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How to Set Goals to Ensure Your Success

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Whether stated in conversation or explained via text, everyone that begins their work with me receives this disclaimer:

“First I feel it necessary to point out that I do not subscribe to the idea that we should fit into the image that we are marketed to as beautiful, sexy, handsome, or in some way desirable.  I am only interested in one thing, and that is how does health and fitness contribute to our quality of life.  How does it help us manifest what we believe and value MORE?  And in that way how does it contribute to our growth as a person?  With that being said, the pursuit of aesthetic, symmetry,  weight loss and other related ambitions, while they are not out of the scope of my practice, their priority is variable.  Meaning that their pursuit is only as important inasmuch as they fit in within the context of what we value.  To that extent, if at any point the pursuit of such goals, puts our identity and our self image in jeopardy, thereby affecting the pursuit of higher ordered goals, then those goals must be dispatched until a more resolute understanding of how they fit in within the context of what we TRULY value in life becomes more coherent.”

So while the traditional goals associated with my field are definitely worth pursuing, they are not to be pursued at the expense of higher priorities and values.

Goals and the framework for designing them, in my opinion, is a largely misunderstood practice and therefore, ineffectively coached.
We are often told that we should have S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time bound) goals.  The problem with SMART goals is that they assume emotion, they don’t generate it.  I have talked to some degree about how emotion drives action, and that if we are to make changes that last and sustain over the course of time, then we need to find the emotion(s) that can fuel the efforts needed to make the transition.  The problem is, these big goals, the goals that we feel define us and give us purpose, do not fall within the guidelines of SMART goals.  No, these goals are often abstract and nebulous and, to large degree, that is by design, because they are meant to encompass a lot. Their obscurity allows us creative interpretation on how they might be manifested in our daily actions.
Therefore, I view goals within a hierarchy.  With the most meaningful goals at the top and the lower tier goals following suit until we reach the bottom level.
The top level goals are abstract and vague for reasons mentioned formerly, but as you travel further down the hierarchical chain, the less vague they become.  It is not until we reach the lower tier goals when SMART goals prove to be most valuable.
Setting up goals in this fashion allows us to take advantage of the two sides of us that are seemingly at odds with each other, and can be most poignantly summed up with the question, “why is it that I know what to do, but I can’t seem to get myself to do it?”

 

Goals, therefore, need to be a mix of both emotional, AND logical because knowing what you want without a clear path on how to get there will eventually result in apathy.

Now, the lower tier goals, are less important, and consequently can be changed on a whim. In fact, this is encouraged to some degree.  This is the area where we can encourage experimentation and trail and error.  It is also during this time where we can cultivate and foster a mindset that has a favorable response to failure, and bias toward growth and learning.

It is important that we nurture this perspective because one of the many truths of progress is that failure is not the exception, it is the rule, and if we do not equip ourselves with the mental fortitude to withstand these set backs our goals will soon meet an early demise.

It should be stated that harboring this mindset is not easy, especially in the landscape we currently find ourselves in.  One where we have a culture that champions innate talent, natural intelligence, and inborn ability in lieu of laborious effort, deliberate practice, and skill development.  A climate where we more inclined to have an answer given to us, rather than to critically think about the solution and whether it applies within the context who we are, how we live and what we value.  It is a system beliefs that define us as fixed, finite, and limited; and so we end up asking the question, “why even make an attempt if the outcome will remain unchanged?”

It is an ideology that is flawed, and yes, while some are born with distinct advantages, that tale of hard work, perseverance, and consistent effort leads to a more meaningful existence, and in turn a “happier” life.

In conclusion, when you embark to make meaningful changes in your life, reflect on what is important to you, and NOT once, but MANY times.
Reflection is better defined as engaging with the process.  Reviewing your successes, as well as your errors, gives you indispensable information as to how you might accumulate more triumphs moving forward.
Seek the goals that define you and give you purpose and let those fuel your actions as you make progress in small, but meaningful ways.  Then follow that up with a plan to get there.  In this way goals, give us purpose as well as a definitive road to get there, albeit one with detours, winding trails, and steep hills

What’s Needed to Change and Asking a Better Question

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Transcript

When people come to see me for the first time and then they start to get to working with me, within this process of weight loss, and health, and wellness, and what ever this is to you.  They often exclaim to me that working with me is something that is very different than what they are used to, and I can see how that is.  Because how I view this whole process of weight loss and health and wellness, I view it within the context of what actually means to change something.  Because I think that’s what were trying to do.

On a very fundamental level what we’re trying to do is change.

