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Self Matters Action Plan

You can't change what you don't acknowledge. You can stop being passively shaped by the internal and external forces in your life. It's time to move your self-concept away from a world-defined, fictional self toward a self-defined, authentic self that is grounded in the here and now.

Here is an overview of Dr. Phil's Five-Step Action Plan:

Step 1: Isolate a Target Event

Decide which of your key external events has turned out to be the most toxic experience of your life. This will be either one of your 10 defining moments, seven critical choices or five pivotal people. Then write a short description of the target event. When you're done, read it over to make sure you are being honest in your account.

Step 2: Audit Your Internal Responses to That Triggering Event

Ask yourself the following questions about the event you described in Step 1:

a) Where do you place a responsibility or blame for that event, your locus of control? Who was responsible? Did you have any control over the situation? Were you even old enough to have a say?
b) What has been the tone and content of your internal dialogue since that event? Do you find your real-time, "normal speed" conversations in your daily life reflecting the changes that occurred within you and are associated with that event? When you reflect on this event, what do you say to yourself? Even when you're not reflecting directly on the event, but experience feelings of guilt and shame, what do you say to yourself?
c) What labels have you generated for yourself as a result of your event? What have you told yourself about you as a consequence of what happened?
d) What tapes has this event generated or contributed to? Has this event caused you to develop an automatic, unthinking response that "predicts" the outcome of any given situation?
e) What are the fixed beliefs and resulting life script that you have constructed as a result of your event? Do you suspect you are living from a "script" that was written as a result of this event?

Step 3: Test Your Internal Responses for Authenticity

You can test everything you are saying to yourself and find out whether it is fictional or authentic by asking these four questions:

a) Is it a true fact?
b) Does holding onto the thought or attitude serve your best interest?
c) Are your thoughts and attitudes advancing and protecting your health?
d) Do your thoughts and beliefs get you what you want?

Step 4: Come up with an "Authentically Accurate Alternative" Response

When you test your negative internal dialogue and it fails (as it should because it isn't true), you need to do what Dr. Phil calls "Triple-A Thinking." This means replacing your fictional responses with ones that are an Authentically Accurate Alternative. How do you know your new responses are AAA? Because they meet the authenticity standards outlined in Step 3.

Start by dividing a page into two columns. On the left, list your present fictional beliefs ("I am worthless"). On the right, list as many alternative beliefs as you can. ("I am a worthy human being with valuable qualities" "I deserve to be treated with respect" "I have things to contribute to the world").

Now it's time to test your alternative beliefs.

a) Is the alternative true?
b) Is it in your best interest to hold these beliefs?
c) Do the alternatives advance and protect your health?
d) Do the alternatives get you what you truly want?

Circle all of the alternative beliefs that have passed the test. Now you can choose to adopt as many of these authentic alternative beliefs as you like.

Step 5: Identify and Execute Your Minimal Effective Response (MER)

The goal of Step 5 is emotional closure. You want to be able to close the book on the life event that caused you so much pain with a minimal amount of effort. Consider your alternatives for action and ask yourself these four questions:

a) What action can you take to resolve the pain?
b) If you were successful and achieved this action, how would you feel?
c) Does the feeling you will have match the feeling you want to have?
d) Remember the word "minimal." Could there be some other, more emotionally or behaviorally economical action that would give you the emotional resolve you want to feel?

Whatever your MER is, you need to identify it and do it so that you can achieve emotional closure and move on to a more authentic, fulfilling life.

Continue uncovering your authentic self with the complete exercises found in Self Matters.

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