Why habits are the new game changer.

When was the last time you thought about your good habits? powerofhabit It feels like habits get a bad rap because we often think of them negatively as in biting nails or over-eating but they can be huge game changers when you make the effort to turn around those that aren’t working for you.  My inspiration today is from Charles  Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit which throws new light on why we have habits, how they come about and how to change the ones which aren’t working for us.

So why do we have habits? Scientists believe it’s because our brain is always looking for ways to save effort. Remember your first aerobics step class or L plated driving lesson? How exhausting! But after a while your brain learned what to do so much so we often experience auto-pilot  where we wonder where on earth we ‘were’ for a  few minutes. Tests at MIT in the 1990s also showed after learning a habit lab rats had only minimal activity occurring in the rest of their brains compared to the first few attempts of a new routine.

An ancestral part of our brain, the basal ganglia is believed to be responsible for our habit storage. When people’s basal ganglia is damaged they are no longer able to form simple tasks when their access to ‘habit storage’ is unavailable.

The interesting hard cold truth: When a habit emerges the brain stops fully participating in decision making. So unless you find new routines the pattern will automatically unfold. The brain also can’t tell when a habit is good or bad so a bad one can just be lurking waiting to be fired up for a unhelpful reward.

But once you understand the habit loop you can break it down into parts, experiment and find ways to change it up by overpowering the existing neurological pathways with more compelling habits.

The Habit Loop.

Habitloop

Firstly the cue occurs: A situational trigger that is based on a reward you’re seeking.

Next up the routine: A physical or emotional action you take to obtain the reward.

Finally the reward: The satisfaction you seek by following the routine

The key is to understand what the craving is,  experiment with the rewards and then the routine can be swapped out for something more beneficial.

Before we go into solution mode it is worth observing the mechanism of habits. Habits create strong neurological cravings however because they emerge quite gradually we are often blindsided by their influence.  What’s even more interesting is our brain begins anticipating the reward long before we take action. Marketers and retailers worked this out some time ago hence the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts spraying their scents of hot cinnamon baked goods across mall floors to trigger a potential craving. Or how about foaming shampoo and toothpaste? It doesn’t actually need to foam but product developers discovered consumers feel cleaner from a foam sensation which drives more use  of the product more often to satisfy the clean craving.

One of our biggest cravings is often for distraction. 6a0147e0ba5e57970b017ee83f2f17970dThink about when a text goes off. How hard is it to resist looking at it? The brain has started anticipating the distraction of opening a text before you’ve even looked at it. But if you have your phone on silent  have you noticed how much longer you stay focused on your task at hand for?

So how do we get past an unhelpful habit?  Science has proven if we keep the same cue and same reward, a new routine can be introduced. For example a smoker who has identified their craving is relaxation and the reward is feeling chilled out a new routine of long slow deep breaths during a gentle stroll which activates the parasympathetic nervous system may serve as a good alternative. Or if you want to start running you choose a cue (put your clothes out the night before) and a reward – maybe a smoothie. Cue-Routine-Reward-Running_thumbBut only when you brain starts anticipating the reward – the endorphins or sense of achievement from your quick lap round the park will it become an automatic association for your brain. So you need to keep repeating the action several times to teach your brain you crave that new reward . Another key point is you must choose your own meaningful reward – not what someone else has suggested.

But just having a new routine and reward may not be enough. You need to believe change is possible and studies have shown you are far more likely to succeed if you have an accountability partner or a group of people going through a similar experience to share and commit to change with.

Here’s how to re:set a habit in 4 easy steps.

Step 1. Identify your routine. What is the behaviour you want to change? Working from home I have to admit I do a fair amount of pantry grazing when I’m overloaded and need a breather. My routine is to get up stare longingly into the pantry and wait to find something to satisfy what I believe is a hunger craving.

3Step 2. Experiment with rewards. Get your lab coat out, your notepad and pen & start trialing new rewards. I tried getting out & schimmying round the block. Then meditating. Then having a drink of water. After trying each new reward set an alarm for 15 mins. At that point ask do I still want the original ‘reward’?

Step 3. Isolate the cue. We have so much information bombarding us all the time it’s hard to know what exactly is triggering us. Answer these questions every time your habit is triggered to identify what is causing you to choose this habit over something more beneficial.

  • Where am I?
  • What time is it?
  • How am I feeling?
  • Who else is around?
  • What action preceded the urge?

Step 4. Have a plan. Remember that a habit is a choice that we deliberately made at one point, we then stopped thinking about it but continued to do every day. So start by making conscious decisions with a plan to do the new action. When I feel an urge to hit up the pantry I have a plan now to go for a walk and get some fresh air mid morning and mid afternoon when my craving for distraction seems to be at it’s highest. You might also want to find an accountability partner or group of people to help support your plan and discover the game changing nature of habit refinement.

