It's not unusual these days to be reminded of the difference between what we can control and what we can't.
I remember my mom advising me when I was a kid to not worry about things I couldn't control. In my cocky youth, I thought I could control anything if I worked hard enough! Right? Wrong.
Accepting that I could not control things just because I was a hard worker was discouraging. Can't anything be possible with hard work and perseverance?
There was good news, of course. A third category exists: things that can happen and I am still ok.
It took a while for that list to develop, but in time I began to learn that some things in the list of things I can't control weren't necessarily things I had to deal with or accept in spite of my plans, but that in fact they didn't have to be anything at all.
Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that circumstances beyond our control are something to be tolerated or endured. Even acknowledging them feels like a pain. "I can't control what so-and-so says, I can only control my response." Sound familiar?
Thinking ahead about how so-and-so might say something annoying sets the expectation that not only will that happen, but that it will be bad and you'll have to respond positively. That thought took energy, and since it was a defensive thought, I'm willing to bet it was negative energy.
What if instead, so-and-so and the things they do were in a third column, a category of things that don't affect you at all? Things that are allowed to exist without you having an opinion about them?
How much energy would that save? How much energy would that free up for fun things, for creative thinking, for your own peace of mind?
Give it a try this week. Instead of categorizing events as things you either can or cannot control, let them be in the third column of things that are okay. Then, when they happen, just say "okay." Or "great." Or nothing.
Now I know what you're thinking. Not everything is okay, Heather! I know, but that's okay too. With patience and practice, when those things come up, you won't be able to say "okay" and feel okay about it. Then you'll know it's something you really have to deal with. And even then, it will be okay.
There will always be things we can control and things we can't. And there are things that just are. Open up the third column, and see who is really in control.
One of my favorite things about being a health coach is that sometimes, I get to be included in the best part of someone’s day: the part when someone listens to them, truly hears them, and gets them pointed in the right direction again. I get to be kind of like one of those big maps that you see at shopping malls, where people can get their bearings and figure out where they are and where they need to go.
And as soon as we figure that part out, I want to know the answer to a popular question: why? If someone has taken time out of their day to tell me about this idea they have for something they want to do, it must be pretty important to them. It’s been on their mind for a while. So, why? Why do you think about this? Why not just stay like you are now? And, almost everyone has the same answer: they want to feel better.
I love that answer because feeling better is great, and it’s something we can all do right away. Feeling good is easy, and we all have the skills to feel better almost instantly.
I don’t mean the way eating ice cream makes you feel better. That’s pretend. I mean the kind of feeling you get when you’ve done something that makes you feel proud, or when you have been exercising for a few weeks and you notice you have more energy in the afternoons. Even when you make the choice to skip the second helping of mashed potatoes and have some more water instead. It might not feel awesome right at that moment, but you’re glad you did it.
That brings me to my next question: what makes you feel better?
This answer brings a smile to their faces: exercise! Then the stories start to come out. “A while back I was walking every morning with my friend, I felt so much better and I really had more energy.” Or, “my physical therapist gave me these stretches to do, and when I do them I feel better, but I stopped.”
Or my favorite, “I used to exercise all the time. I even taught exercise classes! I really liked it!” This is where I do an internal high five with myself, because having previous positive experiences with healthy habits makes it so much easier to get back into them, so I know these people are about to start feeling better really soon.
And then I have to ask: why on earth did you stop doing this magical thing that made you so happy?
Studies show that the most common reason why people fall out of exercise habits is a change of environment, such as a new job; an injury or illness, whether themselves or someone they care for; or a schedule change that compromises their time. I get it. There is a lot going on.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much exercise to make you feel better. In fact, it doesn’t take much of any healthy habit to make you feel better. As soon as you start, you feel better immediately. Instant success.
Because friends, we create how we feel. The thoughts and patterns that we allow in our lives create our environment. Spend time with negative thoughts of worry and anger, and your life will be negative and dark. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and cheer you on, and your life will be light and bright.
All we have is how we feel, and how we feel is where we live.
