Friends invited me out for dinner. Weeks before, we’d originally had plans for them to head over for brunch.
“I’m making homemade waffles and smoothies,” I’d said.
Only the day of the brunch found me flying to Florida to see my father in the ICU.
Last night, at our dinner, I found the following words percolating in my head:
“I should be able to have them over by now. Why am I so tired? So overwhelmed?”
I didn’t say these words aloud. Keeping them silent only made a looming sense of failure inside of me fester. With my unspoken self-recriminations yakking away, I vocalized the following to my friends:
“You can come over for brunch next weekend. Let’s do that!”
The Most Dangerous Word
Did you catch the word yet? Whether merely thought (as I had) or spoken, the word we need to be vigilant of is SHOULD.
Should arrives with verbal tentacles that carry guilt and shame.
Should is an emotional lever that heaps blame and obligation onto our psychological shoulders.
When we think from a place of should, we are subconsciously telling our psyches we aren’t enough.
Should is the barbed wire of self-compassion, thwarting our ability to listen to our intuition.
Planting New Seeds
Should is a weed of a word, surreptitiously preventing our emotional garden from flourishing.
We can remove the “shoulds” in our garden and replace them with words that nourish like need and want:
Of course I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s not even a month since my father left this Earth. I want to make a brunch for my dear friends but now is not the right time for me. I need time: time to linger in my pajamas longer, time to curl up with a good book, time for long walks that go nowhere, time to devour a sleeve of Oreos.
By yanking out the albatross of SHOULD and replacing it with the seeds of WANT and NEED, I feel lighter and flooded with self-compassion.
Where Does Should Emerge in Your Life?
Where does the lurking word of obligation sneak up in your life? It may be something seemingly innocuous as:
“I should floss my teeth every day.”
But the statement, however genuine, lingers with the fresh scent of guilt. Instead, we can say:
“I want to floss my teeth every day.”
“I need to floss my teeth every day.”
I challenge you to observe the words you use, catching yourself when you use or think the word should. The word might seem innocuous, but it has the potential to subtly cause a sense of obligation, shame, guilt, or blame.
When we say:
“I need to…”
there’s a sense of responsibility.
Should takes that responsibility and serves up an unsolicited side of guilt.
Peter* is handsome and the founder of a company that takes in over a billion in sales each year. He travels all over the world in luxury, meets with former US Presidents, and is in fantastic shape.
Asked Out by a Billionaire
It’s not everyday that one gets asked out by a billionaire. Perhaps it’s more likely for one to be struck by lightening.
In the Age of Cyberspace, I was sent a Friend Request by a very handsome man.
In the Age of Cyberspace, I was able to learn a great deal about this stranger before deciding to accept his request.
The Facebook Down-Low
Peter loves to travel. He has one sibling and owns multiple properties. Peter has a full head of hair and likes to spend time on the beach. He’s a father. He’s the Founder and owner of a well-known company.
I decided to accept Peter’s request.
Those First Text Messages
Peter was over-the-moon that I had accepted his Friend Request. He wrote eloquently and asked me engaging questions before asking me out to dinner.
“I’m in my ________ home now, but I’ll be flying back to ________ and would love to take you to dinner.”
Peter proceeded to suggest 5 different restaurants, each one ridiculously expensive. He then offered to pick me up or hire a car for me.
“Thank you for the offer. I’ll meet you there.”
My History with Wealthy Men
Years ago, I was with someone wealthy. However, when our relationship didn’t work out, the wealth was used as a weapon:
So, it made sense that my spiritual hackles were raised by Peter — an affluent stranger who asked me out on social media.
Still, everyone is different and everyone deserves a chance.
To discriminate against someone wealthy is no different than discriminating against someone poor.
Our date was set.
The Little Pebble in Your Shoe
You put on your socks, step into your shoes and something doesn’t feel right. You walk around and try to ignore it, but it’s there, you can just feel that something is in the way.
Sometimes it’s the little pebble in the shoe that needs to be addressed.
My little pebble: the age difference.
