Time for a Change

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It’s the end of the year and my phone is ringing off the hook. It’s peak season for coaches because, as we end the year, many are looking back and realizing they didn’t make the best use of the past year and want help moving forward. Many feel it’s time for a change.

Before you make that jump, here’s one important question to ask yourself. Am I making a change for myself or someone else?

Coaches turn down a lot of potential clients because of their answer to this last question. You might be completely satisfied with your life but feel outside pressure from parents, a spouse or work colleagues to “do more” but if the desire isn’t genuinely yours then coaching isn’t going to help you one bit. In fact, the coaching experience would just be an exercise in frustration for both you and the coach.

To find out if you’re ready for a change, ask yourself these three questions:

  • If I knew today was my last day, could I say I’m satisfied with what I’ve done?
  • Am I doing all I could with my life right now?
  • Can I afford to wait another year to “do more?”

If you answered No to any of the above questions, then it might be time for a change.

So, where do you want to go now? Here’s an exercise I use with a lot of my clients. While you won’t have the benefit of interacting with a coach, it might help you gain some clarity.

Relax in a quiet room with your eyes closed. Take a few deep breathes. Now, imagine your “perfect” (and authentic, what’s going to make you happy) life. Think about all aspects; your career, health, finances, personal relationships and even your spirituality. Think about everything in as much detail as possible.

Once you have that well planted in your mind, imagine someone just asked you this question: “You are so happy these days. You have the perfect life. How did you get where you are today?”

Now, answer the question. Out loud.

A lot of people are surprised by what comes out of their mouth. Often, this is the first time they’ve said out loud something they’ve always wanted for themselves. Or, they knew something was just “off” and this exercise helps them find the words they’ve been missing.

Now, go make everything you just said a reality!

Have a healthy, happy and successful 2015!

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Just Jump!

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Sometimes you have to take a chance and accept some risk for a potential payoff. This isn’t just true in business but in your personal life too.

Let’s say you’re looking for the perfect partner. Staying at home and wishing for the best isn’t going to magically bring that special someone around. You have to sometimes place yourself in uncomfortable situations to move your dating life forward. Maybe you’d like to advance your career but you’re stalling because of the required interview or promotion process. Or you’d like to return to school but you don’t want to be the oldest person in the class. You get the idea and you can probably think of a dozen other examples on your own. How do you get past your natural human instinct to avoid risk or danger? Just jump!

Sometimes we over-think things. That gives our brains too much time to create all of the false perceptions (FEAR-false evidence appearing real) that feed our gremlins and prevent us from making any progress. Outsmart your own brain by acting before it has a chance to think too much. Now, I’m not saying to pursue your entire life with thoughtless and reckless abandon. (Though some people do live their lives that way and it works for them.) Instead, look at the potential outcome of your decision and quickly compare it to the REAL risk. If the payoff outweighs the risk, then go for it.

Here’s a personal example. In addition to being a performance coach, I’m also a Beachbody coach. That gives me the opportunity to coach people wanting to get fit and healthy; a passion of mine. When talking with folks about my own weight loss, they often ask to see before and after photos. Honestly, I’ve been putting off putting these together. I’m not embarrassed by how I look but, instead, had built a false perception that people simply wouldn’t find them “impressive” enough. I had visions of people saying “that’s it?” After talking to some other coaches though, I realized the payoff outweighed the risk. If, by chance, the photos did provide some motivation to a single person to try and get fit then the gremlin self-doubt was worth it. I quit worrying about what others might be thinking about my photos and just began sharing them.

You likely have similar situations you’re dealing with right now. If you’re having a difficult time weighing the risk and benefit, talk with friends or someone you trust. Once you see that the risk is small or non-existent, just jump!

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The Roadblock Called Perfection

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A good portion of my coaching is around health and wellness. There are a lot of people that know they need to regain their health but they either can’t seem to get started or they keep getting stuck shortly afterward. One of the most common roadblocks to success is perfection.

Here’s a paraphrased typical conversation I have with clients. We’ll call this one Jen.

Jen: I can’t seem to get started on any real exercise program.
Me: What do you think is stopping you?
Jen: Well, what if I start and don’t finish?
Me: Jen, who has control over whether or not you finish?
Jen: Well, I guess I do.
Me: So, what else?
Jen: What if I miss a day?
Me: How would missing a single day impact your overall success?
Jen: Not much, I guess I’d just make it up the next day. As long as I don’t make it a habit. <smirk>
Me: What else is holding you back?
Jen: Well, I’ve tried doing a video workout and I’m not as good as the people in the video.
Me: Hmmm, I wonder why they were selected to do the video. What do you think?
Jen: OK, yeah. They’re pros and I’m not. But if I’m going to do a program, I need to do it right.
Me: What do you mean by “right?”
Jen: Well, I have to be perfect!

