take full responsibility for what I have done. Nobody else would have made me go to the shops to buy a bottle of wine or held me down and pour it down my throat! Nobody else would have made me put my hand into the biscuit box and taken out a Chocolate Hobnob and eaten it (oh my though, they are delicious!). It is just, little ol’ me!
The second thing is that I will not blow it out of proportion and use it an excuse to give in. Eating the whole cake because you had a slice doesn’t make sense and will lead to strong feelings of remorse, guilt and anger, all of which I experience enough of already! So, if I do anything that goes against my first two goals, I will accept what I did, reflect on the trigger and then revisit the other strategies above, particularly mindfulness and visualisation, so, when I encounter similar triggers in the future, I know I have learnt from my previous poor decisions and can make different, better choices.
The last thing I am going to do is forgive myself and show myself compassion. No excuses or regret, but genuine self-compassion. I cannot go back and change any of the decisions I have made during my life and this challenge is no different. So, I will accept the decision I made and the consequences of that decision and commit to making better, more informed decisions in the future.
Tomorrow I will share why this RESET 2021 is so important to me and how I am going to add in an extra layer of accountability and make my personal challenge into one that will help to support two things I am very passionate about animals and fundraising!
All of these strategies and activities are evidence-based and have been shown to work to support people to create and live their lives with intent and purpose. I will explore them all in more detail over the next year.
But perhaps in the meantime, you can reflect on how you might utilise them or other coping strategies to help you if you decide to change a negative behaviour into a positive one in 2021.
Join me tomorrow to find out more!
Music Composed by Michael Coltham – Black Lab Music
Black Lab Music