Surround Yourself With the Right People: Lessons Learned from New York – New Jersey too! (Part 3 of 3)

new-brunswick

Three days is so not enough time to explore New York City. We covered so much ground in so little time, I almost can’t even remember any of it! After running around uptown, downtown, midtown, and Chinatown, we hopped on a New Jersey Transit train and headed for the one, the only (well, not really – there’s one in Canada too) New Brunswick!

In my last two posts, you read about the lessons I learned from this awesome vacation. Remember, lessons are everywhere if you’re willing to see them. First, from Jersey City I learned that now is the time to invest in myself to prepare for the upcoming spring. Secondly, from New York City I learned that “Anything Can Happen If You Let It.” And in New Brunswick, I learned another important lesson. This time from my husband.

Who do you spend your time with?

One of the reasons we hopped on a 6-hour, turbulent airplane and endured 6 hours of leg-cramping, foot-swelling, jet-lagging in-flight service (or lack thereof), was so my husband could partake in a “Mastermind Group.”

Comprised of 10 people in his industry who are either where he wants to be in his career or are on the same path, this group gets together to learn from each other, network, and share ideas. Yes, one could think that they could be each other’s competition, but they understand that building your business is about creation, not competition. There’s more than enough to go around. Much more will be accomplished if they help build each other up rather than tear each other down.

At first one would think that my husband is crazy to spend airfare and hotel, not to mention the fees required to join this group and the opportunity cost of being absent from clients for 2 weeks. But my husband understands something that these people do as well: In order to grow you must surround yourself with people you want to become. That goes for your personal life as well as your business life.

Picture this: I want to be a world-class sprinter. As I train and prepare myself for the Olympics, I hang out with second-class sprinters, whose speeds are eons behind what I need to obtain. Yet I run with them everyday.

Are they going to push me as hard as if I were running with sprinters who are running as fast, if not faster than I need to go? Are they going to fuel me to run harder and push myself past my limits? Are they going to give me proven tips and advice that I can use to make myself better and faster?

Of course not! They’re going to slow me down! It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate them as runners or that I discount what they are trying to do. But I know that for me to grow to the level I need to be at, I need to be around runners who are already there.

The same goes for any aspect of life. If I want to be a millionaire, I need to hang out with millionaires who will give me million-dollar ideas and introduce me to million-dollar clients.

If I want to exercise and eat right, I need to hang out with people who eat healthy foods and who live physically active lives. If I eat every meal with people who eat junk food and mock me for eating healthfully, I’ll likely fall off the wagon and scarf down a cheeseburger with them.

If I want to live life to the fullest and grasp every moment as an opportunity to live, love, give, and grow, I need to hang out with high-energy, passionate people who cherish life and all its blessings. If I hang out with “energy vampires”, they’ll drag me down into their dark world of pessimism and self-pity.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to be strong and hold onto your vision despite being surrounded by people who are the opposite. But wouldn’t it be so much easier and more fun to surround yourself with people who support your vision? Who give energy to it, feed it, and encourage it?

Isn’t it much more likely you’ll learn from people who have already achieved what you want to achieve rather than people who aren’t even on the same path?

Who are you spending time with? Who are you really learning from? Are there people in your life who are dragging you down? Maybe it’s time to pull away.

I’m so proud of my husband for seeking out people he wants to become and learn from. He gets it. They get it. I get it.

Do you get it?

And so our trip drew to a close. I spent a couple days exploring New Brunswick. I found cheap, but good eats at Celebrity Cafe, got some reading done at the local Starbucks, and even walked up to Rutgers University and pretended I was a college student. And I got to hang out with some of the best in the online fitness industry – for those of you familiar with them, Craig Ballantyne, Arnel Ricafranca, Zach Even-Esh, and Paul Reddick to name a few.

The trip home was bittersweet. It was good to sleep in my own bed and to see my crazy pug again, but New York City – and New Jersey too! – are beckoning for my return.

To all those jay-walking, crazy-driving, subway-cramming, loud-speaking, go-getting, tourist-assisting, diversity-loving, energy-projecting, life-embracing New Yorkers – and New Jersey-ers too – in the famous words of the Terminator Governor himself, “I’ll be back!”

Anything Can Happen: Lessons Learned from New York – New Jersey Too! (Part 2 of 3)

Rockefellar CenterAh, New York City – the center of the universe. I had always dreamed of coming to this city, and December of last year I finally did. (Thank you, work, for sending me!) I loved it so much, I just couldn’t stay away!

So 3 months later I was back. This time my trip was personal and was centered around volunteering for a self-development seminar and my husband’s “Mastermind” group. As I mentioned in my last post, I had a few epiphanies while I was there. From my time in New Jersey, I learned that now is the time to invest in yourself to prepare for the upcoming spring.

