Saturday, April 7, 2012

7 Habits of Highly Effective People with Diabetes

Are you a Covey fan? No?

Well, usually these things seem like common sense, but I guess it never hurts to read such guidelines again.  If you are anything like me, you just get into the (crazy) rhythm of life with all it's other priorities, and diabetes habits can fall into a rut. And that's at it's best "autopilot" mode - sometimes I find myself back full on the rollercoaster of blood glucose, getting more and more demoralized every day, hour, minute...

So I saw an ad for home HbA1C tests in the Diabetes Forecast this month. These things have been available, then unavailable a couple of times over the past decade. I love having the option to test my A1C more frequently, especially if I have little other reason to see my endocrinologist every 3 months rather than, say, every 6 months.  There is supposed to be a coupon for $5 off on the Bayer website according to the ad.  I still haven't found the coupon, but I saw a link for "7 Habits", so I surfed on through to a free (short) ebook you can download and/or print out by Steven Covey specific to diabetics. Apparently Covey's wife was diagnosed, so they turned that misfortune into an opportunity (one of those Covey values).   The 7 Habits described are meant to coordinate with the AADE7 (another thing I'd never heard of - what kind of diabetic am I anyway?!).

AADE is the American Association for Diabetes Education, and the AADE7 are a framework of behaviors for managing diabetes: Healthy Eating, Being Active, Monitoring, Taking Medication, Problem Solving, Healthy Coping, and Reducing Risks.  They write a forward to Covey's little tome explaining how the 7 Habits serve to form a strategy for deploying these tactical behaviors.

I started thinking about all this and reading through the 7 Habits with these questions in mind: What differentiates a behavior from a habit? How do I translate these things into goals specific to my needs? How would this translate for someone less goal oriented? How about keeping good behaviors and habits a priority when juggling so much?

I won't be rewriting all of this since you can download your own copy here.  Also, the principles are exactly the same as the original book and all specialized version (like for Teens). There are also links at this site to some activity modules for the first 3 habits that you can check out on that website.

Habit #1: Be Proactive
In general, I am a very proactive person. I hate getting into a reactive mindset in any situation (not just health), because I feel like I'm just putting out fires to stay where I'm currently at - I'm not progressing toward a goal.  To be proactive with diabetes requires a lot of re-framing of our mindset. It's hard to always think of the choices we make about what to eat, how to monitor bG, etc. as choices. We often say we have to do this or that and if we don't do this or that perfectly, then we've failed, or we are back in firefighting mode (for me that's when the bG rollercoaster rides happen).  The Covey booklet basically says that we can't control a lot of things that happen to or around us, but we can control how we respond to those things. We choose.

Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind
This Habit is based on the idea of visualizing what you want and then making it happen. Your personal vision or mission for your life. I have to admit that I don't have this habit as it applies to diabetes.  I tend to think of my health issues as a separate challenge (set of) that I need to address in order to achieve what I want in this life.

The booklet advises to use this approach for the 7 AADE Health Care behaviors - using them as a roadmap and setting milestones for each of the behaviors. Probably this is something I should put some effort into.  The online activity for this Habit involves writing a personal Mission Statement. I haven't done this yet, but I plan to give it a try (after Easter tomorrow, for which I'm preparing a feast for 20+ people, so no time for visions today!)

Habit 3: Put First Things First
It's all about prioritizing. Personal management, time management, assigning value to the priorities that involve your health - again, not something I've done well with in the past. But this is the major focus of my blog and I am actively prioritizing my health.

The booklet advises to choose the behavior on the 7 Health Care Behaviors list that you have the most difficulty with and tackle it with your vision and values (from Habit #2) in mind.  I suspect I'm already doing this, but it would be good to organize my thoughts and strategy to be sure I'm not avoiding something or missing it.

Habit #4: Think Win-Win
Okay, so this is starting into the interpersonal relationship management part of the Covey system. For sure I don't do a good job with this. The idea is to be more open to advice, ideas or support from others in problem solving or acquiring new skills and knowledge. I tend to think that I need to manage this myself - although I do confide in Mr. Wonderful and can be open and honest with him. He doesn't judge me. Also the Diabetes Angels at the Ed center are great that was too. So can I can build off of these relationships to turn my diabetes and health management into a team sport?  I'm not sure. But it's good food for thought.

Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.
This is a habit that I've worked on a great deal in my professional life.  It has a lot to do with listening skills.  With regard to diabetes and healthcare, this is sort of like #4 for me.  I'm not sure whether there are people in my life - doctors, friends, family - who are trying to listen to me or trying to tell me things I'm not open to listening to. Knowing me, this will apply - but I need to pay more attention to see if there are ways I can communicate better.

Habit #6: Synergize
I love that word - synergize. synergize.  It just sounds like something everyone would want to do.  It's about creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Again - this Habit follows the train set up by the previous 2 and focuses on working with other people to build synergy in our diabetes care.  I can see how this works for the example of exercise, for example - but as I need to examine Habits 4 and 5, perhaps other interpersonal synergy opportunities will be apparent.

Habit #7: Sharpen the Saw
Heh, yeah - we can't just keep cutting the edge of our meaningful lives with the same dull knife, right?  We need to balance all the parts and continually strive to improve not just the results, but the efficiency with which we achieve them.  When I think of this, I want to hope that acting as my own pancreas will get easier and more efficient as I work on the various behaviors and habits.

Stay tuned!

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