In our lives, we are often called upon to lead people who disagree with us.
They might be family members disagreeing with us at the holiday dinner...
...or people who disagree with us on social media...
...or even people who disagree with us whom we are leading in healing work.
The fact is, there’s a right way and a wrong way to lead people who disagree with you—ESPECIALLY if you want to persuade them to your point of view.
And unfortunately, most of us get this wrong, nearly 100% of the time.
In this brief video, I’ll show you how to lead people who disagree with you, so you can be at peace, build bridges, and maybe even persuade them to your point of view.
We all have things we are afraid are true about ourselves.
And we are susceptible to going a little crazy when someone accuses us of that being true, or when we start worrying about it.
We become “enthralled” by the negative belief, and it takes us over.
In this video I discuss how you can identify and overcome those ‘fixating beliefs’….which should make your life noticeably easier.
We all have people in our lives who drive us nuts. They push our buttons. They’re intolerable. Un-deal-with-able.
In this video I talk about a guy who drove me out of my mind..and tell you exactly what I did to transform that.
Oh, and spoiler alert: somehow, he magically changed!
…And in a way I never would have expected.
The other day I was talking to a client who has a weight issue (he's very overweight).
He said, "I know people who go to the gym, have a workout, and feel great afterwards. Well, I feel terrible the whole time, and I feel terrible afterwards. But I know I should do it."
Another client of mine wants to lose weight, so he's going to Crossfit almost every day. The problem? He tells me he hates it. And he has a history of going until he loses some weight, then stopping and gaining the weigh back again.
For both these clients, their choice seems to be either intense, uncomfortable exercise, or no exercise at all.
The dominance of intense workouts
We live in a society that really values intense workouts. From Crossfit to Weightlifting to Zumba to Hot Yoga, to "sprinting and lifting heavy things," the most "talked up" exercises tend to be the most intense.
But what are you supposed to do if you don't like those things?
Most of the time, the answer is "do it anyway, power through! You'll be glad you did later!"
Or, more likely—you'll stay home and eat a donut.
Well, here's what I say:
You need to find a kind of exercise that you actually enjoy.
From the start.
And if you've bought the idea that there is no such thing, you're going to end up trying to get better at doing an exercise that you hate.
Or simply giving up.
In my observation, there are a couple of really good reasons why such an intense style of exercise may not be right for you.
- You may have weight or inflammation or structural issues that make that kind of exercise uncomfortable, and possibly even dangerous, to do.
- That kind of intense workout might not suit your temperament.
People enjoy different things. If you are reading this and you love Crossfit, that's awesome. But it's too easy to make the mistake of thinking that if something works for you, that it ought to work for everybody, and that everybody should do it.
I think that is what has happened with our current crop of intense workout programs: They've become such a big deal that anything more gentle tends to fall by the wayside. And worse, people start to think that if they don't do those intense workouts, they are screwing up.
Gentle and effective options
There is another side, another kind of exercise that can be extremely powerful and beneficial. I'm not recommending anything in particular (I remind you, I don't tell people what they ought to do, I simply equip them to find what works for them). There are types of Yoga (like Yin Yoga) that are very slow, very gentle, and extremely effective in starting to bring the energy of your body back online.
Personally, I've been having tremendous value from doing Tai Chi, which is very gentle and zero impact. It's dramatically increased my strength, my balance, my endurance and my joint mobility. Plus I really love doing it. My wife gets similar results with another very gentle discipline, Qigong.
So here's what you need to understand: If you aren't one of those people who really likes the intense go-go-go workouts, or if your body isn't ready for that yet, it's not that there's something wrong with you, or that you need to force yourself to do workouts you hate.
What it means is you need to find some kind of gentle but effective exercise that really works for you, and that you enjoy.
And then do it.
If you have experience with gentle exercises that have worked for you, please add them in the comments below.
Also: I want to listen to you! If you haven't already, please take a few moments to fill out my survey and let me know about the biggest challenge you are facing with your health. That way I'll be able to direct my new information to topics you care about. Thanks!
Here's something to consider...
Not eating sugar is a struggle because you haven't really decided to not eat sugar.
Stick with me here, and I'll explain.
(And please note—I'm talking about giving up sugar here, but this applies to any behavior you want to change.)
Now, to be clear: You may have made the decision that you ought to not eat sugar.
But on a core level, that decision as to whether or not you will eat sugar is still up for discussion.
For example, imagine...
There you are in the work break room, looking at a box of donuts a coworker brought.
And because the decision to not eat one hasn't really been made, you find yourself re-examining wether or not you should eat one. You find yourself looking at a donut, and asking yourself, "Am I going to eat this donut or not?"
The decision to not eat that donut hasn't really been made.
So it's a struggle to decide.
And after enough of that exhausting struggle, you've worn out your willpower, and find yourself eating a donut after all.
Flipping the switch
What you need is that experience when an internal "switch" flips, and when the decision is made, once and for all.
What does it mean for a decision to be truly made?
If you talk with a lot of people who've given up smoking, you'll find that, for a certain percentage of them, at one point simply decided that they were done smoking—and they never smoked again.
There was a moment where they decided—through and through—that they were finished smoking. They'd had their last cigarette. It was done.
And because they made a complete, congruent decision, it changed everything.
As one former smoker said, "before I made that decision, my cravings would show up, I'd struggle with them for a while, and then I'd be lighting a cigarette before I knew it.
"But after that moment of decision, it was like a switch had flipped. I still felt the cravings, but they had no impact on me. I knew I was done smoking. And the cravings have gotten weaker as time has gone on. I still sometimes feel cravings to smoke, but it's not up for discussion. I'm not smoking."
I suggest to you that if you are going to make a change—like a decision to avoid sugar, or change some other behavior—you need to make a complete decision in which the internal switch flips.
Otherwise, you'll be caught in a world where you're "re-deciding" every time you have a craving, whether or not you will give in to it.
And as I said, you'll eventually get worn out, and the sugar will win again.
You actually know what I mean
You actually are familiar with that kind of "switch flipped" decision—just maybe not around you behavior with food.
Think about a time you moved to a new home, or took on a new job. After you've moved, you're don't re-examine your decision to move, every morning of your life.
After you've settled in at a new job, you don't struggle each morning to "re-decide" if you are going to work that day.
Most of the time, you made the decision...and once that decision was made, it was made.
But we keep getting entangled with sugar because we don't really decide that we are done with it. So we keep re-deciding—usually when we are at our weakest, and most needy.
So the sugar keeps winning.
It is possible to not eat sugar and be at peace
If you've really made the decision that you are done with sugar, it is possible to look at that box of donuts, notice any craving you might have for them, and to to then go about your day, happy and at peace—even without eating one.
But...you can't make yourself make that decision.
You can't make that decision by willpower alone.
You can't fake it till you make it.
And that's a real problem.
The truth is, I've spent most of my career trying to figure out how to help people get to the point of making that decision, fully, so it's not up for discussion anymore.
And I think I've found the way.
Over the next few posts, I'm going to talk about the unexpected solutions I've found to that problem—with an eye to helping you develop an "internal emotional alignment," so that you can take the best actions for you...and happily and easily take care of your body and have a vital, passionate life.
In a recent post I revealed my "biggest secret" of effectiveness:
Energy to take effective, powerful action comes when love touches the part of you that has given up.
Put another way, if you want to take effective action, you have to make sure that you aren't taking that action from a place of upset or discouragement.
Because if you act while you are upset or discouraged, you are likely to create more of a mess than you are to create anything else.
If you are upset or discouraged, you must deal with your emotions first, before you act.
But that's hard, because, as human beings, we usually don't want to deal with our emotions. We just want to Get Things Done.
To the parts of us that want to Get Things Done, our emotions are problems to be overcome, not parts of ourselves to bring love to.
But as we explored previously, if you want to take truly effective action, your emotions have to line up with your intentions. And that means you sometimes have to take the time to care for your emotions before you take action.
Here's how you get your emotions to line up with your intentions so you can take effective action that feels like it flows from you.
Step 1: Get clear on the action you want to take
The point of emotional work isn't to wallow in your emotions, crying on the floor or raging and screaming. The point of emotional work is to be able to happily and easily take effective action toward creating the life that you long for.
To that end, your first step is getting clear about your answer to the question, "What action do I want to take?"
TWO TYPES OF ACTION
There are two types of action: additive action and removal action.
An additive action is a new action you want to add to your life:
- "I want to do meal planning for the next seven days, go grocery shopping, and prepare healthy food for myself."
- "I want to take a 30-minute walk every day."
- "I want to spend ten minutes a day looking on the internet for a weight-loss plan that seems like a fit for me."
A removal action is something you want to stop doing:
- "I want to stop eating all refined sugar for the next seven days."
- "I want to stop drinking a Starbucks Frappuccino every day for the next week."
- "I want to stop drinking all alcohol for the next seven days."
Or, of course, your intention might not be food- or health-related:
- "I want to do 20-minute 'work sprints' in which I refuse to get distracted by the internet or phone calls."
- "I want to be more patient with my children."
- "I want to take some time to set up a special experience for my spouse."
...or whatever it is for you.
NOTE: I have created an interactive web form—an online "Intention to action toolkit"—to walk you through this process. You can grab your toolkit by clicking here. It's absolutely free. You can download it now, or at the end of this article.
Step 2: Uncover the circumstance that discourages you from taking action
Your job is to answer: "What circumstance in my life seems like it keeps me from being able to take that action in a relaxed, effective, wholehearted way?"
If I were to say to you, "Okay, go ahead and implement that new action," you might say, “I’d do that, Dmitri, except for ___________."
"I would stop eating refined sugar for the next seven days [intended action], except for I really feel like I rely on sugar to help me handle the difficulties of my day [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would stop drinking a Frappuccino every day [intended action], except for I'm always too tired to do all my work without a boost of caffeine and sugar [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would create a meal plan and food shop for the next seven days [intended action], except for I have so little time to myself the way it is, I don't know where I'd find the time [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would be more patient with my children [intended action], except for there are things I really have to get done and they are constantly interrupting me [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would take a half-hour walk every day [intended action], except for by the time I get half a block I'm already huffing and puffing and it's not at all enjoyable [discouraging circumstance]."