What was my lesson from New York? Firstly, I learned that New York shopping is cheaper than Washington shopping (no sales tax on clothing! YES!!!). Secondly, I learned a very important lesson from the lovely, the magical, the “Practically Perfect in Every Way” Mary Poppins.

Anything Can Happen…If You Let It
The drive from Jersey City to New York City was perfect. Just as we emerged from the Holland Tunnel and entered the glorious bustling city, the satellite radio kicked in on cue and provided us with the perfect Broadway soundtrack to our drive up the Manhattan Island. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

After brunch with our friends in the Village, we decided to catch an evening Broadway show. We checked into our hotel smack dab in the middle of Times Square and scooted on over to the TKTS booth. Because it was so late in the day by the time we got there, it was slim pickin’s, so we decided to go with the peppy Disney musical, Mary Poppins.

I don’t know about my husband, but I was excited to “Go Fly a Kite” and get “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” stuck in my head. It was a great, upbeat show, and stuck in the middle of all the sugary, splendid musical goodness was a song that packed a great message: “Anything Can Happen If You Let It.”

The basic premise of the song is that anything is possible if you are open to it, if you believe that it can happen, and if you’re willing to reach for your dreams. Of course this has some larger implications, but I immediately thought, this could really apply to health and fitness.

Many times I’ve seen people start new fitness programs, almost asking not to succeed. They fork over the big bucks for a program or a personal trainer, but they immediately start throwing up objections like, “That won’t work for me. I’ve tried interval training, and I know it won’t work.” Or they say, “I’ve tried diet after diet, and they never work.” So they go into the program with an attitude that, just like every other fitness and nutrition program they’ve tried, it won’t work.

To these people I ask, “When will you let it work for you?”

The first step in achieving your dreams is to believe that achieving them is possible. Rather, take that one step further and know that you’ll achieve them. If you don’t believe that something will work, it most likely won’t.

It’s almost as if these people want to prove to the universe that nothing can help them, so they can stop trying and say, “There’s nothing I can do about my situation!” So they no longer have to point the finger at themselves and instead place blame on external circumstances as to why they haven’t obtained the body and level of fitness they desire.

Anything can happen if you’re open to it, if you let it. Clear the path to allow your dreams to come to you. Assuming that “it probably won’t work” is only building up a dam that blocks them from flowing to you.

After 3 days of running around the city, exploring all of downtown, uptown, and every town in between by foot – my feet were killing me! – we headed back to New Jersey for the next adventure…

I leave you with the lyrics to Mary Poppin’s song. Remember, anything can happen if you let it.

Anything Can Happen

Anything can happen if you let it
Sometimes things are difficult but you can bet it
Doesn’t have to be so
Changes can be made
You can move a mountain if you use a larger spade

Anything can happen, it’s a marvel
You can be a butterfly or just stay larval
Stretch your mind beyond fantastic
Dreams are made of strong elastic
Take some sound advice and don’t forget it
Anything can happen if you let it

Anything can happen if you let it
You won’t know a challenge until you’ve met it
No one does it for you
No one but yourself
Vacillating violets get left up on the shelf

Anything can happen, just imagine
That should be epitaph
I wear the badge in
Honor of the world’s free thinkers
Those who see beyond their blinkers
Jelly isn’t jelly until you set it
Anything can happen if you let it

Anything can happen if you let it
What good is a whistle unless you whet it
Broaden your horizons, open different doors
You may find a you there that you never knew was yours.

Anything can happen
Things you thought impossible
Will soon seem certain
Though at first it may sound clownish
See the world more upside-downish
Turn it on its head and pirouette it
Anything can happen if you let it

If you reach for the stars
All you get are the stars
But we’ve found a whole new spin
If you reach for the heavens
You get the stars thrown in

Anything can happen if you let it
Life is out there waiting so go and get it
Grab it by the collar, seize it by the scruff
Once you’ve started living life you just can’t get enough

Anything can happen, it’s official
You can choose the super or the superficial
Sally forth the way we’re steering
Obstacles start disappearing
Go and chase your dreams you won’t regret it

Anything can happen
(Anything can happen)
Anything can happen
If you let it.

Preparing for Spring: Lessons Learned from New York – New Jersey Too! (Part 1 of 3)

statue of liberty ellis island

I just got back from an amazing trip to New York City – and New Jersey too! Hence, the lack of posts in the last week or so. What an awesome trip. My husband and I killed three birds with one stone: 1) We volunteered for a self-development seminar, 2) we explored New York City, and 3) my husband networked with some of the best in his industry.

