Welcome to 2018

Happy New Year! And congratulations! I know 2017 got off to a bit of a slow start for you, but man — you picked up the ball and ran with it. The last eleven months have been full of hard work, new challenges, and amazing accomplishments. You might not have gotten everything completed on your resolution list but you achieved a lot! You’re better positioned to live your dreams than ever before. And maybe more important than WHAT you’ve done is the ATTITUDE with which you’ve done it. Wow — you are an inspiration to all you meet.

from luna---belle.tumblr.com

from luna—belle.tumblr.com

Eleven Months Earlier

Things didn’t look so good. The best of intentions at New Year’s ran smack dab into the harsh wall of reality. It was kind of funny actually; it was like the moment you got serious all the little monsters and bugaboos crawled out of the woodwork and made you set aside your big dreams to deal with them.

By the end on January, things were ‘back in hand’ but you were exhausted and wondered if you could ever regain your momentum and make this the year that mattered and that changed everything.

by David Hirst

by David Hirst

How You Made 2017 Into a Rocket Ship

As the calendar turned to February, you started to feel excited again. Unreasonably excited. Sure, you were still tired, still bruised from your battles. But deep in your heart you started wondering if those January monsters were not just guardians at the gates and now that you’d bested them, you were in exciting, new territory. The year was young, the year was yours. And you were ready to fulfill the promises of January 1st.

All you needed was what every adventurer needs — a faded but trustworthy map; a bag of food — fuel for the journey, a mind for exploration, and heart full of gratitude for this chance, this trail. You looked about yourself and gathered:

THE MAP

You had a list written and printed out, that clearly defined where you most wanted to go this year and step-by-step for how you would get there. You took this map and placed it where you would see it every day and could check it off as you got closer and closer. It was so exciting as the months passed to see your progress. Standing at your destination at year’s end, you couldn’t imagine how you would have made it without it.

THE FUEL

You can’t get anywhere on an empty stomach. So you found new inspiration — from a blog, a book, a new Pinterest board, and new friends. Maybe you read these wonderful books —

from the American Library Association

from the American Library Association

from Amazon.com

from Amazon.com

A MIND FOR EXPLORATION

As you watch the clock tick down the minutes until 2018, ‘Champagne’ glass in hand, you realize that most of your success this year came from changing your attitude. In fact, you’re a little angry it took this long to learn how to live your dreams. It’s not easy, but it sure seems simple now. You take a breath and realize that now is right on time. You were finally ready this year to become the champion you’ve always known you could be. So what if it took awhile to reach this place — it was SO worth it. You realize that the best things about your new mindset were —

  • finally embracing failure as a stepping stone
  • forgiving yourself, forgiving yourself for everything
  • seeing hard work as essential and exciting
  • seeing play as essential and exciting
  • knowing 100% that you were capable of becoming this amazing person you’ve now become
  • learning to laugh and enjoy the adventure

    from fodors.com

    from fodors.com

A HEART FULL OF GRATITUDE

I know. Back in late January you didn’t feel so grateful. It was cold (sometimes). You got sick. And mostly, your dreams felt at a standstill. But then you realized how lucky you were. Very, very lucky. You had amazing talent, unerring taste, and a dream that you never stopped thinking about and working toward. And you were now in a position to be able to follow that dream — even just a little bit — every single day. You had the drive and determination to turn your goals (your map) visible. And people now STARE in disbelief. They think you got lucky. And you get a little teary-eyed because you did get lucky, you got you — this amazing, able, fantastically dedicated person who said ‘Screw it; I’m going to be the exception. I’m going to be exceptional.’

And every day after that, all throughout 2017, you thanked yourself each day for being the person who went for it and chased after your dreams so hard. And you were also thankful to everyone and everything else that made 2017 such a success.

CONGRATULATIONS! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Now it’s time for those 2018 goals…   🙂

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Struggle As Adventure

from quotesvalley.com

from
quotesvalley.com

Strug·gle
verb

  • make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.
  • strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.
  • have difficulty handling or coping with.
  • engage in conflict.
  • make one’s way with difficulty.

Struggle doesn’t sound like fun.  Maybe, it doesn’t even sound right — if you’re strugglin’, did you take a wrong turn somewhere, make a mistake, or overshoot your abilities?  At best it sounds like something to be borne, and then quickly gotten past.

And while I consider myself very lucky and have never known true hardship, there were early days in my adulthood of struggling to make ends meets and then figuring out how to build a new life with my sister after my mother suddenly passed away.  My sister Sarah and I also had to fix up our childhood home to move back there — water pipes and electrical outlets needed fixing, and new fences for a dog pen had to be built.

These times were not fun — hardly any of it.  Back then, we dreamed of a unknown, rich uncle showing up out of the blue and whisking us away to live on his Frisian horse farm in Spain (he was a Gary Oldman/Sirius Black sort).  We didn’t choose any of that struggle, and yes, we wished for it to be over.  And yet, around the edges we still found bits of fun.  I vividly remember digging post holes with Sarah for the dog pen while pretending to be characters from our favorite sci-fi shows (Earth 2 and SeaQuest DSV) and laughing our heads off.  And that moment was important.

“I’m-thankful-for-my-struggle-because-without-it-I-wouldn’t-have-stumbled-across-my-strength.”-–Alex-Elle-760x760

The other kind of struggle is the struggle you choose.  Now, it beats the other one, hands down.  But… it’s kind of like choosing to jump into a raging river to save someone’s life instead of being pushed in: you get the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing but that’s little comfort when your lungs are full of water and you’re thrashing around in the water.  For me, this type of struggle has defined 2016.

Ahh, 2016.  I just keep expecting it to turn a corner and get easier and yet I’m pushing against all barriers and really trying to reach a new reality with my dreams of health, fitness, having less stuff, and taking my writing career to the next level.  It hasn’t been easy, really none of it, but the results are real and the progress is visible (and now I can say I’ve cycled 65 miles in a day).

Publication1

But is it enough to just find tiny moments of joy and appreciate what we gain from struggle?  Isn’t that kind of gratitude akin to ‘Mmm mmm, these Brussels sprouts really taste like they have a lot of vitamins!’  Whether chosen by us or chosen for us, this state of increased difficulty can last months or even years — shouldn’t our lives be full of joy and adventure even in the midst of challenge and change?

I just read ‘Peter Pan and Wendy‘ for the first time.  One of the striking things was that Peter never really seemed to seek comfort and peace.  Oh sure, he and the Lost Boys enjoyed coming home in the evenings and having Wendy mother them, but that was just so they could rest and renew for tomorrow’s adventure.  And sometimes in a battle, if the tide turned and Peter’s forces were easily winning, he would switch sides and start fighting the Lost Boys just to up the challenge.  Most of us can’t imagine asking for more of a struggle, but Peter gleefully embraced it, found it interesting, and even became bored if triumphs came to him too easily.