So, if you know that there is something really easy to do that leads to you feeling good, do it. Do it every day! Then, you get to feel good every day. And you get all the credit, too!
If exercise makes you feel better, do it. If eating healthy makes you feel better, do it. The power to feel better every day is within you, and you can start now.
Not many people know this, but I can predict the future. It’s true! I can look into the future, make a prediction about what will happen, and most of the time my prediction is accurate. I can’t predict lottery tickets or the weather, nothing like that. My gift has been honed over the years of listening, watching, and learning from people and how they live.
Most of the time I keep this skill a secret from others and only use it for my own purposes. But, today I am going to share it with you. Specifically, I am going to reveal which exercise programs are going to be your favorite in 2020, and possibly beyond.
There are so many options for exercise, and they all promise to be the magic solution to overcoming all of your obstacles, so it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. But, after we gaze into my crystal ball, it will all become clear. Are you ready?
Prediction: It will be challenging, but rewardingI can’t guarantee that the first workout of the year will be fun, or that you will find your favorite one right away. But, when you do find the one that sticks, it will be because you feel great when you’re there. Exercise programs with the most longevity are those that challenge you just enough so you are looking forward to the end, and then feel really proud when you get there. I predict that your favorite exercise program this year will be one that pushes you just enough to be fun.
Prediction: It will be convenient enoughIn a perfect world, getting to your favorite exercise program would require almost no effort on your part. Can you imagine how much exercise we would all be able to do if we didn’t have to actually drive somewhere to do it? My prediction is that the workout you love is convenient enough that you can get there three to four times a week, and that there may even be times when you go more than that!
Prediction: It will include friendsSome of the most popular exercise trends of the last decade have woven a sense of community and teamwork into the business of sweating and lifting heavy things. CrossFit, Orange Theory, obstacle course races, and even online communities through game-based workouts all connect people together for camaraderie, friendly competition, and support. I don’t need my crystal ball to know that you are going to love a workout where you feel like part of a community that cares about you (and is going to ask why you didn’t show up).
Prediction: It will not hurt youNot every exercise program is for every fitness level and body. If your workout consistently leaves you aching, injured, exhausted, my bet is you won’t stick with it. My crystal ball tells me that your favorite workout in 2020 will be one that makes you stronger.
Prediction: It will be worth itYou already know that establishing a new exercise routine takes discipline, time management, and an internal desire for the benefits. I can guarantee that there will be times that even your favorite workout feels like a chore. But, it will feel worth it. At the end of 2020, when I ask you what your favorite exercise program is, you will tell me that it’s the one that is always worth it, whether that means driving across town for Zumba after work or getting up before dawn to run with friends.
That’s it. You have it now: my prediction for you this year. To be fair, there are a couple of asterisks on this glimpse into your future. It will only come true if you seek it; it does not come to you automatically. And, I make no guarantee of when it will be realized. But, it is out there waiting for you to discover it, and now that you know what you’re looking for, I’ll bet you can find it pretty quick.
Happy New Year.
Well, here we are again. When I turned on my radio last week and heard Christmas music playing, I knew that ready or not, it was the holidays.
So, I started asking my clients about how they want to spend the last six weeks of the year. Their answers were pretty standard: cooking, traveling, spending time with family, shopping, etc. It was clear they had not understood my question, so I needed to clarify what I meant.
I didn’t want to know how they expected to spend the holidays. I was curious about how they wanted to spend the holidays. What are their ingredients for a happy holiday season? How will they know that the time was well-spent? What experience do they want to have, and what do they need to do to create it?
It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it, and that’s something you can do any time of year. We don’t get to choose every circumstance of our lives, but we have more control over circumstances than we may think. So today I ask you: how do you know if you are having a happy holiday?
There are a few rules for this exercise. First, you must be specific about what brings you joy during this time of year. The more detail you can put into imagining the scents, flavors, and images of the holidays, the easier it will be to find them.
