Archive for the ‘perspective’ Category
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
A close friend of mine, Joe (not his real name) recently returned from an eating disorder residential treatment facility. He finally admitted himself (at the advice of his therapist) for a compulsive eating problem that’s plagued him for over 20 years. Joe’s not a small guy but he’s not as large as you might expect because he’s also a compulsive exerciser…his solution to all that eating. During a typical day he’d eat like everyone else until he got home in the evening. Then, from 6-10 PM he’d spend most of his time in and out of the kitchen. After a restless night’s sleep, he’d get up at 4:30 so he could spend an hour and a half in the gym before heading to work.
Unfortunately, weight and age caught up to Joe. The calories burned were no longer keeping up with the calories consumed. As his waistline grew, he found himself medicated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He also started suffering from sleep apnea. It seemed like his life was falling apart and he was motivated to change the pattern but whenever he tried to eat less, he got anxious…unbearably anxious. He once confessed to me, “Food is my mistress. I love her. I can’t wait to get home to see her. She makes me so happy. I can’t break up with her. It’s impossible. I can’t.”
Well, 28 days of residential treatment later, Joe’s a very different guy. We went to lunch yesterday and he asked for a “to go” box when his giant sandwich arrived. Before eating, he put half of it in the box explaining to me that restaurants generally give us 2 to 3 times more than a healthy portion so he brings half of it home. For the first time in his entire life, Joe knows what portion sizes are supposed to look like. Four weeks of being forced to eat and exercise normally has also helped him break away from his addictions. He explained that for the first time since he can remember his mind is free to think of something other than food. He feels empowered. He’s happy.
He said, “Wendy, there’s a big difference between can’t and haven’t yet. I learned that I can.”
So can you.
Friday, May 10th, 2013
Mundane: (adjective) typical, ordinary, lacking interest or excitement, dull.
Mundane a great word. The way it rolls off your tongue even sounds mundane. I know it’s an adjective but I wish it was a noun. I’d define it like this:
Mundane: (noun) the dreaded place people settle into when they stop challenging themselves, stop trying new things, stop dreaming.
When you’re there, the days blend together. You come home from work, grab the chips out of the cupboard, turn on the TV and eventually fall asleep on the couch, day after day after day, all the while promising yourself you’ll start that exercise program tomorrow. You take a sleeping pill to go to bed and caffeine when you wake up. You’re not happy but no one knows that because you smile and function reasonably well at work. Mundane is a secret that turns into a habit that weighs you down but you rarely complain because life is good enough…ugh.
I saw a post on Facebook once that said something like this:
The definition of hell: At the end of your life, meeting the person you would have become if you had lived to your potential.
That’s an unsettling thought, more unsettling if “Mundane” rules the day. On the other hand, if you love your life, if you’re living without regret, I don’t think it would matter because life is filled with infinite possibilities which are narrowed down by a combination of circumstance, opportunity and the choices we make. Honestly, where we end up isn’t as important as the way we travel.
So pay attention to how you travel. Loving your life and escaping the grips of mundane is about traveling through life with purpose. Every day you cross the paths of numerous people…family, friends, co-workers, and strangers and your impact on them is either positive, negative, or neutral. Choose to make it positive.
The last thing I say to my kids as I drop them off to school in the morning is, “Make someone’s day better, today.”
It’s so easy…smile, hold a door open, help with a project, compliment someone, thank someone, listen. The ripple effect of kindness is beyond measure and if you live with that intention your life will never be mundane.
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
- Why does the young boy growing up under the influence of the Taliban hate Americans? Why does he believe giving his life in an act of terrorism will be rewarded in heaven?
- Why do children who grow up under the influence of the KKK believe white people are superior?
- Why do most Americans still think cows milk does a body good?
- Someone in a position of trust or respect said so.
That’s why, generally speaking, we stick with the religion we were taught as children…it’s what we’re comfortable with…it’s who we become. Throughout our lives we are highly influenced by the views of parents, teachers, physicians, friends, and the media. We rely on the “experts” to steer us in the right direction. Unfortunately that information can be misguided and when we accept it blindly, we’re behaving like cattle being led to the slaughter house.
How many of your “truths” have you verified? Thanks to technology, for the first time in history, we literally have information at our fingertips. With laptops, tablets and smartphones there’s no reason to be a victim of misinformation. When presented with an idea, Google it!
Knowledge is power. It could save your life. Maybe someday it’ll lead to world peace.