And if I were to break this down; now there’s a multitude of factors that are involved in the creation of change and the sustainability of a change.  But if I were to break it down to the very nuts and bolts of how change actually occurs it first starts with our perspective and how we view things; and then second, it involves the development of skills that we don’t already posses.  Changing our perspective. Changing our view of things.  It’s this idea of metacognition and psychoanalysis.  It’s this idea of thinking about our thinking.  To be able to step back from our own pool of thoughts and say “could I be wrong?”  And that’s not easy for people to do because we like to be right.  And we think that our perspective is the only perspective, and so, getting into a practice of where you’re continually challenging your own thought is not an easy task, but it’s something that I think is very vital when it comes to making changes. To be able to say to yourself is there a perspective that I have not yet entertained, that if I did, that could possibly move me forward…is powerful.

You know, and this goes back to a mantra that I teach my clients and live my life by, and it’s “ask a better question.”  When you get stuck, as a better question.  And there’s only one rule that I give to people when it comes to asking a better question, and that’s it can’t be a question that has a binary response.  What I mean by that is that it can’t be “yes or no”, “true or false”, or “either or”.  The reason why I say that is because when we talk about making changes, you know, a lot of these things can be daunting.  You know, when it comes to weight loss, and when it comes to health, and some of these things we’re trying to do.  It can be overwhelming to some people, and when we lack self confidence, and when we lack self esteem, and we lack self efficacy, you know.  If I ask myself “can I do this?”  I might just say no and I might just give up.  And so when I say the questions that you ask can’t have a binary response, is that’s what I mean.  If you tell yourself “can I do this?” Your default answer might be no, and I don’t want you to go there.  So what a better question might be is “how can I do this?”  It could be that simple.  How could I do this? Because when we ask a question like that it brings our resources to bare, right.  We start to think about, okay, how could I solve this problem.  And ultimately what I’m trying to do, in this whole process, is I’m trying to get you to think critically about your situation.  There’s a quote out there that I forgot who said it.  If it was Jim Rohn or Zig Zigglar. It was one of those guys.  And he said, you know, “don’t ask for less problems, as for more skills.”  And that’s very true.

Moving Away From Answer Dependency

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Transcript

So, you’re going to have to really look into yourself, really reflect and review on what you think is working and what’s not working. I think this where we fall short sometimes, because we become a very answer-dependent culture, and where we feel like, just get me the answer. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Most people, if I ask you, what are five things you should be doing, and you’re just not doing it? You can probably rattle off five or seven things. So, the fundamental thing that I think that people approach this wrong is that they’re answer-dependent. They’re looking for an answer to be given rather than an answer to be learned and discovered and figured out. When this change, a change where it involves health, wellness, weight loss, whatever it might be, is an adaptable change. It will change as the process moves on because you can predict life, but then you get sick or then your child gets sick or then a family member passes away or then you have to move. These are all life. These are part of life. So, what do you do then? And this is why I say that I don’t have answers for you.

The answers are something that we’re going to have to figure out together and that is the key to things, though, you see, because it’s not the strategy. It’s not what you’re doing that is so important. It’s how you thought about it. What was your train of thought to get there? Because you will need to apply that same thought pattern, that same principle of thinking, again and again and again, because you will need to adapt. You will need to change as life changes, as your beliefs change, as your identity grows bigger. So, the first step is, don’t look for answers to be given to you. Now, I’m not saying don’t be resourceful. Go look for perspective. Go look for other ideas, of course, but understand how those things fit in within the context of who you are and the life you live. It has to pass through that filter. I say this time and time again. Strategies tend to lose their utility. At one point in time, they will become useless to you. So, what do you do then? What happens? And this is all I’m asking.

Weight Loss Tip: Think Smaller to Make Big Changes

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If you do not already know, losing weight is largely about calories in versus calories out.  That should be no secret.  Now how you accomplish this task, is where things can get a little tricky.  So today I would like to share with you a simple trick or environmental manipulation that I use to help me reduce the amount of calories I take in without giving it a second thought.

Mint and Chip Ice Cream

I love ice cream, especially the mint and chip variety.  In fact, it is for this reason that I indulge in that creamy goodness every night!  I know…shocker right??  Not really, for those of you reading this that know me, that is not a far stretch AT ALL.  What can I say…I love my sweets.  But too much of anything is not a good thing, and when it came to eating ice cream I was approaching that “too much” mark exceedingly fast–so I needed to make a few adjustments.

“Minimize” Me?

During my ice cream escapades I started to notice that the lifespan of the ice cream tub was lessening every week.  It went from lasting me about a week, to about half that.  Which could have only meant one of two things–A) I was eating more than I thought or B) My GF was eating some of it too.  But option B wasn’t much of an option, because my GF does not share my same enthusiasm for ritualistic ice cream eating in the evening hours.  So I was left with myself to blame.