Upon further internet browsing, I learned that we weren’t ten years apart as originally assumed, nor fifteen years, but 17 years apart.
Does it Make a Difference?
As a social experiment, I’m purposely not sharing which direction this age difference is. For example, is Peter:
17 years younger than me?
17 years older than me?
Because it doesn’t make a difference which way the age gap falls, almost 2 decades of “Age Distance” in either direction is significant.
What Does Matter
There’s nothing like preparing for a date with a billionaire to remind someone of what really matters:
Heeding your own inner voice and guidance.
Easier said than done on the cusp of a date with a billionaire. Suddenly, everyone has to give their two cents (seriously, no pun intended;-) As Clint Eastwood says in Dead Pool:
“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.”
And the unsolicited opinions arrived:
“Seventeen years isn’t so bad.”
“Just go out with him for the experience.”
“You’ll be taken care of.”
“Who cares if you have nothing in common — he’s rich!”
“Let him spoil you. You deserve to be spoiled.”
“When he’s that rich, who the hell cares about age.”
Advice aside, I needed to listen to what I thought was important.
At the end of the day, it’s what YOU think that matters.
When I got quiet, I could hear my voice above the cacophony of others’:
Money comes and goes. It does not make a person. Certainly, money makes life easier. But I do not want or need a man to make my life easier. I want someone in my age range to enjoy and experience this life with on equal footing. The uneasiness in my stomach felt every time I think of this date is my body’s intuition.
This man seems kind. I do not want to waste his time. He deserves to spend time with someone who will look forward to his company, not one who is looking for the EXIT sign as soon as they meet.
While our financial bank accounts might look a world different, we each carry a mortal bank account and deserve to spend it wisely before our unknown expiration dates.
Once I realized that it was better — for me — to cancel our date, I took action.
Peter was a perfect gentleman, writing that he understood and wishing me and my family a Happy Thanksgiving.
My decision to cancel the date wasn’t personal to Peter; it was personal for me.
Peter “got” that. No doubt, he will meet the perfect woman for him.
As with any decision we make in this world, there are reactions from those well-meaning people in our lives with their buttholes — er, opinions.
When people are disappointed in your decision, remember that it’s about them, not you.
Peter wasn’t offended in the least. He knew my decision was not about him. The age difference was my issue, not his.
My dear family and friends (not all) were overflowing with their opinions regarding my decision. I felt like I was a sport’s team, and they hadn’t liked my last play.
At the end of the day, our life’s choices are ours to live with.
Had I gone on the date or had I maintained my decision to decline doesn’t matter to anyone else — it doesn’t affect anyone else.
People who are close to us often mistake their opinions as ours.
When we are close to someone, we can easily lose ourselves in the story told to us.
But we are not someone else’s story. We can choose, at any time, to get back into the driver’s seat of our life and decide what does and doesn’t work for us.
The Good and Bad of Opinions
Opinions offer opportunities for us to consider other viewpoints and challenge our own.
The danger of opinions, if we aren’t vigilant, is that they can stealthily morph into our own until we are living the life someone else wanted for us.
Vigilance is key. Paying attention to our body’s reactions to another’s advice. Questioning our reactions yet trusting them to guide us.
There is no wrong decision when it comes from our intuition.
Dorothy wasn’t hankering for Kansas. She missed home: Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. She hungered for the love and ease that home represented.
Finding Our Way Home
When we are tired or angry, it’s hard to find our way home. The road can get bumpy and long. It’s easy to lose our way.
Home is a kingdom that resides in our heart.
It’s easy to find our home when we are well-rested and fed. When the road is smooth and predictable, home a key just waiting for you to unlock and open the door.
The challenge arrives when we are starving, confused, distraught, depressed or brimming with anger. Then, home feels like a mirage in an emotional desert.
Fortunately, there are four keys that will open the door to the Kingdom inside all of us.
Key #1: Acknowledge What Is
Whether it’s a flat tire or the death of a loved one, you are suddenly faced with bad news. Observe the news. Watch it. Don’t hide behind busy-ness or booze. Allow yourself to fully note what is right in front of you.
