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.

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The Case of the Missing Blogger: How One Fitness Wife Got Inspired

The Case of the Missing Blogger. No, it’s not a Nancy Drew book or Scooby Doo cartoon. Although Scrappy Doo was pretty kick-ass. It’s me. I’ve been MIA for, like, a week. I make no excuses, but I do apologize for leaving you, my faithful readers, hanging for so long.

So where have I been? I’ve been going through my days, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner for my husband, cleaning the kitchen, going to bed, and doing it all over again. And somewhere in between all that, I’ve been thinking about blogging. But every time I think about it, it’s immediately followed by another thought: “I”m not inspired to blog right now. I don’t know what to write about.”

The Case of the Missing Blogger was actually The Case of the Uninspired Blogger.

meditation_hape-geraInspiration. For anyone who dares to do what they love, or are on a quest to discover if what they do is what they truly love, regardless of how much they love it, they still occasionally find themselves coming up short in the inspiration category. You know how it is – you have that project that you know you should start. But sometimes the idea of starting – especially when you’re starting something from scratch – is just too daunting. For no good reason whatsoever.

So you search for inspiration. High and low, near and far. How have I been trying to get inspired? Let’s take a look:

Meditation

Some people are down with the “om”. Personally, I make an honest effort to pray and meditate regularly. Meditation has been shown to increase awareness and connectedness with a higher purpose. Not to mention it has some great health benefits as far as being aware of your body and your breathing.

But sometimes just the act of sitting and quieting your mind will somehow clear the way for thoughts and ideas you’ve had tucked away, but have never bubbled to the surface before. If prayer is a way for you to talk to God, meditation is God’s way to talk to you.

It’s an interesting practice to sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and quiet your mind, and just observe the thoughts as they enter your mind. As with anything, the more you practice the better you’ll get at it, but it does take some patience. Start slowly, even 5 minutes to begin with. Observe what enters your mind, and you might get some good ideas for whatever your next project is.

Free Writing

I discovered this when I was at a Women’s Conference for work. The CEO of the Oxygen Network, Geraldin Laybourne, also one of the executives during the glory days of Nickelodeon in the 90’s, said she got some of her greatest ideas – like the show Clarissa Explains It All – from free writing.

Here’s a how free writing works. Right when you wake up in the morning, even before brushing your teeth, get out a journal and start writing about whatever enters your mind as it enters your mind. It should be a stream of consciousness. Let your pen do all the work. Don’t stop writing for 10 full minutes. If your mind draws a blank, just scribble. Just write. It doesn’t even have to make sense.

If anything, even if you don’t get that great idea for your next novel or for the next shammy invention you want to sell “as seen on TV”, you’ll get some great insight into your thought patterns and what kind of thoughts you really keep inside.

Immerse Yourself

Some people immerse themselves in the subject matter or surround themselves with like-minded individuals. I wanted inspiration to write, so I went to an Elizabeth Gilbert lecture, hoping to meet other writers. I met one, but unfortunately for the most part the lecture was mostly just filled with Eat Pray Love fans. (Elizabeth Gilbert is a riot, btw.)

Want inspiration to start working out? Try joining a class, or even subscribing to a fitness blog. Buy a nutrition book, or try hanging up a poster of someone whose level of fitness you admire.

Do anything and everything you can to surround yourself with what you’re trying to do. Just getting your mind to start thinking about the subject matter can spark ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Or it can push that button that you needed pushed to get started.

Just Do It (No copyright infringement intended, I swear.)

Nike was on to something. Just start it. Start anything. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing and you will get the energy to do the thing.”

I propose that you do the thing and you will get the ideas and inspiration to do the thing. Just get started. And if it doesn’t come, step away for a little bit, and start again.

So how did I get the inspiration I needed? I sat down and started typing. And somehow the words eventually came. Of course, I’m always surrounding myself with fitness and nutrition – hello, I’m married to a trainer, remember? – so that always helps. But when it comes down to it, the inspiration really comes when I just do it.

What do you keep putting off? Isn’t it time you get inspired and get to it?

Photo courtesy of HaPe Gera.

