Progress, NOT Perfection

 
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Do you feel ready to make BIG changes in your life and yet you are waiting for the *perfect* time to implement those changes? Perfectionism is a plague. The need to feel, be or wait until everything is *perfect* only ends up creating excuse after excuse after excuse. If you really think that there will ever be the perfect timing, circumstances, or anything else to start along your personal wellness journey, no matter what your goals, hopes and dreams may be, then you will find that you will never make it happen. 

Perfectionism is loaded with fear. It is loaded with negative self-talk and feels safest and most in control when it is ruminating on the fantasy of change rather than on allowing yourself to take imperfect action towards change. Change is a process and requires many steps. The change process involves your emotions, mindset and an ability to shift your perceptions about what you want. Having a BIG vision is helpful, but when it comes to putting the change you want into action, it is most helpful to start with small, doable steps. When you consistently place your focus, effort and mindset into completing these small steps, you inevitably will create progress.

Perfectionism will tell you lies such as, “you will begin your personal wellness journey or work on your vision and goals after the trip, the wedding, the weekend, this or that holiday…” only to have something else that will trip up your ability to be *perfect* only causing a constant delay of just starting. It is imperative to change your mindset, change your focus and change your perspective to one of “try, one of today is the day, to one of imperfect action is still action.”

Here’s the cool thing about taking imperfect action, even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you want, there is still outcome. Even if your goal is not at 100% by your desired timeline, it’s way more likely to be some % closer than if you were waiting around for just the right time to begin. Let’s say your goal is to eat 7-10 vegetables and fruits per day or to exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 days/ week or to take a yoga class 2 x’s a week. Let’s say you reach the goal 60-80% of the time each week, how would that feel? How would it feel in comparison to not setting the goal, to not create and move towards your action plan and still be waiting for the *perfect* circumstances to begin your personal wellness journey? Yeah, that’s right, not so great! Whereas 60-80% is pretty great given that change is hard and life is busy and constantly distracting.

Let your new mantra become, TRY. Let your mantra be: what ONE thing can I do today to help move me in the direction of my goal? Let you mantra be: I can do it, I will do it, I have to do it no matter what. Today is the day to start. Today is the day to take any action, no matter how small. Today is the day to set out on the journey towards the change you want. Start with your vision, then set your goals, then create your actions steps, then create a plan and then do one thing every single day that moves you in the direction of the life that you want to live. I know sounds simple, but it’s definitely not easy. Perfectionism does not just go away without a fight… This process requires daily focus, review and action. This process requires dedication and pushing through many difficult emotions, thoughts and fears.

Motivation can be hard to come by so having a determined mindset is where you begin. Your journey is yours. It does not have to be *perfect*. If you are suffering from perfectionism, ask yourself why. What happened in your life that made you feel as though being *perfect* was the only way? Ask yourself what messages you received about being *perfect* that have led to feeling stuck, stagnant and the inaction that is happening in your life at this time as a result. Please be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your perfectionism is not useful. When you try, even not knowing what the exact outcome will be, know that it will feel awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning. The concept of being *perfect* at all is a myth. No one is perfect. Offer yourself a moment to acknowledge this and then decide what imperfect action you will take TODAY! Let me know what action you do take and how it feels, I’d love to hear from you!

4 Tools to Create Self-Regulation

 
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Self-regulation is the ability to regulate your own behaviors, actions and choices consistently. Self-regulation is a personal strength and for many of us it is a strength that is, well… a work in progress. The ability to moderate your needs, actions and choices from a whole-person perspective—mind, body, spirit—can be a challenge. The good news is that self-regulation is a strength and if you think of it like a muscle, you can make it stronger with repetition and practice. It is a strength that can be honed, developed and utilized in order create how you want to feel about yourself.

These four tools that I list here will help you to establish, create and build upon your self-regulation. These tools are applicable to any area of your life that you would like to feel more in control. If you find you are not following through like you’d like to in certain areas of your life, it will be of benefit to you to strengthen your self-regulation skills. OR if you find that you are excessively rigid anywhere in your life, this indicates an imbalance as well. Over-regulation and obsession with perfection is not healthy either. Living in an overly regulated space is generally not sustainable and it creates unnecessary internal stress and discomfort.

So how do you go about increasing your self-regulation skills? The following are four practical tools that will help you grow in your ability to self-regulate. These four tools are useful and actionable and will offer you the best place to begin.