Step 3: Acknowledge the heartbreaking way of acting you accept because of that circumstance
Because of those discouraging circumstances, you start to accept that you have to act in a way other than the way you intend to act.
I say this way of acting is "heartbreaking" because it is heartbreaking to accept that you have no choice but to act in a way that is the opposite of the wholesome, self-affirming way in which you intend to act.
If you want to change how you automatically behave, you must discover the heartbreaking way of acting that you accept that you are stuck with.
Let's continue with our examples:
"I want to stop eating sugar for the next seven days [intended action]. But because I really feel like I rely on sugar to help me handle the difficulties of my day [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to eat sugary foods, even if I know they are bad for me [accepted way of acting].
"I want to stop drinking my daily Frappuccino for the next seven days [intended action]. But because I'm too fatigued to do all my work without a boost of caffeine [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to drink one anyway [accepted way of acting]."
"I want to create a a meal plan for the next seven days [intended action], but because I have so little time to myself [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to keep eating fast food every day [accepted way of acting]."
"I want to be more patient with my children [intention], but because they are constantly interrupting me [discouraging circumstance] I start to accept that I have no choice but to yell at them [accepted way of acting]."
"I want to take a half-hour walk every day [intended action], but because I'm huffing and puffing so quickly [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to stay home and watch TV [accepted way of acting]."
Step 4: Be compassionate to yourself as you would be to a discouraged friend
Imagine you can see that part of you that has accepted that you have no choice but to act in that heartbreaking way that goes against what you really want.
This is the part of you that needs love. Let yourself see that part, as you might see a child who is having a hard time.
Or imagine a friend of yours came to you with this exact discouragement. The friend might say
"I really want [intended action]. But I feel like I have no choice but to accept [accepted way of acting]. And it's really getting me down."
Notice and acknowledge how difficult it is for you to live this way, in the same way you’d notice and acknowledge a good friend who’s become discouraged.
Let yourself see how that part of you is having a difficult time, and gently open up your compassion as you would to a friend.
A few hints:
- This discouraged part of you doesn't need a pep-talk.
- This discouraged part of you doesn’t need advice.
- This discouraged part of yourself doesn't need to be shamed, or ignored, or advised...
... This discouraged part of you simply needs compassion and love.
Let yourself open with compassion to the part of you that has bought the idea that there is no way forward, and that you are fated to have to take that heartbreaking action.
You might find yourself saying something like,
- "I see that you are having a hard time."
- "I have compassion for you."
- "You don't have to face this alone, I'm with you."
- "There is love and support for you in this difficult time."
- "I'll sit here with you until you are ready to try again."
If you are a spiritual person, you might start seeking for your best sense of the answer to the question, “What’s my best sense about how the Highest, Most Merciful Reality in the Universe feels about me, even when I'm believing that I have no choice but to take this heartbreaking action?”
Step 5: Receive new guidance
To receive new guidance, ask yourself:
"From the point of view of this compassionate love, how might I move forward?"
You might get answers like:
"I love you even though it feels like there’s no way forward. I love you even though you don’t know what to do. There is a wave that you are being carried on. There is an that upwelling of love. feel yourself carried by it. Feel how you are carried."
"Finding this solution may be like finding a needle in a haystack, but you aren’t alone. You are guided."
"I know you don’t know what to do next. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. When you look at the field of options, and have no idea what to do, feel my support and my love for you."
"There are solutions and you can find them. It’s not impossible. I know you’ve felt like you are at it alone. But you are not alone."
Don't try to answer from your mind—really let yourself feel whatever answer the compassionate love might have for you.
And don’t rush it! If you've ever helped someone through a hard time by being compassionate and loving, then you know that you can't rush the process (and that it's actually destructive to try). It may take a while of sitting in the compassion and love for you to get to the point where you start to feel new guidance and new possibility...and a new ability to take aligned action.
Again, I've created an interactive online "Intention to action" toolkit, along with a .PDF version you can print out. Click here to grab your toolkit now. I hope it helps you.
For the better part of last week, I'd found myself eating a whole bag of gluten-free "healthy" cookies every day.
(And if you've had gluten-free "healthy" cookies, you know that they usually don't even taste that good!)
I couldn't understand why was I doing this. And I couldn't seem to stop myself.
I tried to stop by using willpower—after all, that's the first thing everybody tries—but that didn't work.
Willpower worked until I was in the store, at which point my feet walked me to the cookies, and I bought them, and sat in the car and ate them.
Thanks a lot, willpower.
I have to tell you, it was humiliating. After all, I'm supposed to be the guy who has this stuff under control! Eating whole bags of cookies is most certainly not how I want to be living.
So after about five days of this, I finally accepted that this behavior wasn't going to change on its own. I realized I had to deal with it. So I walked myself through the process I often use with clients.
Here's what I did, and how it worked:
Step 1: What action do you want to take?
First I asked myself, what do I really want with food?
When it came to food, what actions did I want to take?
After some introspection, I realized:
I want to interact with food in a way that supports my body, and that powers me to create the life I want to live.
And just for the record: eating a box of cookies every day was not supporting my body or giving me the life I wanted.
Step 2: What circumstance is discouraging you from taking that action?
Second I asked myself to finish this sentence:
"I would eat in a way that supports my body and supports my future, except that _______________________."
My clients often have difficulty with this step. We often have to brainstorm for a while till something just feels like the real reason.
This was one of those times for me. I couldn't seem to put my finger on the circumstance that led me to give up on heathy eating. It didn't feel like I had given up on my health. It didn't feel like I was using cookies for emotional support. It was baffling.
Finally I asked myself to imagine being about to buy cookies. I asked myself, "How am I feeling right before I buy and eat cookies? What is my experience of life leading up my taking that action?"
That was when I finally started to see this truth I had been avoiding:
I would eat in a way that supported my body and my future, except that I had been feeling tired all the time.
I had been ignoring it, but I had been feeling fatigued. I simply didn't have the physical energy to do the things that I needed to do in a day.
My cookie-eating behavior wasn't driven by my trying to get emotional support from food during difficult times. And it wasn't an attempt to make myself feel better because of hopelessness about my health. I wasn't medicating my emotions in some way.
I started to see that, the circumstance that led me to eating cookies was that I simply felt exhausted.
And I was eating cookies to give me the physical energy to get through my day.
And so the answer to:
"What circumstance has been seeming to stop me from eating foods that are healthy and supportive to me?"
"I would do that except that I'm so tired. I don't have enough energy to make it through doing everything I need to do."
Step 3: What heartbreaking way of acting do you accept because of that circumstance?
In the face of feeling so tired every day, I started to accept that I'd have to keep eating a bag of cookies every day, just to make it through.
Once I saw that, I was able to see how that belief had been controlling me. And how discouraged I was when I was believing it.
Step 4: Feel compassion for the part of yourself that is accepting that way of acting
I could see how hard it was to have bought into the idea that I had no choice but to eat cookies if I wanted to have enough energy.
And my heart really went out to that part of me. I started to feel like I was starting to be with myself, in compassion, rather than ignoring the fatigue and hoping it would go away.
When I let my compassion speak, it said,
"Wow, I see you are having a hard time. It's really rough believing you have no choice but to eat cookies. I see that you're having a really difficult time, and I'm here with you. I see that you are feeling fatigued all the time, and you don't know what to do about it. And I'm here with you. I'm not gonna push you, I'm not gonna beat you up, I'm not gonna give you advice you're too discouraged to follow—I'm gonna take you by the hand, I'm gonna sit with you for as long as you need, and then, when it's time to take action, I'll take that action with you."
And I really felt that compassion, the same way I would feel it for someone else—for a loved one, for my wife, for my godchildren, for my clients. I felt the same compassion I'd feel for anyone who believed they had no choice but to keep up a self-destructive behavior because it was the only way to get enough energy to overcome their exhaustion.
And so I sat with that compassion. I felt a lot of relief just knowing that I was no longer alone with my difficulty. It felt good.
The next day
Then the next day, an email came to my inbox from a medical provider I follow. The email was about fatigue and the thyroid—and I realized that some of the symptoms he described I've had for some time. So I found myself calling my naturopath, whom I hadn't seen for several years, and making an appointment to talk with him about my fatigue and these possible solutions.
Making that call was easy to do, when in the previous days I wouldn't have even thought to do it. Because I came to my own aid, and was connected to myself in love, I was carried forward into taking positive action.
Instead of automatically buying and eating cookies, I instead found myself noticing a possible way forward (through an email I probably wouldn't have even opened before), and automatically taking wholesome action toward better health.
And one other thing—since going through this process I've had absolutely no need to eat cookies. I've gone into stores that have "healthy" cookies, and not bought cookies. I haven't even been tempted.
For me, the best part is that I'm not using willpower. Once I brought compassion and love to the part of me that had given up, I simply didn't feel the need for cookies anymore.
I hope that this will inspire you for the kind of transformation that is possible. I always think it's kind of funny when people tell me things like, "Dmitri, you've changed your body so much, you've improved your health so much, you've helped people—you must never get it wrong." The fact of the matter is, I get it wrong quite often. What I'm good at is returning to the love, healing my discouragement, coming back, and getting it right again. You can do the same.
Next week: More about how to do it.
This may be the most important blog post I’ve ever written.
I’m going to tell you the “Big Secret” of every success I’ve had.
I’ve studied a lot of the “success literature.” I’ve been running workshops for more than 25 years. But I’ve never seen anybody write about this.
I’m not a guy who usually talks in terms like “Big Secrets,” but what I’m going to share with you today does seem like a genuinely Big Secret.
So let’s do this and take that action
You know that everybody wants to be more effective. Everybody wants to figure out how to take more and better action.
