Guideline Four: Brainstorm Many Possible Goals Before Narrowing It Down to One
If you want to start an exercise program, you might start by brainstorming such goals as swimming the English Channel, walking cross-country across America, running a marathon, running five miles a day, joining (or organizing) a weekly fun-run or running support group, running in place for five minutes before your shower each morning, riding your bike to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a fifteen-minute walk after lunch three times a week. Be creative. Feel free to be completely unrealistic. Think of goals that would be fun. Remember you are just brainstorming. Find your own way to do it. Maybe the best way for you to start an exercise program would be to get a dog and take it for a walk once or twice a day.
Guideline Five: Design Freedom Into Your Goals
"I will allow myself to take work breaks to do yoga whenever I feel like it." "I will go to bed early in order to give myself some quiet time in the morning before breakfast." "I will leave one Sunday a month free to be alone in the woods." "When I go running, I will let myself dance, skip, stop to look at a bird or a flower, or do anything I feel like." These are some goals with built-in freedom.
Guideline Six: Support Yourself
Pay close attention to your successes and the benefits deriving from your new practices. Celebrate your victories. "I ran a whole half-mile today without stopping!" "Doing yoga sure makes my back and shoulders feel good." Think of rewards you might give yourself for reaching short-term and long-term goals. (A hot bath after an evening run, a massage after logging your first hundred miles, dinner and a movie after completing a pet creative project.)
Guideline Seven: Ask the Support of Others-And Support Them for Supporting You
Pick your support person (or people) carefully. Pick people who accept you as you are, who make you feel good about yourself when you are with them. Tell them that you're working on developing your own self-care plan--you might even show them this article--and ask if they'd be willing to be your support person for the goal you've chosen. Tell them the kinds of things they could do to help support you. Be as specific as you can, for example, "Serve me smaller portions." "Bicycle along with me sometimes when I go running." "Come with me to the first meeting of a self-help group [or self-care class or workshop or whatever]."
The way to get the best support from a friend is to support her or him for supporting you. "I really appreciated it that you took care of the kids so that I could play my flute." "It was really a help for you to take me into the medical library and show me how to look things up for myself." "It was wonderful when you said every time I wanted a cigarette you'd give me a kiss instead." " I really love it when you compliment me for the weight I'm losing."
You might also want to consider creating your own imaginary support person. A good description of one way to go about doing this can be found in " Create Your Imaginary Doctor," in The Well Body Book Mike Samuels and Hal Bennett. A somewhat similar approach, including both a written dialogue with your own body and a dialogue with an interior wisdom figure, is described in At a Journal Workshop by Ira Progoff.
Guideline Eight: Create a Supportive Environment