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.




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!




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.

Picture 004

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.”




Start Acting Like a Two-Year-Old

I was in Trader Joe’s the other day when I overheard a conversation between a mother and her toddler. I couldn’t hear much of what the mom said, but the only word emanating from the daughter was “no.” It’s experimenting with that word that allows children to begin defining themselves and to figure out who they are.

Child_no_Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash

Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash

As adults, we need to cultivate the ability to say no and to discern when it’s necessary, otherwise our priorities suffer. When might you want to say “no?”

  • When you’re already over-committed
  • When you’re stressed, sick or tired
  • When someone else is trying to drag you into his/her drama
  • When saying yes would violate your values
  • When it’s something you don’t want to do
  • When it takes away from something you’d much rather do
  • When you’ve had enough to eat or you’re not hungry

Okay, I know that last one seems weird, but think about it. People regularly eat to please others like the grandmother who urges a second helping, or the host who went to all that trouble to make a table full of food that shouldn’t go to waste. But overeating hurts our weight and health and doesn’t really help grandma or the host.

If you’re out of practice, run through it in your mind. Think about a situation in which you often say yes when you’d rather not. Picture the request being made and see yourself comfortably, assertively responding “no.” Sometimes you may need to give yourself space to decide. If someone asks for your time (e.g. joining a committee, attending a meeting), use the phrase “let me get back to you.” This gives you the time to assess if it’s something that’s genuinely a fit for you or if this is a chance to practice no.

And realize that you don’t have to explain every no that you give. I love this quote from Ann Lamott: “’No’ is a complete sentence.” When we start explaining ourselves, the other person sometimes sees it as an opportunity to talk us into whatever it is! Be thoughtful about when explanations are necessary or appropriate to the situation, but often it’s sufficient to simply say “No, thank you.”

Lastly, we are finite beings so every yes is a no to something else. It’s the law of tradeoffs (not sure it’s technically a law, but I know it to be true). And remember, saying no doesn’t mean it’s a no forever. It may just be a “not now.” That’s an especially good thing to remember when we’re making tradeoffs between two really good options. Make decisions based on today’s priorities, knowing next time your choices may be different.

Head over to Facebook and let me know what a healthy “no” looks like for you!




Feeling Motivated is Over-rated

More than 20 years ago I heard what is still my favorite definition of commitment: the ability to carry through with a worthy decision once the emotion of making the decision has passed. Emotion is what we tend to think of as motivation. We think we should “feel” like doing something in order to do it. But is that how you experience it?

For most of us, the answer is no. For instance, I never feel like doing the dishes, but I do them. I’m committed to a clean, cockroach-free kitchen.

Psychology Today defines motivation as “literally the desire to do things.” The desire to do something does not mean you will feel like it. Our human tendency is the path of least resistance (you know, burn as few calories as necessary) and our feelings keep us stuck there. We have to want the outcome enough to overcome our lack of “feeling” motivated.

I saw a recent interview with Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the new book Make Your Bed, in which he shares successful life principles learned during Navy Seal training. The title comes from the habit of making one’s bed first thing in the morning. And when we accomplish one thing, it sets us up to do the next. And the next. We can’t wait to feel like making the bed, we just have to make it.

Considering your health goals, what is one small thing you could do in the morning that would make a difference the rest of the day? For many, I suspect that thing is eating a balanced breakfast. If you regularly skip breakfast, and lunch is the first time food makes it past your lips, then waiting to feel like eating will not work. Your body’s metabolism has adapted by slowing down and you will not feel hungry in the morning.

breakfast_Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Maybe for you it’s drinking 8oz of water first thing, meditation, prayer, or 10 minutes of stretching. Decide and do it. Then notice how the next step becomes easier. In essence, your initial step helps provide the “feeling” of motivation, the feeling that being successful at one thing can lead to the next.

Our lives are the sum total of mostly small decisions like this. Sure from time to time we make big decisions, but day-in and day-out we are formed by the millions of small choices we make each moment.

This is good news! Instead of thinking we have to take quantum-leap actions, we can focus on small daily habits that produce significant results.

So, what small step would (ultimately) make a huge impact in your life? Share your decision with me on Facebook!




