Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mind Over Matter

My greatest God-given tools that I so ignorantly undervalued and underestimated in my fighting of the flab are Mind, Heart & Soul.

I know, sounds corny perhaps but hear me out.

First, let's talk about the mystical magical "kingdom within" we refer to as our Mind.

I had to change my mental attitude toward health & fitness specifically, and achievement in general. Before, I always thought:

A) things had to be done perfectly or it didn't count,

B) that not losing 10 pounds in 1 week meant the whole fitness thing wouldn't work for me, and

C) that I had to take on 100 changes all at once and go from fat-lazy-couchpotato to vegan-power-fitness-freak all in one day.

What do you think happens when a person tries to completely 180 their routine overnight?

Um - FAILURE!!! Hello!

Screwy mental habits like contemplating the enormity and breadth of a task in terms of how long it would take and how much work the thing would take out of me also had to be uprooted.

We've all heard things like "law of attraction" and "attitude is everything" and "mind over matter" (my husband says, "I don't mind cuz you don't matter"...not to me of course...awful thing to say, but anyway).

However, I thought all such opinions were complete balderdash for naive children, gullible guppies, and lazy wishful thinkers. I am a real go-getter, a doer, I attack a goal with action so why should it matter what my inner monologue sounded like?

Turns out, I had been the naive child. I can't pinpoint exactly where the breakthrough happened for me now. Can't tell you how many self-help books I had read and scorned in the past for mentioning such hocusy-pocusy notions. But a few things did finally beat down the door of my rock-hard skull, opened the windows and let the Light in.

Maybe it was Chalene Johnson and her book PUSH! Maybe it was the "Good Advice" columnist, Gretchen Rubin, from Good Housekeeping Magazine. Perhaps it was a chance conversation with a perfect stranger. The thing was I began to actually hear the sort of things I said to myself and about myself. I began to actually catch the nasty thoughts that before had raced so speedily through my mind I couldn't consciously recognize how mean, dark, pessimistic, critical, and cynical they were. Or how they instantly made me feel...hopeless.

My gosh! It was true! My thoughts were killing me!

So mentally, I've now planted a few new ideas that have yielded a harvest of happy thoughts.

First, the "15 minute rule." Let's say I start thinking about a project like cleaning house or writing something or exercising. Ya know, something that might normally take an hour or more. THE HARDEST PART IS JUST GETTING STARTED!

Instead of getting from go to exhausted just thinking about all the time and effort involved, I give myself permission not to finish. Instead I say, "Okay,just 15 minutes and then I can stop."

15 minutes is no time at all. So I actually set a timer and jump in to the dreaded task. Guess what? So far, I have NEVER stopped when the timer rang. Be it cleaning, writing, working out or whatever...once I got started, momentum carried me forward to completion.

Next, the "be consistent rule." I read this fabulous article by a guy named Iann Legg about the importance of consistent action day-after-day, and boy - he had my number! In one example, he asks you to consider the results of- say-the sun shining every year for 7 months straight followed by 5 months of darkness. Or of brushing your teeth for 8 hours in a single day and then not again for another month.

Would we then still achieve the results we desire from the sun and brushing our teeth? Of course not! It is the same with everything else. A little bit of right action day after day beats a few days of intense right action followed by weeks of nothing. So I catch myself now when my mind starts to tell me I can skip that important but not urgent activity today, and I almost shout aloud "be consistent, Louise!"

Third, the "60 second rule." Got this from Gretchen and it is fabulous. For those little tasks that were so easy to rationalize putting off til later because they took less than a minute to do anyway, this rule is a lifesaver. Because a whole lotta littles add up to...well...a whole lot.

Changing the toilet paper roll, taking out the trash and actually putting it in the dumpster, putting a DVD back in its case and on the shelf, opening a letter and reading or discarding it, replying to a simple email, placing a dish in the dishwasher, snapping a bra together before putting it in the laundry, and so on....

If it takes less than a minute or even just a little over a minute...DO IT NOW! I LOVE this idea, and the mental stress it relieves me of is priceless.

Fourth--and this is a big one--the "envy to admiration rule." This is a disgusting mental disease. Comparing myself to others, seeing they have the body or the career or the house I want and begrudging them the having of it. As if there is anything stopping me--except myself--from having the same things.

A fave quote of mine says "It is easy to covet another's success without envying his labors." Ain't that the truth! Besides, do you ever really want exactly what another person has? Rarely.

But I began to hear the jealous or envious thoughts in my head that I had never even realized I was thinking before...though I would certainly feel their depressing and hope defeating effects. Now, here is another type of wrong thinking I catch, stop, and replace with a new thought of appreciation and admiration.

I give myself permission
to admire the successes of others, remind myself I can have the same, and thank God for the other person's wonderful example. It can be hard, especially when my hubby is having his hair cut by a doting and flirty teenager with the body of a supermodel. But it is amazing how different I start to feel when I switch gears mentally from envy to admiration.

Fifth rule? The "one at a time rule." No more going from slacker to superstar expectations. Instead, I am selecting one new habit at a time to drop or pick up, in order of greatest impact to lowest. For 2 or 3 weeks, I focus on adopting the new change until it feels effortless. If it takes a little longer so be it, but I really go at it every day.

Yes, this means it will take me maybe quite a bit longer to get the hot body I want. But I have so many bad habits getting in the way of that to start with that trying to change them all at once became just that...trying. New perfect routine might last 2 days and then it was total failure...followed by a few more weeks of doing nothing.

This rule is not for everybody. Some people have something forcing them to make drastic changes all at once and it works for them...and I am so very happy for them. For me, my mind refused to juggle 100 changes at once. I would feel confused or overwhelmed. Any little misstep had me telling myself things like "this is too hard." So I like this. It is very easy to focus all my will on one change at a time, and slowly bid farewell to one bad habit at a time.

This leads into my last new mental habit. The "why can't I? rule." Over and over, I began to notice my mind saying something like, "well, I can't do/have/be that because..." One day, I decided to thoroughly examine one such thought when it popped up. Each "I can't because" sprouted another "I can't because" until I chased each excuse down where it could go no further...and you know where it lead me? To a completely irrational belief that I had voluntarily adopted from my parents or misinformed peers or well-meaning friends or plain cultural conditioning!

This has been said a million times, but I had stopped believing it somewhere between elementary and high school graduation: There is NOTHING I can't do! I am blessed to have been born in America in the 1980s outside of the yoke of some harsh cultural standard. I can do just about any (ethical) flipping thing I want, by golly!

The mind truly has such awesome power to redirect our emotions and our lives.
So yeah. This was the major part of my big breakthrough, and the mightiest new tool in my arsenal. Surely most people have already figured this one out, but it was so new to me. And it has really been changing my life these past few months.

But Heart & Soul still cried for my attention...and I think at last I have begun to heed their call.

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