Back in the real world, how can we re-frame the struggle as adventure?  Our struggles are as unique as our lives, and some of them may seem joyless and insurmountable.  But whatever our challenges, we always have control over our minds and how we perceive ourselves —

How to See Your Struggle as the Greatest Adventure of Your Life

  1. Be grateful for the chance.  Whatever you’re doing, where ever you’re going, someone somewhere wishes they were in your shoes.  Whether you’re in debt, want to lose weight, working your way through school, or fighting cancer — somebody wishes they had that fight.  A person hit and killed by a bus yesterday would love to have your today — it may not be easy but there’s a beautiful breeze whispering through even the hardest days.
  2. Know that you’re getting a chance to show off your badass-ery.  The biggest fights show the hero off to their greatest advantage.  In ‘The Princess Bride’ our hero Westley is dueling with a very accomplished sword fighter, Inigo Montoya.  He’s been really challenged by their fight and THEN Inigo makes known a devastating secret — ‘I’m not really left-handed.’  Inigo switches to fighting with his dominant right hand and we wonder if our hero is doomed.  Instead, Westley deftly switches his sword to his other hand too and reveals, ‘Neither am I.’  He’s as good as the best in the world.  And so are you.  People run from struggle.  Most lives are carefully built around its absence, so just being willing to wake up every day and resubmit yourself to many punishing challenges qualifies you for a lot of kudos and admiration.  That’s not saying everyone will notice but many more will than you realize (you may be inspiring your teacher, parent, or child without even knowing it).  So remember, you’ve got the tools and you’re got the talent — and you’re handling on a daily basis what would scare the shit out of lesser mortals 😉
  3.  Redefine what you’re looking for in life.  Do you really just want that lee in the storm?  A warm beach and a cold drink?  When we’re tired, peace and relaxation sounds like the best things life has to offer.  But again and again studies show that our greatest satisfaction and even happiness in this life comes from working toward goals that deeply matter to us.  Life should have pleasures and we should enjoy them — but pleasure isn’t what makes life worth living.  Get out of the mindset of desperately seeking easy street — that place where your job is perfect, your family life carefree, and to-do list done.  Goals are very important to our satisfaction, but remember that John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’  This wild, turbulent time is exciting and full of possibility — enjoy the race more and look toward the finish line less.  Because what you will remember later is always the race.
  4. Own your struggle.  You chose to be here.  Yes, you did.  Because ‘here’ is the struggle and you could have just laid down, given up, or exited out.  You decided to be here and you decided to fight for what you want.  One of the most important things I ever learned about having a job was that I chose to have a job — no one coerced me do it; it was a decision I made to have money for the things I wanted.  In the same way, you can get ahead of your challenges and at least feel like you’re choosing this life instead of having it forced upon you.  Be proactive about taking care of the issues you can control (pay your bills on time if you can instead of adding late fees on top of your other money woes), develop a plan for going forward, and trust yourself to be able to handle any challenges that come your way.  For myself, I know I can always quit fighting, and go live a life of fast food, reality TV, and mediocre achievements — but I chose to keep fighting: to create great art, to find my fans and embrace them, to get the body and live the life I want, and to never settle until I have the man of my dreams in my arms.adventure
  5. Embrace uncertainty.  A lot of the trouble with struggling is fear.  We’re fighting for freedom or to make our way forward.  We have hopes, goals, dreams, or even just the desire for a little peace and quiet.  During the hardest times of moving into our old house after Mom’s death, I remember hanging a poster on wall of my bedroom by the artist SARK and thinking that that poster would still be there when things were much better, and so it connected me to a future I desperately wanted to come to pass — and it did.  And then it passed by, and became the now.  The point is, whether or not all our dreams come true, we’re still moving forward and everything will be all right, in the end.  If we release our fears, then struggle looks a lot more like just acting out our deepest goals and desires in an exciting, unfamiliar place.  We’re having a dashing adventure, sword fighting with pirates.  Or we’re exploring lands no one has ever laid eyes on before.  Or we’re risking it all in a ‘hail Mary’ shot that will either fail spectacularly or land us in the company of legends.

When my sister and I talk about ‘adventure’ movies versus ‘action’ movies, we often say how — No matter how hard, difficult, or dangerous the path is, there is nowhere in the world the adventurer would rather be, and there’s nothing they’d rather be doing.  Because here is where your gumption’s tested, where heroes are made, great discoveries of knowledge, treasure, and secrets revealed, and you’re living the story that will be recounted joyously a hundred times around a hundred campfires when you’re safely back home.  The adventure is where you are most alive, using all of your talents to escape traps and outwit enemies, in awe of your abilities and fortitude, and where — when you catch your reflection in a quiet moment, in a lull in the battle — you find yourself with the biggest grin on your face, shocked at your good fortune and strength, your trials and triumphs, and astounded at the recognition that this is the best moment of your life and that you were so blessed to be gifted with this struggle, for inside it, you found yourself.

from piccsy.com

from
piccsy.com

 

How to Tune Out the Noise

I recently led a class about ‘How to Reevaluate Your Life’.  Some readers will remember that I’ve talked about this topic a couple of times before and so I felt pretty confident.  I printed handouts, talked for over an hour, and thought I’d covered my bases pretty well.  Then — during the Q & A portion of the class — I got a question that threw me for a loop.

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Found on ritholtz.com

 

Jill Hartmann-Roberts — wonderful person, talented writer, and fellow Athens Writers Association founder, asked how I drowned out the ‘noise’ of other people and the world to live the life I wanted to live.  In essence, her question pinpointed a weak spot in my talk: I’d focused on how to realize if you wanted a different life, how to find goals that mattered to you, and how to pursue your goals.  But I hadn’t addressed:

  • How to deal with friends, family, and coworkers who continually ask for your help
  • What to say to people who belittle or challenge your goals
  • How to balance your idea of an ideal life with society’s definitions of success
  • How to say ‘no’ to extra work when you’re a nice person
  • Creating what you want even when others don’t like it
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Found on uniquelywomen.net

Of course Jill’s a super-nice person and didn’t ask her question in any way to challenge me.  But I was struck by what a good question it was.  I thought about it and answered as best I could (in the on-your-toes manner that talks necessitate).  But I thought that the answer also deserved a more complete response, because it’s really hard to live the life of your dreams and the life society has ordained for you at the same time.

This question is challenging for me because I kind of don’t give a fig about peoples expectations anymore.  But why and when did this happen?  I’m a sensitive soul (to quote The Lion King) and an unhappy customer at my retail job can almost reduce me to tears, so why don’t I feel the pull to follow your people expectations in my own life?

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To answer that question, let’s look at the sources of this ‘noise’ and how you can negate its impact on your life —

— Not So Fun Noise-Makers —

Well-Meaning ‘Correctors’

Whether parents, siblings, or friends, these people have life all figured out and want to point out the folly of your path.  Maybe they think you can only be happy married with kids, or by becoming an accountant, or by moving up the ladder at work.  At their best, they have found something that has brought them much joy and want you to experience it too (certainly many a yoga/health food/exercise fan has sought to convert others [I’m as guilty as anyone]).  At their worst, what they suggest has made them miserable but they still think you should follow their common wisdom.

SimpsonsQuoteSidewalk

Consumertainment

Not exactly who we want to think is influencing us, but almost invariably ‘they’ are.  Who’s this ‘they’?  People who are paid to make us desire the latest car, the newest tech, and promise us the best night of our lives if we buy a certain beer or soft drink.  And even my beloved entertainment industry is little better, though I’d argue the sins committed there are more often from ignorance than cruelty (to paraphrase Anna Sewell).  There’s a great post about How The Karate Kid Ruined the Modern World.  Hollywood (and other pop culture) is about wish fulfillment, and fantasy.  I think back to how people wanted to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance and banter during the second World War — beauty and joy and escapism in a troubled time.  Fantasy has its place — but don’t let it ruin your real life.

funny-signs-from-the-simpsons-1

Braggarts

These people think they are better than you, or know someone better than you, and maybe just like to compare their favorite, most famous authors (artists, actors, etc) in history to you.  Even a ‘Ha ha, well it’s not Shakespeare!’ can hurt an author.  A lot of us may think ‘Hamlet’ is the greatest thing ever written in the English language and yet to be cut short, clamped down on — it stifles us and our potential.  And somebody will be the next Shakespeare.  And I will be the one and only Katherine Cerulean and being compared to people who are doing different things, with different aims, with more experiences, isn’t going to help me get there.

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The ‘Need’y

Oh, not the truly needy — the poor, uneducated, etc — by all means, take some time to give your energies or money to them.  Who I’m talking about is the ‘needers’ in your life.  If you have a job, and take care of your house/family, and are pursuing your dreams and goals — you are probably a hard-working and reliable individual.  And those are worth their weight in gold.  So you may find everyone — your church, your child’s school, neighbors, work friends, charities, interest groups you belong to — everyone may ask you for help.  What each person asks maybe be small, but it all adds up.  And if you say no, you may be called selfish.