5 Questions to Ask When You’re Struggling to Reach Your Goals

Have you noticed that working towards any goal typically requires more effort than you first expected? For example, you set a goal to lose weight and you think “nutrition and exercise.” You gather all the right information and start doing all the right things. But then you discover that it doesn’t all go according to plan. Eventually you’re back in your old habits and discouraged that you can’t make it work.

I get it. This happens all the time. When it comes to health and weight loss, we’re not programmed to think holistically. Sure we give it lip service, but it always comes back to monitoring food, counting steps and increasing exercise. It’s not that those things play no role in being healthy, of course they do. But smart people (you!) know these things. So what’s the problem?

The good news is that all your nutrition and exercise efforts can work, if you figure out what’s getting in your way of being consistent. Ask yourself these five questions about your behavior:


Photo by Jonathan Simcoe on Unsplash

  1. What could I stop doing? You know, a couple of years ago I totally stopped playing video games. It was too easy for 15 minutes of down time to become an hour (or two) throughout the day. Now I read a lot of books each year! Where you could find some time for what you really want to do?
  2. What could I do less of? For some, this is where TV and internet time come into play. Statistics show we spend a startling number of hours in front of the screen. How could less of something enhance your well-being? A few months ago I stopped listening to news in the car (but still watch/listen at home). This has created much more peace while driving!
  3. What could I keep doing? Recognize the habits you currently have in place that support your goals. Health-enhancing activities like meditation and practicing gratitude are things my clients are often doing when we first meet. What are you doing that you want to make sure to continue?
  4. What could I do more of? Sometimes it’s easier to build on what you’re already doing than it is to stop or start something. What habit is already in place that if you did more of it would move you in the right direction?
  5. What could I start doing? If you don’t already, think about scheduling healthy habits into your calendar. A maintenance client shared with me that she had stopped calendaring her workouts because they had become habit. But when her schedule became more challenging, exercise dropped off. After a couple weeks she decided it had to go back on the calendar. What action or habit calls to you that you’d like to start doing?

And there you have it! Five questions to consider if you want to make health and well-being a priority and actually be successful.

Join me on Facebook and let me know the one question with which you most resonate, and share your answer.




If not now, when?

Does this sound familiar? You intend to start implementing any number of healthy habits when life slams you upside the head. You get sick, work turns super stressful, you’re traveling a lot, etc., and you tell yourself the changes will have to wait. Soon, there will be a better time.

And it breaks my heart because I see the struggle this creates. The lack of healthy habits and self-care only intensifies daily stress, which fuels the downward turn. We gain more weight. We have less energy. Our patience is strained. Everything suffers.

Road - decision_Photo by Amanda Sandlin on Unsplash

Photo by Amanda Sandlin on Unsplash

The truth is, there is no better time than now.

We are trained to think circumstances have to be “better” but really, that’s the perfectionist trap keeping us stuck in bad habits and poor health. Let’s be clear. You have to want the results of healthy behaviors. Your values and vision need to support your efforts because when they do, change is always possible.

People talk about making up for lost time or exercising off what they just ate. But these are just things we tell ourselves to feel better about poor decisions. Life doesn’t really work that way. Everything we do, every day, either takes us closer to or further away from being strong, healthy and energetic. Our habits either support our body’s ideal weight or move us away from it. And when we’re experiencing particularly stressful circumstances, if we put off good habits, the further away we find ourselves from what we desire. And the harder it is to change later.

Life isn’t static. Our circumstances change which means our behaviors will, too. My argument is not for doing it all no matter what. Rather, aim for excellence. That is, considering your values, goals and situation, what is the best you can do in the moment? We’re always making choices, but they’re often not conscious or well-thought out. Poor decisions often sound like “I deserve… another glass of wine, to zone out in front of the TV/internet…” Or the generic “I deserve a break.” Well, I think we all deserve MUCH better than that.

So, if not now, when? Are you ready to stop waiting for the “right time?” The first step is to ask “What is the next best step I could take towards better health?” When you find yourself excusing poor choices, ask what would be a more nurturing solution. What does excellence look like for you in this moment?

Head over to Facebook and share your next best step!




5 anti-rules that make food healthy and fun!

Have you had one of those days when you look up to see that it’s 2pm and all you’ve eaten is some yogurt with your morning coffee? Or, have you ever sworn off sugar only to find yourself eating two pieces of banana bread (or cookies, brownies, etc.) at your 5pm meeting or mixer?