No!! Making a positive impact on your health has nothing to do with reaching some state that someone else has defined to be “perfect.” People often find themselves in the trap of shooting for an “ideal” weight or body measurements or an unblemished record of adherence to a course of action. Change isn’t perfect. It’s messy and complicated and full of spirals and twists. When you’re working towards better health, your goal needs to be meeting personal bests and developing a healthier version of you on your own terms, using your own strengths and talents.

You’ll have forward motion but the road taken and the time to travel it will be different for everyone. Detours and roadblocks happen but you still get where you’re going. Don’t let the idea of it not being a “perfect sunday drive” prevent you from leaving the garage.

What has you stuck? What’s keeping you from creating the healthy life you deserve?

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How to Turn Your Commitment to Change into Action

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Last week I wrote about how you decide to make a change. Once you’ve acknowledged the need to change a behavior and have made a commitment, you need to move from planning to some action.

Your life will be no better than the plans you make and the action you take. You are the architect and builder of your own life, fortune, destiny. —Alfred A. Montapert

When taking steps to bring about some desired change, you need to look at what has or has not worked for you in the past. You also need to be open to new ideas and be willing to change your course of action as you try new approaches. There is no right or wrong way to succeed in your goal; you need to discover through trial and error what works best for you.

One of the classic examples is losing weight. There are hundreds of diet and exercise plans and by combining these into a plan of action, there are likely millions of ways for someone to decrease their body weight to get to a comfortable number on the scale. Keep in mind that once you reach your goal, you also need to maintain the behavior. Maintaining your desired weight will likely require that you continue some or all of these activities for an extended period of time so you need to find options that are sustainable for you. For example, you might use a strict meal-plan system where all of the food is provided for you to drop some pounds. However, how likely is it that you’ll want to remain on that diet for the rest of your life? It probably wouldn’t be very enjoyable and would be expensive too.

For lasting change, consider the long-term maintenance of your desired behavior when creating a plan of action. Try to change your mindset to get to the root of the issue instead of using a quick fix that won’t last. There are two practices recommended by Prochaska that I pass along to coaching clients that can help bring about this mental shift; countering and environmental controls. Countering is replacing the undesired behavior with a healthy, more desirable one and environmental control means manipulating your setting or avoiding a location to prevent the behavior. Including either or both of these in your action plan will be helpful.

For example, let’s say you’re prone to snacking through the day. You can consciously replace that activity with another. For me, I started doing push-ups whenever I wanted a snack. This countering helped in two ways. I burned some extra calories and the activity usually made me forget the urge to snack. Over time, I began to crave physical activity when I was bored or restless and that has served me well. I also worked at a company that had a cafeteria that served cheap but gourmet quality meals. It was easy to overeat. I could have avoided the cafeteria but I would have also missed out on the social interactions that took place there. Instead, I simply started bringing my lunch. As everyone was in line getting their food, I’d eat my lunch. By the time they got to the table with the gourmet meal, I’d already be half done and fairly full. Once the conversation started, I was no longer tempted to get more food.

Once you have your steps in mind, I recommend the following:

  1. Write your plan down.
  2. Share your plan and goals with someone that will hold you accountable.
  3. Review your plan DAILY and note how you’ve done.
  4. Review your progress WEEKLY to see if your actions are working. If not, try something new.
  5. Finally, don’t give up. You’ll reach your goal over time.

There’s no single “magic bullet” that anyone can provide you to create the change you desire. All change has to come from within and you are the only person that can make it happen. Be strong, ask for help and stick with it. You’ll get there!

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Are You Setting a Healthy Example?

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We often see celebrities say that they shouldn’t be looked up to as role models when they’re caught doing something wrong. They claim it’s not their responsibility to “raise your kids” or that it is unfair that they are held to a higher standard because they are in the spotlight. Their actions, however, do have the potential to impact more people because of that exposure. Do you realize that you have that same power of influence within your own circle? Is the example you set for others important?

Yesterday, I was at a hospital visiting someone. I had to wait a bit so I sat in the hospital’s cafe. A group of nurses came in (I could see their RN badges) and they each ordered a “serious (large) double-caramel chocolate macchiato with extra whip cream.” Each of these nurses was overweight to obese. To make matters worse, this particular building housed the cardiac care unit. These were the same nurses that would be going back to talk to their overweight patients about the need to lose weight to prevent another coronary event.

How much impact do you think those conversations will have? We lead by example whether we like it or not. “Do as I say, not as I do” didn’t work when we were kids and it definitely doesn’t fly as an adult. If you’re in a healthcare position and you’re trying to persuade others to take better care of themselves, shouldn’t you do the same for yourself? If you’re overweight and talking about nutrition or smell of cigarette smoke and talking to a cancer patient, there is a disconnect that simply won’t allow you to be effective in delivering your message.