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The Biz Experts

Whatever your dream is, there’s probably a business for it, and there are probably stars, CEOS, critics, trend-watchers, and more who will gladly expound on the ‘rules’ for succeeding.  And some of this can be very good advice.  But a lot of it is just what worked for them, combined with fear — business can often breed conservatism: do what worked before, and don’t try anything new.

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Second Guessers

This may be more internal noise than external.  You may find yourself wondering if your doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right field.  You might feel you should be doing more.  It can become stifling.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

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How Do We Tune Out the Noise?

It’s not always easy.  The people interrupting our flow are our friends, our family, even ourselves.  But if you want to do truly great things, we need to be able to concentrate and trust ourselves. So here’s how to deal with —

  • Well-Meaning ‘Correctors’  This is probably the hardest category because ‘correctors’ are often family members, and they have an out-sized influence over us.  The best defense I know is to remember is ‘they don’t know you as well as you do’.  You know if you can get in shape for that marathon, move to that new city, or ask that guy out.  At best they are guessing about your abilities and interest.  ONLY YOU KNOW.  It helps if you can (privately) find humor in their suggestions.  Keep in mind that they are probably trying to help you avoid pain, and that they may still see you as that little kid you once were.  In the end, they will be happy for you if you succeed on our own terms — otherwise they are people who you should have limited contact with in your life.  Period.

    5d243c199ef4c615be6087e43f703f0d

    Found on onlybutaglimpse.tumblr.com

  • Consumertainment  Remember that the whole industry exists to sell you things (even if it’s only a movie ticket).  And the sellers have had decades to perfect their pitches.  Though you want to be inspired by people who are living their dream lives, look for reality first.  What are the best moments in your own life on a weekly or monthly basis?  Who have you met that seems happy and to be living the life of their dreams?  Reading articles and interviews can help you understand the day-to-day lives of famous people (though beware that a biography is also a product and may be filled with stories meant to sell it).  Recently, I started listening to the podcast Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin (it’s really good), and Alec said something that stuck with me.  He, while talking about Hollywood said something like, “There are things I like about it and things I hate about it.  I love my job, but it is a job.”  Some might say Alec is ungrateful; I think he was just honest.  No marriage, friendship, or career is perfect.  I love, love, LOVE writing — and yet it’s so much harder as a job than a lot of things I could have done.  It’s hard because I care.  It’s not just sipping lattes and daydreaming (for instance, right now I’m sipping a Starbucks dark roast not a latte).  So stop comparing your life to make believe — dragons and giant robots and the Entourage life are all products of Hollywood writers’ imaginations.  f6f93a195c6ea61fa9906ca2509e87a9
  • Braggarts Honestly, I have found that shutting them down or shutting them out is the only way to deal with this type.  If the comments under the ‘help you out’ category, then the first time I’d thank the person for their advice.  “Stephen King uses a lot less commas than you do.”  “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”  But that may only encourage the braggart to keep comparing your work to everyone (including themselves) who they think is better.  Then I would say something like, “Thanks, but I have my own style and am doing my own thing right now and I’m not really interested in comparing myself to anyone else.”  If the person still keeps putting you/your work down, you have to understand that YOU are not necessary for their monologue; they are looking to inflate themselves or their ego by putting others down.  They probably can’t help it, but they are never going to change.  Cut them out of your life or, if they work with you and you can’t, make it absolutely clear you don’t want their opinion.  “Hey, sorry to interrupt you, but I really don’t enjoy talking about my work with you or hearing about yours.  Can we talk about something else?  Like how much we both hate the (local sports rivals)?  I think we’ll find we have a LOT to agree about on that topic.”

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    Found on mediawebapps.com

  • The ‘Need’y Jack Canfield (in his book, The Success Principles) says to ‘Say no so your yeses have more impact.’  Tell others that you have made a commitment to your family/job/dreams/health and you are going to have to say no to their offer/request.  You can soften the blow by posing a counter-offer — “Sorry, I’ve made a commitment to improve my health by running in a marathon in November so I’m going to have to say no to chairing the school fall festival this year.  But I would be happy give my notes from last year to the person you choose and they can email me if they have a few questions.”  Also, realize that you will do a better job on the things you do say yes to if you have less on your plate.  Lastly, think about the fact that as a useful person you will be needed to ‘help out’ from now until the end of your life, but that the best way you can help out — I’d argue — is to become a totally realized, extraordinary human being.  Being amazing at your life will bring money, connections, and even time into your existence which you can use to improve the world.  But, as Scott Adams says, ‘You have to be selfish first.’

    dddac85c7da76fec3baa0e9ac536a26d

    Quote by Connor Franta

  • The Biz Experts There a quote from Steve Jobs — “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  I think that sums up a lot of my beliefs about experts — they don’t know what the great new thing is until they see it.  And I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t get a consensus about what works, or which paths often lead to success.  But if anyone says no one of your background, age, etc has made it, remember to add silently — ‘…yet.’  You could be the first, but there may already be tons of successes that other people don’t know about.  As you develop your talents and if you’re passionate, you will start to see these gaps — things you wish existed but haven’t seen yet.  And believe me, the world is hungering for you to fill those gaps, for something amazing and different and exciting.  I think the world needs some Katherine Cerulean and needs it right now so I spend my time trying to hone my vision, to improve myself, all while remembering that what makes me special is exactly the thing ‘expects’ would probably want me to change.

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    Found on spoken.ly

  • Second Guessers The best thing I’ve found for this problem is to think deeply about a issue/goal/etc — whether over a few weeks or a concentrated couple of days — and then make a detailed plan with a timeline.  I decided to go Paleo for 6 month to get to my ‘perfect shape’.  After I decided that, I didn’t have to think about it anymore.  I was paleo.  I’m not saying it was easy, but I didn’t wonder after three weeks if I should quit it and try a different diet — I had already thought this through and made a plan.  Short of any health problems, I simply wouldn’t even consider another course of action till I had given this one a chance.  A timed goal can work for anything — it says you don’t have to worry about something every day and yet are monitoring it.  “If I still hate my job this much in one month I’ll send out 20 resumes.”  “We’ll do six months of ‘date nights’ and then see a counselor if our relationship hasn’t improved.”  One screenwriter suggested that every six months you ask ‘Is this making me happy?’  He was talking about writing but that could work for anything — just remember to quiet the second guessers (even yourself) while a timed goal is going on — you got this in hand.

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    Found on babydickey.com

In the end, noise is all around us, and always will be.  What changed for me was when I realized a few years ago that everyone deals with these issues and feelings and challenges.  I could either continue as I had been and be shy, lonely, and questioning for the next 10, 20, 30 years or I could become the kind of person who inspires others by doing the thing and having the power.  I could feel the fear and do it anyway.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been so worth it.  And somewhere along the way I lost a lot of my fear of what people think.  I have no magic answer, but I do know one thing for sure: you are SO IMPORTANT and so special and you deserve to fight through the noise and never stop fighting and claim the unique throne that is held only for you.

The world may be full of noise but, in the end, only you can silence your roar.

And only you can give yourself the time, space, and confidence to show the world how special you are.  Go get’em.

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The Most Successful Fat-Loss Plan of My Life

Found on bendifulblog.com

Right out the gate, let me be clear about one thing: I don’t believe in the term ‘weight loss’ as a healthy mindset.  Lots of things add up to your body weight — organs, muscle, bones, fluids that keep you alive.  And believe me, you wouldn’t want to trade your heart to weigh a few less pounds.

Found on stylecraze.com

But realistically, a lot of people gain muscle when they lose fat, and then they get discouraged because the scale they check daily says they’re ‘gaining weight’.  I don’t own a scale.  Instead, I have gone from a size 18 to a 16 to a 14 (with 2 new belt holes I had to create ’cause I’d run out of old ones).  And that’s just been in ten weeks.  Even more dramatic is how I look and feel.

