Often when we are attempting to change thoughts and behaviors, we make long term goals and then become frustrated and disappointed when we aren’t able to effect change. Change takes time and it occurs sometimes in fits and starts (sporadically). We create expectations that we aren’t able to meet and that dashes our hopes of success. Sometimes we institute behavioral changes but don’t have the underlying infrastructure in place to keep the changes sustainable.
How can we incorporate the 12 step slogan “First Things First” into our thinking to help facilitate change? First Things First can mean focusing on self-care first. The flight attendant’s directions to put the oxygen on yourself first is an example of that. You can’t help anyone else if you don’t take care of your own basic needs. Some people spend a lot of energy taking care of others, which is honorable, but sacrifice their own needs in the process. Ultimately it affects their ability to meet the needs of others as well as their own needs. This means sometimes setting boundaries with others and saying “No”. When evaluating how you spend your time, take into consideration your needs and responsibilities before agreeing to a responsibility. Just because you are capable of doing the task doesn’t mean you should. Instead of thinking, “If I don’t, who will?” consider it an opportunity for someone to “step up to the plate”. Everyone needs to play a part and everyone needs to take responsibility. Sometimes people need help understanding that and may be enlightened when someone else takes a step back.
First Things First can mean preparing first. Attempting to change behaviors without the underlying infrastructure in place will create obstacles for success. A common example is when a person decides to quit smoking. Many people “just decide” today is the day to quit. They might have a motivator like a respiratory illness or guilt over the cost so they just decide to quit. The old adage from Ben Franklin, “When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” says it best. You need to put thought and energy into setting up a plan (infrastructure). Refer back to the stages of change (see December’s blog) and put effort into deciding your motivators for change, prepare for the change by looking into what tools and resources you will need and what obstacles you may encounter. It will be well worth your investment to build a successful foundation.
Lastly, First Things First also means learning to prioritize. This means understanding the basic foundation everything else depends on. Ask yourself, “What is most important to me? What needs to happen so everything else can follow?” Then put those ideas down. What comes first? Sobriety? Family? Health and Wellness? When you clearly know your priorities, your decisions will become clear and choices will be easier to make using your values and priorities as your guide. So put your energy into making first things first. You are worth the investment.
©2020 Peggi White Behavioral Health