There was a small article in the local paper.
‘Workshop series returns to support Vermilion residents with ongoing health conditions.’
It sounded promising. I mentioned it to a friend and she was interested in attending and could provide transportation. We both registered. It seemed I was catching a break. It turned out to be more than that.
Action plan basics
I’d heard of Action Plans before, and I guess I was actually a little disappointed when the workshop was based on them. However, I had come to learn and learn I would. My mission, I decided would be to become an active self-manager. I would see if this tool of action planning was for me.
I’d love to be able to go through my notes and produce for you a step by step record of how I succeeded in managing my lymphedema. Those notes don’t exist. I don’t have a complete written account of my journey, but actually this is not important. I believe that anyone can create a pathway to be an active self-manager. There is no magic in the specifics of what I did. The power is in the process.
Loosely defined the process includes these first steps
1. A decision of what you want to accomplish.
2. Searching for alternative ways to achieve this.
3. Making short term goals – action plans.
And these follow up steps.
4. Carrying out action plans.
5. Checking the results.
6. Adjusting the plan.
An action plan is a basic tool, perhaps the only one you will need. Look at these notes I made – left-handed - during one session of the workshop that introduced me to goal setting in the action plan method.
• Support my healthy lifestyle – physically
• Achieve this by - daily walks – physio session and weights.
• Walk to the neighbor’s gateway before 4:00 P.M.
• Physio – in the morning before breakfast
• Weights- after supper before bed
Every day this week for all three – bad weather walking will a timed session indoors including the stairs. Confidence level that I can achieve these goals-7 or 8 out of 10
If you compare these notes with the steps to action plans you will see that I have decided what I wanted to accomplish- support for a healthy lifestyle. I had chosen some specific tasks for that – daily walks, my physio exercise and lifting weights. Then I made those general goals into specific ones by adding in time and place and alternate options. The confidence level was a checkpoint to make sure that I had a chance of achieving the goals. What is left after this step is the monitoring of actual activities and fine tuning of the plan.
The list previous is the plan I made for one week, concerning one aspect of active self-management. It is the blueprint that I used in many situations. Personally I was fairly good at making plans, but what turned the plans into sweet reality were the follow-up steps.
“I used one page per action plan and made sure there was enough room to keep track of my walks, or frequency of exercise or compliance to other goals. This helped me keep an accurate count so that I was held accountable. It was a good place to record problems as well.”
If I remember correctly, I had committed to walking previously but this action plan involved a bump up in frequency. The physio, as I called it, was a set of stomach strengthening exercises and arm stretches. The weight lifting exercises helped with pain management but were often forgotten.
I believed, and it proved true that this action plan was doable, and that could become part of a success story. It was not a done deal; there were many weeks where I had to adjust my goals to the point where I was confident that I could take on an increase in frequency. It didn’t happen the first week/month or even for some particularly tough goals even the first year. (I had action plan journals for my disordered eating and also for my writing goals. I forged onward, crediting myself for progress, adjusting my goals to be realistic.
The journals brought my goals from fantasy to reality. They reminded me of what the goals were in very specific terms and they served as a gauge of success.
There were other tools that achieved the same thing. Charts are one example. I made a chart with my weekly recorded weight. I hung it on the side of the fridge. I had a record of muffins ate at meals or as snacks. The chart meant that my actions were in plain sight.
Whatever achievement that I desired could fit into an action plan. Whatever form I used included a track record of my results. The information, including details of failure that I gained, served to help me make better plans. Through action plans I discovered motivation keys that were custom designed for me. I made notes of my successful methods so that I could repeat them. I’m convinced this was crucial for me, those habits of thought and action needed time to be second nature.
“Find daily reminders of your motivators. Find examples of success – no matter how small. This builds self-confidence and reinforces good actions.”