Want more? Check out this nifty infographic from Duhigg on habits

 

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SIY Book

How much of your day do you spend mind wandering?  How engaged are you in meetings?  According to research completed by two Harvard psychologists in 2010  we spend 47% of our time mind wandering and 70% of leaders admitted to being regularly inattentive in meetings.

Last month I attended ‘Search Inside Yourself’, a Google programme brought about from an original Google leader, Chade-Meng Tan who bought in a mindfulness expert and neuroscientist to create a programme focused on well-being and sustained high performance leadership in the workplace. SIY is one of the most popular courses at Google & after being immersed for a couple of days in the foundations I can see why. And Google isn’t the only company doing flips over mindfulness – it’s very much en vogue with forward thinking companies adding training to their wellness programmes to increase employee engagement.

But what is mindfulness really about and without a fancy training scheme at work can you start doing it?  Here’s my key outtakes from SIY and simple techniques you can try from your couch to your desk.

The Brain.

Contrary to what was thought previously our brains are like plastic and their neuroplasticity means they are shaped by what we consistently do. For example studies on London black cabbies have shown their brains have increased in size after having had to memorise the London streets. It’s also been proven by many neuroscientists including Richie Davidson that when practicing mindfulness the grey matter/ cortical thickness in many key areas of the brain increases in size and has also been associated with the decrease in the activity of our ‘monkey minds’ (where we swing directionless from thought to thought).

person on cliff meditating

So when you start practicing mindfulness what are the benefits? Try less stress and panic moments. More clarity, focus and resilience plus it’s also been shown to improve our creativity. It’s a win win basically.

Emotional Intelligence

Another buzz topic we discussed was our ‘EQ’ and the  connection between our emotions and decision making. More often than not we believe we are making rational pragmatic decisions but our emotions are working us. Growing our awareness as to when this is happening means we can beging to make active choices vs reactive based on our emotion. Tying into this is having an awareness of what is happening in our body as we experience certain emotions for example I am angry vs I am having the sensation of anger in my body. And while the concept of ‘self-management’ may sound overly dull it does have benefits. Here’s an exercise in self management we learnt for when we can feel ourselves experiencing an unwanted emotions.

Stop (the secret pause). Breathe (this is under my skin). Notice (my jaw is tight etc). Reflect (what’s really going on for me and who I’m speaking with here?).  Response (what’s an appropriate way to respond).

Throughout the workshop we also practiced active listening to really engaged in what perfect strangers were saying. Many participants new to this concept were impressed with how much more of the conversation they retained and the greater connection felt with their partner.

Leadership

When discussing leadership the standout point for me was the research revealed in The Harvard Business Review in 2013 which demonstrated that people who show warmth first then competence are much more likely to succeed as leaders. The importance of compassion was also highlighted as being more sustainable than empathy which results in burn out. Compassion does not mean avoiding confrontation but rather leveraging strengths of wisdom & clarity to arrive at a conclusion for the greater good.

Exercises to try out:

You can put these into practice at work or home right away but first a quick note: Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind to nothing at all. That’s even tricky for the monks! Think of it as having a breather from the monkey mind and simply observing thoughts without judgement or attachment.

  1. Just look at your hand for 30 seconds. When you notice judgements arising let them go.
  2. Set yourself triggers for mindful moments while doing everyday things. Brushing your teeth, driving the car, riding in an elevator. Slow down the ongoing stream of internal dialogue and spend time noticing things you’d never normally notice about the activity.
  3. Here’s a 2min guided meditation from the SIY team to get you started or if you have just ten minutes try this body scan for an ‘insular’ workout.laptop
  4. For those who enjoy putting pen to paper giving yourself 5-10 minutes to write. Use these prompts to get you going. a) What I’m surprised about in my life is… b) A challenge I’m working with is… c) What I value is…

4. Check out this 2 min explanation on meditation and how it helps with your creativity.

5. With a colleague or partner pick a topic. While you listen they speak for 2 minutes – no interrupting. Be fully engaged giving them your full attention (see how Richard Branson does this) and once they’ve finished say back here’s what I heard you say. If you want to challenge yourself even more you could try ‘here’s what I heard you feel’. Then reverse the exercise.

Further mindfulness and meditation resources

Here’s an excellent free online mindfulness course recommended by the SIY team or for a simple start download the renowned Headspace app. I had a excellent experience learning meditation last year with Emma at One Meditation in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and I can highly recommend the benefits of feeling more calm and centered from my practice.

Learning how to be a yogi at Wanderlust 2015.