The pain of acknowledging what is now prevents the pain from festering later.
Unaddressed pain or problems only grow, making the road to Home that much longer.
Key #2: Accept What Is
Your cat has cancer or you just got fired. Whatever the problem or source of pain, you’ve already acknowledged what’s occurred. Now it’s time to accept it.
Accepting something painful means allowing ourselves to feel whatever emotions come up and through us.
Like acknowledging the negative situation, when we allow the less-than-pleasant emotions to go through us, we are that much closer to Home.
Acceptance over something negative or unwanted, acceptance over the myriad of unpleasant emotions we experience breeds self-compassion — a signpost on the road to Home that you are getting closer.
Key #3: Angle the Headlights Home
If you’re driving on a dirt road at night, you’ll need headlights on to help you find your way home.
Do you focus your headlights on the side of the road? Of course not. You do that, and you’ll likely get into an accident. It’ll be a long time before you make your way home then!
Appreciation is the headlight Home.
Whatever we focus on grows. Ever notice if you feel a little “off” or under-the-weather, if you head into work or get busy doing something you enjoy, you start to feel better? Why is that?
We are spirits having a physical experience, so what we focus our energy on manifests an outcome.
There is a momentum of energy that builds upon itself when we focus on appreciation. Well, the same is true for focusing on the negative, but why would we want to do that?
Right now, think of three things you could appreciate right now. Here’s my three:
My children’s health.
My ability to type the words you are reading.
My ability to hear the sound of a fan whirring softly above me
Already, my mind is lit up like those headlights on a dirt road at night. I’m literally lit up with other things I feel appreciation for.
How do you feel now?
Appreciation fosters only more appreciation.
Appreciation brings us Home.
Key #4: The Spiritual Chiropractor
I see a chiropractor once a month for maintenance. But there was a time when it wasn’t just keeping my spine aligned. Like my life, my spine was all over the place.
The physical is often a manifestation of what is occurring emotionally.
The body keeps score. It’s difficult to open the key to our inner Home if we are in need of some spiritual WD-4.
We creatures of flesh and blood often forget that we are spiritual beings experiencing this temporary physical dimension.
But the body often “acts up” as whispers to remind us that we have traveled down the wrong path.
So what is the “spiritual chiropractor?” that can bring us Home even faster?
Alignment. Alignment with your Highest Self. Alignment is:
that inner voice that tells you not to get in the elevator alone with a stranger that makes you feel uneasy.
that inner knowing that the manuscript you are working on is meant to be written.
trusting you are right where you need to be, however it looks to the outside world
going within for clarity
A Different Kind of Road Trip
This is not AAA. There is no fee for your Triptik to the Kingdom. All travelers are welcome to choose this road.
The road Home that Dorothy hungered for did not require her clicking those shiny red shoes.
The road Home arrives when you understand the Keys to the Kingdom are always in you.
*Samantha and *Matthew are good friends. Both are divorced, though Samantha is 10 years post the end of a marriage and Matthew is in the embryo stages of life after divorce—a few months shy of a year. Friends since college, there is an ease between them that can only come from a combination of time and knowing each other in their formative years.
Since Matthew’s divorce, their friendship has morphed into an unspoken mini therapy group of two: sharing each other’s trials and tribulations in the dating world. Matthew wants to get laid; Samantha wants to experience a romantic relationship. Their different goals cause the other to shake their head.
“Why are you wasting your time on a coffee date?” Matthew asked.
“I want to get to know the person.” Samantha said.
“But you can’t make out with a person in a Starbucks.”
“I don’t want to make out with a total stranger. You do?”
“Uh, yes! That’s the whole point of meeting at a bar.”
Both have approached me separately, telling me how foolish they think the other person is. They are both right…and wrong.
Matthew is newly divorced and still licking his wounds from his ex’s desire to end the marriage. “I was happy,” he tells Samantha. Married for almost 19 years, the only roles that remain constant in his life are father and business consultant. Overnight, he’s gone from living in their family home to residing in a one-bedroom bachelor pad.