Found on fitgirlsdiary.com

So stop chasing a weight goal and start pursuing your best, most perfect self.  Believe me, weight from muscle looks SEXY.
So, when I decided to FINALLY get to my perfect shape I knew I needed to do something I’d never done (because I wanted to get something I’d never gotten before).  Some goal-setting plans talk about assuming it will be HARDER than you think.  I do believe that’s a good way to go.  I assumed it would be the hardest task of my life (so far) to achieve one of the greatest successes of my life — and you should too.

Found on trendhunter.com

Which is why you need to make sure you know your goal and really, really want it — for yourself.  Don’t do it just because your friend’s going on a diet, you want to impress some hot guy, or you think you ‘should’ for health.  You have to want it in your marrow.
You have to be willing to do anything (that’s healthy and safe) for this goal.  If you want it, you CAN achieve it.  After my success with earlier goals this year (getting my first tattoo etc), I went about this from the viewpoint — ‘They can slow you down, but they can’t stop you.’
I’m hungry right now.  I’m sitting in a car dealership getting my oil changed (this was true for the first draft).  I can’t eat their free popcorn or walk over to the Sonic for a shake as was my tradition — and I LOVE it.  I got myself an unsweetened tea before I came here and I’m so, so excited about how I’ll look and feel by my birthday (Nov. 1st).
I don’t even want the shake — I want the change.
So, here’s what I’ve been up to, but bear in mind that the successful diet is the one you can stick to.  There’s nothing magic about what I’m doing.  The magic comes from the dedication, the excitement, and the positivity with which I’m pursuing this goal.  So banish ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary, and know that the math works and you can do anything you set your mind to — you just have to want it badly enough.  And if you say you can’t give up a favorite food, imagine if your children or whomever you love most would drop dead if you took one bite of refined sugar.  You would NEVER touch sugar again — it just wouldn’t be a choice; you’d find another way to live.  So don’t say you ‘can’t’ — say you choose not to, or that you choose to.  Because you can do this.

physicalculturist.ca

Clean Eating —
This is the way you lose excess fat: a calorie deficit.  That’s it.  And while exercising can help the process, you basically have to eat less while your body reverses years of bad eating (in the early days of this plan, I sometimes liked to say ‘today my good eating and exercising will make up for June 2002’ or ‘November 1998’.  This made the day seem big and important and reminded me what I was doing at a certain month and year and how I eat better now than I did then.
Now, I don’t like counting calories and I’m a world class exception-maker (‘a customer yelled at me; now I deserve a shake’).
So I decided to ‘go paleo’ — 100%, for six months.  You can learn more about paleo here, but the main gist is that (before agriculture) our bodies spent hundreds of thousands of years adjusting to us being hunter-gatherers — so vegetables, lean meats, fruits, nuts, and eggs tend to make our bodies happy and healthy.  By the same rational — grains, dairy, and refined sugar are not foods our bodies have yet evolved to process well, and so they can make us sluggish, fat, and sick.

Found on buzzfeed.com

What does this means for the modern diet-seeker (because a GOOD diet is something you want to be on for the rest of your life, not a fad to be discarded as soon as you goal is reached)?
It means that you can eat almost as much as you want if you’re paleo — just the kind of foods you can eat are limited.  So a lovely homemade meal of salmon, kale, and broccoli?  Eat as much as you want.  For me, having good food always available (even a can of tuna), means I never really, really feel deprived.
So I’m eating smoothies or eggs for breakfast (yes, I drink a little fruit juice and kefir which isn’t quite paleo).  I’m also loving salads, and having great dinners of fish, shrimp, and chicken along with copious servings of veggies.
For sweet snacks, paleo pancakes with honey, paleo chocolate pudding, 100% juice pops, and chocolate milk (almond milk, raw cocoa, and a bit of honey), and smoothies with raw cocoa, are all good options.
My sister Sarah and I have also got in the habit of taking vitamin C, D, E, Magnesium, and Fish Oil — I don’t know if it helps, but it seems nice.
I know it’s easy to think — bleh!  Salads and fruit, oh joy.  I’ve felt that way in the past too, but keep in mind one thing: your palette is used to unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and heavy flavorings.
After just a few weeks, you body resets (even after a lifetime of fast food eating), and suddenly you don’t want or need sugar in the same way anymore.  I remember just a few weeks into my no-sugar plan a co-worker was leaving and they had a giant cookies-and-cream cake for her going away party.  I was trapped in a tiny room with this giant cake — and already, I didn’t want it.  Not really.  Those cakes were always such a sugar-high treat, but already it didn’t look like REAL food to me.
REAL FOOD:

thefitfork.com

 NOT REAL FOOD:

wefollowpics.com

I’ve been looking for my next sugar ‘hit’ most of my adult life.  That’s sad to admit.  But even when sipping a shake I’d be wondering what was next.  So, at least once in your life, take a break from being addicted to sugar, eat real, recognizable food for a few weeks, and see how you feel.
You owe it to yourself to know what feeling awesome feels like.
Strength Training —

Found on etsy.com

In a recent large study, two groups both lost weight while exercising, but the first group did only cardio and lost equal amounts of fat and muscle, while group two only did strength training and lost only fat.  Strength training can make that big of a difference.
Basically, strength training makes your muscles grow and that tells your body that you need strong muscles and are using them all the time, so then your body grabs fat instead.  With cardio, you’ll lose more, but more of everything.  For me, a balance is good and I enjoy both.
I have a friend who has lost a LOT of weight over the last nine months.  That’s great, but they only reduced calories and did no exercise so they look a little ‘wasted away’ right now.  It’s great to get the dangerous weight off, and now he has started exercising, but for myself I want to feel strong AND sleek, every step of the way.
So I’ve found some core exercises online to strengthen my torso and I’m also lifting free weights.  I do three sets of the five exercises (all of which are done while lying down, so it’s hard to say I’m too tired to lie on the floor 😉 ).  It takes about 20-30 minutes.
I’m looking lean and feeling very strong.  I really like seeing my arms and torso get hard and sleek.  And please forget the ‘myth’ of getting too muscular, you’re not gong to wake up one day and look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger — but you might wake up one morning with a killer bod.
Cardio —
Ah, I love me some cardio.  Specifically, I love me some cycling.  Sarah and I cycle three times a week (heat waves depending) going anywhere from six miles to thirty miles at a time.  And it is giving me strong, slim legs, great lungs, and a great heart.  That said, even though I think cycling is a perfect exercise, you need to find the perfect exercise for you.
Anything that gets your heart rate up, and you’d love to do for an hour or more at a time can be great — I just ask that you keep trying activities until you find at least one you love.
Actually, the secret to all this is filling your life with things you love, and cut out the things that stress you out.
  • Any healthy diet (based around veggies) can work; you just need to find real foods you can enjoy eating, day in and day out.
  • Find strength training exercises that are fun, make you feel kick-ass, and get the results you wouldn’t want to live without.
  • Do cardio that you would do for fun even if it wasn’t good for you.
In the end, just never give up — either on yourself or your potential.  It’s taken me a long time to put all the pieces together, but I never gave up on improving myself.  Don’t see yourself as ‘having’ to diet and exercise, see yourself as getting to train up to be stronger, sleeker, and more awesome than you’ve been in your whole life.  I’ve been working toward improving my body for over ten years.  I’ve had setbacks but I’ve never been at such an exciting place as I am now.
So do a little research, steer clear of too-good-to-be-true promises, and get prepared to work harder than you ever have before.
And then get ready to change everything — starting with yourself.

Found on engelta.hubpages.com

Found on invisiblechildren.com

Back — and Better Than Ever

Hi there.  Remember me?  Sorry for the long absence since my last post, but I hope once you hear what I’ve been up to,  you’ll approve.

