The columns list to help define a path to change
We humans want change NOW! And we want a lot of change NOW! So even if it took you twenty years to gain thirty pounds you want it off NOW!
If a relationship took six years to turn to crap you still want it fixed NOW!
If your career was spinning down the toilet for the last fifteen years, you nonetheless want it fixed NOW!
Well it doesn’t work that way. Sorry. The process of change counts.
By using the following technique, the Columns of an Outstanding Life, we can keep perspective on how difficult change is.
When you look at Figure 10 you see the basic column. A column is a symbol of a part of your life. For example it could be: work, family, school or love. Each one of these parts itself could have parts. Each part could be its own column. For instance, Family could have your mother, your stepfather, your sister and your cousin.
The column works by asking yourself, “On a scale of 00 (opposite of perfect) to 10 (perfect) how would I rate _____________?” You can’t get the question wrong. It is your opinion.
Figure 10: Columns List
So, for this example let’s say you are feeling angry with your sister, Sissy. And you ask yourself the question, “On a scale of 00 to 10, how would I rate my relationship with Sissy?”
You rate it as 5.5. What does a 5.5 mean? Only you really know. Your 5.5 rating is personal to you. It’s not a 6.0 but it is better than a 5.0.
Figure 11 shows your column rating of 5.5.
Now this is where people tend to fight me. The next question is: “What do you have to do to get it from 5.5 to 6?” At this point I hear, “6 - I want a 9 or a 10!”
I understand; we all want perfect, but process counts. What do you need to do to get it to a 6?
“Me, why do I need to get it to a 6? She is the one who regularly causes difficulties. How come I have to fix her problems?”
This tends to be the trouble. We only have control over ourselves. We can only write goals for ourselves. So, you need to think of what you can do to get from a 5.5 to a 6 in your relationship with Sissy.
Figure 11: Relationship with Sissy
Gary was very upset about not being invited to a monthly family get together at Sissy’s home. After Gary spent ten minutes explaining how all that was wrong with the world was Sissy’s fault, I asked him to rate his present relationship with his sister.
Gary: “We used to be an 8. But now, I guess a 5.5”
Dr. Phil: “Guess?”
Gary: “Yeah. A 5.5.”
Dr. Phil: “What do you have to do to get it from 5.5 to 6?”
Gary: “I could stop hounding her about her smoking.”
Dr. Phil: “Would that get you to a 6?”
Gary: “At least a 6. I’ve really been on her about her smoking.”
A week later Gary and I talked again.
Dr. Phil: “How would you rate your relationship with Sissy this week?”
Gary: “A 7.”
Dr. Phil: “Are you ok with a 7?”
Dr. Phil: “What do you have to do to get it from 7 to 7.5?”
Gary: “I need to pay her husband back the money I borrowed.”
Dr. Phil: “Borrowed?”
Gary: “I had car problems and I borrowed the money until my next paycheck. I was behind on other bills and just kind of avoided them for a week. This really upset Sissy.”
Dr. Phil: “Can you pay them back?”
Gary: “I’ll see them on Sunday and pay them back.”
Dr. Phil: “Not that it is any of my business, but what was it all about—the smoking argument.
Gary: Sissy was hinting around that I needed to pay back the loan, and I told her that she wasted money on cigarettes. This really upset her. She is trying to stop smoking, but it is hard.
When we use the column technique honestly with ourselves, we often find the way to meet our goals. As a reminder, if we let the Thought Mines get in our way we will be sabotaging our own goals.
Del was procrastinating a business decision concerning a $250,000 fall advertising promotion. He broke the parts into six columns. Each column was a small part of his larger problem. For each column he asked himself the question, “On a scale of 00 to 10 how would I rate _____________?”
He ended up with four 8’s and two 2’s. He went back to his ad team and reworked the 2’s to 2.5. Then to 3. Then to 4. After two weeks of agony, the team got to 6 for each of the last two columns. That gave them four 8’s and two 6’s. With their well thought out, but not perfect plan, they launched their promotion.
About a month into the promotion, I met with Del and asked him about his fall ad campaign.
“It is hard for me to pull the trigger on a quarter of a million dollar campaign. By working the parts, I was able to keep my anxiety under control. It helps me sleep at night.”
