Understand Your Emotional Saboteurs and Negotiate with Them
Since we’re already on the topic of journaling, writing in your journal is the one of the better things to try for sorting out why you feel divided about a change you want to make in your life. But it’s hard to see yourself objectively in journaling.
Friends can provide you with an objective outside view of things, but friends can also be biased, and they’re not experts in helping. Therapists are professionals, but they may not specialize in the kinds of habit changes you might want to make.
Still, each one of these options is worthwhile when you’re facing an inner emotional saboteur, and it’s the emotional saboteurs that will get you every time. If you’re eating for emotional reasons, you’ll probably be unable to succeed without facing up to the emotional causes of your eating.
The following apps are general, but they might help you discover why you’re resisting the habits and other changes you want to make.
Method: The Progoff App:
In a Journal, Complete your Relationships with People or Concerns
(To use this app, click the link in the title.)
The Progoff App helps you have a discussion with the inner saboteur that prevents you from establishing new habits you want to create. For example, if you’re having trouble establishing a new habit of regular exercise, you might type the words “My future healthy self” into the box at the top which is labeled “I’m dialoguing with:” The app will guide you into tuning into this future health self and having a conversation with her or him.
Similarly, you could have a conversation with “The rebel who won’t exercise,” “My body,” or even “My sore muscles.”
If you’re trying to create of habit of being more organized, you would use this app to have a conversation with parts of yourself such as “My messy self,” “My organized self,” “My overwhelmed self,” or “My clutter.”
In any of these conversations, you’ll be talking with a part of yourself that may never get a chance to speak in other situations. We’re so busy these days that taking time for introspection and journaling sometimes gets short shrift.
The app uses a number of techniques to make this conversation with yourself much more meaningful than the kinds of conversations that you might normally have when you’re stewing about a problem, worrying, or fantasizing. It will help you achieve a calm, centered state of mind, which is nothing like what you experience when you’re inwardly ranting.
This method is based on the core therapeutic approach pioneered by psychotherapist Ira Progoff. It’s a little like having your own psychiatrist always at your beck and call. There’s no cost to using it. Like the Inner Silence app, you’ll need to save what you’re working on periodically using manual methods that are described on the last page of the app.
Method: The Gendlin App:
Focus In Deeply to Discern the Hidden Messages in Your Emotions
(To use this app, click the link in the title.)
The Eugene T. Gendlin app is also like having a world-renowned psychiatrist at your beck and call at all times. Gendlin was known both as a philosopher and a psychologist, and he received awards from the APA and several other international psychology organizations.
You can use this app if you have any difficult or confusing emotions when you try to change a particular habit. For example, if you’re trying to organize that vast pile of papers, and you’re just overwhelmed at the thought, use the Gendlin app to peel off the layers of that overwhelmed feeling and discover what’s behind it.
If you’re trying to change a habit around food, you may have feelings of rebellion, despair, anger, frustration, or sadness, for example, and the Gendlin app would help you uncover the message of these feelings so that you can resolve them. This app is a powerful resource that gives you access to the key insights of Gendlin’s life. It’s like a therapy session from the best.
Get Help Dealing with Your Saboteurs
This book is not a sales piece, but I am a coach. I have powerful methods for helping you deal with all the different kinds of saboteurs that I’ve listed previously in this section, as well as helping you get clear on what you want, improving the power of your motivation, and measuring your progress.
I hope you can change your habits on your own, but I also am a resource. To reach me, use the Contact Form on the Joyful Wisdom site.
Manage Your Motivation
Changing your habits is easiest if you have a way of directly increasing your motivation to make the changes you seek. In the tug of war between trying to change and trying to avoid changing, he winning side is the side with the strongest motivations.
You have lots of motivations not to change, which is why the first section in this book is called Analyze the Problem: What Happens When You Try to Change Your Habits?
But how do you change the balance of motivations and desires so that they help you change your habits, rather than hindering you? The following techniques are powerful for habit change without requiring you to analyze the problem. With these techniques, you just decide to change and then do it.
There’re three techniques in this section, each with a slightly different emphasis:
- Use the Applause Technique to create a habit that is so specific that someone could record it on a video.
