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Do You Want to be Fit or Happy? (Don’t Worry, They’re Not Mutually Exclusive)

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Playing on the pole provided on the Denver airport tram

I started working on my fitness goal for 2011 back in November 2010.  Actually, it’s a goal I set for my 40th birthday, which is in March (deadlines are extremely helpful for impulsive and easily distracted people like me!).  My goal is this: I want to pull together a pole routine where I’m actually flowing moves together, so it’s actually a pole dance instead of just a bunch of tricks done independently. I also want my current and new moves to have cleaner, prettier lines than they did when I made the video 39 pole tricks for my 39th birthday.  In order to achieve this I am working on even more specific goals: improving my flexibility, strength and stamina.  Even within those goals there are smaller goals and so on. But no matter what my physical/material goal is, the real reason I want to accomplish my goal is so that I can feel certain feelings. In this case, as I pole dance my way into my 40s, I want to feel accomplished, powerful, capable and confident. It just so happens that I feel those things when I’m pursuing my goal. Notice, I didn’t say I feel those feelings when I have achieved my goal, I feel those feelings while I’m in the process of achieving them.  In fact, pursuing my goals has landed me with people and in situations where I get to experience more feelings that I like including happiness, connection and motivation.  I am surrounded by athletes and coaches who inspire and support me and I get to work out a lot, training in various sports including swimming, contortion, strength training and, of course, pole. This is my version of nirvana.

Committing myself to a goal that I enjoy pursuing not only gives me the long-term payoff of becoming a better pole athlete, but it also gives me short-term gratification. Just knowing that I put the time and energy into getting what I want makes me feel capable, powerful and accomplished and because I love physical activity so much I feel confident and happy during and after my workouts even though I am still in the process of achieving the end result.  This is not to say that I don’t feel challenged or frustrated during my workouts at times, it’s all part of the process I enjoy overall.

If you are having a hard time getting motivated or excited about your goals, it may be that they’re not the right goals for you. Start with the end in mind: how do you want to feel? Take an inventory of all the activities, situations, people and things past and present that make you feel that way. Those are the clues that will inform your true, concrete goals. Your goals should inspire and motivate you, not drain and depress you. The best strategy is to just start doing something NOW that feels good to you –I don’t mean indulging in anxious compulsive or addictive behavior which is escaping, I mean the opposite, doing something you love which is grounding. When you feel good you are motivated and make better decisions about what else will make you feel genuinely good. Don’t worry if what feels good now doesn’t seem logical, it only needs to make sense in your gut.  Trust that and the goals you come up with will be the ones you truly wish to pursue with passion, intensity and tenacity. Those are the qualities you will need to achieve your goals and get the feelings you want out of them.

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Do You Choose Meaning or Happiness?

September 27, 2010 1 comment

If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costumes and come back as a new character. . .Would you slow down? Or speed up? ~ Chuck Palahniuk

This weekend I read part of an almost 2000 page suicide note.  It was fascinating, well researched, and even funny in parts. The author of the note, 35 year old Mitchell Heisman, killed himself in an attempt to test whether life has meaning or not and whether there is anything in life that can be judged as important. He was taking nihilism to the next level. I am impressed with this man’s drive and ambition, but I’m disappointed because I will never learn the conclusion to his hypothesis that life is meaningless because, well, he’s dead.

My guess is that if Heisman had survived the experiment he might have realized that there was at least one thing of meaning in his life: the 1,905 page polemic he wrote about how life is probably meaningless. This idea was important to him and he was compelled to leave behind an epic ebook for free distribution to let as many of us in on this concept as possible. Is this ironic? that a man is willing to take his own life to prove that life is meaningless? or concrete proof that life is meaningless? A man is willing to die for an idea he finds important. . .meh.  I’m not entirely sure.  What I suspect is that Heisman really wanted his life to have meaning, and that he believed meaning would somehow justify his existence and that would ultimately make him happy—otherwise, why hassle with proving or disproving his hypothesis? At some time or other we all wonder why we’re here and, perhaps, wait for something amazing to happen to us like receiving a calling, falling in love, getting our big break or winning the lottery. People can spend a whole lifetime just waiting for and feverishly expecting meaning to happen to them.