“What are you looking for on all those dating sites?” Samantha’s asked.
“I don’t know. Nothing serious. I’m all messed up now. But I’m still a guy.”
So, Matthew meets women at bars. For now, this works—for him. He doesn’t want a relationship now; he wants to “make out” and wake up the next morning and drive his daughters to school. He wants physical intimacy without emotional intimacy; he wants easy sans—for now—self-reflection.
Samantha wants to get to know someone without alcohol coursing through her veins. She doesn’t want the commitment of a meal with a total stranger. She wants to pay attention to the person she meets without the distraction of loud music or the subterfuge that comes with a smoky, dark bar.
“Meeting at a bar just sets up a different set of expectations,” Samantha says.
“Exactly,” Matthew says.
Again, they are both right…and wrong.
Both Matthew and Samantha are dating the way that works best for each of them. They’re both honoring what they need. The issue between them is wanting the other to live through their lens; the dating diet that works for each of them is a prescription that works for them and them alone.
Matthew is hungry for physical intimacy; Samantha is hungry for emotional intimacy. Both have different ways of acquiring what they want. Both are good people figuring out what works best for each of them.
When it comes to dating, honor the journey you are on. Decide what kind of dating style works for you. There is no right or wrong when you heed your intuition.
*Names have been altered to retain the privacy of individuals.
It was a second date. The first one involved coffee and the kind of conversation typical of strangers: What kind of work do you do? Only child or one of many? Cat or dog lover? Do you prefer beaches or mountains? But *Mike, recently divorced with two girls under the age of 10, felt the questions lacking. He hadn’t wanted his twelve-year marriage to end yet felt lonelier in the marriage than on his own. He felt an urgency to get past the seemingly trivial “get to know you” questions and delve into “the stuff” of intimate relationships.
“I was low-hanging fruit. This was my first date out of the divorce gate.”
So, on this date, hungry for affection and connection, Mike didn’t waste any time on the second date. Before their appetizers arrived, he told her…well everything but the kitchen sink: his low testosterone level, the frequent verbal put downs he experienced from his ex in their marriage, his belief that his ex-wife treated their daughters like pawns to “get at him.”
“I thought our date went well. I gave her a respectful kiss on the cheek and a hug. But she’s not returning any of my texts, and her phone goes right to voicemail when I call.”
“I don’t understand. I thought women like it when a man is vulnerable. Did I scare her off? Am I supposed to act like some Alpha male? What do women want?”
There’s a famous quote by the late and great author, Dr. Wayne Dyer:
“You do not attract what you want. You attract what you are.”
Vulnerability has two sides: the willingness to look within and the willingness to be seen or known by another. Both involve risk. To look within, to possess the courage to self-reflect and look unflinchingly at our beliefs opens us up to potential emotional pain. Getting “real” with ourselves is no journey for the faint-hearted.
Mike knows the surface facts of his recent past. He’s:
A recently divorced father of two young girls
He was married for 12 years.
The divorce was not mutual.
The remainder of his story is highly subjective and requires Mike to excavate the cracks in his (currently) unsteady foundation. For example: Was Mike’s ex abusive or is that a story Mike tells himself? If Mike’s wife was abusive, what brought him to experience an abusive relationship, and why was he against divorcing someone who abused him?
Before Mike can experience vulnerability with another potential romantic partner, he needs to be vulnerable with himself. When we look under the figurative hood of our own life, when we are willing to see the parts of ourselves that aren’t so shiny, something changes from the inside out: we discover our self-worth, we remember that we matter and can distinguish between wanting a romantic partner and clinging to someone just to have a someone. When we explore the slings and arrows of our past with a willingness to see it in the broad daylight of self-reflection and compassion, we aren’t so quick to be vulnerable with others. After our soul’s journey into the wilderness of vulnerability (thank you, Brene Brown:-) our perspective has altered: a potential romantic partner needs to earn our vulnerability. Vulnerability is no longer a by-product of low self-esteem; vulnerability is now an invaluable gift to share with the right person on YOUR timeline.
