Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Changing the world 1 positive reinforcement at a time!

As a coach, I love to learn how people have taught themselves to do things they thought beyond their reach, ability, willpower or capacity.

Lots of folks talk and write about changes they've made, but most of them don't last. They're merely short-term transitions rather than long term transformations. And there's usually lots more to the story than they're telling - and it's not positive.

Recently Carnie Wilson told Oprah Winfrey that after dropping more than 150 pounds after serious weight loss surgery and telling everyone how great it was to be slender? Behind the scenes she became a raging alcoholic - stopping after several years only because her husband gave her an ultimatum to quit drinking or he would leave her.

So many others have similar stories of temporary "recovery" from all sorts of addictions, destructive and self-destructive behaviors -- and after their seemingly astonishing success, they return to identical or worse self and other-abusive behavior. Often repeating this cycle more than once.

No more public example of this is Oprah herself.

So what can make for a successful learning experience that lasts?

And lasts and lasts?

The Seattle Times recently ran a story about a woman who lost weight because she loved herself enough to eat properly and exercise.

She realized the reason she initially tried to lose weight was because she hated herself - the way she looked and felt, the way she believed others perceived her.

But all the methods she tried, again and again, failed. So she beat herself up for 1) being fat, 2) looking the way she did, 3) feeling incapable of becoming who she wanted to be and finally, 4) feeling like a failure.

Until she decided she would eat well and exercise because she loved herself enough to be good to herself and accept herself unconditionally. She dedicated herself to learn how to do what's best for her body and soul, giving herself positive reinforcement every step of the way.

So all these years later, the 60 pounds is still off - a distant memory - because she kept giving herself positive reinforcement, support and appreciation for who she was and everything she did to love herself.

Negative reinforcement doesn't work because it's done to prevent perceived and real abuse or punishment of some sort. The change is usually instant and fleeting.

Positive reinforcement works in the long run 100%.

In my experience, it takes longer to establish a solid ground work and system of individual positive reinforcement from which to work and grow. But once it's solid? It sticks.

Unfortunately, some people are actually uncomfortable with positive reinforcement - they believe unless you're smacking them upside the head they aren't being "pushed" enough.

Others don't believe they're worthy of such good treatment.

One of my coaching techniques is to say a word, then have my client say whatever that word inspires. After they respond, no matter what they say, I respond, "Good."

It's meant to inspire confidence for whatever their response might be, to build a sense that their response is just fine - they don't have to "edit" themselves in order to be "approved."

Here's how it works:

CP: Wood.
Client: Shed.
CP: Good!

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

It's amazing how terrifically it makes people feel to do this exercise even for a few minutes.

I then suggest they tell themselves, "Good job!" a million times a day - for every tiny little success they achieve.

Like this:

You finish brushing your teeth. "Good job!"
You wash your hands. "Good job!"
You arrive at a destination, accident-free. "Good job!"
You pay a bill. "Good job!"
You mail the bill. "Good job!"
You find that (something) you've been looking for. "Good job!"
You help your kid with homework. "Good job!"
You make a healthy choice at a meal. "Good job!"
You practice piano. "Good job!"
You sing! "Good job!"
You take a walk - even if it's inside your apartment. "Good job!"
You decide to do something to spiff up your relationship. "Good job!"
You actually do something to spiff up your relationship. "Good job!"
You decide to leave an unhealthy relationshp. "Good job!"
You actually leave that unhealthy relationship. "Good job!"
You do one part of your acting homework. "Good job!"
Make a list of your own of things to which you can respond. "Good job!"

You read my blog? "Good job!" ;-)

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