Right now you may feel your life has no meaning because you’ve lost a job, a spouse, a house, your pre-baby figure or your sense of self—maybe all of the above.  What if it didn’t matter if your life had meaning? What if for right now you just did the best you are capable of doing at something you enjoy doing? If seeking meaning is making you miserable, it may be a good time to reevaluate your goals, get focused on what it is you really want, commit to it, forget about the outcome and just do what feels right at this moment.  If you connect those moments and all you can say at the end of your life is that you only had a string of experiences that moved you and had contact with people who passed the time pleasurably with you, would that be so bad? Would you rather be happy or pursue meaning? I don’t believe there is a right answer, only a choice that you are left to make.

Turn Crappy Into Happy

June 22, 2009 3 comments

I know there’s at least one thing on your current to do list that you are dreading to tackle (and you’ve probably found many creative ways to put it off for the last few weeks).  Just thinking about doing this thing makes you feel cranky, lethargic or both.  Instead of getting it done, you end up spending hours online in your favorite celebrity gossip chat room, eating a pint of ice cream or zoning out in front of Gilligan Island reruns.  This is neither productive nor fun.  Good news, there’s a way to turn this crappy situation into a happy one.  Actually, there are three ways and they were created and taught to me as tools by my brilliant teacher, Martha Beck. Pick the one that works best for your circumstance:

  • Bag it: Does this item really need to get done at all?  Has so much time elapsed since you put it on your list that it’s practically irrelevant whether it gets done or not?  Will the laws of gravity and inertia stop working if you don’t get this thing checked off the list?  What are the REAL (not imagined) repercussions if you just kick this item to the curb?  If you can dump it, dump it.  You will feel an immediate sense of relief if this is the right solution for you, but if this thing must get done so that order in the universe is maintained then read on . . .
  • Barter it/Buy it: Believe it or not there is someone out there (someone you may know) who actually gets their jollies doing the very thing you’d trade for dinner with Hannibal Lecter.  This person may have an item on their to do list that they hate, but you enjoy (or at least don’t mind) doing – trade tasks. I just bartered with a friend: she’s helping me organize a set of tools for a class I will be teaching (she is very good at and enjoys setting up systems, while I’d prefer to belly flop from a high dive) and I am helping her jumpstart and brainstorm ideas for her business name (something she does not enjoy, but I think is fun and exciting). If you can’t trade it, consider hiring someone to do it for you – if it’s so important that you couldn’t bag it, it must be worth a few bucks to you, right?  I have heard happy reports from people who have used virtual assistants to help them with everything from planning a party to writing up a business plan.  Google virtual assistants for more information.
  • Better it: Okay, so you can’t bag it and you can’t get anyone else to do it, you are the only candidate for the task. Make it more palatable by breaking up the task into smaller tasks and then give yourself a disproportionately large reward for completing each baby step of the task. For example: As I mentioned, I hate organizing things, but if I had to do it I might start by limiting myself to only 15 minutes of engaging in the task a day (less time if that made me feel nauseated) and I might start by using that 15 minutes to simply focus on the task at hand, taking no action at all or simply jotting down a few ideas of how I might go about what must be done (if I felt inspired, I would take it farther, but at least I have my baseline of what I will accomplish, and it’s super simple).  Then, as a reward for getting even that much accomplished, I might treat myself with a movie, buy a new book and take time out of my busy day to sit and read it or take a leisurely walk outside on a nice day (make it a non-edible treat, especially if you are dealing with weight/food issues). Martha recommends giving yourself an even bigger reward (a day at the spa, perhaps? A full detail on your car?) when you finally clear that item from your list. I concur wholeheartedly.  For more detailed information on self-rewards, check out Martha Beck’s post How To Be Richly Rewarded. Spending just a few minutes every day on a task may not seem like it will make a difference, but I promise you, it does.  Add a reward on top of it and you may even be excited to tackle that dreaded task.

If you are not doing what you love at least 80% of the time, you are not serving at anywhere near your full potential.  None of us get to benefit from your amazing talents and skills if you’re engaged in something you consider drudgery. Get that silly thing off your list ASAP and get back to doing the things that make you feel alive and energized, only then will you be able to deliver on the valuable goods you have to offer.

Just fine!

