How do you want to feel? “Good”, I hope, “great”, maybe “healthy”. These are typical responses I get when I ask my clients that one little question. But when they are pressed to go deeper, the responses shift to what they need to do, or what they don’t want, and the feeling is often left out. “I want to lose 30lbs”, “I worry about becoming diabetic”, “I just want the pain in my hips to stop.” “I want to try yoga, but I don’t know how to start.”
When we lose track of what we want to feel and experience, we are often left with a list of shoulds. And we start shoulding all over ourselves. I should lose weight, I should exercise, I should start running again, I should meditate, I should eat kale, I should, I should, I should…and then we don’t. Because should rarely comes from a powerful or constructive place in our psyche. Should automatically creates a conflict between what we want and what we perceive is the appropriate course of action. And conflict is exhausting.
This shoulding is supported by the messages in health an fitness magazines and popular media. Do any of these recommendations sound familiar to you:
- Pick a physical activity that you think you should do, start doing it, (Don’t worry if it’s suitable for your current state of health and fitness). “Anyone can start running, all you need is a pair of shoes.”
- Set a goal to do a certain number of minutes, reps or miles per the published schedule. (Don’t deviate or you won’t meet your goal.)
- Push through the pain. Pain is just the body ridding itself of fear…wrap it, tape it, wear a brace, just keep working toward your goal.
- Get up earlier, stay up later…whatever it takes to make this goal.
- Ignore your hunger, eat six small meals a day (everyone?).Don’t let yourself get hungry…
*Become frustrated, or worse yet, injured (because that goal is in no way tied to how you want to feel, in your body or in your life). Give up.
Okay, that last one is my addition, because this is what I see and hear when clients come into my office. Beside the injury that brings them in, they are tired from over exercise or incorrect exercise, hungry from restricting calories and fat and frustrated because they have tried so hard. Often they simply want to give up on trying to get healthy.
So we start with the question: how do you want to feel? Yes, we lead with the heart. Our bodies are amazingly tuned to want to feel good. For example, our bodies want to move and if they are well rested and properly nourished, they will move naturally. And the more we move, the more we seek out ways to enjoy new types of movement, movement that our body will crave and we will actually look forward to doing. What does your body really want to eat? Does your mind want that for your body or are there food addictions causing your mind and body to be misaligned? Food is nourishment, medicine and part of our social structure.How does your food make you feel?
You deserve to feel good. You deserve to have all of the time and effort you expend lead to what you truly want to feel and experience. You don’t have to be injured to make this shift!
In a short call we can determine how you really want to feel and what the first steps are to get you there!
If you recognize this cycle and are ready to choose something different, let’s chat.
- Say YES, to the events you really want to attend, decline the rest. If you feel ambivalent about attending, you will certainly feel conflicted about what you consume during the event.
- If you are invited out for a meal, remember it is only one meal. Maintain your normal pattern the rest of the day. There is a tendency to skip breakfast or lunch to “save up” for dinner, but that usually back fires. It’s more difficult to make good choices when you’re really hungry.
- During a dinner party or event, choose items that you really want to eat. We often eat what we think we should eat, and then eat what we want to eat. Keep it simple, eat only what you really like.
- After the event, return to your normal healthy routine. If you don’t have one, get one!
- Unless you have food sensitivities or allergies, go ahead and indulge in those most prized treats. If you only get your grandmothers sugar cookies once a year, enjoy a couple. If cranberry relish is a favorite, now is the time. If Christmas Day lasagna is a family tradition and you love it, great.
- Slow down and really taste your favorite foods. Notice the flavor and texture, revel in it. No guilt, pure joy.
- If you notice that an old favorite doesn’t taste as good as you remember, don’t finish it. Perhaps the memories associated food may have been what you enjoyed, more than the food itself.
- Realizing that you are free to eat what you like can reduce the stress of attending parties and events.That’s the same stress that often causes us to overeat.
- Eat with intention. Pause and set the intention to enjoy the food, let it nourish your body and warm your soul.
- Feel gratitude for the food and the hands that have prepared it. Your hosts are sharing their best with you. Appreciate the thought and gesture, even if it is not your usual cuisine.
- Skip the regret. When you look back on the evening before, remember the conversations, the time spent with friends and family and the wonderful meal with pleasure. Regret will not change what has already happened. You are always free to make alternate choices next time.
At some point, do you find yourself just trying to survive the holidays? That was my plan for many years until my “survival scheme” left me sick and in bed for the first week of January.
I was always very excited about a few special events, then my calendar would start to fill with work obligations, school programs and distant relatives passing through town. I’d rationalize, its only a couple weeks. But if you’re like most of me, you feel the start of the holiday season somewhere around mid November. So by the time we ring in the New Year, that’s more than six weeks of so-called survival.
I’m sure I should have prioritized better, but each event crept in, one at a time, and I hadn’t yet learned to say no.
So what is my fool-proof plan for thriving during the holidays?
1. Know your limit. Mine is a max of 4 events in a week. You may feel fine with more, but remember it’s about thriving, not just surviving. This is part of being discerning and selective with your time and energy.
2. Subtract 1. Limit-1=events booked. It’s that simple. When you are accepting invitations or hosting parties ask yourself is that event is worthy of one of your precious time slots. Don’t just fill up your time because there isn’t anything else on your calendar at the moment.