Saturday, April 27th, 2013
The journey is tough…often messy…sometimes unbelievably cruel. Everyone has experienced variations on that theme. No one escapes the “unfairness factor” of life. When you’re young and struggling, you think you’re the only one. But with age comes the realization that life is a two sided coin…happy/sad, success/failure, easy/hard. Just as you need two sides to even have a coin, you need the ups and downs to have a life.
However, those ups and downs aren’t an excuse to “settle” in life. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Oh, my life’s good enough. It could be a lot worse. At least I’m not_________?”
I know you can fill in that blank. There’s always someone dealing with things worse than what you’re going through, someone who weighs more, someone with a worse marriage, someone with more health issues, etc… You’re supposed to appreciate what you have, right? Okay, but be careful:
Happiness doesn’t come from measuring yourself against a standard of misery. That kind of thinking just lowers the bar and keeps you from reaching your potential.
I think you should love, not like, love your life, in spite of the hardships that cross your path.
Here are three things you can do to get more excited about your amazing life:
1. Build a great support team
Humans are incredibly social creatures. We have built in mimic and acceptance tendencies. In other words, you are who you hang out with so hang out with people you admire, people who are a great influence on you, people who believe in you. Friendship is a privilege not a right.
2. Don’t judge yourself by your past
Mistakes are tests. You can learn as much from things that go wrong as from things that go right. It’s important to treat yesterday as homework. Those lessons can set the stage for a great future. They give you wisdom…UNLESS you judge yourself by them. Babe Ruth had way more strike-outs than home runs. If he focused on the strike-outs, he never would’ve hit the home runs.
3. Have at least one “happy” goal.
What would make you happy, really happy? Build a goal around that with tons of detail so you can take little steps toward it every day. Focus on the things you CAN do. With persistence, tiny steps eventually turn into success. You deserve that.
The challenges we face are like mountains we have to climb. It might seem like your mountain is steeper and higher than anyone else’s, but keep climbing because the higher the mountain, the better the view from the top.
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
When I was in college I took the train into Manhattan to spend some time with my dad. We went to his favorite restaurant for lunch and I felt like I was sitting next to a movie star. People kept coming to our table to talk to him and nearly everyone who walked through the door knew his name . I remember thinking, “Wow, my dad is famous.”
Dad was one of those people who loved the world. He was honest but more than that he was careful with his words. He believed in people and had a way of making them believe in themselves. When you talked to him, he listened. Then he’d ask questions and listen some more. He made you feel like you mattered, regardless of your circumstance. My dad’s attitude was magnetic. He was confident and humble at the same time. He didn’t expect the world to be fair, he just expected to be able to handle the unfairness. People were happier if they were lucky enough to cross his path so when they saw him coming, they crossed his path.
My dad wasn’t world famous; he was famous in his world and it had little to do with his success as a businessman. He was famous because he was a servant. Life wasn’t about him, it was about you.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
We over-eat for a variety of reasons including stress, boredom, comfort, social pressures and the simple fact that food is EVERYWHERE! Over the years our plates have gotten bigger and it seems our appetites have grown to match. But is that true? Do we eat more because we’re hungrier than we used to be?
In part, we could be hungrier because we eat more GMO food, processed food, and sugar than ever in history and these things affect appetite; but that’s only part of the problem. I believe a big reason we over-eat has to do with a change in our perception of what it means to be “full.” Do you think you’re full when you’re satisfied or are you full when you’re slightly uncomfortable? And, by the way, how do you define “satisfied?” This isn’t a game of semantics. It’s about the messages you send yourself everyday. It’s about your appetite thermostat.
Look at the 1-10 scale below:
- Starving (no food for days, think of third world circumstances)
- Extremely hungry (hiked uphill for 3 hours and only to realize we left the lunch in the car)
- Hungry (stomach growling, sense of urgency to eat)
- Slightly hungry (feeling empty, could definitely eat something)
- Neutral (no sense of fullness or hunger)
- Satisfied (but room for more, could still go for a run)
- Slightly full (if I eat more, I’ll regret it, wouldn’t want to run but could go for a hike)
- Full (but boy was it good! I’ll feel better in an hour. Maybe I’ll take a Tums)
- Extremely full (a nap would be good, need to loosen my belt, not feeling so good)
- Stuffed (Thanksgiving after the third piece of pie. I feel terrible, can’t believe I did that again)
This scale represents your appetite thermostat. Just like some people like to keep the temperature in their homes at a cozy 74 all winter while other people are comfortable at 68, some people like to eat until an 8 or 9 while other people stop at 6 or 7.
