This post is an excerpt from my book Inner Architect: How to Build the Life You Were Designed to Live.
I was overweight throughout grammar school and up until my second year of college. I grew up seeing myself as an overweight person. After numerous failed diets throughout the years, it became a stretch for me to consider that I would ever be anything but overweight. One morning when I was 19, I got out of bed anticipating a party that I was going to that night. I realized that I was sick of being overweight. I decided that I was willing to do what it took to change my weight. I took one day at a time, making healthy choices and changing the way I ate. Within a few months I dropped 40 pounds and changed my lifestyle forever. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was following the key to success in creating any change:
- Declare that you are no longer willing to tolerate a particular habit or way of being.
- Identify the specific things you need to do differently to change.
- Acknowledge that you are in complete control of your actions.
- Recognize the process of change as being day by day.
- Commit to making the desired actions for that particular day.
- If you fall down, forgive yourself and start fresh.
- At the end of each day, honor your ability to make the choice you want and create the change you desire.
I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary of leaving a corporate job that no longer fit to go out on my own. The journey has brought a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect, plan, or want. But I remain grateful for where I am now and all of the life experiences and learning I gained when I made the decision to follow my heart.
I have discovered that my greatest handicap to living my full potential is getting beyond the beliefs about what I “should” be doing. I have allowed my life in many times to be directed by thinking that has become ingrained and which does not support the path that I’m committed to. Instead I strive to work on paying attention to where my body, mind and soul are leading me.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up with the day-to-day of what you’re doing that you lose sight of how you feel about it or if what you’re doing is really how you want to be spending your precious days here. I frequently recognize how I put my life on auto pilot, accepting it for what it is without even considering that it could or should be any different.
I think the answer lies in living day by day. Not waking up to each new morning buying into the belief that because it worked for me yesterday that it continues to be how I want to spend my time. It’s a raising of the bar of what I want to accept as my life experience.
I’ve made a vow to try something new. I’m going to give as much thought every day to how I’m spending my time overall as to what I’m going to choose to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let me know if you want to join me.
We lost a precious part of our family over the holiday season–Sarah, the 15-year old tabby cat I adopted from the Humane Society in 2001 along with her sister, Janie. It was only two days before that I’d learned that Sarah had both lymphoma and pancreatic cancer. It was as if once I knew, she let go to a rapid decline.
Losing Sarah was a heartbreak on its own. Yet seeing her sister Janie, who had been her companion since birth, grieving her own loss was another heartbreak, and one that came with an immense lesson. I had never before witnessed the depths of how animals can feel emotion.
I felt the vibe of Janie sobbing over the loss of her sister. I sadly watched as she walked from room to room looking for Sarah after she was gone. Suddenly my own loss became a lessor priority to easing the pain that Janie was experiencing from her loss. Doing whatever I could to help fill Janie’s void was great therapy.
I miss Sarah tremendously, yet I feel a greater sense of peace knowing that she is no longer hurting or suffering. I am one who believes we have an afterlife and while I certainly don’t have the answers to what happens after cats and people die, I can’t imagine that there would be no other opportunity for such a deep relationship to be reunited when we pass to the other side.
The bonds we build with our animals are deeper than the moments we will have to share with them. That’s why I have hope for a future reunion. For me, this vision itself brings comfort to my loss.
Six months ago a routine check-up with my doctor landed me on the scale and I was horrified seeing my weight results. I knew from how my pants were fitting that I’d gained some inches yet I had no idea that I had hit my heaviest weight ever. I moaned to the nurse who kindly told me that women had a tendency to gain weight after menopause and that I looked good. That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to be lean and fit.
I was a fat kid all the way until I was 19, when one day I woke up and decided I didn’t want to be overweight anymore and set out to lose 40 pounds. So my thing with not wanting to be overweight has hung with me throughout my adult life.
After my visit to the doctor I started researching menopause and weight gain. I learned that while drops in estrogen do have an impact on weight gain, the bottom line is that how much you exercise also impacts how much weight you gain or lose. I was not willing to just settle on being a menopause weight gain statistic. The battle was on!
While I’d faithfully committed to a 3-4 times a week workout regime for 25 years, that frequency was no longer producing the results I wanted. I recognized that I needed to crank up the volume to drop the weight. Thankfully, with the help of my fiance who added 2-3 more workout sessions per week in the form of tennis, I dropped 12 pounds over the summer. And it was fun!
Little did I know that the best was yet to come. Late in the summer I discovered Pure Barre.
Pure Barre is described as ballet meets Pilates, neither of which I’d had much experience with. All of these years I have foolishly believed that my heart rate had to be riding high while I was sweating profusely to get a proper workout. Wrong!