*Mike, in his desperation for affection and loneliness, attracted what he was: the absence of a potential partner and a greater sense of loneliness. This pattern of women leaving him is likely to continue, so long as he continues to perceive himself as “low-hanging fruit.”
Vulnerability is both a gift and a wound. When we are willing to go within and explore our wounds with an open and compassionate heart, we receive the greatest gift: self-love.
*Name has been altered to protect the privacy of the individual.
Spanks. Those ingenious undergarment items that smooth our bumps and bulges has helped many of us feel our best. But there’s an emotional kind of Spanx wearing that tends to occur in our personal relationships: the idea of hiding our authentic selves from a potential or actual partner in an effort to be liked.
It’s one thing to want the illusion of a slimmer physique but when we hold back who we truly are in our personal relationships, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, our partner, and the relationship itself.
*Gena just started dating someone.
“I really like this one. I think there’s real potential. But then I saw him on TikTok, throwing emoji kisses and hearts to another girl. Psychologically, I went down the rabbit hole. But I’m not letting him see that. He thinks I’m all cool with his online flirting emoji-fest.”
It’s a couple of weeks into Gena’s dating “Mr. Real Potential.” Two weeks of seeing his online TikTok flirting, two weeks of keeping her angst inside like a muffin top hidden under Spanx. And just like the physical Spanx, the emotional Lycra needed to eventually come off.
“I found myself getting passive-aggressive with him. I couldn’t take not knowing who these girls were that he was online emoji kissing. So, I asked him, ignoring my head screaming at me that I looked like an idiot.”
That inner voice is fear; it’s our brain’s meaning-well-attempt to protect us. But we aren’t in danger when we are honest. Ironically, removing our emotional Spanx is the best thing you can do for everyone involved. Your relationship can literally breathe better.
A dear friend of mine is a bit of a branding guru (https://www.catheynickell.com). She recently had a speaking engagement where she shared her most popular posts on Instagram:
“It’s typically the ones where I share something about me, something personal and authentic. People are drawn to authenticity.”
Authenticity not only boosts one’s potential popularity on social media; it nourishes our relationships. When we, as Brene Brown ingeniously coined it, “dare greatly,” we are showing up in this life, removing our psychological Spanx to experience genuine intimacy.
Shortly after Gena’s confession, her Mr. Real Potential shared that he appreciated her honesty and assured her that it was just playful texting and that he only dates one person at a time.
Could Gena have experienced Mr. Real Potential giving a different answer, one filled with negativity? Judgement? Disappointment? Anger? Absolutely. To “dare greatly” is to know there are risks and to do it anyway. The greater risk is to keep the emotional Spanx on and live a lie with yourself and your partner.
*Names have been altered to protect the privacy of individuals.
There’s another side to ghosting that is often overlooked but needing our attention.
*Jackie liked her date the way you appreciate a jacket on a cold day: He was comfortable but not someone she saw herself with. However, by the end of their dinner, he expressed he was “smitten” with her.
Despite knowing her attraction to him held a verbal equivalent of “meh,” she felt—what many of us feel at times—an inexplicable pressure to give him another chance.
On the second date, the distance between Jackie’s lack of attraction and her date’s attraction for Jackie had grown.
“When can I see you again?”
Jackie could feel her throat tighten, unable to find the ability to say the words aching to form:
Look, there is not going to be another date for us. I think of you like a brother. End of story.
Well, that’s what Jackie wanted to say. Instead, she said:
“Yeah, let me look at my calendar.”
She dodged a kiss with a yawn.
Jackie is a divorced mom with 3 daughters who works full time as a neonatal nurse. She barely has time to date, but the time she spends dating is nothing compared to the physical and mental hours wasted, pretending there is potential with someone.
A people pleaser, Jackie decided to text Mr. Smitten and tell him she met someone (a lie).
“I thought that way, I could enjoy a potential friendship with him.”
