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I’ve discovered the best take-action. motivator  In my younger days, I used the “cleaning the oven” technique.  If I said to myself, “I really need to clean the oven,” (This was back in ancient times when we didn’t have self-cleaning ovens.)  I would do just about any other task to avoid putting my head in the oven.

But now, I have a much more exciting motivator.  Buy New Underwear!  This Spring I was once again faced with the daunting task of spring cleaning.  At this point, heck at any point, in my life, cleaning is not high on my desire-to-do-list.  But I do like our home to be clean.  Sooooo – I procrastinated and went shopping.

At the I-won’t-mention-the-name-of-the-store outlet, I was bedazzled by the underwear on display.  I chose a variety of colors and when I returned home, I realized that the first task was to clean out my underwear drawer to make room for the new items.  So out went the panties with stretched elastic, the bras that no longer fit on the third hook and some of the ‘mold me” undergarments that are supposed to make me ten pounds slimmer but only succeed in making me take twice as long to go to the bathroom.

I folded and arranged the new lingerie and looked at the drawer with bliss.  I could find everything.  It was all in neat stacks.  This moved me to the sock drawer, then to the closet and then to the rest of the bedroom.  Even under the bed!  I dusted, vacuumed, polished and organized.

That night you could feel how much cleaner the room was.  When I closed the blinds, there weren’t any particles floating in the air.  When I set my glassed on the nightstand, I didn’t create a tsunami of dust.  When I entered the walk-in closet, I could actually see the floor.

So that’s the secret my friends.  Want to get started on a project?  Buy new underwear!  Now for the rest of the house . . . .

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It’s the second week of January, and are you are still gung-ho about your resolutions? Or maybe you didn’t make any, so you are avoiding all those people who did and go on and on about how wonderful they are. And you resist saying, “I saw you eat that candy bar.”

The number one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Most of the people who make that vow abandon it by Valentine’s Day.

There are a variety of reasons why that happens:

  • Goal is too lofty – “I’m going to lose fifty pounds by March”
  • Goal isn’t maintainable – “I will eat only lettuce and drink only water for one month.”
  • Goal is constricting – “The only way to lose weight is to never eat any of the foods I love.”

There is plenty of information out there to guide you in being successful at sticking to your resolutions. And my role as a Coach would be very beneficial in that regard. But that’s not the purpose here. I want to give you some advice on what to do when you fall off the wagon, eat that brownie while hiding in the bathroom, or buy a gym membership, all the right clothes for exercise, and never use it.

If any of those or similar situations happen to you, give yourself some compassion. Practice Self-Kindness.  If your inner voice continually criticizes and berates you for making a mistake or not reaching your goal, you often end up in a negative cycle of self-sabotage.   You “throw out the baby with the bathwater” and resolve that next year will be different. Or make your mantra, “You fail at everything you try so why bother!”

If you eliminate harsh self-criticism and treat yourself as you would a good friend, you’ll come out a winner. We are usually kind to those we love when they mess up. We reassure them with respect and support and remind them that they are human. We encourage them to pick themselves up and try again. We counsel them. Yet we often deny ourselves this same compassion.

So when you find yourself in this place of self-degradation, take a self-compassion break. Here’s how:

Sit comfortably and place your hands on your heart

Breathe deeply in and out

Then speak these words or similar words in a warm and caring tone, out loud or silently. (If you are in the restroom at work, you may want to say them silently.)

This is a small detour from my goal

I will be kind to myself

I will give myself the compassion I need.

Repeat the words several times until you feel a sense of warmth and compassion emanating from you for you.

From this place, you can reevaluate your goal, rather than completely abandon it. Here are some things to think about.

Was it difficult to achieve? By breaking it down into smaller bites, it’s not as daunting.   Change one thing at a time. Use a smaller plate. Eat more slowly to recognize when you are full. Replace one unhealthy food you eat regularly with a healthy one.

Is there another variation easier to accomplish? Losing weight isn’t just about restricting what you eat. Perhaps starting to move more is a better start for you.