1.    Create a Personalized Plan

When you create a personalized plan, you set yourself up for success. The ability to regulate your behaviors can be hard. If your goal is to heal your relationship with food, your body and yourself but you don’t have any type of plan for how to make that happen, you will not have anything to regulate. This leaves your goals merely a daydream and you will be stuck in a space of fantasizing about what could happen tomorrow. On the other side of the coin is an overly rigid plan. These could include a restrictive diet plan, excessive exercise plan or other extreme measures. This doesn’t allow you to grow in self-regulation because you are relying on an someone else’s external plan to tell you what to do for often just a limited period of time.

When you create your own personal plan to grow self-regulation, and in sticking with the example of healing emotional eating, losing weight or improving your body image, your plan will need to set manageable guidelines. Your plan will need to have small changes that are actionable and realistic. Your plan will need to offer you space to grow (meaning you will have to learn from mistakes) and make the changes that will allow you to meet your goals and will be sustainable over time. Your plan will need to have opportunities for you to reflect and make shifts and changes as needed. Your plan is yours. Not your friends, your moms, your co-workers, but yours. Your plan will need to fit your personal needs. Your plan will need to offer you space to create growth through self-reflection and self-awareness. Your plan will encourage the shift to create the ability to self-regulate your own needs in mind, body and spirit.

To begin, you need to identify what you want, why you want it. Determine your personal values in life and how you connect these to what you want in order to help support yourself and create the change you want. Then set specific (meaning measurable), doable (they will actually fit into your current life), and desirable (meaning you truly WANT it) goals. Each goal needs action steps that you can take daily, no matter how small, so that you are creating movement and momentum consistently towards what you want. Create a timeline for reflection, reevaluation and what to do when you achieve a goal. Your ability to create this personalized plan for YOU in and of itself demonstrates an ability to practice self-regulation!

2.    Recognize Where You Sabotage Your Goals

When you bring awareness to where you are sabotaging yourself, you have two choices. The first is to stop the self-sabotage and the second is to give up. Ok, maybe it’s not that simple. But if the option of stopping the self-sabotage sounds like the more appealing option than giving up (which is equal to giving in to any negative beliefs about yourself: I can’t do it, I’ll never change, it’s too hard, I will fail, why bother, what’s the point, blah blah blah…), it will require some work. This work includes self-reflection and a decision to change your thoughts, beliefs about yourself and your actions. I call this self-saboteur the Deal Maker, if you want to read more about that concept, I have a chapter dedicated to it in my book, or you can read more on my blog here.

For today, what you need to know is that this part of yourself will sound convincing in its effort to foil your plans to make the change in your life that you desire. If your goal is to create greater health, to eat healthy, to move your body more, to lose weight, to save money, to change careers… no matter what it is, if you are not fully committed, you set yourself up for self-sabotage. Some examples of self-sabotaging thinking are “I have to be perfect,” or “I will fail” which only leads to the feeling of why bother or what’s the point. Your internal Deal Maker will try to put off taking action towards your goals and it uses these negative beliefs about yourself to keep the lie and resulting inaction going. Your internal Deal Maker preys on your fears. When you can highlight for yourself the exact thoughts, beliefs and fears that derail you, you can challenge them, work with them, and change the way you respond to them. When you are aware of the roadblocks that show up and you struggle to push through and past them, when you see that you are in your own way, you can do something about them. This is a daily practice. When you can understand where you tend to self-sabotage and see the common excuses and fears that your Deal Maker uses to keep you from taking action, you can recognize that they are not valid. You can recognize that there is another way. This leads me right into the next step: MINDSET!

3.    Change Your Mindset

When you change your mindset, you change everything. When you place something into your mindset before you plan to do it and you spend time visualizing yourself doing it, you are FAR more likely to do it. When you leave your plans in a fantasy space, you are FAR less likely to take action. Mindset is a decision that you make ahead of time. Mindset is a shift in perspective and it’s intimately tied to self-regulation and self-discipline. However, it is not discipline that you might think of in terms of punishment or consequences. I am talking about reward based discipline because making progress and meeting your goals feels amazing!

One of the most important elements of creating a focused mindset is the perspective you bring to what you want. If you view hard work as draining, overwhelming, tiring and inaccessible to you, it will only be another barrier to address. If you view hard work as rewarding, building momentum, creating the change you desire and freeing you to live the life you want, then you are well on your way to achieving what you want. When you change your perspective you change your whole life! Take time daily to create a mindset of action. Visualize why you want what you want and connect with the belief that what you want is possible. And this leads me right to the final tool to build healthy and balanced self-regulation skills. 

