motivation

Just start.

How do you start to make a change?

I say, "just start". 

The starting is the hardest part. We often overthink everything into freaking ourselves out OR we put it off thinking we will have the time "someday". 

What if someday never comes? (it never does) 

The good news?? We can start today. 

 

We often sit and wait for a change to happen to us. And we fail to see that we need to become that change, we need to ignite it. 

The job will be the job until we change it.

The relationship will be the relationship until we change it.

The physical block of whatever kind will be there until we access the thing inside us that is contributing to it. 

No pill or drink or snack will make life feel better forever. Only we can do that for ourselves.

 

So, why don't we start now, if it's really that easy? For a few reasons. Often, starting to make a new change involves changing something that has become REALLY familiar, even if it's incredibly uncomfortable or not working very well. It takes a lot of energy to turn the Titanic away from even the most unhealthy habits or patterns, even when we know they aren't serving us. The mere thought of changing that and the energy it would require can be intimidating to the point that we never do it.

Sometimes the relationships we are in help keep us where we are. In fact, we KEEP people around even when they aren't who serve us the most, just so that we don't actually have to improve our lives. Or we continue patterns with them even when we know it holds us back in some way. 

How did I take on the process of changing my entire identity? One thing at a time. It happened in many phases over many years. My clothes, my hair, my name, my pronouns, my business focus, my patience, my self-expression, my inner dialogue.

How did I take on the process of improving my health? One day at a time, starting with getting my first job in a health food store in 2001. Maybe it even started back before that, when I bought my first box of couscous in Fresh Fields when I was in high school. Making my own train mix with my first girlfriend when I was 22. Becoming orthorexic, where I obsessed over the sourcing and nutrients of everything I ate, and finding a better balance to actually be able to enjoy ice cream and a hamburger again.

I planted the seeds of who I have become and what I know and do a long time ago. The habits and patterns I practice now happened as a result of me starting one thing at a time, not worrying about how it would all turn out.

I wish I could remember this when I get completely overwhelmed or freaked out at the prospect of writing my book. Instead of thinking of it one story or one chapter at at time, I get instantly overwhelmed by this massive idea of "a book". Yikes!

If you're thinking you want to change your whole damn life, that the whole damn thing isn't working for you, you might feel incredibly uncomfortable and just want everything to feel better NOW. So you try to eat healthy AND exercise 5 times a week AND meditate or pray AND change your job AND stop drinking and smoking, etc. 

Unrealistic. Completely and totally unrealistic. This will almost certainly end with you giving up, quitting and feeling like a huge failure. It's too much at once.

I always recommend people try one thing, one small thing or maybe even two. PIck two goals and hit them and anything extra is bonus. Want to change your job? Great. Start with updating your resume. Apply to three jobs you like. Take a sabbatical and experience NOT WORKING for a few months. Stop eating out all the time and you'll be amazed how much money you can find. That's how I got my client into a new job in four months when he felt stuck there for seven years.

Or how I got my client to leave her 12-year marriage. She ate really well and exercised and slept more and she felt the courage and conviction to take one step at a time. She was out and living in her own apartment within nine months of us working together. 12 years compared to nine months.

What do you want to change or alter? 

Exercise habits?

Nutrition?

Job?

Relationship?

Haircut?

Spiritual practice?

The way you allow yourself to receive help and support even if it means feeling exposed and vulnerable?

Pick one. And pick two things you can do right now.

And just start. 

 

You might find my recent post about starting anything new helpful. It was recently tweeted by the good folks at TEDxSomerville. Did you know I'm a featured speaker? Super cool. You can sign up for updates here: http://tedxsomerville.org/2015/

 

Is overworking really worth it?

A signpost directing work life balance

  I found an article online that quoted some health tips from me. While reading, I learned a new word: karoshi. (And there should be an accent above the "o" in that word, but Wordpress didn't have the right symbol)

According to Wikipedia, it can be translated to mean, "death by overwork" and the Japanese use it when referring to "sudden occupational death. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet."

 

Stress and diet.

These are two things you can definitely manage.

 

I don't know about you, but I can think of a few people who are on my watch-list, people I know who work a lot, to the point that I'd call it overworking. How do I know what I'm looking for?

Because it used to be me.

