In the previous sensory balance post we completed a two-part exploration of how the first of our four inner senses—creativity—helps us imbue our experiences with meaning. We now turn our attention to the second of our inner senses with the first of four posts on our sense of vitality.
Vitality: I thrive and inspire. I radiate stamina, strength, flexibility, stability, and dexterity. I am healthy, happy, and whole.
You may be expecting a section on exercise and fitness. When people ask what diet and exercise regimen I followed to lose eighty pounds, I tell them it’s simple. Rebalance your calories in and calories out. Any questions?
The tricky part is how to do it so that it becomes a way of life, not a short-lived effort that lasts until your prom or fifty-year high school reunion. That’s simple too. It starts by working on all the other aspects of the Discovery Framework because, as you know from reading my story, turning this way of living into a way of life was much more dependent on the mental, emotional, and spiritual changes, not just the physical ones. Here are some additional ideas to get the physical side moving in the right direction:
- Research and experiment until you identify nutritious, satisfying food you enjoy. I finally accepted that my relationship with refined sugar was an addiction. It may not be true for everyone, but it was definitely true for me. I went cold turkey on sugar and substituted fresh fruit and other complex carbohydrates.
- Research and experiment until you discover a form of exercise you actually enjoy. I got hooked on the mood-elevating effects of regular cardio at a brisk pace. I added in minimal strength training much later because I knew myself. In the past, weight work had fueled my appetite, and in the absence of a sustainable commitment to healthy nutrition, I had responded by consuming junk food with a vengeance. Cardio didn’t have that side effect. This time, once my relationship with food had stabilized and I’d eliminated the foods I had an addictive relationship with, I could trust myself to add in strength training and increase my calories with healthy foods to support the additional workout. Maybe you enjoy the companionship and guidance of a personal trainer—one who will support you in your commitment to fun, no-excuses, baby-step goals so you don’t end up an injured, burned-out exercise flash in the pan.
- Set initial improvement goals for nutrition and exercise that are so miniscule even you couldn’t come up with a legitimate excuse for not achieving them. Maybe it is a reduction of one hundred daily calories and an addition of ten minutes of walking three times a week. Something so easy you are guaranteed to be celebrating success a week later.
- Continue small incremental increases to your goals whenever you feel inspired to do so. Don’t ever push either goal to the point where you now have excuses for not meeting it. If you find you’ve pushed it too high, scale it back to the previous no-excuses level. Don’t worry; slow and steady does work. Just ask the tortoise.
- Experiment with the optimal balance for quantity and type of calories and exercise until you have a sense of what works best to achieve your objectives.
- Make sure you are paying attention to rest and play, not just exercise and burning calories. It is all about balance, harmony, and understanding. Find ways to delight and feed your other senses while exercising: enjoy scenic vistas while walking, listen to audiobooks, or watch a favorite video. Then when you exercise, you won’t think of it as work; you will think of it as stealing time to read a novel or watch the latest thriller.
In terms of setting your goals, an acronym from performance management consulting will serve you well. Learn to set SMART goals:
- Specific: What’s the first baby step to move you in the direction of your goal? What will you do, how much of it, and how often? Which foods, what types of exercise, how many ounces, calories, and minutes?
- Measurable: For your initial baby step, how will you know you have succeeded? What will the quality or quantity of success look like? Inches or pounds lost, quality of calories consumed, minutes walking a certain distance. For what you have listed in the “specific” category, how have you qualified and quantified the measures of success?
- Aligned: Are your initial baby step and overall goal aligned with your core values? I find this one to be the hidden saboteur. Not just the values you admit to. For example, if you come from a family of chronically obese or out-of-shape people and one of your family values is that you always stick together, you might mistakenly conclude that getting fit would run contrary to that value. If you swear you want to accomplish something but you keep missing the mark, get curious. Ask yourself, “How might achieving this objective be out of alignment with a hidden value?” Then focus on the fear-based lies and illusions concealed in that value and set about transforming them and boosting your motivation by fueling it with new, love-based truth and reality.
- Realistic: Is this initial step really a no-excuses baby step? If you are a member of the club that always sets the bar inhumanely high, you may have a habit of sabotaging yourself right out of the gate. Make sure your goal is indeed a no-excuses baby step that is completely doable at this time in your life.
- Time-Frame Anchored: Make sure your specifics include exactly when you will complete your initial no-excuses baby step. For example, upon arising and before walking, you will consume a 250 calorie breakfast consisting of a sixteen-ounce glass of water with lemon, one hardboiled egg, one ounce of string cheese, a slice of dry whole wheat toast, and a cup of black decaf coffee sweetened with stevia. Five minutes of walking every morning after breakfast and before you shower. Once this healthier way of living becomes a habit, you may find you can trust yourself to be more flexible about the timing. In the beginning, giving yourself structure helps support your success.
What to Do When You Fall Off the Wagon
Absolutely no beatings or self-berating. It will not help you do better in the future. It will demoralize you into giving up for all time. Remember the attributes of constructive core energy: love, respect, curiosity, compassion, and gratitude. Reread chapter 4. You will know what to do.
Why Such Minimal Goals Work
Read chapter 7 on tools for fostering flow, especially the “baby steps” and “celebrate” entries. Substantial, sustainable improvement of any sort is usually grounded in incremental improvement, not rapid leaps and bounds. Celebrate every step forward, no matter how small. If you exceed your no-excuses goal, that will result in even greater celebration. Force and extreme deprivation are not necessary. Excessive goals result in disenchantment, illness, injury, and burnout. Easy goals lead to easy success that fuels lasting motivation for a lifetime of even greater success.