Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday January 28, 2013

Building A Plan 2

So as I recently reported in my last running post, I’ve had another one of my mood dips, a sudden, sharp, but thankfully fairly brief episode of depression. This was characterized by a loss of energy, motivation and focus as well as a generally sour disposition.

It’s thrown my entire running plan into a bit of disarray. But as I have to keep reminding myself, over and over, I’m going to fall down sometimes. I just have to keep picking myself up again.

I did however, seriously question if I wanted to continue working on this 2013 plan given this recent snafu.

Maybe a break was in order before tackling 2013?

But after carefully considering that option I decided to keep going forward. The fact of the matter is, January is almost over and I don’t want to drift through 2013.

What To Do This Year

In putting together a plan for 2013 I’ve had to tackle many questions, particularly, questions of exactly what do I want to get out of this exercise. Setting vague or meaningless goals, in its way, is worse than having no goals.

Hence having a goal of “make significant progress on overcoming my mental health issues” is not a particularly useful goal in and of itself.

What I really need are actual targets to hit.

So, if I divide my goals into two categories: Overall Objectives and Short Term Targets. The Objectives become the big overarching goals, which may or may not be easy to measure. The Targets are the smaller goals which are easily measurable.

Completing several smaller targets will hopefully add up to the broad objectives.

This also has the advantage of moving my overall aim substantially closer. Instead of spending all my time focused on the broader prize, I aim to tackle one piece of it.

One piece at a time adds up to a completed plan.

With all of the above in mind I have now formulated an overall goal and the objectives that will hopefully build up to that goal. Using the previously established ‘building circles’ I can then start putting together targets that add up to these objectives.

Goal: to achieve a new level of management of my mental health and moods.

Objectives:

  • to become physically fit
  • return to work on a part-time basis
  • resume my formal education
  • begin to meaningfully participate in the community

Each of these objectives dovetails with one of the previous listed building blocks (or circles) but as with those, there is a lot of overlap.

Achieving all of these will be a start to my longer term goal of living a quasi-normal life.

All of these have ways in which they can be measured and an evaluation made on whether I have actually achieved them.

Physical fitness can be measured through my activity levels, strength, or participation in events. Returning work on a part-time basis can be measured by how many hours I work. Formal education by courses etc….

As I work through this plan, I intend to provide some sort of quantification to each of these objectives. Before that though I will be putting in place some of the targets to help me get a better idea of realistic results for each of my four objectives.

Building New Habits

Achieving all of these objectives and succeeding at my overall goal will at its heart require building new habits, something that I’ve had a lot of success with over the last few years that I’ve been in treatment.

Being freed, even partly, from Major Depressive Disorder has given me what has been personally an unprecedented ability to establish new habits.

New habits that I’ve been able to carry with me even into depressive down turns.

Up until now I’ve built these new habits largely on an ad hoc basis, sometimes towards specific goals of improving my overall health.

This will be the first time that I attempt to use this skill to achieve an overall plan.

Each target will require the establishment or reinforcement of a habit. One substantial component is already underway in the form of my running plan.

Each component must be largely based around a single habit.

The components must each have a measurable and obtainable result to serve as the target and must be set in advance of beginning the component plan.

Forming a new habit generally takes between 6 to 8 weeks. I will probably roll out 1 to 2 potential components at a time, with the goal of tracking the habit for a period of about 16 weeks and reporting back about once every 4 weeks

I’ve based all of this around the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals, one of the most useful things I’ve ever gotten out of previous psychological counseling sessions.

Each habit, target and component is built around these principles.

Building a Toolkit

As a part of this I’m going to be putting together a toolkit of sorts, a collection of useful things to help me create and maintain these new habits.

This toolkit will be made up largely of virtual tools, although I also know I’ll be using some corporeal tools as well. My treadmill, old as it may be, is the most obvious corporeal tool that I already have.

We live in a fantastic age where we have access to a tremendous amount of information at our finger tips and I intend to use that as much as possible.

There exist already a huge number of webpages and apps and online tools to help people achieve almost anything that they may wish to. I will be using many of these resources to create and follow through on my own personal plan.

The Power of Lists

One of the most power tools that I could ever use is one that is already in my possession and which I have used fairly effectively.

As I’ve written in the past, I’m a big believer in the power of lists.

Lists have proven to be very helpful to me in overcoming my ‘down days’ and in achieving my past running goals.

Paired with my iPhone lists can be an even more powerful tool. I sometimes refer to my mobile as my other ‘brain’ simply because it allows me to keep track of the things that I might otherwise forget.

Previously programmed reminders and checklist software has helped me to organize myself and reduce (although not eliminate, yet) my previously chronic tardiness.

Crossing off each item provides a nice sense of satisfaction.

That satisfaction reinforces the behaviour and encourages consistency and repetition, two elements essential to building a new habit.

Building the habit of using lists forms the solid base I will need to complete this plan.

Commitment

One of the things that I’ve had to face is the prospect of staying with my parents for a longer time period than expected.

After all, I was only supposed to be here for the summer.

However, the circumstances have obviously changed. So I am doing something that I really didn’t want to do.

I am committing to remain in Calgary for the whole of 2013.

Why am I doing this? Especially in light of my profound and ongoing dissatisfaction with my life’s prospects here and the utter failure of Alberta Health to assist me?

It’s simple: I don’t want to do this again.

I want to make sure that I have enough of a stable foundation underneath myself when I start living independently again that I can continue to do so indefinitely.

Even if I experience another depressive episode, big or small.

Major Depressive Disorder is a lifelong condition that will never go away completely. I will always have to deal with or manage this condition.

But I firmly believe that if I take the time and space that I’m being offered now that I can ensure that if I have a major episode again I will not have to give up my independence the way I have had to this time.

After all, sad as it may be to contemplate, likely there will come a time when I won’t have the safety net of parents to fall back upon.

While there may come a time when I may have to even take time off from work again to cope with a depressive episode, I firmly believe that I can, establish enough good habits to make a downturn manageable and remain reasonably independent.

There’s no denying that having some personal security while I do this establishment is by far the biggest help that my parents can give me during this period.

And, much as I may dislike it, it’s the best thing I can do for myself right now.

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Responses

  1. Very well thought out plans you have here. Remember to keep the parcels small enough that even when depressed they are achievable. A friend of mine used to post encouraging notes to himself throughout his house to keep momentum when forming the exercising habit. The ‘not being able to go home’ issue is one that I have had to come to terms with over the last dozen or so years. I own my own home now, my father has passed and my mother lives with my brother, so our family home is no longer tangible. I have to continue, no matter how hard it is or how little I am capable of. I’m glad you’ve decided to extend your stay with your parents. A firm foundation is a definite necessity before you make a big move again out on your own. As always, I wish you continued success in your progress. 🙂

    • Thanks very much! You were in my corner for my last big success so I like to think of you as my good luck charm!

      I’m actually doing something similar although not posting notes all over the house (although some index cards have gone up in my room) but I am using my cell phone to send me periodic reminders of things like that.

      My goal is very much to keep these to the ‘small and achievable’ side and I’m looking forward to any feedback as the individual components go up.

      • Aaw, thanks buddy. I doubt I’m really good luck. Don’t try choppin off a foot to carry in your pocket..lol..but I have the uncanny ability to give great advice and suggestions to everyone but myself..
        Keep up the good work! I’m cheerin ya on!! 🙂


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