When do you stop eating? What’s your number?
If you want to maintain your current weight you should rarely go past 7. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should stop at 6. (Avoid 8,9 and 10. Too much stress for your digestive system.)
Three tips to help you stop sooner:
1. Chew longer…much longer. Turn your food into baby food before you swallow.
2. Don’t mindlessly eat and multi-task. Take the time to taste your food.
3. Decide that restaurants want to feed you for two days. Try to save half the meal for tomorrow.
If you consciously work on eating less for the entire month, you will reset your appetite thermostat. It’s a habit you’ll be happy to keep. Good luck!
Monday, December 3rd, 2012
A friend of mine posted a blog which lays out her “important life choices”, i.e., the decisions she consciously makes in order to live a life that’s congruent with her values. To some people, her choices might look like a list of goals…something to strive toward. To others, some of her choices might look more like sacrifices.
So the question is: What’s the difference?
The answer is: The difference determines your success.
A choice is an action you prefer over another action. It’s something you control. It’s a decision. We make thousands of choices everyday…get up early or sleep in, wear boots or shoes, drink water or soda, pay bills or put them in a pile, etc.. Most of them fall into patterns and become part of our daily routine. Some of them, however, are important enough to define the quality of our lives.
A goal is something you’re working toward, something you’d like to achieve that includes a degree of uncertainty. It’s something you’re trying to accomplish…like losing ten pounds, earning a college degree, marrying a person who’s great for you, finding balance and happiness in life. Goals are meant to challenge us and give us direction.
A sacrifice is a thing you “give up” because you’re forced to give it up or because you know you should; but in your heart, you still want it badly. You give it up because continuing would be worse…like smoking, over-eating, drinking, or the mistress. Sacrifices often come with resentment and failure.
Joy’s list of “important choices” are just that, choices. They are things she chooses to do in order to live an authentic life. They aren’t goals because they aren’t in the future and there’s no uncertainty. They define her lifestyle. And finally, they aren’t sacrifices because she doesn’t see herself as giving something up, i.e., she doesn’t miss the other options.
Happiness is about your important life choices. What would be on your list?
Monday, September 24th, 2012
Disclaimer: I realize I’m working with a stereotype with this analogy but if you have a teenage daughter you may want to share it with her.
If boys were different kinds of boats they’d all start out as row boats. In middle school they evolve into boats with engines. Teenage boys are fascinated with their motors, if you know what I mean. By the time they get into high school many of them continue to evolve, turning into fishing boats, throwing out their lines to see what they can catch. Some boys even subscribe to the catch and release program, hooking up with as many girls as possible. Other boys work on building muscles and turn into speed boats. They expect girls to be impressed with their physical prowess. Be careful ladies, with a speed boat, the relationship is NEVER about you.
The bottom line is boys want experience. The problem is rarely does a boy tell a girl that he just wants experience. Instead, he’ll say whatever he needs to say to score. It’s unfortunate when a girl expects the relationship to last forever.
But all is not lost. As boys get older, some of them continue to evolve. A few boys even turn into yachts. A yacht is a man who treats a woman with respect. He adores her and supports her dreams. Please, ladies, don’t waste your time with fishing boats or speed boats. You are yacht worthy.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
Gratitude is important. It reminds us that we need each other, that we’re part of something bigger. The gratitude we feel toward those who’ve helped us along the way, the appreciation we feel for the gift of life, for family, for friends, and for health…all of these things should motivate us to give back, to strive to become great versions of ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes I think the opposite happens.
It’s easy to look around and find circumstances worse than our own. For example, if your boss micro-manages you, making your life miserable, you might complain only to be reminded you that you have a great job with excellent benefits. The message is that you should stop complaining and feel grateful. There are plenty of people looking for work. Or if you’ve gained a few pounds and complain, your friends may remind you how good you look for your age. They might even recount a story about a mutual friend with major health problems. Again, you’re left feeling guilty for wanting more, for your lack of gratitude. Gratefulness in that context doesn’t make us happy. It lowers the bar of our personal expectations. If we’re not careful, it can lead to mediocrity.
Happiness comes from striving to become a great version of yourself. It’s a combination of doing your best and overcoming challenges to reach a goal. It doesn’t come from settling for “good enough”.
Don’t let gratitude keep you from success.