My Nan did yoga until well into her 80s and mum has been doing it for over 40 years. My dad claims to have been an avid yogi in the 70s but none of us have seen one pigeon pose. He claims it’s all in his mind. I have an on/off affair with yoga. I did it every day in July but only 3 times since then. Oops. So while I’m super excited to be joining the Wanderlust tribe I have been a little apprehensive as to experiencing yogues full time for 4 days.

Day one. I’m a newbie. My buddy isn’t turning up till Day 3 so I’m lurging looking for new yoga friends – anyone? I used to feel really uncomfortable meeting new people (networking guide blog coming in November) but Ive found the more you do it the easier it gets and luckily for me yoga folk are super friendly especially the Wanderlust team.

I kick off with some meditation under a tee-pi. Clear head. Tick. Done. 5 year old Bec is drawn to the hula-hoop dancing session. And after about half an hour of awkward thrusting,  wiggling & whacking my comrades with my hoop –  I got it! Look, it’s not something I’ll be doing back on Bondi beach but it was fun.

sup
SUP yoga. Awesome workout. Wear sunscreen. Don’t eat Mexican before

Hungry, all I could find in a hurry was Mexican which was NOT a good idea before SUP (stand up paddleboard) yoga. I’d been hanging out to try this for a while. And it was HARD. Good hard but I was the first to schimmy sideways (gracefully) into the water after a very tricky warrior pose gone wrong and let me tell you the Mexican swirling about in my tummy did not help. But I loved it & will definitely do it again. I joined the press conference at the end of the evening with a delightful sunset backdrop over Twin Waters, Novotel. It dawned on me what a massive feat it must be to curate, design and engineer this festival. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Day 2.

First a confession. I am one of those annoying early bird types. I kicked off today at 5am hiking up a steep path to Mt Coolum to discover serene pano views. I slip slid my way back down the hill to join a Surf 101 class.Surfing The sea had more motion in it than my washing machine on a heavy cycle but the crew created an awesome yoga / mindfulness blend with a  surf lesson – my brain even recalled how to stand up on the board and I fell in love with surfing all over again. Full of ‘must get back into this when I get home’ type feelings.

Next up I chose to listen to Lola Berry (a well-known nutrition personality in Australia) talk about keeping an eye out for nasties in your food. The worst one – for those of you who drink ‘diet’ anything was the chemical 951 – it’s absolute poison. Ugh what are we doing putting this stuff in our bodies! Another super interesting point and I know many of you might relate – is getting a little too obsessed with one type of super food, O-ding on it and sometimes even forming an allergy. Guilty! I did this by having kale every day for a year in my green smoothies. It sounds so simple but variety is the spice of life right? Just because bone broth is awesome doesn’t mean we need to have it everyday.

Jam packed @ Wanderlust 'Mothership' Asana class with Duncan Peak from Power Living
Jam packed @ Wanderlust ‘Mothership’ Asana class with Duncan Peak from Power Living

The afternoon was spent in three 90 minute yoga classes back to back. Yes three. No time for any leisurely Mexican today.  If I’m honest, today all I ate was protein bars – hmm not sure what Lola would say about those  nourishment options. I’ve done enough hip opening and ‘attempted’ crows to last me till Christmas. The yogatainment was in full force with how to workshops, bends and mantras giving me the realisation that there is a lot more to yoga than a simple downward dog.

There’s heaps of cool music tonight but I’m exhausted and this early bird needs to be ready for tomorrow’s 630am meditation on the beach. Tweet tweet. Time to press the activewear!

 

Day 3,Meditation

Another perfectly stunning day on the Sunshine Coast. Kicking off the day at 630am with a standout visualisation meditation from Swami G. I know this isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea but if you can handle sitting on a picture perfect beach and taking a few deep breaths in and out you would cope.

AcroyogaNext up was Acroyoga for beginners. Let’s just say I won’t be signing up for Cirque de Soleil  anytime soon. It’s really interesting to observe the ego during challenging new experiences like this where it’s easy to compare yourself to others or ‘wish’ you could be better. I managed a half flying something and while it wasn’t pretty it did feel pretty cool and the best bit is playing like a kid again and not taking everything so seriously!

Sampled a ‘living pizza’ today. Yes all raw, organic, GF, DF etc etc. It tasted delicious. Pity my stomach didn’t really agree so much.

Some cool chats about self-love, managing positive and negative core beliefs and a sneaky nana nap on the beach before a final 90 minute class on setting intentions and rocking a few vinyasa moves to Fat Freddy’s drop (all the classes have DJs most of which are kiwis  – only the best!).

I’m so tight from all the downward dogging and planking I could hardly pop my left hip while listening to the legendary sounds of Donovan Frankenreiter – a free massage tent is probably a good idea for a sponsor next year.