Up to this point, I have only shown you part of the columns list. Figures 12 and 13 are the whole thing. A free full-page PDF is available at www.CopitchInc.com. One major problem about making personal change is that it tends to be private. If your goal is to lose some weight and you say to yourself, “I am not eating fast food for the rest of this month!” that is all well and good, but it has no accountability. Come lunchtime during your busy day, you pop into Mickie D’s because you’re busy and you are not beholden to anyone but yourself. (You can easily give yourself permission to eat fast food because of the justifications that are running through your head.) But, what if you told your girlfriend that you were not eating fast food for the rest of this month, and had gone as far as asking if you could check in with her at the end of the day simply to tell her if you kept to your convictions. Your likelihood of choosing fast food goes down if you have accountability outside of yourself. The person you make yourself answerable to has no power over you. You are simply making yourself accountable to them. In this situation, your girlfriend doesn’t get to chastise, punish, guilt or belittle you. She gets to know, because she agreed to help you be accountable. If you kept your goal, that is it.
The act of making yourself accountable to someone will vastly increase your success rate.
The Accountability Section is where you write down your accountability agreement. The first square is for you to indicate what column you are working on.
Figure 12: Parts of the Column List
Figure 13 is an example of a completed Columns List. It is not earth shattering. The power is in its simplicity.
Figure 13: Completed Column List
I advise you to keep past forms so you can check your progress over time. One of my patients called it her “Goals Diary.”
Get a full-page Column List PDF Free Download
Hal and Bobbie came to me for advice. As it turned out, Bobbie was very concerned about Hal’s diabetes, and Hal was positive that Bobbie was overreacting. For three weeks, Bobbie had been scouring the Internet for information on diabetes. She had printed out hundreds of articles and left them scattered all over the house, hoping that Hal would read them. She had purchased three new diabetic cookbooks and regularly asked Hal to pick out a recipe that she would happily make for him.
“I have become a project for her, she is driving me nuts.” Hal said.
Defensively Bobbie explained, “I’m just trying to help. Diabetes is very dangerous. You can go blind or die prematurely.”
After I explained that we cannot write goals for anyone but ourselves, Bobbie confessed. “That makes sense, but I’m so worried.”
“I’m a little worried too.” Hal said. “But as my daddy used to say, ‘You can’t cash another man’s paycheck.’”
After explaining the columns list, Hal gave himself a rating of 3 on “Health”. To go from 3 to 3.5 Hal decided to switch from sugar to Splenda in his morning coffee.
To help himself with his goal achievement, Hal asked Bobbie:
“Now, come morning when I sit down at the Pancake House for my coffee, I’ll use that yellow stuff. When I call you, I’ll tell ya that I did it and you don’t get all happy or nothing.”
Bobbie was happy to comply with her support role. As it turned out, morning coffee was one of her biggest concerns. For twenty-five years, Hal and the other farmers met for morning coffee. Hal would fill his cup halfway with sugar, and then the waitress would add coffee. Hal never stirred his coffee. The waitress would keep toping off Hal’s cup. Over the next half hour lots of coffee and sugar went into Hal. Hal called Bobbie every morning from the Pancake House during Bobbie’s break at school, where she worked as a cook.
A few weeks later, Hal reported his health rating to be a 5. Without me asking, he told me how he planned to go from a 5 to a 5.5.
“Three days a week, I’m going to meet Bobbie at school. They have this exercise walk and we’re going to walk it.”
Bobbie added, “I need to watch my weight, and this we can do together.”
We are almost at the end of this workbook. I hope you find your own particular concerns addressed in different parts of it. By picking and choosing the sections that apply to you personally, this workbook becomes useful to you. By investigating these parts of yourself you will gain mastery over your life. Over the next few pages I want you to see how others have integrated this information into amazing life changes.
“Once I realized that I was writing goals for my daughters my life got better. I used to yell a lot but nothing changed. My frustrations led me to thoughts of divorce and abandonment.
“I watched my self-talk and found that I was constantly belittling my family. I only said the nasty thoughts when I was really angry, but I thought them all the time.
“I used the Thought Mine - Mind Reading to make myself crazy. This led to lots of misunderstanding and often put me on the defensive. By dealing with my Time Bandits I have found lots of time to be with my girls. I have put work in its place, and I don’t use work as an excuse anymore.”
Dr. Nancy and I were talking over lunch at a seminar.
“I always thought you were weirdly calm,” Dr. Nancy confessed. “I know you are excited about life, but you are calm. I’ve seen you testify in court, and you were calm. I’ve seen you deal with truly horrible clinical cases, and you were calm. I have always been secretly amazed.
“It wasn’t until I read your book that I understood that your calmness could be learned. And, that I could learn it too. When I looked at my Black and White Thinking I started to develop calmness. When I monitored my self-talk I realized that I was always a little afraid, even though I have nothing to be afraid of.
“I find that by only attempting to change a little at a time, I get change. I used to be so frustrated. I am constantly asking myself ‘What’s the next action?’ which is so empowering. I used to say, ‘What do I have to do now!’ and wished for any distraction.”