Mr. Smitten called her immediately, his voice sounding like someone losing a limb. “Oh man, did you really meet someone else? Oh man. That hurts. But can we be friends? I mean, I’m really attracted to you, but I promise to stay in my zone.”
Again, Jackie could feel the tightening in her throat. She wanted to say:
What is the point of us developing a friendship when we both know you want more?
Instead, Jackie agreed to meet Mr. Smitten for lunch the next day.
When we try to live for others, altering our lives to satiate others, we are doing two detrimental things:
Telling ourselves (and the world) that we don’t matter.
Hurting the very people we are trying to “protect.”
If Jackie allowed her truth to come out, it would be kind to both parties. Something simple yet direct like:
You seem like a great person, but unfortunately, I didn’t feel that x factor that is so important in a potential romantic relationship. I wish you only the best.
There’s often this unspoken sense in the digital world that the words we use don’t have an effect on people looking on the other end of the screen. Perhaps this is a common reason people in the dating world (and otherwise) “ghost” someone. But people pleasers are just as likely to ghost someone—not wanting to face the potential disappointment they will cause the other party.
Jackie didn’t ghost Mr. Smitten. She lied to him and herself, hiding behind a story to prevent dealing with the potential fallout of truth. In a way, she became a ghost to herself, rejecting the idea that she mattered.
Mr. Smitten deserved to know there was no romantic potential, so he could move on and meet someone who felt about him the way he once did about Jackie.
We humans are wired to avoid pain and discomfort, so it’s no surprise that ghosting offers a “quick fix” to avoid dealing with the potential anxiety that comes with confrontation. But there’s that other, more clandestine side of ghosting we need to watch for as well: lying to ourselves and by extension, the other person in the dating equation. It’s better to rip off that emotional Band-aid now than string someone along, hurting two people in the long run.
Each of us matters. When we remember this, we stop lying to ourselves and others. The desire for truth eclipses fear of confrontation—the real ghostbuster;-)
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the insightful and engaging, Alicia Elatassi on her Podcast, Vibes by Alicia. While our dialogue focused on feeding ourselves emotional nutrition (the main focus of my book, The Friendship Diet: Clean Out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last), one of the great questions Alicia asked me was:
Where can young women find the willpower to stop accepting emotional crumbs and leave a relationship that isn’t serving them?
Enter Faith. A relatively easy quality to possess in spades when we are flying high, but something fleeting and hard to feel when we are in a bad place—physically or mentally.
Then I remembered the Love Letter I wrote to the Universe. I wrote about the qualities of a partner I wanted, writing the letter in the present tense—not the past or the future. The idea is to write the letter and read it aloud. There’s something powerful about putting your desires onto paper; something energy-shifting about giving voice to the qualities you see in someone before he or she has physically materialized. Since time is a human construct, what matters is consciousness. According to author Larry G. Maguire:
“It is by our perception only that things appear to be, and not to be…. In fundamental reality, there is merely everything existent in a single moment.”
Mini-quantum physic lesson aside, when we reflect on the qualities we want to experience in another partner, we are paying attention, we are going within for answers, we are getting real with ourselves. The qualities we are looking for will not be found on social media or even in your close friend’s Love Letter. This writing exercise is a Love Letter to YOU, a subconscious reminder that what you want matters.
The Love Letter to the Universe can be written whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed—the current relationship status doesn’t matter because YOU are the common denominator. The Love Letter offers a kinesthetic check-in on what matters to you and what you want to experience.
But back to Alicia’s thought-provoking question:
Where can young women find the willpower to stop accepting emotional crumbs and leave a relationship that isn’t serving them?
An internal shift occurs when you write a Love Letter to the Universe. There’s this energetic knowing that the figurative winds have suddenly changed. Faith starts to flow. You can’t look at the list you’ve created and remain willing to accept emotional crumbs. The more you refer back to your list, the more difficult it will be to continue swallowing the status quo. There will come a point when that Love Letter for Mr. Right will feel more real than the boyfriend who stares at his phone throughout dinner.