Whenever it comes time for me to change a habit I am always thinking of ways to make my decisions easier; therefore, I do not have to expend much of my willpower energy to accomplish what needs to be done.  With that being said, I always look to manage three areas of influence.

  1. People–relationships
  2. Places–environments
  3. Things–items that can help me accomplish my task.

In this case, “things” by way of bowls, utensils, and ice cream cones, made a huge difference in helping me reducing the total amount of calories I ate during the week.

I started off by using a smaller bowl.  This had a positive effect for a bit, but then I found that was starting to compensate for the reduction in bowl width, by adding more ice cream to the top, effectively negating the whole concept of using a smaller bowl to begin with.  So then I decided to shrink the bowl EVEN MORE.  This helped a bit more because, the visual of seeing such a small bowl stacked with SO MUCH ice cream on top served as a reality check, because there was no excuse for having that much ice cream in such a small bowl besides the fact that I was just trying to stuff my face. So gradually the amount of ice cream started to fit in the way a bowl of that size should be utilized.

portion-sizes

So I figured the bowl out.  But then I ran into another issue.  I like to eat it while I am winding down watching TV, but I started to notice that my ice cream wasn’t lasting that long in terms of amount of time it took me to it eat it, which was leaving me a little dissatisfied to say the least.  I felt that desert was not serving me in the way that it should be.  So to resolve this issue, I knew that I needed to eat slower, but I did not want to be mindful of my eating, because it would defeat the purpose of being able to watch TV AND eat dessert at the same time. So guess what I did?  I got a smaller spoon!  Smaller bites would mean that it would last longer, and I was right.  It did last longer, and as a result my desert time became a little more pleasureable.  By this time I was into it.  I wanted to see if I could improve my dessert eating experience AND keep myself in line with reducing my overall caloric intake.  Enter the ice cream cone…BOOM!

By placing my ice cream in an ice cream cone I was forced to lick my ice cream to death, like a damn tootsie pop..and how long does it take to get to the center of those things again?  

By manipulating the way I consume my dessert I was able to reduce my overall caloric intake by 1500 to 2100 cals each week, and when this is combined with my other efforts such as making better food choices and exercise it can make a big difference.

In conclusion, sustainable weight loss is largely about finding out what is going to work for you.  It is good to think in terms of how you can influence yourself to make better choices.  Managing these three areas of influence–relationships, environment, and tools–can markedly improve your chances of success.  

So ditch the idea of diet cults and trending fads, and get creative with the solutions to your problems and figure out what’s going to work for you.

3 Strategies to “Dream Big” Better

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We are exposed to it time and time again, and yet, every separate occurrence it seems as if we may have never been informed of it prior to our most recent experience.

Life has a tendency to not give a sh*t about our plans

We try to be as cognizant to our surroundings as possible.  We try to account for variables; possible outcomes; and the like, but life may prefer to veto your original blueprint in lieu of it’s most recent “etch-a-sketch” of what your experience should entail.

It is for this reason, that I tell everyone, that in whatever change you are attempting to make, just know that it WILL take LONGER expected. Because SOMETHING will happen.  I cannot tell you what it is–just be confident that it will.  Not to sound like some esoteric palm reader, but I see it often enough to make an educated guess, that your “vision of success” rarely matches what reality has in store for you.

The Unrealistic Optimist

We are often told of the benefits of being optimistic; a lot of which is true. For example, practicing optimism boasts benefits such as longer life, resilience, happiness, athleticism, better job opportunities, etc. almost ANYTHING equated with success can be associated with maintaining a positive attitude. This partly why, more often than not, I search for silver linings, buried lessons, and try to envision the best possible outcomes–I have become a practitioner of a seemingly very useful skill. But this does not mean that I forego my diet of skepticism and scrutiny in light of blue skies and sunny days.

Because optimism without regard for failure is best defined as ignorance–and for some, blissfully so.

Yet, even with what we know to be true, we STILL attempt “change” with rose colored spectacles.  We somehow fool ourselves into believing that everything will go as expected and our faith, will, motivation, or lack of skill will somehow remain undaunted–never wavering for a moment.

A common example of this is when we decide to lose that “spare tire” or “pouch” that seems to have taken up occupancy around our midsections.  We believe that we will workout five days a week, disregarding our lack of effort over the previous three months. We will start to “eat clean” (whatever that means), and pass on our evening ritual of ice cream followed by a glass of wine.  We never, for a moment, think about the reality of our situation. And this can be likened to premeditated failure, which leads to apathy or a reluctance to try again.

But why do we behave in this way, even when we KNOW that this is, almost certainly, a recipe for disaster?

