Bugs Bunny famously said, “if i dood it I get a whippin’…i dood it!” Sometimes no matter the consequence we give into temptation and gratify our desire to say or do what brings us pleasure. For many of us this mindset has caused great pain. Some of us found ourselves in jail or prison. Others have suffered divorce or damaged marriages. Still others have found themselves broke and destitute. This mindset has cost some their very lives. In the end the consequences far outweigh the short term pleasure derived from our actions. Yet, in the moment, like Bugs, we say with a smile, ““if i dood it I get a whippin’…i dood it!”
If we hope to experience different outcomes in life we absolutely must change this way of thinking. To affect true lasting change in our lives we must be intentional about our thoughts. This is called, “Metacognition.” Simply put we must think about what we think about. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” (Romans 12:2a). The Bible teaches this age old truth. If we are to affect true life change it begins with our thinking.
One tool I use in counseling is an old Rational Behavioral Training technique taught by Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center in Michigan. This tool requires us to give pause before making decisions that have the potential to negatively affect our lives. This tool asks us to consider if our thoughts or the actions we are considering stand up to a frog. A.F.R.O.G. is an acronym. It stands for Alive, Feelings, Reality, Others, and Goals.
Here we ask ourselves the questions, “Do the thoughts I’m thinking about myself keep me alive? Will the things I’m considering doing affect my health in negative way, or possibly even kill me? Does this thought or action threaten my safety in any way?” Whether we are considering giving someone a piece of our minds, doing drugs, or driving 100 mph on a motorcycle we need to ask ourselves the same question. Is this choice I’m considering going to affect my health or safety?
It is also important to take into account our emotions when considering our thoughts and actions. Although a thought might feel good at first, in the end it might negatively affect our emotions. Have you ever been so angry with someone you daydreamed about how you would love to get even with them? At first you might get pleasure in the thought of revenge. However, as time goes on those hurts build up and you become a prisoner of your resentments.
The same can be true with our actions. What at first felt good can later have a negative effect on our emotions. The drugs we used to feel a short term high can in the long run cause guilt and shame. What started out as just something to do for fun can dominate and discourage us and begin to destroy our lives.
I think they are talking about me. He thinks I’m an idiot. I’m the biggest loser in the world. These thoughts are seldom rooted in reality. We need to be careful how we perceive things. If we are given to paranoia we are more prone to perceive people as being out to get us and generally negative toward us.
Another trap we can easily get caught up in is thinking the worst. Often we will consider what the worse possible outcome of a situation will be and then we focus all of our worry on that one scenario. We can worry ourselves sick about something that may never actually occur. It is vital when considering our thoughts and actions to ask ourselves if these thoughts and plans are rooted in the truth.
How does this thought or action affect others? If what I’m about to do is going to have a negative impact on my spouse, children, other family members or friends, or if this is going to harm another individual physically or emotionally I should probably avoid it. We are by in large a selfish culture. We run roughshod over people without concern. We do what we want to do to please ourselves without giving thought to those we may be hurting in the process. Before we act we need to ask ourselves the question, “How might this action affect others?”
John was an accountant for a midsize firm in Chicago. He had his sights on going to an even bigger firm with a bigger office, and more importantly a much bigger paycheck. John discovered a breakdown in the companies security and checks and balances system that would allow him to easily make off with a couple thousands extra dollars every month. If John’s goal is to maintain a healthy and happy family, to get a better job, and be physically and emotionally healthy should he steel the money?
A great question to ask ourselves before we make any decision is simply, “Is this decision consistent with my goals?” By asking this one simple question many harmful comments would not be made, many letters and emails would not be sent, and many harmful self gratifying actions would not be taken.
You can help!
I’m always looking for new and different things to share with my clients. What are some tools, methods, or strategies you use to create or maintain healthy choices? Leave your comments in the box below and thank you in advance.