The sweet spot

I had an interesting thought in the shower yesterday. This actually happens a fair bit. It seems that hot water and nice smelling soaps stimulate ideas in my brain.

I was thinking about my weight ( I had just been on the scale prior to climbing into the shower) and how I have been maintaining it AND getting to eat a lot of things I enjoy – foods I enjoy in quantities I enjoy at a frequency I enjoy.

I have found my “sweet spot” (pun intended), I thought. The intersection of having what I want (results) for an amount of effort I am willing to give.

If I changed one of these things – my desired result or my level of effort – I would miss the sweet spot.

For example, if I lowered my goal weight I would have to either adjust my exercise or my eating (what I eat, how much I eat, or how frequently I eat), or more likely both.  I have considered and even attempted this previously, but to be honest, I don’t find the results worth the increased level of effort which for me is often in the form of giving up foods I enjoy. (What? No donuts?)

Similarly, if I stopped putting in my current level of effort, I wouldn’t enjoy my current results.

The “sweet spot” is entirely subjective and can apply to any goal.
What do you want and how hard are you willing to work for it? What are you willing to give or pay?

Big goals that inspire effort are great. But if you truly aren’t willing to do what needs to be done to reach a goal – and yet you cling to that specific goal – you will be in a constant state of disappointment.

It’s about managing expectations. Be honest with yourself. If the cost to reach the goal makes you miserable, is it worth it? Conversely, would a little more effort push you into the sweet spot?

Maybe you should go have a nice hot shower and think about it. 😉

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On a recent coaching call, my client John expressed frustration at falling into “same old same old” behaviours. He had set some action steps on our call the previous week and had failed to follow through on them. When I asked him what happened he said, “I just don’t feel motivated around this.” (Motivated, shmotivated)

We talked a bit more about feelings, and how they can’t always be trusted. If we waited to “feel like” doing most things, we wouldn’t get very much done at all. (But we would get lots of sleep, get caught up on a bunch of Netflix series, and eat a lot of junk food!)

I remembered some Powerpoint slide pictures I had used in some workshops a few years back.

“John, since I can’t show you the pictures right now, I’m going to do my best to explain them to you. Picture a well traveled walking trail in the woods – the dirt and brush patted down from hundreds or thousands of foot steps. It’s super easy to walk along because it’s flat and wide.

Now picture trying to walk off the trail and through the woods – stepping over branches, hacking away at small trees and brush trying to forge a way through.

The first path is kinda what your brain looks like when you follow a habit. Your brain makes shortcuts when you repeat a thought or behaviour. But when you try to change it, it’s like forging your way through the bush. So it makes sense that we fall into old habits. It’s so much easier and more inviting to walk the easy path.

BUT, if you continue walking on the new path even though it’s more challenging…it will eventually become patted down and easy to travel. And the old trail will become overgrown.”

John really liked the analogy so at the end of the call, as part of his homework for the week, I told him to find a picture that represents each of the paths so he would have a visual reminder. A few days later I received this picture in an email. (Yes, he had it printed and framed!)

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If coaching homework were graded, I would give him an A+ 🙂

 

Hide ‘n seek

I got up extra early this morning. The plan was to find some inspiration and write a blog post.  The problem is that inspiration likes to plays hide ‘n seek…and it can be really good at finding places to hide.

So I considered not posting today. I could easily be the one hiding – behind a big fat excuse (like busyness – that’s a classic!!). Excuses make great hiding spots.

But the OTHER voice in my head ratted me out. It drew attention to my hiding spot.

So here I am, out in the open, nowhere to hide.

Interestingly, I came across an old email this morning from 2012. I was replying to a client who had contacted me to work together for a second time. But then she hesitated and considered backing out – at least for awhile.

This was my reply:

I realized at the end of last year, that there are a few different groups of people — those who are asleep (not even realizing there is “more” out there for them), those who dream of doing more and making change, and those who are truly ready to do what it takes.  Since then, I have actually turned down some clients who I didn’t feel were really ready. Sure they wanted change, but they were not willing to commit to the work required.  So I must admit that the fact that you are so willing to set this aside again without trying to negotiate makes me wonder if you also are not ready?  What brought you to the point of contacting me again? What is it that you hoped you could achieve through coaching? AND what is keeping you from having it (besides excuses)?
Six months from now, you can be in the same place you are today or you can be somewhere different. It’s up to you.

Hmmm…it seems that sometimes I need to take my own advice.

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Curious

I typically begin my coaching appointments with a “check-in” question to get a feel for where the client is at.
“How are you today from zero to ten – with ten being awesome?” Or…
“Choose one word that best describes how you’re feeling today.”

You get the idea.

Lately, I have been test driving some new questions to see where they take us.
“Choose five words to describe how you are not feeling today” brought some interesting responses and even stumped a few clients. (I like to throw them off every once in awhile 😉.)