“Dreaming Big” Feels REALLY Good

When we make elaborate plans to achieve success, and envision ourselves doing it, we feel good about ourselves…REALLY good.  But why did we decided to make such elaborate plans to begin with?  Taking a closer look at the reason why we decided to change in the first place, can give us some insight into why we are so prone to setting ourselves up for failure.

When we think about what we DON’T like about ourselves we get stressed out.  And when we get stressed out we search for relief, and often times this can come in the form of vice.  For example, when someone that smokes get’s into a heated argument, they tend to grab a smoke to “blow off steam”, or when we have had a stressful day at work, we see if we can get off early enough to catch happy hour before it ends.  There is an immediate level of gratification that satisfies our need to find some normalcy or a level of comfort, but rarely (if ever) do these “solutions” solve our problems.  They simply provide us with a means to cope.  

Setting elaborate, unrealistic goals can have the same effect.  As I noted before when we, in effect, “dream big” we feel virtuous.  We feel REALLY good.  We get a shot of awe inspiring hope and this can leave us feeling invigorated and motivated.  We do this in response to undesirable feelings about a certain aspect of who we are or circumstances in our life, otherwise why would we even entertain the thought of changing…right?  In other words, we get “stressed” and this leads us to seek relief, and the “solution” most appropriate to resolve these negative feelings, is to “DREAM BIG”–and the bigger the dream, the better we feel.

So am I saying that we should NOT “DREAM BIG”?  Not by any means.  But I AM saying that “dreaming big” without context for how such idea should be applied is foolish.

A Better Way to “Dream Big”

dream_big

Big dreams have an uncanny way of inspiring motivation–and that is something that can prove to be a catalyst to create change when we need it most.  But big dreams without direction and a practice in discipline and resolve will soon transform into angst, lethargy, and discontent.  So below are three strategies you can use to “Dream Big” better.

One:  Get a Healthy Dose of Pessimism

Pessimism is often seen in a negative light, and when pessimism swings too far in one direction, such as the proverbial Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys (or Neds) of the world, it is most certainly an annoyance to experience. But pessimism has its benefits.  According to some studies pessimism is correlated with longer marriages, more productivity, and longer lives.  The trick is applying pessimism to identify, understand, and plan for your potential downfall.  Which leads us to our next strategy.

Two: Plan To Fail

Failure is not the exception, it is the rule.  Write this down and reference it every time you resolve to change something.  When we plan for our missteps, the failure itself becomes apart of our strategy for change.  We become better equipped to deal disasters, trials, and tribulations.  It also gives us a level of control, which can bolster your confidence in yourself to complete what you set out to accomplish.

Three:  Falling Down is Not So Bad, As Long As You GET BACK UP

Enough cannot be said for cultivating a mindset that does not allow you to wallow in your sorrow.  When we encounter experiences that do not favor us, or our situation, being able to regain composure and move forward is the hallmark of every success story you are likely to hear. Our ability to be resilient despite unfavorable circumstances is what being “optimistic” is all about.

To Change ANYTHING…Start HERE

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Looking Ahead

  • Roughly 2000 words
  • Mindfulness is the start to making changes with success, health, and happiness.
  • Stop relating actions to “good vs. bad” it is more productive to ask “does this serve me in my attempts to achieve my goals or not?”
  • To be mindful requires deliberate practice.
  • It may be in your best interest to keep a journal or record of the progress you make to be a little bit better than before.
  • Mindfulness practice has a tangible effect on brain health including, but not limited to improved memory, learning, emotional regulation, and better responses to stress.

I think most of us tend to live in a reactionary state.  We tend to do things in a way that conveys our impulse rather than our conscious thought.  Being aware of our reactionary way of behaving and being mindful of our thoughts, emotions, and physical body is a practice in control and discipline.  

To be mindful is to be an observer.  Someone that does not pass judgement, but simply seeks to gain an understanding of how things are.  It is important to understand this perspective.  Our behaviors are not “bad” or “good”, there are only actions that serve us and those that do not.  This is an important distinction.  Once we give our actions moral license, we feel virtuous for acting on behaviors we deem “good”, which then gives us justification to be a little bit “bad”.  

An example of this would be for someone trying to lose weight to say “I did a hard 5 mile run today; I deserve to indulge in pizza and beer tonight.”  The problem with this statement is not the fact that they want to have pizza and beer, it’s because they chose to give “a hard 5 mile run” and “eating pizza and beer” a position on their moral compass.  If “the run” and the “indulgence on pizza and beer” were separate experiences not reliant on the outcome of one another, no moral justification would be needed, they are simply acts of preference.  When we assign virtue to certain behaviors and vice to others we become moral accountants constantly trying to balance our behaviors between “good” and “bad”.

integrity red word indicated by compass conceptual image on white background

To reaffirm the idea that our actions or behaviors are neither “good” or “bad”, and that a more productive approach would be to view our behaviors as “do they serve me in what I am trying to accomplish or not”, let’s take a look at a study that expresses how this idea of moral accounting can affect the decisions we make.

