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How to Put Down Your Phone and Pick Up Your Life: Week One

Life coach Reba Riley tackles compulsive phone use (and other struggles) with a week-by-week action plan for client Dani DiPirro

Client Dani Dipirro of Positively Present: I recently wrote about phone addiction, which is something I’m really struggling with. I reached out to my friend and life coach Reba Riley about my problem, and she offered to help me out! 

As I work through this, I will be sharing my journey along with Reba’s wisdom and insights, so you can learn along with me.  My issue is the phone, but I think you’ll find Reba’s advice applicable to a wide range of struggles.

Coach Reba Riley, TransforMotion Life Coaching: When Dani reached out to me about her compulsive phone use, my first thought was “Courage”.

It takes tremendous bravery to recognize a problem behavior and even more to ask for help.

Recognize Your Courage

We often overlook the everyday valor it takes to change, because it doesn’t square with our idea of being brave. Firefighters and soldiers are the courageous ones, we think — which is true. But their bravery does not negate our own. 


Courage is not about comparison
: it is the act of taking the next right step in any situation you find yourself in.

I call this “Couraging” — because brave is a verb

Dani is couraging right now, and if you are attempting to change something negative in your life, you are couraging, too.

Lower Your Expectations

Dani (and most of us!) want overnight change — and then expect ourselves to be able to change overnight.

Okay, loves: to put it as nicely as I can…change doesn’t work that way.

It took time to get into our mess, so it will take time to get out.
We must lower our expectations of how much we can accomplish & how quickly until we come up with an action step that is easy.
(That’s right, I said easy.) Easy is Key.

The reason is simple: success builds on success. We need early success to keep ourselves going, so we can get to the point where our success grows exponentially.

When we lower our expectations until we find something we are absolutely able to accomplish within the next 7-10 days, we find the one or two small steps we know we can take in the right direction.

It goes
like this: EXPECTATIONS. LOWER. Lower, Lower…even lower…easy… there.

In Dani’s case, we identified two action steps she could easily practice:

Step #1: PUT DOWN THE WHIP

Like many of us — especially those who identify as “Type-A” — Dani is good at criticizing herself mentally when it comes to overusing her phone. When dealing with the phone issue this is especially tricky because Dani knows what she should do, but does the opposite (using the phone compulsively) anyway. Then she gets even more frustrated with herself.

She gets sucked into the Cycle of Despair: Do harmful thing, “whip” yourself for doing harmful thing, feel even worse, do harmful thing again to feel better, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Anyone else been there? Me too. Which is how I know:

 The only solution to the Cycle of Despair is self-love.

In case anyone out there is confused about what this means (I spent about a decade figuring it out) — self-love is treating yourself the same way you would treat a person you love.  Would you punish/mentally torture a person you adore? Nope.

Consider how you would treat your best friend is he/she was struggling with an issue, and actively trying to make a positive life change…

Now, turn that loving energy and kind action inward, and put down the whip for good.

Step #2: GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION

Piggybacking on all that self-love is the idea of giving yourself permission to be exactly where you are, exactly as you are, without judgement. Since you’ve put down the whip, you can focus on being present with your behavior: observing it without the goal of massive overnight change. 

 Before you can make positive progress, you have to notice the negative. Since you can’t change anything until you figure out your patterns and triggers; give yourself permission to simply notice your actions and feelings as they arise.

By “notice,” I mean, whenever you find yourself engaging in (or wanting to engage) in a harmful behavior, take a step back and be present with it.

Pause, breathe, pay attention: What is the situation? What thoughts are you having? What is your emotional state? How does your body feel?

You can practice paying attention with or without taking notes, but writing is a great way to stay in the present moment. Dani finds it helpful to keep a notebook handy — a real live one with a pen, not on her phone! — to record her thoughts and feelings as they come up.

Image by Dani DiPirro of PositivelyPresent.com

In week two, we’ll use Dani’s notes to create a strategy of next steps to move her closer to her goal of pain-free, helpful phone use.

Client Dani DiPirro: I’m so thankful that Reba is willing to work with me on this tricky phone overuse issue. I’ve only been focusing on it for a short while and already I feel like I’ve made so much positive progress! I hope my journey to change helps you.

Connect with Reba Riley on Instagram Twitter and Facebook. To inquire about coaching, speaking engagements, or television, please email [email protected]

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