- Use Informal Applause to acknowledge yourself when you catch yourself doing something right.
- Use an Open-Ended Boosting List to grow new habits, skills, qualities, and propensities in a natural manner.
Method: The Applause Technique
I developed this technique as a gift to my wife. I knew that one of the traditional concerns of many women is that men leave the toilet seat up. Ashara wasn’t complaining about this habit of mine, but I knew that it had once been a concern.
So in February 2015 (I think), while I was out walking, I made the decision to handle that issue once and for all, and I furthermore invented the Applause Technique to manage the resistance that I knew that I had.
So when I came home, I lowered the seat after using the toilet, and I immediately did the Applause Technique as it is described here. The very next time I used the restroom, I remembered automatically to lower the seat, and I repeated the Applause Technique.
The change in my habits was immediate and permanent. I can’t promise that the Applause Technique will always work immediately and permanently for all new habits, but I can tell you that every time I’ve used this method, it has accelerated the learning curve immensely.
The reason you might not use this technique is that it’s silly. To use this technique effectively, you have to be willing to be silly. It also flies in the face of how you were raised. Your parents did not want to spoil you, so they did nothing like this—though they should have. Yet it’s really effective. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Think about a time when you actually did the thing that you want to make into a habit. Here are some ideas. You only need one of them to start—so choose your most important one.
- When was a specific time when you really got into physical exercise in an effective way?
- When did you organize a box or a file folder and feel good about it?
- When did you really choose an extremely healthy meal?
- If you have no such successes, schedule a time to do the physical exercise, organize the file folder, or eat a healthy meal. Then do the Applause Technique after you’re done.
Step 2: Think about one person whose opinions matter to you. Imagine that this person is at the gym, in your office, or in the restaurant with you. (Or wherever you want the new habit to manifest first.)
- For the first few steps, it’s best to choose people who are connected with the new habit you’re going to build—for instance, choose a trainer or athletic friend if your new habit involves exercise.
- Say their names to yourself to make the experience more vivid.
- It’s okay if it feels silly. No one else is watching your thoughts.
Step 3: Think of a second person whose opinions matter to you. Say that person’s name and imagine that the first two people you imagined are both applauding your success at one time.
Step 4: Imagine that two more friends observe you doing this great new habit you want to establish. As soon as they see you do it, imagine that they start saying encouraging things to you and applauding.
- Don’t rush on to the next step. Enjoy their applause for at least five seconds—longer if possible.
- Say both of their names to yourself.
Step 5: Imagine that two or three other friends are in the restaurant, gym, or office, and imagine that they also overhear this interaction. Imagine that they come over and join in the applause.
- Once again, make it vivid and real by saying some of their names and by imagining the applause going on for several seconds.
- Think back regularly to the habit that you’re being applauded for to link it effectively to the applause.
Step 6: Imagine some additional bystanders also join in for several seconds.
- You might imagine this group to be eight or ten people in size.
- Say the number of people to keep your image vivid in your mind.
Step 7: Imagine a whole room of people joining in for a few seconds.
- After each expansion of the crowd, make sure that they’re applauding you for the original thing.
- Each time, say the approximate number of people to keep your image vivid in your mind.
Step 8: Continue making the audience larger and larger, always estimating the crowd size to help keep you focused.
- Put the audience into a small auditorium.
- Then a larger auditorium.
- Then a stadium.
- Then a massive crowd that extends as far as the eye can see.
- Since this is a silly exercise anyway, feel free to add aliens swooping around in their UFOs, angels, trees and animals, or all of the cells in your body.
- Always maintain each level of applause for several seconds.
Step 9: The most important aspect of this technique is that the total duration of applause from all of the different levels when combined together should be at least 30 seconds in length.
Step 10: Repeat this sequence every time that you repeat the new habit. The habit should be ingrained quickly or even instantly.
As silly as this technique is, it actually works. The reason it does so is that it keeps you focused on success for a significant period of time, it vividly invokes positive feedback for changing your habits, and it completely interferes with the tendency to put yourself down for failure and sloth.
Method: Informal Applause
You might wonder why the Informal Applause is considered a new method that deserves its own section. Here’ why: Once you’ve tried the formal Applause Technique, I encourage you to play with it throughout the day. Unfortunately, that’s easier said, than done.