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?

When Life Hits You Hard, Keep Moving Forward

I’m stealing this from one of the blogs I follow, MOVEment fitness+performance (Hope you don’t mind, Emily!), but I just have to share this clip as well. 

Yes, good advice can actually come from Hollywood.  Here Rocky Balboa expresses the idea of personal accountability and perseverance quite passionately.

Hits are life’s way of teaching us a valuable lesson.  It’s about how you can take those hits, learn from them, and keep moving forward.  Cowards point fingers and place blame on other people for their current results (or lack thereof).  That ain’t you.  Always remember you’re better than that.

Breaking Free

In my last post, I revealed that before I started working out regularly, I went through seven years of trying and failing. A vicious cycle that got me zero results and got me pretty down on myself. I was finally able to break free from that cycle, or the “thermostat”, about ten months ago. So how did I break free?

Before I get into that, I have to throw in a little disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I am not a personal trainer. I’m merely a person who’s also struggled with having the discipline and motivation to work towards her fitness goals. I can only share with you what I know – what worked for me. Everyone is wired differently. Everyone has a different background, different lifestyle, different situation in life, etc. Take what you need from what I say, make it work for you, or just leave all of it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here goes.

The turning point came for me one night over dinner. My husband was telling me about his FitCamp program. It’s a 12-week program that includes group personal training classes, a nutrition program, before and after photos, progress tracking, etc. To qualify for the program, you have to go through an interview so they can get a feel for what your goals are and why you want to transform your life.

That got me thinking. What are my motivators? Why have I been trying to go to the gym for the past seven years? On a superficial level, it was always just to “look good.” I never really took the time to dig deep and figure out the real “whys.”

So after some soul-searching, I realized that it wasn’t about “looking good.” It was about more than that. Firstly, I didn’t just want to “look good.” I actually wanted to be the type of person who is healthy and fit. In other words, I wanted that feeling of achievement knowing that I reached the goal I’d been striving towards for seven years. I wanted to know that I grew as a person and was therefore able to get there and uphold a way of life I’ve always wanted to. Secondly, I’ve always wanted to help my husband grow his business. How could I represent his company in any way without “walking the walk”? And lastly, I wanted to be an example to my future children. How could I teach them to live healthy lifestyles if I’m not living one myself?

These were the true “whys”. Only after I identified them did I finally have a deep, emotional drive to achieve my health and fitness goals.

I met with my husband, and I told him that I wanted to join his FitCamp. Before that, I had never taken any kind of group fitness class. So this was stepping way out of my comfort zone. But I realized that I needed to hold myself accountable. For me, what better way to do that than to make it visible to other people when I’m not pushing myself hard enough or when I get lazy and skip class.

I interviewed with my husband told him all the reasons why this time I was serious about making a lifestyle change. I also set a timeline for myself – my cousin’s wedding in Vegas in four months.

Then the work began. It wasn’t easy, but I got there. I didn’t reach my goal by my cousin’s Vegas wedding, but that’s okay. I didn’t give up, and about a month later, I did get there. I knew I would.

The FitCamp was the jumpstart I needed. When the 12-week program ended, I continued to focus on the progress I had made, and I never wanted to risk losing it. I’ve found that once you get over the initial hump, it gets much easier. I stopped craving all the bad food (the bad food didn’t taste as good anymore either), and working out became less of a choice and more of a way of life.

Some days I’m still tempted to skip the workout, and yes sometimes I do. But I forgive myself, move on, and know that I’ll do better the next day.

So in summary, here’s how I broke free from my thermostat:

1) I took the time to do some soul searching and uncovered the real, deeply emotionally compelling reasons I wanted to reach my fitness goals.

2) I said these reasons out loud to someone else to hold myself accountable.

3) I set myself up in a situation to hold me accountable – the FitCamp. The key for me was that I made my quest visible to other people, surrounded myself with people who were also working towards similar goals, and made it fun.

4) I set a timeline.

5) I knew I would get there.

6) I was patient with myself.