That’s true everywhere in life, but it’s especially true if you are trying to improve your health.
If you want to improve your health, you have to take action. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to figure out what needs to be done, find people who can help you, and take that action. Every day.
Of course, that’s not just true about health. If you want to improve your life in any way, you have to take action.
So let’s look at how to take your most effective action.
Thing you need to know number 1
New and better techniques don’t guarantee powerful, effective action.
Simply getting better at
- tracking your time, or
- setting your priorities, or
- developing a diet plan, or
- developing a workout plan,
or any of the hundreds of other effectiveness “secrets” you can find everywhere will not be enough.
Effectiveness techniques are important. I use techniques all the time. I’m not putting them down.
But knowing more techniques does not guarantee effective action.
Which leads us to Thing You Need to Know Number 2.
Thing You need to know number 2
It’s not the techniques you use to succeed that matter. It’s who you are when you are using those techniques that matters.
If you want to take effective action, you’ve got to be internally aligned, all the way to your core. Your heart (I mean your emotional heart), your spirit, must be aligned with your intentions, which must be aligned with your beliefs about yourself and about what is possible for you.
For instance: it won’t matter if you are using a technique many others have used to create success if, in your deepest heart, you believe you can never be a successful person.
Put another way: it won’t matter how great a system you attempt to follow if, at a core level, you are so discouraged by your past failures that part of you has given up on the possibilities for your own future.
Who you are being—discouraged or inspired, bitter or uplifted—makes all the difference in your ability to use any technique to create the results you want.
If you have core, heart-level, internal alignment, then effective, powerful actions will flow from you automatically.
But if you do not have that core, heart-level alignment, you’ll subconsciously “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” every single time.
You know it’s true
You know this is true because you’ve experienced it. There have been times in your life when you have felt “in the zone”—when you haven’t had to push yourself to do well, and when your highest-quality actions simply flowed from you. It felt great, and you had unexpected success.
You’ve also experienced the opposite: times where you’ve felt so discouraged and beaten down that even though you attempted to take action, your poor mental and emotional state poisoned everything you tried to accomplish, even if you were taking the “right” actions.
Again: It’s not the techniques you use to succeed that matter. It’s who you are when you are using those techniques that matters.
And now, the big secret of being at your best when you use your effectiveness techniques.
The Big Secret to taking effective action:
Energy to take effective, powerful action comes when love touches the parts of you that have given up.
If you are “dirt honest” with yourself, you’ll probably admit that you sometimes find yourself feeling bad about yourself because you are not being as effective as you’d like to be.
Perhaps you are working on a project, but can't concentrate and keep getting distracted. Or perhaps you can't even get yourself to start.
Energy to act comes when love touches the parts of you that have given up.
So the key is finding the parts of you that have given up, and to bring love, compassion, and mercy to those parts.
That can be hard because often we are secretly (or not-so-secretly) angry with the parts of ourselves that have given up.
- Those parts of us that are upset and in pain are weak.
- Those parts of us that are upset and in pain are preventing us from getting things done.
Our impulse is not to take the time to love and nurture those parts.
Our instinct is
- to reject those discouraged parts,
- to ignore them, to push them aside and
- to try to “push though” against all the resistances and problems that those upset parts of us create.
Abe Lincoln said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend the first five hours sharpening his saw. I’m telling you the way to take truly effective, aligned, smart action is to sharpen your internal saw. And that is done by loving the very parts of you that are so broken that it seems like they are stopping you from being able to act in the first place. Because ignoring them is not going to make their influence go away.
Caring for those broken parts of ourselves is the "sharpening the saw" Lincoln talked about. It's the essential preparation if you are going to take inspired, effective action in your life.
But most of the time, when it comes to our emotional health, we refuse to do that critical preparation.
Repainting our deck
The funny thing is, we don’t refuse to do proper preparation before other activities in life.
For instance, my wife and I currently want to repaint the deck on the back of our house. But it turns out the deck needs to be sanded first.
We are not responding by saying, “We refuse to sand this deck to prepare to paint, because painting is what we want to do, dammit!”
Instead we are saying, “Okay, in order to get the result we want (a repainted deck) we have to sand it first (the preparation)." Most people would respond the same way. Most of us would say, “In order to do this task well, there’s something else that needs to be handled first.”
But most of us don't respond that way when we are too upset or discouraged to take inspired action.
Instead we subconsciously say, "It doesn't matter if I'm too broken inside to take effective action. I'm gonna pretend I can do it, and take action anyway!"
Then we are surprised when the actions we take don't get the results that we desire.
It takes a real shift in attitude to go from saying “I need to eradicate my weakness so I can get things done” to saying “I need to love my weakness, so I can get things done.”
It seems counter-intuitive, because instead of jumping right in to your activity, you are spending time preparing yourself, spiritually and emotionally, to do that activity.
But it turns out this is the most important thing. Because if you are not at your best, you simply won't be able to take your best actions.
Looking back at my life, I see that my most successful accomplishments were also the easiest for me to do. Yes, there was work—and sometimes a lot of it—but the action of working simply flowed out of me because of who I was being inside. I was internally aligned, so my actions were good.
And looking back, I can also see how taking action when I was internally upset led to some of the biggest mistakes of my life. You can probably relate.
When you care for the parts of you that have given up, that door to effective action can open for you, too.
Next week I'll get into the "how to do it" of all this. If you liked this article, you won't want to miss the step-by-step of actually putting it into practice. Sign up here to be notified. You'll also get an instant download of my free PDF, "The 5 Big Mistakes People Make When They Try to Lose Weight and Improve Their Health—and How You can Avoid Them!"
If you’ve ever struggled with constant cravings and thoughts of food, you know what you want:
You want to feel free with food. You want to be able to eat well, enjoy what you eat, and have that food support your body.
And you’d like to do all that without thoughts of food dominating your mind, and without having cravings command your attention all the time.
In my experience, the food people are least free with is sugar.
And that’s where the wisdom of St. Augustine can help us.
St. Augustine said.
"Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation."
Of course, he was a saint, so your mileage may vary, but there is something to be said for his approach.
Let’s dig in to this idea of “abstinence vs moderation" by starting with former smokers.
How do you think former smokers answer this question:
“Is it easier to just smoke a few cigarettes a day [moderation], or to not smoke at all [complete abstinence]?"
Almost unanimously, people who have quit smoking will tell you that it's easier to not smoke at all than it is to only smoke a few cigarettes a day.
They say it's easier to simply never smoke at all than it is to spend their mental energy constantly asking themselves:
- “Is it okay to have another cigarette now?"
- “Should I wait a while before the next one?"
- “Have I had too many?"
- “Is it okay if I take one of tomorrow’s cigarettes and smoke it today?"
…and so on.
While there are some people who can smoke a few cigarettes a day and not spend their lives thinking about it, most former smokers seem to be physiologically wired to be more at peace—and feel more free—if they don't smoke at all.
When it comes to cigarettes, it seems like there are two types of people:
- there are a few smokers who can smoke moderately, without the effort of trying to be moderate coming to dominate their lives, and
- there is a much greater number of former smokers who are simply better off being abstinent, and never entertaining the idea of smoking at all.
The big takeaway is this:
Most former smokers feel more free when they don’t smoke at all, and less free when they try to be moderate and only smoke a few cigarettes a day.
The exact same thing is true for many people about sugar.
How much do you think about sugar?
For instance, for me (and people like me), complete abstinence from sugar is actually easier than moderation, because if I'm trying to be moderate with sugar, I’m not free, because I spend too much time and energy thinking about it.
I find myself asking,
- "Is it time now?"
- "Can I have another cookie [or whatever] now?"
- "Can I eat one more and still be 'moderate’?"
- “Can I 'borrow' a cookie from tomorrow and eat it now?"
...and so on.
For me—and for many of us—that constant mental chatter is the cost of “moderation."
Do you feel free with food?
If you can relate to that, then I have one simple question for you:
Do you feel free with food when you are being “moderate” with sugar?
I can tell you that, for me, when thoughts of food and cravings dominate my mind, I do not feel free. And that is not how I want to live my life.
I want to be
- internally simple,
- at peace, and
- feeling free.
For me, trying to be "moderate" with sugar destroys my ability to be any of those things.
THE COGNITIVE COST OF BEING MODERATE
Psychologists call all that mental chatter a “cognitive cost.” “Cognitive cost” is any extra load placed on the mind. For instance, transitioning from working on one project to working on another project has a “cognitive cost” (here’s a link to a video I did about “cognitive cost” and focus). Cognitive cost is tiring.
If you’re trying to be “moderate” with sugar, but you are constantly thinking about what you can eat next, and if you are constantly experiencing cravings, then the “cognitive cost” of moderation is going to be exhausting.
…while the cognitive cost of abstinence will be much lower.
TIME TO GET HONEST
I tell you all this to help you get honest with yourself. I’ll repeat (and slightly modify) our quote from St. Augustine:
"Complete abstinence is [often] easier than perfect moderation."
So tell yourself the truth. Are you a person who can be moderate with sugar? Or, once you start eating sugar, does it take over your mind, and deprive you of your peace and freedom?
If this blog has one purpose, it’s to help you become free with food. And some of us need to be abstinent with sugar in order to have that freedom.
It is possible to live a life without eating refined sugar, and for that life to full, rich, and happy. It is possible to have healthy eating habits and not feel like you are missing out on the best of life. It takes some effort, but you can do it, and you'll end up being more free and more at peace than you've ever been before.
If you are a person who needs to not eat sugar, I want to help you. You may benefit from reading my recent post, "How to be at Peace about not Eating Sugar."
You may also benefit from downloading my 3 page PDF guide, "3 Steps to Being at Peace with Not Eating Sugar."
You've probably experienced being given a pep-talk.
And you've probably experienced having a pep-talk not work for you.
That's because a pep talk, delivered at the wrong moment, can actually be poisonous to your motivation and your ability to take action.
