For most people, success in life is measured by the job they hold, the money they make, and the possessions they acquire. We raise our children to aim for this trifecta, focusing on school and grades and constant “upward” movement. Unfortunately I feel the most important skill or tool that we can provide our children with to help them “succeed” in life is often the least focused on – relationships.
Relationships are the essence of our lives and without the ability to maintain good relationships, I believe we truly cannot succeed. From home life to the office, if you cannot communicate and work well with people, your forward movement is limited. If you do not have a supportive group of family and friends (co-workers too), all of your challenges and hardships rest solely on your head and shoulders.
But a person who cultivates and cares for relationships above college degrees, money, and acclaim is a person who will get further than just their career/life experience will take them. Did you know that people who were in fraternities or sororities are 60% more likely to have successful careers because they have a network of built-in friends to gain support, leads, and referrals from? Again, it’s about relationships!
Consider two people with the same exact education and experience applying for the same job. Person A has not learned the fine art of conversation, improvisation, and the ability to find something to relate to with everyone they meet. Person B puts relationships and real communication paramount over everything else they do, and they want people to be comfortable around them. Guess who gets the job?
In this age of technology-focused society, the current generation(s) are learning texting instead of talking. We are pushing our youth to stay ahead of the curve with their computer skills and educational goals, which is essential to stay competitive with other countries, but they’re missing out on skills that can really make the difference in the quality of their lives, as well as their careers.
It’s the same for intimate relationships (marriages, partnerships). A person who is content with only their significant other and/or children for company and does not work at maintaining relationships with life-long friends (who often have moved far away) or does not seek to create new friendships is keeping their world (and therefore their growth) very small and limited. This also teaches children that friendships and the work required to maintain them is not as important as having a family and plowing forward.
My mother instilled in me the fine art of conversation, something seriously lacking in so many adults, not to mention children, these days. She said there was always something to talk about with anyone you meet. She taught me to ask questions, and then listen to their answers. While this skill has helped me more times than I can count (garnered me many a job lead or an awesome new friend), I am saddened to see how many adults cannot reciprocate. Often they do not engage in asking questions back – a “get to know you” kind of exchange. Once I’m done “interviewing” and offering a few clever anecdotes of my own, the conversation ceases as they do not know how to communicate back. So many people feel uncomfortable unless they’re only talking about themselves (which is very one-sided). How do you fare where you are forced to mingle with people you do not know?
In the next week as you think upon this post, look at how you communicate with friends and strangers. Look at how they communicate back to you. See if you can find examples of where your relationships with someone benefited your goals, or where not having certain types of relationships have held you back. Then see what you can do to improve the quality of your relationships and communication skills. Remember there is value in having true, honest and reliable relationships in your life, and those relationships start by you being true, honest and reliable.
In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.
I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference. But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.
A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?
Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.
Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.
So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:
- High stress levels at work
- Emotional stress at home
- Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
- Lack of sleep
- Eating too fast
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not drinking enough water
- Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
- Not exercising enough or effectively
- Eating out too much
- Yo-yo dieting
- Worries about money
and the list goes on! Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.
What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).
In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.
13 years ago when I got my first job as a personal trainer at a local 24-Hour Fitness, I was almost 20 years older than most of the other “new” trainers. Now while it may seem advantageous to be a young, fit, 20-something in the fitness industry, a huge issue quickly appeared that differentiated these “youngsters” from this “seasoned broad.” That difference was work ethic – I had one – they didn’t.
Having no clients initially, I walked the floor, re-racked weights, chatted with people offering tips on better lifting form, spotting heaving lifters (the term for helping keep a person safe and the weights stable when power-lifting), or just introducing myself. I even took protein bars, cut them into bite size pieces and offered them as free samples – helping me to make “supplement” sales which was part of my job requirement.
All the while, my co-workers continued to stand and flirt and gawk at my attempts to garner clients. However, within a month I had a full training schedule, while others did not. My required training and supplement sales were on target too. I remember talking at length with the Fitness Manager (a man in his 50’s) who regularly wished he had five more of me.