The Moral Accountant in Us

I think the act of giving to charity is seen as virtuous act in most of our eyes.  Given the opportunity, and the financial resources, I believe that most of us would make a donation to the charity that resonates with us.  The question in the study below is, would the amount of the donation change, if you were feeling “morally good” versus feeling “morally bad”?

In a study conducted out of Northwestern University, researchers took 46 participants and told them that they would be participating in a study that would be analyzing handwriting styles. The participants were then divided into three groups: neutral, positive, and negative.  In the neutral group, the participants were asked to copy a list of words and think carefully about what the words meant to them.  The list of words were neutral in nature–i.e. book, keys, house. The positive group was asked to do the same, but the list of words were positive in their distinction such as generous, caring, kind, and fair.  And finally the negative group receive the same instructions, but given words such as disloyal, greedy, mean, and selfish. After completing the copying task, the participants were then asked to write a brief story about themselves that included the words that they had just copied.  They also received a bit of advice that their story may be less daunting to write if they visualized how each word was relevant to their lives.

After giving the participants a break, in the form of a filler task, the researchers then asked the participants if they would like to make a small donation (up to $10.00), to the charity of their choosing, in an effort to increase social awareness.  Would the positive and negative stories about themselves make a difference??  They most certainly did!

On average the positive group (feeling morally righteous) donated LESS THAN HALF as much as the neutral (control) group; and the negative group (feeling morally bad) donated almost TWICE as much.  So when we are feeling “good” about our moral identity we are less likely to act saintly due the fact that we have, in a sense, “done our good deed for the day”.  And when we feel that our moral identity is threatened we will attempt compensate, to make up for it.  You can see how this concept of moral accounting can be a slippery slope.

I make this distinction between “good” and “bad” because when it comes to being mindful in an effort to change something in your life, acting in alignment with your core values and beliefs removes wrong and right, good vs. bad, and leaves us with…progress.

Awareness:  A Practice in Being Mindful

The most common practice of being mindful is meditation.  The word meditation conjures up visions of buddhist monks, martial arts masters, and asian guys with long white beards, but being mindful does not require that you “meditate” in what many may consider the traditional form.  Being mindful, is simply resisting impulse without defining the purpose for doing so. It is a brief pause to be present with your thoughts–to gain insight on how they affect you as well as the actions take part in.  This is the beginning of awareness, this is where change finds its origins, because to change anything you must first be aware of your current status quo.

It is a common occurrence for those just starting out with the practice of being aware to “suck” at it.  I am here to tell you that, that is a good thing.  Your inefficiency, and your ability to encourage your struggling mind is akin to using weights to build your muscles.  The paradox about control and discipline is in order to strengthen it, you must also HAVE it.  Your efforts to practice being mindful from moment to moment allows you to build the cognitive “muscle” necessary for willpower, control, and discipline.

A Willpower and Happiness Muscle?

Your abilities for control and discipline take up residence in your brain–they inhabit the prefrontal cortex.  This area of the brain is reserved for high order functions and decision making.  Your brain is comprised of two types of matter: gray matter and white matter.  White matter is responsible for the communication processes between different areas of the brain, and the gray matter (the one we are concerned with) is where our cognitive abilities lie–I.E. memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language and consciousness.  

prefrontal cortex

In a study conducted by researcher and neuroscientist Sara Lazar of Harvard University, they found that practitioners of mediation (i.e. mindfulness) showed marked growth in the gray matter tissue in the prefrontal cortex.  The study was conducted on 20 participants, all of which were normal, everyday people that have made the practice of meditation a routine part of their lives, they were then paired with their control counterparts, which were matched for age, sex, race, and comparable education.  What they found, through MRIs performed on all participants, was that the mediation group had noticeably larger, thicker areas of gray matter–the areas associated with memory, attention, control, willpower, etc.–in relation to their control counterparts.  

In a follow up study, in an effort to silence all the critics suggesting that meditation (mindfulness) practice was not the cause the significant brain development, Lazar and her team designed a study in which they would take participates–novices to the practices of mindfulness–through an 8 week training in which they would be taught a technique referred to as mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR).  They took brain scans of all participants pre and post training and what they found was enlightening.  

