Separating the Good from the Bad and the Ugly
It is important to be able to distinguish which things in your life are contributing to your health and which things are detracting from it. A good first step in helping yourself obtain a lifestyle you love is to make a list of all the things that are helping and hurting your life and health. To help you get clear on this I use the following very simple but informative exercise:
1. Take a piece of paper, date it and draw a vertical line down the center. At the top of the left column put “good for me” and at the top of the right column put a “bad for me.” In the “good” column list all the things that you feel contribute to your health and well-being. These can be physical or leisure activities, exercises, relationships, work, family, attitudes and anything else that makes you feel good and contributes to your sense of well-being. Note: Do not list things that “should” be good for you, or which you do not really find pleasurable or beneficial. Do not idealize and put what ought to be good for you.
2. In the “bad” column, list everything that seems detrimental to your health and well-being. Again, they can be anything you are doing or are involved with that is not good for you. If some aspects of a situation are good and some bad, separate them out. For example: you may have a job that you love, but the grueling hours and the fast pace are exhausting. In this case you put your job in the “good” column and the excess hours and high pressure demands in the “bad” column.
Use as many sheets of paper as you need. Take as much time as necessary. You may have to do this in 2 or 3 sessions. There is no maximum or minimum number of items to put in either column. Keep in mind there is no pass or fail, no right or wrong answers. The more forthcoming you can be with information, the more you can help yourself.
Repeating the Good and Eliminating the Bad (and the Ugly)
4. Now go back to the top 5 in the “bad” column. Identify exactly what about these items is so hard on you. Select the worst one from the “Bad” column (the one you ranked #1), and commit to eliminating this item from your life. Devise a plan for accomplishing this and the date by which it will be done.
5. After you have eliminated its negative influence on you, go to #2 on your “Bad” list and do the same. Continue until the first 5 have been eliminated or rendered powerless in your life. If you get stuck, stay focused and try different approaches. If you find it’s something you truly cannot eliminate from your life, “reframe” the item and think of how you can use it to your advantage.
6. Now go to the “Good” column. Note the five things you have circled.
See how you can do more of the five things you have circled, or things similar to them. The idea is to have more and more good things in your life as you eliminate or render powerless the negative ones, tipping the balance in favor of a life you love to live.