I was taught (as was a most of my generation and those before me) to work before play. It was instilled in me that if I finished a job-at-hand and there was more time on the “work” clock, then I better go get something else to do before something was assigned to me, or worse, that I would be let go for slacking. Coming off of the Depression, Americans embraced working. They were thankful for jobs and worked hard to keep them and get ahead. But somewhere between the 1960-1980’s our society’s work ethic softened. Perhaps it was the what about me decade of the 70’s, perhaps it was the evolution of values and family structure that lead to this, but I definitely see a difference in how generations born after the 80’s view work.
I see this lack of work ethic still in many kids, teens, and young adults. School age children are receiving more and more homework these days – and without a proper work ethic getting all that work done is bleeding into long nights and weekends. Turn-over rates on jobs from fast-food to offices are high as well because these kids are easily distracted, have poor time management skills, and are often just plain lazy (not my term, this is what business owners tell me).
With this said, I feel it is an important aspect of parenting to teach our children good work ethics, to hold them accountable for their responsibilities (homework and a few household chores), and that once they enter the work-force (no matter how young) they must be on-time, reliable, and diligent.
With unemployment high, there’s huge competition for jobs – not just from our peers – but from other countries as well. When resumes are apples-to-apples, what can set you apart is your work ethic. Letting our youth know that it’s a matter of pride to have a strong work ethic could go far in helping all of the U.S. stay productive and competitive, or at the very least, make one individual’s career more successful.
Even before I became a Mother, as a personal trainer and life coach I was very passionate about helping women not be martyrs just because they had children (and spouses). Knowing from first hand experience (my childhood) that a women could be a mother and still achieve her career goals and have a personal life too, I always had the perspective that being a mother did not have to end my time as an individual who has interests, hobbies and needs.
Clearly I had (have) a remarkable mother who demonstrated through her actions that you can be a woman and a mother, so in 2005 I wrote and published my first book: Joan of Arc Is Dead. A Wake-Up Call For Women Who Sacrifice Too Much. Now 10 years later I find myself coaching a new crop of clients regarding this same issue. The chronic complaints I hear range from “I have no time to work out,” “my spouse and I haven’t been on a romantic date in months,” “I miss hanging out with my friends or shopping without the kids in tow,” or “there’s no time for me or my needs.”
In answer to all these complaints I say rubbish. YOU have set up your lives to place the needs of the children/spouse before your own. Many life coaches and self-help gurus utilize the analogy of airline safety instructions as an illustration of why this habit is detrimental. They say: place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth FIRST, then assist your children. The reason for this is that if you pass out from lack of oxygen you’re no good to your children. Well it’s the same in life – if you are over-fat, over-stressed, unhealthy and/or (most-importantly) unhappy, what good are you to your family?
More significantly, what are you teaching your kids (especially daughters)? We tell our children they can be anything, do anything they set their minds to. But our actions as martyring mothers suggest that once you become a parent, those things you had passion for take a back seat to the needs of the child. If I were that child, I would wonder why bother pursuing my goals if once I had a child I had to stop participating in things I enjoy. Clearly there are times and situations that choices made by all parents put our needs last, but if you are consistently harried and/or angry that your needs and wishes are not being met, you must look at yourself for the responsibility.
Now if you’re yelling at your computer screen that there’s absolutely no room in your life for YOU, let me share my Mother’s journey (in brief). She was abandoned by my father and left with two children in a rented house in Los Angeles, her college degree unfinished, in the 1960’s when divorced women were not often welcome in most other women’s homes (for fear she would steal their man). She went on to complete her Master’s degree at UCLA, then obtain Ph.D. from USC (on a full scholarship) all the while working two jobs. On a shoe-string budget, she fed us (healthy choices I might add), clothed us (often sewing our clothes), kept a clean house, was always on time, and still managed to go out once or twice a month on dates. Although my brother and I were “latch-key kids” I always felt my mother was there if I needed her and she taught me how to cook, sew, clean, spent time making arts and crafts with us as well as reading books with me. So I think if she can do it under those circumstances, you can do it!