Day 4,

The 'Tentipi'. Photo by Sarah Vercoe Photography
The ‘Tentipi’. Photo by Sarah Vercoe Photography

Wow. That was an awesome experience. Here’s what I learnt after 4 days of Wanderlusting on the Sunshine Coast.

  • I really enjoy yoga and the zen zone it gives me (could’ve been tricky otherwise)
  • Ayurveda translates to the science of life. I loved the thought that everything in life is food – all you take in you absorb. Consider what you are digesting and surrounding yourself with.
  • Totally agreed with the concept taught to students from Duncan Peak of Power Living Confrontation with expectation  is manipulation. Confrontation without compassion is abuse.
  • Keep your eye out for Teff – it’s going to be the new super food.
  • There are three parts to your shoulders – thanks Amy Ippoliti from yogaglo.com. It’s change how I look at posture. Stand proud like a toddler.
  • Noticing my ego during a yoga dance class telling myself I looked like a fruit loop then getting over myself & enjoying the experience so much more.
  • Sharing Wanderlust with a wonderful friend was a real bonus as was having time on my own to process ‘stuff’ and met some really lovely folk.
  • The heart has it’s own version ‘brain’ according to research done by HeartMath is the U.S.  They’ve also found our heart  communicates via electromagnetic field interactions with our brain that can be detected 5 or 6 feet away. Fascinating.  More.
  • There are some really strong, flexible, talented young women out there providing awesome role models for women of all ages.
  • While my pigeon may’ve improved, my crow and headstands are very much still a work in progress and I’m happy to leave acroyogues to the experts.
  • It’d be awesome to see more guys at these events. There are just as many classes which would appeal to blokes who like keeping in shape.
  • Blogging everyday is intense but satisfying.
  • I love the Sunshine Coast. The temperature, the beaches, the vibes. Hello #happyplace.
  • Don’t leave dropping off your hire car till the last minute. My zen momentarily disappeared as I realised I had 5 minutes to drop the rental car off at a closed office, with no where to leave the key a bit down the road from the airport. Sprinting to the departure gate was er… exhilarating.
  • After one of these events you always make big claims about all that yoga, surfing, meditation and Qi Dong you’re going to squeeze in. I’m being realistic as I plan these into the week and having a yoga buddy to hold me accountable will also help when I get a case of excusesology.
Amy Ippoliti and those shoulders. Photo by Sarah Vercoe Photography
Amy Ippoliti and those shoulders. Photo by Sarah Vercoe Photography

The team at Wanderlust produced an incredible festival. If you like yoga, wellness, meditation, cool tunes and want to get out of your routine then definitely consider checking out one of their upcoming festivals. You don’t have to do 4 days – there are day passes but I think at least two day is ideal  to fully soak up the vibe and stretch out your body and mind in a fun, supportive, open, friendly community vibe. I’ll definitely be back.

 

Photo by Ali Kaukas
Photo by Ali Kaukas

Find your true north.

Last week I asked a client who was pondering their next move What is it you actually want? They were stumped. I think often we can all be guilty of being on auto-pilot,  drifting into careers (and other areas of life for that matter) which we feel like we didn’t choose but know deep down we simply  weren’t in tune with what is really meaningful to us. It’s time to turn off the auto-pilot button people!

Next week I’m fortunate enough to be joining the media crew at the Wanderlust Festival on the Sunshine Coast. Wanderlust.com is a mindful living community created in the U.S. based on yoga, meditation and fun times where their brand ethos is ‘Find your true north’. I love this!

So what’s your true north and are you living and breathing it?

In the book “I could  do anything, if I only I knew what it was” author Barbara Sher points out how many of us end up in careers which have been heavily influenced by our parents without us even realising (sneaky!). Just list all the careers your closest elders wanted you to do when you were 12 and you’ll understand why you were so confused at high school and sought advice from the guidance counsellors dodgy ‘career-picking computer system’.Untitled design (3)

All too often we end up in roles where the work/ life balance is unsustainable, we like the job but not the people/ leadership, we just drifted in there, the actual work is disappointing or we ‘make it’ & then feel unfulfilled . But then it’s ok for a bit. And then it isn’t. And it continues until you crack & go walkabouts or straight into another role which looks different from the outset but is just the same with a different wrapper. And while I’m not suggesting their is a perfect job out there which will be 120% ace everyday I can assure you there are people who’ve found their true north and are thriving.

One of the most simple, yet useful guides to finding a career you love is this:

  1. What are your intrinsic drivers ? List everything you LOVE to do but then ask what is it about them you love.  Go back to childhood & right up to now.
  2. What do people close to you give feedback that you’re good at (I even did a survey of friends to find this out about 10 years ago & still missed the clues so pay attention!)
  3. What are people going to pay you to do.  If this is a new career you want to make sure it’s not just a hobby.

