Is it selfish to put yourself first?

February 17th, 2014

What’s most important to you?  Faith?  Family?  Friends?  Career?  Are you driven to be a great parent or the top performer at work?  Do the needs of others often take priority over your personal needs?  Do you have a hard time saying, “No?”  If so, you’re in good company.

Many people think there’s honor in putting others first.  After all, they get to brag about the sacrifices they’re making by doing everything they can to please all the people all the time, right?  There’s a significant sympathy factor included when they behave like that which can make them feel good about it in the short run.  However, in the long run they end up feeling like doormats…exhausted, stressed out, unhealthy, beat-up doormats.  What’s so admirable about that?

No, if you want to accomplish great things, you have to change your thinking.  In reality, you are better equipped to serve others when you value yourself enough to make your personal health and well-being a priority.  In other words, it’s UN-selfish to put yourself first. Honestly, it’s the most UN-selfish thing you can do.

People who live in the zone, i.e., eat healthy, sleep enough and work out, feel good about themselves and because they feel good about themselves, they’re better able to handle stress, they’re more patient and they have more energy.   It’s a win/win.

No one will value your time more than you do so stop being a victim to the endless demands of the world and start taking care of #1 (that would be you).

Try these idea:

  • Devote the first hour of every day to your health and well-being…even if it means getting up at 5:00.
  • Build relationships with like-minded, positive people who support your goals.
  • Say “No” more often.  Sometimes “No” means “Yes” when it comes to your priorities…never feel guilty about that.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours/night.  Lack of sleep shortens your lifespan, reduces concentration and contributes to over-eating.  Come on, turn off the TV and go to bed.
  • When you’re struggling, don’t give up; get help.  There’s nothing weak about getting help.  Working through something tough will make you better, stronger and happier…all of which mean you will have more to offer the world.

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish.  It’s selfless and you’re worth it.

Your year in review

December 27th, 2013

The final weekend of 2013 is upon us.  It’s the weekend when several of the news and entertainment shows do a “year in review” program, highlighting the year’s best and worst events.  Many of these events will likely show up in history books and maybe future generations will learn from our mistakes or be inspired by our successes.  In theory, the world should be a better place because of the lessons of history, including the history of 2013.

These end-of-year shows are interesting to watch but I’m always surprised by the number of events from the year that have already become distant memories.  Clearly, the things that don’t impact us directly quickly fade into the background.  But how about the things that do impact us directly?  How about your life and the lives of those around you? Maybe the events of your personal life didn’t make a news reel, but they’re still part of  history and their lessons are important.  The life you lived in 2013 has the potential to make 2014 better…if you take the time to reflect.  So find a quiet place this weekend and ask yourself the following questions (suggestion: get a journal, record your answers and make it an annual event):

  • What do I want to remember…good and bad?
  • What am I most proud of?
  • What would I have done differently?  (hindsight is a gift)
  • Who do I wish I spent more time with?  Less time with?
  • What did I do too much of?
  • What should I have done more of?
  • What do I want to change in 2014?

The answers to these questions will help center you and position you to move into the new year with confidence.  Whether 2013 was a good year or not, doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you do with the knowledge you gained by living through it.  You matter.  Never underestimate the impact you have, good or bad, on the people you meet and the paths you cross.

Because of 2013, together, we can make the world a better place in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Does your rhythm support you?

November 18th, 2013

Your life has a rhythm.  There’s a flow to the way you move through the day which includes certain things you always do, things like brushing your teeth, showering, wearing a seat belt, etc…   It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a crisis or on a long vacation…you do these things.   I like to call them non-negotiables.

You always do them because  they’re important.  You’ve made them a priority.  My list of non-negotiables includes an early workout, a shower, brushing my teeth, flossing, drinking lots of water and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.  I might compromise on sleep once in a while and I eat too many sweets more often than I’d like to admit but I don’t compromise when it comes to my list of non-negotiables.   They’re the foundation of my rhythm.

I’ve learned that when my rhythm supports me, I feel centered, giving me more energy for everything and everyone else.  When I’m centered I also carry less stress and feel happier…consistently happier.

So think about the non-negotiables in your life.  What do you always do?  Do your habits support you?    Are you a priority in your life?   Remember, no one will value your time more than you do.

Sustainable happiness comes from creating a healthy rhythm.

The Best Kind of Beautiful

November 10th, 2013

The volume of “beauty” images that cross our paths these days is mind-boggling. What was once limited to television and movies, now infiltrates our lives non-stop because of our gadgets…computers, smart phones, tablets, etc…  What’s the impact of all those images?  Do they affect our self-esteem?  Do they affect our behavior?

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery over 10 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2012.  That’s a lot of people spending a lot of money to look better.  It’s a 250% increase since 1997.

In Hollywood, actors and actresses have always felt the pressure to fit a specific image  because, generally speaking, getting old isn’t good for business.  ”Enhancing” their bodies has  been the norm.   Is it becoming our norm?  Maybe the bigger question is:  Does it make us happy?

