Meaningful You

Voices of contemporary psychoanalysis

You're 10 Post-It Notes Away From the Life You Want

An action plan for reclaiming your life

Once the dust settles after trauma or a major life event (such as having your first child), many clients have come into my office with increased energy, irratability and desire to do something, but all of their old somethings don't seem to work for them anymore. One client said, "I know what I don't like: everything I've been doing this past year." This blank slate is the perfect opportunity to build the life you want. You can do it in a few short months using...well, Post-It Notes.

First, imagine the positive things you would like in your life. Take three Post-It Notes and write three goals, such as running a 10k race, having a close relationship with your partner, or living in a home that matches your taste. Next, take two to three Post-It Notes per goal and divide each goal into small, manageable steps. These manageable steps need to be action items, and accomplishible in a reasonable timeframe to fit your day -- I recommend 15-20 minutes to start.

That's the blueprint. Now take those small action items, post them somewhere handy, such as your refrigerator door. Next to the 'fridge or wherever you posted them, place in a basket all the things you need to accomplish the action items. For example if running is a goal, you would include your running shoes, iPod, clothes and gym socks right there.

First week of the program, simply notice the time of the day when you feel irratible, edgy, or most clear and full of energy. Second week, at times of either extreme -- energy or irratability (or for new parents, a lucky time you can catch 15 minutes for yourself!) -- without thinking, reach up, grab one of the Post-It Notes, the items you need, and just do it!

Every two weeks, try to increase by one more Post-It Note per day. After a month, assess your progress toward your goals and the possible need to change your goals and/or action steps.

Everyone recovering from depression, trauma or major life events can feel better and create the life they want, 15 minutes and one Post-It note at a time!

Kristi Pikiewicz is managing editor of the American Psychological Association's Division of Psychotherapy DIVISION/Review.

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