In the group that took part in the 8 week training they found significant growth in the regions of the brain associated with learning, cognition, emotional regulation, perspective taking, empathy, and compassion.  They also found that the amygdala–the part of the brain associated with stress, anxiety, and fear–showed a marked reduction in size; suggesting that people that practice being mindful respond better to instances of stress and anxiety.

These findings are significant in the fact that the idea of being “mindful” is not as esoteric as we may have once believed.  When you hear your yoga teacher, or an eastern philosopher tout the benefits of being “present” with your experience, it’s not a bunch of baloney.  There is tangible evidence supporting what mindfulness practitioners have been echoing off of one another for years–mindfulness can, in a sense, bring you closer to peace; and in turn, bring about more experiences of joy and happiness.

Awareness and Coaching

The studies mentioned above are just a couple among the large body of research supporting the efficacy of mindfulness practice in improving the quality of your life, as well as in the treatment of depression, anxiety, ADD, chronic pain, etc.  It is for this reason, that learning to be aware and mindful of your experiences is where I start every one of my coaching clients.

I do not ask that people to take part in a “meditation” practice (although, I do say that it might be a good idea), but I do require that each of my clients to take part in a “mindfulness practice” by journaling and/or taking part in Daily Reflections.  The purpose for doing so is two fold:

  1. By documenting your journey you become a witness and an active participant to the progress you make.
  2. You become more in touch with who you are, who you would like to be, and and you gain an understanding of how that relates to your experience.

Why Don’t you Drive Professionally?

Once we learn how to drive a car most of us remain at the same skill level when getting behind a wheel as when we first started.  There may be a small amount of improvement the first few years, but there is a reason why many of my friends (myself included), do not drive in Nascar or any other field that requires highly skilled drivers.  You would think that, that would NOT be the case, given the amount of time each of us spend managing the gas and brake pedals.  You would THINK that many of us get A LOT of practice, but this is the difference between taking an active role in making progress versus being a lowly bystander to your experience.  

Deliberate Practice:  Perfect Practice

Taking an active role in making progress, in any endeavor, requires that you practice…deliberately.  What this means that you cannot just drive your car, without paying attention or focusing on the development of the skills required to be a professional driver, if this is something you are looking to pursue. Deliberate practice requires focus, attention, reflection, adjustment, and fine tuning–and it is the prerequisite for success in any achievement worth merit.

Journaling and Daily Reflections remind us that our process for discovering who we are and how we can be a little bit better than before, is of the utmost importance.  It keeps us grounded in our experience and allows to extract lessons from our missteps and gives us a tool recall our victories.  

Conclusion

Being mindful and reflecting on our lives aids us in the process of understanding and mastering the subject that should be the most important to us…ourselves.  We develop a deep knowledge of how to cope with failures, live contently, cultivate relationships, be more compassionate, take care of ourselves and our loved ones, etc.  We learn to live contently, without being complacent.  And from this foundation, we find more happiness and success.  All of this starts with being aware and mindful of our day to day experience.

*NOTE:  In this article I mentioned a tool I use with all of my coaching clients called Daily Reflections.  It is a method for evaluating and reflecting on your everyday experience and how those experiences align with the vision of who you are, and the person you are working towards.

Willpower Fill Ups: 3 Ways to Keep Your Willpower When You Need it Most

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“The struggle is REAL”. This may be an accurate statement for many of us in pursuit of a goal that requires us to behave in ways that are atypical to our normal routine. The very concept of behaving differently accurately describes our very own willpower challenge. The ability to exert self-control in the face of our natural impulses.

Like many of you, I am not stranger to the strength one has to muster to avoid the temptations that the lesser me would love to indulge in, so today I would like to share with you some ideas that can help you sustain your willpower and help you arm yourself against…well…yourself.

An Exhaustible Resource

Science has discovered that willpower is an exhaustible resource meaning the more you use it, the less of it you have.  This means the more willpower challenges you face during your day, the less of it you will have when it really matters.  The one caveat is that you must recognize the choices presented to you as a challenge that must be over come with self control, so it may be a matter of perspective, but that may be a topic for another post.  But specific “will power challenges” are not the only experiences that drain your reserve.  Anything that the mind and body registers as “stress” can also pull from your precious willpower reservoir, but fret not, there are some simple actions that you can do to help you replenish this valuable resource, and keep you on the straight and narrow.

Willpower Fill Ups

Eat Whole Foods

I know that the initial response to this strategy is, “This is my CHALLENGE!!”, and I get it. For many of us, especially when it comes to our goals of losing fat, a challenge of ours is to eat a more balanced diet, but let me explain why this may benefit you more than you think.

whole food

Your body uses glucose or sugar as its source of energy, it fuels everything.  When your blood sugar drops the brain favors short term thinking and impulsive behavior, so you can see how this can be a problem.

low blood sugar = no will power

With this information one might think, “well if sugar is the key to more willpower, I’m just going to go ham on all these donuts!”, and while this sounds like my idea of a good time, it will do little in the way of helping you maintain your abilities of self control.

