based on observation alone may fade away rather quickly, however, if
they are not reinforced (Mahoney and Arnkoff, 1978).
Another reason for keeping records, especially if honestly plotted
and openly displayed for you and others to see, is that they provide
some encouragement and social pressure to change. Graphs and
charts clearly show successes--and failures. Dieters who record their
food intake faithfully every day lose much more weight (37 pounds)
than dieters who just "try to watch it" (10 pounds). Finally, a
successful record, showing improvement over time, is personally
satisfying because of pride in self-control, and also you receive
genuine praise from others. Almost everyone admires self-control.
Still another reason to keep objective records is that many of us
are poor judges of our own weaknesses and incompetence (Dunning &
Kruger, 1999). Actually, the more a person lacks certain skills, e.g.
understanding grammar or grasping logical reasoning or humor, the
less likely they are to realize their failings (or to recognize the skill of
others). All the more reason to use simple counting or rating methods
for assessing change. This impairment in judgment is so marked in
some of us, however, that even simple methods may not work
because we fail to perceive accurately the event we are to count or
rate. In that case, we may need to get help in detecting and/or
judging our target behavior... or get help in making changes.
Most of my students have made progress charts with the 30-31
days of the month along the bottom. Then they plot the frequency of
the target behavior or strength of their ratings vertically, putting their
scale along the left margin. Arranged this way, the graph shows the
ups and downs of their lives.
A really neat idea is to add explanatory notes (or symbols) at the
high and low points on your graph. Examples: a particularly bad time
might be when working overtime or during exams, your irritability may
go up and down with your financial situation, etc. This information on
your graph makes your behavior more understandable and may lead
to helpful ideas.
Keep a detailed record or diary of your actions, thoughts,
feelings, dreams. Do research.
In addition to the behavioral counts, ratings and graphs, I'd
strongly recommend you keep a diary. If you are working on an
emotional problem--temper control, worry, low self-esteem, fears,
dependency--or on an interpersonal concern--loneliness, shyness,
jealousy, deciding to marry, fighting with roommates--it is valuable to
record the situation and your actions as well as what is going on inside
your head and your gut. For instance, if you are hoping to get better
control of your anger, you could keep a diary including (a) the
situations that upset you, (b) your emotional (gut) reactions, (c) your
thoughts and assumptions, (d) your actions--what you said and did--
and (e) what was the final outcome in terms of how others responded