The Love Letter to the Universe is a powerful honing device when you’ve found yourself living by default, accepting whatever empty calories come your way. When we list the qualities we want in a partner, as if they’re already here in the flesh, we stop settling. We get comfortable walking away from what doesn’t serve us, discovering the very qualities we want in another, in ourselves. And when we love ourselves, we never starve.
Each year we see the psychic slate wiped clean for us, the calorie count set back to zero, the goals written neatly at the top of our agendas in colorful, promising ink. Whether it’s learning a new language or giving up nail biting, a New Year brings a highly marketed opportunity to dazzle us with motivation, to “improve”, to grow, to challenge ourselves, to be the best version of ourselves.
But something happens just days or weeks after each New Year. The shiny can-do determination felt in the Auld Lang Syne song (thank you, Dougie MacLean) sounds distant, the once heady anticipation of a New Year looks daunting on the other side, the conviction felt with the palpable count down around the world now seems like a pipedream, the reality of Time marching on with the same challenges before the magical New Year’s Eve.
So how can we sustain motivation long past the bells and whistles of New Year’s Eve? How can we keep chugging along towards the very things we find downright hard? How can we stave off the onslaught of intoxicatingly-convenient-and-must-less-painful excuses in the weeks and months to come?
Many are familiar with the baby step philosophy: taking those small steps that lead to big changes. And while that works fantastically well for many, this doesn’t address the core issue for sustained change: motivation.
My book, The Friendship Diet, explores the metaphor of food and personal relationships: we are starving for affection, we can fall prey to Diet Coke denial with the people we love, we find certain things our partner says or does distasteful. But the diet isn’t only about our romantic relationships. It’s about knowing our hunger, the why behind the things we do with everyone from our partner to our boss.
So, before you ring in the New Year with your mental (or physical) to do list of resolutions, ask yourself a couple of important questions:
Why do I want to do these things? (i.e., lose weight, learn Tai Chi, give up smoking, adopt a dog, take up gardening, etc.)
How will my life be different with these changes?
The why is the oxygen supply of motivation. The how challenges our assumptions and potential roadblocks.
For example, let’s say you want to lose weight.
The why may be because you want to look and feel good in your body.
How your life would be different requires you to get specific and real with yourself. It’s no longer enough to think in cliches—not if you want to stay motivated. The more detailed your list here, the more likely your goal will manifest.
So, imagine how a life with weight loss would look and feel. Maybe it’s easier to get in and out of a chair, or you’re no longer out of breath when you take the stairs. Maybe it’s feeling sustained energy throughout the day. Maybe it’s donating your former-sized clothing to Goodwill. Maybe it’s the healthy annual physical report from your internist.
I recently went through this exercise with a colleague regarding her goal of weight loss and the how of her resolution plan brought up a roadblock:
“I can’t give up my clothing. If I give it up, I know I’ll start putting on the pounds again.”
Going through the how caused my colleague to run smack into something she didn’t want to acknowledge. But if we don’t digest the why and how of what we want to change, we are unlikely to remain motivated.
Thinking we can gain weight simply by giving away our former size is magical thinking. We are all susceptible to irrational logic like this when we delve into the potential landmine of how. The key is to recognize the mental panic for what it is (our brains valiant effort to protect us) and stay the course.
And the why behind our motivation offers a conduit to potential discomfort as well. After all, the reason behind wanting to lose weight might stem from a childhood memory of bullying and bear no reality on the present. My colleague can still hear the taunts of a kid in school call her “Pillsbury Doughboy.” By tuning into the why behind her weight loss goal, she gained awareness of the potential tricks our minds can play.
“I can still remember my cheeks burning every time he called me that.”
Naming the why, dispels the false narrative. Naming the why allows us to better tackle the potential hurtles of the how (i.e., donating her now baggy clothes to Goodwill). Any negative emotion (i.e., shame) from the past does not need to journey with us into our present or future. And when we can change the feeling behind an experience, our resolution potential is limitless.