Second, you must be somewhat realistic. After all, this is Florida, so if your dream is of a snowy winter wonderland, you better have the budget and vacation time for travel. You can’t bring people back from the dead, and you have to exist in this dimension. But, other than the laws of physics and constraints of your resources, have at it.
And third, it must be self-generated. That is, nothing in your perfect holiday scene can be dependent on someone else doing something. Waiting for other people to do things in order for you to be happy is just a recipe for heartache and resentment.
OK, are you ready? Here we go.
Let’s flip the calendar a couple of pages to Jan. 1. Imagine sitting on that day in your favorite place, with a wonderful feeling of contentment wrapped around you like a blanket. Life is just peachy. Gosh, that was a wonderful holiday. Now imagine someone comes to sit next to you and they ask, “how was your holiday?” And you say, “it was just wonderful,” and then begin to paint the scene. What, specifically, made it so wonderful?
When I think about this question, my mind reminisces about hearing jingle bells on the doorknobs of the house, making treasured family recipes to share with others, decorating my home like we live in the Biltmore, and smelling cinnamon, orange, and clove simmering on the stove. I like to have clinked glasses with friends and family, witnessed the magic of the season through childrens’ eyes, and indulged enough to feel fancy while still fitting into my jeans in January.
If those things have happened by Dec. 31, I feel good.
Now, there are other things that make the holidays nice, too. Children being polite and gracious to their elders, no one getting sick, family members not discussing politics, no car trouble on the way to Grandma’s, good weather, my husband buying the correct gift for me, my kids eating the fancy food I have made, the music at church being exactly the kind I like, the lines at the stores not being too long, and seeing the correct reactions to all of the gifts that I have purchased for others, to name a few. But we’ve already discussed that.
Now let’s zoom back in the calendar to the present day. You’ve just painted that picture of the events of the coming weeks that led to that feeling of contentment. Now it is time to make it happen. What do you need to do to ensure that the elements that made you feel so happy can actually take place? You’ve identified your priorities, so now schedule them.
For me, staying active is key, because I like to indulge a little without gaining weight. That means I need to stick to my exercise routine and maybe even bump it up a little to account for extra nibbles. I may even take a day off during the week when I can bake, listen to carols, make my simmer pot, and decorate my house.
When visiting my family, I enjoy sliding to the background to observe everyone as they interact together, watching the kids play with snow globes when they think the grown-ups aren’t watching.
Then, when we get the flat tire, or my kids dash off without saying thank you, and no one eats the meal I have made, it’s OK, because that’s not what I needed for a happy holiday.
What future will you create this year? You can craft it yourself, set the stage, and enjoy the show. Keep it specific, realistic, and intrinsic, and maybe even Santa will ask for your secret.
As a child of the 1980s, I spent a lot of time on my bike. I lived in a medium-sized town and didn’t think twice about getting on my bicycle and setting off for some exploring, my parents none the wiser as to my whereabouts. I never went too far and came home before the street lights came on, and everything turned out fine.
While riding along one of the main roads in town, I would from time to time see random mailboxes interspersed between businesses, nestled into the trees that lined the sidewalk. A long, narrow driveway would follow, and I would strain my eyes to look through the trees and see what was back there. A house, no doubt.
I imagined there were mansions owned by eccentric, wealthy people, and wanted to ride down the driveway to see. But I didn’t trust that I could pedal fast enough to outrun whatever lay at the end. So I just peered as far as I could, and then got back on my bicycle seat, pushed off, and kept pedaling.
When I visit now, I go running on that road. And yes, when I run past those driveways I still crane my neck to see what’s back there. Now I assume they are probably old houses that have been added on to over the decades so they ramble and stretch across a little patch of land that feels like it is miles away from civilization even though it is just a football field’s distance from a highway. Sometimes I think that when I get home I will look it up on Google Earth and see, but then I forget.
I thought about those trees last week when I was out running with my friends and commented that soon the trees in the neighborhoods would lose their dead leaves and we would be able to see more wildlife walking around in the greenspaces. At least I hoped we would. When I said it, I remembered straddling my bike as a kid, catching my breath as sweat ran down my forehead, wondering what was behind those trees.