Our vacations are usually planned as relaxation trips – go to the beach, sit around, soak in the sun, sleep in until noon – or family trips – run to one auntie’s house, eat, run to another auntie’s house, eat again, hang out with cousins. This time we decided to make it a productive trip by planning it around events of giving and self-investment.

It was 10 days of non-stop action, and throughout those 10 days I had many epiphanies. Besides learning that “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signs are merely suggestions, that you better “move in” on the subway during peak time, and that I could never drive in Manhattan without killing someone or getting killed, I had a few “aha” moments related to health, fitness, and mindset that I thought I’d share with you.

Lessons are everywhere, as long as you’re open to seeing them.

So, this is Part 1 of 3 of my New York City/New Jersey vacation diaries. Here we go!

Getting Ready for the Spring
We flew into Newark Airport, and damn was it cold! The residents of New Jersey and New York City just had tons of snow dumped on them, and remnants greeted us on the sidewalks and side of the streets. Winter was definitely in the air.

Remember, my husband and I are from Seattle, where it rarely ever gets colder than 33 degrees, and we walked into 20-degree weather. After wandering around Jersey City, we finally found our friends’ condo and got ready for a long first weekend in New Jersey.

The first part of our trip was spent in Jersey City. We volunteered to be on a coaching/support team for an awesome self-development seminar which teaches you how to live your life with passion and purpose, and how to maintain harmony among all areas of your life. It was high-energy, highly purposeful, deeply moving, and extremely conscious. I learned things about myself and others that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Five hundred people flew in from all over the world for this event. Twenty-two volunteers flew in from all over the world as well, on their own dime, to help. I looked around at the sea of faces in that hotel ballroom, and thought to myself, Recession? What recession?

I was glad to be surrounded by people who weren’t afraid to invest in themselves during these “tough economic times.” It takes some kahones to see beyond the world in constant worry, bombarded by negative messages from the media that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket and doomed for starvation and pillaging, and understand that it’s part of the regular cycle of our economic world.

I recently read in the latest edition of Success Magazine that some of today’s largest and most successful companies were founded during our nation’s toughest economic times. For example, Microsoft began during the 1975 recession, and HP began during the Great Depression. I once heard that Warren Buffet made his fortunes by investing when everyone else was holding tightly to their money.

These people, along with the 500+ I spent time with in Jersey City, understand that in times of struggle, there is opportunity. And when we’re on a downturn, it must mean that there will be an upturn to follow.

This is our winter. The trees are bare, ice covers the ground, and all looks baren and desolate. But if you look hard enough, you can see the beauty in the snow, and the sun just might peak out from behind the clouds. And no matter how dark and gloomy it looks, you know that spring is coming, when everything will be born anew, and all will flourish.

An optimistic view? Yes it is. Did you know that research has shown that a high level of optimism is a vital component to predicting high achievers?

The lesson I learned from Jersey City? Now is the time to study, invest in yourself, and prepare to take full advantage of the spring when it comes. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that understand this. We are encouraging people to invest in themselves, get training, build their skillsets so they are able to take advantage of opportunities today and so they can flourish when we get through these tough times. And we will get through them.

It’s scary, I know, but we must trust that the spring is coming. It has to. The lower you crash, the higher you’ll rebound.

The weekend was packed with information, memories, and lots of love. I was inspired by those around me and by myself as well. Our days started at 6:00 in the morning and ended at 12:30 in the morning. But it was well worth the 2 hours of sleep, the time, and the money we put into it.

By volunteering for this event, I learned a lot and helped myself by helping others. I invested in myself, which is one of the best investments you could ever make.

Our weekend in Jersey City came to a close. I made some new friends and got to know some old ones better. I invested in myself, in others, learned that the New Jersey Light Rail system is awesome, and that ShopRite has some great deals on Greek yogurt. And then after a fulfilling and enlightening three days in Jersey city, we set out for New York City.

I leave you with a picture of our amazing group of volunteers, the “Dream Team”, and a question: What are you doing to prepare for the Spring?

The Dream Team

The Recession Slim-Down to Bulk-Up Plan

dollar_sami-keinanenRecession this, recession that. Everything is about this darned recession lately! Frankly, I try not to dwell on it, but I have to admit that sometimes – just sometimes – I catch myself thinking twice before purchasing something because I should be saving money during “these hard times.”

Today, for instance, I was standing in line at the Starbucks stand in my building, eyeing the pumpkin loaf. Mmmm, pumpkin loaf… As I unzipped my wallet and reached for the dollar bills, my hand stopped, and the thought flashed through my head, I really should save my money.

Like the $1.45 was that significant, since I can honestly say I never purchase the pastries out of the Starbucks case (when I’m at work, at least. *wink*) But then it occurred to me: Hm, this recession thing just might work to my advantage in some ways.