The brain has a very limited supply of energy at and given time, because it is constantly using the energy given to it, so it must rely on a STEADY resource.  So our brains have developed a way to “manage” its resources.  It monitors the FLOW of available energy and makes decisions whether to slow productivity or keep working at optimal function. This may be why you feel like you cannot focus or concentrate at times, because your brain is opting  to spare resources in lieu of expending them.  This is why the sudden spike in glucose, due to those highly sugary foods, poses a problem, because the brain does not register these spikes as a reliable resource, but rather an abnormal event.

Whole foods, on the other hand, tend to digest slower making for a steady release of energy into the blood stream; therefore, proving to be a more reliable resource in the view of the brains monitoring system, thus keeping you from an energy depleted state and keeping your willpower intact.

Movement

Most people are no strangers to the benefits of exercise.  When most of us think of exercise we think of yet another challenge to overcome, but when it comes to “refueling” your will power, a little goes a long way.

Movement

It turns out that movement develops the same part of the brain that willpower and self control also inhabit, the prefrontal cortex.  If you have ever been stuck trying to solve a problem and decided to walk AND think, then suddenly more solutions come to mind, you may often find that the very act of moving seemed to do the trick. This is movement doing it’s magic by strengthening your cognitive, and in turn, your willpower abilities.

I use the word movement in place of exercise, because research seems to show that the brain does not discriminate between washing your car and strength training at the gym.   The only caveat is that the movement must be voluntary, it cannot be forced.  You must WANT to perform the act of moving, otherwise the benefits may not be realized.

So if you find yourself in a position where you a little or a lot of free time to move, take that opportunity to “fill up” your willpower tank by getting in a workout, taking a nice walk, or playing a bit of ping pong on your lunch break.

De-stress

As  I mentioned above, specific “willpower challenges” are not the only experiences that pull from your self-contol resources.  Anything that the body and mind recognizes as “stress” has the same affect.  So it is common sense to reduces stress if we want to sustain our willpower for the long haul.

Actions such as taking a short break, practicing breathing exercises, getting a massage, etc. ANYTHING that you find helps you clear your mind and re-energizes you, falls in this category.

I should also mention that “stress” is subjective.  So a simple flip in the way you perceive a challenge you are faced with can also help you move from “stress ball” to “problem solver”,

Play with some of these ideas and try to utilize them during your busy days and work weeks, you may find that you have a little more willpower to spare.

Good Luck!

 

3 Ways to Defeat Your Negativity and Move Toward Progress

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“I’m fat”, “I’m weak”, “I’m ugly”, “I could never do that…”

Imagine saying this to yourself EVERYDAY!  The sad thing is, that some of us may not have to IMAGINE that at all.  If this is your reality, then we need to have a talk.  The above statements are not all inclusive; if you play the part of being your biggest bully then there are mountains of slurs, and degrading comments or statements to use at your disposal and that is a scary thing.

Its time to make some adjustments…

Now, I am not here to tell you that life is rainbows and sunshine, and I’m not here to tell you that change is easy, but what I will tell you that if you continue being the “bully” then your will never find peace, and happiness will find ways to avoid your company.

So Where to Start…

For a lot of us the same show plays every day, and we never think to change the channel.  We take part in the same actions, the same thoughts, our interactions are typically the same; you might say we flip on auto pilot and just sit quietly as if this is the way things are supposed to be.  But the fact is…they aren’t.

What happens is, that we get stuck in a narrow frame.  We succumb to the idea that we have limited options.  We make statements like “this is just who I am…” or “I’m getting to old…” we accept our limitations as facts and not as confines that can be broken or transcended.  We accept our position, rather than defining it.

So take a minute to examine your limitations and negative thoughts, and then I want you to disregard them as if you were not allowed to think that way and those limitations never existed.  Allow yourself to have widen your options.  Be creative in how you define yourself, and experiment with alternate solutions and analyze their outcomes.

As I stated before, this process will not be easy.  It will take some practice, discipline, and self awareness.  You will be fighting your natural inclination to “keep watching the same show”, so to speak.  So in order to combat that natural urge here are a few strategies to help you arm yourself.