The Pure Barre technique is designed to fatigue your muscles to the point of shaking and then stretch out to achieve long, lean muscles. I’m three months into it now with a changed body. Tomorrow I will complete the 20 classes in 30 days challenge. I am now fitting better in jeans I bought a dozen years ago than I did then. Over the course of the past month I’ve moved from wondering how I will endure the intense back-to-back workouts to realizing it could be my new routine.
Fight for what you want
The lesson I learned here was not to simply accept how life is playing out if it isn’t what you want. We can all change the course of destiny by taking steps to redirect the ship onto another course. Sometimes that might mean trying something completely new, but doesn’t that make the experience of life richer? And if you really want it badly, aren’t you okay with working hard for it?
Late last week I discovered a lump on the back of my 15-year old cat underneath her coat. I was shocked. I pet Sarah many times a day and the lump seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m almost always convinced that everything is going to be fine yet this worried me. I told my fiance what I discovered and he said that he had just noticed the same thing.
First thing the next morning I brushed Sarah’s coat with my fingers searching for the lump. It was still there but it seemed like the size had subsided. I let that be my reassurance that maybe it was just a bug bite and things were on their way to getting back to normal. I went through this process and thinking for three more days before I reckoned that the lump was still there and I better get it checked out.
This morning Dr. Eva took a sample from Sarah’s lump. Dr. Eva looked at the sample under a microscope and saw that there were many cells in it. My probing enabled me to learn that this meant it probably wasn’t a cyst or an abscess, but probably some kind of abnormal cell growth. The sample is off to a pathologist and I’ll know more in a day or two.
Like I said, I’m usually a very positive thinker yet having gone through the heartbreak of losing my last cat to lymphoma, I couldn’t help thinking about what I would do and feel if the news was not good.
I went about the business of my work for the remainder of the day with thoughts of Sarah flowing in and out of my mind. While considering the worst possible outcome–a malignant cancer–I found myself feeling frantic, like what will I be able to do to fix it–to get her healed?
Somehow later I was led to a different perspective that has given me a sense of peace. It is one that recognizes that Sarah arrived on this planet with her own journey to experience. However her life is to play out is her journey. My job as the person who has loved and cared for her for most of her life is to support her on her journey in all the best possible ways I can.
As someone who believes there is a purpose behind all that happens, I recognize there is a purpose in Sarah’s lump. Whatever happens is not about me and my life, but rather what is being called for her life. And I’m going to be right by her side however she needs my support.
I’ve been thinking about how I can apply this to my relationships with others — less emphasis on trying to make them better in whatever way I think they’d be happier to just giving support to the condition they’re in.
I happened across a news piece online the other day that featured a man who was my boss some twenty years ago. Come to find out he had recently been appointed the CEO of a major LA media organization. I was very happy to learn how my former boss had risen to such heights in his career and reached out to him via LinkedIn to tell him so.
I know this man as being the salt of the earth. And there was something about the period of time that we worked together in a New Hampshire division of a worldwide publishing company that feels like there is a bond there. Most of us were in our early 30’s. We took our jobs seriously yet there was a lot of camaraderie and fun. My boss was beginning to make a name for himself as a magazine publisher and I was his second in command who ran the finances and operations.
I wasn’t surprised that within a few hours my former boss responded with a kind note. I was very happy to hear from him and the way he sought an update made an impact that has lasted.
“What’s your story?” he asked.
While collecting my thoughts to answer his question it struck me that my story is not simply what I am doing today. Rather it is an evolution best described by a few key highlights that has led me to where I am today. Sometimes those highlights have been highs and sometimes they’ve been lows. Being able to now see my story as a journey helps put things in perspective.
I may want to feel more successful in my business today yet I have to acknowledge where I’ve come from to appreciate how much I have accomplished. And if I am able to look at my life as a story I can imagine how I’d like the story to play out and make the appropriate choices. I feel more in control.
What’s your story and how might you like to change it?
I got a Facebook message today from a woman who was a close friend in my early high school years. She asked about what I have been doing in the 30 plus years since we last communicated. Once I got beyond the challenge of summing up my life in one paragraph, my mind stayed focused on the question–What am I doing with my life?
When I turned 50 a few months ago, I told myself that I would be more proactive in creating the second half of my life. So far, I’ve not done a good job with that. While I am doing pretty well with carrying out some short term business goals, I continue to let some long-held dreams go by the wayside. Are you guilty of this, too?
Make Your Dream a Priority
A couple of decades ago I made fitness a priority and began to schedule my life with workouts in mind. When a potential commitment makes itself available, the first thing I think about is how I might need to schedule my workout around it. Sick, maybe, but at least it works in enabling me to maintain my fitness goals. Why has it not occurred to me to treat my dreams in the same way? I know the necessary steps I need to take; I just haven’t forced myself to do the work because I simply don’t make the time for it.
In the scheme of life, seeing my dreams become my reality is far more important than my mission to keep away a few unwanted pounds. What’s up with my priorities? Add this one to my list of “What was I thinking??”