As Leo Babauta would say in his ever-popular uber-blog, Zenhabits.net, “Less is more.” Here are ten ways you can save money during these “tough economic times” while improving and simplifying your life for the better, and maybe even while getting healthier and happier.

1. Cancel your cable. If you’re anything like I was, you’re wasting too much precious time watching celebrity reality shows on VH1 or reruns of Sex and the City. Save yourself 50 to 100 bucks a month, and save your brain from turning to mush. Aren’t there better things you could be doing with your time?

2. Eat more veggies. Eat less meat (the average person usually needs no more than 4-6oz. per meal) and replace it with tons and tons of vegetables! I got a bunch of organic kale for less than $1 the other day, and splurged on exotic veggies like baby bok choy and chayote squash for mere pennies too! Experiment with different kinds, and you won’t get bored. Head down to your local farmers’ market or Asian market and be adventurous!

3. Walk, take the bus, or bike. Save cash on gas, save the earth from your car’s emissions, and save yourself the stress. Instead, get some exercise or read a good book on the bus.

4. Cancel your newspaper subscription. What are you absorbing into your brain on a daily basis? The news is full of cynical, pointless, and depressing stories that only make you believe the world is a horrible place, and we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, so why even try. Try going on a media fast, and you’ll find that you just might be more energized. If you’re the type who absolutely has to know everything that’s going on, try a modified version: Allow yourself to skim the homepage of a news website, but allow yourself to only click on links to positive stories.

5. Learn to cook. The other day I made a healthy, fulfilling meal for about $5 per person: grilled organic free-range chicken in a homemade Asian-inspired sauce, steamed chayote squash, and brown rice. Cooking is so much cheaper than eating out, and you’ll save yourself the artificial ingredients, saturated fat, and sodium you’d get at a restaurant.

6. Just be. What is the cheapest possible form of entertainment? Doing nothing. What do you mean, Julie? How can I do nothing? Sit in a quiet place – somewhere in nature or even your favorite arm chair will do nicely – close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Pay attention to your breathing, quiet your mind, and just be. That’s right – for literally $0 you can reduce stress in your life, get some good oxygen circulating through your body, and get to know yourself!

7. Cut the venti caramel macchiato. Drink tea. Venti caramel macchiato: $4.00, 300 calories, 39 grams of sugar, caffeine jitters. Tall unsweetened green tea: $0.45, 0 calories, antioxidants, minimal caffeine. ‘Nuff said.

8. Play. Instead of paying an arm and a leg at the movie theater to sit in a dark room and not talk to your family or significant other, why not spend some quality time with them by playing in the park, playing a board game, or going for a walk?

9. Get a library card. It’s an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord for your mind – and it’s all FREE FREE FREE! Take advantage of your local library and all the free knowledge, adventures, romance, and laughs that live in its books.

10. Volunteer. Head down to your local homeless shelter, elementary school, or check out United Way for a volunteer opportunity that excites you. In “this economy”, rather than focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have, give thanks for it, and give it freely – whether it’s your time or your money. It’ll come back to you tenfold in ways that you don’t expect.

There you have it – my “Recession Slim-Down to Bulk-Up Plan.” The recession is a great excuse to slim down on things that waste your time or aren’t good for you or the environment, and bulk up on things that feed your mind, body, and spirit.

How are you slimming down to bulk up?

Photo credit: Sami Keinanen

The Wonderfully Selfish Act of Giving

What a beautiful weekend. Mother Nature has blessed the Pacific Northwest with something very rare for this time of year – sun and blue skies. My husband and I made our way south to the Oregon Coast for a fun-filled beach weekend with friends. There’s nothing like the view of the vast, blue open sea with a glowing, orange horizon to fill you with inspiration and complete awe at the miracle of life and all the possibilities it brings.

Oregon Coast Moon

Oregon Coast Night

Something about the crisp ocean air and starry skies reminds me that life is so special. Why live life without doing something that matters to you? So many of us go to work every day and go through the motions to get a check at the end of the month. It’s a noble thing to work to provide for your loved ones. But sometimes, do you ever think there’s got to be more?

I’m one of those optimistic thinkers that believes there is. Why can’t I support my family and fulfill my own spirit by doing something that has meaning to me? Something that keeps me alive?

Today we celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There’s someone who was passionate, who stood for something he believed in with his whole being. Who believed in something that was bigger than he was and was willing to pay the ultimate price to see the realization of his dream.

What do you believe in?

I’m fortunate enough to work at a large company that had a special celebratory event commemorating Dr. King, and our keynote speaker echoed this concept. You might remember this guy. He played basketball for some team in L.A. back in the day.