Is it your goal, or someone else’s?  Everywhere we turn we hear that we need to eat healthier and maintain a slim body. Any goal is more challenging if you are doing it for someone else. Your best chance of success is doing it for you. It may still benefit someone else, but you decide that you want to do this because you deserve: to be healthy, to have more money in the bank, to be happy.

Do you need additional support to achieve it? Make sure your support system includes people who will call you on your excuses. Remind you of all the reasons why you wanted to do this in the first place and all the benefit you will reap.

“I get by with a little help from a friend.”  Treat yourself as you would your best friend.

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Walking down the hallway to the pool at the YMCA, I realize I locked the key for my lock in the locker. This isn’t the first time I’ve created a lock problem for myself. Another time, I forgot the lock combination, which is why I now use a lock that opens with a key.

I’ve locked myself out of my car a few times (once, it was still running), out of my apartment (the landlord had to break in), and numerous accounts that need a password.

And while all of those situations caused me stress, what’s been most debilitating is locking myself out of fully enjoying food. It’s a self-imposed lock created as a result of our culture, the type of food I eat and not eating mindfully. I have and still do sometimes – overeat.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of sweets. My parents didn’t allow us to eat much candy or drink soda. My mother cooked all our meals from scratch. It wasn’t until adulthood when processed foods, with that wonderful combination of sugar, fat and salt were mainstreamed, that I started to gain weight. I still remember the excitement of TV dinners! What I didn’t know, was that the processed food I ate and served to my family, was training my body and mind to want to eat more. I started mindlessly overeating.

By overeating, I mean eating all the time whether or not I am hungry and eating large quantities of food no matter how bad it might be for me. I’ve joked about how ice cream seems to call to me from the freezer. If I resist the temptation to eat it, I would think about it and think about it, until I finally give in and “to be good,” take a large spoonful of it and eat it standing in the kitchen. And then another and another. And tell myself, at least I didn’t eat a whole bowl!! This wasn’t because I am weak or lack will-power.

It’s because that ice cream triggers the reward system of my brain, stimulating it to want more and more. Eating foods that are a combination of sugar and fat, make food so powerful that it is hard to resist. Our brains become hardwired and tell us to eat as much of this stuff as we can get. Does that mean I am doomed to a life of overeating and feeling like food is the enemy? No, no, no.

Stayed tuned for part two. I will tell you how I began and am still working on reprogramming my brain so that food is now something I can enjoy without guilt or remorse. And the ice cream no longer beckons.

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The Worm Waking

The Worm Waking – RUMI

This is how a human can change:

There’s a worm addicted to eating grape leaves.
Suddenly, he wakes up, call it grace, whatever, something wakes him, and he’s no longer a worm.
He’s the entire vineyard, and the orchard too, the fruit, the trunks, a growing wisdom and joy that doesn’t need to devour.

Everyone has a unique profile of factors that contribute to body weight. Learning your own personal equation is the first step in balancing and managing your body size. If you are an unhealthy weight, it’s most likely the result of years of small, unconscious decisions you make each day.

We won’t be as lucky as the worm and have a miraculous epiphany, so that with very little effort we no longer have the desire to devour. We may have an epiphany, but then it’s up to us to make the necessary changes to be in our best health. To stop eating mindlessly. To get up and move. To experience the joy of our surroundings that offers much more than just eating.

Once you receive the grace of knowing that something needs to change, it’s a journey of discovery about why, how, when and how much you eat. You can leave the desert of mindless eating and let the R.A.I.N. replenish you.

Recognize the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that impact why you eat.

Allow the thoughts, emotions, feelings or sensations you have recognized simply be there and help you choose your reaction rather than react mindlessly.

Investigate the source of your suffering with self-kindness and cultivate a compassionate heart toward yourself and others who may have contributed to your eating behaviors.

Now take the action you need to and love yourself enough to make the changes that will fill you with the joy of knowing you are taking the best care of yourself.

