The premise of our work is quite simple...
You are the sum total of all of your choices.
Okay, then why don't we simply give you a list of 1000 great choices. All you have to do is live those choices and your life will be wonderful. Simple, right?
Too many choices? Well, let's make it simpler still. We can give you a list of 100 great choices, the 100 most significant choices you could make for having a great life.
What would you do with such a list? Our guess, nothing! It would simply be a long tedious list, and not much would happen. Would you wake up in the morning and say to yourself: "Wow, I can't wait to do my list today?" Of course not. While you might have some initial curiosity, such a list would probably be overwhelming, confusing, and therefore rather meaningless.
Now suppose on the other hand that instead of giving you a lengthy list we gave you an assessment covering 10 choices, actually 10 choice areas, each carefully selected based upon 40 years of helping people overcome stress, anxiety and depression, and journey toward a life of balance and well-being. Suppose the assessment showed you clearly where you were on a path to well-being, and clearly identified your good choices, bad choices, and opportunities for enriching your life.
Further suppose that the assessment not only resulted in a profile showing you at a glance where you're at in the 10 choice areas, but also came with a strategic plan and a clear and simple to follow action planning guide for systematically, step-by-step, day by day, improving the quality of your choices, and therefore the quality of your life.
There are many things that help in managing stress, anxiety and depression. We've emphasized deep breathing, proper nutrition, physical exercise, corrective self talk, meditation, yoga, and many other things that we know from experience will be helpful. Our initial intent was to construct a list of 10 "Steps" as sort of a checklist to remind our clients of stress, anxiety and depression reducing tools that were available.
Although our list of 10 steps was no doubt helpful, in the final analysis it was just a simple list that in and of itself was minimally helpful in substantially reducing stress, anxiety and depression. We wanted something more powerful.
A major step forward was the development of 10 statements for each of the "Steps," with a rating scale for each statement so our clients could rate the statement from 0 to 4, depending upon how much the statement typified their behavior. The task was to read each statement and decide the degree to which there was agreement with the statement. The choice was to select one of five descriptors, each with a different point value. The choices are: virtually never true (0 points), rarely true (1 point), sometimes true (2 points), often true (3 points), or consistently true (4 points).
We were excited by this development. At last we had an objective way of determining how well our clients were doing in each of the 10 areas, and just as important, our clients had a way of immediately getting feedback on how well they were using each stress and anxiety reduction "Step."
Our initial intention was that our clients could monitor their behaviors on the 10 steps daily, and have 10 areas they could rate themselves on each day, thereby getting daily feedback and help on staying on track with their stress and anxiety management program.
Results were mixed. Many clients found our daily self-assessment interesting but difficult to incorporate into their daily lives. Some didn't bother with the daily self-assessment at all. Some claimed the tool produced even more anxiety. What was going on? Wasn't this a great tool? Why was it clients so highly motivated to better manage their stress and anxiety, spent little time with our self-assessment? What were we missing?
Our therapy groups provided the answer. Our clients are often our best teachers, and we were listening. Several told us they liked the material but found the time commitment distressing. Doing the entire assessment could take half an hour. Using our tool as a daily assessment seemed overwhelming to clients who already felt overwhelmed by the sheer busy-ness of their lives. Having yet another item on their "to do list" was simply another source of stress. Besides, some clients found they were already doing well on particular steps, so why bother with a regular assessment?
The self-assessment was a useful tool but presenting the total program to be utilized each day was simply too much. It wasn't "user-friendly" and busy, anxious or highly stressed people weren't going to be using it much. Back to the drawing board!
The solution was to reframe our daily steps as "10 Life Choices,” or choice areas, not as daily "Steps," to be tackled each and every day. Beyond an initial assessment of all 10 Choices, it's not necessary to do the total assessment again for another month. The role of the initial assessment is simply to determine areas of stress, anxiety and depression management opportunities. Clients will find some choice areas are already developed and sources of strength, but they will also discover choice areas that are sources of distress for which highly effective and personalized interventions can be developed.
The important thing is to choose what to work on based upon what is most needed and what will bring the biggest return in stress and anxiety management. Those choices areas that already constitute well-being, or seem less important, can be placed on the back burner, freeing up energy for more important work.
The initial self-assessment results in a profile that can be interpreted at a glance. The client may then choose to focus daily on a particular "Choice" that makes sense to them, working on that choice to the point where distress is replaced by feelings of competence and satisfaction. At that point, another Choice can be selected. An Action Planning Guide for each Choice presents in-depth information, suggestions and resources useful in increasing performance for the Choice.
Life is all about choices. Carpe diem!