There is a time for dreaming and a time for doing.
The art is in knowing the difference.
When it’s time for change and setting goals the call comes in different ways. Some calls ask first to be dreamt into existence. Dreaming is part of an active creation process. It’s a fun place because you live in the world of possibilities.
Something marvellous forms itself in your vision. You imagine new twists and turns — a new development in your story. You have a new excitement about life. Anything can happen if you’re open to it.
Wake Up and Get Ready
Other calls come with a to-do list already attached. You go from step one to step fifty and, voila, you’re there. You organize yourself, then learn the path, and refine the skills you need to succeed. Things like math or music or web development are like this.
When you’re young you learn many skills to become a ‘better’ adult. The cool thing about skills is that they can circle back to dreaming again — different skills let you express your vision in unique ways.
The two approaches call for very different mindsets and practices. Your brain will be wired to favour one over the other.
The wise ones learn to cultivate both.
Learn to Dream
One of the best guides I’ve found for creating the practices that will stimulate creativity is Todd Henry of the Accidental Creative. The short version of his ‘rules for a creative life’ are:
- Keep your focus to three creative priorities. Let your ideas marinate.
- Build relationships that spark your creativity and hold you accountable. Don’t think friends – think mentors, friendly competitors, inspiration.
- Manage your energy wisely – leave buffers between events to absorb and be present to what’s happening. Keep burnouts to a minimum.
- Be really choosy about the stimulus you take in from media and social media. Garbage in, garbage out.
Practice Make Perfect
If it’s the skill of learning skills that you need then don’t look any further than Canada’s singing astronaut, Chris Hadfield.
His memoir, An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth, is a hymn to the joy of preparedness, over-preparedness and obsessive attention to detail. Of course, riding what is basically a large bomb into space will do that. His rules for success are:
- Plan and test. Fix what went wrong. Plan and test that. Do it again and again.
- Figure out what could have gone wrong but didn’t. Make a plan and test that.
- Make a checklist for all the plans that worked, all the plans that didn’t work and all the plans that might not work.
- Practice, practice, practice the all the skills on every checklist.
- Don’t trust your instincts.
All Together Now
Now, for a moment, let’s think about how we could use these two complementary mindsets to the goal of losing weight.
The creative part of the process might look like this:
- Scope out Pinterest to find new and innovative ways to cook spring vegetables.
- Learn to make artisanal bone broth to stimulate your soup making.
- Practice different ways of eating – vegan, paleo, Mediterranean – to see what gives you most energy.
- Find forums of similar people and find out what they’re doing.
- Explore different ways of eating, like mindful eating, to see how your habits affect your weight.
The skill-based part of the process might look like this:
- Sit down on Sunday night and make your meal plans.
- Use an online tracker with reminders as an interactive checklist.
- Plan for the times during the week when your plans will not work.
- Write a checklist for all your plans so you don’t have to make it up on the spot.
- Make a lot of ‘if this happens, then I will do that’rules for your behaviour like ‘if I’m home late from work, then I’ll cook one of the frozen meals I made on the weekend’.
How could you apply these two approaches to something you want in life?
Posted by Deirdre Walsh
The world can be a busy, overwhelming, noisy pushy place. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to tap into my true motivation to stay healthy and balanced. I’m always looking for a soothing oasis of calm and comfort to regain a sense of internal harmony. I do better when those oases involve breathing, tea and moments of mindfulness. These are the “good” habit that I need to make room for in my life.
But staying with these kinds of good habits is deceptively difficult. They seem to be put to the backburner when other people’s needs rise up. It was worth doing some digging to find out a way to help me stick to them. A straightforward method has been developed by BJ Fogg. His method depends on picking the “right seed” – a tiny behavior that is a gateway to a steady habit. Then you pick the “right spot” in your day – adding it just after something you’re already doing. Coaxing it to grow depends on motivation.
Fogg doesn’t really believe in motivation. He feels that if you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot. He claims that you don’t need to reach inside to find your true motivation. If you set it up right the new habits will flow like water.
This sounds good, but I’m betting we all have a trail of broken resolutions behind us. So we know instinctively that the story is more complex than this. There always comes a time when the effort of planning for this effortless moment is competing with something easier or more fun or soothing. The planning doesn’t happen and then the moment doesn’t happen.
True Motivation Rises up From Why
There are many times when we need the boost of true motivation to help us push through the hard or the inertia. We often think of motivational speakers or motivational quotes as being a great source for the push. It’s because they engage our emotions – they make us “feel” like we want to push through or “feel” shamed because we don’t want to. But Fogg is on to something when he cautions against waiting for this “feeling” to hit.
There are three kinds of true motivations that run deeper than waiting for the “feeling” to arrive and they are all based on knowing why you want to make the change. The most sustainable why is to feel good about what you’re doing.