You’re happy if you love the life you’re living.  You’re happy if you believe in yourself from the inside out…not the outside in.  Outside in thinking is like designing a great book cover without paying attention to the content.  What’s the point?  In the end, no one cares about the cover.  In the end it’s all about the content.

Break away from all of that external noise and focus on who you are and where you’re headed.  Surround yourself with friends who believe in you and find ways to help others believe in themselves.  If you do that, you’ll develop a happy heart and a happy heart  beams with warmth and confidence…the best kind of beautiful.

 

How are you different?

October 10th, 2013

Imagine there’s a team being assembled to participate in a one day, “idea sharing” retreat.  Team members will be paid $100,000.00 each for their time.  Of course it would be held at some amazingly fantastic place, all expenses paid.  To qualify, you must answer one question.   If your answer is unique, you’re in.  It’s that simple.   The question is:

How are you different?

I’m different because:

  • I’m tall
  • I teach Pilates
  • I’m an author
  • I’m divorced three times
  • I have a gay brother
  • I was anorexic
  • I was bulimic
  • I’m a rape survivor
  • I’m an Ironman
  • I like strangers
  • I believe in happy endings

My experiences, good and bad, have given me a unique perspective on life.   Without a doubt, living through them has made me more compassionate and less judgmental but I’m still limited by what I don’t know.  Imagine the wisdom I’d gain if I understood your experiences.

How are you different?  Are you shy?  Are you a pragmatist?  Do you get depressed?  Are you musical?  Are you super smart?  Do you have fears?  Have you made mistakes, big ones?   These things are important.

Instead of focusing on being similar and fitting in, we should focus on being authentic.  If we can drum up the courage to share who we are with the world, maybe we can change the world.

Be brave enough to be different.

Starting tomorrow is easy

October 8th, 2013

Starting tomorrow means we can continue doing whatever we’ve been doing for one more day.

Everyone likes a fresh start, i.e., a new day, a new week or a new month and by the time October and November roll around, it makes sense to just wait for a new year, right?

Do you do this?  Sadly, I must confess to employing this strategy too many times to count.  It’s appealing because it takes the pressure off.  Picking a date in the future is a license to stay on the current course until the “fresh start” date arrives.  If you’ve been eating badly, you can continue eating badly.  If you’ve been sedentary, you can remain sedentary.  If the house is a mess, it can stay a mess.  You don’t have to change…yet.  What a relief!

It may be a relief but unfortunately this kind of pattern is also a trap because while waiting for the magic date, the hole you’ve dug tends to get deeper.   It’s how 5lbs in November turn into 10lbs by January.

If I’m honest, I recognize that I utilize this approach because I enjoy my bad habits.  I like snacking in front of the TV.  I like snacking in my office.  I like snacking in the car.  Over the years, I’ve conditioned myself to associate these activities with food to the point where my decisions aren’t even slightly driven by appetite.  Instead, they’re driven completely by habit.  It’s amazing how mindless I can be while taking something out of a bag and putting it in my mouth.

Well, that was then and this is TODAY.   Today I didn’t snack in the car (that was tough).  Today I didn’t snack in the office (tougher).  Today I didn’t snack in front of the TV or my computer (toughest).

I’ve been taking care of TODAY for a week now and it’s getting easier.  I haven’t be perfect, especially in front of the TV but then I catch myself and instead of saying, “Oh well, I’ll start over tomorrow,” I reset in the moment.   The thought is, “It’s still today and this day matters.”

It’s working partly because I expect it to be tough and partly because it’s just TODAY.  I feel like I can do anything for one day and as for tomorrow…I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.

Come on, people!  Nothing changes by waiting for tomorrow.  Start today.

Adulthood should be exciting

September 6th, 2013

This morning  a good friend of mine posted a question on Facebook:

“Why do you race?”

She was looking for motivation from her support group of athletes.  My gut response was, “You race because it gives you confidence and that confidence carries over into every aspect of life.”

But that’s not right.  Confidence is a by-product of racing, not the reason.  Anyone can earn fitness and self-confidence by working out and eating healthy.  Racing is bigger than that.

I think I race because it stretches me.  It makes me uncomfortable.  There are so many unknowns on race day.  Was my training good enough?  Was my taper timed right?  Will I have equipment problems?  Did I eat early enough to avoid digestive issues?  Honestly, when I stand at the starting line, I’m filled with fear and anticipation.  It’s damn exciting!

Our children experience these feelings on a regular basis.  Life is constantly changing for them.  When you think about it, their lives are filled with anticipation…first day of school, first date, first performance, first time away from home, first time driving, first job, etc…  Childhood is exciting.

Adulthood, on the other hand, can be pretty mundane.  The “firsts” are replaced by routine.  The energy that defined you “back in the day” is a distant memory.  Instead of driving your way through life, you’ve become a passenger…watching the scenery go by.   Come on!!  You weren’t born to settle. You need to wake up.  Adulthood should be exciting.

Racing makes life exciting.  Just enter a 5K or a Tough Mudder or a mini-triathlon and things will change.  You’ll have to train.  You’ll doubt yourself.  You’ll worry and on race day you’ll use the bathroom three times.  Your emotions will be on over-drive but it’s worth every second of angst because you get to stand at the starting line.  There’s only one feeling that trumps the “alive” feeling experienced at the starting line of an event and that’s the “Holy sh**, I did it!!” feeling of crossing the finish line.