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Nutritious people are the people in our lives who genuinely feed our souls. They nurture the deepest part of us. They truly hear what we have to say. They reflect back to us our innermost thoughts and feelings. They listen without judging. Their eyes light up when they see us and their presence lightens our load. They love us with the fewest plans for our improvement.

Are you able to nurture yourself? Do you feed your soul with gratefulness and caring? Do you pay attention to what you really need? Do you judge yourself harshly or with kindness?

 If we want to nurture the people we love, we must nurture ourselves. And we can do that in numerous ways, but not with food. Food may satisfy a longing or emptiness of the soul for a brief moment. But its effect is not sustaining. If we nurture our souls and the deepest part of us, food becomes a pleasurable experience and not a substitute for love.

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Creativity is a way of thinking about your world and it can take many forms.  Don’t limit your thinking about creativity to only artistic endeavors like painting or writing.  We need creativity to design our best lives.  Creativity can open the doors of your mind and allow you to discover your true potential.  Want to get your creative wheels turning and unearth your talents?  Here are some ways to do just that.

Say Yes!  Be open to invitations and experiences that you may normally decline.  This lays the groundwork for forward momentum and expands the realm of possibility in your thinking. 

Be Afraid!  When you do something that scares you a little, you expand your risk taking potential.  The goal is to define yourself, not by your successes, but by your willingness to try something you fear.  Each time you do, your heart gets a little braver.

Find Inspiration!  Take advantage of the variety of resources we all have to be inspired.  Read something motivational before you get out of bed and before you go to sleep.  Hang out with people who inspire you and avoid “nay sayers.”    Keep a journal of all your inspirations.

Get Support!  Create your community of at least one person, or ideally five or six people, you can use as a sounding board for ideas.  Make sure your community is made up of people who hold you accountable and tell you the truth.  Vary the background and areas of expertise of this group for maximum creative spirit.

 Discover your true potential and let me know how it’s working out!

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‘Twas the day after Christmas, and I looked all around,

Reminders of yesterday were everywhere to be found.

Wrapping paper, toy pieces, cookie crumbs under foot,

Dirty dishes and empty glasses on the counter were put.

 

As I lounged in my sweat pants, ‘cause they were all that would fit,

I sipped on my coffee, just wanting to sit.

I’ll clean it up later; I need to just think.

How much food had I eaten and eggnog did I drink?

 

When I thought about how much, my brain had much chatter,

And I tried to make sense of what really did matter.

So I ate a few cookies, chocolate pie and great snacks,

If I could change my consumption, would I put it all back?

 

A “No” was the answer, it was only one day.

Eating all of those goodies, my resolve did not slay.

I’ll get back to me eating all the best food,

And not chastise myself or my psyche treat rude.

 

What happened to change all my usual acts,

Like choosing food thoughtfully, so there’s nothing I lack?

I was caught up with all of that holiday cheer.

And Christmas does happen but once every year.

 

So those feelings of guilt and remorse in my head,

I can make go away so I’m left with no dread.

It was only one day and that does not make me “bad,”

I’ll make peace with the knowledge of all that I’ve had.

 

The continuous nature of my choice to eat right,

Does not disappear in one day and one night.

I can make up my mind to get back in the groove,

For it’s only for me I have something to prove.

 

I will make the decisions that keep me in good health,

And do for my body what fills it with wealth.

I know the right foods that will keep me from pain.

And true to my good intentions I will remain.

 

So I hope if you suffer the same kind of remorse,

You will take it in stride and resume your true course.

We’re in charge of our bodies; we can give them what’s right.

Happy New Year to all!!  Keep your intentions in sight.

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‘Tis the season to feel empty . . . fa, la, la, la, la. 

What?  No Linda, it’s “to be jolly.” 

Christmas music and decorations start appearing in October.  Everyone is talking about their shopping lists.  We are invited to participate in cookie exchanges, parties and holiday shows and concerts.  So why are so many of us not just unhappy but dreading the holiday season?