If you’re more a ‘realist’ try describing the worst job you could ever imagine and then flip it on it’s head for the opposites.  Or work with a buddy who asks you What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? tri

A key to finding your true north doesn’t have to start with how you make a living – it might be volunteering, joining a new club, contributing to your community or trialing out new activities which excite you. Just start something!

Want more? Check out Larry Smith in a funny, blunt review on why you’ll never reach the career of your dreams.

 

Less chat. More action. And almost an Aussie.

Have you ever noticed how much time you spend in your head, analysing a decision, procrastinating on a potential direction, dithering over a different choice ? You may have a good old chin wag with yourself or share it forever and a day with anyone who will listen but it still goes on and on with no resolution in sight.

Last night I discovered my Nana’s great grandparents from Donegal, Ireland aged 18/19 made the incredibly brave voyage as so many did, to the Antipodes in 1863. They settled & married in Maitland, NSW (Hunter Valley)  – I like to think this was a voluntary move as opposed to them being of the convict persuasion! After five years, in 1868 they moved to Greymouth, New Zealand. First question – did they hook up on the boat & THEN get married?? Secondly I acknowledge if it wasn’t for their decision I wouldn’t be here today but initially I questioned their choice to move to Greymouth  – WHAT were they thinking? I could be an heiress to a vineyard by now though admittedly supporting the Wallabies would be a travesty.  I sat &  pondered how long it would have taken them to make the decision to leave Australia. Would they have struggled internally for months after already having moved so far to uproot again with their 3 kids (9 more were to be born in NZ!) to an unknown land, with unknown prospects and for that matter had anyone ever ‘penned’ to them about West Coast weather? Then I researched Maitland in the 1860s.  Good lord! Robberies, gang warfare, shootings galore – my call is Bernie said to Mary at dinner one night, “Look, we’ve given this a good swing love, but I don’t fancy becoming a bush ranger, or being shot in the back by one so let’s get out of here.” And in those days I’m guessing Mary went “Good decision Bernie, I’ll start packing”. Decision made.

As we know it’s not just decision making that traps us in our thoughts. We get lost in the stories we’ve made up about ourselves. “That’s just how I am” and “That’s just how it’s always been done”. We use our fears to keep us safe and constantly rationalise doing or not doing something based on evidence from the past. Some of us get so caught up in our mind, ‘busy’ living a life we’ve just ‘fallen into’ haphazardly or one that was expected of us and don’t notice how unhappy we are. While others endlessly wait to have everything ‘just right’ before we try something (god forbid if we ‘get it wrong’) some wait for the universe to deliver an opportunity to them while seated comfortably on their couch.

Humans have had internal chatter scientists believe for over 75,000 years. You’d think by now we’d all  be well practiced at keeping the negative banter at bay & our levels of life satisfaction should be off the charts! But it seems with the overwhelming amount of choice and complexity of our lives today we can be struck with a paralysis of analysis or many a downward spiral when things don’t pan out quite as we’d hoped. It leaves many drifting along almost unconsciously, sitting at the back of the bus with someone else driving (sometimes a 7 year old version of us – not ideal!). Months and even years slip by as we practice some excellent avoidance techniques to not dig a little deeper on where we are at for fear of what challenging actions might need to be faced in order for us to take our life in a direction we actually want.

One way to stop the thought drift is to get clear on your values. I’m betting one of Bernie ‘s was physical safety. One of yours might be connection. Everyone has different values, dependent on upbringing, life experiences and life stage . I’m sure what you wanted to experience every day on a consistent basis was quite different ten years ago compared to what it is today.

Where  it really begins is with you. How do you treat yourself – are you kind and compassionate? Who are you being everyday? What is the story you are telling yourself?  Are you owning the results you are getting in your life? Do you accept yourself completely –  the good and not so good parts?  What really lights you up or drives you crazy? How do you cope when you hit a road block? Bernie and Mary moved to the West Coast, but you might just need to revisit what gives you a little bit of happiness every day.

Hokitika, just down the road from Greymouth in the 1870s. 

I’m running a super fun and informative  half day workshop in Bondi Junction called The Direction Momentum on Sunday, July 12 at 10am. If any of the above rings some bells and you are ready to move forward but need inspiration we’d love you to join us. Numbers strictly limited.

Little Miss Perfect

I remember a time when I thought it was cool to ‘confess’ I had a perfectionist streak. Like I was some perfect ballerina princess in her pink twinkly castle who would only be satisfied when something was 100% as I wanted it and everyone would approve and clap and go YAAAY.perfectp

Now with clients I can often hear myself saying things like perfectionism is the height of insanity, being perfect is just another form of procrastination and perfectionists have no standards. Ouch.

