3 steps to manage what you can’t control

A few months ago I went to upgrade my iPhone and found out that Verizon doesn’t do that anymore. None of the carriers do. Full price. No deals. Continuing my dismay, they no longer transfer data from your old phone to your new phone.

I thought “this sucks” so I got on the phone with a friend to grumble about it. She empathized. But after a minute or two she said, “It’s getting awfully whiny in here.” Ouch!

She was right, of course. My righteous indignation (uh, complaining) wouldn’t change Verizon. It just kept my irritation alive. Gratefully her observation was the pattern interrupt I needed to stop giving attention to something I couldn’t change.

Stop complaining_Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Have you ever gotten wound up about something or someone you couldn’t control? It can be something as trivial as my cell phone issue or as big as a health problem – more rumination only leads to greater anxiety and stress.

While people and circumstances are outside your control, you can do something. Next time unwanted things come your way – like news, decisions, people’s actions, etc. – these three steps will keep you from getting stuck and help you move towards greater health, peace and happiness:

  1. Consider your response. I could get rid of my cell phone (I have occasional fantasies). I could find someone to help me transfer my phone data (I did. The Apple Store was great). I also sought out a better plan for less money, so it wasn’t all bad. In the case of something significant, like your job being potentially down-sized, gather information. Is there training that would improve the skills your employer desires? Have you wanted to start your own business? How could you research the viability? Is there another job or field you’ve always wanted to work in and now is the time to start checking it out?
  2. Pay attention to your dialogue. This means internal and external. Rehashing how awful something is or how someone said something mean, or how you wish you had done it differently…stop it all. Choose a helpful response. It may just be to stop talking about it – no one really wants to hear about it anyway, right? Maybe it’s finding a lesson or something beneficial in the situation. Even if you don’t find anything, the act of seeking the good will put you in a positive, growth-oriented mindset.
  3. Decide if you’re willing to change. Organizations make decisions that impact you and you choose how to respond. People make decisions you wish they wouldn’t and, again, you choose how to react. Sometimes though you encounter self-made problems. Poor health decisions or financial mistakes that cannot be undone. Mean-spirited words that cannot be recalled from the ether. But the next decision is in your control. Will you do what’s necessary to improve your health or finances, or dwell on how bad it is? Will you choose to repair a relationship even if it’s uncomfortable to ask for forgiveness? This is where knowing your core values and having a vision is so valuable.

That’s it! Three steps to taking charge of what you can control so that you get unstuck and move towards greater health, peace and happiness. Share with me what you’ve been chewing on that it’s time to change or let go of.

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I don’t need help. I know this stuff.

I’d been stuck for a while. Years in fact. And I know better. I’m a certified exercise physiologist after all (you can imagine that record playing in my head, right?).

My strength training routine was in a rut. Spotty, too. But I wasn’t about to ask for help. (I know what to do!)

As coincidence would have it, my massage therapist referred me to a personal trainer so that I could learn to use the foam roller on my tight back muscles. But then we started talking, one thing lead to another, and over a few sessions Rose had shown me a whole new strength routine.

When I told my husband he asked “don’t you know how to do all that stuff?”

Thanks, hun!

Well, yes and no. I know form and technique. I know that specific movements at specific joints will work specific muscles. But new equipment and machines have come on the scene since I got certified 20 years ago! I’d seen things like TRX and Bosu at the gym, and had taken a mat Pilates class here and there, but most of what I did for strength training was boiler plate 1990s.

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What was the problem? Why didn’t I just do what I knew I needed to do, and knew how to do? Honestly, I was bored. And sometimes I expected too much of myself, creating a whole different set of problems. I needed an outside perspective.

Have you done that, too? You know what you need to do and how to do it so you insist on going it alone. And as the months and years tick by, you still aren’t where you want to be.

Instead, why not pattern ourselves after the experts. Dustin Johnson, ranked #1 in the world for most of this year, has a golf coach and a swing instructor. Steve Jobs had a coach for many years. Delve into the habits of successful people and you’ll find they aren’t in it alone. In fact, the more successful, the more they rely on the support and expertise of others.