For most of my working life, I was overtired, chronically sick, underslept and overwhelmed. I missed appointments and deadlines and had colds that became sinus infections and led to countless trips to the doctor or days working sick on my feet. I shudder to remember. I just stopped and counted--I've been sick less than 10 days in the past four years.

I know that OVERWORK CULTURE is real.

Before I became a self-employed integrative health coach, I ran on fumes. I began my professional career as a teacher at the age of 22 and, within a month of accepting my first job, came down with mono that grounded me for two months. Unbelievable. Anyone who knows or is married or partnered to a teacher knows the hours are well beyond 40+/week.  Summers are rarely free since many teachers spend those months earning supplemental income.

I was almost burned-out by the time I quit teaching at the age of 25 when I moved into working for local businesses and then multiple non-profits. The years I spent in those environments taught me very little about healthy boundaries and I perpetuated unhealthy habits around nutrition, time management and work/life balance like many of my colleagues.

For the past five years, I've coached clients from all job sectors: from startups to local companies to corporations to ministers to doulas.

I've learned that overwork is a potential threat in any environment and what makes a difference is how people approach the tasks before them and the tools they use to practice work/life balance.

When we feel especially passionate about our job or our role in our workplace, it's tempting to think that investing significant amounts of time into the work will pay off. We will get ahead. Just one more email or phone call or whatever and we will knock it all out and be able to relax "when things calm down." But this is a dangerous dangling carrot, particularly if your job or workplace is successful. Chances are things will not get to a place of stability--there are always multiple balls in the air, things to solve, cats to herd, etc.

And that's how we get to a place of overwork and unmanageable stress that reveals itself in symptoms like fatigue, chronic pain, headaches, recurrent illness and possibly worse at some point. It's something so common, Japan has a word for it. Is it really less common here or have we just not named it, yet?

It begs the question: is overworking really worth it?

Consider that your health is your best asset: for your personal AND professional life.

When you're out sick, your company suffers. When you're sick, your life suffers.

No matter how much there is to be done, you always have a choice how much you'll do.

If you're thinking this is unrealistic or impractical, all I can say is I've done this for myself and have coached hundreds of people in achieving and experiencing the same results. I can only provide the tools and cross my fingers that they practice them to the point of experiencing real change in their lives. And then, when they see that they can feel happy, healthy AND get tons of work accomplished, they really get that overworking never really necessary or worth it.

 

Can you relate to this? What could you do today to scale back on your workload?

What are you getting from overworking? Is it worth it?

 

image courtesy of this site.

Why Some People Never Jump

"Courage is the opposite of cozy. You can quote me on that." -Pema Chödrön

Most people live their whole lives perched on the edge of life, steps away from unbridled bliss (or something close to it). They keep themselves poised, on tiptoes, terrified to take the flying leap into the great unknown.

For many people, the familiar is safer so they stop just yards shy of the dangling carrot. They choose to chase it and never take the flying leap to grab it and chomp down nice and hard.

But not me. No, sir.

Two years ago, I made a decision to change the way I move through the world to identify as a transgender person and pass as male. The process has taught me a lot about how people relate to change.

As with any major life change, some of what I’ve experienced was anticipated or expected and some was not. The parts I didn’t know or anticipate fall into the realm of the unknown—the aspect of change that people fear most, and that’s maybe why so many people never risk living their lives fully or they complain their way through the arduous process of change. They don’t want to risk not knowing. They may feel things they can’t expect or control. Or sometimes, they know how hard it might be and they just aren’t up for it because it’s hard. It hurts. It sometimes involves substantial loss for potential gain.

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.

Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

If someone decides they don't prefer suffering, they must be compelled by something deeper and more powerful than their current existence.

One of the reasons I decided to jump and make the major physical transition was that my physical presence on the planet had simply become too uncomfortable to bear. I craved something different. I knew some of what I was up against, but the scales tipped in favor of the great unknown versus the familiar. The familiar was safe, but not comfortable. The risks were low and the payoff of living as I had lived was high.

But something deep inside me knew that I would never be truly happy.

"To overcome natural inertia, the motivation toward the change must be more powerful than the satisfaction with the status quo (or anxiety about the change)." -Bennett and Bush, 2014

I had a lot of practice with this, which was why this life change was even possible. I’ve sort of lived my whole life taking risks and doing what other people don’t do. I have a lot of experience with how to prepare for the unknown, how to handle myself when the unexpected happens and how to find a way to love this thing called life in the meantime.