“Thanks,” I said, “Are you going to buy me lunch?”
Dr. Nancy smiled, “Sure, but only because it’s part of the seminar.”
“When I realized that I can act out an emotion, but I am not an emotion, my life started to get better. It was hard at first to monitor my own body language, so I started stepping in front of a full-length mirror to see my own feelings. If my shoulders were down and my face was sad, I noticed I was stuck in self-pitying self-talk. I was pushing people away because they thought I was a grumpy old lady. But I’m not! I’m nice and I’m funny, but after Bernie died, I forgot to act nice and fun.
“My self-talk was holding me back. I used to say a hundred times a day, ‘I can’t do that because I’m too fat.’ When I learned about (the Thought Mine) Size Problem I understood I was holding myself back. I now get out. I have a life and I am really enjoying volunteering at the thrift store. I have met loads of nice people at the charity. I even play bunko with some ladies from there. I’m not very good, so I always lose. But, I do laugh a lot as I lose.”
“I found the Thought Mines section hard to understand. On my third read through, I understood why. I tend to use Negative Labeling to blame others and push people away. When I read the Thought Mines section I kept seeing my family. A lot jumped out at me. I used my self-talk to destroy everyone around me. When I started to look at my frameworks I realized I was really hurting myself.
“The section on Forgiveness allowed me to move on and leave my anger in the past.
“My goals are solid grades. I now have a planner and I keep track of my time. My study habits really improved as I got organized. I like that I am 100% responsible for my life.
“I have noticed that I am changing friends. I don’t want to be held back any more.
“I am a nice guy, but I seem to get stepped on all the time. Over the last two years I have been building my business and taking care of my daughter. It has been hard because I have to work around my daughter’s school schedule.
“After my wife got arrested for methamphetamine sales, I was devastated. I thought that rehab was going to work. I blamed myself for not knowing how involved with drugs she really was.
“My self-esteem was lower than low. When I learned that I could rebuild my self-esteem like a bird builds a nest, I felt hope. I want my daughter to have it way better than her mom or me. I make sure that she can build her self-esteem strong by giving her good building materials to work with.
“I used Fortune Telling a lot and found that I misread people all the time. By keeping my Fortune Telling in check and staying focused on my work, we are doing great. I used to waste a lot of time worrying, time that I don’t have. I have become very aware of Time Bandits.
“My pastor allows me to use him as my accountability go-to guy. Knowing that I can tell him my little wins really helps. It keeps me focused on building my business. I used to think that I had to hit a home run to solve a problem. But now I think to myself, ‘What’s the next action?’ I haven’t had the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest in a long time.”
“I have always felt that I was blessed. I have always had interesting work and great friends. But deep inside I had a need to please everybody.
“I was really surprised when I found out that I had severe hypertension. My doctor said I was stressed out. This didn’t make sense to me. I thought everyone was stressed out. I thought that stressed out was normal.
“My self-talk was constantly racing. You see that is what happens if you are a people pleaser. I over analyzed every conversation. I lost sleep worrying about nonsense.
“Now I have perspective. I exercise and have taken control over my time. When I learned about 86,500 seconds I thought, ‘There must be time for a man in all those seconds.’ And I was right. I found him about a year ago at the gym and I’m holding onto him tight.
“Once I decided what I really wanted in life was all I had plus a husband, I organized a plan. I have always been good at setting business goals. I just never thought of setting personal goals. I decided what I wanted, and I made time for me so I could find him. What I find most interesting is that I now only work 45 hours a week, and still get everything done.”
“When I first read over the Thought Mines I figured I was really messed up. Almost every one seemed like me. I kept thinking to myself that everybody knows how to get their needs met but me.
“The section on purifying my beliefs helped me a lot. I realized that I was asking snide questions and then beating myself up with my self-talk sarcastic answers. I’d ask, ‘How come I’m not happy?’ and answered, ‘Because I’m a loser.’ ‘Why don’t I exercise? Because I’m a fat pig.’ I’d been doing it since I was a kid, so I was used to it, I guess.
“I never thought I could think differently. But when I learned, ‘How can I do it differently?’ I started asking myself better questions. Not snide questions, but better, helpful questions. Now I ask, ‘What can I do to lose weight?’ and I answer, ‘Go for a walk.’ I can ask, ‘How can I feel happy?’ and I answer, ‘Life rewards action.’ So I act happy until my brain catches up with my body.
“Knowing that ‘action cures fear’ has helped me try new things. I took a pottery class last semester. I was terrible at it, but I had so much fun.”