We have a lot of ground to cover when preparing for your action plan, so let’s begin straight away.
Step One – Setting yourself up for success
I believe that the foundation for change is a good support network. Especially when you are talking about changing the mindset, there is nothing that is going to help you change faster than repetition, repetition and more repetition.
Your beliefs were created through repetition and constant reminders from your environment to think the way that you habitually do right now and that is causing you stress, so repetition and constant reminders from your environment on the alternative way to think is what is going to help you to change those habits of thinking.
Here are the ways in which we will be doing that:
- Creating affirmations. As you learnt in week seven / day seven – Exercise Day: Creating your aims, take the affirmations that are going to help you to change those negative thoughts about yourself (those criticisms, judgements, thoughts that are in conflict with reality etc) and begin adding daily mirror affirmations into your life. We are going to need to add these to our plan.
- Vision boards – if you are unsure what a vision board is, this is a board that has pictures and wording and any other visual reminders on it that will remind you of the goals that you want to achieve. Now I am going to show you a very specific way of creating vision board/s so that you are incorporating your plan, your current situation goals, your goals as a parent, your goals for your life and your goals for your self-worth. This vision board goes hand in hand with your mirror affirmations because you want to stimulate and drown your brain in images and sounds that reflect what you want in your life. You are literally trying to drown out and kill off the current beliefs that are in your mind weighing you down and causing you stress.
- Reminder notes in key places – You really want to achieve your goals. You need repetition to get rid of those self-doubting thoughts that tell you that you can’t or that you won’t. You want your goals up EVERYWHERE. I put my current goals (my immediate ones) as a daily reminder on my phone. Everyday at 4pm I get a message on my phone telling me what I aim to achieve as this year’s goals. Put notices up in your bedroom, on your bathroom mirror, on the back of the toilet door, on the dashboard of your car, on your fridge etc. Place pictures and motivational quotes on your desktop screen or your screensaver. Subliminal messages like this are very helpful for re-training the brain. Even though we tend to ignore them after a while, the brain is still taking in that information and combined with everything else you are going to be doing, it assists with creating those new neural pathways in the brain that you are trying to grow so that you think differently. So wherever you are going to see these notes of your immediate aims or quotes that are going to inspire you to reach your aims, you want to put a note there, because the more you see it, the more you will train your brain to, not only remember that this is what you want, but to continue to search for a) opportunities that will help you to continue to advance towards your goals; and b) evidence that this goal is coming to fruition. Remember, what you put your attention on expands, so that more you see what you want, the more this is what you will focus on.
- Finally, DO SOMETHING TOWARDS YOUR GOAL EVERYDAY. This will set yourself up for success! Even if it’s something small, make a conscious effort to do something that gets you closer to your goal. This could be stopping yourself from yelling, even once in a day, or letting yourself watch five minutes of TV where you would normally be determined to do housework, or it could be to compliment your partner instead of criticising him. It’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight (or very rarely anyway). Most of the time it takes lots of little steps to get to the top of the mountain. Keep going. You will meet your goals with consistency, commitment, focus and ACTION.
Step Two – Prioritise your list of options
Take the options that you have selected from the Choices step (from last week) and put them in order of priority. Which ones are of the utmost important to begin implementing into your life. For example, if you are working on your relationship, your top priority might be to make an appointment with a couples counsellor, or if you were working on being more organised your top priority might be to start making lists of all the tasks you need to do before you can create a schedule to fit it all in.
When prioritising this list, ask yourself: Which of these options need to come first? Which of these options is really important and will make the biggest difference to my life right now? In the case of a difficult aim that you are working towards, you may ask yourself, what option seems the most do-able or manageable right now. For example, perhaps you have a goal to recover from depression and have lots of different options to use, however the most manageable option to begin with might just be to move from your bed to the couch for an hour, if you are suffering from quite severe depression.
Remember that sometimes you need to start small, but you also need to DO SOMETHING towards your aim everyday, for action will be what accelerates the changes in your mind.
Step Three – Create a timeline for your priorities
Next to your list of options that are now prioritised, write down how often you need to implement these tasks (for example, hourly, daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, whenever situation ‘x’ arises etc). Secondly you need to write down how much time you will need to spend on each option? How long will it take to implement this task? For example, if one of your options is to help you to stay calm when your child tantrums (your aim), then ‘how often’ would equal whenever the situation arises, and the amount of time will be ‘for the entire course of the tantrum’. Or if you were going to couples counselling, then this may be every tuesday for one hour.
Step Four – The set up phase
This next step is about preparing for action. Sometimes we can’t just jump straight into actioning our plan. Sometimes we have to make certain preparations in order to help us to succeed in our endevours. For example, if you were carrying out a new behavioural disciplinary technique then you may need to let other caregivers know what this technique is so that they can implement it too, maintaining consistency across the board, or you may need some equipment in order to implement the technique (like an appropriate ‘time out’ chair or empty area of the room). If you were trying to organise for you to have some ‘me’ time you may need to organise a babysitter and align with a time where they can look after your child. You may also need to book in that massage that you want to take during your ‘me’ time.
So in this step, you need to look at each option that you are going to use and ask yourself: What do I need in order to use this option? What preparations do I need to make before I can use it?
