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Trash Your Excuses and Recommit!

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Excuses—we’ve all made them at one time or another.

“Work has been very hectic and I just haven’t had time to exercise lately.”

“My child is ill and I’ve not been able to get to the gym or pay much attention to my eating habits.”

“I can’t really afford an exercise program; everything is so expensive here.”

“I’ve been really stressed out about some family drama. I’ll start following my nutrition plan again when things calm down.”

“I’m dealing with a health issue. I’ll focus on getting stronger when the health issue is resolved.”

“My husband doesn’t really like it when I spend so much time working out.”

“I have to travel a lot for work now. I just can’t commit to a regular regimen.”

Here’s the harsh truth: when you allow external forces to sabotage your goals, you forfeit ownership over your present and future self while sending out a message that you don’t truly matter, that your wishes and goals are not important. Unfortunately, people around you receive this message and respond accordingly, be it your spouse, your best friend, a colleague or even a stranger. Cues of defeat, frustration, and low self-worth are emitted from your body language, your voice, your facial expressions, and the words you choose to express yourself. Once you establish this negative pattern, it can be very challenging to take back the reins of your life again, especially if people have become accustomed to your role as constant caretaker, victim, or martyr. The longer you make excuses, the more you rob both yourself and the world of your unique beauty and strength.

When you’ve been mired in the muck of excuses for a while, a total reset is sometimes the best option to getting you back on track. You’re probably not feeling so hot at this point- perhaps a bit defeated, depressed, and discouraged. Instead of sinking even deeper into the bottomless pity pit by half-heartedly telling yourself that, “things will be different tomorrow,” get reacquainted with what you’re really aiming for and why. Real change requires vision, and vision demands your attention. Here are my five recommended steps to improve your chance of long-term success after a bout of excuse-itis. 

 

1. GET CLEAR: Brew yourself a cup of tea and take some time to fill out a Decisional Balance Sheet.  A Decisional Balance Sheet is a tool to record the pros and cons of a potential life shift or habit change, and recognizes both the gains and losses of that change. Having a counseling or coaching professional to guide you through the process can be helpful, but you can also do it yourself as long as you commit to being honest and thorough. Give yourself at least thirty minutes- don’t rush this!

SAMPLE DECISIONAL BALANCE SHEET

 

 

 

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2. DIVINE THE FUTURE: If you make the potential life shift or habit change and stick with it, what will your life look like six months from now? How about a year? What about five years? What long term benefits will you reap from your consistency and efforts? What will you look like and feel like? What people, situations and things might you attract into your life from this change? Sit down in a quiet room a visualize exactly where this change will take you. Envision how you’re going to make this change occur. What will it require of you? See yourself taking action each step of the way, and imagine how you will respond to each challenge you may face.

3.  PUT YOURSELF FIRST:  One of the major reasons women fail at maintaining a program or reaching a goal is GUILT... Guilt about putting themselves first and spending some time away from loved ones. They may think setting aside five hours a week for exercise is selfish, or that training for their first race is self-indulgent, or that sticking with a nutrition plan could inconvenience their family or friends. What happens down the road if you don’t put yourself first in order to make the change you desperately want and need? For example, what if you have a major health issue, like obesity or high blood pressure, but you decide to do nothing about it in order to spend more time with your children? What might skipping out on exercise and meal preparation mean for your kids down the road? What are you teaching them? Think about the consequences of NOT putting yourself first. How might setting your priorities aside harm you and the people you care about? Write it all down. You help NO ONE by denying yourself.

 

4. WRITE A POST-IT FOR YOUR INNER SELF: Self-help gurus have long touted mirror work as a pathway for building a desired future, but up until recently, evidence of its effectiveness was primarily anecdotal. A recent study  conducted by Carnegie Mellon University shows that self-affirmations can actually protect against the negative effects of stress and improve problem-solving performance. To create your own mirror work mantra, write down aspects of your future self in the present tense on a sheet of paper. For instance, if you are running to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health, you may write, “I am a strong, fast long-distance runner and a beacon of good health. I value my health and fitness because I value myself and my family.” Tape your affirmation onto your bathroom mirror and aim to read it aloud several times a day while looking directly at yourself. There’s no need to feel shy or embarrassed- no one else is watching!