So there you go. Like I said, take what you need from this and make it work for you. Hopefully I gave you some ideas about how you can break free from your thermostat. I think the most important things are to find the deep, emotionally compelling reasons behind your goals, be patient with yourself, and know you’ll get there. I mean really KNOW it. And you will.

Best wishes on your journey!

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It Just Kept Pulling Me Back

Believe it or not, there was a point in my life when I had never set foot in a gym.  At least, not by direction from my middle school P.E. teacher.  I had never played sports – again, not when it wasn’t a requirement to pass the 8th grade.  And I never ran or participated in any outdoor cardiovascular activity – unless I was chasing my dog across the park after he decided to ditch the collar around his neck.

So when I met my husband, and I reluctantly agreed that partaking in some kind of physical activity would be a good thing, I knew I was in for something that was way out of my comfort zone.

That was 2001.  Today, I can proudly say that I exercise regularly.  However, what might shock some of you is that I’ve only been exercising regularly for about ten months.  [GASP!]

In the words of Dr. Meredith Grey, “Seriously?”  Seriously.  Oh, there were streaks of a good two or three months when I was religiously going to the gym every week.  But for the most part, I was going in streaks of three weeks here and there, take two weeks off, go for another two weeks, one week off, and so on.  There were times when I wouldn’t go for months.

Needless to say, with the exception of the three-month streak, I never got any good results with such inconsistency.  I would get all gung-ho about it, lose interest, and then make up some excuse as to why I had to take a “three-week break.”

When I look back on that seven-year cycle of trying and failing, I think I can now see what was going on.  I’ve heard it best described as a thermostat.  I first heard this idea from James Ray, author, philosopher, and entrepeneur, and recently was reminded of it when I read a former colleague’s blog, “When your Mind is Stuck.”  (I highly encourage you to check it out.)

I described the termostat effect in my comment on his blog:

“Your mind is like a thermostat, where the temperature you set it to (usually a comforable 72 degrees) is your comfort zone. Every time you step away from that 72 degrees, it wants to pull you back. Back to what is safe and what it’s used to. When you carry out actions that are outside what you normally do, it will do everything it can to pull you back to what resonates with your current programming (limiting beliefs, values, etc. that serve that bad habit).

Breaking free of this pull is perhaps one of the toughest things to do. You must acknowledge the programming that is pulling you back, and re-adjust your programming to something that serves you (much easier said than done)…you can start small, but the most important thing is to just start. The more often you step away from that 72 degrees, the weaker the thermostat’s pull will become.

This is something I by no means have mastered, but every day I try to be ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable.'”

You see, over the course of those seven years, I was constantly being pulled back to what I was used to – a life of physical inactivity. Although I knew in my head that it was an unhealthy way to live, my past programming and unspoken limiting beliefs – that I’m not coordinated enough, that I’ll never have the figure I want, that people in my family just don’t work out, that I just don’t have time – were dictating my actions (or lack thereof).

It wasn’t just that I was lazy, it was that breaking free of any bad habit that supports that past programming is a freakin’ hard thing to do. It takes a vision of what you want to accomplish, compelling reasons driving that vision, a serious commitment to accomplish that vision, and it takes a shift in those unspoken beliefs that are holding you back. 

First step is to figure out what those beliefs are.  Then replace them with your vision and know that the vision will come to fruition.  (If you’ve read the book Eat, Pray, Love – another read I highly recommend – understand that your vision is your tree calling to you.)  Focus intensely on that vision, shut up the chatterbox in your head (more on the pesky “chatterbox” later), and just act.  The thermostat’s pull will eventually weaken.

Whew, I think I’m getting a little too deep, even for my standards right now.  Bottom line, recognizing why you keep going back to your comfort zone, i.e. recognizing the thermostat’s pull, is the first step in breaking the cycle. Like I said, this is not an easy thing to do, and is easier for some than for others. (Sciences have been dedicated to studying why this is and how to conquer it. Check out a blog on my husband’s website about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.)

In my next post, I’ll share with you how I broke free from my thermostat. Until then I ask you, “What’s pulling you back?”

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I have a 2-pack!!!