But the thing is...
When you're feeling discouraged, most people want to help you by "fixing" your bad feeling as quickly as possible, so you can start doing better.
So they give you a "pep talk."
And that's a problem.
What is a pep-talk?
A pep-talk is a talk, a blog post, an inspirational quote, a graphic in your Facebook feed, or anything else that is designed to to whip you up with excitement to the point where you can start taking action.
That's the purpose of a pep-talk:
A well-delivered pep-talk will create enough excitement inside of you that it overcomes your inertia, and gets you moving again.
But here's the problem:
Pep-talks become poisonous when the excitement they inspire is just a veneer of excitement over an inner state of discouragement.
Pep talks work if you are inspired in the first place. But if you are discouraged, pep-talks will just make you feel worse.
how do you know if you're inspired in the first place?
You are inspired when you feel at a core level that it is possible for you to accomplish what you have set out to accomplish.
For instance, you'll be inspired about weight-loss and better health when you feel at a core level that it is possible to lose weight and create better health—all while living a life you love.
But even an inspired person will sometimes need a pep-talk. You may be having a bad day, or feel a bit out of sorts...and that's when reading an inspirational quote or listening to a TED talk about what's possible may help you get excited and take powerful action.
But if you are discouraged, pep-talks are POISONOUS
Adding excitement to inspiration can be great—but adding excitement to discouragement is a losing proposition.
When you are feeling discouraged, a pep-talk is actually poisonous. Because a pep-talk will simply be adding a veneer of excitement over a foundation of discouragement.
And when you have a veneer of excitement over a foundation of discouragement, any action you take is going to be half-hearted, at best. You'll shame yourself. Trying to eat right and exercise will feel bad.
And you won't get anywhere.
Ignore the poisonous pep-talk
A pep-talk is poisonous for you if it leaves you feeling like you ought to feel differently than you do.
You'll find yourself thinking,
"I know they are right. I know I ought to be inspired. I know I ought to be more energetic. I know I ought to be more committed. Ugh."
If you are having those thoughts, that means that you are actually discouraged inside, and that this pep-talk will be poisonous for you. You may be able to get a little bit excited, but your inner discouragement will stop you from taking powerful action.
If a pep-talk is poisonous, you need to ignore it. Don't feel bad about ignoring it.
Just look to restore your lost inspiration, so you can once again take inspired action.
What to read next:
There’s a Fundamental Mistake at the core of every person who has given up on better health.
And that mistake is...
Believing that because you can’t see a way towards achieving your heart’s longing for better health, it means that there is no way forward.
There you are, pursuing better health. You're inspired. You have an action plan. You're ready for change.
You’re buzzing along, but then something gets in the way.
What “gets in the way” will vary. It may be that you’ve tried every exercise you can think of, but you still seem to keep getting injured every time you work out. Or it may be you tried dieting, but diet food all tastes like sawdust and is flat-out boring to eat. Or it may be that you get tired and sad and just need a candy bar (or three) to cheer you up.
You hit a problem that is in the way, and you can’t seem to get past it.
In the face of that problem, you make the Fundamental Mistake: On a subconscious level you conclude, “I’ve tried everything, and nothing works to bring me closer to being able to achieve better health. Therefore, there must not be a way forward.”
And that’s the moment you lose heart.
From then on you are likely to head in the wrong direction
Once people have lost heart, they usually go into analysis mode. They ask, “Why didn’t it work? Why did I hit that problem?”
After they’ve figured out the “why,” they go into “fix-it” mode. They start taking action to fix their situation, to try to make it go the way they want it to.
For instance, a person might say, “The reason why I can’t keep away from sweet foods is that I’m too lazy. I’ll fix it by making myself work harder.”
Or a person might say “The reason why I can’t eat better is because my family isn’t supportive of me. I’ll fix it by confronting them and getting them to be more supportive.”
There are endless numbers of “whys” and “fix-its.” But the bottom line is this:
The “whys” and “fix-its” don’t help, because you haven’t cared for the state of your heart.
You have to look at who you are being when you ask “why” and when you try to “fix it”
Once you’ve lost heart, you pursue your “whys” and your “fix its” as the person who has already accepted that there’s no way forward.
And that doesn’t work well.
You can verify this by answering these three simple questions:
- When you’ve already accepted that there’s no way forward, how good are you at taking truly inspired, innovative action toward improving your health? Probably not very good.
- When you’ve already accepted that there’s no way forward, how good are the decisions that you make about what you eat and how you behave? Probably pretty poor.
- When you’ve already accepted that there’s no way forward, how well are you able to analyze why something didn’t work, and what your next actions should be? Probably not very well.
Once you’ve accepted the idea that there’s no way forward, you’ve become a person who already knows that you are doomed to stay fat and unhealthy. Yes, you can take action as that person, but those actions will be guided by your loss of heart, so they probably won’t work out very well.
You can’t just think your way out of it
Upon hearing this, many people say, “I’d better stop doing that! I’ll stop deciding that there’s no way forward!”
That doesn’t work, because losses of heart happen in the blink of an eye. You are pursuing what you long for, you hit a big enough problem, and you subconsciously accept that there’s no way forward. Subtly, something inside of you crumbles. The loss of heart occurs. It happens fast.
You can’t prevent loss of heart retroactively. You have to get good at noticing when it has happened, and at caring for yourself when it does.
Pretending that it doesn’t happen, or trying to police your every thought to keep it from happening, will only make you go nuts.
The good news: Just because you can’t see a way forward doesn’t mean you can’t be shown
Fortunately, just because you can’t see a way forward, doesn’t mean you can’t be shown one.
However, you can’t be shown a new way forward, unless you
- admit that you’ve lost heart, and
- are willing to open to the healing of your hurting heart.
1) Admitting you’ve lost heart. First, you have to admit that you’ve lost heart. For most people, the experience of accepting the idea that there’s no way forward is so painful that they don’t admit that it’s actually happened. They “double down” and try harder, acting with increasing force and desperation.
To be shown a new way, you have to be willing to admit that you’ve lost heart. You need to be willing to say, “Wow, when I’m pursuing my heart’s longing of better health, and something gets in the way, and I do lose heart. And the way I lose heart is I accept the idea that there’s no way forward. Wow, I really do that sometimes. Ow.”
That’s a fundamentally different approach than simply asking “Why didn’t it work?,” and trying to fix it, as a person who believes there’s no way forward. When you admit that you’ve lost heart, you are taking your healing process in an entirely different—and far more effective—direction.
2) Being open to the healing of your hurting heart. Second, if you want to be shown a new way forward, you have to be open to the healing of the hurt your heart experienced when you accepted the idea there’s no way forward.
I help people do this by guiding them to turn to their Source—by whatever name they have for it—and to bring their hurting heart with them to that Source.
This is where you use your compassion to “gather up” the part of you that has bought the idea that there’s no way forward. Then you turn, with expectation, to the Highest, Most Merciful Reality that you can imagine.
As you turn, you ask this question: “Is it really true that, just because I can’t see a way forward toward my heart’s longing, that there really isn’t one?”
You then bathe in the Light, until you experience some sort of transformational answer to that question.
What sort of answer will you get?
I can’t tell you exactly what sort of answer you’ll get when you do this, because the thing about transformation is, it’s unpredictable.
When you open yourself to be transformed in the areas where you’ve accepted that there’s no way forward, you can’t know in advance what you’re going to be shown.
I have noticed, however, that transformation tends to fall into a couple of distinct categories:
The transformation of Insight. Sometimes when a person turns to Something Higher, they get a clear insight. They see something new, generally along the lines of, “Hey, it’s not true that I’m fated to never find a new way forward. In fact, I really could think about my problem this way: [New insight about a way forward, or a new way of thinking about the problem].” They feel charged up to take a new action and often have a clear direction.
The transformation of Assurance. Other times, a person gets a new sense of being loved and cared for even when they don’t see a way forward right away. They feel a new level of compassion for themselves, generally along the lines of, “Wow, I start to see that there is love for me, even when I’m having a hard time. Now that I see that, I may not know the exact route forward, but I know if I keep following this love, there’s a good chance I’ll be shown one.” They feel calm, warm, and able to “stick with it” in the pursuit of their longings.
And, of course, sometimes you get both.
Having told you these things, I feel I also should give you a warning: While it’s a good idea to turn with a sense of expectation, it’s always a bad idea to turn with a specific picture of what your transformation “ought to” look like. The key is that that you are opening to something beyond your own thoughts, in order to discover how transformation comes to you. It’s a process of discovery — don’t let your thoughts about what you “should” be receiving get in the way of what you are receiving.
What you can change, starting right now
You lose heart when you are pursuing something your heart longs for, like better health. Something gets in the way that you can’t seem to get past, like an overwhelming desire for cookies. And you accept the idea that, because you can’t see a path to what you long for, there is no way to get there.
In the face of that happening, you are likely to try to figure out why you got stopped, and to go into “fix-it” mode.
That doesn’t work well, though, because when you take action as someone who’s accepted the idea that there’s no way forward, you’re actions aren’t going to be particularly innovative or inspired.
I’m suggesting that, from now on, you start to notice when you’ve accepted the idea that there’s no way forward to better health. And I’m suggesting that, when that happens, you take the time to care for your heart that is hurting.
Rather than asking “Why did that happen, and how can I fix it,” try admitting that you’ve lost heart. Turn to your Source with the question, “Is it true I’m fated to not find a way forward toward my deepest longing?” Receive healing and insight, and bring that renewed energy and resource into your pursuit of the life you long for.
It takes attentiveness and practice, but the result—being able to keep moving toward the life you really long for—is worth the effort. I’ve seen this happen with scores of people I’ve worked with, and experienced it myself.
If you’d like help with any part of this process, you can send me a private message with your question on my coaching page (link opens in a new window), or leave a comment here in the comments section below. Either way, I’d love to hear how this lands with you.
Read next: Now I have to cook, too?!