The parent-child relationship holds even more importance. If you have kids, are you setting them up to succeed and to be as healthy as possible? Are you keeping healthy food in the house or buying processed garbage because it’s just easier? Are you encouraging activity by playing with your kids and staying active yourself or do you plop in front of the TV for four hours every night? Children aren’t in a position to make well-thought decisions so they rely on your wisdom. They also watch everything you do. Yes, they may “want” the sugary cereal with the prize in the box but who is actually bringing that into the house? More kids are gaining weight and developing health problems at a young age. How can you turn this around? By setting a good example and taking responsibility for your own health.

I work with both men and women on this exact topic. I know it’s not easy. Some have tried to get their eating under control for years and they want to be more active but can’t seem to stick with a program. One of the most powerful motivators I’ve found is when they discover the impact they’re having on the health of others. It seems obvious, but for some it’s not real until someone holds a picture up in front of them. In one instance, I mean this quite literally. One father couldn’t stay committed to getting back in shape. He said he wanted to do it for his young son but just couldn’t make the connection between his actions and desires. We came up with the idea to put a picture of his son on the refrigerator and all of the cabinets. He even put a small one on his lunch bag and in his wallet. This made a huge difference. It forced him to reconsider his food choices and realign them with his goal to set a better example for his son. He’s doing quite well now.

Setting a positive example isn’t just related to health. Look at the way you treat yourself in all regards and compare that to what you tell others; particularly children. Does your message match your deeds or are you being somewhat hypocritical? What can you do right now to be a better example to those that you guide? Maybe you can even be an inspiration?

Photo credit: mikebaird / Foter.com / CC BY

You’re More Than a Label

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We have a lot of different ways to describe ourselves. We’re really complex as individuals and we have a lot to offer but, unfortunately, we tend to try and wrap ourselves up into neat little packages that can be explained with just a few words or numbers. You might see yourself as a number on a scale, an age, an IQ, or a salary range. Maybe you tag yourself with your gender, nationality or preferences. But you’re more than just numbers and labels.

When I first meet with a client, we often start our coaching relationship with an informal conversation. “Tell me about yourself” usually leads to a laundry list of these labels. Maybe we’ve been so conditioned to have a “30-second elevator speech” ready that we revert to this short-hand method of describing ourselves out of habit. Asking how others see them sometimes renders more details but just marginally. What tends to break the pattern is story telling.

When I ask “Tell me the story of your life and where you want it to go” that usually results in a more rich and detailed view of the individual. It’s difficult to move through a plot and fully describe a desired state with just a few words. This is a great exercise for anyone to go through to more fully understand who they are and where they want to go.

On paper or online, create two pages. Title one “How I Got Here” and the other “Where I Will Go.” Take about an hour and write these two stories using complete sentences and with detail. Put them aside for a day or two then come back and read them.

How does your detailed story change how you think about yourself? How will you talk about yourself to others going forward? It’s likely you now have a more full picture and a few labels simply won’t be able to convey all of the great things you have to say about yourself!

Give this exercise a try and let me know how it went for you.

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How We Treat Ourselves

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Coaching is about asking questions and listening. You help people bring out their own wisdom to move forward in their life. Often, the coach learns a lot by being exposed to others’ knowledge.

During a recent session, a client made a values statement that really struck me. They said “Whenever I hear someone say ‘I don’t have time’ I always tell them to tack on the words ‘for you’ because that’s what you really mean when you say ‘I don’t have time’….’I don’t have time for you.’ ” I had never really thought of it that way before but it rings true. That was completely accurate for this person. They always make time for others. What’s interesting is that this may also be at the root of personal care issues because the statement “I don’t have time for myself” seems to be acceptable to this individual.

We often treat ourselves differently from how we treat others. I’ve worked with some of the most kind, generous and caring people that were harsh and ruthless towards themselves. In theory, we’re not supposed to be able to love and care for others more than we do ourselves. I don’t think these individuals dislike who are what they are. Instead they have a misplaced sense of guilt. They feel like they shouldn’t like themselves or feel worthy because false perceptions tell them that others don’t.

To get out of this trap, do away with the external judgements. Others likely don’t know what a great person you are and their opinion really doesn’t matter anyway. Acknowledge your strengths and gifts and celebrate successes publicly. You may be surprised by how many are celebrating with you. Also, take time to care for yourself. If you have the attitude of “I don’t care about myself” then you’re showing the people that love and depend on you that “I don’t care about myself…or you.”

Are there inconsistencies between how you treat yourself and others? How might you bring those more in line?