And then I smiled to myself because I had thought of something I wanted to ask you.
I decided that I wanted to ask you if you ever notice times in your life when you can see something more clearly after something else has fallen away. Like how when dead leaves fall from trees and we can more easily see what had been concealed, perhaps we need things to die in our lives so we can see and focus on something else.
I wonder if the things that keep us from connecting with ourselves on an authentic level are like leaves on the trees of our lives. Imagine the doubts, negative thoughts, excuses, uncertainties, and wounds from past failures — all of the layers we put on ourselves for protection from vulnerability — being like leaves that hide the bare branches and trunk that we would be without them.
Imagine what would happen if they fell off.
What could you see if you let the leaves of doubt fall? What could you see if you let the leaves of negative self-talk fall? What could you see if you let the leaves of excuses fall?
You would see the most permanent part of you - your core; your trunk. Like leaves on a tree, the doubts, negative thoughts, excuses, uncertainties, and past wounds of our lives are temporary, here for a season and then ready to fall away so we can start anew.
As we approach the end of the year, I invite you to notice if there are leaves that you need to shed. Perhaps you have old habits that don’t serve a purpose anymore. Maybe you have a familiar litany of reasons why you can’t take the next step. Let those leaves fall. When you don’t want to, remind yourself: it's just for a season.
Because we all know that they’ll be back. In the spring, green shoots will emerge and become new leaves that will be shed in their own time. And between now and then will be a time for you to just be your trunk. The dead weight will have been shed and you can just be...you.
I hope that this year you let the leaves fall, and with the curiosity of a child, peer through the branches to see who you are back there. I’ll bet that someone in your life has been wondering for a long time.
When I was a kid, we used to sing a song in church called, “Deep and Wide.” You probably know it, too:
Deep and wide
Deep and wide
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide…
We would sing it with hand motions, and I remember being a little bit amused by the lyrics. Did the fountain need to be both deep and wide? Intellectually, I knew that the point of the song was that God’s love was never-ending, but my rascally brain couldn’t help but wonder, “what if the fountain was just wide? Would we reject it?”
The same thought came to mind this week when a friend lamented the recent loss of a job. Evaluating his options, he began to network and schedule meetings with friends in his field of work, and crossed his fingers that one of them would be fruitful, and soon.
A few short-term freelance opportunities looked promising, but he was anxious. After all, he said, “I need a full-time job!”
“Negative,” I texted back. “You only need that to support the life you currently have. You could change your life. Think wide.” And the song came back.
We’ve all had the rug pulled out from under us, and immediately gone to work putting things back the way they were. Our lives are deep. We have layers of responsibility, tradition, obligation, relationships, comfort, and safety. So often we decide that the life we have created is the only way we want to live, so we insulate ourselves in layers of what we know. We live deep.
But deep can also be dark, and we can get so far down into our lives that we can no longer see what is next to us. Things that didn’t even exist when we started digging our deep lives. Opportunities that we don’t know about. Entire ways of living that never occurred to us.
What if life was wide instead? What if, instead of working to maintain the deepness of our lives, we climbed up and lived shallow?
That sounds bad, doesn’t? Living shallow? Who wants that? You’re right. Shallow doesn’t work. Let’s say, “living wide.” Wide is better.
Living wide means maybe those short-term freelance gigs are really rewarding and connect you with new people who hire you for other gigs, and you’re suddenly not tied to office hours and can pick up your kids from school.
Living wide might mean that on Monday you go for a walk with friends, and on Tuesday you go to the gym, and on Thursday you take a yoga class, and break out of your exercise rut of must-burn-calories-for-an-hour.
Living wide might mean that you get there when you get there and enjoy the journey, which is all we have promised to us anyway. Wide does not mean shallow — it does not mean living irresponsibly or without a safety net or a backup plan — it means being able to see the safety net.