My  ‘tendency’ tends to rear its head towards things I value. There is no perfectionism issues when it comes to cleaning my car (quick drive when it’s raining does the trick doesn’t it?) or ironing my clothes (love cheap dry cleaners) however recently when it came to finding the perfect couch it took me two years! I am not kidding. And guess what, it’s not perfect! Obviously this goes much further than material things – relationships, careers and health are all affected by perfectionism.

So. Newsflash. At the end of the day aiming to get something completely 100% perfect is just not possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating a stretch target or two but when the goal has an ever increasing ‘perfect-o-meter’ you’re setting yourself up for failure. And quite often on purpose. Scary.

Falling victim to perfectionism can also mean you wait for exactly the right time, for all the ducks to be lined up in a row before you make your move. But the damn  ducks will never line up quite right and time will pass and you have missed an opportunity that may never come around again.

Reality check. Sorry it’s brutal.  When acting in a perfectionist mode you are demonstrating your need to be in control of everything. This usually comes from a fear of not being good enough, not belonging and not being loved.

So here’s some questions to ask yourself – some based on work by Dr Phil (yes another fave).

  • Who are you trying to control? Often people who are trying to control external chaos are in actual fact attempting to control their own chaos.
  • What is driving your need for perfectionism? What are you afraid of if you don’t control everything? Are you worried about what people will think about you if you don’t keep up this perfect façade?
  • Consider how it feels to be around you when you are in perfect pants mode. If you have children they may feel like they will never be good enough and consequently you are passing on your perfectionist tendencies to them. Ever had a perfectionist boss? No matter what you do, it is never quite enough.
  • What are you getting from being a perfectionist? Do you get to excuse yourself from committing to something you’re passionate about for fear of not getting it ‘right’?
  •  How much energy are you using in attempting to control your world? It’s exhausting right. At some point you need to trust your universe enough to say I am comfortable to let this go and let it be as it will be.
  • Be rational. What happens if you let go of controlling others?  Nothing. Because deep down you know it’s not possible to control the world. You are not Dr. Evil from Austin Powers people!

The best way to give up your perfectionist streak is through acknowledging what fear you are feeding and then you make a choice. Have no fear of perfection - you'llYou can either try to control everything and everyone (good luck!) or focus on what YOU really want. Rather than consuming energy with controlling,  focus on all the good qualities within you. Your desire to live life to the full, to learn and grow, focusing on appreciation, your courage, love, tenacity or  determination to succeed.  Give yourself the permission to let go of your perfectionism – as cool as it sounded when you were 14 and I’ll think you’ll find it a lot more rewarding.

The soulful spin.

I doubt anyone could miss the lycra phenomenon taking over the streets at crazy early hours in the last 10 years specifically all those MAMILS! I have even been drawn in myself (aka ‘All the gear and no idea’).  And I’m sure we’ve all heard of, attempted or are addicted to spin classes – which when you explain it sounds completely absurd.  “Come on lets go biking to nowhere in a sweaty dark room with loud techno beats and an instructor yelling at you. Fun!”

On a recent holiday to the US however I wanted to try out Soul Cycle. You probably think I’m mad exercising on my holiday but I really recommend it. Especially somewhere like the States where they are up for trying a lot of weird and wonderful classes. More ideas here.

From a love of exercise, branding and holistic well-being  I was curious (and nosey) to find out how a brand of spin classes could have developed such a cult following.  Many instructors have become minor celebs – John Mayer even had a fling with ‘Lauren’ from LA according to reports . There’s a clothing range (yes I made a small purchase) and I just missed Jake Gyllenhaal in the NYC West Village class by one day. Gutted!

So what is it that draws people (ok mostly young females in the 20-40 age bracket) to soulfully spin to their hearts content ?

I turn up eagerly early and for a start as with most customer experiences in the US, they are soooo friendly. And this is one country (& potentially the only) where my kiwi accent seems to benefit. “OMG I love your accent”. When you sign up for their introductory offer it’s $20. Sweet. I grab my free towel & spin shoes (imagine that Fitness First & Les Mills!), pick my bike position in the room and sign my life away. I then clamber inn the dark past dozens of the latest spin bikes to find my spot. After fannying about for some time and scoffing at the 2kg handweights hidden at the rear of the bike I hop on, clip in and observe the instructor stage where candles are a blazin’. Next I unsubtley watch the clientele pouring in. All athletic keen bean bubbly young lasses – interestingly very similar in NYC and LA. The assistants leave the room, its darkened even more (can just make out my hands).’, the music get louder and like a musician entering on stage the instructor arrives, the excitement lifts and the mantras begin…

If you’ve done spin before it’s not a massively different except for these key three things.