Today, I was wondering how our initial expectations or approach to the day impacts what actually happens. So in curiosity, I launched with “What outlook or attitude did you approach the day with?”

It seems reasonable to believe that our “wake-up” thoughts and expectations for the day will influence what follows, but I am curious, what’s your experience?

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We see what we want to see

I am fascinated by the brain. I love listening to neuroscientists explain their research and current findings (as long as they use small words 😉). I can still remember when I first learned about forming habits — how the brain creates “short-cuts” in the wiring when we repeat a thought or behaviour. As a life coach, this is particularly exciting to me. We can, in fact, create long-term change. We can literally be transformed by renewing our minds.

But, I am equally freaked out when I hear real-life stories and/or research about how our brains can trick us –how we can confidently recall details from memory that are later proven inaccurate.  And what about optical illusions, brain teasers and a long list of perception biases that influence what we see, think and believe? Yikes.

It reminds me of a trip with my mom several years ago.

We were driving on the New York thruway at night. After several hours on the road, we were pretty tired and also quite bored. So we decided to stop at one of the many travel plazas to take a potty break and stretch our legs.  Mom has always liked to add a bit of fun and adventure to everyday experiences, so I wasn’t surprised when she said, “I’ve got some change. Let’s play one of those arcade type games.”  In this case, the “games” she was referring to weren’t pinball machines or video games, they were like the claw crane game where you use the joy stick to try to pick up a teddy bear.

So, we went to the “arcade” area and looked at the options.  A couple of the machines caught our attention.  They had rows of DVDs – current ones! The game worked like this: put your coins in the slot and the DVD carousel will begin to spin.  Hit the button precisely when your desired DVD lines up with the arrow and you win!  (Pretty exciting stuff when you’ve been driving in the dark for several hours and entertainment options are limited.)

There were two of these Movie Stop games side-by-side. So, which one to play? Hmmmm.  We checked out all the titles available on each machine to see which movie we wanted to play for. Found one! Let the thruway carnival games begin.

I put some coins in the machine but nothing happened. No spinning carousel. I pushed the coin return and still nothing. I pushed it again, but harder this time. Nothing. We were about to look for a staff person to help us when we stood up and noticed something on the floor beside the game.  There it was. The cord and power plug were laying on the floor beside the machine.

We took a step back and looked at both machines. The one on the left was plugged in and lit up like a Christmas tree. The one on the right (the one we had chosen to play) was completely dark.

It was so obvious, we could hardly believe what we had done. And, both of us had looked at the two machines before playing. Mom even watched me deposit the coins. We laughed about it but were also a bit freaked out that we could miss something that obvious. What other obvious mistakes had we made in the past, or worse yet, might we make in the future?

“Decades of research have proven that expectation is a powerful force. It acts on our perceptions much as gravity acts on light, bending them in ways that are measurable by others, but, at least to us, imperceptible. Not only do we tend to see what we expect to see, we also tend to experience what we expect to experience.

Increasing our awareness may help us avoid some of these pitfalls and make better choices. And if not, at least give us permission to laugh at ourselves.

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Excerpt from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/kidding-ourselves/201404/we-see-what-we-want-see

Put the book on the table

A few years ago, a friend of mine was really struggling. She was going through a season of change and was so upset by her current situation that she was obsessing about it. She felt overwhelmed and at a loss for what to do.

I listened to her share the details and she asked for my advice.

“Pretend this book is the problem”, I said. “This is what’s upsetting you.”

And then I held it directly in front of my face.

“When you look at the book from this perspective, what do you see?”

“I see the book,” she answered.

“What else do you see?”

“Nothing”, she said.

“But here’s something interesting,” I continued. “When I put the book here on the table, its not gone.  It’s still here and I can still see it. Clearly in fact. But I can also see my cup, this table, the window, other people around us and so on. All of those things represent everything else in your life that is NOT the problem.” I explained.

“You don’t need to ignore the problem or pretend it’s not here. But you can see it in the context of everything else. The truth is, you get to choose what you focus on. And sometimes you get so zoomed in on your problems that you lose sight of everything else. In those moments, you need to take a step back and put things in perspective. This puts you in a better position to work toward a solution.”

This simple enactment resonated with her and she shifted her perspective almost immediately.

Put the book on the table. It just might help.

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Eat green veggies

There are opposing views in every area of life. It’s exhausting and confusing.

Drink milk. Don’t drink milk.

Eat meat. Don’t eat meat.

Apple. Android.

Hawaiian pizza is delicious!  Fruit should not be a pizza topping.

Conservative. Liberal.

Figure skating – a sport?

Gluten.

Guns. (Let’s leave it there).

BUT…I have never, ever, ever, ever read or heard anyone, anywhere say we should NOT eat green veggies.

So there you go. We can stand together in unity around something.

Eat green veggies and make the world a better place.

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