Thursday, June 18, 2015

Do One Thing a Day that Scares You

If you've ever seen a Lululemon Manifesto shopping bag, you've probably seen the bit of advice that jumped out to me the first time I had a Lulu bag: "Do one thing a day that scares you."  Sure, there are many other important motivational mantras on the bag, but that's the one that always hit me the most.

It's not like I thought I needed to suddenly lead a life of high adventure life (I'm not a fan of heights or many death defying feats). Yet I knew there were many things that I wanted to do or try, but stopped myself out of fear. Perhaps I didn't even know I was fearful. It was more a feeling of not knowing if it would ever be able to happen. I knew it was time to start exploring to find out!

Did I do it every day like the shopping bag was telling me to? No. But I started a new way of exploring the thoughts and desires that came into my head. Instead of tossing it aside as either not being right for me or not being right at this time of my life, I would think of something I could do to see if it could work. Just a bit here and a bit there again and again -- sometimes just taking a small step in that one thing over many days to get to where I could see if it could work. If I hit a brick wall, fine. But if I was able to go further, all the better!

Over time, I have seen things happen that I've wished could for years and I'm finding so much joy in watching it unfold. YET, it's still scary at times -- sometimes even each day. Here's an example:

Teaching Yoga -- I'm now a certified yoga instructor and am about to embark on a new teaching schedule at Perfect Union with 5 classes a week -- yay!  (I even have a new website!)  How did this all come to be? Easy peasy, right?  No, not at all.

First I had to stop telling myself that I couldn't possibly fit in a 200-hour yoga teaching training experience. How could I? This was a HUGE commitment and took up almost every weekend I had for 6 months. (Not to mention, but I am actually mentioning, the yoga classes I attended throughout the week so I could practice yoga with a variety of instructors). I had to break through that barrier of telling myself it wouldn't work and (imagine a person with a machete' hacking down tall weeds in a huge field) one weekend after another, make sure that it did work. (I only missed one workshop -- and that was for my daughter's baby shower 800 miles away). I also had to talk to people who supported my idea to help build my confidence for doing it when my own started to waver.

It was a little frightening making that first step to take the course, even though I was super excited to do it. The day I first walked into Santa Cruz Yoga for the training, I literally felt my knees buckle and almost collapsed, wanting to turn around, run to my car, and drive back home. I remember this voice in my head loudly crying, "What am I doing? I can't do this! I don't belong here." I felt this fear of not belonging as I saw all these much younger, certainly "hip"'per yoga students leaving from the previous yoga class. I was so sure I wasn't right for this -- I was too old and just didn't fit in. Remembering that it was actually a good thing to do something that scared me, I did the yoga thing and just calmly breathed my way into the entrance of the studio, stood in line to sign in for the class, smiled to the others around me as if all was well and made my way onto my mat.

Going forward that day has brought me so many moments of joy, peace and innumerable blessings. I absolutely LOVED the experience. Were there more moments of fear along the way? Most certainly -- in fact, at least one each day we trained together and some at home. But I pushed through them, literally feeling at times like I was standing at the side of the swimming pool when I knew the water was a little too cold for my liking, but that I really did want to get in. I just had to close my eyes to that initial unpleasant feeling and just jump.

I've been doing the same thing the past few months while looking into teaching yoga in my little town that has hardly any yoga opportunities (for students or for teachers). I decided if I just did one little thing each day that could bring me closer to finding a teaching situation that worked well for me, it was time well spent. Fast forward maybe only 6 weeks and all of these little efforts have brought me some new friends that I cherish and will be working with (just as valuable to me as the teaching opportunity) and a new schedule of teaching yoga in a fabulous location 5-6 times a week not far from my home. Life is good!

If you haven't tried setting aside your fears to see what you can accomplish, do it. You may hit a few walls, but more often than not, you will find yourself learning and growing and doing things that will bring you great joy!  Have at it and let me know how it goes!  TTFN!