Found on graphicdesignjunction.com

First  of all, I want to say thank you to each and every person who follows this blog.  When I started writing here, I was imaging you all — you wonderful, creative, and inspiring individuals who I’m honored to write to — but I had no idea how fast this would come together or what fun I would have.
And I feel like this is a big moment of change for a lot of us.  My life is changing more than it ever has and in wonderful ways (more on that in my next post), and I feel like our journey together is also beginning an exciting new phase . . . if you’re willing to continue adventuring with me that is, and I hope you are.  It’s going to be very exciting.

One reason I’ve been MIA recently is that I made you a present.  Oh, I know, I shouldn’t have.  But you guys are too awesome and I just want to share everything helpful I can with you.
So, without further ado, I present my 2013 self improvement book, How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living Your Dreams — now available as a FREE WEBSITE with fun links and awesome quote/pictures.
Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean
madnessofart@gmail.com

My book will still be available on Amazon as a paperback or an ebook (and it’s a charmer), but I want everyone to be able to dig in, see how they like it, and share it without the awkwardness that comes from trying to turn a work of love into a dollar sign — and I do love you all and want to see you succeed beyond even your wildest dreams.  And if my book can help you in even a tiny way, then it will have succeeded in its purpose.
In a nutshell, How to Come Alive is the twenty-five ideas that have helped me most in living the life of my dreams.  Even though I have big goals I’m working on right now, I’m already tremendously happy in my life and it’s not just luck — it’s moving continuously toward those very things that make me feel most alive.
A word about consumerism: I love buying things from people and companies that I love and that do great work, and I do think it’s a shame if we start to believe that everything should be free.  That said, I hate the fearful, mercenary attitude that I see in some creative self promoters.  They are afraid they can’t make a living at this, so they get ‘tough-minded’, and you feel as if they are asking to turn out your pockets to pay for their coffee habit.  Nobody wins.

Found on laurenconrad.com

For myself, I reject the status quo.  I’ve worked hard on my craft for 16 years.  I love writing.  And you know what?  I’m going to be just fine.  In fact, I’m going to be awesome.  This is what I was put on Earth to do, and one day you’ll say you knew me when — and none of that awesome success is dependent on me tweeting ‘AVAIL ON AMAZON 99CENTS NOW!’, asking a few hundred nice strangers to buy my book, or trying to guilt people into helping me mainline caffeine.
What I want, much more than money, more even than to make this calling my vocation — what I want most is to share the magic, joy, beauty, and perfection of life with you.  This world is amazing, you are amazing, I am amazing.  So if you get a chance, visit my ‘Come Alive‘ site, look for something that moves you, and start living the life of your dreams.  Cause if I can do it, flippin’ believe you can do it.
I will ask one thing — if you enjoy what I do and know of someone else who might enjoy it, share it.  And I promise to keep sharing on this website the awesome, magical things I find that inspire me, and together, we’ll keep moving forward toward a future so bright it burns our eyes.
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Thanks again for making the first two years so enjoyable.  I look forward to many more.
Now go enjoy your present — inspirationlivingdreams.wordpress.com.

How to Get There From Here: The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting

When you have a dream, it sneaks around the edges of your consciousness, coming to the forefront of your mind in the oddest times — in the shower, listening to radio interviews, when someone asks ‘What do you do?’  But how do you cross over from a dreamer to a doer?  With thousands of books and hundreds of methods, how do you find a way that works for you and moves you toward your dreams?

For myself, I both feel like I’m falling short all the time and that I’m making real progress.

Quote by Sarah Cerulean

I recently heard on the radio that February 8th is when more people cancel their gym memberships than any other day (I could not find anything to corroborate that).  And many people give up their New Year’s resolutions far earlier.

But this is about changing your life in a big, permanent way — so keep fighting, keep learning, and know that starting again is still progress.  Just a few easy steps can also immeasurably increase your chances of success — for example, almost all very success people (millionaires, famous athletes, etc)  have written goals, and yet the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are never put on paper.  Here’s what I’ve learned that has helped me make my life so exciting —

How to reach your goal:

  1. Make sure it’s a goal worth reaching.  This may sound silly but if you’re about to put hundreds of hours (oh yes) and tons of effort into a dream, first make sure it’s your dream (not your parents’ or spouse’s or society’s) and then make sure you really, really want the life you’ll have at the end of it.  Want to run a marathon?  Are you ready to give up lots of free time, family time, etc to reach that goal?  Want to be a lawyer?  Go talk to lawyers, read books by them, and decide if the day-to-day is something you’d enjoy.  The idea here is not to scare you off but to make sure you really care — that passion will be a key ingredient.
  2. Find a way to make your dream quantifiable.   Jack Canfield suggests that for a goal to work he’d have to be able to show up at a certain date and time to see if you’d accomplished your goal.  So if you said ‘I’ll weight 155 pounds on 12:00 pm on September 15th, 2015’, then someone should be able to show up and weigh you on that date, whereas if you said ‘I’ll get in shape in 2015’ there’s no way to test that.  Now, I’m a little more flexible with my goals, but a goal that a child could understand will help you immensely.
  3. Pick a goal that depends only on you.  I can’t say “I’ll win a Pulitzer and get a job at Valve Software in 2015” because no matter what I do, it’s in other people’s hands who gets those awards and jobs.  Now, something like ‘I will sell 100 copies of my book,’ or ‘I will get 600 followers of my blog’ could be more realistic because you could work toward it and it doesn’t rely upon one or two people deciding to back your goal.  For the earlier example, a more self-focused goal would be ‘I’ll write (and complete all drafts of) my best novel ever in 2015,’ or ‘I’ll read two books on resume writing, write a great resume, and send it to fifty companies I would love to work for (including Valve) in 2015’.
  4. Limit your number of goals.   “If you have more than three priorities then you don’t have any.” ~Jim Collins.  One site suggests one goal from each category — Health, Finances, Career.
  5. Understand that willpower is a finite resource.  You want a balanced life, and you want to move forward on different goals at once, but realize that you may have more success if you focus your strength.  I’m hitting it hard in exercise, writing, and yoga and so I’m allowing myself to have a few extra snacks right now (actually, I’m now into ‘Paleo month’, but this was true when I wrote this piece for a class a few weeks ago 😉 ).
  6. Make a ‘setback’ plan.  You’ll fall off one day — it’s human nature — so why not have an emergency plan to breakout for when that happens?  Either make up / replace what you’ve lost (an extra workout later in the week to replace an earlier one) or figure out the best road back after an ‘off’ week.  Remember, your goal is progress, not perfection.

Found on leighnoelle.com

First pick three goals.  Then break each one down like this —

GOAL: Run a marathon in 2015.

PLAN: Last race in my area is the Xmas Day run.  But, I’ll be pretty busy at that time of year, so I’ll plan to run in the Spooktacular Halloween Marathon, with a fallback of the Turkey Day Trot Fun Marathon.

BREAK IT DOWN: It’s January 18th now, so I want to be halfway to my Oct 31st goal by roughly the end of May.  So I’ll enter the June 1st, Summer Half Marathon to keep me on track.  I’ll need to be able to run 13.1 miles then and I can now run 1 mile.  So I want to run 6 and a half miles by the end of April and three miles by March 15th.

HELP: I’ll read two running books and talk to the people at the local shoe running store about training and new shoes.  I’ll also read up and buy food to help me feel my best and put on muscle.

WEEKLY PLAN: Go on three runs this week, each a mile long.  Next week go on three 1.2 mile runs.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Find a running buddy; buy a sports watch, talk to my doctor.

 

Found on runnersblueprint.com

In the end, YOU can change your life.  All it takes is determination, hard work, flexibility about your methods, and a burning desire to see your dream become a reality. This is the moment — you got this! 

5 Ways to Love Yourself and Reveal Your Awesome

WARNING: A little extra language in the pictures of this post — because I was feeling passionate!

In life there are two pulls — the urge to become more and the necessity of loving yourself as is.  I don’t believe these forces are incompatible but we too often tell our story as ‘I’m broken and I must fix myself.’