What would it mean for you to live wide? Imagine climbing out of your hole and stretching your arms out as wide as you can, your fingers feeling like they are getting longer and longer. Have you been living a deep but narrow life? Is it dark down there?
Come up and look around.
My morning running group has made it a habit to take a picture after we reach the end of our workout. We put the toes of our sneakers together in a circle, someone snaps a pic, and then it is official: we can begin our day of being all of the things - moms, teachers, nurses, budget analysts, computer programmers, writers. Naturally, within minutes after our run the picture is posted online and everyone tags everyone else, and someone will inevitably comment, “I don’t know how you people get up and do that so early in the morning!”
One day I was reading the responses to that inevitable comment and realized that what I was reading was not actually an explanation of how we get up so early to exercise, but why. After all, the how-to part is pretty simple: the alarm rings, we get out of bed, put on our exercise clothes, and leave the house. Now, I said that the process is simple, not easy! What moves this process from “not gonna happen,” to “I’ll be there,” is not in the how, but the why.
The why, of course, is your motivation. Many people have a goal hidden somewhere to get healthier, and those who pursue it do because they decide the benefit outweighs the hassle. When push comes to shove, there is an internal dialogue that convinces them to lace up and get out there. There is a mental switch that flips and moves their hand away from the chips and towards the bottle of water. Something speaks up and makes it easier to turn down the second helping. That thing is the answer to their question, “why?”
The answer is different for everyone, but there are some definite trends. A longer lifespan to enjoy grandchildren, improving mobility for an active retirement, getting off of expensive medications or avoiding surgery, and increasing energy are some of the motivations I hear often as a wellness coach. And, if your motivation is to fit into your jeans and feel better when you look back at pictures from vacation, that’s okay too. The more motivation you can get, the better!
For me, the why comes in a combination of practicality and self-preservation. I have a busy day and know from experience that if I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, I will run out of time and energy for it later on. It just won’t happen. When I eat healthfully and plan my meals, I feel my best. When I feel my best, stuff gets done. But when I skip it, I am grumpy and disorganized. No one enjoys that, trust me.
Adhering to my routine also helps me manage my weight. This is important to me because I’ve been overweight before and remember how uncomfortable, tired, and frustrated I was. I worked hard to lose weight, and I don’t want to do it again. When that alarm goes off in the morning or it is time to organize my meals for the next day, it is not a matter of how I will get out of bed or pack my lunch. It is simply reminding myself why. Sometimes I have to remind myself more than once, so those reasons need to be powerful enough to move me.
That is the key! The reasons why must be powerful enough to move you. There are plenty of perfectly logical reasons to eat healthy and exercise, but there may only be one or two that actually inspire you to get up and do something. Luckily, that’s all you need! So, how do you figure out what it is?
The next time you are standing at a crossroads for your health, listen to the internal dialogue that takes place when you negotiate with yourself. Take a step back from yourself and be the observer of your thoughts. Watch as your different priorities have their debate and pay attention to which one wins. When it does, make note of the prevailing reason. There you have it: your true motivation.
If the healthy choice was the winner, hooray! You are connected to a strong motivator (or have experienced the consequences enough times to know what’s best for you). If other interests prevailed, be honest with yourself about why. There are times when other priorities take precedence over fitness. Sometimes we don’t take action because the goal has actually been set for us by someone else, and we resent it. It’s important to know these things, because that awareness can relieve you from feeling like a failure for reaching a goal you didn’t even set. Instead, negotiate new terms to make the goal something you care about.
The truth is, sometimes we are not motivated to change until things have gotten so bad that the pain of change is not as bad as the pain of staying the same. Sometimes we are more motivated by avoiding unsavory consequences than by the promise of things being better. That is all okay! Your motivation isn’t up for judgment or evaluation. No one else even has to know what it is.
Connect with your why this week. Put a picture of it on the fridge. Write it on your shoes. Tape it to your computer screen. Make it the ring tone on your phone. Do whatever it takes to stay connected to it. Because once you are connected with the why, the how becomes obvious.