4.    Create an Accountability System

The only person you can truly be accountable to is you. When you are “held accountable” to others, it implies the possibility of punishment or reward. When you are accountable to yourself, your personal follow through IS the reward. Your progress IS the reward. Creating a life you love and managing your life in a way that feels as though you are regulating your behaviors in a way that aligns with what you want IS the reward.

All of that being said, being involved in an accountability group can help maintain your momentum. When you have others to cheer you on or share your struggles, you will feel more connected. This helps you tap into energy reserves that come from feeling supported and encouraged. Begin by setting up a review system for yourself so you initially will know what you want to work towards, what it will take to get there, and any struggles (areas of potential self-sabotage) that may arise. Talk these through within your accountability team. Your accountability team could be peers, friends, family, people you meet in a Facebook group, co-workers, someone from the gym or anyone else who has a vision for their life and is ready to stop dreaming about it and ready to make it happen. If you find you could benefit from additional support hiring a coach or therapist will offer this level of support and accountability as well. When you are consistently taking action towards your goals, you are building the ability to self-regulate. When you share that within a pair, group or team setting you inspire others and receive inspiration to make it happen.

Building self-regulation as an internal strength takes time. If you have struggled with this for a long time, know that it will not happen overnight! Change is hard, growing is often uncomfortable, but it is absolutely worth the effort. When you follow these steps of creating a plan, help yourself get out of your own way, develop a focused mindset and a method of accountability, you will see the changes within your life. The first place to start is always with what you want and why you want it. Reminding yourself often of your ultimate goal will help you make the necessary and at times uncomfortable choices that grow your self-regulation. Every time you choose your plan, you choose to not believe negative thoughts, you don’t respond to your internal fears, you take time to create a healthy mindset and you check in with yourself and your supporters, you are growing your self-regulation muscle! Keep me posted on your self-regulation journey!

How to Take Personal Responsibility for Your Life: Bridging the Gap Between Knowing What to Do and Actually Doing It

 
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Personal responsibility could be loosely defined as “adult-ing.” When you take personal responsibility for your life you are closing the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Have you ever felt as though you missed out on some book or class that we are all supposed to read or take that teaches us how to be an adult? Taking personal responsibility for your life can be tough and there is no special book or class to read or take. It is about taking action and ownership over your life. Taking personal responsibility is about committing to yourself, committing to your goals and committing to doing what it takes to create for yourself what you say you want.

I imagine that in many areas of your life you are actually quite good at this adult-ing thing. Maybe in these areas of your life you may not feel as though you have a choice. Whether it’s showing up to work because, well, you’d get fired if you didn’t—or waking up early to get your kids off to school because if you didn’t you’d be labeled as a bad parent. 

I am sure there are plenty of days you don’t feel like going to work or would rather stay in bed than getting up early to take care of your household responsibilities, but you do it anyway. Why? Most likely there are external forces at play that create a sense of responsibility and obligation, so you show up for those responsibilities. You push through any resistance and get yourself to work—or wake up early and take care of what needs to be taken care of in your household. This is evidence that you are indeed capable of being a responsible, maybe even a high-functioning adult. Somehow this evidence just doesn’t always translate to your own personal goals.

So here’s the big question: if you are able to push through resistance to these adult-ing tasks, why don’t you apply that same push-through motivation to your personal goals—to your health and well-being goals? Good question, right?! The truth is, you always have a choice. So why don’t you show up for yourself the same way you show up for others?

You—and only you—can successfully manage your lifestyle and your behaviors. So long as you blame any external factor on why you are not following through with your personal goals, you are distracting energy away from doing what is necessary to achieve them. Of course time is hard to come by, of course resources might be limited, but the more you focus on these external reasons of what you do or don’t do, the more powerless and out of control you will feel when trying to reach your goals.

Anytime you externalize a problem: “I don’t have enough time to cook/exercise/meditate/read/do self-care…” you increase feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, frustration and stagnancy. On the other side of the coin is taking personal responsibility, “Today I will make time to incorporate cooking/exercise/meditation/reading/doing self-care…into my schedule.” This is taking control over your life. When you take control you allow yourself to experience less stress and frustration. Now this is adult-level problem solving at its best! Taking personal responsibility for your life, your health and your well-being is rising to the occasion and showing up for yourself, no matter what. 