3. Just say no–or better yet, ‘No thank-you’ I’ve had to practice the art of “saying no”. No, is a complete sentence. You are not required to explain yourself. A simple response is always best. “Thank you for thinking of us, but we won’t be able to make it to your cookie decorating party this year. I hope you have a wonderful time.”
4. Guard your down time. Evenings without events are your recovery and recharging time. Working late is not down time, it should be considered one of your “event” evenings. It doesn’t sound so appealing in that light! Instead, enjoy being at home, eat a bit lighter and healthier, go for a walk after dinner, take a hot bath, get to bed a bit early or just putter around choosing that special outfit or a great hostess gift for your next event.
5. Stay flexible. Does that sound a bit contradictory? It’s actually not. This is where the “subtract 1” comes in. If you unexpectedly have to work a late night or better yet, get tickets to an amazing performance you can accommodate that without going over your limit. Because you have the other pieces in place, you will be much better at sorting out what’s really worth your time and energy.
Having a plan and sticking to it does more than just keep your schedule in check. It can give you a real sense of control during what is a stressful time for many. Having a plan and learning to stick to it is also the foundation of personal integrity–and that’s an absolute necessity for thriving.
I had the pleasure of attending a Naturalization Ceremony for US citizenship this past week. It was held at the River Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, so I expected, perhaps a couple of hundred people, including guests like myself. What I witnessed was 533 individuals, from 81 different countries take an oath to become an American citizen. I was amazed, somewhat by the number of people, but more so by the number of countries being represented. Keep in mind, Minnesota is the midwest. I would have expected numbers like these in New York, Miami or Los Angeles, but here! As the ceremony began and as the name of each country was read, I couldn’t help thinking of how much some of these people had overcome, just to be standing in this room today.
For many, just leaving their country must have been difficult, but after arriving, there is a lengthy process involved in becoming a citizen; applications, interviews, even a civics test. 100 questions on topics I know I must have learned at some point (fourth grade?), but many of which I’ve long forgotten. And, as I listened to the judge, in this official court proceeding, my thoughts began to shift from all of those strangers in the room to myself and my life here in the United States. I was born here and I consider myself very patriotic, but I admit, I take many of the privileges of being a citizen for granted. I’m always proud to be an American, but that day, and each morning since, I’ve made this thought a part of my gratitude practice: “I feel immense gratitude for being born here, in this country.”
Another part of the event, was devoted to completion of a voter registration form. A very distinguished lady, from the League of Women Voters, walked the group through the process of filling out this form that will allow them to participate in one of the most important parts of a democracy, voting. I participate in all elections, and although the right to vote is something that I appreciate as a citizen, it’s one I often take for granted as a woman. I am truly grateful for being born at a time when I am able to freely exercise my rights, including the right to vote.
So as I congratulated the newly minted citizens around me, I paused a moment to “renew my citizenship”, feeling immensely grateful for being born in this place and time. I challenge each of you to look around at what you may be taking for granted each day and renew your appreciation and feel gratitude. I’d love to hear what you discover.
“We detect rather than invent our missions in life”…Viktor Frankl
Most of us have an idea of what we believe in and how we want to live our lives. We may have strong emotional connection to these values and beliefs and yet many of us would be hard pressed to articulate a personal mission statement.
Words like honesty and integrity come to mind, and both are excellent guideposts but neither really give a sense of purpose.
A personal mission statement can provide clarity, giving you a sense of purpose, defining who you are and how you intend to live your life.
So, if you already have an idea of your values and what you want to do with your life, why is it so important to be able to articulate them? After all, they are kind of personal.
It can be invaluable to articulate and formalized those thoughts and ideas, even if you never intend to share them. A personal mission statement is one way to do that.
Once you have your mission defined, it can serve to help you make decisions about how you want to interact and share your life with others. More specifically, being very clear on your personal mission can help you make the best use of your time, talents and resources. What could be more inspiring than that?
And, if a couple of paragraphs can help maintain control over your calendar, why not give it a try? Sit down with paper and pen, or your computer and work through the following steps. It may take a few intense sessions one weekend or several brief sessions over a couple of weeks. There is no magic word count, but typically 1-2 paragraphs should be enough to include what is important while challenging you to really be specific and distill your thoughts.
- Identify your past successes. Where have you excelled? Look at these successes and note any common themes. These are most likely areas of strength and interest.
- Identify your values both ethical and moral. Start with a long list then, distill it down to the most important ones to you.
- Identify your roles. As a parent, spouse, co-worker, yogi, friend, teacher, caregiver etc. These represent the individuals and groups with which you will interact.
- Identify your goals, both short and long term.
- Using this information, create a personal Mission Statement. Write in a positive voice, using clear concise statements. This may take several drafts. Write it out, read it out loud and hear how it “feels” to you. Revise, edit and read it again.
- Reassess your Mission Statement every few years to determine if you are living according to your mission. Maybe your life has strayed from your mission, or maybe your mission has evolved.
Up to this point, this exercise itself can be very satisfying for the insight it provides. But, now, as the statement is complete, it can start working for you.
Besides bringing clarity, your personal mission statement can be used as a tool to objectively evaluate requests for your time and resources. It can be very flattering to be asked to serve on a board or committee, or be asked to represent a charitable cause. Now, using what you have written, you can ask yourself “will the time and effort I spend fulfilling that obligation align with and support my personal mission?”.
Not only does this process help you avoid spending time and resources where you may not want to, but also serves as a way to seek out opportunities that further your mission.