So, what’s your why?
Last week we paused to reflect on the eighteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. As I scrolled through the posts on social media that recounted where we were when we heard the news, how it affected our lives and perspectives, and how we honor those whose lives were lost, one message continued to bubble to the top: America on September 12.
The patriotism was strong, but what seemed to resonate the most was the sense of fellowship that had come over our country. We were united, regardless of the differences between us. But it didn’t take long for our old ways to come back, and now our country is more divided than it has been in my lifetime. The pendulum of human nature swings from one extreme to the next, from terrorists trying to kill us to us killing each other.
The events of our personal lives can have the same effect. In my work as a health coach, I often hear stories of the heart attack that was the wake-up call, or the cancer diagnosis that put things in perspective. Life on September 12, there are moments of clarity when complicated issues seem less important than the fundamental values of civility and unity.
For some, this shift is a permanent one, and they live life differently. A cardiac patient may adopt a plant-based diet low in cholesterol, begin walking every day, and learn how to manage stress to protect their heart. It requires work, determination, and a learning curve, but the reality check of the alternative is enough to make it worth the effort, and life is changed for good.
For others, lifestyle change is more tentative, contingent on other criteria being met. As long as things go well, then healthy choices are possible. But if schedules are interrupted, drama erupts in relationships, healthy habits become inconvenient, or the learning curve is too steep, then change is abandoned or considered to be impossible given the circumstances.
For a while after September 11, we were united in our humanity. But as our list of criteria for living in harmony with each other has grown, so has the distance between us and our potential. We have more demands now. We need things to be a certain way in order to play nice. We say, “no deal,” if an obstacle is thrown into our path.
I wonder if the same can be said about how we live our lives and manage our health. Are you one who changes for good, or as long as everything else works out?
Do you live life like September 12, setting aside the petty obstacles in life and striding forward towards the changes you desire for a more balanced life? Do you look for ways to make the lives of others easier, to smooth their path towards progress as a neighbor? Or do you agree to the plan for change as long as everything goes how you like it?
Reading the accounts of life on September 11, and then on September 12, I sensed a shared nostalgia for the day when we were united. I’m making a feeble attempt now to encourage you to search for ways that you can bring a September 12 mentality into your life today.
Set your work to the side and go for that walk. Life is fast; slow down.
Put on your swimsuit and jump into the pool. Life is fleeting; have fun.
Push that greasy food away and give your body the good stuff. You are surrounded by people who love you; stick around for a while.
For a brief moment in 2001, our complicated lives were put into perspective and we held hands in unity. Now we have written a long list of criteria that must be met before we will consider doing that again.
I argue today that if you have a list like that in your life, one wake-up call could render it irrelevant. I wonder - will you wait for that wake-up call, or start living like it is September 12 today?
Did you know there is a new bad word? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with “sh” but has more than four letters.
It’s the word “should.” Did you know we are supposed to feel bad when we say it now? It’s true! I’ve read all over the internet and heard in videos about how we should - oops, there I did it again - stop being so critical of ourselves and just live our dreams.
We should also stop focusing on the things we should stop doing, because that’s negative, and you can’t live a positive life with a negative mindset. I said should twice in that sentence!
When you go to school to learn how to be a wellness coach, you learn a lot of rules for how to talk to people in productive ways. One of them is that we’re not supposed to tell you what you should do. And, and we’re supposed to listen for when you are saying this taboo word so we can reframe your scenario into something more positive and helpful. I’m telling you our secrets! If you hire a health coach now, you will know what she is up to.
The reason why “should” is such a bad word is because it usually means we are beating ourselves up for making what we consider to be a bad decision, leading to feelings of shame and obligation. When we say something like, “I should order the salad,” our brains sometimes continue that sentence with, “because I need to lose weight,” and then something like, “but I don’t want to.” Either way you’re doomed to feel pretty miserable about your choices.
But I don’t think it is a bad word. I mean, there are some things we should do to promote a healthy quality of life, and some things we shouldn't. That’s just reality. And in my line of work, reality is where it’s at.
