By Bill Hemmer
Last week I described the stages of change according to Prochaska et al. This book truly changed the way I look at behavior. It brings me new hope because now I realize that all of those times I have tried to change my own behavior and failed there was a good reason. I’m not trying to make excuses. I have a suitcase of excuses to pick from if I want.
That’s where the hope from this book bubbles up. Everybody reading this knows the problem behaviors you have. Nobody has to tell you. I ask patients everyday, “What do you think is wrong with you?” Because I know they know and they also know what they need to do about it. The problem is we live in an illness culture, and we need a push to become accountable for our own personal wellness. Once you decide to take charge of your personal wellness journey that’s where I can help.
As we talked about last week, the second stage of change is called “now you know”. In other words, you realize you have a behavior to change, but you’re not quite ready to do anything about it. I’m a classic to stay in this stage a long time. I study every aspect of the behavior. I seek to understand the underlying causes of behavior. I pick apart the behavior until I get nauseated. Then I decide to do something about it. But that is where the problem comes in. I never made my bed before I slept in it.
When I was growing up, I could never understand why I had to make my bed. Heck, I was just going to mess it up again the next night so why make it look pretty? Now I know why. You have to prepare to make the most of your surroundings. If you prepare your surroundings you have a much better chance of following through to a positive result.
So, what is making your bed in this context all about? It’s preparing your surroundings to help you change your behavior in a positive way so it becomes your new habit. If you don’t make your bed properly, something is going to come up you haven’t prepared for and you will fall back into your old patterns. (I know about this one!) This makes you feel defeated, hopeless and helpless. You feel like you can’t really change so why try!
I’ll tell you why to try! You have been given your life to enjoy. Your life touches hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of other lives. Your life is precious and is a gift. It’s time to use that gift wisely.
So if you need to eat better, first prepare to eat better. If you need to take stress out of your life, prepare for it. If you need to exercise, prepare yourself to exercise. Without making your bed first, there is no way to keep your behaviors changed long enough to make them a habit. Next week, I am going to get very specific about how to make your bed properly, so clean your fitted sheets and read next week’s article.