Magic Johnson

In the words of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, “The check won’t wake you up in the morning.” After retiring from the NBA, Magic Johnson could very well have lived the rest of his life on a sunny beach in the Bahamas. Instead, he decided to start the Magic Johnson Foundation, which addresses the health, educational, and social needs of inner-city communities. He saw a need and is passionate about fulfilling it.

What need do you see?

Why not take your strengths (as defined by Marcus Buckingham as something you look forward to doing, lose track of time doing, are usually successful at doing, and feel energized by after doing) and apply those strengths to promoting a cause you believe in? You don’t have to quit your job to do it; volunteer even just a couple hours a month.

Do you love planning parties for your friends? Why not volunteer to help coordinate an event for an organization like the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation? You get to have fun picking out table centerpieces and planning logistics, and help kids with cancer and their families. Do you love being outdoors? Why not volunteer to help clean up a local park or beach? You can enjoy the scenery and make it more beautiful at the same time.

Me? I believe in proactively taking responsibility for your own health. “Pay” for your health now by buying and eating the right foods, exercising, and investing in your mind and spirit, rather than paying for it later in healthcare costs, prescription drugs, and the frustration that your body can’t keep up with you. I believe that there are too many people out there who don’t do this because they don’t know any better. They frankly don’t know what they’re doing to themselves. And in turn, they teach their own bad habits to their children.

I believe the children are our future. (Sorry, I had to quote Whitney Houston…I know that song is in your head now.) Let’s teach them healthy habits at a young age.

So a while back, I decided to take what I love to do (write), and volunteer my writing time and skills to Treeswing, a Pacific Northwest organization that promotes healthy, active lifestlyes in children and their families. I occasionally write for their newsletter and website. It’s selfish in that I get to do what I love and get more experience doing it, but I’m also contributing to an awesome cause at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.

It doesn’t have to take much time. All you have to do is give what you can. Give a few minutes here and there, and if it’s doing what you love, how can you lose? I firmly believe that the more you freely give, the more the universe will return to you in ways you never expected.

There are plenty of organizations out there that are desparate for a helping hand. Check out United Way to find a volunteer opportunity that excites you.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

What matters to you?

P.S. Today I officially started my husband’s Transformation Challenge program. My plan is to blog regularly about the experience. I’m thinking I’ll create a separate page for those blogs. Stay tuned.

Lessons in Failure from William Hung

Ah, American Idol.  One of America’s favorite guilty pleasures.  Despite the fact that it’s practically the same thing year after year – cue cute wholesome 17-year old girl from the south with soulful Etta James/Aretha Franklin voice, funky tatooed pink/blue-haired girl with mediocre voice, and rebel-without-a-cause rocker dude equipped with money chain and guitar – it’s a good lesson in balls-out, put-it-all-on-the-line failure.

Take William Hung for example.  Putting aside the horrible music videos and unfounded fame he somehow managed to take hold of, you might recall his audition.  I don’t know about you, but I liked him.  Here’s this unassuming civil engineering student, bucktooth and all, pursuing his passion on national television in front of megastars that could make or break every dream he’s ever had.  He sings, he dances, and best of all, he demonstrates humility, gratitude, and a genuine love of what he’s doing.

Wow, if only we all could have kahones like that.  So, he didn’t make it through to the next round.  But gosh, look at what he did.  He stepped up there in front of those judges and put his heart and soul on the line.  He went after his dream and did his best, so he has no regrets.

The Fear of Failure

Failure.  It’s a scary word, isn’t it?  Maybe I shouldn’t start a new workout program; I might give up.  Maybe I shouldn’t accept that project; I might not be able to deliver.  Maybe I shouldn’t start that blog; I might be horrible at it.

Three statements I recently said to myself.  Three statements I recently threw out the window. 

I wonder if William Hung said “Maybe I shouldn’t audition; I might make a fool of myself.”  Odds are he did, but he auditioned anyway.  Did he make a fool of himself?  Maybe.  Did people laugh at him?  Of course.  Did he walk away from that audition a better, stronger person?  Absolutely.

I know it’s been preached over and over again, but one thing I recently realized is that fear of failure is never a good excuse. 

For the longest time, I was afraid to start a blog.  The thought of putting myself out there, open to being ridiculed, laughed at, or just told I suck, scared me to death.  But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  Writing makes me alive.  It pumps the blood through my veins.  And I was about to let fear stand in my way of that?

