Structures for Self-Care Success

So, what is a structure? A structure is something that reminds us of what we want to accomplish – something we want to do (an action), carry out (goals) or become (our life purpose, our future vision of ourselves).

We use structures in three different ways:

As Reminders: Examples include your day planner, notes to yourself on a post-it, a shopping list to carry with you to the grocery store, or leaving something by the door that you want to take out with you.

As Inspiration: Examples include inspirational quotes or pictures, placed in areas that you look at a lot. The pictures might be of something you’d like to attract into your life or may evoke a positive memory. Pictures of your family may remind of what’s truly important. Funny pictures or quotes may make you laugh and approach your day with a lighter heart. If you’re saving money for a vacation you might have a beach scene posted.

For Tracking: Examples include exercise logs, using a pedometer to track (and increase) the amount of “steps” you take in a day. One of my favourite and most useful structures is the food journal – I not only record the food I eat, but also my emotional and mental health, my physical health and exercise and my sleeping habits.

Using structures for reminders, inspiration and tracking can help you to develop healthier habits in your life. Experts agree that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.
Until something becomes a habit, it’s necessary to create a structure or routine around it.

For example, you’d like to create the new habit of drinking 8 glasses of water a day – recommended for a variety of health benefits as well as the prevention of disabling conditions. What are some structures you might use?


1. Carry water with you – have a travel mug, bottle or glass next to you whenever you are sitting for long periods of time (including the car).

2. Post a note where you sit most often during the day, reminding you to drink water.


1. Think of what you are trying to accomplish most with your water intake – healthy skin, overall health, weight loss – and try to find a picture that embodies those benefits. Post it or carry it with you.

2. Create a list of all of the benefits and post that or carry it with you.


1. Pre-measured bottles – purchase several bottles of water (which you can then refill with tap or filtered water – be sure to wash them out with soapy water in between). Use these to track how much water you are drinking during the day. Pour from the bottle into a glass or drink right from the bottle. At the end of the day, aim to finish 2 litres of water.

2. Water log sheet – List every day of the week and use checkmarks to mark when you have finished a glass of water. You can look at this as you progress and notice when your water intake is increasing. You can also notice the days you’re drinking less and you can do a little detective work – maybe it’s always the days when you have night school or maybe it’s the days you do errands at lunch time – and come up with strategies for that particular situation.

Part of what I do as a self-care coach is to brainstorm with my clients about different structures that may work for them. The best thing about structures is that you get to try them out; if they don’t work there’s always something else. So if you “fail” at creating a new habit, it’s a great learning to point you in the direction of another structure that will work better for you.

Instead of blaming yourself or using it as an excuse to stray further from your goals, remind yourself of why you want to make the change in the first place and get back to the drawing board!


1. Brainstorm with someone else. The things we think of ourselves sometimes aren’t radical enough to jolt us into a new routine. The bigger the change you are trying to make the more noticeable the structure needs to be.

2. Try and use more than one of your senses. Find a structure you can hold in your hand or wear as clothing or accessories. Find something that captures your attention. Use a song – remember Ally McBeal and her personal “theme song”?

3. Play with different structures until you find the right one. Maybe something worked for a few days and then stopped. Think about what worked and use that to create your next effort.

4. People can be a structure. Being accountable to your coach, spouse, friend, colleague, children or other family members can be very motivating!

5. What has motivated you in the past? Don’t re-invent the wheel, use past experiences to help you now.

(c) Copyright 2005, Genuine Coaching Services.

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