So I like to ask people what they know they should do. It’s important to know. And, it is the best way to get to an even better question - what do you want to do?
I want to know what people know they should be doing, and then find out what they want to do, so we can discover the gap in between, and then mend it. Here are some ways to do that.
Know Your Needs
There is a difference sometimes between what we should do and we needs to be done. For example, I should clean my baseboards more often, but do I need to? Eventually, yes, but it’s not urgent. I should get some exercise every day. Do I need to? Absolutely yes. Everything is better when I exercise, and my body both needs and thrives on it. That needs to be done, and I should do it. You should, too.
Know Your Wants
Often, what my clients tell me are things they should do are also things they want to do, they just haven’t figured out how to do them. I should clean my baseboards more often. But I don’t really want to. I should exercise every day, and I want to. I always feel better after a workout, and I want that feeling. I should exercise, and I want the feeling that I get from exercise, so I do it.
Know Your Readiness
Sometimes, what my clients tell me are things they should do are things they don’t want to do, but wish they wanted to because they know it would be good for them. They aren’t ready, or it is too complicated, or too time consuming. That’s cool.
It’s okay to know that you should do something and are not likely to, but don’t stop there. Explore what you are ready to do instead. What would be a step in the right direction? Do that, and don’t worry about whether it’s the best solution or not. It’s better than doing nothing.
“Should” is not a bad word! It is a helpful word! When we look around and acknowledge the difference between what we are currently doing and what we should be doing instead, we can make informed decisions based on facts rather than feelings of shame or obligations.
That is something we should all do.
Think back for a minute and remember January. Can you remember where you were on New Year’s Day, thinking about the year ahead and what you envisioned for yourself? Whether you call it a resolution, a goal, or a fool’s errand, many of us can’t help but greet the new year without some kind of project for ourselves. Did you have one?
I did. I began 2019 with a commitment for better self-care and slowing down the pace of my life, because I was tired of hearing myself complain about how busy I was. Now that we’re here at the beginning of September, I can look back and see the ways that I have incorporated that into my life and look ahead to ensure I can continue my new habits.
If you want to do the same, in the spirit of football season kicking off this weekend, here’s how you can make a game plan.
Prepare Your Offense
Nine months have passed since you first had this idea, so do a gut-check on how important the goal is to you. It’s okay to let go of a plan if something that felt urgent in January isn’t a priority anymore. Think about what does feel urgent, and whether you want to pursue it. You have the ball.
Then, plan the offense by determining what needs to happen on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis to have achieved the outcome by the end of the year. For an extra point, do the first thing today.
Be Strong on Defense
Even with a smart and solid offense, a strong defense protects that plan. If your goal was easy to achieve, you would have done it by now. It’s likely that there is some reason you haven’t, and you probably already know what it is because you come face-to-face with it every day. Examine that reason, look for it’s weaknesses, and tackle them.
To do this, be ready with positive reasons why you are making a change and firm responses to that couch potato in your head. Keep victory in your sights, and stay excited about how it will feel to have created your new habit or reached your milestone.
Be Ready for an Interception
Of course, there will be times when none of that works, and you get intercepted. It happens, even to the pros. When you realize you screwed up, do what any champion does: figure out where your weakness was, patch it up, and get back into the game a little more alert and aware. Setbacks happen, but winners don’t make the same mistakes often.
I don’t care what the ref says, when you are able to make positive changes in the stubborn, over-scheduled lives we live, that deserves a victory dance. Celebration is important, because living healthfully should be rewarding and fun, and the more often you are able to connect healthy living with a sense of achievement and reward, the more likely you are to repeat the process. Give yourself every compliment in the book. Don’t hold back! You deserve to feel like an MVP when you do push yourself to the next level.
Have I used enough football analogies to make my point? You have everything it takes to be a winner this year, even if you aren’t coming into the season with a perfect record. It’s a new season now, and all of the polls predict that you have what it takes to be undefeated.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!