Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to Use the "If…Then" Strategy in All Your Affairs

I’ve been reading (again) about healthy eating. It is, like so many things, progress not perfection. And slowly I see the results. Over time I make better meal choices and I buy food of a better quality (grass-fed, organic, local etc). And, for me, the biggie is dealing with sweets and desserts. I’ve learned not to keep candy in the car or ice cream in the house. But this week I read about a new eating (rather then dieting) strategy, and it is changing so much more than my meals.

The strategy is called “If….Then…” and it goes like this:

If I really want a dessert, …then I’ll have fruit or brown rice pudding.
If I want a snack in my car, …then I’ll have bags of almonds, or beef jerky, or a protein bar.
If I am in a restaurant,…then I'll get lean protein and two vegetables.
If I don’t have time to do a workout in the morning,…then I’ll do three planks and a sun salutation.

You get the idea. Great for your physical heath, right? But it turns out that the  “If…Then…” can be used for every part of your life. I created an “If/Then” strategy for my daily writing practice too:

My goal is to write 60 minutes a day. But if I am time crunched and the day is going to go from 7am to 7pm…Then I can take a writing task in the car with me. (I can dictate some ideas, I can draft into a tape recorder, and I can brainstorm three new stories.)

Or if I am really tired or maybe feeling unwell…Then I can get on the couch with files and sort them, or I can pull out my journal and free write with a timer for 30 minutes.

See how that works?

But then it hit me that “If/Then” works on the more important goals as well. If I am scared…Then I can pray. If I am jealous…Then I can do something nice for the other person. (Or maybe for myself since sometimes it’s a lack of self-care that kicks off my jealousy.)

Turns out that our twelve-step recovery programs have been teaching us a kind of “If/Then” strategy all along. You heard it in your earliest days: “If your butt falls off…Then pick it up and take it to a meeting.” Or if you are tempted to use your favorite substance…Then pick up the phone and call your sponsor.” And we learned all those great strategies and skills.

Now take that “If/Then” device and translate it for the new and next goals in your life. On paper (always do this in writing) begin with:

If____happens,…Then I will do_____.” 

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