Measuring Change – Conquering Mountains (pt. 1 of 2)

Measuring change in behavior.  It seems so ominous. So objective.  And I am here to tell you NO! It’s not! It can be so much easier than you ever imagined.   

With the new year here – we are ready to make changes and have probably already created our new resolutions and have prompted our families and loved one’s to do so as well. So let’s talk about how we can create lasting change {And not give up on our goals before February}, by creating measurable goals – for ourselves and our kids.

If we ever have the opportunity to hang out in sessions together [which I hope we do soon], you will learn that I absolutely LOVE measurable goals.  LOVE. I’m a therapist, so I will always talk about feelings, but there is a special place in my heart for data and ways to quantitatively measure progress- yet early in my career I struggled with how to quantify these changes. I was always taught, “ it’s just a gut feeling”- “I feel better” -“I know I’m less sad” Or “less anxious”- “I’m going out more” And sometimes that’s all it takes.  Sometimes we don’t need to be able to measure quantifiable change. I was always taught to use percentages – “70% of the time I feel better” “30% of the time he had a tantrum” – but what does that actually mean? And what if you as a parent are so exhausted, that even one tantrum feels like 90% of the time?! Which is real life. And what about the person who is so hard on themselves that they can only recognize change if everything is better.  Or the families who are in such a difficult place in life, even the baby steps don’t seem like they are enough. That is where these three magic words will come into play.  

It was my mentor right out of graduate school who finally gave me these three words that literally changed my life and the lives of my clients – and here I am to hopefully help change your life too:

Frequency – Intensity – Duration

This is how we can quantify change.  Change. [And I don’t mean the coins on the floor in your car] – I’m talking about changing our behaviors and feelings and moods and you name it.  The change that can be difficult – even if we know it’s for the best. It is a process that doesn’t happen overnight – no matter how much we wish we could snap our fingers and have everything be exactly as we would like.  It takes work. And more important, it takes grace. It takes remembering that we are human, your kiddos are human, I am human – and we are going to have some great weeks and we are going to have some difficult weeks in the process, but what we need to pay attention to is the overall trend of each scale.  And pay attention to our baby steps. Because it is in our baby steps where we build our strength and our character and perseverance, which will eventually lead to joy. 

It’s like when you’re hiking. And you feel like you’re about to die – so you stop to take a sip of water or to take a little snack break to give you energy to keep going.  And as you do, you turn around, and you can see just how high you’ve actually come. And when you look ahead, you can see there is still a lot of work and mountain left to climb – but you have come so far already.  It’s this moment that helps to motivate you to keep going. It’s hard to see our baby steps in the moment. Especially when it feels like we’re climbing what may seem like an uphill battle. That’s where continuing to monitor these scales {Frequency – Intensity – Duration} each day and week is imperative.

Moving through change is similar.  It sometimes doesn’t feel like anything has changed. One minute here, a little less intense there.  But when were able to add it all up, and look back at our change – were able to see just that – CHANGE.  And it is here where we need to celebrate progress – to help us keep moving forward. On our way toward conquering the mountain.

*The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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