MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
How many times have you embarked on a plan of change, only to run out of steam within weeks? How often do you notice habits emerging that you’re not particularly proud of? Maybe you’d like to drink less or exercise more. Maybe you want to stick to a diet or stop putting off a big career change. Have you ever asked yourself the question: “Why, even though I know it is in my best interests, do I not manage to stick to my plans?”
It doesn’t matter what habits you’d like to change or what resolutions you want to stick to—I’m going to show you how to do it. I’ll start you on a process that will not only help you put your plans into action but will simultaneously increase your self-esteem, raise your self-awareness and strengthen your resilience. The tools in this book will set you up to have the best possible chance of achieving any goal of your choosing.
I believe that we already know what works for us and what will get us to where we want to be. We just need to follow a simple framework that helps us draw that wisdom out. The Kindness Method is not a replacement for diet plans or therapy, for detoxes or “organize your life” apps. They can all be part of the process if you’d like them to be. This book will simply help you to understand why, time and time again, when you start a new plan, you may be able to keep it up for a while, but you don’t quite manage to stick to it. It will also give you some tips on how to create a plan that is sustainable.
Just as if you were attending sessions with me, I will guide you through an easy-to-follow series of exercises designed to help you shine a light on the thoughts and behaviors that are holding you back. The exercises include writing letters to yourself, brainstorming to create personalized memory aids and populating “maps,” and are designed to help you become aware of the ways you may be sabotaging your own efforts. These tools are the ones I use on myself, as well as with my clients.
When I say maps, I simply mean a theme written in the middle of a page, around which you make notes in whatever way suits you (I will go into more detail on how to do this for yourself later in the book). Some of the maps used in substance-misuse treatment are quite prescriptive themselves, and prompt you to answer questions leading on from each other. Some provide headings and fields to complete, with a scoring system at the bottom to keep track of which maps were most useful. To be honest, most of the maps I’ve done are free-maps, on blank paper. I will usually pick up from a conversation what is most important for a client to explore during a session, and create a “map” by writing a few words in the middle of a page. I then hand it to them and they develop this however they like, noting down the words and sentences that come to them in whatever order and grouping they like. So, without guidance around how to make them effective, the maps are literally a word or sentence in the middle of a page, around which you make notes randomly.
Although The Kindness Method process itself can be applied to address a range of unwanted habits, most of the anecdotal stories and examples in this book are about experiences with drugs (including alcohol and sugar). Not only is this where the bulk of my knowledge and experience lies, but now, in private practice, at least 80 percent of clients come to talk about alcohol. Attempting to manage a relationship with an addictive substance that alters us chemically poses a range of additional challenges. So I believe that those who have mastered it have an enormous amount to teach us about managing less “harmful” day-to-day habits.
Having studied Psychosocial Sciences and then Psychology, my first experience of working in the healthcare field was as an Assistant Psychologist at an NHS substance-misuse service in North West London. During this placement, I learned an enormous amount about how drug addiction is treated in the UK.
I went on to work in frontline community substance-misuse treatment, and I was trained in the core approaches such as Motivational Interviewing1, Relapse Management, Group Facilitation, Risk Management, Brief Intervention, Harm Reduction, Strengths-based Assessment and Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention. In 2012 I started working for a consultancy, where I learned about commissioning, policy, clinical governance and the political landscape of drug treatment in the UK. Eventually I combined and adapted what I had learned to create my own approach to habit change.
My professional experiences enabled me to observe first-hand what kind of tools were genuinely working for a diverse range of people in different contexts. Still, I wouldn’t have been able to share them widely in good conscience had they not passed the ultimate test: working on me. Luckily, they did. After more than two decades of struggling with compulsive overeating and extreme dieting, desperately trying to find a plan I could sustain, I used the tools in this book to lose—and keep off—eight stone.
This wasn’t the first time I had lost a lot of weight, but it was the first time I also began to feel more confident and capable across a whole range of areas in my life. That’s because, alongside implementing new eating and exercise plans, I simultaneously explored and addressed the challenges I’d been experiencing with my other related patterns around co-dependency, anxiety, low self-esteem, a need for constant external validation, a lack of boundaries and negative self-talk. I began to understand why my habits had emerged and why I was finding it so hard to change.
I won’t be telling you what your goals “should” be. Your goals are none of my (or anyone else’s) business. As far as I’m concerned, you can use this process to do more of something that most people want to do less of, if that’s what works for you.
We will all have times throughout our lives when we want to shed unwanted habits that have somehow crept up on us, times when we want to “check in” and set new goals for ourselves. It’s impossible to guess what plans we’ll struggle to activate and keep up in five years’ time. The beauty of The Kindness Method is that each time your goals change, you’ll have a wealth of personalized resources (the maps and exercises in this book) available to refer to. That way, at every stage of your life, when you take stock and think, “I don’t like this, I’d like to change it,” you’re ready to do so. And you will be able to do this autonomously, armed with tangible reminders of how capable you really are.
Copyright © 2019 by Shahroo Izadi