Are there changes you need to make to be successful, to thrive? Are there areas in your life where an outside perspective could help you overcome what’s keeping you stuck? Act like the experts, and hire one!

I love feeling stronger – I wish I’d done this sooner. I can tell you, I won’t wait next time. I’ll be back with a professional to keep my routine fresh and challenging. Thank you, Rose Nielsen!

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“I’m kind of stupid…”

That’s how she had prefaced her question. I stood, staring in disbelief at this precious woman who had come to volunteer in the community. Before she could ask her question I looked at her and exclaimed “Don’t you ever say that again!”

But how many times have I said something similar? And if not aloud at least to an audience of one?

Sad woman_Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

Things happen daily that trigger those thoughts. Like when your shirt fits just a bit too tight or it’s a struggle to pull up the zipper on your pants. Or when you stumble over your words and say something you regret. It feels crappy.

What’s most important in those moments is how you react.

Are you kind to yourself? Do you practice self-compassion, knowing you’re not alone in feeling this way?

Or, do you poke a finger at your muffin tip and lament how little self-control you have? Do you berate yourself for bothering to speak up when you’re such an idiot?

In her article, Sleeping with the Enemy, Martha Beck asserts that when our self-talk involves degradation and name calling, we are essentially waging war against ourselves with propaganda. And this propaganda contains the words of the enemy.

Can you imagine being at that meeting and instead of the woman stating that about herself she had turned to someone else and out loud said “You’re kind of stupid”? We’d cringe, maybe even come to the other’s defense, right? Why doesn’t dreadful self-talk provoke a similar response from us?

We think tough talk will help us improve but it usually backfires as we self-soothe with food and alcohol, internet and TV. Calling ourselves names doesn’t motivate us to do better because shaming never brings out the best in us.

The first step to changing is to recognize your negative self-talk when it happens. Then call yourself out on it and repeat, “Don’t you ever say (or think) that again!” Look at self-talk as a record that plays in your head (dating myself!) and your statement as scratching the needle on that record. Scratch as many times as needed until the record is damaged beyond ability to play.

Be kind to yourself like you would be to a good friend or a child. Know that you’re not the only one who has $h!tty thoughts, whose pants don’t fit or who just embarrassed herself in public. It happens. Be good to yourself and move on. Find another person who’s berating herself and help lift her up. As we do that for others, our own problems feel smaller.

Beck says “A war against yourself can never be won; the only true victory happens when you lay down your arms and befriend the enemy. And if you can make peace with yourself, you’ll find the whole world becomes a kinder, gentler place.”

Let’s live in that place together, okay?

Warmly,

Heather

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“I eat a pound of bacon a day!”

My friend met a guy at the gym who told her he was once morbidly obese and lost the weight by eating mostly meat and now eats a pound of bacon per day. When my friend asked him about things like vegetables he declared that we can get by with almost none.

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Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Wow!

But someone who lost that much weight must know what he’s talking about, right?

First, everyone is unique.

I talked with a slim, vibrant 81-year-old last month who described her unhealthy habits (eating several Twinkies in one sitting) and said her two sisters, try as they might, struggle with being overweight. For her, it’s never been a problem.  It’s like the pack-a-day smoker who eats bacon and eggs fried in butter every morning, considers a slip of iceberg lettuce on his burger to fulfill his daily veggie allotment, and lives to be a sprightly 98.

These folks are the exception, not the rule. Just ask the millions of people for whom those behaviors don’t work so well.

Second, weight loss – or being slim – doesn’t automatically equal good health. And while someone may appear healthy in his 20’s, like the pound-a-day bacon eater, most lifestyle diseases go unnoticed until we’re much older and start testing for them.

So, what are the best sources for information on nutrition and exercise? How much info is enough?  Why do experts (I use that term loosely) disagree?

Google “how to be healthy” and you’ll have 548,000,000 sites vying for your attention. If only .0001% are useful, that’s still more than 500 sites to peruse. And even if you’re not actively searching for it, health is regularly mentioned in everyday life from cocktail parties to media outlets.

Ignore it.

Really! More information isn’t making us healthier, just confused. Start with what you know to be good and true (like getting in fiber, staying hydrated and eating the “rainbow” to name a few). How are you doing on those things? How can you do better? What’s the next step you can take that will move you towards success?