The reason that this method has its own section is that collectively, we’ve all got some very bad habits of focusing mostly on problems, character flaws, criticisms, mistakes, being wrong, being stupid, being bad, being ugly, being depressed, being stuck, being unpopular, being lazy, and on and on and on and on.
I agree that it’s important to face your flaws head on and without denial. But to focus on them the way we often do is ineffective in creating change. It’s much more effective to build on what you do right.
So here’s the Informal Applause technique:
Step 1: Make an appointment with yourself to do the Informal Applause Technique at a specific time that you can write on your calendar. Set aside at least 15 minutes, and don’t let anything get in your way of doing this technique.
- Alternatively, you can do it right now, if you prefer. If so, read the technique and then stop reading this book until you’ve spent 15 minutes on it.
- Do the rest of the steps in this technique at the allotted time, whether you’ve scheduled it or are doing it immediately.
Step 2: Think back over the last day or the last several days. Look for an instance in which you did something right.
- It doesn’t have to be great—just good.
- No one else has to agree with your evaluation. It’s merely important that you believe that you did something right.
Step 3: Think back to this action that you’re going to applaud, and remember it as vividly as possible.
- If you can, remember something that you saw at the time, something that you heard, your body’s position, something that you felt on your skin, and an emotion that you felt.
- Add other senses as much as you want. Do whatever it takes to make your memory vivid.
Step 4: Do the Applause Technique (above),focusing regularly on this thing that you did right.
- It’s okay if it feels silly to applaud such a small thing. No one else is watching your thoughts.
Step 5: Go all the way to the top level of applause, whether it’s the stadium, the massive crowd that extends as far as the eye can see, the aliens in their UFOs, or all of the cells in your body.
Step 6: Then imagine that there’s an announcer who says something along the lines of: “Besides doing that, (insert your name here) also did ___________. That’s two things.”
- If you can’t think of anything else, you could have the announcer say that you “also did the Informal Applause technique.
Step 7: As soon as the announcer says this, the crowd goes wild. The applause is even more enthusiastic.
Step 8: “Besides doing that, (insert your name here) also did ___________. That’s three things.”
Step 9: On subsequent days, the announcer can end up with something along the lines of: “What’s even better is that yesterday, (s)he used the Informal Applause Technique for five five great successes. Today, (s)he used it for eight successes. Isn’t that wonderful?”
- And of course, the applause after this last line is extended and exuberant at the highest level.
You might also find it useful to review your day when you’re about to go to bed, and then applaud everything that you really liked about your actions using this technique. Just make sure you maintain it for as long as you can.
Method: Create an Open-Ended Boosting List
The open-ended boosting list uses an esoteric process to build new habits, skills, qualities, and propensities within yourself. Boosting is a standard part of our Joyful Wisdom Community meetings that harnesses chi energy to grow parts of ourselves.
To use the Open-Ended Boosting List technique, first learn the general technique of Boosting as taught by the app at: Take Control of Your Personal Evolution through Boosting. You can also learn Boosting from a more traditional web page at Take Control of Your Personal Evolution through Boosting.
However, none of these pages describe how to use boosting with an Open-Ended Boosting List. Here’s how you do that, but you’ll still need to go to one of the links above to learn the basics.
Step 1: Create a document on your computer that’s called something like “Boosting List.doc.”
Step 2: On each line of this document, write a habit, skill, quality, or propensity that you would like to grow within yourself.
- It’s best to start with habits, skills, qualities, or propensities that you’ve already experienced or demonstrated—but that you want more of. They shouldn’t be completely foreign to you.
- To start with, you only need four to seven items on your list.
- If you notice that you have a couple of distinct categories of items on your list, group them together and give them a title. Each category should contain at least three list items.
- I currently use a six-page boosting list with 28 categories. Here is a link to a pdf with one of those 28 categories. This one involves my growth as a more committed writer.
Step 3: Print a copy of this list that you can carry around with you.
Step 4: When you have an odd moment during the day, take the first item on the category of your list, turn your palms toward yourself, breathe energy into your body, and boost that quality, skill, propensity, or habit.