I did, for years.  Then one day I realized, so what if I fail?  At least I’ll know I tried, and I’ll have no regrets.  I still don’t know if this blog will fail.  But I at least know that I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it despite the fear.  And I can’t tell you how great that feels.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

See, I’ve realized that everyone feels fear.  Notice the difference between the winners’ and the losers’ strategy:

LOSERS:

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do nothing

or

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do it anyway
  3. Fail
  4. Beat up on self

WINNERS:

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do it anyway
  3. Fail
  4. Take note of what didn’t work and what benefits were gained
  5. Apply lessons to next challenge

The key is, feel the fear and do it anyway.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.  (Not only a great mantra, but a great perspective-altering book by Susan Jeffers.)   The second key is, accept that failure is a possibility, but learn whatever lessons you can from it.

For instance, I’ve already gained so many things from this blog – I’ve learned about my writing style and what I like to write about, I’ve made a few blogging friends, and I’ve even helped a few people through my posts.  And if this blog fails, I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from this experience, and I’ll keep writing.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

If you’re going to do it, DO it

Another horrible mistake you can make is to fail while giving only half-assed effort.  If you’re going to fail, do it with all you got.  If you do fail, one of the worst feelings would be if you look back on your experience and think, “If only I tried harder.”

If you want to succeed big, you must be willing to fail big. 

So here I am.  I started that workout program.  I took that project.  I started this blog.  If I succeed, great!  If I don’t, I know I’ve already gained so much anyway.  Do I still feel that fear sometimes?  Of course.  But I’m doing it anyway!

I leave you with one of the greatest commercials ever made from one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan…Hm, William Hung and Michael Jordan. They’ve got more in common than you’d think.

8 Goal Setting Guidelines to Help You Win in the New Year

new-picture-3

I know it’s kind of late to be talking about goal-setting since New Years Resolution time has passed, and about 80% of the general population has already given up on them.  I’m running a little late.

I already set some good high-level goals, but I know they’re not done yet because I need to get more specific.  So I’m in the process of doing so.  That got me thinking – what makes good goal-setting? 

Remember in high school – or was it college?  its’s all a blur to me anyhow – you were taught to make goals SMART (S=specific, M=measureable, A=attainable, R=realistic, T=timely)?  That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s got to be more to it than that.

Before I get into it though, I have a slight problem with the good ol’ SMART acronym that I need to get off my chest.  S, yes.  M, yes.  A, yes with a caveat.  R, yes with a caveat.  T, yes.  Explanation:

A.  “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” – Walt Disney.  Did anyone ever tell Walt Disney that his vision for a huge, magical theme park with mice in tuxedos and singing and dancing bears was unattainable?  You betcha.  So, this gets us into a discussion around visions vs. goals, which can be a meaty subject on its own.  Here’s how I see it: a vision is your long-term picture of what you want in your life.  Goals are how you get there. 

So, should your goals be “attainable”?  Yes, these are the stepping stones to attaining your big, scary vision.  BUT, they should be on “the teetering edge.”  As James Ray would say, they should be set so you don’t know whether they excite you or scare the shit out of you.

R.  See “A” above.  I always thought the two were the same thing, but for the sake of having a clever acronym were split into two.  (“SMAT” doesn’t sound as cool as “SMART.”)

Now that that’s off my chest, onto my goal setting guidelines:

  1. My goals are SMART, as we discussed above.
  2. My goals always span 5 categories: physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial.  Well-being encompasses all aspects of life, so I strongly believe that you need to give attention to all areas.  Some may get more attention than others at any one time, but there should never be one that is completely neglected.  I typically have one or two goals per category.
  3. My goals inspire me.   You are never going to achieve them if they don’t spark some kind of fire in you.  If it’s just words on paper, that’s all they’ll ever be.
  4. My goals are on the teetering edge.  Again, see discussion above.  They’re one step beyond what my initial gut reaction says I’m capable of. 
  5. My goals are written down.  Writing them down brings them one step closer to becoming reality.  If they’re just floating in your head, they’re likely to be forgotten.  Also, writing them down sends a strong signal to your unconscious (a.k.a. subconscious) mind that you’re committed. 
  6. My goals are written in the first person, are in present tense, and include a statement of gratitudenew-picture-4.  Setting your goals as “I am measuring at X% bodyfat, and am so grateful for it” or “I am so grateful now that I donate $Y to Charity Z once a month” is so much more powerful than “I want to weigh X lbs” or “To write Y blog posts every month.”  It sends a strong signal to your unconscious it’s already here and this is who you are.  In a great post about New Years Resolutions vs. Goals, Tim Brownson, UK qualified Life Coach, says it “forc[es] [yourself] to view [yourself] differently.”
  7. My goals are broken down into 1-year goals and then further broken down into 1-month goals.  Obviously I set my 1-month goals on a monthly basis.
  8. I reserve the right to revisit and reshape my goals.  Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a cop out.  I’m not saying that you should change your goal just because you’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes you may discover down the road a goal doesn’t align with your vision.  Or maybe you underestimated the commitment required for another goal, and this one has to give way a little.  Whatever the case, sometimes goals have to change.  As long as it’s truly for a good reason, that’s okay.