But we’re not broken.  We are spiritual beings having a physical experience and our bodies can shatter, we can grow tired, we may even get lost.  And we can definitely make mistakes.  But we can’t break.  And at our soul level there is something so fundamentally strong and beautiful and full of glorious purpose that it burns brightly our whole lives and we cannot lessen its glow one iota — we can only hide it from the world and even ourselves.

We lose sight of the things that make us beautiful and make us dream.  We sell our days for power and money, and give away the peace of night in exchange for fears and insecurity.

Found on wisdom-square.com

There was no grand scheme, no master plan to build a society that told us, from birth to death, that we are not good enough.  Companies just sold things, and advertisers discovered that praying on our fears, playing to our vanities, and distorting our dreams sold a lot of soda.  And cars.  And weight loss devices.

An unintentional side effect of this effective advertising is, on a massive level, unconscious self-loathing (oops!).  And before you think I overstate my case, I’ll ask ‘Are you happy with the shape of your body?’  ‘How often do you wish you had more money?’  ‘Do you think other people have more fun, more vibrant social lives than you?’  Or as my sister put it, she grew up thinking you couldn’t be the hero of the story unless you were ‘the pretty one’.

And having to grow up at school, trapped in a building with a bunch of other confused kids doesn’t help.  So we emerge, blinking, into the strong sunlight of adulthood and look around, lost.  And yet we often still try, still push toward our dreams and our heart’s desires.

But the road is long, and we stumble, then retreat.  And somewhere along the way we can grow cold, or even cruel.  We gain weight and believe ourselves maybe just the ‘sassy friend’ instead of the luminous heroine.  I’ve had pretty good self esteem for a few years now (starting my groups People Who Have Come Alive & the Athens Writers Association was a big turning point for me), but even I was thrown backwards, back to TV show expectations of my youth recently when I fell for someone and wondered ‘Could I even be seen as attractive to him?’ And I’ve worked on this stuff for years!  But billions of dollars have been spent in the same time span to tell me I lack something, or many things.

So cover our glow in armor, in hardheartedness, in shrouds.  We develop traits we don’t like, and these become the weak places where we also build up our strongest defenses.  And somewhere along the way, we believe a myth we have helped write, the story of why we don’t deserve success — in business, in love, or in life.

Before I started my groups, my self publishing, or even a lot of my self improvement, I too had a myth.  I was a ‘nice’ girl who was too shy for groups, too boring to have friends, and too ugly (read fat) to have a boyfriend.  It hurts and bewilders me now to write these words, because I never expressed them to anyone back then, but none the less, it was a story — a reason — that I used to explain my life.  The truth was I was quiet and introspective, and curvy (and still am).

So what changed my outlook?  I think I just realized that I had felt and wrestled with these feelings, these ‘lacks’, most of my adult life, so it followed that I could be having exactly the same conversations with myself in 10, or 20, or 30 years.  I didn’t want that and so I decided to take action — bringing the people I wanted to know together, speaking even when my voice shook, and building a body I could love — with or without a man to enjoy it with.

So how do you let go of these brainwashed ideals and layers of armor?  How do you honor how awesome you are and know how far you can go?

5 Ways to Love Yourself and Reveal Your Awesome

  1. Start questioning your authorities.  When you think, ‘I need to lose weight’ — STOP.   Ask yourself where this desire is coming from — love or fear?  Do you love dancing around, and feeling great with tons of energy?  Or do you read magazines and watch shows that take 1% of the human population and then Photoshop and light them to look like 0% naturally do?  If you think you need more success (and money) ask yourself why.  Will that really make something inside you different and happier or have you just been told the validation of life is cha-ching! cash?  After you start questioning your sources, consider cutting the toxic ones out of your life while looking at things from a new perspective (read blogs about people beating anorexia or helping children in disadvantaged countries, watch foreign films, find quotes and people that build you up, read bios of great historical figures).  And when a person you know offers their opinion, always ask yourself, ‘Are they someone I want to emulate, to aspire to be?’
  2. Make time for what makes you awesome.  So often we only work on our weaknesses.  In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, the authors talk about how you want to shore up your weaknesses, but only enough that they don’t slow you down (they use an example of Tiger Woods improving his short game so it would not detract from his amazing long swings that got him to the green so quickly).  The takeaway was that you are never going to be amazing because of your weaknesses — it’s your unique strengths that will blow people away.  So take pride in the things that come easily to you, delve into the hobbies and sports that you excel at (I once told my sister that I felt like I was ‘made’ for cycling — and that is a powerful feeling, almost like you’re cheating).  In the same way, I didn’t really ‘fix’ my character flaws, I just walked away from them and focused on stuff I rock at — and I’ve never looked back.
  3.  Get healthy.  Seriously, throw out the scale (it’s a horrible measure of health), and forget about diets (these temporary things you hate) while embracing diet (a lifelong way of eating that makes you feel great).  So much self esteem and endorphins lie on the other side of exercise and eating right.  Also — weed, drinking, and excessive sugar can all be enjoyed, but they can also become a crutch that makes us feel powerless and reliant on their mood enhancements.  And I know smokers already feel beat up upon, but I really do feel like that addiction unfairly makes you feel powerless — a slave to nicotine — many times a day, so I hope, if you smoke, you find out how powerful you are and break that habit into a million pieces.
  4.  Become an inspiration to others.  Write a book.  Lead a cause.  Start a group.  Blog about fitness.  Mentor a child.  Follow your dream so hard that others stare in wonder.  When I started my groups, a strange thing happened: people started telling me how awesome I was, and how I was inspiring them.  I felt there must be some mistake, but no — I was just living my life but even what I considered small acts — hosting a meeting, sharing what I knew, encouraging people with a few words — others saw a value to that and spoke up about it.  This inspired me to do more — publish a book, give a public reading — because I realized that we all have fears and insecurities and the more ‘fake it till you make it’ I did, the more bold and brave they would become in their own lives.  Suddenly, being awesome wasn’t about just me.
  5. Speak to yourself with love.  Not get all psychological on you, but there’s only one person watching everything you do and commenting on how you do it.  It’s you.  And it was a real wake-up call the first time I read something like ‘If you wouldn’t speak to a small child like that, why would you speak to your inner child that way?’  It’s really hard to live an inspiring life if someone is degrading you all the time.  So, give yourself a break.  It’s been shown in studies that being ‘hard line’ or tough with yourself does not improve your willpower or results.  In fact, the opposite is true.  You are already doing great things — give yourself some love.

So start seeing yourself as beautiful.

Fall in love with who you are at your silliest and most sublime.

Forgive the actions and thoughts of your past and know they are not you.

Make choices that reveal your inner glory and magnificent joy.

Say “Screw you!” to any society that hasn’t gotten on board with your level of sexy, awesomeness, or lifestyle.

Heal your body and free your mind.

And lastly, when you feel imperfect, remember the words of Leonard Cohen — “There is crack in everything . . .

How I got Healthier (and You Can Too)

My friend Jill Hartmann-Roberts recently asked me for some info about the health and fitness things I’ve been excited about in the past couple of years and I thought, ‘Why not share this info with all of you?’

First of all, know that whatever health, body, mental or other challenges you’re facing, I completely believe good food, exercise, and giving yourself peaceful, quiet time can improve your life.  Some people have problems that keep them from the activities mentioned here, but most of us (thankfully) don’t — and even if you do, there is probably something, even just looking out a window, that could improve the quality of your life.  As always, you may want to talk to your doctor before making any of these big changes (he’d probably love to hear some good news).

Tiny bit of backstory — I grew up loving fried foods, sweets, and thought I was a ‘meat & potatoes’ girl.  I was also significantly heavier than I am now.  This change did not come all at once but by slowly starting to add in more and more good habits over the years.  So start small but be excited that your happiest, healthiest body may still be ahead of you.  My dad’s 59 and he just spent 8 and 1/2 hours kayaking on a river — you may say he has good genes but he also eats the healthiest and exercises more than anyone I know.  Where do you want your body to be at 59?

