Posts Tagged ‘Martha Beck’

Annoying Relatives: If You Can’t Beat Them, Make Fun of Them

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m multi-talented: I can talk and piss you off at the same time. ~T-shirt

Holidays are a fun time to spend with family members and friends.  Except when the crazy, boring and/or cranky ones show up . . . the ones that nag you about being too fat, too thin, too single or the passive-aggressive jerks who generously lavish you and everyone else with backhanded compliments. They are not fun.  Yet there they are at all the big family gatherings co-mingled among the peeps you do like. They’re like those big Brazil nuts (that NO ONE likes) in the cocktail nut bowl mixed in with the yummy cashews, almonds and pecans, only you can’t pick them out and leave them on the end table and hope the dog comes by and makes them disappear.

They’re there and you brace yourself for their annoyingness.  I believe you should avoid annoying relatives the vast majority of the time, but there are times when you choose to tolerate them.  On these occasions, it’s helpful to turn family drama into fun with your family.  But how? My teacher, Martha Beck, came up with a brilliant solution, she calls it Dysfunctional Family Bingo.

Heres how you play: first you will need additional players. Conspire with a few of your friends who are also dreading certain Brazil nut type relatives and friends during the holidays.  Each player creates a 5×5 card and fills in the squares with scenarios and situations that make them cringe and that they expect from the relatives in question. For example, you know your sister-in-law will come into the kitchen every half hour to ask what’s taking so long to get the meal ready, and, without offering any help, she will remind you of the starving masses waiting on your self in the other room for you to feed them . . .your cousin will dredge up the summer you were fourteen and got caught, repeatedly, making out with that boy who was always up to no good and get your mom all worked up about it again. . .Your brother’s science fiction obsessed twins will get stuck in the laundry chute and destroy your blow dryer while attempting to access the fourth dimension . . .These anticipated scenarios earn a place on the card.  Every time a family member does the expected thing that makes you want to fashion a noose just for them, check it off on your card.  Keep your phone handy and text your friends when each event occurs or simply wait until you can claim Bingo! Whatever cracks you up the most.

Now instead of dreading these people and events, you kind of look forward to them because you agree with your friends that whoever gets Bingo first (or has the most spots filled in) gets treated to a lunch by the others. Let the games and craziness begin.


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.

Forget Dieting: Fill Yourself Up Before You Eat

I see far too many people go into restrictive mode when they want to shed some pounds.  If you find food pleasurable and you are getting a great deal of your total daily pleasure from food, restricting food means you are restricting your pleasure.  Yikes!  This is especially true if you feel you are addicted to certain foods. Instead of restricting your pleasure, I highly recommend adding alternate, inedible sources of pleasure that you find truly satisfying.  Dropping the restrictive mentality and adopting one of plenty will not only help you lose weight, it will help you maintain it.  Whether you’re telling yourself you can’t have a certain type of food or you limit your food intake (based on anything besides your own body’s satiety cues), “willpower” will only take you so far then dump you in the woods naked, alone and bewildered, wondering what the hell went wrong.  This method of temporary weight loss usually leaves its practitioners feeling angry, sad and shameful, not to mention severely self-critical. Ironically, most people pursue this avenue (in some cases, more than once) convinced that they will end up thinner, and, therefore, happier.  If you are intimately familiar with what I’m talking about, then I invite you to consider this suggestion: fill yourself up before you eat.

To help you fill up before you eat, start by checking in with yourself before you take a bite of anything.  Are you physically hungry?  (for chronic dieters, this may be a difficult question to answer as many diets prescribe what and when to eat based on schedules and food choices that have nothing to do with the dieter’s own hunger and satiety cues). If you answer yes, then eating is what you truly need to be satisfied in that moment (ideally you are hungry, not famished).  If you are not physically hungry, pay attention to what you are feeling.  If you are feeling bored, sad, angry or frustrated, see if you can sit with that feeling for even fifteen or thirty seconds without eating, that may be enough time for you to locate the thought causing the feeling (a feeling is ALWAYS caused by a thought, if you want proof, check out life coach Brooke Castillo’s brilliant Self Coaching 101 tool, while you’re there check out her book If I’m So Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight? it, too, is brilliant  – I teach many of the tools she introduces in it). If you still feel like eating after sitting a while with your thoughts and feelings, go ahead, go to town – you’ve already extracted the real benefit from the exercise:  dis-identifying from your thoughts long enough to observe them.  When practiced consistently, the thoughts surface and food starts to lose it’s emotional charge.