I highly encourage you dedicate some good, quality time to goal setting.  It provides great clarity for what you want in your life, and is a great way to get motivated, inspired, and focused for the upcoming year.  I know it’s done that for me, and I’m ready to take on 2009!

Feel free to post some of your goal-setting guidelines as well!

To your health, prosperity, and happiness,
Julie (The Fitness Wife)

Are You Ready to Live Your Vision in the New Year?

It’s definitely been an interesting holiday season so far. It’s been filled with many firsts for me: The first time we’ve gotten more than 2″ of snow on the ground, the first white Christmas in years, the first time my husband and I spent Christmas without the big extended family, and the first time I’ve felt prepared to go into the new year.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been posting as often as I normally do. Yes, the holidays have been a major culprit (who isn’t busy this time of year?), but I’ve also been spending a lot of time getting ready for 2009.

Many people view the New Year as an opportunity to start over. Like my husband, I’m not a believer in New Years Resolutions, but I do believe in going into the New Year with a clean slate, setting the stage to enable your success in 2009. That obviously means different things to different people.

To me, that has meant cleaning the clutter out of my condo, cleaning out my email inbox, reading up on certain career and self development topics, and even getting a hair cut, buying a new workout outfit, and of course setting my goals for 2009.

The New Year presents a perfect opportunity to start anew. With only two days left until 2009, what can you do to make sure you enter the new year with a clean slate? Let go of some of the baggage you’ve been holding onto this past year so that on January 1st, you’re ready to live the life you want to live in 2009. 

I started by asking myself, what is my vision for my life in 2009?  Then I looked at my current situation and identified what can be done RIGHT NOW to support that vision.  I also identified what has been pulling me away from that vision (or what have I been wanting to change or get rid of) that I can deal with RIGHT NOW.

  • Does your vision include a clean home?  Clean out that clutter NOW!
  • Does your vision include a more organized professional life?  Clean out your inbox NOW!
  • Does your vision include rekindling a relationship with a long, lost friend?  Give them a call NOW!
  • Does your vision include establishing a second source of income?  Draw up a plan NOW!
  • Does your vision include advancing your career?  Register for that training class NOW!
  • Does your vision include regular prayer or meditation?  Buy the meditation CDs NOW!
  • Does your vision include a healthy, strong body?  Buy the gym membership NOW!

See, a lot of people wait around, sitting on their thumbs until January 1st, thinking, “I’ll take action as soon as the New Year hits.”  I think that’s backwards.  When the clock changes from 11:59PM in 2008 to 12:00AM in 2009, that transformation should already be underway so you start 2009 with a clean slate.  All the baggage, all the regrets, all the bad habits from your old life are left behind in 2008.  Start it NOW, so on January 1st, you’re well on your way to living your vision.

Here’s to health, prosperity, wealth, and happiness to you and your loved ones in 2009!

10 Ways to Stop the Snowed-In, Boredom-Driven Food Cravings

The snow has been falling outside for almost four days now, and looks like it might not let up for another couple more. This doesn’t happen where I live. Where I live, we get 1″ of snow and the entire city shuts down because of all the hills, the city’s inability to keep the roads cleared, and because this just doesn’t happen often enough so very few of us know how to drive in it.

Ah, gotta love Seattle.

Usually when it snows, it comes down for a day, and then takes a day or two to completely melt and start raining again. Not so much this time. This time we have at least 6″ on the ground, more in other parts of the city, and more to come tonight.

So, I’ve been stuck at home because my car can’t make it up the steep, unplowed hill that must be conquered in order to get out of my condo complex. I know many who, like me, are stuck at home because the hill they live on has been closed to through traffic. Just check out a couple buses that stupidly decided to go down an icy hill that ended on an overhang over a major interstate highway.

Anyway, I digress from my main topic of interest. With all this snow and being stuck at home, it’s super easy to get bored. How many books can one read, and how many movies can one sit through before going batty? Many people resort to eating. It’s a carnal instinct. Your hands want to move – move towards a bag of chips or cookies. And for some reason when you’re bored, your brain, along with your taste buds, start thinking about the bucket of ice cream that’s stashed away in the freezer.

The first step to conquering this kind of eating is awareness. Being aware is half the battle. The next step is making sure your cupboards are stocked with only healthy snacks. Then, if you find yourself yearning to reach for a snack just because you’re bored, have a back-up plan. Have a list of other things you can do to take your mind of it.