I race because it makes adulthood exciting.

Is life harder for this generation of kids?

July 16th, 2013

You know how older generations like to remind the current generation how easy they have it?  I remember my grandpa teasing me saying, “Oh, you’ve got it made.  When I was your age I had to walk 5 miles to school in 20 below temps uphill…both ways.”   Maybe he was exaggerating but he had a point: From generation to generation with medical and technological advances, life has been getting easier and easier, until now.

I believe this is the first generation that has it harder, not physically, but emotionally.   They have it harder because technology has inadvertently disrupted the entire balance of the way families interact and connect with each other.

What gadgets does the typical teen have at his or her fingertips today?  Computer, smart phone, iPad, iPod, gaming system, head phones, television with over 400 channels, etc..

Where does the typical kid keep all of this technology?  In his bedroom.

Too many kids today get home from school and head for their rooms not just to  play video games, but to update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine.  Add to that the time they spend responding to endless texts and it’s amazing they find time for homework.

When parents get home from a long day at work, some of them cook dinner and do laundry and most of them are grateful the kids are occupied so they can catch up on their stuff, including Facebook, LinkedIn, the news, and one or two or three hours of television.  Families are like ships passing in the night.  Conversations go like this:

“How was your day?”

“Good.”

“Do you have any homework?”

“A little.”

“Okay, well get it done first.”

“I will.”

That kind of conversation tells us nothing.   Wake up!  We need to know what’s going on.   There has never been a generation of youth with more voices, coming from more places, telling them how to look, how to act, how to think, how to feel, and what to believe.  And when the messages they get are negative, when they’re struggling, when they’re bullied…those voices follow them home.  They follow them into their rooms and eventually some of them commit suicide.

Many kids don’t understand that hardship won’t last forever.  They don’t understand that they’re not the only one struggling.  They feel like they’re climbing a mountain and from their limited perspective, it’s a mountain that’s steeper and higher than anyone else’s.

It’s our job to help them realize that they’re going to be okay, that climbing mountains is part of life.  Maybe their mountain really is higher and steeper than anyone else’s…which would be totally unfair but that’s life.  Life can be unfair.  They also need to understand that the higher the mountain, the better the view from the top, so keep climbing.

You can help your children and grandchildren develop self-esteem and confidence, in spite of the pressures they face, by doing three things:

  1. Carve out family time:  Dinner together a few times a week, family game night, hiking or camping or simply a walk around the block…without technology.  Even quality car time helps.
  2. Ask open-ended questions every day (Questions that don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer) to help you gauge how your children are coping and what their views are on numerous issues. Over time your kids will get used to it…maybe even look forward to it.  A few examples:
    • What was the best part of your day?
    • What was the worst part of your day?
    • What do you wish went differently today?
    • Who’s your favorite teacher?  Why?
    • Who’s the nicest kid in your school?  Why?
    • On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you?  What would make you happier?
    • Why do you think some kids get left out?
    • What do you wish I’d do differently?
  3. Show them how much they’re loved:  At the end of day, remind your children how special they are.  Tell them how proud you are of them.  Tell them why you think they’re special.  Reinforce the good things they do.

With the distractions of technology it’s never been harder to be an involved parent but it’s also never been more important.  If you fight for the attention of your children you can off-set other influences and help make their lives easier than any generation to date.

Happy people have three things in common

June 11th, 2013

Some people are clearly happier than others.  You can feel it when you’re around them.  The little things don’t seem to bother them.  They’re fully present, genuine and optimistic.  You get the impression that life is just easier for them.

It is easier.  However, it isn’t easier because they’re lucky or because their circumstance is better.  No, it’s easier because they’re happy.  It’s a catch-22.   Find happiness and life gets easier…even when it’s unfair, even when the world kicks you in the face.

People who are happy, really happy, not faking it, have three things in common:

  1. They take care of themselves.  They like living in their own body.  They make time for “body/mind/spirit” activities.
  2. They feel like they’re making a difference.  They’re doing something important:  raising kids, meeting work goals, impacting the lives of others, etc…
  3. They’re appreciated.  The people in their lives are grateful for their efforts:  recognized at work, loved by family, cherished by friends.

Not happy?  Which one of these is lacking in your life?  What can you do about it?

Does your life matter?

June 3rd, 2013

It seems like everyone is trying to find purpose these days.  Thanks to the web and all of our devises, we’re tuned into the world.  We can watch the best and worst of humanity just by tuning into YouTube.  The stories are endless and in comparison our lives can seem small.  It’s natural to wonder, “What am I doing that really matters?”

Well, take a breath and relax a little because you’re probably doing more than you realize.  This famous Dr. Seuss quote says it all:  “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Your life matters if:

  • you listen
  • you’re kind
  • you lift the spirits others
  • you forgive

Honestly, it’s impossible to measure the impact of the little things you do each day that show respect, the little things you do that give someone else a sense of dignity.  But know this:  Those things are the most important things you do.  Those things change the world.

Your life matters.