Lululemon bag photo by Onada via Flickr Creative Commons
Brick Wall photo by Neville Nels via Flickr Creative Commons
Yoga Workshop photo by Tawnya Gilbert
Swimming Pool photo by  Althea Rose via Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Year, New Habit

I've been reading about habits lately -- trying to learn how to replace old, hindering habits with new beneficial habits.  One thing I learned from Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit book is that some habits are more influential on other habits than others, meaning that some habits spread quite naturally into creating other new helpful habits. These are called "keystone habits."  If I want to develop just one new habit (focusing on one habit at a time is much easier, after all), it would make sense to be sure that habit is a keystone habit. . .

So, where do I begin?  Where do you begin?  Many of us (especially right after the holiday season) are thinking about fitness goals in January.  (And if you know me, I'm thinking about fitness goals all year round!) If I were to just focus on eating, I could get specific with what I should eat, when I should eat, and where I should eat it (I have a little problem with not sitting down to eat during the day).  But the more I think about it, my bad keystone habit that infiltrates into demolishing all my eating hopes and dreams is not about where why and what I eat.  It's a habit I have of sabotaging my goals.

There, I said it.  Hard to admit, but in my head, I have known this for many years.  I love to plan out goals.  I love to imagine the rewards, the preparations, and the satisfaction that I'll have when it all goes as planned. Sometimes I keep those plans really well, sometimes for months at a time, maybe even years. But when I need to begin again for whatever reason, I've found that I tend to throw in the towel before the journey even begins.  I am happier to give up on my eating plan first thing in the morning because it takes off the pressure of thinking about it for the rest of the day.  If I can just fail at the beginning, I won't be stressed about failing later on.  I won't have to battle anymore.  Sound crazy? Maybe it is, but I don't think I'm the only person in the world who does this.

I haven't actually read about other people doing this exact same thing to themselves, but I've read many diet books (or healthy eating books) that talk about having friends or family members who tend to sabotage your plans.  Sometimes we can separate ourselves from those people or the events that will present those situations.  But what if WE are the ones who are doing the sabotaging?  Can we separate from ourselves?  Not really. We need to learn how to stop that cycle. THAT is the keystone habit that I am going to work on this year.  Hopefully (as is the meaning of the word "habit"), I won't have to work on not sabotaging myself after awhile -- then just think about how much easier the other habits will be to develop!

Do I have any answers for how to stop the sabotaging cycle?   Not yet, but I will.  What I know is that a habit has a cue (or trigger), a routine (or behavior) and a reward.  My trigger is most likely the anxiety or self-imposed pressure of following a healthier plan. The behavior is to fail (meaning that I quickly eat something completely off plan).  And the reward is that I don't have to think about it  (thus releasing the anxiety) anymore -- at least not until tomorrow ☺

To develop a new habit, you use the same trigger and reward, but change the behavior. That scenario could be:  Feel the anxiety, _______________, Not think about it anymore.  Now I just need to fill in that blank.

Here are a few ideas that I'll experiment with -- (Yoda will be pleased that I didn't say "try"):

  • Do just a few yoga poses, yes even in the kitchen.  Many relieve anxiety and maybe that could help
  • Say a silent prayer for strength to break the cycle.
  • Sit down and eat something healthy -- anything -- even if it's not on the original plan, just get it in your body so you can think more clearly, taking time to breathe and ponder.
  • Go outside for a few minutes -- enjoy the sunshine or nature available and see if it clears your mind.
  • Tell yourself that you wouldn't do this to your best friend and that you should be just as loving to yourself.
  • Write down all the reasons that you would like to bail on your plans and write more to show yourself what is a better idea.

That last one was something I did when I first started exercising consistently almost 19 years ago. Whenever I came up with a reason why I couldn't exercise, I'd make myself write down why I couldn't. When I saw it on paper, I'd see just how lame my excuse was and I'd get up and exercise.  Maybe that could work with developing other habits, as well.

I will let you know how this goes.  And I'd love to hear what works for you.  TTFN!

Yoga and Nature photos by Javier Morales via Creative Commons
Stop photo by isolatecyclist