The easiest and best first step is to begin (or resume) exercising. Choose a time and whether it’s a gym or at home, let the entire family know (including yourself) that this is a non-negotiable appointment for YOU. No matter how tired, you must push yourself to keep this appointment with yourself and trust when I say that after a very short period it will become easier and the rewards are huge. From fat-loss to mood-elevation and stress reduction – you and your family will gain huge benefits from these results. I understand that many of you juggle school-age children with a full-time job, and that you honestly can’t imagine squeezing one minute nonetheless an hour out of your jam-packed schedule. But I promise if you stay open to the concept, and you can find ways to put your needs and wants into the family’s schedule.
So the next time you lament that you didn’t get to do something you really wanted or needed, stop and remind yourself that the quality of YOUR life matters too and it’s all in your capable hands.
We are officially in the last quarter (Q4) of the year and like many I tend to take stock of what I have achieved throughout the year, or more importantly, what I have not. Not everyone is as goal based as I am (more than one goal for growth and achievement always on my plate) – and that’s neither good nor bad. However, almost everyone has at least one goal nagging at the back of their head be it to get into shape or get out of a dead-end job or relationship. Year after year slips past and still you do not achieve your goal.
Since we are in the final quarter of the year, today I’m sharing with you some easy tips to break out of the stagnation or back-peddling that has kept you from that one desire for the last nine months (or longer).
Re-Define The Goal.
People change, things happen, and we often forget to adapt our goals to the newer circumstances. So be clear on what it is you want and how it is you’ll achieve it. (For some the steps needed are what keeps them stuck as they have no clue how to define those steps. If this is you, read my other blog entries about this subject, or simply email me with your questions.)
Often my clients will tell me their goals in a very long detailed sentence that can convolute the true end goal. I say slice away the fluff and get down to the nitty-gritty. Here’s an example using my career: instead of I want to stop working at a corporate gym and start working for myself with private clients where I train them in their homes, try the simpler and more accurate goal of: I will launch my private practice and secure at least 2 clients by X date.
State in the Positive and the Now.
Using the above example, rather than stating: I want to go into private practice which still sounds like a dream more than a reality, and is future based with no time specified… I say: I WILL launch my private practice and secure at least 2 clients by x date. This way is positive (will vs. want), has a proactive goal built in (2 clients) and has a specified date (x date). I know that placing a specific date is not always achievable, but I prefer to aim with specificity than the throw things at the wall and see what sticks approach. Also, remember when there’s a choice, always choose the path of least resistance. which is often either the most direct or the one with the fewest obstacles.
Choreograph Your Steps.
Much like creating a dance, if you want to succeed at goal planning and achievement, you must “choreograph” (outline) your steps A through Z. Remember to keep the newly defined goal in mind, and keep each step simple and proactive. Be results driven and before you know it you will have a slew of results behind you (the steps) and be that much closer to – or actually AT – your goal.
I welcome any of you to reach out to me should you desire a bit more advice and sage direction. Now go get your life on and enjoy Q4 of 2015. It’ll be over before you know it! (Q4, not your life! Wink.)
Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see nighttime parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that you’re offering your bodies and not your brains or hearts, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match your own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem. Our value should not be tied into how we match up with the next girl, or whether a boy finds us attractive.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know I’ve done my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other. Stop competing, start caring about each other and that karma will reward us all.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are the superior gender! (Wink.)
The door on 2014 is closing tonight and a brand new shiny hope-filled door called 2015 awaits you. Once again you face another opportunity to set goals, make “resolutions” and attempt to achieve them. Unfortunately every year many people fail at those goals within the first three months (for one reason or another), and then resign themselves to trying once more in the next new year. Well this is the year that cycle can stop for you. It’s easier than you think – here are three tips to help you achieve your goals whether they be getting in better shape (fat loss), career enhancement, or better relationships.
WORK IN INCREMENTS.
Having a big picture goal is important (losing a % of fat or scale weight, finishing courses that will enhance your career, etc.) but success is easier to achieve if you work in increments – 10 lbs. at a time, one class per quarter. Set a realistic time line for achieving each increment, make sure you have someone keeping an eye on your progress (holds you accountable), and use your phone or calendar so schedule daily time increments where you work on said goals.
Seeing and feeling the completion of each increment and it’s furtherance of you toward your goals keeps your motivation fresh. Also, by making sure that each day you attend to those goals (daily workout, time spent on homework) it sets you into a routine that will soon be hard to ditch.