 

5. RECOMMIT WITH SUPPORT: Through the Decisional Balance Sheet, you’ve become clear about the benefits and drawbacks of your potential life shift or habit change. Visualization has aided you in imagining how this change will impact your life in the near and distant future. You’ve made a commitment to put yourself first for a change and you’ve written down the consequences of what could happen if you continue to ignore your needs and goals. Through self-affirmations and mirror work, you’ve begun to build a barrier between you and stress while developing a more positive attitude about yourself and your life. Now, it’s time to fully recommit with some support, whether through an online group, a local club or fellowship, or even a group of bootcampers or runners. Build a support network that you can lean on when times get tough, and one that will keep you regularly accountable. Yes, you’ll be doing the heavy lifting, but you never have to go through a big shift alone.

Do you need to recommit to a goal? Are you working on a big life shift after a period of setbacks and excuses? What are your strategies for recommitting to yourself and your desires? Leave your thoughts in the comments section! 

 

 



 

 

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Setting Up Non-Negotiables for Better Health & Wellbeing

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. "Forest bathing" is a great non-negotiable!

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. "Forest bathing" is a great non-negotiable!

It’s a universal conundrum: you’re dead set on adopting a new habit that will inch you closer to the kind of life you’d like to have. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and want to incorporate exercise into your schedule five days a week. Perhaps decreasing your anxiety is a priority and you know that a daily walk in the park after work would help you unwind. Or, maybe you’d like to spiritually reconnect through a morning prayer or meditation practice. Sticking to this new habit over the first few days usually isn’t too difficult and you may actually start to feel like you’re getting somewhere… but then something always happens that we like to label “life.” Your child comes down with the flu. A coworker’s been fired and you’re stuck holding the bag. Your partner is having a family crisis. The weather’s been terrible. You feel depressed and unmotivated. There’s simply too much to do.

When something always seems to be getting in the way of your goals, a change of strategy is required, as well as a shift in thinking. That’s where “non-negotiables” come in. So, what is a non-negotiable? A non-negotiable is something you incorporate into your life NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. The boss just told you that you have to prepare a gripping, award-winning PowerPoint deck within the next 24 hours? You’re still doing your non-negotiables. In a foul mood and just want to hide under the covers? You’re still doing your non-negotiables. A UFO landed on the rooftop of Takashimaya department store and the aliens are giving out free Chanel handbags? Yes, you’re still doing your non-negotiables. Non-negotiables aren’t only about adopting healthier habits and organizing your day. Non-negotiables teach you the practice of honoring your desires, making time for yourself, and gratefully accepting that taking care of yourself should always be a top priority.

Non-negotiables are always on your calendar, and they are always marked “important.” Reminders about your non-negotiables should be posted on the fridge, your laptop screen, and your work desk. Non-negotiables automatically remove all guilt about having to turn down invitations or needing to postpone any family obligations, if only for a little while. Non-negotiables let the world know that you also matter, and that you’re sticking to your guns this time.

When you decide to set up new non-negotiables, start with one and only one. Once it becomes ingrained, you may slowly add more. As a general rule, practice your non-negotiable for at least 60 days before adding a new one. This isn’t just a habit, it’s a non-negotiable, and that’s a really big deal.

In general, non-negotiables should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Here are fifteen specific “SMART” examples of health and wellbeing non-negotiables to get your mind buzzing:

1. Engage in at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise every weekday before work.
2. Write one full page in a gratitude journal every evening before bed.
3. Meditate or pray upon waking each morning for twenty minutes.
4. Stretch in the living room for fifteen minutes each evening before dinner.
5. Input daily food consumption every evening at 8pm in a calorie counter (MyFitnessPal is a great tool and it contains nutrition information for nearly every single hawker stall dish available in Singapore).
6. Take a thirty minute walk in nature after work every weekday (the Japanese call this Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing").
7. Call one friend every afternoon during lunchtime.
8. Sit down to eat a healthy breakfast every morning at 7am.
9. Go rock climbing every Saturday with your spouse at Climb Asia.
10. Bike to work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
11. Participate in a boot camp every Saturday morning.
12. Have an adventure date with your significant other every Friday night at 8pm.
13. Spend one hour walking with your dog each evening after dinner.
14. Take a dance class every Thursday and Sunday.
15. Eat two pieces of fresh fruit each day- one with breakfast and one with lunch.

Now that you have a few ideas, I hope you’ll adopt a few “non-negotiables” of your own. I have three that frame each day for me: 20-30 minutes of meditation each morning after my shower, a minimum one hour of exercise six days a week, and a prayer of gratitude each night before I go to bed. They are the fuel of each day, and they ensure that I take good care of myself so that I can better care for others!

Do you have any non-negotiables? Would you like to establish some? Have any questions about setting up non-negotiables and keeping them? Leave your comments down below. I’d love to hear from you!

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© Tangram Fitness 2013