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by Dr. Beverly Potter

Identify the Problem First

Before making any attempt to change your situation, you need to identify what is troubling you first.  Just as when you car won't start, you do a quick diagnosis. If you turn the key and the engin doesn't turn over you suspect the problem is a dead battery.  If you turn the key and there is a "errr errr errr" noise, you suspect that the starter motor is the problem.  What you don't do is throw open the hood, and begin pulling out parts!

Collect "Data"

Use a scientific approach.  Begin by collecting data on yourself.  Here's how.  Each time you get "that" feeling, stop and notice what happened just before.  Keep notes.  In a notebook, write down a description of what happened and how you felt.  You might even rate your feelings on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very very low - bad - poor, and 10 being very very high - good - excellent.

Do not try to change anything and do not judge what you observe yourself doing.  Simply take notes on your observation of bothersome situations.  Do this for several days, longer provides better data.

Look for Patterns

When you have accumulated many incidences review your notes, look for patterns.  Make a list of the patterns you notice.  These are clues to the problem and often they suggest a solution.

Establish a Goal
Goals give you something to strive for, to aim at. Without a goal you are a ship at sea without a destination going around and around, never making headway. Often the goals we set are negative which makes them difficult to attain.  So we must whip ourselves onward.  Avoid this trap.  Set compelling goals -- goals that are magnetic and pull you to them, rather than negative goals which push you from them.

Set An Objective

The goal is where you want to go; objectives get you there. They guide you in determining what to do or not do in the moment.

Objective Format

An objective is a statement: I will (do what action) when (in what situation) for (how long, how much, to what degree).

Take Small Steps

Set the objective for a small improvement over a short time period. Don't set yourself up to fail by demanding enormous changes.

Important:Begin at your current level of performance with the first objective, then proceed in small steps.  Ask yourself for small improvements only. It's similar to practicing yoga. In yoga, you assume a posture that you can do without undo strain, then you stretch a little bit. You don't demand too much or try to force yourself into a position.

Goals are reached by taking many steps and meeting many objectives.

Establish a Success Cycle

The feeling of accomplishment in meeting small achievable steps sets a success cycle into motion.

Reward Yourself

Motivation is maintained by wins - positive outcomes for performance.  It helps to make a list of small and larger things you want and activities you enjoy.  Small wins can be buying yourself a newspaper (a small thing) and reading it (a small enjoyable activity), for example.  Decide what is an appropriate reward for meeting you first objective. It is a good idea to silently acknowledge yourself also: "Good, I did it!". This immediate positive outcome bridges the gap in time between acting and getting the win.

Be generous in rewarding yourself - especially in the beginning.


Write an Agreement with Yourself

Good intentions alone are not enough to change behavior. A "self-contract," is a written agreement with yourself stating what you will do. The contract teaches you that you can do what you decide to do. You can successfully do what you determine. Your self-esteem and confidence in yourself grow.

Trouble Shoot

If you are not achieving your objectives don't criticize yourself.  Instead, realize that this is a signal to trouble shoot.  Perhaps you are demanding too much of yourself.  If so, cut down the size of the steps.  Demand less and give yourself more time, for example.  Perhaps your wins are ineffective or you are not actually giving yourself wins.  Make sure to use self-acknowledgement. Just as positive attention from others is among the most powerful of motivators, so too is self-recognition powerful.  Use small wins that you are already giving yourself - a cup of coffee, a call to a friends, watching a favorite TV show, for example.  These can be powerful motivators.  Simply require that you do some small step, thencall your friend for a fun chat, for example.

Copyright © 1980, 1993, 1998: Beverly A. Potter, from "Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work", Ronin.  All Rights Reserved. This article man be down loaded for person use.  Any other use requires written permission from docpotter.

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