“It’s not bad enough that I have to eat healthy, wholesome food,” I complained to my wife, Fawn. “The real kicker, the real thing that’s driving me crazy, is that I have to dedicate so much time to preparing it!"
“It’s sounds like you are not at peace about something,” Fawn ventured. “Perhaps it’s time to do some healing work?”
“I don’t know how much help that will be,” I said. “I know it’s important to do heart-level work when you’re upset, but this situation seems like the exception to that rule. I have to cook my own food. I guess I’d better just get good at suffering through the process.”
(Here’s a hint, by the way: when you think that something you are upset about is the “exception,” and that heart-level work won’t help… that’s the sign you need to do some heart-level work.)
What are you longing for? And what’s in the way?
Fawn wisely pressed on. “Well,” she said, “in view of the fact that I’ve been out of town a lot, and that you do have to cook your food, what do you want the cooking experience to be like?”
I thought for a moment, and said, “I want to feel good taking care of my health, every step of the way. Remember the rules I made up a the start of losing weight and improving my health? ‘No using willpower, and no suffering.’ This ‘having to cook my own food’ thing is getting dangerously close to breaking those rules. But yes, the bottom line is I want to feel joy in all of it, every step of the way!”
“Ok, then what’s the problem?” Fawn asked. “When you go for that feeling of joy and peace in every step of your weight-loss journey, what gets in the way?”
“That’s easy,” I told her. “Cooking gets in the way. Eating well means spending a huge amount of time in the kitchen making food that is, quite honestly, not particularly thrilling. I work and work and end up with ‘Oh, that’s a nice miso bean soup. Sure am glad I’m eating this rather than a bunch of cookies.’ Bleah. All that time in the kitchen, making crappy ‘healthy’ food, and trying to convince myself it’s delicious. But it’s not delicious. It’s bland, boring, and time-consuming.”
“So that’s the problem,” Fawn said. “You want to feel joy in every part of building your good health. But it seems like in order to be healthy, you have to spend more time than you like cooking the bland, boring food that makes good health possible.”
“That’s right,” I said. Bland, boring crap, and hours spent every day to make it. Yuk.”
What’s the dark fate you’re believing in?
In the work that I do, we are always looking for the fate that you believe you are stuck with in the circumstances you are experiencing. So I wasn’t surprised by Fawn’s next question:
“When you have to spend more time than you like cooking the bland, boring food that makes good health possible, how do you lose heart? What fate do you start believing you are stuck with?”
I realized the truth: “When I want to have joy in good health, but feel stuck having to spend tons of time cooking bland, boring food, I do lose heart. And the way I lose heart is I start to believe that I’m fated to be trapped in the kitchen, and miss out on everything that is good about life. I’ll be locked in the kitchen making bean paste when I could be out in the world, enjoying hot fudge sundaes.”
I started to see that I really had accepted the idea that in order to lose weight and be healthy, I was going to be trapped in the kitchen, and miss out on everything that is good about life.
It’s no wonder I was upset.
What kind of higher power would set that up?
One of the questions I like to ask people is, “What kind of ‘higher power’ would set up that kind of a fate for you?” In fact, that’s what Fawn asked me next:
“What kind of a ‘higher power’ would put a longing in your heart to have joy in pursuing good health, but fate you to have to miss out on everything that is good in life?"
That’s an important question, because you can make a strong case that, whatever fate you are believing in, you are also believing something about the god, universe, higher power—or whatever you call it—that set that fate up in the first place.
Put another way, it’s important to know what kind of ‘higher power’ you are believing in. If you are believing in a 'higher power' that has doomed you to suffer, it’s going to make enjoying your life a lot more difficult. (In my case, it was making enjoying preparing my own food impossible.)
“Wow,” I answered. “The ‘higher power’ that would put that longing in my heart, then fate me to miss out on life, is pretty uncaring. It’s a power that says, ‘Hey dude, I don’t care. Life is rough. Get used to it. Things suck for everybody. Nobody said it would be fair. Suck it up and suffer through, jerk.”
Fawn asked, “Does that idea feel like it’s from the highest and most merciful reality you can imagine? Is that truly Divine Blessing?”
I had to admit it most certainly was not. It was clear to me that I did not knowwhat Divine Blessing would look like in this situation, but I certainly knew that this uncaring point of view was not it.
So I went inside myself, and gathered up this part of me that had bought the idea that I was fated to spend my life trapped in the kitchen. I took it and turned away from the dark ‘higher power.’ With a sense of expectation, I opened myself to the Divine Love.
Opening to the Divine Love
I should say a few words here about “opening to Divine Love.” I like to think of it the way my buddy Jim Keeley describes it—that opening to the Divine Love is like tuning in an old-style radio.
When you tune in an old-style radio, you are listening for the station you want to tune into, and adjusting the knob until the broadcast is playing clearly.
It’s the same when you turn to the Divine. You’re tuning your “inner radio,” listening for the Divine station, and adjusting and opening until the Divine broadcast is playing clearly.
The important thing to note, though, is that when you tune to the Divine broadcast, you don’t know what’s going to be playing. The big mistake I see people make is that they turn to the Love, and demand or expect that it will show up in a certain way. They expect to be given a piece of advice, or an action plan, or to have their feelings changed in a certain way.
But every time you open yourself to the Divine, it’s different—and chasing yesterday’s experience of the Divine will ultimately be frustrating. You need to turn to the Light with the expectation that it will be there, and that it can touch you—but without a specific agenda for how it will affect you.
In my case, I was turning to the Divine with the part of me that had accepted the idea that if I wanted to be healthy, I had to get used to missing out on life. I was saying, “I have no idea what the truth is, but I know it’s not the fate I’ve accepted. I know You have goodness in store for me, and I’m open to anything You have to give me.”
The kitchen as foundation and springboard into life
As I turned to the Love with that sense of open expectation, I started to feel that Love fill me in all the places where I had accepted the dark fate. I started to see that the world of Love was bigger than I had thought. A lot bigger, as a matter of fact.
In this new light of love, I started to have the sense that the Divine made me to be healthy, fit and of service to the world. And I started to feel that the Divine wanted to support me in that health, fitness, and service.
And I started to see that part of how the Divine supports me in all of that is through the food that I eat.
From that perspective I started to see how meal planning, shopping and cooking are the foundation of that support. I started to see how the time I spend in the kitchen is the foundation that powers me to spring forward into the world.
I started to see that the purpose of my life is not to be laboring down in that foundation, scrubbing the bricks and never experiencing life. The foundation is important, but the foundation is not the purpose of my life.
I started to see how the time I spend in the kitchen isn’t meant to keep me from the world—it is like a springboard that is meant to power me in it.
If that’s true, then I want to cook!
I shared all this with Fawn, and she asked me, “In view of this new truth, how does that change your relationship with cooking?”
“It changes it a lot,” I told her. “If the kitchen really is my springboard into life, then I want to use it well. If the food I make there is designed to fuel my actions in the world, then I want the food I make to be great.”
Rather than seeing it as a burden, cooking time now started to seem like a time of recharging—a gathering of energy and preparation for doing great things in the world.
That felt much better.
Read next: What do you really want from food?
"I want to eat whatever I want, as much as I want, whenever I want, and never exercise. That's what I want."
My wife Fawn had asked me what I wanted my relationship with food to be like. Hearing me answer, I think she was starting to regret having asked.
"I want to eat hot fudge sundaes. I want to eat donuts. I want to eat chocolate chip cookies—In fact, that's such a great idea, if I wasn't talking to you I'd go get some cookies right now! That's how brilliant that idea is. I want to eat what I want, when I want it, and as much as I want of it, and nobody can stop me."
We were talking because I had been losing weight and become more healthy, but—and this is putting it mildly—I wasn't feeling like doing what it would take to continue to get those outcomes.
"Cookies, and more cookies," I continued. "That is what I want."
"So, why do you want that?"
Fawn looked a little shocked by my belligerence. But, being an experienced facilitator, she moved on anyway.
"Okay," she said, "That's what you want. But why do you want that? What does it seem like doing that will give you?"
I knew the answer without a moment's hesitation. "Why do I want that?" I answered. "That's an easy one.
"I want to eat whatever I want because I want to be free. I don't want to live that dull, grey, restricted, boring life of eating 'healthy.' I want to be unrestricted and free, eating up the wonders of life. I want life without restriction. I want joy and color and amazingness. And if that means eating cookies whenever I want them, then that's what it means."
Fawn had wisely uncovered what I truly wanted: Freedom.
And she had seen my prescription for freedom: Cookies.
It was time to take the next step.
The heart never truly longs for something unwholesome
In the work we do we are always looking for the deepest longing a person has in a situation. We like to think of it as if the Divine placed that longing in your heart. It's sacred.
And by that same token we believe that the heart never truly wants something unwholesome. We never truly, in our deepest heart, long for something that will destroy us.
Therefore, when I said "I truly long to eat cookies, and never stop," Fawn knew that I was full of it. Did I really, truly, on the deepest level of my being, long for something that would eventually give me diabetes and a heart attack? Of course not. The heart never truly longs for something unwholesome. Fawn knew she had to look deeper.
"Okay," she said. "So let's get into this. I really want to understand your experience of eating cookies and being free. Where do you get the best cookies?"
"The coffeeshop by our house," I answered. "They have the best freakin' chocolate chip cookies in the world. Hot out of the oven, perfectly browned, chocolaty and gooey. MMMmm. I wish I had one right now."
"Okay," she said. "Imagine how it feels to walk into that coffeeshop. You walk, in, and what happens?"
"I walk in, and walk up to the counter." I told her. "I see the cookies. I smell them. Wow, they look so good. I have to have one. I absolutely have to have one."
Fawn said, "Just out of curiosity—could you choose not to have one?"
"No!" I said. "I can't choose that. I must have one. I want one. I have to have one. I must have one! I must! I must!"
At that moment I had one of those "comes the dawn" experiences.