  1. The instructors don’t scream at you to GET MOVING! Instead they offer positive motivating language, reminding you to be grateful for your body’s abilities and encourage you to step up your energy levels and make it count.
  2. There’s a couple of pretty weird up, down and sideways ‘dancing on ya bike’ type moves which even after years of ballet and modern dance training I could not sync up with. In fact I felt a bit like a turkey with indigestion and I wondered how Jake got on with this move?
  3. The hand weights. Towards the end you do a little routine with hand weights. And while I had dismissed it at first my little arms did actually hurt and hey, I’ll try anything to eliminate bat wings.

Overall it was a really fun, inspiring experience. It was uplifting and I came out feeling puffed, positive and converted to this way of exercising. I’m impressed Soul Cycle and looking forward to a version  reaching the Aussie shores soon.

spin

Be inspired.

This past week I noticed a few inspiring stories making the rounds on Facebook of random strangers who have experienced traumatic events and you can’t help but be moved by them. I’ve also always been drawn to autobiographies which describe the harrowing tales from which hugely influential positive change agents emerge such as Christina Noble, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Waris Dirie and of course the legends of Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

 inspiblog

In recent months I have received many comments about how brave I am to be starting up a small business and even some who have said they feel inspired. And while the ‘Tall Poppy’ (which according to Tony Robbins exists worldwide – we’ve just named it) inside me says “don’t get too excited sunshine” – it did get me thinking about who has inspired me to be a little bit brave. Is it the inspiring leaders and TED talks I spend hours absorbing or is it in fact a little closer to home?

 

As I reflected on the last couple of years I thought about the world around me.  I have had a close friend who suffered severe neck injuries in an accident pursue a completely new inspiring career path despite continuing to be in constant pain. I have cousins and friends who have lost their beautiful mums and dads and dear friends who lost their precious baby daughter who through it have shown so much strength and courage. Close family who constantly demonstrate absolute determination to conquer their chronic illnesses and a 95 year old grandfather who has just developed Alzheimer’s but still heads to the gym weekly and cooks up a storm (albeit a rhubarb and sausage combo one night recently). Several of my girlfriends – many with small children are in the midst of emotionally exhaustive divorces but maintain their utmost dignity through it all whilst brave couples undergo relentless IVF treatment. There are the friends who have the guts to quit their jobs when they no longer feel respected while others  have totally stepped up in their previously difficult roles, owned the change and turned it around. I’ve had girlfriends having the ‘balls’ to take stock of their long term safe intimate relationships and say, “This isn’t working. Can we make it work or should we go our separate ways?” I have mates who complete triathlons every month, family who cycle over 600 km in a weekend and even one buddy who is sailing his boat back from Europe to Australia next year. Then there are those who have given up their safe comfy worlds with dozens of friends and blossoming careers to pursue their dreams solo in far flung parts of the globe.  I have mates who have started companies with much more risk, size and scale than me – an innovative modular building company in post-quake Christchurch, a new creative design agency, mobile app builders, personal training enterprises and mining companies. I have highly qualified mentors who go out of their way to support my new career giving me their most lucrative asset. Time. Not to mention all those Superwomen and Clark Kent’s out there juggling careers, renovations, kids, pets, chores and everything else in between.

 

Yes the Mother Teresa’s and Nelson Mandela’s of the world have inspired me. They were incredibly powerful, transformational leaders who positively influenced the course of history. The dozens of TED talks and stories on Facebook constantly draw me in and I think wow, now that is incredible.  But it’s the people I’m surrounded by who truly inspire me. I see them facing their fears, dealing with huge obstacles, taking on high risk and just cracking on with it.  And I think ok Bec, just get going.

 

Who inspires you?

 

What to do when you have a shocker.

You know when you have one of those weekends when event after event seems to just keep knocking you sideways and you have an absolute shocker. I had one of those a few months back just after moving into my new pad.

It started at 530am on a Saturday fully pumped for a long road bike in the lycras with my mate which ended rather abruptly after a small uphill incident involving a lack of speed.

Next up, I had one of those ‘fabulous call centre calls’ to my new internet provider (TPG – FYI) who realized after my fourth call they don’t have my phone line turned on. At all.

Finding my inner chilled self, I headed off in excitement to F’kea (Ikea with an F for obvious reasons) in an attempt to buy some key purchases to ‘joosh’ up my place. Car full of stuff I didn’t ‘need’ I headed to a nursery for plants I didn’t ‘need’ when I started to notice my car brakes acting up. Ok, so the brake fluid light had come on earlier in the week but…you know how it is.

No, but actually, the brakes really weren’t working! I sketchily drove to VW via the motorway pumping the non-existent brakes, gliding across lanes liberally. When I rocked up to VW they mentioned their mechanical team wasn’t in on the weekends. When I referred to the service they had recently completed and that MY BRAKES DIDN’T WORK I recommended they have a another wee think about what they might do.