FIND A FRIEND.
All goals in life that are worth pursuing are worth sharing. Support systems are the key to success in everything in life. As long as your goals are realistic and attainable, and cause no harm to those around you – everyone will be in your court and gladly help you. – you just have to ask! Buddy up with a friend to share weekly updates on your nutrition and exercise achievements AND set backs. Put together a group of people who are seeking to enhance their careers and have a weekly “mastermind” meeting where you help each other think outside the box and network. Schedule a weekly “catch up hour” where you and your significant other, child, or friend talk, share and reconnect.
TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK IS OK.
Set backs are NOT failures. Life for most of us is a series of a few steps forward combined with one or two steps back. If you give up every time you have a set back, your life will stay stagnant and unmoving. Embrace the set backs, learn from them, and make sure the next set back is something different. In my experience, failures cut a path to success if you allow yourself to learn from them.
So take a deep breath and open the door to 2015 with the knowledge that you can achieve ANYTHING you want if you simplify and stay focused. I’m here, as always, to offer my support, guidance and expertise. Happy healthy new year to you all!
What about your mind — is it in shape? What does that mean? There are three facets to your mind: intellect, creativity, and emotions. Do you stimulate your intellect, exercise your creativity, and keep your emotions balanced?
How about your environmental life – that which exists external to your body and mind? Are you happy with your home life, job/career, relationships? As a certified Life Strategies Coach with additional certifications in fitness and personal training, I look at all aspects of an individual’s life. I look at their whole life fitness. So let me rephrase the question. Is your Life in Shape?
If the answer is yes. Then rock on, keep up the good work! If the answer is no, then it’s time to take stock and focus on steps to shape (and shake) things up.
The Body. This is the easy one. In previous articles I have addressed fresh approaches to nutrition and exercise, keeping things in moderation, staying pro-active, and in general, making a life style change to create the realistic body image you desire.
The Mind. This area is tricky. The mind is a terrible thing to waste was a brilliant ad campaign against drugs, and is my favorite mantra as a life coach. Regardless of time or energy depletions, you must seek to challenge your mind (intellect). Make it a goal to read at least one non-fiction book once a month, or read the newspaper daily (not just the comics and entertainment sections). Get involved with clubs that read and discuss books; organizations that improve speaking techniques (like Toastmasters); or charity focus groups. Even a once-a-month commitment on your part, can have a huge benefit on your feeling of sharpness and competency.
Being creative seems to scare many people. I can’t draw, I have no imagination, I’m not good at crafts. These are just some of the excuses I hear. Think back to when you were a child. Remember finger painting, or the joy of playing with Play-Doh. Maybe in high school you played an instrument, sang, acted, or had electives where you made jewelry or ceramics. Spending time practicing any art from (from creative cooking to scapbooking) will reap huge rewards. Focusing the mind on artistic endeavors clears your head, lowers stress and blood pressure, and relaxes the body. (Not to mention that it’s just plain fun.) Embrace your inner child! After spending even an hour massaging the creative side of your brain, solutions for emotional or intellectual issues will seem clearer.
Environmental Life. Here is where people get the most stuck, making change is scary. Rocking your financial boat by changing jobs or starting a business keeps many from taking any proactive steps forward. But where there is true desire, a simple path can be found. Do some soul searching. Define what it is you truly wish to be doing with your life (and where you want to do it). Once defined within your own brain and heart, often the steps towards that goal appear much clearer and less intimidating.
In relationships, most of us do not want to confront a dysfunctional situation or unsatisfying relationship. Yet to let a relationship stagnate or disintegrate is never anyone’s desired goal, is it? Take that first baby step. Just talk to your mate, friend, family member. Remember to always come from a place of compassion and be willing to really listen as well as clearly ask for what you need (see last month’s article on communication). Once issues are cleared or resolved, you will be surprised how quickly a weight is lifted from your heart.
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From now on think about your life from now on in the terms of Whole Life Fitness. Take stock regularly, and when you feel an area getting slow, stagnant, or shapeless, rev up those engines and whip that area into shape! If you wish for more guidance, feel free to contact me at http://www.danelifefitness for a free life shaping session.