I had one of those rare human moments of actually hearing the words that were coming out of my mouth.
And it was quite a revelation.
"Hey, wait a minute!" I said. "If I must have one, I don't have any choice. That's not freedom! That's not freedom at all!"
Not free at all
There I was, a guy who was committed to feeling free. I had just discovered that I wasn't free at all. In fact, I was being controlled by the very food I desired most.
That was a big realization.
I continued to talk as I unpacked this new insight. "You know, I do like the pleasurable sensations of eating; that's for sure. But I see now that I do not like being out of control. I do not like going to a coffeeshop for a cup of tea and getting a cookie and a hot cocoa because I can't stop myself. I do not like that at all.
I continued, "I don't want to be controlled by 'there's a cookie, I have to get it. There's a mocha, I have to buy it.' I hate that, actually. I hate that I'm consigned to being out of control, and to not have any choice."
As much as I enjoy eating, I had to admit, "There's no joy in being out of control."
In that moment, I discovered that my true longing was to be in control of my eating. My true longing, when it came to sugary foods that made me fat and out of control, was simply to stop.
"I want to be able to take a stand," I told Fawn. "I want to be able to take a stand in the world and say, 'for the sake of my health, I'm not eating that.' I want to be that free."
Until you connect to your desire to change, change is hard
Your motivations may be different than mine. Perhaps feeling free is not your top priority. Perhaps it's feeling supported, or feeling powerful, or feeling in control.
But, fundamentally, if you are saying you want to change your behavior, but actually don't want to change it, you probably shouldn't lie about it. You need to look deeper to see if that behavior is really, truly giving you what your heart longs for, and move from that new realization.
Let's look at my case:
If I hadn't acknowledged that I wanted to keep on eating everything, how well would I have been able to change my behavior around food? Probably not very well. I would have "talked a good game," but still eaten and eaten and eaten.
I often see this in my clients, and participants at my workshops. People want something to be different in their lives, then pretend to want to take the action to make that change happen...but part of them really doesn't.
Then they try to change, but their repressed desire to do the behavior they are supposedly trying to stop works against them. They then wonder why they are having difficulty, and why they can't be "self-disciplined."
Once I acknowledged that I really liked overeating because I thought itgave me freedom, I was able to look deeper. I was able to ask, is my compulsive eating really an example of being free? From that perspective I was able to see quite clearly: It was not.
In the face of that realization, I really started wanting self-control. I got "on board" with my desire to control what I was eating. I wanted to be free to make my own choices about food, not have them made for me.
This opened up a real feeling of lightness and possibility for me. I felt a new energy in my body, and the energy said this:
"I want to choose, and I CAN choose."
I started to really feel the truth of it. I wasn't doomed to be an automaton, shoveling sugar into my mouth. I could choose for myself.
I started feeling how it felt to able to make my own choices, rather than having food make those choices for me.
It felt great.
Getting "on board" with changing
Your process may be different than mine. The important thing is that you participate. You have to acknowledge where you are at right now—even if it's wanting to eat everything in sight. Then you need to look deeper, to your deeper desire, and let yourself come into relationship with that longing.
When your heart is really "on board" with changing, it's much easier to ignore the cookie you'd otherwise eat, or whatever else is tempting you as you set about changing your life.
Sometimes, when people tell me to "think positive," I go a little nuts.
I'm not saying that positive thinking doesn't work for some people. I know it does.
Just not for me.
For a lot of my life, people have told me that
- "You'll see it when you believe it!"
- "You're only limited by what you believe is possible!"
- "You can do anything if you just believe hard enough!"
- "You can't afford the luxury of a negative thought!"
- "Send out your intention, and the universe will bring it to you!"
...and so on.
But when I try to be positive, I find myself remembering all the times I've "thought positive" and failed anyway, and how devastating some of those failures have been.
If you're like me, you've tried "positive thinking," and you've whipped yourself up into believing that something is possible, only to have it all come crashing down...
...and, after a while, those failures make it really hard to "think positive" about your future.
Nowhere is this more true than when you are trying to get motivated about your health.
If you want to lose weight or take other action to improve your health, the conventional wisdom is that you need to get yourself into the frame of mind where you believe, with certainty, that "you can do it!"
I'd like to offer you an alternative to "positive thinking" that might work better for you.
I call it "neutral thinking."
The failure of positive thinking
"Positive thinking" is built around the idea that the universe wants you to succeed, and that all you need to do is ask, and believe, and the universe will support you in manifesting what you want.
That's great when it works.
But when it doesn't work, it's easy to starting thinking that the problem must be
You're not being positive enough.
You end up feeling like the universe is trying to give you what you want, and your negative thinking is messing it all up.
And that doesn't help you take inspired action.
If you've experienced a lot of disappointments in your life—for instance, if you've tried to lose weight or improve your health, and its never worked out—then hearing that "you're not being positive enough" is simply more shaming.
The thing is, if you're tried to improve your health and failed, you actually have evidence—your past failures—that the universe is not "for you" in your developing the health you want.
Positive thinking asks, "is the universe for you? Is the universe actively supporting you in achieving your goals?" If you can answer "yes" to that, you'll find yourself motivated to take action toward your goals and congratulations! You're a successful positive thinker.
However, if you've had discouraging failures in the past, you may actually feel like the answer to that question is "no." You may feel like the universe is not supporting you in achieving your goals—after all, if it was, you would have had more success in achieving them.
If your answer to the question of positive thinking is, "no, the universe is not for me," then positive thinking will do more harm than good.
The power of neutral thinking
Neutral thinking is different.
Instead of asking if the universe if for you, neutral thinking asks, "is the universe against you, and is the universe actively blocking you from achieving your goals?"
Rather than pursuing being optimistic (positive thinking), we are, instead, pursuing the neutral state of not being pessimistic.
After all, if the universe is designed to prevent you from achieving your goals, then you might as well give up now, and go eat a bunch of cookies.
But if the universe is simply neutral to you achieving your goals, then rock on! The universe is not actively trying to stop you. That would mean that achieving your goals is possible. That's a big difference.
Neutral thinking and improving your health
So let's look at neutral thinking from the point of view of your health.
Say you've tried to lose weight and develop the body that you long for, and that you specifically want to make better food choices. But you've failed a bunch of times in making that change, and you can't see a way forward.
The question you should not ask is the positive thinking question: "Can you count on the universe to help you make good food choices?" Because, if you've failed in the past, you already have evidence that the answer to that question is "no."
Instead, ask the neutral thinking question: "is the universe actually structured to prevent me from making good food choices?"
In fact, I suggest you ask the question like this:
"Is it true that the universe is structured so that I cannot make good food choices? Is it true that the universe is structured with gravity, and light particles, and elements, and galaxies, and solar systems, and [your name] is doomed to never be able to make good food choices? Is that really the way the universe is structured?"
What I've found is, upon looking at it from that perspective, people who can't be optimistic can at least stop being pessimistic.
Clients tell me things like, "Wait a minute. The universe, in its grand structure, doesn't really care if I succeed or not. It's not saying 'your wish is my command,' but the universe is also not saying 'no, you can't succeed.' There's nothing fundamental about the universe that says I have to make bad food choices. I actually can change!"
Going from failed positive thinking to successful neutral thinking is like going from thinking your problem is a bottomless pit to thinking your problem is a really deep hole. It doesn't matter how much you work to fill a bottomless pit, you're never going to see any progress. On the other hand, you can fill up a really deep hole. It may take work, but it is possible.
That's the power of neutral thinking: while it's not guaranteed that you can create the health you want (positive thinking), it's also not guaranteed that you can't (neutral thinking).
If you've been stuck in the dark side of positive thinking, then neutral thinking will be a huge step forward for you. You can stop trying to positive-think yourself into believing the universe is here to fulfill your desires, and start relaxing into the realization that the universe is not working against you achieving your goals.
Try it yourself
1) Choose a possibility you'd like to believe in. What is a goal or outcome for your life that you'd like to believe is possible, but you've given up on? Because this is a health-related blog, you may choose something about your health—not overeating, avoiding sugar, exercising regularly—whatever. But really, you could chose anything in your life where you've tried to be positive and failed to achieve what you want.
2) Notice that positive thinking isn't working for you. Let yourself acknowledge that you've tried to "think positive" about this area of your life, and positive thinking hasn't worked. In fact, it's left you feeling like the universe is not for you, in this area.
3) Ask the question, "Is it true that the universe is structured so that I cannot achieve [my goal]? Is it true that the universe is structured with gravity, and light particles, and elements, and galaxies, and solar systems, and [my name] is doomed to never be able to achieve [my goal]? Is that really the way the universe is structured?"
4) Open your heart to your best sense of the answer. If you've suffered a lot of discouragement, your mind might be convinced the universe is fundamentally structured to stop you, personally. Feel for the answer with your emotions, with your heart. Is it really true the universe is structured to fate you to fail?
5) Feel any new freedom that opens up. Let yourself feel any new freedom, or openness, or possibility that the answer might bring.
"Neutral thinking" has been an essential part of my succeeding at getting over my food compulsions and becoming more sane with food. Asking "is it true that the universe is structured with gravity, and light particles, and elements, and galaxies, and solar systems, and Dmitri always has to be compulsive with food?" has really helped me see that I do have a choice in my relationship with food. "Food-craziness for Dmitri" is not the fundamental structure of the universe. The universe doesn't care if I'm compulsive with food, or not. In that case, I can have the relationship with food that I want. And in THAT case, I really want to go for it.
I hope neutral thinking will help you too.
If you haven't downloaded it yet, click here to download my free PDF, "The 5 Big Mistakes People Make When The Try to Lose Weight and Improve their Health."
My wife, Fawn, made me go crazy.
No, honestly, it's all her fault! ;)
She bought a package of cookies, opened it up, ate one, then wandered off, leaving the rest on the kitchen counter.
This bothered me. I wasn't bothered by her buying the cookies. I was bothered by her eating one and then so easily stepping away.