In my brand new family wagon I tootled off proud as punch at my assertion with the extra room for my F’kea key purchases. Back at my apartment building (aka Fort Knox) I started carting about 20 separate parcels into the lift and just as I transferred a final package the security swipe, plus ALL my house keys, fell out of my pocket and swiftly down the lift well. My iPhone promptly died. Of course.  I burst into some weird tears. And no, I had not yet cut a spare set of keys. Hpmh.

After getting all the Ikea essentials, bushy plants & crap back in the car (no the car key did not go down – imagine), a new iPhone charger, a very large vino,  crashing on my girlfriends couch, an aggressive walk to Bronte, a cheap locksmith ($99 on a Sunday!) who a friend suggest I needed to ‘find someone like’, it was whilst sunbathing at Bondi a key question finally came to me. What would MacGyver do in this situation? He would get a magnet. Be grateful

Mitre Ten Bondi –bless them, had a magnet rod with a torch on the end ($9.95). Best purchase in a long time. Back at the ranch elevator I tied two bikini straps to the magnet then dangled it down the lift shaft – and after three attempts boom! Keys retrieved.

So apart from not trusting TPG when they say you are ‘internet ready’, learning that a brake fluid light means you really should drive immediately to VW, getting spare keys cut pronto and obtaining a large ugly key ring what were my life lessons that weekend?

Thank you

It was all about gratitude.  Aside from being grateful for the hours of MacGyver viewing circa ’85/’86 I would not have survived without my urban family. Not only for physical help but emotional support to have a laugh at what had transpired & not lose the plot. I was also extremely grateful for having a roof over my head and a safe car (eventually) to drive. There’s nothing like not having something temporarily to remind you of how grateful you are.

The Art of Procrastination

Ok, I’ll admit it. I have been putting off starting my first blog effort for a good while. Before I started I HAD to clean the bath, cook the latest gluten dairy free cupcakes, do a 90 min yogaglo class, quick pedi, consume a few cocktails to discuss blogging and I definitely needed to polish my silver!

So why do we procrastinate? We claim busyness, laziness or exhaustion but usually I find there’s something more behind it. To start with, you need to be clear on what the outcome is you want and why. Let’s say you have a tropical holiday coming up, you want to lose a few kgs to complete your poolside look but you’d also love it to stay off permanently. You know how to do it but you still consistently sabotage your efforts. “It’s raining or I’m far too tired for the gym, the extra helping of lasagne/ choccie mousse was too good to say no to and as for finding time to make a kale rainbow leafy salad, are you kidding me?”

I believe we come up with our brilliant avoidance strategies because at some level we associate more pain with giving up the opportunity for a sleep in or extra lasagne than the necessity of giving those things up and the eventual pleasure of losing those extra kgs. We’re focused on short term rather than long term gain. That wee voice says “Oh but you’ll probably just put it all back on so may as well wade into a second helping of brownie right now”. And Boom! Back to square one.

Eventually the holiday is one week out and we’re in desperate mode. So we go on a crazy leafy, juice detox and the weight potentially drops off (as our time in the bathroom goes up). Unfortunately the quick fix doesn’t last because we’re still making neuro associations of pain in our brain with giving up our ‘yummy’ food in exchange for watery lettuce drinks. So as soon as the detox is done helloooo hot chips.

The good news is we can condition our minds, bodies and emotions to link pain or pleasure to whatever we choose which will in turn change our behaviours. To really make a long term difference in this case we have to link pain to eating excessive bad food and lack of exercise and replace it with the pleasure of eating food that nourishes us and an exercise routine which gives us the result we want. Or in my case get real on the pain around not starting the blog, the opportunities I might miss out on and associate the pleasure of being able to write this each week and what I will gain from it. Heck even if it’s just mum and I reading it today, I’m happy with that if it gets me to where I want to be.

If you’re procrastinating ask yourself these questions:
Why am I procrastinating about this? What pain have I linked to taking this action in the past? E.g. It’s such hard work. I feel I don’t have time to squeeze in exercise.

What pleasure have I gained from indulging in this choice? E.g Instant gratification of delicious brownies, or staying true to your ‘story’ about having no willpower.

What will it cost me if I don’t change now/ in 6 months/ 5 years/ 10 years? How will it make me feel? What will I tell myself? I will be unhappy with how I look. I will probably have health problems down the track.

Finally make a big list of everything you will gain from taking this action right now. And remember keep it emotionally charged as that’s what motivates us the most. E.g. I’ll gain the feeling of being in control of my health and body. I’ll be able to feel great in my swimmers & maybe even ditch the ‘moo moo’ cover up.