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Self Acceptance

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I recently had a talk with a woman about an emotional experience she had at a gym. It was her first visit. She’s overweight and she felt really self-conscious being at the gym. She felt everyone was watching her, thinking why was she there and that she wasn’t good enough to be there. She worked herself into such a negative mental state that she stopped her workout after only a few minutes and left the gym in tears.

A similar incident was mentioned in my post about fear. The same false evidence was coming into play for this woman but the issue went deeper. As we talked, she uncovered that she felt unaccepted. She also couldn’t accept herself.

Acceptance is the basis of compassion. To truly empathize with another, you have to accept them for who they are instead of trying to change them to what you want; that’s simply manipulation. When people think about self-acceptance, however, the thoughts are less charitable. For some reason, we equate acceptance with “settling” and they are completely different.

Look at the incident at the gym. She obviously wasn’t settling for her current physical state. She was in the gym doing something about it to better herself. At the same time, this desire for change also interfered with her accepting who she is right now. She saw herself as less than others. A little coaching got her to realizing she is equal and simply a person in a state of transition. It was a very subtle change in perception, but the discovery allowed her to return to the gym and start working towards her new level of fitness.

Accepting yourself for who you are in the moment does not mean you’re giving up any vision of a better you for your future. It means you’re acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses and allowing yourself to grow and progress without any false, negative self-judgement. You’re showing yourself the same compassion you would have towards anyone else.

How might accepting yourself for who you are allow you to make progress towards what you’d like to become?

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How to Manage Perceptions of Limited Scope

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You get what you look for…..

We tend to cloud our thoughts with perceptions of limited scope. Have you ever used one of those puzzles where something is printed in red and blue ink and, to see something hidden in the printing, you look through a red plastic film? Our perceptions are just like that. If we look at life through a single colored lens, we’re going to miss the whole picture.

If you think the world is full of people out to get you, that’s all you’ll see because that’s all you’re looking for. You’ll miss the fact that someone offered to help you with an assignment or complimented your choice in music. If you’re unhappy with your looks and are always finding flaws in the mirror, you’ll miss those striking eyes or beautiful skin. You belittle yourself because you’re not making progress at work and lose sight of the fact that you’re an incredible father and husband. We all have these lenses but the more we can learn to drop them, the more fulfilled lives we’ll lead.

We trap ourselves into these limited perceptions simply through habit. We can expand our perceptions by learning to question ourselves and testing whether we’re operating from true knowledge. Once simple technique is “relabeling.” When you find yourself using a limiting viewpoint, mentally label it as such and give yourself a new label. For example, if you’re looking in the mirror and noticing all of the wrinkles and thinking how old they make you look, stop and think “I’ve just labeled myself as ‘old.’ From now on, these wrinkles are called ‘wisdom.’ ” In a while, you’ll notice that the way you see the world will start to expand and your perceptions will become less negative and constrictive.

What labels do you incorrectly use for yourself and how can you create some new ones?

What if you had to lose a few inches to keep your job?

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Getting in shape, improving your diet and regaining your health can be tough. Like any other change, you have to want it for it to happen.

Everyone goes through the same cycle: you first realize you need to make a change, you decide to make the change, you create a plan of action and then you get working on that plan. All too often, people simply never make it to that last step. The main culprit, often cloaked in “it’s too hard,” is really “I’m too scared.” People are afraid of failure not realizing that failure is a natural part of the process. It just takes some determination and grit to pick yourself back up and keep going. I often use the analogy of learning to ride a bike as a child. You fall a few times but you’re so excited to be learning to ride and you have such strong visions of riding off with your friends and having fun that you just keep getting back up; skinned legs and all. The process of weight-loss really isn’t any different but it often makes people shut down and give up hope.

Yesterday, I read an article about an Airforce Colonel that threw away his military career instead of losing two inches. Now, there may be more to the story, but this really struck me. To meet the minimum requirement, he had to drop his waist size by two inches. It varies by individual but, for me, that would have been about 12 pounds. I’m assuming the colonel knew the requirements and was likely aware of his upcoming fitness test. He couldn’t find it within himself to prepare and shed a few pounds? Was the choice to do so that threatening that he preferred to simply step down?

It’s scary but if you really want to take control of your life and create a healthy lifestyle then know that you can do it. Like learning to ride a bike, you just need to have a clear picture of your goal. Break it down to smaller goals if you have a long way to go. One technique I use with my coaching clients is called dialoguing. I walk them through the process of clearly visualizing their new, healthy self then we have a conversation that takes place six months in the future. We talk about how they got to their goal, how their life has changed and where they’re going next. I’ve seen this exercise completely change the mindset of people that just couldn’t quite get into full action mode. It gives them that vision they need to get back on the bike.

If you look in the mirror and feel like you need to make a change then move forward with the confidence knowing it’s completely within your power. If you really want it, it’s yours!

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