My transition two years ago is only one of many, major life changes and choices I've made. It doesn't define me as a person but only helped me understand change and transition, and the relationship people have to it, on an even deeper level.

Here are some of the reasons why I think some people never jump:

They are afraid to change.

People get really attached to who they think they are, even when it isn't working so well for them.

There is no experience on earth like actively choosing to change your entire identity after inhabiting a body for your entire childhood, adolescence and young adult life. Having to unlearn everything you knew about how to move and talk and walk in the world and reorient yourself while still looking out through the same eyes? It’s mind-numbing. Disorienting doesn’t begin to describe it.

I’ve lost partners to new lovers. I’ve lost friends to death. I’ve lost beloved trinkets from my childhood. The permanence of the loss is something you gradually come to terms with. It’s gone, lost, over.

Losing 'yourself' while still being alive? It’s uncanny and surreal.

What I've learned (and loved) about the past two years was how little of myself there actually was that was permanent. And how much I get to evolve and create anew on a day-to-day basis.

They are afraid to be wrong.

What if it's the wrong choice? Well, who defines wrong? I already knew much of society and my family wouldn't approve of my decision, but I didn't want to live my life according to someone else's values and standards.

I think so many people do this, and then regret or resent some aspect of their lives because they chose based on what everyone else does--even when everyone else isn't all that happy.

I finally got to the point where I realized I had to choose and I would live with the consequences of my decision for myself. It meant throwing away the keys to an old reliable car, turning my back and walking away. It would work out the way it was meant to, like so many other choices and decisions had in my life thus far. Sitting on the fence of ambivalence was no way to live. It was a half-lived life and I wasn't about to spend the rest of my years on the planet that way.

They are afraid of the fall.

What would the process be like? There's only one way to find out. All the anticipating and planning in the world doesn't reveal something before it's time. It's like prying open a blooming flower.

I've watched people try to meticulously plan for things only to be totally surprised by the actual experience. They spend so much time reeling from the unfolding process because it's nothing like they wanted or hoped for or had thought would happen. It's a good lesson in holding your nose and jumping and letting go of the need to control the outcome of everything.

They are afraid to be alone.

At the two-year mark, I’ve learned that taking the jump meant not everyone would join me. It's not how everyone lives. I've had to learn to be ok with me and back myself up on every decision, because no one--and I mean no one--has the right answer.

Change brings out the worst in some people and the best in others.  Some people I loved and trusted ran far and fast when my gender transition went from this totally fun concept to a brutally difficult reality. My process of transformation brought up issues they didn’t or couldn’t face about their own selves in their own lives so they needed to put distance between themselves and me and what I held up. On the other hand, transitioning brought friends into my life that I would never have met otherwise and many people floated like cream to the top of the bottle, showing tremendous amounts of tenacity and tenderness.

They are afraid to be truly happy.

Sometimes, at my best moments, I look past the not-so-hot parts about being transgender and consider it the ultimate privilege. I feel like I really lucked out and have moments of happiness that I never had before.

Sure, I'm repeatedly pigeonholed and asked incredibly inappropriate or personal questions on a daily basis. In many places of the world, transgender people are outlawed and killed. I can be denied a job or medical care, but hey! I’ve been given the chance to move through the world one way for 30-odd years and now I get to spend the rest of my days in another form like few people on this planet will ever experience! I’ve won the gender identity lottery!

In many ways, I feel luckier than most people, because I got/took a second chance at life. I get to do everything and anything I always wanted to do PLUS the richness of my incredible past existence.

Where I once wore heels (short ones, of course), I now get to walk a mile in the (much more comfortable) shoes of the men I longed to be like. I get to wear ties and pants and fun haircuts, fashion I really dig and can enjoy. I get to experience tremendous physical strength in my mid-30s. I can run farther and faster than ever and I had never been able to do many push-ups but now I can do 30 at a time. Chin-ups were impossible. They are possible, now.

And I'm a bit more dangerous with a bat now than when I was as a kid.

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Two years in, I can tell you that I jumped for that dangling carrot and I'm glad I did. While it is no walk in the park, and is filled with no shortage of issues and is anything but cozy, it's working, for whatever reason.

Maybe it's because I simply decided it would.

And I'm willing to bet it would work for the jump you're staring down, too.