I found her in the bedroom. "Aren't you going to eat more of those cookies?," I demanded.
"Cookies?" she said. "Oh yeah, there are some cookies. I'll probably have another one in a few days."
"Don't you find yourself thinking about them?" I asked her. "Don't they call out to you, telling you that you should come eat more of them?"
My wife looked at me like I had suggested she break a brick out of the wall and eat it. "Of course not," she said. "I had one, that was enough. What is wrong with you?"
"You make me crazy," I explained.
My wife doesn't make me crazy. Sugar does
In my experience, there are two types of people when it comes to sugary foods:
There are people like my wife, Fawn, who can buy a package of cookies, open the package, eat one cookie, and walk away, leaving the package on the kitchen counter.
She won't think about the cookies, will walk by them dozens of times without thinking about them, and may eat another cookie a couple of days later. For her, perfect moderation with sugar is easy.
It's the opposite with me (and perhaps with you, too). If I buy a package of cookies and eat one, it doesn't matter where I am...I can hear those cookies calling to me, telling me I should come have more. And usually they don't stop taking over my brain until the last one is eaten.
The truth is, my wife doesn't make me crazy. Sugar does.
The good news and the bad news
Sometimes clients tell me, "I'm one of those people who can't eat just one cookie and stop, and I want to change. I want to become one of those people who can eat one cookie and walk away."
If that's you, I have good news and bad news.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first.
The bad news is this:
I haven't seen much evidence that it's possible to go from being someone whose cannot be moderate with sugar to becoming someone who can be moderate with sugar.
People who become "sugar addicts" seem to be similar to people who become alcohol or other drug addicts. There seems to be something about the way we are wired physiologically that lets sugar get its "hooks" into our consciousness if we eat it regularly. If you need to stay away from sugar, you need to stay away from sugar.
But don't worry! There is also good news. Though we have to explore for a moment to find it.
For many people, the idea that they are wired in such a way that they simply have to stay away from sugar is simply intolerable.
In fact, the idea that you might have to live your life without eating sugar might even be heartbreaking.
So to find the good news, we have to answer the question, "Why is the idea of a life without sugar so upsetting?"
I've asked clients this question (and asked it of myself), and the answer always boils down to some version of,
"If I can't eat sugar, I won't be able to live a full, rich and happy life."
If that were true—if it were true that you won't be able to be really, truly be happy if you don't eat sugar—then not being able to eat sugar would be terrible news.
But the good news is,
You can live happily without eating sugar
—and not in some second-rate, "consolation prize" way of living—
but a truly rich, full, and happy life.
Let me give you an example of how an overweight client of mine found the "good news" in this situation for himself.
My client told me,
"I want to be able to eat a little bit of sugary foods and stop—but once I start eating sweets I can't control myself. I know I need to stop eating sugar entirely, but that seems like too much to ask."
"Okay, I said to him. "Let's explore this. Why is the idea of stopping eating sugar 'too much to ask'?"
After some discussion, he found his answer to my question—the typical answer people usually find. He said,
"Eating sugar makes me happy. If I don't eat sugar, I can't have a happy life. So I have to choose. I can either
- eat sugar, have happiness, and be fat, or
- not eat sugar, be unhappy, and be slim."
"Wow," I said. "Believing that is a hard way to live."
"It sure is," he said, "It's pretty discouraging, but I don't see any other way to be."
I then guided him through a process designed to bring love and compassion to the part of him that had become discouraged (I've added a link to a quick write-up of that process at the end of this post, so you can do it for yourself).
As he began to bring compassion to the part of himself that had become discouraged by the seeming impossibility of his situation, he started to visibly relax.
He said, "Wow, I really see how hard it has been for me to believe that I can't be fit unless I accept being miserable. I really feel compassion for that part. I feel love for that part of me, pouring in. For the first time I feel supported about my health, rather than feeling like I'm being scolded and shamed for being overweight."
He sat with that new sense of love for a while, then suddenly started laughing. "Wait a minute!" he said. "This is ridiculous! I've been thinking that I can't be happy unless I'm eating sugar, but there have been plenty of times in my life where I've eaten all the sugar I want. And guess what: I've been miserable during those periods!"
He paused and laughed to himself again. "I've been thinking that eating sugar makes me happy, but honestly that's not true at all. When I'm eating sugar on a regular basis, thoughts about sweets take over my brain. I find myself constantly thinking about what sweet thing I will eat next, and plotting how I'm going to get it. It's terrible and I feel helpless and out of control! Eating sugar doesn't actually make me happy at all!"
He chuckled again and continued. "In fact," he said, "I'm starting to see that there's really no relationship between the amount of sugar I eat and how happy I am. The amount of sugar I eat and the amount of happiness I experience are not connected at all. If anything, it seems I'd actually be happier having sugar out of my life entirely!"
Armed with this new feeling of conviction, he was able to immediately stop eating sugar. At our next weekly coaching session he told me, "It feels so good. While it's definitely true that I have less sugar-related pleasure, the bigger truth is that I'm having so much more inner peace and happiness that it's totally worth it."
I asked him about sugar cravings. "Sure," he said, "I feel cravings sometimes. But I feel like a lighthouse, and the cravings are waves pounding at that lighthouse. Those waves can pound all they want; that lighthouse is not moving. It's the same inside of me. Now that I really see what sugar does to me, those cravings can't make me change my resolve. It's like they don't even matter."
There is a better way
If you are one of those folks who—like me—goes a little crazy when you eat sugar, it can be heartbreaking to think that if you stop eating sugar, you can't have a fully happy life. But my experience is, if you bring compassion to the part of you that believes that, you can start to live knowing that your happiness isn't controlled by sugar after all. And it's much easier to stop eating sugar when you know the truth: you don't need it in order to be happy.
You may know, in your head, that you should stop eating sugar. But until you are at peace about that idea, you won't be able to let sugar go. Click here to download my new 3 page PDF guide, "3 Steps to Being at Peace with Not Eating Sugar."
The basic premise of my work is simple.
The premise is...
..If you find your source of inner inspiration, you'll be able to make improvements to to your diet and lifestyle...
- without suffering,
- without feeling deprived, and
- while using only the smallest amount of willpower.
Changing your diet and lifestyle does not have to be a struggle. The inspiration for becoming healthy can flow from you, consistently, and you can enjoy living a healthier life.
But sometimes a person will become inspired and make a change to their health—to stop eating sugar, or to start walking every day, or whatever...
...only to have that new behavior soon slide back to the way it was before.
And when that happens to you, you are likely to lose your inspiration.
Today I'd like to explain to you why you sometimes find your behavior slipping back to the way it was before...
...And I'll show you how you can avoid that "backsliding," and stay inspired in the future.
Health is a Multi-Rivet Issue
The big thing you need to understand is this:
Health is a multi-rivet issue.
Let me explain...
Imagine two sheets of metal, held together with a single rivet. One sheet of metal is a problem behavior you are dealing with, and the other sheet of metal is you.
For example, the problem behavior might be that you feel compelled to eat a lot of ice cream...and you need to stop eating ice cream, so you can lose weight.
Compulsively eating ice cream is the "problem behavior" sheet of metal, held by one rivet to the sheet of metal representing "you." You have that problem behavior because it's attached to you by that one rivet.
Now imagine that the rivet represents an unresolved emotional issue—some pain point, some risk, some limiting belief or counterintention, that needs to be healed before that problem behavior can be released.
For instance, the "rivet" holding that problem behavior to you might be the fact that eating ice cream is your way of getting through the stresses of your day. Until you "pop that rivet"—that is, until you resolve that belief that you must eat ice cream if you are going to "get through your day"—you won't be able to change your ice-cream-eating behavior.
When you heal that belief and "pop that rivet," however, you'll be free, and you'll naturally stop reaching for the ice cream. You won't need it to "get through the day." The problem behavior won't be attached to you anymore.
Many behavioral compulsions are "one rivet issues." Handle one issue—pop off that one rivet—and the problem behavior is easy to release.
...there are other problem behaviors (most notably problems related to taking action to improve your health) that are multi-rivet.
Think of that this way:
Imagine those two sheets of metal again...but this time imagine that the "problem behavior" sheet of metal is held to the "you" sheet of metal not by one rivet, but by six, seven, or eight rivets.
And again, imagine that each rivet represents a different, separate unresolved emotional issue that holds that problem in place.
To return to our example: you might need to stop eating ice cream so you can lose weight. But what if there are six or seven distinct "rivets" (emotional issues) that drive you to eat that ice cream?
The emotional rivets might be:
- The belief that you need ice cream to make it through the stresses of your day,
- The feeling that you can't have fun with your family or friends without eating ice cream with them,
- Your experience that eating ice cream late at night makes you feel special and cared for in a way nothing else does,
- The fact that eating ice cream makes you feel "in control" of your life,
- Your memory about how, when you were a kid, your favorite grandfather always bought you ice cream, and so eating it reminds you of being with him,
- Your feeling that you spend so much time doing things for other people, you really have to eat ice cream so you can have something "just for you,"
- Part of you feels ashamed, and eating ice cream both punishes you and helps you not feel that shame,
- And so on.
You can see how resolving just one of those issues won't permanently change your compulsion to eat ice cream...because that one rivet is only one of the ways that the behavior is being held in place in your life.
You can do a piece of emotional work—a coaching session, a session in your support group, whatever—and your behavior might improve. But if there are other rivets that need to be handled, your behavior will likely slip back to the way it was before.
And that's one of the main reasons you might lose inspiration about improving your health. You "do your work," you get inspired, you make a change...but things slip back to the way they were, because you only popped one of the rivets that was holding the behavior in place.
There's good news and bad news:
I'm going to give you the bad news first:
The bad news: There are often a number of emotional rivets that have to be removed before you'll have the lasting inspiration that will allow you to easily take action to improve your health, consistently, without struggle.
