- “I should really improve my response to his behavior”
- “I’d love to change my reactions in these types of situations”
- “I wish my actions were much more X”
If so, congratulations. These thoughts show that you want to be proactive instead of passive about how you act and react. At an instinctive level, you’d like to modify your behavior, to improve in ways that you choose. That’s intentional living.
But, as we’ve discussed time and again in this blog, changing is difficult. So I’ve developed many tools to help us through such efforts.
Of these, a lot of people have found the daily grade card especially constructive.
Who’s Your Partner?
The daily grade card is a device for improving self-accountability, so the first step is one we’ve gone over before: accountability partnering.
This means inviting one or a few people to check in on you, remind you of your goal, and look at how you’re progressing along the way.
A subset of this is self-accountability, where you are the person who checks in on you.
This approach can be problematic for a host of rather obvious reasons. But at times, it’s also necessary. So we need good tools for those instances when we’re partnering with ourselves.
Enter the daily grade card.
Here’s how the the daily grade card process might work for you:
Step 1: Vision of the New You
You wouldn’t start a jigsaw puzzle without checking the picture on the box. So don’t attempt a change without a picture of the desired result.
Write down your vision of the future you practicing your new behavior. Describe this as if it’s already accomplished, and be specific. Get into the heart of the matter: how it feels, smells, sounds, tastes, etc.
So, instead of “I’d like to be more patient,” write “I am consistently content in the moment, even when I’d like to be in another moment.”
Take your time here. You’ll probably have too many words in the first version, but that’s no problem. You’ll get more concise with each draft. In fact, you might even get it down to a sentence.
Don’t believe me? Send me your draft and I’ll help you out. On the house.
Step 2: Pick Your GRADE CARD
If you like to keep it low tech, start carrying an index card with you. If you’re more digitally inclined, use the notes app on your smartphone.
Head your “card” with your goal title and vision statement. You’ll enter your grades underneath. Which brings me to…
Step 3: GRADE Yourself
Each evening, take a quiet moment to pull out your card, read your vision statement, and think back on your day.
For each time you succeeded in behaving per your vision—each time you showed patience, for example—enter a +. For each time you handled it the old way, add a –.
Don’t dwell on each instance. Just mark it down and move on.
Step 4: Witness the Improvement
If you stay consistent with this and you truly care to change, you’ll begin to see fewer and fewer minus signs over the next few months. It’s like a magic trick, courtesy of your incredibly powerful and always aware subconscious mind.
All day long, your subconscious knows that grade card is coming, so it’ll start saying “No, no. Don’t lose patience. That will result in another minus.”
That moment is all you’re shooting for. It’s the interruption of a reaction that used to be on auto pilot—even if only for an instant. And that disruption is enough to begin breaking down the force of habit.
This is the beginning of intentional change. Gold star for you.