- Do this repeatedly until you’ve boosted every item in the list or in the category that you’re working on.
Step 5: Hold the whole list or one category of items in your mind all at once, and boost the whole list or the category for a short time.
Step 6: Then ask your intuitive self. “What else?” Empty your mind and wait for the answer. This answer will be a new habit, skill, quality, or propensity that comes from your intuitive self.
- You should be asking for a new item to boost that’s part of that particular category.
Step 7: When you receive this intuitive answer, add it to the category.
Step 8: When you’ve boosted every item in every category on your page, you will have added a new habit, skill, quality, or propensity to each category.
Step 9: Whenever one of your categories exceeds seven items, divide it into two different categories.
Step 10: Print a new copy of your new list with the new items and any new categories on it.
Does this work? How well does it work?
As I write this, my ongoing boosting list has grown to six pages and 28 categories. Since each category has an average of five or six items, I’m currently boosting a list of around 150 items or so, and this total list grows by 15% to 20% each time I reprint it.
In each category, I have at least two items that are currently successful changes in habits. I’m exercising more, losing weight, writing more in my novel, writing better in my novel, researching my novel more thoroughly, using trance meditation more often, building my relationships more effectively, and handling paperwork more efficiently, for example.
There are also items that I’ve been boosting for months with no change. But when boosting has already established more than thirty new habits, I have no doubt that the items that are still not happening are simply on their way. Boosting changes habits in an organic, natural way in which nothing is forced and there are no failures.
Everything is just in progress. It will occur in its time.
Track Your Progress to Ensure Success
This is a complicated, but very powerful technique. In this section, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. You can go run and hide now, if you want. But I’m going to tell you how to simplify the process to start with, and how to learn more about it as you’re able to absorb it.
There’s no benefit to trying to fly before you know how to walk. If you do, you’ll just fall on your ass. I don’t want that for you, and neither do you.
If you’re competing against yourself or another person, you can’t tell whether you’ve “beat the opponent” without precise measures. By tracking your performance, you can accurately determine whether you are making progress or not.
Without accurate records, all you know is that you’re running fast or feeling hungry or typing as fast as you can. But are you faster, lighter, or more accurate? Who knows? Accurate records can help you notice slight improvements in anything you are trying to do.
At this point, you will probably need to download my sample Excel sheet called TrackingSample.xls and a blank data sheet called TrackingExcelSheet.xls. This sample shows two finished weeks and an unfinished week. There is a lot of data on the page that is slightly grayer—because I cut the page down for simplicity.
The blank data sheet goes for a year, and you can make as many copies as you want, so long as you change the document name to keep track of what year you’re using it for. The original file name is TrackingExcelSheet.xls. After you download it, make a copy and call it TrackingExcelSheet2017.xls. Next year, make a new copy called TrackingExcelSheet2018.xls.
With my own Excel sheet, TrackingSample.xls, you’ll notice that I have created ways of measuring my progress in 21 items in that are contained in six different categories. What I’m counting and how I’m counting doesn’t matter—you will create your own system.
Notice, however, that I have a blue line of cells across the page every seven days which total the previous week. This means I can tell whether I’m improving. If I’m improving in any area, I use the previous Applause Technique
As an example, however, with writing or research, I get one point every fifteen minutes, so that a day in which I write for four hours, I get sixteen points.
Exercise is an entirely different type of thing, so that I give myself a point for every three to six minutes, depending on what I’m doing, more or less, which means that a day with sixteen points means that I’ve exercised around an hour or so.
Column B has the total number of points for each day, which is a measure of how well I’m doing with all of my intentions together. Does this mean that I consider a few minutes of exercise too be the same as 15 minutes of research? I think that this makes sense because it’s a lot harder on me to exercise one hour than it is to write for five hours.
The point is that the points are not measures of time, but measures of you. It’s harder to exercise for a long time than to write for a long time.
But difficulty is also not the measure, either. For instance, energy work is not as hard as writing or exercise, but five to ten minutes of energy work is worth four points in my system, and a fifteen to 30 second bit of energy work is worth one point.
In other words, when using an Excel sheet for tracking your improvements, you get to choose what everything is worth. There’s no one judging you for how you’re doing it. The weight that you give to a point is the weight that you give to a point. It still works.
