You might recall that, a few weeks ago, I wrote about phone addiction. Shortly after I wrote that post, my friend Reba Riley offered to help me work on it! As Reba and I work through this, I’ll be sharing some guest posts from her here, featuring her wisdom and insights, so you can learn along with me. Check out the last post Reba wrote, Strategies for Phone Overuse (and Other Struggles), and stay tuned for more strategies, info, and (hopefully!) progress as Reba and I work together on this! Check out the paragraph below this post for my thoughts on the great strategies Reba has suggested for me.
Week #1 : Review
In the last post, we talked about recognizing the courage it take to ask for help, and lowering our expectations to create small, doable steps of positive change.
Dani’s first assignments were to practice self-love by “putting down the whip” of mental judgment and giving herself permission (including an official permission slip!) to pay attention to her actions, emotions, and triggers around phone overuse—without judging herself.
As Dani practiced these steps, she found:
- Giving herself permission helped her be much more kind to herself
- Paying close attention—and often writing down—thoughts, feelings and surroundings made using the phone feel more like work instead of fun
- Knowing she had accountability made her question if scrolling was really worth it (knowing she would have to ‘fess up to me!)
- Triggering factors included exhaustion, boredom, rewarding herself after tasks, stress, escaping discomfort of any kind, and—especially—going to bed and waking up
- Using the phone less opened up space and time for reading (she even read my book), more work, writing and drawing, so she felt much more productive
Also, she became an aunt! The excitement and family time surrounding her sister and the new baby made her to put down her phone, creating a perfect mind reset. She reported “three hours would go by and I realized I hadn’t missed the phone at all. Then when I checked it, I hadn’t missed anything important.” So many positive changes in just seven days! #proudcoachmoment
I reminded Dani Progress > Perfection, always. Recovery of any kind never goes in a straight line up. It zigs and zags forward and back—the most important thing is traction in the right direction.
Week #2 : Find Your WHYpower
Dani and I talked about willpower, and I explained how it comes and goes—unless you are a machine, like my husband, who has the willpower of Superman. (If you are, you don’t need to be reading this.)
For the rest of us mere mortals, willpower is strongest in the morning and at the beginning of the week, and gets progressively weaker as the day and week wear us down. Willpower is also affected by mood, stress, fatigue—the list is endless.
Basically, willpower is the unreliable friend we can’t count on. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn’t, which means it alone is not enough to create lasting change.
Fortunately, we have access to something much better than willpower: WHYpower.
WHYpower is what happens when our WHY to change becomes bigger than our why to stay as we are.
I learned about WHYpower when I was writing a memoir, a process that lasted 4 years, 3 months and 10 days. (Not that I was counting, ahem.) My willpower ran out somewhere around, oh, week two—and I realized if I was in it for the long haul, I had to dig deeper. Much, MUCH deeper. I had to find a reason so compelling I would wake up at 5am to write before work, sit down and write until 10pm after work, and work through weekends and holidays. (PS: I do not recommend working 7 days a week unless you actively want an epic burnout; I was waaaaaay too hard on myself back then!)
Anyway. I stumbled over WHYpower out of necessity: I knew I needed to tell my story, but I also knew willpower would not sustain me.
So I plopped on the couch with my journal, and I asked myself: “WHY?” Why do I want to do this impossible thing? The reason I came up with was so strong I can still close my eyes and feel it: For everyone who hurts like I did.
I imagined I could reach forward in time and put my arms around a reader who needed to hear my story, who needed to know s/he was not alone. That was my WHYpower. Every time I wanted to quit I thought about that person who needed me.
Now, not every WHY will be this dramatic, but my story illustrates a larger point. You can accomplish anything if your WHY is big enough.
- WHY do you want to change?
- HOW will this change affect your life (or the lives of others)?
- YOUR ultimate goal is what?
Our amazing Dani created a TransforMotion worksheet you can use to find your WHYpower. Once you have it, use your WHY to silence all your doubts and fears, and pull it out when willpower fails.
Create New Goals
Once your WHYpower is in place, you can create new goals (still small, still achieveable, but slightly more challenging).
Dani’s goals for this week are:
- Change Morning and Evening Routines. Dani identified going to bed and waking up as her top triggers for scrolling on her phone. So we came up with a plan to help her change her am and pm routine to circumvent the habit.Barrier method: Put phone in a box out of reach from the bed. Previously, Dani watched Netflix on her phone in bed before sleeping—which meant easy access to scrolling. Then she would reach for it first thing in the morning. To change this, we decided she would watch Netflix on another device, try a noise machine, and keep a book beside her bed.
Substitute Task: Since she usually gets up with the phone, Dani said she would try to have breakfast and take out Barkley before getting the phone out of its box. Try is key; remember Progress > Perfection!
- Look For Patterns and Be Willing to Be Uncomfortable. To make more changes like the ones above, Dani needs to continue paying attention to the when, where, why, and how of her phone use. We will use that information to create goals for next week. When Dani finds a trigger or pattern, she needs to pause and be willing to sit with the discomfort of not picking up her phone, if only for a few minutes. Being willing to be uncomfortable (which she definitely will be in the morning and at night), is key to eliminating negative behaviors.
We are all rooting for you, Dani! Keep up the great work!
I’m so thankful for Reba’s help. (To connect with Reba about speaking or coaching, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org!) Week #1 was so amazing, and I never would have taken such positive action on my own. By paying attention whenever I picked up the phone, I learned so much about my habit (and that information has been so essential to continuing to tackle this problem). Week #1 had me feeling like a rockstar, taking note of what I was doing and doing my best not to judge myself whenever spent too much time scrolling. I went into Week #2 feeling empowered and encouraged. Breaking habits is so difficult and it’s been so helpful to have Reba’s insights and encouragement as I work on this. If you’re struggling with phone overuse (or any other bad habit!), I hope these posts are helping you make positive progress!