January 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I was listening to my ultra favorite song of the moment Just Fine by Mary J. Blige yesterday and resonating with every word she belted out. It’s a staple song on my “Feel Good” playlist – I listen to it when doing my resistance training. I often start dancing spontaneously during my workouts and this song ALWAYS makes me want to bust a move!

I had a fabulous week – here are just a few highlights . . .
– I’m on week 8 (the final week) of my self-directed MBSR program and the most valuable thing I have learned is that the benefits of investing the time and energy to practice meditation daily for 45 minutes  far outweigh the consequences of NOT investing that time and energy.  Everything is just so much better: I think more clearly, I’m far more patient, more focused, more present, more connected, I am not easily bothered or frustrated, I feel more compassionate and I’m just plain happier. I get all that for the price of 45 minutes of stillness a day, that’s a hell of a bargain.  I plan to continue this practice indefinitely with a baseline practice of 20 minutes of meditation a day, up to 45 minutes a day.
– I started my Martha Beck life coach certification training this week.  If I had any doubts before about becoming a life coach and helping people design the best life they can possibly imagine for themselves and then execute it (I didn’t) I now know for sure this is exactly what I need to be doing. I’m getting to know my classmates and, already, I am inspired and energized by them.  If you’ve never been around “your people” (people who share your energy, interests and even your life’s “calling”) I encourage you to drop everything and go seek them out and share some space with them, even if it’s virtual space!  It just feeds your soul.  Next week I have my first class with Martha Beck and I can’t adequately express how excited I am to be learning from one of the smartest and most insightful people in the field of personal development. I am really looking forward to that!
– Also, I finally stepped up and decided to help my eldest daughter (in kindergarten) with her homework.  As I may have shared in previous posts, I hate doing things FOR people, but love doing things that HELP people.  Until tonight I saw my daughter’s homework as work I did for my daughter (projects that required heavy parental involvement like making trips to the arts and crafts store, choosing and purchasing supplies and pulling images and/or info off the web, printing it, etc . . . btw, I really, really don’t like doing arts and crafts, so there is that factor, too). After being notified by my daughter’s teacher that she needs some major help with her writing skills, I decided it may be a good idea to give this homework thing another shot.  I was surprised to find myself getting into it,  I actually really enjoyed helping my girl learn how to write! As I watched her trace with focus and determination the numbers I outlined for her,  I understood: I wasn’t doing anything for her, I was helping her do something for herself, I was helping her with a skill she would use for the rest of her life, one of many essential skills she will learn that will allow her to pursue whatever dream she is called to follow.  That’s pretty important.  Now, I’m still cringing about the upcoming shoebox I must procure and decorate for the class valentine’s day party and the cards I need to purchase and address to each of her classmates . . . but maybe I can outline the names for her to trace and, because of this and continued help, next year she’ll be addressing cards to her first grade classmates confidently, all by herself.
Tomorrow we remember a great leader and teacher. I found a quote by Dr. King that speaks perfectly to the theme of why I found my week so satisfying.  I am all at once inspired, motivated and humbled by his words:
All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

I am constantly engaged in the work of uplifting and bettering myself, because I believe my Highest Calling is to serve a purpose that reaches far beyond myself by using whatever skills and talents I have been given and encouraged to develop.  I am so fortunate to have the love and support of family and friends (old and new) and access to teachers who want little more than to bring out the best in their students, so they can help others do the same and those others will go on to bring the best they have to offer to their life’s work (whether it’s finding a cure for a life threatening illness, creating works of art or raising happy healthy children – all worthwhile, important endeavors),  when one person does well, we all do well.  We are connected like that.  Plus, it feels really good to do what you love and to love what you do!
And on that note, here’s my girl Mary J. to sum up my thoughts and feelings as I wrap up this super great week:
Feels so good when you’re doing all the things that you want to do
Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new
Keep your head up high
In yourself, believe in you, believe in me
Having a really good time I’m not complaining
and Ima still wear a smile if it’s raining
I gotta enjoy myself regardless
I appreciate life
I’m so glad that it’s mine

So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
When I’m walking past the mirror
Ain’t worried about you and what you’re gonna do
I’m a lady and so I must stay classy
Gotta keep it hot, keep it together if I want to get better
See I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just fine, fine, fine, fine, fine . . .

My fabulous week!

November 19, 2008 Leave a comment