The mass of data available tends to stop people from doing anything (because, what’s the right thing to do?) or has them jumping from one thing to the next, never realizing lasting results.

You likely start with a decent picture of nutrition, but maybe that picture gets fuzzy the more you seek the next thing that works. Truthfully, it’s less about new information and more about the head game. You know what I mean, right?

Start with what you know. Consider your specific situation. Find the support you need.

Blessings!

Heather

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P.S.: You may be someone with a unique health situation who needs specifics from a health care practitioner. If so, it’s worth the investment. Know that most doctors receive little, if any, nutrition education in medical school. Gratefully some physicians make it a priority to educate themselves, but many don’t. If a nutrition consult with your doctor consists of a few general statements like eat “less carbs” or “low fat,” seek additional support.

The Great “Old Dog – New Tricks” Hoax

Nearly 500 years ago an English fellow named Fitzherbert initiated the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and it stuck ever since. We say it regularly, related to situations that have nothing to do with the canine species. It’s come to be spoken of as gospel for our belief that it’s too hard for older people to learn new skills or develop new habits. So they don’t.

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Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Guess what? Not true! MythBusters proved it wrong, saving dogs everywhere from low expectations. But, what about us?

The mind is amazing and will believe anything, good or bad. We have the capacity to change no matter our age. My mother-in-law, having smoked since she was a teenager, gave it up when she was in her mid-sixties. She’s 81 today, tobacco-free. I regularly meet Medicare-eligible folks who are learning to use technology, change their eating habits and try new activities. They are not the exception. They’ve just chosen a different belief.

I encounter a variety of assumed truths that hold people back, like:

  • It’s too late to…
  • I’ve tried before and it hasn’t worked, so what would be different this time?
  • Small changes won’t make a big difference so why bother?
  • If I can’t do it right (perfectly), I might as well not do it at all.
  • This is just the way I am.

These are not facts. They are chosen truths. The brain operates off of what we believe to be true (e.g. I can’t change) not what is factual (e.g. we can change at any time we choose).

I admit that I sometimes cringe at the things I hear myself think. But if I use those moments as opportunities to challenge my thinking, that’s when I experience growth. And the biggest progress I’ve made has come from small, consistent steps over the long haul.

My challenge to you:

Today, notice one thought that keeps you stuck. Examine it and ask yourself what would be a more helpful belief. For example, replace “this is just the way I am” with “I can find resources and support to help me make a change.” Write down this new belief. Then, decide on the first step to take. It could be finding a book, making an appointment, asking for a referral…no step is too small. Finally, take that step in the next 48 hours.

Head over to Facebook today and share with me your new belief and your next step. Then, in 48 hours let me know it’s done! Use this opportunity for accountability to propel you forward.

Warmly,

Heather

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5 tips to enjoy a REAL vacation, keep healthy, and return refreshed and ready to go!

Do you maintain your healthy habits while on vacation? And once home, are you rejuvenated and ready to get right back into your routine?

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If you winced even slightly at these questions, take heart. It can be done! And not with deprivation and rigid exercise. You can have a real vacation, keep healthy and return refreshed if you use these 5 tips.

