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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Subtraction

Michelangelo said, “Inside every block of marble is the perfect statue; my job is to take away what is not that.”

This quote gives me pause. It shifts my perspective.

Maybe because I have over-filled my schedule at times in my life. I have added without subtracting — said yes more than no. I have wondered what ELSE I should be doing (in addition to what I am already doing) to get me where I want to go. And many of the “additions” have not been things that move me closer to my goals.

This quote reminds me that it’s important to decide what not to do. Because adding can distract me from what’s important. Adding can create more noise and busyness.

And time spent adding is time not spent carving.

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3:59.4

Everything is impossible until it’s possible.

Until May 6, 1954 running a mile in under four minutes was considered impossible. Runners had chased the goal seriously since at least 1886 but the elusive 4-minutes had always beaten them. It became commonly accepted that it was physically impossible.

But one windy day in England – May 6, 1954 – Roger Bannister did in fact break the “4-minute mile barrier”.  His time? 3:59.4.

But get this…what happened once the feat was no longer impossible? Forty six days later, John Landy broke the record with a time of 3:57.9 and within the next three years, sixteen other runners had broken the 4-minute mile barrier.

As it turns out, the 4-minute mile barrier was not a physical one, but a psychological one.

Everything is impossible until it’s possible.

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Failure can feel good

I had an interesting thought on the drive home from the gym the other day.I realized that I had experienced both success and failure in the same workout.

It was testing week at the gym and we were measuring our progress in both strength and cardio conditioning. This particular day we tested our 1 rep max for bench press and for back squats.

We did bench press first and I happily lifted 5 lbs more than the last time we tested (a few months ago). Hitting a  new personal best is a great feeling.  And, normally, I would stop there. I would take my success and “quit while I’m ahead or end on a high note”. This would increase my odds of setting a new PR the next time around (or so I have told myself).

 But this time, with some encouragement from my workout partner, and a recent decision to  try to “fail more often” I decided to keep going.
I couldn’t make the next lift. Half way up my arms stopping moving. I failed.

But oddly enough, I felt really good about it. Glad I had broken out of my normal pattern.

Instead of quitting when I hit a personal best, I went for it.

Who knew that failure could actually feel good?

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Back on track

You started a new exercise program or diet plan.
Within the week, you missed a workout OR you caved and ate some of those Cadbury Mini Eggs leftover from Easter. (Who can blame you? Those things are like crack.)
Your internal monologue went something like this, “Crap, I blew it. What’s wrong with me? I guess I will start again tomorrow.”

Sound familiar?

And then maybe, just maybe, you did start again the next day.
Or maybe, just maybe, you felt so discouraged by the failed attempt that you scarfed down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

We are, for the most part, completely oblivious to the subconscious beliefs or thoughts that run our lives: beliefs like, “If you eat something ‘bad’ when you are on a diet, that day is now ruined. It can no longer be a perfect eating day.” So, your options are to start-over tomorrow, or the following Monday (no wonder we hate Mondays), or to accept the lie that you just can’t do it.

Where did this belief come from? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s not a helpful one!

Several years ago I read a book about about balanced nutrition and the author made a statement that stuck with me. He said, “If you make a poor choice, you are only your next meal or snack away from being back on track.”

WHAT?? That’s genius! You mean I don’t have to fall into the trap of eating more crap because I feel guilty for blowing it in the first place? I can hit the restart button with my next meal or snack choice?

This principle, which I am cleverly calling the “You-are-only-your-next-choice-away-from-being-back-on-track” principle, can be applied to EVERY goal we set.

We all make mistakes. BUT…we can minimize the impact by how we choose to respond (phew).

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42.2

A few weeks ago, I ran my fifth full marathon. (For those of you who don’t know, a marathon is 42.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles).

A marathon is a test of physical strength and endurance not only during the race itself but also in the weeks and months leading up to the event. I’ve learned a lot during these times about how the training experience mirrors other aspects of my life. During a long run, I often battle the desire to quit. My muscles are screaming; I’m hot, tired, and thirsty, and I wonder why I’m doing it in the first place.

Similarly, in the process of establishing my own business and following my dreams, I have often fought the desire to quit. The bills are “screaming”. I’m overwhelmed, confused, and afraid. And I wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea.

But my training has taught me that endurance pays off….that there are times when my immediate goal may be to simply put one foot in front of the other. It’s taught me that I CAN submit my “feelings” to my “will” and that I have a choice with every step I take  -quit or keep going. I feel like quitting but I choose to keep going. And every step I manage to take brings me one step closer to my goal.

Shortly after crossing the finish line I realize what I just accomplished. And I’m grateful.

Grateful for all the mornings that I didn’t hit the snooze button.

Grateful for the three hour training runs I didn’t skip.

Grateful for not listening to all the reasons I “couldn’t”, and for the many hills I had to climb.

The very things that make the journey so difficult – the things I have to climb over, push through or leave behind – are the things that make me stronger and prepare me for what is yet to come.

 

(I originally wrote this 10 years ago. I have since completed 3 more full marathons. In my last, I wore a full monkey costume to raise money for charity and because I am crazy).

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Me and my dad.

Sometimes when you don’t know you can’t, you can 

Recently, my niece had her sixth baby (gulp!)
While I was admiring the little nugget and asking how baby’s five siblings were responding to her arrival, my niece told me about something amazing baby had done on her first day of life.
(To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something a brand-new baby shouldn’t be able to do!)
 
“She doesn’t know that she’s not supposed to be able to do that. Nobody told her. So she did it,” I said with a smile. 
 
“Maybe she’s like the bumblebee. At one point, scientists believed it was impossible for a bumblebee to actually fly. But nobody told the bumblebee. So it just flew.”
 
I went on to ask if she knew the story of the student who arrived late to class one day and found two math problems written on the board. Not knowing they were examples of “unsolved” statistics problems, he mistook them for part of a homework assignment, jotted them down, and solved them.*
 
Brand-new babies. 
Bumblebees.
Belated arrivals. 
 
Because sometimes when you don’t know you can’t, you can.
 
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(*The student was George Dantzig)