Note: This is a follow-up to the February 11th blog post How to Build a Brick Wall – Part 1.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s pick up right where we left off last week.
What are these things that I am metaphorically calling bricks? It’s hard to be specific with this, but I’ll say that a brick is anything that you do to move forward on the road to change.
I divide them into two categories – things you do and things you don’t do. This is to emphasize that some choices will move you forward directly, but others will benefit you because you avoid pitfalls that would have set you back.
As an example, an alcoholic could move forward by going to an AA meeting, but also by choosing not to attend a Fourth of July celebration where a lot of drinking will occur. In the first example, he is gaining support and knowledge through the group. In the second, he avoids something that will likely sabotage his progress and add to his troubles as well. This is also a success.
Some examples of the first type of choice are:
- Going to your spouse to resolve a troublesome issue you might otherwise have avoided
- Exercising to manage your stress
- Reading an article on communicating with your children
- Signing up for a class in anger management
- Calling your EAP to get a referral for budgeting and debt management services
These things are like putting fuel in your motor. They help you take your car a further distance by adding energy to keep moving on.
The second type of choice makes it possible to go further by not using up what you have in the wrong way. Examples include:
- Not spending money on something you “deserve” but can’t afford when you are trying to get your finances in order
- Meeting a friend for coffee rather than sitting at home dwelling on your problems
- Avoiding the bakery section of the grocery store (and all the calories to be found there)
- Saying, “let’s talk about this when we are calmer” and walking away when a discussion with your spouse is turning into a confrontation
The principle here is that side-stepping a bad option avoids all the trouble that choosing that option could bring into your life. Think of it as moving you forward by not moving you backwards.
So, now that you have read this much, it’s time to get in the game.
Identify a change you want to make, then start searching for bricks, that is, opportunities for living differently. Go after the things that will help you change. Keep yourself aware that you are a work in progress and not yet a finished product. Accept that the learning curve is as important as the end result, because the skills you learn making a change will be useful for the next one you pursue.
When you’re standing at your rising wall, appraising what you are doing, look upward only to remind yourself of what your goal is. Don’t be overwhelmed by telling yourself, “I’ve really got a long way to go!” And when you look downward, do so only to see how far you’ve come. Give yourself credit for each success, however small. Don’t be defeatist and tell yourself, “I’ve hardly made any progress at all.”
Remember also that it’s nearly inevitable that taking two steps forward will be followed by taking one step back. This is part of the process of change. That’s when you tell yourself, “I’m still one step ahead.” Banish the word “failure” because backward steps are actually part of the learning curve. They reveal the areas where your plan needs to be improved.
It’s easier said than done, but isn’t that always the case? Important changes always take you out of a comfort zone, but later they’ll bring you into a new one – one that is richer and more rewarding.