- It’s got to be meaningful to you – maybe to others too, but definitely to you
- It’s got to be something you want to learn about and master
- It’s got to feel good along the way
Be True to You
You can count on your motivation when you’re changing for yourself. You have to see, feel and taste how awesome your life will be when you get this thing handled.
Sometimes we think that making big changes will buy us something we don’t already have. Things like confidence, love, respect and self-worth. In this case you’re dancing with your anxiety. Look deeply into the goal to see if you’re being influenced by the people around you and your environment to think you want something different.
Don’t choose a goal that is popular with the cool kids only to achieve it and feel like you’ve just done it to fit in. Choose a goal that is aligned with how you want to feel in your days and your life.
Be a Student of Your Success
Your success will change your life and who you know yourself to be. The things you learn along the way will be transformational. The successes will teach you as much, if not more, than the failures. Grit is what will see you through.
If you’ve outsourced the mastery part of your goal you may reach an endpoint that you’re happy with but you won’t really know how to keep it. I think some of the weight loss programs create this result. You can follow the program and get the results but you won’t have discovered what your body really responds to. You’ll be dependent on someone else’s process for success. A deeper, more satisfying success comes from learning how to make the change for yourself.
Make Feeling Good the Goal
Danielle LaPorte is on to something here with her Desire Map. Her approach makes the assumption that it will be easier to put in the grit and hard work if the goal makes you feel good along the way. If you understand that your deepest desire is to feel more connected – to people and life – then it becomes clear that working two jobs to buy a bigger house isn’t going to get that done.
This is a deeper and more sustainable kind of “feeling”. I don’t think anyone ever wakes up at 5 am and “feels” like they want to put on their runners and head out the door. But the connection with nature that you get when the sun starts to rise on a fresh new day is a very motivating kind of feeling.
How do you stay motivated to make the kinds of changes you want to?
Posted by Deirdre Walsh
Image by iStockphoto
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When do we know when we’re under stress? I’m way too familiar with the signs from my body that I’m burning through my energy reserves. I start getting really sensitive to sound and interruptions. I need the kids to turn down the music in the car. All of a sudden I can’t remember things. My head, back and hip start aching. My eyes get really, really tired – all the way back to my brain. I lose my sense of humor – big time.
Getting more under stress
That’s when I turn to the thing that comforts or energizes me now – and makes me feel bad later. All the women I work with have some kind of go-to when they get those signals from their body. For some, it’s hitting the kitchen after the kids go to bed. For others, it’s the glass of wine at the end of the day that goes to two, or sometimes three on a bad day. Some of them are queens of the meltdown – not meaning to fly off the handle, but powerless to stop themselves. Others are awake at night, believing if they keep obsessing about the details that the day will go better. Me, I usually head for sugary treats – either chocolate or wine.
All these things provide soothing short-term comfort, but really are small, relentless steps towards feeling crappy and ashamed.
Why do we do these things?
Because our bodies are looking for something to stabilize the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol. That’s the bad boy that your pituitary gland pumps into your bloodstream after your hypothalamus – the stress thermostat in your brain – senses you are not safe. Cortisol is an amazing biochemical when it gets in, does its job and gets out. It’s a master at protecting you from danger, either by fight, flight or freeze. It’s a powerful ally.
But if you call on it too often – with worry, or running late all the time, or adrenaline rushes – it starts running the show and your body pays the price. I’ve written about how uncontrolled cortisol plays havoc with your system here.
But the worst offense that uncontrolled cortisol commits against busy women is this:
Even though they love their life, they are tired and their body hurts.
Tired, tired tired
Tired in the morning instead of bouncing out of bed to greet the day. Tired in the afternoon, often looking for a pick me-up. Tired in the evening, often crashing in front of the tube for some House and Garden TV, or some trashy pleasure on a really tired night. Too tired to exercise, or eat right, or be present to the wonderfulness of their life.
I’ve written about the three-stage downward spiral of stress before:
- busy multitasker – where you feel wired and tired at the same time. Life is busy, but you’re proud of what you can accomplish.
- burned out – where you’re always behind and you wonder how you’re going to catch up. You doze off easily when you’re forced to sit down.
- flat-lining – when you can’t keep up anymore and have to cut back on work and activities
These wonderful, gorgeous women drift further and further from the warm, kind, generous person they used to be. They muscle through the day on nerves and steel. And, really, they know they’re not much fun to be around anymore. This is not who they thought they’d be at this point in their life.
Does this sound familiar?
When I’ve drifted to away from being the me I want to be I’ve learned the hard way that all the chocolate and sugar in the world (or supplements or self-talk) will not help – well not for more than an hour or so. I’ve learned that I need to manage how the cortisol is affecting my body, and for me that means water, guided imagery, light exercise or meditation.
Tell me, how about you? What have you learned to keep yourself well?
Posted by Deirdre Walsh
Image: Death to Stock
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