Small portion for a woman

I get it! I see many smart people who desire to eat healthy, yet are seemingly unable to do so. The typical solution to most eating challenges is another set of rules that will control you and your intake. But, ugh…they’re a drudgery and they don’t work for life-long health and well-being.

That’s why I love these five anti-rules that make food healthy and fun!

  1. Enjoy food. It sounds simple but we don’t always equate healthy with tasty. Start out the day with a real breakfast that you like. By real, I mean an amount and balance of food (carbohydrate, protein and fat) that will really satisfy you for a few hours. Guess what? A 200 calorie “healthy” bowl of cereal, yogurt, etc. will not fit the bill. And make sure you enjoy what you eat. If not, you create a satisfaction deficit that you will eventually have to fill.
  2. Set a timer. If you have the tendency to work through lunch, set a timer to remind yourself to eat. The longer you go without eating – the hungrier you get – the more likely you will overeat and make poor choices later in the day. Remember that taking a break makes you more productive upon return. Your body and brain need the fuel and the downtime.
  3. Add rather than subtract. When you think of eating healthfully what comes to mind? If it’s all about what you shouldn’t eat, consider flipping that around. What would you like to eat/drink more of? Often in the adding of things, subtraction will naturally occur because there is only so much room in your stomach.
  4. Get comfortable saying “no.” You do not need to eat food to make someone else happy. You can turn down food at a party without offending your host. If you do it politely and he or she is upset, it’s not your problem. If you overeat to make someone happy, now that’s your problem.
  5. Disengage from diet talk. The way we talk about food is often clinical and devoid of joy (what we should and shouldn’t eat). We compare diets – and results – and the more we focus on a diet the harder it is to follow its rules. Have better conversations, ones that enrich your health and enjoyment of life. Avoid comparisons and wondering about the greener grass of another diet. Actually, that grass is brown.

And there you go! Five anti-rules that let you enjoy food, love life and be you again (okay, I had to fit my tagline in somewhere).

Join me on Facebook to tell me which anti-rule is your favorite.




Why live in fantasy? Reality is way better!

What’s your fantasy? All diseases cured, crime eliminated and the world at peace? Oh, and things finally fall into place so that you always stay on track with exercise, never over-eat and always get the right amount of sleep?

day dream_Photo by Sander Smeekes on Unsplash

Photo by Sander Smeekes on Unsplash

Sure, we can tell fantasy from reality but sometimes we act like we can’t. That is, we hang onto the illusion that we have control over things that we don’t (bosses, family, friends, weather). Then we convince ourselves we don’t control the two things we actually can (our own thoughts and actions).

Fantasy allows us to put off the hard work of change but doesn’t help us feel any better about our current situation. And if it continues, the current situation gets worse – we gain weight, get sick and tired, lose patience…fantasy leads to a worse reality because, in essence, we’re waiting for perfection.

Can you fill in the blank? “I’ll start ____________ when/if _____________.”

So many options:

  • Exercising / if I have a friend to go with me
  • Drinking less alcohol / when my partner stops bringing home wine
  • Walking in the morning / when it’s not so cold
  • Snacking on candy at work / if my boss would take the candy bowl off her desk
  • Getting to bed on time / when purple cows spread fairy dust on my pillow

Our fantasies set up situations that are outside our control. Instead, get creative and find how to make what you want work. Discover the myriad of ways you can exercise with or without a friend, whatever the temperature may be. When you pass by the candy bowl ask yourself if you’re hungry. Then ask if it’s one of your true favorites. If the answer to both is yes, have a piece. Add in a little protein to balance out the sugar and voila – a snack you enjoy. But if the answer is no, tell yourself it’s not worth even an ounce of attention and go about your day.

The “I’ll be perfect when…” sets up a rigid, impossible standard. It lets you off the hook so you can feel good in the moment, but over time it builds up the sinking feeling that you can never change. Worse yet, you believe you can’t control it.

Instead, start fantasizing (okay, maybe it’s really visioning) that you exercise despite a hectic schedule, that you enjoy saying no to food when you’re not hungry, and that you ask for support – and receive it – from close friends and family. Consider what is possible now, with all the un-perfect-ness of life, and move forward.

Visit me on Facebook and share the next best step you can take today toward your vision.