Learn the details of carrying out the self-help methods selected for your
treatment plan, and try out your treatment plan, i.e. DO SOMETHING!
The treatment plans, as discussed in the last step, merely identify the possible self-help methods in general terms. To save words, many of the methods are just described by title or brief label, e.g. "confront," "schedule," "reward," "desensitize," "SQRRR," "decision-making," "clarify values," "build self-esteem," "challenge your irrational ideas...or self-cons," "keep a journal," "recognize put-down games," etc. It is very unlikely--unless you are very well read--that you know how to carry out these methods expertly. Indeed, you probably don't have any idea what some of the labels mean. Don't worry, chapters 11 to 15 will tell you exactly how to use each method.
For examples, the two people above (the shy guy and the procrastinator) can find out how to apply certain methods (including some that may not be used) by reading in these chapters:
contracting for a reward Chapter 11 clarify values and meaning
Chapter 3 self-praise Chapter 11 to-be-done list and scheduling Chapter 13 relaxation Chapter 12 self-reinforcement & self-praise Chapter 11 desensitization Chapter 12 SQRRR reading method Chapter 13 role-playing Chapter 13 improve decision making; making
Chapter 13 building self-esteem Chapter 14 increase motivation Chapter 4 & 14 challenging irrational ideas Chapter 14 increased awareness & diary Chs 4, 11 & 15 uncovering sources of fears Chapter 15 revise life script and games Chapters 9 & 15
Obviously, step 6 is addressing the "nuts and bolts" of self-help. You can't be a competent self-controller without knowing how to use several self-control methods (you, of course, already know some). Many of the self-help methods are fairly complicated for a beginner. Not that they will be hard to learn (if you read carefully), but you can't just "fly by the seat of your pants" either. You will need very clear and detailed directions. Chapters 11 to 15 give step-by-step instructions. I have tried hard to draw on the best books, the best research, and the experience of the best therapists or self-helpers. This may result in my telling you more than you want to know. That's OK, just read the steps in bold print if that is all you need to know. These how-to-use chapters also spell out the common problems encountered with each method (by my students, by me, or by clients), the estimated time needed to use the method, the overall research findings, the potential dangers, and the precautions you should take with the method. This is useful information. Some of these self-help methods may require considerable practice before you can use them effectively. Others are easy and ready-to-use.
Try out your plan; Attack the problem with vigor; Give your plan a fair trial
Launch into a self-help project with as much zeal and optimism as possible, but allow each self-change method enough time to have a chance to work. Be realistic, don't expect miracles. For instance, suppose you have been self-critical and have uttered to yourself 25 negative comments per day (1 or 2 per hour) for 10 years. That's a total of 91,250 self-putdowns. A few positive, private comments forced out of you by a skeptical, half-hearted self-help project aren't going to wipe away a ten-year-old bad self-concept. What will? No one knows, but perhaps 25 positive, thoughtful, genuinely felt self-appraisals expressed every day for 100 days would be a good start. Then, add on two or three successful self-improvement projects, and you will see some genuine changes in your feelings about yourself and your future.
Even when you have a self-help plan and know how to use the self-change methods you have selected to use, there is still the problem of remembering to do the specific things you need to do. This is not an unimportant or an easy part of the process. Often, self-helpers are trying to stop a well established habit which can occur almost without your awareness. Or, you are trying to respond in a new way to a common situation you have dealt with automatically (or emotionally), e.g. you may want to find ways to compliment your son rather than yelling at him when he wastes time or is careless. It is not easy to remember to make these changes. You have to control your thoughts to improve your actions.
There is an area of experimental research that deals with "prospective remembering," i.e. the ability to remember to do previously formed intentions (like New Year's resolutions!). Much more practical research needs to be done but here are some of the tentative conclusions (Arbuthnott & Arbuthnott, 1999). Of course, it is great if you are an organized person who keeps a daily appointment book and schedules specific self-help actions at specific times and places during the day. But, some of us aren't that organized; besides, many desired behaviors just can't be scheduled in advance because you want these responses to occur in unexpected situations, such as when you get a compliment, when someone is inattentive to you or pushy, when your boss or spouse is critical, when you are tempted to have a candy bar, and so on. What can you do to remember in those situations?
It has been shown that daily mental rehearsal, perhaps as you are brushing your teeth or putting on make up, of what you want to do when specific circumstances arise is very helpful. Also, the kind of cue we select to signal to ourselves that the situation is right for a desired, planned reaction is important; good cues include a meaningful, maybe emotional, event or situation that is specific and easy to notice or unusual (to catch your attention). Example: when someone mentions having a problem that can be your cue to give an empathy response. As another example, Arbuthnott & Arbuthnott (1999) described a way to make the time-to-act cue more distinctive and effective: a man wanted to use thought-stopping and relaxing self-instructions to reduce his fear in several situations. They asked their patient to imagine being frightened by a wild animal (he chose a dragon) whenever he felt afraid, then he learned to associate the image of a dragon with these relaxation techniques. This helped him remember what to do when he got anxious. Self-control often requires remembering many things to do, both to do in action and in your mind, so you may need to learn some methods to boost your memory.
There is an old military saying: "A poor plan well executed is better than a good plan poorly executed." Once you have developed your general plan, it is important to carry out a plan that you consider important with vigor. Learn to use the selected self-help methods, then remember to apply the methods. Make your self-help efforts part of your daily schedule. Remember, as discussed in step 2, to record your efforts to change! Your self-change actions need to be compared to your subsequent level of adjustment--are your efforts producing results? Try to get "high" about making major self-improvements. Get determined! Optimism and enthusiasm help. Reward and value your efforts highly.
Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
-W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
Prepare for possible risks
If the description of the method in chapters 11-15 suggests any risk or if you feel that the treatment might be stressful for you, for instance if it involves strong feelings, upsetting memories, emotional confrontation with others, etc., make preparations in advance for possible undesirable reactions. This might include having a friend stay with you, consulting with an experienced person, or arranging to have someone to call, such as a crisis phone service, if that is needed. The best "back up" service, however, is not a net to catch you as you fall, but knowledgeable information and expert advice in advance to avoid falling.