  1. Act like a child. Children don’t bring homework on vacation. I doubt they give school any thought at all. Do likewise. Leave behind your laptop and devices. If you use them for entertainment, put all work, including email, out of site on your desktop. Turn off notifications. Unplug to enjoy.
  2. Expand your definition of exercise. Look at a wide range of activity to count as exercise. Maybe you’ll walk a lot, do water activities or dance all night. Also consider small bursts. I have one client who, wherever he travels, does what he calls his “Italian routine” consisting of ten minutes of calisthenics. Prepare ahead with several ideas so that no matter where you are, you get the exercise your body needs and wants.
  3. Create margin. In the past I found it easy to work up to the last minute, cram to pack and rush to get out of town. But then I needed a day or two to wind down, still thinking about what I left behind. More recently I’ve added margin on the front end, by taking a day off before I actually leave. I’m more relaxed and slide into vacation easily. Equally, on the back end I find it helpful to have a day between returning home and getting back to work. It gives me time to recover from a plane trip or car ride, and do minor things like laundry and grocery shopping. Even if the trip itself is cut slightly shorter, I’m fully present while away and energized for re-entry.
  4. Better to over-pack than under-pack. Seriously, I’m only disappointed when I under-pack. I hate needing something and not having it! Certainly be smart, but don’t leave things behind because you want to save room in the trunk or avoid a luggage fee. If you think you might use a bathing suit or hiking shoes, take them. If you’re unsure of the food situation and you don’t want to be stuck hungry and without options, pack a few snacks. Better to have and not use than need and not have.
  5. Redefine treat. Vacation is a time to treat yourself, but be careful that doesn’t translate into taking a vacation from healthy habits. Your body doesn’t think of vacation that way. If you’re in a unique environment, enjoy native foods. Go to your favorite restaurants. But don’t let vacation be an excuse to over-eat. Honor hunger and respect fullness, at home and on the road.

So that’s it! No need to return home kicking yourself for slacking off and struggling to get back into a routine. Try these five strategies to enjoy a real vacation, keep healthy and return refreshed and ready to go.

Warmly,

Heather

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Are you living up to your expectations?

HeatherMVIP_Working-49How does it feel to be halfway through 2017? Are you living up to the expectations you set for yourself back in January? If you’re rocking it, awesome! If not, how are you falling short? Truth is, most of us are likely somewhere in between, doing well on some things and not so much on others.

For those goals where you’re following through, what’s helped? What can you learn from your experience that will enhance your ability to succeed in the tougher areas? What skills do you possess, or have you cultivated this year, on which you can rely to succeed further?

In the areas you’re lagging, what do you need to do? What habits do you need to create or let go? What support do you need to be more successful than you’ve been to date?

What we’re really talking about is being in integrity with ourselves. I often ask clients to assess their satisfaction with how well they keep their commitments. Not surprisingly, most say they’re superb at keeping commitments to others, but stink at keep commitments to themselves. (I’m paraphrasing. They use much stronger language!)

The temptation six months in is to ignore, or make excuses for, the goals we haven’t achieved… we’re busy, it takes too much time, and we’ll take a fresh look next January. But I notice that the longer we’re out of integrity the bigger the mountain we face, blocking us from what we really want. And the less confidence we have in being able to actually make significant positive changes.

The next six months will come and go and you can choose to be closer to your goals. Reassess, recommit and do it now. Don’t wait for another New Year, or any other perceived perfect time. That perfect time is today.

If you know what you need to do but are struggling to do it on your own, I invite you to have a conversation me. Schedule a complimentary strategy session now!

Blessings,

Heather

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Is it worth giving up what you have to get what you want?

Earlier this year a client sent me a commentary from a reverend at Seminary of the Southwest, reflecting on Advent as a process of making room. The reverend likens it to hiring an organizer, which initially seems like a really great idea. But then the organizer wants us to start selling, donating or throwing away stuff – uh oh. It’s hard and we drag our feet, holding on to too much stuff. But we want the end result of living with peace and less stress.

Decision-mountaintop_Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Consider the parallel to healthy habits. We decide to eat better, exercise and get proper rest and can imagine the outcome but then we have to give up certain things like mindless eating while watching TV, nighttime electronics and pressing the snooze button. Again, uh oh.

What’s interesting is that the things we need to give up to get what we want are not doing us any real good. Why is it so hard to let go? Often because our habits run so deep, they’re so automatic, that it takes more effort than we’re used to expending in order to change them. And, they provide instant gratification (even if fleeting).

I’ve found habit inquiry to be helpful with my clients. We identify the cues and rewards for their current behaviors so they can start replacing old patterns with new habits.

And it’s an ongoing process. To live clutter-free we need to maintain what we’ve created, so it’s necessary to be discerning about what we allow into our space. Similarly, we must keep alert to the many things that will draw us off our healthy habits, especially in the beginning before the habits really takes hold. And know that all of those things that want to be “let in” to your life look like good things, so weigh the new “good” against your current “great.” Is it worth it?

