S I L O - A Four Step Strategy
When I was trying to get on top of my weight issue, typical of many people I regularly tried dieting, which resulted in weight loss. Within months however, the weight I lost returned, and then some. At my heaviest I weighed in at 143kg. I had amazing will power (more to the point - won’t power), but it was almost impossible to sustain. This is true of the way most people struggle to overcome their addictions, whether it be gambling, smoking, drugs, shopping or working long hours etc.
It was only when I was able to become truly mindful, that the yo-yo pattern around my addiction was able to stop. No, I didn’t stabilise at 143kg. Over time, my weight dropped to 91kg and has remained pretty stable for some time. I was able to achieve this by using the CHASM approach to change that I have discussed in previous blogs. At EAP we effectively teach the CHASM process in our Pathways to Mindfulness short programs and the EAP extended, mentoring program.
What became obvious was that people who completed the programs struggled to sustain the awareness needed to fully practice being mindful. One of the ways we helped participants to remember to be mindful was to produce a series of journals that sustained the awareness needed to be more mindful. That was well and good for reviewing at the end of the day, but what about throughout the rest of the day when we naturally resort to our habitual thoughts, behaviours and feelings.
SILO is an acronym for a four-step strategy that is meant to remind you to be mindful. As you may recall, the EAP definition of mindfulness is remembering in each instant that you have a more self-loving option to your habitual way of living life. Let’s get right to it...
S - This stands for STOP! This means that when you are about to engage in your habitual behaviour, or addiction, STOP. Take notice of what you are about to do. DO NOT apply a judgement to what you are about to do, just observe it. Observe the way you experience this moment physically, mentally and emotionally. What are you sensing physically right now? What are the thoughts going through your mind? What are the emotions you are feel right now? And spiritually, how driven am I to act, think or feel in this way?
Of course, you may need a STOP reminder. If smoking is your addiction, a rubber band lengthways around the box or packet needs to be removed before you can access the contents. That is your reminder to STOP. If it’s shopping, a band around your cash or credit card may need to be removed. If it is working long hours, an alarm on your phone could be your reminder of when you should be stopping work. The alarm keeps going until you turn it off. That is your chance to STOP.
I - This stands for IMPACT. While you are stopped, you will take a moment to consider what the impact of acting habitually will be on yourself, both short and long-term, and on those that you love, both short and long-term. What will be the cost to your health, finances and relationships. Once again this is not a judgement or shaming exercise, it is just about collecting the facts.
If you are a smoker, take a moment to look at the picture on the outside of the packet. If you are a gambler, research the way gambling has impacted on the life of a gambler and that of their family and reflect on that when you STOP. Become familiar with the way obesity can complicate your life, and besides the way that impacts on you, what will that mean for the people you care about. Use your STOP to consider the IMPACT of your behaviour.
L - This stands for a more LOVING alternative. Once again, while you are STOPPED, consider what would be the benefits of choosing a more self-loving alternative to your habitual behaviour. Who and how would others benefit if you made a more self-loving choice. Of course, to be able to remember to make that choice you need to have spent time considering what those choices might look like.
If you are addicted to working, you might have researched the engagement and productivity benefits of having a healthy work/life balance. You will have considered why you feel the need to spend your time in this way. You might recall in previous blogs my observation that how you spend your time and why, reflects what you value. So part of your STOP behaviour might be to reflect on your values, and why you have those values. You may have also given thought to what you could do that would be more self-loving if you weren’t working. How would you spend that free time and who with?
O - Stands for OPTION, and in the context of EAP we call it the easy OPTION. Having completed the three previous steps of the SILO exercise, you will now do what comes easiest, or as we call it in EAP, follow the path of least resistance. That means, if you were about to have a cigarette and you still feel the urge to smoke, after doing SIL, then smoke. Using personal will to change behaviour in the majority of cases sets people up for failure.
Take dieting as an example. People use personal will to change their eating habits, but typically fail in sustaining the ‘will’ needed to keep the diet going. If ‘will’ could do it, people would only need to go on a diet just once. The same is true of New Year resolutions. How many of you made resolutions that didn’t make it past March, let alone the end of January?
So how does taking the easy OPTION work, you might well ask? Each time you apply SILO, (the O also needs SIL) you are creating new neural links and weakening old habitual neural links that eventually results in a tipping point. Through the constant commitment to SILO there is a point where the easy OPTION is the more self LOVING alternative. Through this transition phase there will be times when the path of least resistance will see you resort to the old patterns of behaviour, but eventually the easy OPTION more consistently becomes the LOVING alternative.
What it means is that personal will is not required to change behaviour. You just release the old behaviours while adopting the more serving and self-loving ones. They then become the new habit. This is the mechanism of living mindfully.
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