Method: An Excel Sheet with Automatic Totals and Averages
Simple Excel Tracking
The following details may help you if you want to become an expert at using this Excel sheet, but I warn you, it’s technical and nitpicky.
Step 1: Download a copy of TrackingExcelSheet.xls. Open it up.
Step 2: Scroll up and down. You’ll notice that rows 1, 2, and 3 are always visible, no matter how far down you scroll. They’re “Frozen” at the top. I recommend that you do not unfreeze them.
Step 3: Choose one or two things you want to track.
- It’s okay for your score to go up when you add a new column. The more things you track, the more of a master of your habits you become.
- Start simply and add more to your system as you are comfortable with doing so.
Step 4: Ignore all of the columns except for those you want to use for these one or two things. Put a title for the columns you’ve chosen on line 3.
- Leave line 2 blank.
- Change the name of the categories on line 1 to match your categories.
- Don’t bother deleting columns you don’t need. You may need them later, and it’s far easier to just leave them than to reconstruct the page.
- Abbreviate the titles on line 3 to make keep your column sizes really small.
Step 5: If you can’t abbreviate the titles enough on line 3, put your cursor at the top of the page between two letters. The cursor will change to show two arrows.
- Left click while this new cursor is showing.
- Hold the mouse button down and expand the size of the column.
Step 6: Decide how you’re going to score the things you’re measuring.
- Remember that you don’t have to give the same score for the same amount of time.
- Reread the previous section for tips on how to do this.
- You get to choose, depending on what makes sense to you.
Step 7: Try a few sample scores, just to experiment.
- Do not type in the blue rows. Type only in the white rows.
- Do not type in columns A, B, C, or D.
- When you type in a white row, notice how Excel creates two totals on the page. One total is in column B and one total is in a blue totals row, such as row 11 or row 18.
Step 8: After you’ve experimented, delete your experiments, and only use the sheet for what you’re actually tracking.
You will notice that there is a real satisfaction when your average score goes up from one week to the next. You don’t have to go and buy yourself something when the score goes up. I do recommend that you use the Applause Technique when your score goes up.
Don’t forget that the purpose of these techniques is that you realistically feel good about yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable with this goal, I recommend that reread the section called Eliminate Self-Sabotage and that you redo the method called Replace Negative Self-Talk.
The excellent thing about tracking with Excel is that if you’re doing it with the right spirit of generosity towards yourself, you will not only change many, many habits, but you’ll also improve your self-esteem.
Advanced Excel Tracking when You Start Forgetting to Track
After you’ve started using your Excel Sheet, you’ll probably become distracted and forget to use it for a while. You may notice that you’re more successful if you start using it first thing in the morning.
If you’re tracking something that happens throughout the day, you’ll probably notice that you forget whether you did that thing unless you track it immediately. Here’s how to handle these problems.
The following technique is most useful if you have enough things to track that you’re doing some of them, at least, throughout the day.
Step 1: Divide your day into four segments of four hours each.
- If you wake up every morning at 8 am, the segments would be 8 to noon, noon to 4 pm, 4 pm to 8 pm, and 8 pm to midnight.
- If you work the graveyard shift, like I do, the segments would be 2 pm to 6 pm, 6 pm to 10 pm, 10 pm to 2 am, and 2 am to 6 am.
Step 2: Set up a way that you can track your habits throughout the day.
- This doesn’t mean that you have to be at your computer all day. You can track your habits on a used envelop or other scrap that you carry around. Or on the back of your Open-Ended Boosting List.
- Your system simply needs to be stable enough that you can enter your scores into your Excel sheet in a timely manner.
Step 3: On your Excel sheet, I’ve left the titles for two columns: “4+” and “sg mt,” both of which will seem meaningless to you at first glance. They are the title for columns C and D.
- These two columns definitely help me use the Excel sheet more consistently.
- I don’t know what to call them. Feel free to change their names.
Step 4: In column C, which is labeled 4+, give yourself 4 points if you start tracking during the first segment of your day, 3 points if you start during the second segment of the day, 2 points if you start during the third segment, and 1 point if you wait until the last segment.