So without further ado, here is a list of things you can do to take your mind off your boredom-driven food cravings when you’re stuck at home:

  1. Clean! This is what I’m all about right now. Clean the clutter out of your house – it not only keeps you moving, but it energizes your environment and may help you get out of the sluggish mood you’ve been in.
  2. Go for a walk. Even more fun when it’s in the snow. My husband and I walked down to the grocery store twice today, and even built a couple snowmen outside.
  3. Chase your dog (or kids) around the back yard (or around the house as I did today). Pets are great at killing boredom, especially when you have a crazy one like mine. (Kids too! :))
  4. Make some healthy snack bars from scratch. Okay, I know this one seems kind of backwards because you’ll just want to eat the snack afterwards, but at least it’ll be a healthy snack, and by the time you’re done, it’ll be time for you to eat anyway!
  5. Dance! Like no one’s watching. It’s good for your spirit and keeps you moving!
  6. Do a quick circuit. If you haven’t worked out yet today, you may as well get it in now!
  7. Drink water. Sometimes when you have the munchies, you’re actually just thirsty. Try drinking some water and see if that suppresses your cravings.
  8. Start journaling. Give your hands and mind something to do. And, if you’ve found yourself emotionally eating lately, journaling might give you some insight into why. Journaling not only helps you practice your writing, but it also reduces stress levels, enhances your creativity, and is a tool for personal growth and awareness.
  9. Go play in the snow! A Calvin & Hobbes snow scultpure, snow angels, or a snowball fight will do nicely.
  10. __________<< Insert activity here. Okay, okay. I know you’re probably thinking this last one is a cop-out. But really, it’s about doing something that you become so engrossed in, you stop thinking about your case of the munchies. What simple hobby have you always wanted to take up? Is there a closet in your house that you’ve been meaning to clean out? How can you spend quality time with your significant other and/or kids without including some kind of eating activity? You get the idea.

So next time you get the urge to snack for no reason, 1) acknowledge what’s happening, 2) step away from the pantry, and 3) do something else!

Happy Snow Days!

Need a Pick-Me-Up? Try Energizing Your Environment

Wow, I haven’t worked out in a week. And it hasn’t been on purpose either, i.e. I didn’t have a scheduled break in my routine. I’ve just found myself being uninspired and quite blatantly lazy.

Do you ever find yourself stuck in that mode? The weather outside is depressing, it’s pitch black when you wake up in the morning, and you’re so busy that when your day is over all you want to do is crash on the couch and veg out in front of your favorite TV show?

That’s me right now, and I hate that I’ve gotten that way. Something happened, and all of a sudden, my motivation switch just turned off.

So I was on the couch watching an episode of Sex and the City – although an entertaining show, quite useless to tell you the truth – I took a step outside myself and looked at what I was doing. Yuck. I didn’t like what I was looking at. Because I knew I’m much, much more than that.

So I asked myself, why and how did I get this way? Then I took a look around my home. It was a mess. My laptop and papers were strewn about on the dining room table, mixed with random junk like CDs, a camera, and a mess of wires from random electronic chargers. Dishes were piled up in the sink. Shoes were littering the entry way, and a pile of wrinkled laundry taunted me from atop my unmade bed.

Double-yuck. I hope none of your abodes looked like mine did.

I realized my surroundings were draining me. My husband noticed it too. We’ve both been so busy, we’d let our home drift down our priority list. We’d eat dinner, pile the dishes in the sink and say, “I’ll get to that later,” only to find that “later” was two days later.

My mother would be so proud.

Think about this: You get up in the morning, and it’s dark outside. Your room is pitch black and freezing cold. You get out of bed and step into your living, and one of the first things you see is a disarray of mail you said you’d sort through yesterday. You go into the bathroom to brush your teeth, and your toiletries are scattered all over your counter. Or you get home from work, tired after a long day, and you walk into a house that is in shambles.

Doesn’t sound very energizing, does it?

What’s my point? Sometimes you have to look not only at yourself, but your surroundings to figure out why you’re feeling a certain way. Your environment has quite a significant impact on your levels of energy. Do you have an uninspiring picture hanging in your bedroom? Believe it or not, opening your eyes and looking at an inspiring picture or an uninspiring picture first thing in the morning can effect how you approach the beginning of your day.

When I see something that doesn’t move me or inspire me to get moving, I’m much less likely to move.

Make your environment an enabler for you to live the life you want to live – and that applies to the physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial areas of life. Your level of energy directly affects how much attention and effort you are able to apply to those areas and what you want to do with your life – working out included.

So, whether that means cleaning up the mess in your house, hanging an inspiring painting in your bedroom, buying a plant to bring life to your office, getting one of those natural light lamps to wake up to in the morning, or waking up to upbeat music rather than an annoying buzzer, do what you need to do to energize your environment.

All of the above are in my plan. Take a look around you. Do you need a plan too?