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Deborah WIlson

Deborah Chelette-Wilson

STRATEGY SESSION

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A Life Of Love And Balance Blog

Maintenance: What Happens When I Slip?

Posted by on in For Women
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iStock 000019026722 Resized 300x224Monica sounded frantic. “I yelled at him! I yelled at him! He went running to his room saying he hates me. What have I done? I’ve ruined everything!”

When I hear these words I know that we have come to the difficult struggle to maintain progress.

“Monica, have you forgotten that we talked about this. One day you would probably slip and go back to old behaviors. What happened?”

I heard her breathing slow down. Then a sigh. “Yes I did. But the look on his face made my heart hurt for what I had done.”

“How long has it been since you yelled at him?”

Another long pause and a sigh. “So long I’m not sure. It has been months. But I don’t want to behave like that.”

“I know you don’t. I also know that beating yourself up and going negative won’t help you. In fact, in this stage of change, how you handle this slip up can either make you give up or help you regroup and move forward. Which would you like?”

“Regroup and move forward. But how? Haven’t I damaged everything?”

“No, you haven’t damaged everything, but you do have an apology to give.”

“You mean to my son?”

“No I mean to you.”

“What to me? I don’t get it?”

“Let me take you through where you are now, and guide you to where you want to go.”

What Monica and I worked on is learning that slipping up is part of the process of change. I know no one likes to hear that, but it is true. Everyone wants a straight line and perfection which just isn’t realistic.

A slip up is a very vulnerable time

We still live in a punishing culture. But when it comes to changing habits, self-punishment may suppress the behavior temporarily, but it comes at an extremely high cost. You increase your emotional stress and decrease the belief in yourself that you can do it. This is not a healthy alternative.

Though the focus is on behavior, the change process is also about changing your self-image and empowering yourself to grow. It is important along the journey of change to feel good about yourself and appreciate your willingness to do what most people won’t.

It is easier to support a new positive behavior than to eliminate an old one. That is what makes maintenance so difficult.

What Monica failed to realize is that it had been months since she yelled at her son. That was progress.

And what she also didn’t know was that the fact that she was so upset about her slip showed progress. She had come a long ways from making excuses and justifying her yelling to being upset that she did it.

I was thrilled. She eventually felt better when she realized this slip didn’t mean she had messed up EVERYTHING! It actually was a sign of progress.

Research shows that adults begin self-change at the beginning of the year. What is surprising is that out of those who make a “resolution” about 77% are successful for one week. The success rate drops to 55% after one month, and 40% after six months. In two years, only 19% are still successful at their “resolution.”

Not to make excuses when trying to change is challenging, and that is why having a plan and steps to make the changes you want to make is important. That is also where a coach, who understands the change process, can be a helpful supporter and guide.

I reminded Monica that in the action stage she was replacing a problem behavior with a new healthier one. But that is just getting started.

Maintenance doesn’t mean you have done away with the old behavior. All those neurons from years of repetition are waiting in the shadows for some stressor to trigger them out again.

That is what had happened that day with Monica. It was three days before the end of school. Everyone, teachers and students alike, was really “over-done” for the year. Emotions were on edge, and minds and bodies were tired. A perfect storm for kids acting up and teachers’ patience operating on impulse power.

Monica’s perfect storm was breaking up a couple of teachers in the lounge, preventing their argument from getting physical. She then had to call paramedics after a child fell from the top of the slide and knocked the wind out of herself. It was then an angry parent upset about her child not passing, entering her room in a huff just as Monica was trying to leave for the day. On the way home her mother called her to pick up bread and milk. The last straw was when her son started kicking the back of her seat in the car because she didn’t buy him what he wanted.

As she calmed down that day, she began remembering my warning.

“At the time what you said didn’t make any sense, but now it does,” said Monica. “How I hold what I’ve done is more important than what I’ve done. I just need to accept responsibility for my behavior, remind myself of my commitment to change, and make amends to my son."

I was very pleased when she said, “I could use this to help him learn that slip ups aren’t the end of the world and to let go of some of his perfectionism. Can’t imagine where he got that.”

Creating new habits and a new lifestyle takes commitment, self-compassion, being open to getting the right kind of support and then celebrating your successes and learning from your slips along the way. I like to think of it as win-win. You either win or you learn.

This is a very vulnerable time. This is when critical, mean, unrealistic self-talk raises its ugly head. It is one of the major detriments to maintain change. Instead, what you need is self-talk that will keep you moving forward.

If you find you are going "critical" that is the time to get support by enlisting a Life Coach. Using a coach can make the difference between stalling out, or giving up on the change you have worked so hard to make. A short time with a Coach can get you moving in the direction you want to go.

The Goal of Maintenance is to keep doing the positive steps you’ve done in the Action stage until, through repetition, you integrate them into your personality and life-style.

That is when you can say you have reached Termination when you have made the behavior a part of your life. You don’t think about it; you just do it.

There is more in-depth information, steps, and a little quick assessment to keep you on track in the book Changing for Good.

As far as Monica is concerned, the slips are getting further and further apart and are less and less intense, and so are her son’s.

Editor’s Note:

I'd like to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" to all of you who have supported me and who received value from my newsletters.

The newsletters have helped me learn and grow while also helping me become clearer about my purpose in life.

Since the beginning of the year we have focused on the change process.

Well I didn't leave myself out. I have been in that process too.

I'm working on a transformational program that is designed to help women get their needs met more easily with improved health and more satisfying relationships while also having more fun in the midst of the great demands on their time. It is challenging me in the most wonderful ways and has become so important that I must let others things go.

Therefore, I am taking a sabbatical from the newsletter, so I can keep my energy focused on this new endeavor to get it launched in the near future.

My love and blessing to you all,

Deborah

*Information comes from the book Changing for Good:  A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program For Overcoming Bad Habits And Moving Your Life Positvely Forward by James O. Prochaska, PH.D, John C. Norcross, PH.D, and Carlo C. Diclemente, PH.D published in 1994.  It can be purchased at:  www.amazon.com

Soulfull Woman Deborah Chelette-Wilson is a Licensed Professional Counselor, speaker and life coach who has helped many women find that elusive “something missing” in their lives. We are often pulled in so many directions, that it’s difficult to know how to put ourselves on our own To Do list. Contact Deborah to find out about her free 15-minute coaching session to help you find a more stress-free and soulfull You

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