So, here’s what I’ve been doing in the last couple of years to take my body to the next level (this may be a little advanced for some people so remember that even half measures will get you going in the right direction) —

Cutting Back on Sugar

These days, I don’t really keep anything with refined sugar in the house.  When I want to make an exception (like a shake), I have to go out and buy it.  I’ve really been working to replace my desire for refined sugars with natural sugars like fruits, fruit juice, date-related products, and sometimes coconut sugar (Trader Joes has it and it’s pretty good in coffee).  Read my full post about sugar here.  Most of this new focus came about last year when my sister watched Sugar is a Toxin, a talk by Dr. Robert Lustig that changed the way we think about sugar’s place in our lives.

Now, I love sweets, and I’ll allow myself at least one hard-core exception a week (chocolate torte anyone?) but I want to remove the daily need for sugar from my life.  And doing that is also one of the best ways to avoid joining the heartbreakingly large number of diabetics in this country.  The amount of sugar we’re encouraged to eat everyday is f-ed up and we need take the power back into our own hands and live more like our grandparents did — when sweets were a rare treat.  Also read — Food Rules.  It’s wonderful.

Walking & Cycling

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think walking is a fantastic way to get healthier.  Try to get out for thirty minutes and least five times a week.

But cycling, now there’s the gold mine.  If you’re able physically to cycle, even just a little ways, you can find relaxation, joy, and a great, fast way to lose weight and get in shape.  As my sister has said, ‘You don’t see any fat cyclists’ (or at least, not for long).

But if you can’t/don’t like to go cycling, remember the important thing is to just do some exercise you do enjoy more.  It needs to be done often, and be fun and challenging to whatever level you’re at now — but never hurt yourself.

Juicing & Fasting

Juicing is a great way to get a lot of vitamins fast and can give your body a break from the hard work of digesting food (yes, your intestines would like a vacation too).  The film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead really turned my sister and I on to the power of juicing — you can change your body in ways you’d never believe and it’s never too late to get better.  Whether it’s just a breakfast replacement or a longer ‘juice fast’, it can change your relationship to food forever.  A juicer costs around a hundred dollars but you can buy used ones (or get a friend to loan you one to try it) — and either way, the cost is probably less than one month of the blood pressure pills you may have to take down the road if you don’t get healthier.

A word about fasting: done right it’s not dangerous, unhealthy, or harmful.  Fasting has been a religious practise for thousand of years.  Fasting can mean a ‘full fast’ where you might drink only water or consume nothing at all (best done for a short while [like a day] and on a day you’re off work and can lie down and rest often).  It can also be a ‘partial fast’ where you might still drink water, juice, and even eat a few fruits and veggies.  Sarah and I have done a 14 day partial fast and I’d love to do it again.  Just remember that you will probably ‘detox’ somewhere around day two and have a headache for a couple of hours.  This is natural and healthy and afterward you won’t have that happen again for the rest of your fast.

It’s also important to ‘break’ the fast at the end of the time and slowly start eating good foods again.  Remember: you are not dieting or starving yourself, you are giving your body a break for a specific amount of time.  Richard Hittleman’s Weight Control Through Yoga contains instructions for the first fast I ever did.

Paleo

My friend Jill said she’d heard me mention this but didn’t really know anything about it.  I was exactly in that spot last September but I believe Paleo is one of the reasons I’m on track to be my healthiest ever by the end of this year.

In a nutshell, the Paleo (or paleolithic) diet is a return to what people ate for our entire history up until we discovered agriculture.  From an evolutionary point of view, our bodies haven’t begun to integrate things like wheat, legumes (like peanuts) and dairy into our diet, which is why some people have allergies and others may still (unknowingly) have their bodies fighting against minor negative reactions their wholes lives.  And fast food and refined sugars are even harder for our bodies to use to keep us healthy.  Exercise is also a major component of being Paleo.

To help you get more started —

The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet

Mark’s Daily Apple

A ‘Is it Paleo?’ Chart

Ultimate Paleo Guide

And a basic rundown —

fourbarrelcrossfit.com

And I wouldn’t get too caught up in buying only grass-fed beef — I started with regular.  Also, almost every veggie’s good — excluding regular potatoes (sweet potatoes are good for you).

That about sums up my recent adventures in health.  I feel better than I ever have, am improving all the time, and can’t wait to see what I’ll be doing when I’m 59!  Take care of your body and you’ll free your spirit up for some amazing adventures.

Best Wishes.

And Now Introducing… The Point System!

I didn’t want to tell you guys about this till it’d been working for a while, but my sister Sarah and I have been having so much fun with this point system we invented over a month ago and so I wanted to share it with you because it could help make your life even awesomer.  I have never been quite as productive as I have this last month — it’s insane.  So, without further ado —

What is the point system?

It’s a reward system where you earn gold coins and blue coins (i.e.points) for doing positive things that are moving you toward your dreams.  Then you can use your coins to ‘buy’ treats and things you want.  It part of the gamification of life — i.e. to make ordinary tasks as fun, rewarding, and addictive as video games do with their lights, sounds and, well, coins of achievement.

How does it work?

First you decide what type of things you want to be doing daily to get to your perfect, dream life.  For me it’s exercising, keeping the house clean, and most especially writing.  So when I write for thirty minutes, I get one gold coin and one blue coin.  Cycling two miles also gets me one coin of each color (I tend to call such things earning a coin, but as you’ll see different colors have different uses and every activity offers one coin of each color).

And if I have a ‘perfect day’ in which I do all the coin-earning activities that I have written down, I get an extra coin!  Yowza!

What do these coins do?

Well, gold coins are for food treats like dining out or getting a shake, or even buying a carton of ice cream to take home.  That’s right, my base is no sweets and no eating out.  BUT you don’t have to go all out like that.  Even saying you’re earning your Big Mac by taking a walk around your block would still be a great thing.  You decide your point system — just know, if you want it — you gonna have to earn it.

Blue coins buy you non-food related goodies — albums, movie tickets, fun clothes or jewelry.  That’s right, I don’t get those things unless I earn them.  The flip side, if you earn it, you don’t feel guilty about buying it.

So, how’s it been working out?

Fantastically.  It means that just doing simple, good things like cleaning the house or doing yoga (things I didn’t do every day) suddenly are reward situations.  I’m earning points right now sitting here writing to you!  It’s limited the amount of indulgences while increasing the activities that will lead to the life of my dreams.  We all know steps that would get us where we want to go; this helps us follow the path AND feel rewarded instead of deprived when it comes to treats and snacks.

Here’s how you do it —

  1. Figure out your dream life.  Are you fit and healthy?  Is the house clean?  Are you closer to your family members?  Have you written a novel?  Imagine an average day in your perfect life.
  2. Break your dream life down into daily steps.  Want to be healthier?  Take a daily walk.  Have a dream job?  Improve yourself in 30 minute stretches to own that role.  Want to write a book?  Write every day.
  3. Choose four or five areas of improvement.  Mine are writing more, exercise, yoga, and cleanliness.
  4. Choose five or six (or more) activities that can earn you points.  I wouldn’t make these denials (i.e. no sugar before 12:00pm).  Instead make them as positive, enjoyable, and fun as possible (after all, you are replicating a day in your perfect life, so if you love cycling but hate calisthenics — cycle!)  The idea is to enjoy this stuff as much as possible.
  5. Decide what activities you need to do to earn a ‘perfect day’ bonus point (it’s a powerful motivation if you’re close to getting that extra point).
  6. (Optional) Decide if anything loses you a point.  I only mention this because I’m a little sporadic about brushing my teeth as often as is optimal, so I made a rule that if I fall down on my teeth brushing regimen, that day I lose a point.  After you’ve cycled two miles to earn a point, believe me, you won’t want to lose it.  So these are some shiny teeth.  If you chose to do this, I’d make it about a tiny activity that take no more than five minutes out of your day.
  7. Decide how many coins you earn for each activity and how much treats cost you.  This is a matter of trial and error — you want to feel like you get treats pretty often if you’re really hitting it.  If it take too long to earn anything, you’ll lose heart and if it’s too easy you might not push yourself at all — play around with it and see what gets you the best results.
  8. Buy a whiteboard and a dry erase marker.  Write your name at the top and then ‘Gold Coins:’ and below that ‘Blue Coins:’.  Update it each day.  You can also keep a lifetime total if you want to.

