Part of the process is knowing what’s not. You can’t allow for what you need without making room for it. That also includes people.
Recently, I had a five day training for work. One of the first modules covered was on the trans-theoretical model of behavior change, or the Stages of Change. This model looks at person's readiness to act on a new healthier behavior and provides strategies for guidance. At the training, within the multiple role play sessions, one exercise was one where two participants took turns as counselor and client. As a health educator, I am no stranger to role play. As part of the exercise, each person chose from a compiled list of unhealthy practices, ranging from eating too much junk food to texting and driving. I determined mine as not getting enough sleep.
Since I could remember, I have always been able to get going off of a little sleep. As a boy, I used to rise early, even on Saturdays. In college, after nights of drinking into the wee hours, I would always be able to pop up, have a couple glasses of water and get on with my day-- no problem. Even currently, I work a full-time job and keep a full-time freelance schedule, contributing monthly, weekly, or more to a number of publications and coordinating events and public relations for a handful of clients. Many a night, I would leave the non-profit offices after having worked 8 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. (working an extra hour or so to accommodate my extended lunch workouts).
After work, I’d dash home, change clothes, gather supplies, and make my way to some venue to function as publicist, assistant, manager, cocktail waiter, press, or all or none of the above until something 2 or 3 a.m. only to drag myself home counting the minutes before I had to head to the office that morning. And it was never a problem. Of course, I needed sunglasses, coffee, silence, and devotionals, but that’s me most days.
And her simple recommendation: “You need to change that. Not you.”
But lately, I’ve noticed myself lying in bed at 11 p.m. tossing—and not in a good way. What’s more is I’m still up before sunrise, yet feeling like I never slept. With aviators and Richard Smallwood in tow, I push through the day churning out reports, advisement, information, and results. Not only that, I’ve noticed my articles for the publications are backing up. I’m attending fewer events and engaging with fewer clients, because a last minute policy revision was requested, or a report needs to go from draft to submission in 48 hours-- an endless cycle of exhaustion.
Before I even realized, my routine consisted of me dragging myself from the office, to the gym, to home, and miscellaneous places in between, always tired and disconnected.
Fast forward to this training exercise-- sitting as the client, I had begun my barrage of flowery words of explanation when my role play partner simply stopped me and asked, “What’s changed in the last 6-9 months?” My simple response, “Work.” And her simple recommendation: “You need to change that. Not you.” Instantly, I was weak. So simple, so profound.
Her simple dialogue continued, “You work late and extra for them. Do you do that for you? For your dream?” In about a minute and a half, this woman has summed up the last 12 months of my life.
We only talked about the Stages of Change another 2 or 3 hours, but the model served as a checkpoint-- moving from Contemplation to Ready for Action.
"Don't let it be another 12 months," she said assuredly. And while I attempted another flowery response, my gut spoke first. "Girl, you ain't never lied."