Observing your thoughts, you may discover that what you really want is something like entertainment, love or approval.  Food is a very poor substitute for any of these things. How do you know?  Because after you’re done eating, you still have not satisfied your emotional hunger, so the next time the real need or want arises you ignore it and eat, repeating the cycle ad nauseam until the buttons start popping off your blouse, and not in a sexy Pussycat Dolls kind of way. Filling yourself up with the very things you truly want and need is the only real solution to this situation.  If, for example, you feel you are lacking love, then give yourself love.  This is accomplished by doing what you love and surrounding yourself with people and things you love. One of the ways I fill myself up is by watching the sunset from my second story deck – I have an ocean view there, and I truly appreciate it when I make the time to do this. Others may consider buying new music or making time to read a book without interruption a real treat.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be satisfying and inedible. Saying no is another good way to show yourself some love if you always put yourself last and it is ultimately way more satisfying than devouring half a chocolate cake.  So, if you are eating but you really want to let your best friend know how much she upset you when she mentioned your collection of granny panties in front of the super cute guy you just started dating, drop the fork and give her a call right now to get it off your chest (or, better yet, do The Work or use another thought dissolving tool such as Self Coaching 101, mentioned above, on whatever thoughts you have about the situation.).

Filling yourself up before you eat will not only make you more inclined to eat for fuel and satiety (thereby causing your body to release excess weight), but you will also feel much more satisfied and peaceful – the very feelings so many people hope to achieve through weight loss. Interesting.

The Thing You Must Do

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

 ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

This weekend I attended a gathering that consisted of some of the most amazing people I have ever met, including my teacher, Martha Beck. I could write an entire post (or 5) about this experience alone. But I will limit myself to just this one–for now. One of the things I learned this weekend is that it is vitally important to be around supportive, encouraging people, especially when you are about to dive head first into your deepest fears. My longstanding fear has been deep intimacy, be it romantic, friendly or familial. This weekend I discovered that the very thing I was afraid to do, risk being a completely vulnerable weepy mess, was the very thing that set me free and allowed me to experience a profoundly deep connection with others. Consequently, I found myself sharing an intensely real and moving moment with people I had only met hours before. Now I know I can do vulnerable again and again until I’m a complete pro at it, but there had to be the ice-breaker.

There is something you must do, too. Maybe it’s leaving an abusive spouse, taking control of your health, leaving a well-paying (but soul-sucking) job, or finally telling the guy at the bagel shop he’s been getting your order wrong for the last 6 months that you’ve been coming in to the joint. I know, it’s highly personal, very risky and super scary. It’s easy to shrug off this responsibility and claim that it is either too much trouble or that you are happy enough, but you and I both know that is some stinky bull caca. The truth is that doing the thing you think you cannot do is the only way you are going to accomplish all the extraordinary things in life you know you must. It is part of your life’s work and, like it or not, no one can do it for you–even if they could, they wouldn’t do it as brilliantly as you.

I highly recommend doing the thing you think you cannot do with the encouragement and support of your people, the people who think you can do anything (if you are surrounded by discouraging people, the thing you must do now is stop going to them for support – that’s like trying to draw blood from a turnip, it’s not going to happen my friend). Reconnect with your people if you have lost touch. If you feel you are without your people and feel you are alone or misunderstood – I promise you, you are neither. Know that you are in good company. At the very least, know that I am right beside you doing the thing that scares the crap out of me. Underneath the fear there’s a part of you that’s really excited about this, right? That’s what following your bliss feels like. I suggest you see where it takes you.