Some notes: You can call it one coin or 100,000 coins if that motivates you more.  It’s only an imaginary unit of measurement.  Also, I did let myself go ‘into debt’ a couple of times if something big came up and I didn’t have the coin right then to buy it.  Just make your whiteboard say something like ‘Gold Coins: -25’  and then work your way back to a positive number.

I can’t begin to say how much I’m enjoying this.  There may be a lot of reasons I’m so productive right now (it’s ‘Go Big or Go Home’ time) but I don’t know how I’d make it without the point system right now — it’s that important to my progress.

Best of luck!  Let me know if you have any questions, and tell me about your successes!

Remember: If you earn it, the cake is not a lie.

Katherine’s points (for reference):

Do Richard Hittleman’s 30 minute yoga program — 1 coin (actually one of each color, by I call it one)

Write for 30 minutes — 1 coin

Go cycling — 1 coin for each 2 mile stretch

Clean the house (one load of dishes and ‘pick up’ around house) — one coin

‘Just Dance’ video game done on ‘just sweat’ medium program (10 minutes of dancing) — one coin

Go for a hike/walk — one coin for each mile walked

My perfect day (earns a bonus point):

At least two hours of writing

Yoga

Cleaning

At least one form of exercise

Some treats (and their cost for me):

 Gold coins —

32 oz soda — 5 coins

Candy bar — 5 coins

Shake, Starbucks, or Smoothie Planet drink — 10 coins

Carton of Ice cream, package of cookies — 15 coins

Eating at Mcdonalds, Wendys etc — 10 coins

Eating at a nice sit down restaurant — 20 coins

 Blue coins —

one MP3 song — 5 coin

one album — 20 coins

Movie ticket — 25 coins

DVD — 20 coins

Other items: 2x — 3x coins to each $1 spent

 

Remember: This is a game!  Play around with it and find what motivates you.

How to Reevaluate Your Life

from lifeinblush.com/blog

When you decide to reevaluate your life, remember: you are not looking for easy answers.  At this stage you are only trying to ask the right questions.

10 QUESTIONS

  1. What’s my dream life?  If you could have anything, no holds bared, what would you be doing, day in and day out?  It’s fine to have a big goal (climb Everest) but try to drill it down to a 24 hour picture.  Dream lives still involve many of the things you are already doing — so what’s different?  Imagine being excited to get to work — where do you work?  What does your house look like?  Who are you married to, if anyone?
  2. What do you want (do you really, really want)?  Dreams and fantasies are often funded by the unbelievable.  “I’d fly off to Paris in my private jet.”  “I’d be married to Tom Hiddleson.”  We think getting a great life is so impossible that we literally make it so; you might as well say you want to live on Jupiter and marry Errol Flynn — it’s as likely to happen.  So instead, take time to get to the heart of your dream — past the money and movie stars — and figure out what you really desire.  Maybe you’ve never been to Paris — but if you saved up all your ‘fast food’ money for two years you could do it (and be much healthier).  And maybe you long to meet intelligent, joyful people and have become discouraged by the potential romantic partners in your job or social circle.  Ask what makes your dream great.  Most times it’s not just having more money in your hand.
  3. What’s making you unhappy now?  Think about the last week or month — what were your most unhappy moments?   Who/where/what did they involve?  It’s hard to admit, but if you don’t come away happy from seeing someone, then that’s someone you need less of in your world.  Life is short, and unless you birthed them or adopted them, you don’t owe anyone your happiness upon this Earth.  We’ve all had friendships and relationships we’ve tried to ‘make’ work.  Well, today you found your get-out-of-jail-free card; I’m officially telling you it’s okay to let things that don’t work GO.  Believe me, you’ll be making room in your life for much better things.  If debt or your weight are making you unhappy then even a tiny step toward a better life will improve your mood.  And if your job is the problem, hang on . . .
  4. Do I hate my job?  I just saw a Pin that said something like ‘When asked what they would reevaluate after winning the lottery, 51% of people said ‘their job’.  Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but it feels right.  To me that also says that, in addition to not liking their job, most people are afraid to leave because of finances.  This is a tough one — we need money.  But how much of it?  Could you get by (and be happier) with less?  Instead of imaging winning the lottery — imagine you already have.  According to one estimate, the worldwide median household income is less than $10,000.  So if you’re household makes more than that, you are already living the high life.  So maybe a different job (even if it paid less) would be something to think about.  And know there are people out there who are paid well to do your dream job; the first step to joining them is acknowledging you’re unhappy where you are.
  5. Am I filling my life with ‘time-wasters’?  Everyone deserves ‘down time’, ‘fun time’, or a break but everything in moderation.  Playing video games can be amazing but 6 hours a day for five years may not lead to a fulfilling life — unless you’re a game designer.  The same way, the amount of human time spent on Facebook is astounding (and I can be as guilty as anyone, though more often it’s Pinerest for me).  Just try to imagine the world, the power, and the individual lives we could build with that excess time.
  6. Why am I sad?  You may not be sad, but if you are know that a few small changes can make life great again.  You don’t need to throw out everything, you just need to realign your life with your heart’s desire.  And if you have a problem that seems very hopeless — know that there’s probably a group, meeting, hotline, or program for people battling the same troubles as you.  Reach out and get help.
  7. What am I impatient about?  For me, it’s becoming a full-time writer and then traveling the world.  And I know I’ll get there.  But when progress feels slow, I wonder if I need to go get a college degree, move jobs, move cities, SOMETHING to prove I’m not stagnant and not going to be standing here in one place forever.  If this is you, and you are doing something that should have the payoff you’re looking for (a breakthrough in job, becoming your perfect weight through a diet) then I suggest you give yourself a place in the future to re-reevaluate that one goal and decide if these small steps aren’t adding up to something big.  For example, I’ve decided to write three new amazing things then look at whether I need a different day job, education, what-have-you.  Until I have those three novels or plays in front of me, I won’t worry about how long I’ve been at my day job while ‘planning’ to become a full time writer.
  8. What’s on my ‘bucket list’?  One of the things about this year is I’ve talked to some older people I know who never have done the items on their bucket list and now wonder if they’re too old.  While I’m a total believer in doing as much as you can as long as you can, it is easier to climb a mountain in your 30s or 40s than your 70s.  Whatever your age, part of the un-fulfillment you might be feeling is because the big things just sit on a distant horizon and never get any closer.  You need to pick a before-I-die goal, pick a date (even if it’s a year or two out) and start planning, saving, and/or training for it NOW.  Our lives are short and precious, leave nothing important undone.
  9. Why am I asking this question now?  You Google-searched for this question (or are just a fan or friend of mine) — why?  Are you fed up with the way things are going?  Have you been trying to make changes but still feel far from your goals?  The important thing is to feel empowered — this is a great moment.  As soon as you start really looking at your life, you may get depressed, scared, and feel hopelessness.  But the important thing to know is that this is an important first step that some people never take.  You are now officially on the road to your dreams.
  10. Am I ready to be bold?  There’s a saying, “Are you really happy or just really comfortable?”  You have come to this place by your choices; some parts of your life work great and some need to be switched or fixed.  But if you are at the point of knowing you need a change, then realize you really have nothing to lose.  Start by cleaning your house and giving some things away, then make that bucket list plan, then start seeing what parts of your life make you happy and what things need to go.  Envision your dream and walk toward it.

from periwinkleporte.files.wordpress.com

 

June 2015 update: Please visit my new site ‘How To Come Alive‘ if you’d like to learn the 25 things that have helped me most in achieving my dreams.