And that’s really the question to continually ask: Is it worth it? Will I happily live with the consequences of my decision? How does this decision, this habit, affect the long-term, not just this immediate moment?

Head over to Facebook and share with me your thoughts on developing new habits.

Warmly,

Heather

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Are you fighting against yourself?

In the spring of 2000 I moved to a new town, leaving behind all of my personal training clients and with a coaching practice still in the building phase. So, I decided to knock on doors in my new neighborhood and introduce myself and my services (super old-school marketing!). I’ll never forget the response of one woman who answered the door: she told me she couldn’t exercise because she had diabetes! While it would be nice to think this neighbor of mine was an anomaly, I often encounter people who fight against themselves.

tigers fighting_Photo by Frida Bredesen on Unsplash

Photo by Frida Bredesen on Unsplash

Do you ever offer excuses in the privacy of your own mind that, upon further examination, really don’t hold water? (I’ve been known to do it once or twice…) Over time we can set up a number of barriers that make it impossible to reach the goals we want, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Sometimes we have valid reasons for doing something, or not, that is contrary to our desired results. There are genuine instances when circumstances are what they are and our choices are limited. But that’s not what keeps us stuck. It’s the narrative we play over and over, like a vinyl record in our heads, that convinces us we have no alternative.

When I work with clients, we examine those excuses (reasons, beliefs) and they’re often surprised at how they’ve set up no-win situations for themselves. They’re smart, successful, hard-working people who’ve tied their own hands. Once we test their assumptions and identify the reality of their circumstances, it’s a relief. Yet it also brings responsibility. For all of us, this is the point at which we decide if we really want what we say we want.

There’s no shame in deciding we don’t want a particular goal. It’s actually liberating. To pursue something we don’t really want drains our energy and self-confidence, and the worst part is that we never connect with our real desires.

I regularly encounter people who deeply want an outcome, but have told themselves that because they haven’t figured out how to get it (i.e. they’re not doing the necessary behaviors) it must mean they don’t want it enough. Nonsense! It just means they don’t know what’s not visible to them. They can’t see what they can’t see.

So test your assumptions. Are you fighting yourself? Learn to shift and start making headway in the direction of your goals.

If you’d like help in the process, let’s have a conversation. Schedule a strategy session now!

Warmly,

Heather

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Reacting to pain: self-compassion or self-sabotage

At the end of April we experienced the unexpected loss of our cat, Emjai. He’d been with us 12 years since he was a kitten and it felt all too soon to say goodbye. He was like a family member to us, along with our other cat, Baby Girl. And it’s clear my husband and I are not the only ones grieving.

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When we came home from the animal hospital that night, we sat in the living room and spontaneously combed through our memories of him. We laughed and remembered how much love and joy he brought to our household. It would not be the same with him gone.

Honestly, this sucks and I debated whether to write about it. What prompted me was that in dealing with the loss of Emjai, I realized that I had a choice. It’s the same choice we have when faced with any painful experience, large or small.

When we’re in pain, our tendency can be to either lose ourselves in it or push it down and cover up. In the first case, the pain eclipses your life or outlook. It’s the only thing you can see, it’s the only thing you can think about. And, it often leads to unhealthy behaviors to self-soothe. In the second scenario, you pretend it doesn’t matter, that it’s no big deal. Denial. This, too, can produce sabotaging behaviors and ultimately whatever we’ve pushed down comes back up in spades.

I often work with my clients on feeling their pain. It’s okay to be sad, discouraged or disappointed. We talk through it together. And they can respond with self-compassion and a plan for moving through it. This is especially important for the day-to-day pains, like unmet needs and disappointments (in ourselves and others), that can derail us from making the choices we really want, ultimately bringing more pain.

Pain is a natural part of being human. It’s also what allows us to really know what is good and appreciate it. The morning after we lost Emjai, my husband said to me, “I don’t want to focus on being sad. I want to think about all the good stuff.” I was grateful as I had woken up with a heavy heart and didn’t know how we would react and respond in the days and weeks ahead.  Since then, we’ve balanced sadness with laughter. We’ve devised rituals and ways of being that help us to mourn and remember, to be happy and move forward. We still miss him, yet he’s still “with us.”

Blessings,

Heather

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