The good news: the number of rivets is finite. There aren't thousands of them...but there may be a handful of rivets that you have to get through. Fortunately, you can get through them so that your new behavior comes effortlessly, and so that the old behavior is a "thing of the past."
We "backslide" to old behaviors because we lose our inspiration about creating the bodies that we long for. And we often lose that inspiration because we don't realize that there's more than one emotional "rivet" to be popped...or we lose our inspiration because we start to think the number of emotional rivets holding the problem behavior to us is infinite.
But the truth is, if you keep working your emotional issues around food and lifestyle, those problem behaviors can become a thing of the past, and you can wholeheartedly take new, healthy action.
If you know you need to work on your health, but you just don't feel ready, then this post is for you.
- This blog post will not be a "pep talk" that will try to get you to change.
- This blog post will not try to make you change your diet or start exercising when you don't feel ready to do so.
What this post will do is help you feel a deeper compassion for the part of you that is not ready to take action toward better health…
…So that when you are ready you'll be able to take action wholeheartedly, without being slowed down by inner resistance or discouragement.
SOMETIMES A PERSON IS JUST NOT READY
Taking action toward good health is important. But the truth is, sometimes a person just isn't ready.
If you aren't ready, you'll probably relate to these statements:
- "I know I should be exercising, but it just seems too hard."
- "I'm too busy to spend time cooking or working out."
- "I can't imagine giving up the foods I love to eat, even though I know they are bad for me."
These are all signs of not being ready.
And if you are not ready, you've come to the right place.
NOT BEING READY IS HARD
Here's a rarely-acknowledged truth:
It's hard being overweight or out of shape, knowing that you "should" do something about it, but honestly not feeling ready to take action.
After all, there's not much compassion in our society if you're not taking massive health-related action, right now.
If you aren't ready to take action, you are greeted with a near-universal chorus of:
- "You should be ashamed!"
- "You gotta push through! Try harder and do it anyway!"
- "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels! [or some other pep-talk slogan]"
- "A dumb diabetic is a dead diabetic!"
- "Do you WANT to get sick/die early?"
- …and so on.
None of this helps. All these responses just make you feel worse (and will, in fact, probably push you toward eating food that's not good for you, just so you can feel some comfort and relief).
WHY YOU ARE NOT READY
It turns out that if you don't feel ready to take action to improve your health, there are good reasons why you feel that way.
Most likely, you don’t feel ready because you've tried in the past to improve your health, and you've failed.
That harsh experience of trying and failing has led you to believe that it's pointless to try to improve your health. The evidence seems to be that trying to improve your body is a painful experience that doesn't lead to success. So why even bother?
In the face of your experience, some part of you has given up on losing weight or otherwise improving your health.
And because part of you is discouraged about your health, has given up, and feels like taking action is pointless, you find yourself feeling "not ready."
IT'S HARD TO CHANGE IF YOU FEEL ASHAMED AND IGNORED
If you know you "need to shape up" and haven't, you probably are alternating between two ways of relating to yourself:
- You're shaming yourself for having given up. Along with the rest of the world, you probably are shaming yourself for your lack of motivation. "I shouldn't be this way," you might tell yourself. "I'm lazy," you might say. Or you might be asking, "What is wrong with me?"
- You're ignoring the whole problem of health. If you're not actively shaming yourself for having given up, you're probably ignoring the whole situation. Because ignoring the whole problem of health is less painful than beating yourself up, there's a good chance that you spend most of your time just ignoring your health situation. After all, if the alternative is feeling ashamed, you might as well just go numb to the whole thing.
But ignoring the whole situation has a major problem of its own:
If you ignore the whole problem of health, you'll never be in a position to take powerful, wholehearted action to improve your health.
It turns out there is a solution:
The solution is to have compassion for yourself… even when you're not ready to make a change.
That's the solution because being compassionate with yourself is the best way to gently bring yourself to the point of being ready.
But there's one thing you must know if you want your self-compassion to actually help you:
Self-compassion is tricky, because we often confuse it with ignoring the problem.
For instance, a person might think that the way to be compassionate to themselves would be to say,
"I want to be compassionate to myself. Therefore I'll tell myself that it's fine if I ignore my health for the rest of my life."
While that is certainly less painful than shaming yourself, that is not the kind of compassion we are looking for. Saying "It's fine if I ignore my health for the rest of my life" is simply taking the opposite approach of shaming yourself. It's less painful, but it doesn't bring you any closer to being able to wholeheartedly improve your health.
And that's important because, if you're "dirt honest," simply being unhealthy and ignoring it is probably not the deepest longing of your heart.
In your heart, you probably long to be healthy and feel good in your body.
That means you can't simply be okay with ignoring your health, and with calling that compassion.
You mustn't confuse allowing yourself to ignore your painful condition forever with being truly compassionate for yourself.
This is the compassion that you need: the love that doesn't shame you for having given up, but that also doesn't ignore the fact that you've given up.
THE COMPASSION YOU NEED
Fortunately, unconditional love and compassion have a way of recharging people to take action.
If you've ever sat with a discouraged friend and listened to him or her complain, and simply provided love and compassion, you know that, after their pain has been acknowledged, and they've been loved even though they are discouraged, they are usually ready to try once more.
Compassionate love—without pep-talks, without advice—really does recharge people's hearts and allow them to try once again.
That means we can't just tell ourselves,
"I know health is a painful issue for me because I've failed in the past, so it's okay to ignore it."
We have to go deeper with our compassion, telling ourselves,
"I know health is a painful issue for me because I've failed in the past..and I'm here to love the part of me that has given up on taking action, until I feel like I can try once again."
It may seem like a subtle difference, but it's actually huge.
Rather than enabling yourself to ignore your situation in the name of compassion, you can actually pay more attention, and bring love to the parts of yourself that have given up on trying.
The more love and compassion you can bring to the part of yourself that has given up on taking action to improve your health, the sooner you'll get to the point of being able to wholeheartedly take new action—not as a chore, but with power and inspiration.
That healing may not happen in a minute. It may not happen in a day.
But you do need to start that healing if you want to be able to pursue better health from a sense of inner inspiration.
I want to support you through the process of healing your discouragement so you can become ready. I hope that you'll keep coming back to this blog and read it for support, even if you aren't ready to start taking action yet.
And if you want to go deeper, you can download my new 4-page PDF report, "7 Steps to bringing compassion to yourself If you’re not ready to take healthy action. In it I'll walk you through each step bringing compassion to yourself, so you can recharge and feel good about your walk to better health—whether or not you are ready to act right now.
I've seen it so many times…
A person decides it's time to lose weight or otherwise improve her (or his) health. So the first thing she does is try to figure out the steps she'll need to take in order to make that happen.
She focuses first on figuring out the "how"…
- "How will I lose this weight?"
- "How will I heal my pre-diabetic condition?"
- "How will I get enough exercise?"
But focusing first on "how" is a mistake...a mistake that will probably lead to failure.
Focusing on "how" is a mistake because it doesn't matter how good a plan you come up with to improve your health if you haven't handled the emotional issues that will keep you from making a change.
You've got to handle the upset or discouraged emotions you have about changing your behavior around food or exercise—or those emotions will sabotage the changes you are trying to make.
Put another way…
If you simply commit yourself to new behaviors (a "how") without handling the emotional implications, you'll just be using your willpower against your internal, emotional resistance.
And you will fail. And fail sooner, more likely, rather than later.
If you don't have your emotions handled, it won't matter how good a "how" you have—you'll eventually run out of willpower, get discouraged, and give up.
And that's why you shouldn't focus first on the "how" of losing weight (or of otherwise improving your condition).
THE HEALTH IMPROVEMENT CYCLE
You should focus first on understanding the cycle of emotions you'll go through on your journey to better health—what I call the "Health Improvement Cycle"—so your emotions can work for you, rather than against you.
It's important to understand the steps of the Health Improvement Cycle, because different steps in the cycle require different actions from you. The actions that work when you are at step 1 of the cycle, for instance, don't work once you get to step 3.
I'd like to offer you my free, 7-page PDF guide, "The Health Improvement Cycle: Your Secret to Always Knowing Where You Are in Your Health-Improvement Journey…and to Always Knowing What to do Next."
If you don't understand the Health Improvement Cycle, improving your health will be like playing a game when you don't know the rules. The game will be
- playing it will make you feel stupid, and
- in the end you will lose.
But if you understand the Health Improvement Cycle,
- you'll always know where you are in the process
- you'll always know what you should do next
- You'll see the "curve balls" coming—and you'll know how to respond to them
- You'll have a much better chance of both enjoying the process, and
- You'll have a much better chance of winning the game.
This happened to me. Has it ever happened to you?
First, I got inspired about my health. From that newfound inspiration, I was able to find a diet and lifestyle that really worked for me, and that I really thrived on.
I lost 55 pounds with this approach...
...And then, without changing anything, I started to gain the weight back.
(And in case you think maybe I was cheating in some way, know that I actually started tracking everything I ate. My diet hadn't changed.)
I had simply hit the potentially-hearbreaking problem that health is a moving target.
Put another way...
On your journey to better health,
sometimes something will work for a while, and then stop working.
It's like the target of better health gets moved. The direction you were aiming isn't hitting it anymore.
It doesn't seem fair, but it's definitely true: Health is a moving target...so you need to be prepared for the day when what's working for you changes.
You've no doubt noticed that there are a lot of different approaches to improving your health, and that the practitioners of most of those approaches can make a pretty good case that they have found "The Answer." And when that "Answer" works for us, it's reassuring. It gives us certainty.
And then...it stops working so well.
The "good health target" moved.
Many of us give up when health is a moving target because we thought we found the answer—we really thought so!—and now that answer is not working.
Knowing that health is a moving target will help you be prepared for the day what you are doing needs to be adjusted.
There are three simple steps you can take today to be ready when health is a moving target. Click below to download my new 2-page PDF guide, "3 Simple Steps to Staying Inspired when Health is a Moving Target."
Until next time,
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