Excuses are always at the root of failing to take personal responsibility. And who do you think loves to make excuses? Your internal Deal Maker! Just a quick reminder, your Deal Maker is the part of yourself that always has excuses in the form of a deal: “I don’t have time right now to exercise, I’ll do it later (deal?).” When later arrives, there’s just another deal…”I have too much to do tonight, I’ll get up early and do it first thing in the morning…tomorrow, (deal?)…” You know quite well you are not going to wake up tomorrow morning if you didn’t this morning! Your Deal Maker is always prepared with another deal. This part of yourself will sabotage your goals over and over and over again. When you show up for yourself, you develop Inner Strength, so you can STOP the negotiations, STOP the excuses and just START. Start somewhere, seriously, anywhere is better than stagnancy and excuses that are getting you nowhere!

When you think about the excuses your internal Deal Maker makes that leave you feeling stuck, lazy and sinks you into frustration-giving-up-mode, what comes up for you? How can you reframe these? What comebacks can you develop for these excuses and deals? Think about the impact these excuses and deals are having on you right now. Think of how they are keeping you from seeing and taking the options that will help you feel and become in control of your life. Do you believe in your potential to do anything you set your mind to? Think about it, how much of a factor are these excuses in derailing the potential of being your best self?

Some other common excuses that are important to be aware of sound something like this: “Yes but…” and “If only…” The next time you hear these words either coming out of your mouth or running through your mind—STOP—write them down and evaluate them. Ask yourself: are these words really the truth or are they just lame-o excuses? Yes, I know I want to go take a walk but I am just too tired…” Or, If only there were more time in the day I would have time to take a walk, time to cook dinner, time to meditate, time for self-care…”

When you take time to discover, uncover and expose these excuses and deals that cause you to feel stuck, you can begin to figure out what you can do about them. Once you are no longer fooled by excuses and deals you can work on releasing them. You can begin to take personal responsibility for your time, effort and energy. You can begin to work more effectively towards self-management.

Avoiding and denying are two big-time defense mechanisms that often come into play with excuses and deals. These defenses will seriously hold you back. These defenses will keep you stuck in the space of perpetually making excuses and deals. What truly is holding you back from taking action towards your goals? Why aren’t you making the changes you say you want? Is it fear? Oh yeah…most likely it’s fear. Luckily, the most useful tool you have to deal with your fear is action. You have to practice feeling your fear and doing it anyway—over and over and over again—until it’s no longer so scary. Address these factors that are holding you back from feeling empowered when it comes to YOUR LIFE and you will begin to gain clarity. Once you understand your excuses and deals, you will want to take action. You will want to push through fears and show up for yourself. You will begin to want to take personal responsibility for all areas of your life.

For the next week, practice writing down the excuses that you hear yourself saying out loud or in your mind. Practice paying attention to, acknowledging, and preparing comebacks to the deals that your internal Deal Maker uses to sabotage your goals. Take action—and take it consistently. Believe in your ability to grow up. Be an adult and take ownership over your life—show up for YOU. One of the harsh truths about being an adult is that no one is going to do anything for you. No one can create the change in your life that you say you want. You have to do this for yourself. However, one of the benefits of being an adult is that you have the ability to ask for your needs to be met. So, if you need support, ask for it! Ask your significant other, friends and family members (or get a health coach!) to be on your team. Ask them to cheer you on. Let them know your goals and why you want to accomplish these goals. Your story just may inspire someone else to elevate their goals and increase their effort to take personal responsibility.

Practice living your priorities. Practice taking personal responsibility for how you choose to spend your time. Be ok with being “imperfect.” Perfectionists lose time excelling at tasks that could require WAY less time for an equally acceptable outcome. Reduce the time-wasters in your life. I surely know I have some favorite go-to time wasters. Assess your day and determine where you might be losing time due to these time-wasters! You don’t have to eliminate them all together, you just can’t let them take over. Consistently remind yourself that your goals are your priority.

Learn to say “no.” When you practice saying no to things you either don’t want to do or don’t have the time to do, you ultimately say yes to yourself! You say yes, this is my time, these are my goals and dreams and I can make them happen. Align with your values and dedicate time, energy and resources to yourself.

Are you ready to start taking personal responsibility for your personal goals? Let me know how you will take personal responsibility for your life today!