Step 5: Column D, which is labeled “sg mt,” is also for a segment score. This should make those weird initials make sense. If you actually track something during all for segments, you get four points. If you only track something during two or one segment, you get 2 points or 1 point respectively.
You would be surprised at how frequently this intervention causes me to really be on my toes about the habits I’m trying to change. For example, on days when I’m using my segments really well, I also do a lot more energy work, a lot more exercise, more effective planning skills, and more writing.
Advanced Excel Tracking for Enhance Your Use of Stretch Goals
On the TrackingSample.xls Excel sheet, you’ll see some of my own personal records, and you’ll also see that in columns Y to AE, only 5 rows are easy to read. The other 16 rows are grayed out.
You’ll also see that the label for that section is “7-Week Moving Averages,” which for many of you will be a nonsense label. This section of this book will help you understand this very technical part of the Excel sheet. I hope that I explain it clearly enough that you will all love this section as the best part.
Let’s see if I can do this.
Step 1: Look at rows 17 and 18 in column Y. It’s labeled “Totals Avrge.”
- You’ll see the numbers 593 and 571.
Step 2: Look at rows 11 and 19 in column B. It’s labeled “Totls.”
- You’ll see the numbers 593 and 571.
Step 3: Look at rows 17 and 18 in column Z (labeled “Exercz Avrge”), and compare it to rows 11 and 19 in column E (labeled “Exercise”).
- In both locations, you’ll see the numbers 46 and 64.
Step 4: Make a similar comparison between these rows in columns N (labeled “Energy”) and AC (labeled “Enrgy Avrge”).
- It should be clear, now, that the 7-Week Moving Averages section is compiling all of the averages from the last seven weeks.
- Each of the numbers in that block, whether yellow or tan, is an average of 7 days.
Step 5: Notice that in that “Moving Averages” section, rows 5 through 10 were pasted into rows 12 to 17.
- Then notice that row 18 is added to those columns.
Step 6: Notice that in that section, rows 13 through 18 (the new scores) were pasted into rows 20 to 26.
- Then notice that row 27 is added to those columns.
Step 7: It should be clear now that every week, the most recent averages are added to the bottom of the 7-Week Moving Averages.
- You will also see that every week, one row of averages is deleted from the top of Moving Averages blocks.
Step 8: Click row 11 in column Y.
- Notice that in a box above columns E, F, G, and H, there is a formula that says =SUM(Y4:Y10)/49
- SUM(Y4:Y10) means that Y11 contains the sum of everything between Y4 and Y10.
- Each of these numbers is an average of seven days.
- When you add together the averages of seven weeks, you get 49 days.
Step 9: This formula adds all of the averages and then divides them by 49.
- The result is the average score for each of the preceding seven weeks.
Step 10: Y19 contains a number for this average. The column is labeled “Totals Avrge.”
- This number is 76.24. Notice that this number is also pasted in B2, which is the Totals column
Step 11: This average is the Stretch Goal for me this week.
- Whenever my daily average exceeds the Stretch Goal, I use the Applause Technique.
Step 12: The Moving Average for Exercise is pasted from Z19 into E2.
- The Stretch Goal for Exercise is thus 9.22. When I exceed that number, I use the Applause Technique.
Step 13: Early on, I used the green tint to indicate the highest priorities. For this reason, I’ve only calculated a Moving Average for the green columns.
So a moving average is an average that changes every time new data is added. In this case, every week, there is a new average for each item I’m tracking. So these, which are marked in the data collection sheet with a green color, are use to calculate an average of 49 scores which change every week.
Growth Works Better in Community
Our Joyful Wisdom Groups are about personal transformation, and we seldom focus on habits as the topic of our processes. But we do talk about our aspirations, and some of them involve habits. The reason I wrote this book is to provide the specialized help in changing habits that our group processes don’t directly address.
Nonetheless, most of us don’t change habits until we’re ready to change them for all. One thing our groups do is help us all to become ready.
The processes that we do in our groups are revolutionary for most of us—which is why we continue to attend, week after week after week. You can find out more about the things we do at Master the Fundamental Skills in a Joyful Wisdom Group. To visit a group, make a request using our Contact Form.