Strategies

  1.  Vanishing Options – I touched on this earlier.  Ask yourself, “if I wasn’t allowed to believe this, or think this way, what would I believe in?”  In essence take away, the option to revert back to your default beliefs and thoughts.  Especially those that limit your progress.  It is amazing how a simple change in perspective, given to us by a more productive question, opens us up to new realms of possibility and opportunity.
  2. Role Play – One of the greatest tragedies as we get older is the downfall of our imagination.  We forget how powerful it can be.  This strategy will ask you recall some of that forgotten talent and ask that you to imagine that you were the person you want to be.  Who is it that you are find yourself distraught over, because your are not them (yet)?  How do they dress? Do they exude confidence? Are they patient, open, and kind? Are they successful? I would ask you to fill that persons shoes.  Walk as if you were that person, laugh as if your were that person, ACT as if you were that person!  If you have ever heard the phrase “fake it til you make it”, it is based on the idea that your body and mind are not separate, they work synergisticly with each other.  When the body communicates confidence with an upright posture, gaze pointed forward, and a demeanor of poise, the mind follows suit.  So use that to your advantage.
  3. Abolish the status quo – This is inline with our first strategy, and it requires you relinquish your disposition fight for your status quo.  You need to continuously remind yourself to be open, and accept failure, but never allow yourself to be defined by it.  “Change” will ask you to be someone you have never been before, and in that process you encounter failure, missteps, and mistakes.  You must be resolute in your decision to pursue your greatness and your mindset must be conditioned to withstand defeat, and transform them into vital lessons learned that will propel you toward your achievements.

Developing a plan that is going to help you improve in the way that you would like to is going to take a bit of time to discover.  Try some of these strategies out and take some insights away from your practice.  You will be better off than if you did nothing at all, because that never gets us very far.

Why We have Habits and 3 Ways you Can Break the “Bad” Ones

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“Old habits die hard…”

It is a common phrase that plagues us when we are in pursuit of changing something in our lives.  But WHY DO old habits die hard?  It turns out that habits have purpose, so trying to rid yourself of a long standing habit can take a considerable amount of effort; at least in the beginning.

I tend to get lost in my thoughts pretty often.  I like to consider myself a thinker, although I am not entirely sure what that means, because I am pretty sure that EVERYONE does some thinking, and therefore can be consider a “thinker”, but I digress.  The reason I bring this topic up because I often think while driving, but not about the act of driving.  I am often thinking of other things such as traffic, a incident where a client was having a hard time, what to eat later, when I should workout, etc.  pretty much everything ACCEPT driving; yet I still am able to perform the task at hand and get to my destination.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but it has happened to me several times.  Have you ever gotten into your car on the way to a destination besides your workplace, but the routes started off similar?  Did you ever just end up on your way to work even-though you had no intention of going to work that day?  It happens almost automatically!  I will get lost in my thoughts, and I will, somehow, go into autopilot and arrive at the place that I most frequent, work!

This is a prime example of the purpose and use of habits.  Habits are built and sustained in order to save our energy for other tasks that require our attention and focus.

Your mind and body are always searching for ways to be as efficient as possible.  It is constantly trying to answer the questions how can I perform the tasks asked of me, while expending the smallest amount of energy?  This is a learned process.  We tend to take part in an “everyday routine”, once this routine has been established the brain will go to work trying make this process as less energy expensive as possible.  How does it do this?

We may not be aware of it, but we are constantly receiving cues from our outside world.  Our brain is scanning for these cues to act as a trigger to set a habit in motion.  Once a cue or series of cues are found the brain matches them with the specific habit and then you are off to the races!  Free to think about whatever you like while your brain/habits take care of the rest.  If we think about it, that’s pretty F*N cool!

But now where does this leave us if we want to change a habit?

The mind does not want to expend more energy, so getting rid of “old programming” will not be easy in the beginning.  The mind and body will resist your efforts, but here are some tips to get you started.

1.  Change your routine

Putting yourself in unfamiliar places may be just what you need to advance yourself in the pursuit of your goals.  Something as simple as taking an alternate route home from work, placing your desk in a different area of the house, or completely changing the places you frequent on a day to day basis for a period of time, or even everyday could be what you need to keep moving forward.

2.  Bring Awareness

Forcing yourself to bring attention the habits that may not be serving you in your quest to achieve a goal can prove to be an invaluable tool.  So keeping a record whether it be a journal, app, or other means is a good idea to interrupt the patterns you have embedded into you routines.  Stopping to record what you are doing can often be just catalyst to help you change.

3.  Ask for help

We all have relationships in our lives that seem to support our habits whether they serve our goal or not.  But having conversations with the people that you are in contact with the most, and asking them to aid you in your plan of action can help out tremendously.  Be it family, friend, or co-worker they can also be apart of the “cuing” process that triggers an offending habit, so enlisting them to act as your accomplice in your efforts to change for the better, can help you break those unwanted behaviors.

Good Luck!

-Mr. Uplift