Does This Thought Make Me Look Fat?

May 26, 2009 1 comment

When we focus on the areas of our bodies that we are least satisfied with, we are chasing disappointment. For me, chasing disappointment means fixating with laser-like focus on my thighs and ignoring the rest of my body and being. Even people we consider the paragons of beauty and confidence find fault with themselves (Kate Winslet has been quoted as saying “I am going to start loving my backside.”). As long as we live in the world of form –the material world– and inhabit physical bodies, we will never discover perfection. Ever. My teacher, Martha Beck, illustrated the conundrum inherent in pursuing perfection brilliantly when she asked one of her students to “find the perfect stick.” What is the perfect stick? for what purpose? Ask ten different people, get ten different answers. Who gets to decide what the perfect thigh or backside looks like? Well, you do. This is great news if you are an enlightened, self-realized individual who sees the perfection inherent in your fundamental being, but if you’re anything like me, then you have at least one feature or quality that draws out your less evolved tendency to criticize.

If you insist on hosting a scavenger hunt of your features and qualities, I suggest you seek out the best in yourself. I’m not suggesting repeating a bunch of positive affirmations–not right off the bat, anyway, that’s way too advanced. Without first getting rid of the nasty beliefs you have about yourself (and if you are beating yourself up over any part of you, you hold nasty beliefs about yourself), positive affirmations are just platitudes that will, at best, annoy the crap out of you, or worse, reinforce your limiting beliefs. The good news is that those limiting beliefs are full-blown lies. This is how you know: a lie feels like imprisonment, the truth feels like freedom. When you concentrate on your least favorite feature, what are you thinking? Do you feel free?  If you answered no, please keep reading. . .

The first step in ridding yourself of a painful belief system is identifying the thoughts that feed it. This can be tricky as you are most likely telling yourself the same dreck over and over again with little to no awareness. Pay attention to your self-talk. Are you kind to yourself? Or do you talk down to and criticize yourself? Self-talk is just a thought. We get to choose whether we buy into it or not. If it’s a good feeling thought, keep it. If you find a stressful thought, question it. One of my favorite tools for taking a painful thought to task is called The Work and it was created by another one of my fabulous teachers, Byron Katie. She provides free instructions and examples to anyone interested in learning this tool on her website.

Once you are free from the torment of your limiting beliefs about your body and being, you can move on to discovering and celebrating the best within and without you. You can take the focus away from what you lack and fear and put your attention on the abundance of what you have and love. When I do this, I am always happy to discover just how many fine qualities I actually possess (physically, mentally and spiritually)–I just have to stop thigh-gazing long enough to notice them. I also discover that I can choose to make improvements to features I find less fabulous, which is very different from (and far more empowering than) complaining about them. I encourage you to seek out your finest qualities, too. Start a list and keep adding to it. No feature or attribute is too trivial to note. If you have a sexy voice, sweet dimple or elegant pinky-toe, put it on the list. You’re witty? Write it down. Keep adding to the list and before you know it, you will have accumulated a mountain of evidence to support the fact that you are an amazing individual with unique gifts, talents and, yes, gorgeous features. The sooner you discover this, the sooner you can put all these fine qualities to good use and share them with the world at large.

OMG! I just realized I’m not perfect (again . . .)

January 29, 2009 3 comments

I’m coming into my 3rd week of my Martha Beck life coach training program and  LOVING it.  I’ve heard from a few people who went through the program to be prepared to deal with my own personal shit as it will come up, but I was very cocky about how evolved I have become (ha! ) and was like, well, maybe others will have to deal with their stuff, but not me, no way, I’ve dealt with it, I’m cool