Well, when I flex really hard.  And when the lighting is just right.  And if I squint my eyes just a little bit and turn my head about 30 degrees to the right.

Hey!  Don’t rain on my parade, okay?  This is significant!  I can’t remember the last time I could even remotely see any resemblance of an anything-pack! 

And yes, I have been known to spend good, quality time in front of the mirror admiring my pre-rockhard, washboard abs.  My husband just rolls his eyes when he walks by and laughs, “Oh my gosh.”

Like I said, don’t rain on my parade!  I focus on the progress.  See, a lot of people will focus on the bellyfat and arm flab (or the stick arms and pigeon legs).  They’ll look at what they don’t like and out of anger or distaste, will work out to change what they don’t like about themselves.

I have a different strategy.  I choose to focus on what I do like and the progress that I have made.  And I make fitness and nutrition about accentuating that, and allowing everything else to catch up to it.  And that applies not just to whether I like how a certain body part looks.  It applies to whether I’m happy with my energy levels, my current state of flexibility, and my ability to dance like a disco queen to a cheesy ABBA song.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful things in the universe.  Be thankful for what you have.  Focus on what you like about yourself, about the progress you have made, and you’re bound to get more of it.  If you constantly focus on what you don’t like, you’ll always overlook the progress that you are making, and you’ll always be able to find one more thing you can pick on. 

I challenge you to pick one thing you like about yourself.  Do you have nice ankles?  Or a nice, angled chin?  No matter how miniscule, pick something.  Focus on that.  Spend time in the mirror looking at it.  Yes, make your family think you’re totally vain about it! 

Have you made the slightest bit of progress since you started working out?  Dropped 2 pounds?  Do your jeans feel just a looser?  Dwell on that!  Be thankful for it, and celebrate! 

So don’t laugh at me when I shout from the rooftops that I have a 2-pack.  That 2-pack is just the beginning of more packs!

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  — Michelangelo

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How do you experience your life?

Today I’m going to write about something less related to nutrition and working out, and more about mindset – one of THE most important aspects of overall wellness. 

I got a new job this week.  Not by my own choice, but by way of reorganization.  It happens.  Business priorities and strategies change, so resources have to be realigned.  I can understand that. 

Okay, so what do you do when everything that you did for 8 hours a day suddenly changes?  When the person and teams you loved working with are suddenly taken from you?  When you feel POWERLESS because you had no say in what was happening?

The natural first reaction is to pipe up about the injustice, and pipe up loud.

My reaction was to want to pipe up loud, but instead I piped up tactfully in the form of constructive feedback.  After piping up tactfully, I understood that I can’t change my situation.  But I CAN change my REACTION to the situation and my perspective.  (“Let the emotions flow, then let them go.” – Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman)

Susan Jeffers, in a great book (HIGHLY recommend it) entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, explains that while you may not be responsible for all your “experiences in life…you are the cause of all your experiences of life, meaning that you are the cause of your reactions to everything that happens around you.” THAT is true power.

So whether I let this totally bum me out and piss me off for weeks on end, or whether I assess the situation, understand that I can’t change it, and after allowing the emotions to flow, I let them go and immediately look for the good in the situation. 

And it didn’t take me long to see that my new role might actually put me closer to my ultimate career goals.  That it just might open opportunities to me that I didn’t have before.  That while I enjoyed what I was doing, I was getting comfortable, and comfort is not necessarily a good thing – it means you’re probably not growing.

So, I’ve opened up to the idea that this might be a good thing – I can make it a good thing.  And while people around me might be pissed off, or people might try to drag me down with them into the sea of cynicism and “bitching and moaning”, I choose the higher route, the more productive and positive route.

(It’s so much better in the sea of productivity and positivity, I can tell you that much.)

I’ll leave you with a quote by Napolean Hill, an American author, and an awesome speech given by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.  Overall, Steve Jobs’ speech is one of the most amazing and inspiring messages I’ve ever heard, but the section that relates to the topic at hand is about “Connecting the Dots.”

Cheers!

“Every adversity or failure carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” (Napolean Hill)…How do you choose to experience YOUR life?

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