Step Five – Creating your plan
There are many ways that you can create your plan, but having a plan (for the purposes of this program) is about aligning yourself with two intentions:
- To make a commitment – when you create a clear and specific plan that you have put time and effort into, looks visually appealing to you and motivates you to succeed, you are also making a commitment to yourself. Everytime you look at your plan you are reminded that you have a goal and that you have work to do before you can reach this goal. It’s like creating a contract with yourself about what you need to do to create the life that you would like to have.
- To give you a road map – the second reason a plan is so valuable is because it shows you the steps you need to take to get you where you want to go. You are creating a step-by-step approach for achieving your aims. Everytime you look at your plan you will see where you are up to, what you have already achieved and what you need to do next. It will help you to gauge your progress and keep you motivated to continue.
You are welcome to create your plan how you would like it to look if you are creatively minded, however if you are not, I am going to give you an example of a layout below. However you create your plan though, it needs to include the following information:
What to include in your plan
- Title your plan – tell yourself very clearly what it is about and create a title with impact. In my example the title is “It’s time to change” because this reminds me of the ultimate goal that I have. I don’t want to live my life with stress, depression or anxiety anymore. So what needs to happen? Change! Because this situation and how I’m feeling is not going to change itself.
- List your top three aims – You want to be able to clearly see what the three aims are that you are working towards. You can get really decorative and creative here to add rffect, but just make it very clear what you are trying to achieve, because at a glance you want to be able to re-align with your purpose for putting these changes into effect in your life.
- The five step Mind TRACK to Happiness points – this is to remind you of each step. There will be times as you go through your journey, where you begin to feel overwhelmed with your current situation again. On this plan you will be reminded of what steps you need to take. Feeling overwhelmed means that you are in conflict with reality again. Take notice of what these thoughts are and upgrade them immediately with the reality thinking model. Then re-align yourself with what you want – your aims that you have also listed on this plan. Steps four and five (choices and know your plan) are also on this plan too, motivating you to stay on track with your choice of action.
- The reality thinking model – If you like, put our picture of the reality thinking model on your plan. It is a reminder to expand your thinking. It will help you to apply step two of the TRACK process: reality. When you feel consumed by your present moment, remind yourself to align your thoughts with the reality of the situation, then the reality of being a parent, the reality of life and the reality of your self-worth. This will stop you being consumed and very quickly through visual, remind you that you are thinking of the small picture and your thinking needs to expand in order to stop your stress.
- Include your affirmations – It can be helpful to put some of your key affirmations on this plan too. This will remind you of the way that you would like to think when times are tough. It helps you to retrain the brain to think in alignment with reality. For example, you might put – “I am always 100% worthy”, or “This is just a teachable moment“, or “Life is full of ups and downs, I am okay.”
- Create time headings and list what needs to be done – Create four headings; Daily, Weekly; As needed; As often as possible (if necessary you can add another heading: monthly). Under each of these headings, list what things you need to do. This part of your plan highlights your options that you have chosen and any steps that you may need to follow in order to execute this option.
- Daily heading: list all the daily activities that you need to do. It may be helpful to create a tick box beside it so that everyday you can tick these items off in pencil, then rub them out the next day and begin again. Don’t forget to include the task of mirror affirmations in your daily list of tasks, as this is going to help you to retrain your brain to think differently to the way you have been. If you have quite a few daily tasks that you need to do, then it may be useful to create an actual time schedule that you can follow so that you feel like everything is getting the attention you need and you are organised. You can learn how to create this schedule by reading Chapter Twelve of The Happy Mum Handbook PDF that you received with this program and turn to page 225. It will teach you how to create a schedule that will help you to feel very organised.
- Weekly heading: under this heading, list every day of the week (monday to sunday) and write your task beside the appropriate day, as required. Please see the template below for an illustration of what I mean.
- As needed heading: this heading is for the things that you need to do in order to deal with a situation only when it arises. For example, a disciplinary technique that you are going to implement when your child has a tantrum, or backchats.
- As often as possible heading: this heading is for things that you have decided that you will add into your life as often as you can, or as often as you think about it. This could be giving your child a hug, praising your child, complimenting your husband, talking nicely to yourself. I would even go as far as putting a little tally box underneath this heading and in pencil, playing a little game with yourself as to how many times in the day you can implement this task. Remember repetition is the key, if you are trying to make something a habit, like noticing your positives, then this is a fun and conscious way to do this. Everyday, you can erase yesterday’s tally and see if you can beat it.
You can create your own layout of how this plan should look to suit your own style and flair, but the elements above need to be included to give you that guidance of what you need to do and what you are aiming for. Have some fun with it, use coloured paper, pens and bring your creativity out. The more time you spend on it, the more dedicated to your plan you will be.
Here’s an example of a plan template. In this template, I am showing you a very simple way to create a plan with everything on it. You may choose to be creative with your own (as design is not my strong skillset). It is also useful to create you plan on a bigger sheet than A4 paper, as it will give you more room to put more on it.
Over the next three days, I am going to now take you through how to create an action plan using some of the examples we have been using over the past few weeks. The three aims that I am going to demonstrate are:
- To give my child the best nutrition he needs for his growing body (by breastfeeding)
- To communicate better with my partner and create a harmonious, loving relationship
- To enjoy being at home with my children.
By the end of this week you will know how to create an action plan that will empower you to begin implementing real changes to your life and in a way where you know exactly where you are going and how to get there.