There are a variety of reasons for not feeling jolly.  I believe that one of them is something Brené Brown talks about in her book Daring Greatly.  It is Scarcity, the “never enough” problem.

Ms Brown:  Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. . .We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants.

This time of year, more than ever, we are bombarded with advertising and social media telling us just what we need to make us feel good.  And we look around and think that most other people have more money to spend and time to plan then we do.

If you generally operate from a position of “not enough,”  you are already positioned to “opt out” or just plain feel miserable during the holidays. 

In recent blog posts, I offered advice on developing a Brave Heart.  And it takes one to make significant change in your life and how you think and therefore feel.  Developing a Brave Heart is done over time and in increments.  Why not start now?

I suggest adding another action for the letter V in Brave.

Volunteer!!

The benefits of volunteering are bountiful, both for you and the recipient.  Get out of your head and into your heart and you may experience a shift from “not enough” to “I’m really okay” or even “my cup overflows.”  Learn to give what you need and you may find you have more than enough.

 

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For the past several years, we’ve sent out our holiday cards for Thanksgiving, as a reminder to us and our family and friends of just how grateful we are for them. 

 One year, I discovered this quote and included it in our letter.  Even though it was written over a hundred years ago, its message transcends time. 

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.  We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.  As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.  And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: “Why, this is Christmas Day!” How the discovery makes one bound out of his bed!  What a new sense of life and adventure it imparts!  Almost anything may happen on a day like this – one thinks.  I may meet friends I have not seen in years.  Who knows?  I may discover that this is a far better and kindlier world than I ever dreamed it could be.”                                                                                                              –          “A Day of Pleasant Bread,” David Grayson, 1910

We are headlong into the holiday season.  And some of us are quite frantic about all the tasks we have to do before it gets here.  I invite you to take a couple of minutes in a peaceful setting and ask yourself some questions.

How do I really want to experience the approaching holiday?

What do I have to do or not do to make that happen?

How would my life change if I took Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever I celebrate a little at a time all through the year? 

It does not matter what religious beliefs you have or don’t, we can all work on making this a kindlier world than we ever dreamed of. 

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E – Emotionally Prepare – It can be difficult to fully prepare emotionally for what will happen if plans or action steps don’t go as expected.  But it helps if you can imagine possible scenarios and how you will handle yourself.  Write down your coping strategies, so you can refer to them when you are not thinking clearly.  Knowing that you have a fallback, emotional support from your fan club and future opportunities to try again can lesson the impact if you don’t have the ideal outcome.  And give yourself time to process, whatever happens, whether ideal or not so much.  Take time for solitude and reflection.

I had an experience where I rehearsed and prepared for a speech contest, that I felt was important for my journey as a motivational speaker.  I had a lot of time and effort invested, only to be told on the day of the competition that I was disqualified.  The decision had do to with someone else’s error.  I tried every which way to reverse that decision, but eventually had to accept that there was nothing I could do.  I didn’t bounce back immediately.  In fact, I admit that I worked myself into a tizzy, but it didn’t change the outcome.   

I took quiet time to think and process and forgive.  I am able to accept that possibly the universe had a reason why I didn’t make that speech and I will find it out eventually.

 If you’ve ever been cross county skiing, you know that if you choose a popular trail, someone, probably many, have gone before you and laid down tracks.  And if the snow is frozen and solid, it’s very difficult to make your own unique tracks.  You can have fun and get exercise, but you are stuck in the tracks of others.  Sometimes life is like that.  You always seem to be following in someone else’s tracks.  It’s safer and comfortable and you can plod along without much risk of falling.  But you never discover your true grit.   

Forging your own path requires a brave heart.  With a brave heart, you develop an opportunistic state of mind.  You will live a life of design rather than default!

There is a wonderful manifesto from the Elders of the Arizona Hopi Nation.  And part of it goes like this:

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.  For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  

 We are the ones with a brave heart.

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George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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