From the first week of training, I hit my classmates up for an opportunity to allow me to practice my weight loss coaching tools and skills on them.  I was ELATED when seven of them were interested in letting me help them.  I am working with them now and I am learning a lot about coaching – and about myself.
I went in very excited to help my courageous classmates face whatever limiting thoughts they might have which is preventing them from maintaining their ideal weight, I am working very hard putting a program together and even harder to making sure I am giving them the personal attention I believe they deserve.  In the process, I crossed over from enthusiasm to compulsion (if you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know this is a theme with me).  Luckily, I have tools to deal with this situation and I’m learning (just now) that I’m never going to “arrive” at some ideal version of who I think I’m supposed to be: a person free of issues.  I realize this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation and, intellectually, I had no problems recognizing this truth, but my thoughts about it were a different story.
So, I’m conducting this class on weight loss and I realize I am not practicing what I’m preaching: I’m letting a lot of  time pass before I eat, therefore making myself very hungry before my next meal, I was unconsciously eating (ironically, while I was on my laptop writing about being mindful when we eat . . .) and I was generally putting my needs last on my own priority list – this is definitely bad – oh, and judging myself.  Then I start thinking, oh no! my classmates and  my clients are going to discover that I am a hypocrite, a fraud and that what I’m teaching doesn’t really work at all, because check me out, I’m totally falling apart right before the world’s eyes. So there it is, I was coming face to face with the shit I so arrogantly denied I owned.  I started thinking that in order to coach others well, my life had to be perfect, and, of course, my life isn’t perfect.  I had just forgotten that I was training to be a life coach, not a robot.  I had also forgotten that I am – and will always be – a work in progress, continually growing (which  comes about by being challenged) and continually learning.
Good news,  I did not fall apart.  Better news, I located the thought that was causing me a lot of grief and it was time to shut it down and I knew that was well under my control.  Yup, it was time to get out my The Work in Progress (you can learn more about The Work here) document and do my thing.  Here’s how it went down:

My original stress-producing thought: I can’t be an effective and helpful coach when I am struggling with my own issues.

Is this true: No


When I think this thought I feel: tight all over, limited, sad, like a fraud, secretive, imprisoned


Without this thought I feel: free, light, real, connected, helpful, empowered

Turnarounds to the original thought:

I can’t be effective and helpful with my own issues when I am struggling to be an effective and helpful coach.  

This feels truer. Here’s why:


  •  by focusing on others and their challenges without paying attention to what that brings up for me, I am being inauthentic and ultimately not as effective or helpful a coach as I can be.
  •  I would be better off just allowing myself to be effective and helpful rather than struggling to be anything.
  • If I’m going to “live it to give it” I need to be focused on ridding myself of my limiting beliefs if I’m going to help others rid themselves of their limiting beliefs.
  • My goal is to help my clients, whether they approve of me is none of my business
  • In order to help my clients, I need to first clean up my thoughts about what my role as a life coach is – and I know it’s not to be an unrealistic model of perfection.






I can be an effective and helpful coach when I am struggling with my own issues.

This feels truer. Here’s why:


  • I’m human. I’m going to have issues. I had better deal with them, even if I have to struggle a bit.
  • My experiences and practice working through my challenges will give me valuable insight  and knowledge when working with my clients
  •   It’s when I don’t admit I’m struggling with my own issues that I risk not being effective and helpful
  •   The more I struggle with and solve my own issues, the more evidence I have to help my clients see they are capable of the same results.


After I worked on that thought, I read what my main man Eckhart Tolle had to say about it in the The New Earth: 

You become most powerful in whatever you do if the action is performed for its own sake rather than as a means to protect, enhance or conform to your role identity. . . .Give up defining yourself–to yourself and others . . . Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as a field of conscious Presence.
So concerning myself with how I come off as a coach is a colossal waste of time and energy and serves no one. What does matter is that I am pure and honest in my intent to help others with the skills and talents I do possess and that I show up for them as a person first.  I may have to remind myself to dis-identify from my role again (maybe many times), but as with anything worth doing well (not perfectly), the more I practice, the better I will become at it.  

It never ceases to amaze me how powerful thought dissolution work is.  I am so grateful for this tool!