I want to talk about inspiration today and I’m gonna share a quick story.
Many years ago I dated this guy named Chris. I was a recent college grad looking forward to what I hoped would be a long and rewarding career. I hoped to be promoted often, move up in the ranks until I was the Executive Director of a governmental agency or large non-profit. My dream was to be a highly educated, well-paid executive professional. And when I met Chris, I was just starting out on that road.
Chris was about 8 years older than me and was in a very different place in his life. He was a young professional with 10 years in at an insurance company but he felt trapped, dejected, and demoralized. He had been promoted several times and made really good money, yet it was not enough for him.
I was hopelessly optimistic. And my optimism was compounded by my lack of experience. While I thought he was in an ideal situation- young, six figures, job security- he had had enough.
Chris’s breaking point came when his favorite uncle was killed in a horrible car accident. He died relatively young and Chris lamented that the uncle never got to do any of the things he wanted to do with his life. Chris was really affected by that and decided that was all the wake up call he needed.
He made a decision to quit and strike it out on his own by starting his own business because he figured life was too short to spend in a job he hated even though it paid well.
I thought he was being emotional and was making an unwise rash decision based on his grief and I told him so. But true to his word, Chris quit his job soon after that. We ended up breaking up. We tried to make it work, but in the end we just saw our lives going in different ways.
I don’t know what ended up happening with Chris, and I hope that his venture was successful. After having worked on the track that I was so zealous about then, I see how naive I truly was. And now of course, I have been where Chris was.
And I now know that Chris was absolutely right to go after his dream.
Life is too short to endure being miserable. The world is too big and filled with too many possibilities and opportunities to force yourself to do that.
Do you ever feel like you’re not living up to your full potential? Or like you took a wrong turn somewhere and can’t really figure out how you got on your current track?
Maybe you even fought really hard to get where you are, but now that you’re actually here, it’s not exactly what you thought it’d be. So now you just feel trapped with no options.
If you are not careful, you may find yourself believing that your life will always be like this.
Say it with me:
As you saw in Chris’s case, the first step to getting yourself out of a rut is to find inspiration. And it doesn’t have to be something tragic like the death of a loved one. The good news is that inspiration is all around us. We just have to take the time to notice.
Here’s how to tap into all of the inspiration that surrounds you every day.
Be still and soak it all in
We get messages and signs all the time. Often though, we are too busy or overwhelmed to see or recognize them. Carve out small bits of time to be still and see what comes to you. Do this regularly and you’ll be surprised to see how clearly your soul speaks to you. Whether it is prayer, meditation, long walks, running. Make it a habit to allow yourself to get into a mind space that will allow you to be calm and see what comes to you.
There are some situations that I know will always inspire me. Every single time Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, or Maze featuring Frankie Beverly come to my town, I drop everything and go. Because their shows inspire the hell out of me. There is something so inspiring about seeing people who are so great at what they do and truly enjoy it. You can see their joy exuding from them while in their element. And it gives me life!! It makes me want to get mine, too. I leave these shows feeling joyous, awed, and inspired. Find and seek out people, places, art, etc that you know you will be able to gain inspiration from.
Sometimes inspiration comes from doing and creating. Do you have a hobby or skill that you practice regularly that allows you to use different parts of your brain? If you don’t, maybe you should. To create something means that you made something that did not exist. You used what you had around you to create something new. Creative action then, allows you to see things around you as tools and ingredients for your creation. So put yourself in a creative space and watch the inspiration flow!
If you need some help finding inspiration, or if you need to figure out how you can get the most out of life, be sure to check out Jumpstart Your Life! 6 Week Program. It will definitely get you on track to tap into all the inspiration around you.
I love a good retreat. No, I mean I REALLY LOVE retreats.
As a teenager, I was introduced to the concept of retreats when I participated in a leadership program. And these were intense retreats led by corporate alumni like lawyers and business leaders whose mission it was to foster leadership in urban teens. Retreat topics included male/female relationships, self-awareness, etc. They were brutal and beautiful at the same time, and I’m so grateful for those experiences now. These retreats were transformative experiences and helped shape my character.
And I’ve gone on other retreats since then. Retreats are a way for me to do important self work and allow me the luxury of focusing on my own self-development without distractions.
I’ve always wanted to lead personal development retreats. And two years ago, I facilitated my very first one. I rented a private villa on an all inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic and took 3 of my clients down with me for a week to heal, share, rest, relax and have some fun.
There were many memorable moments. But I want to share one moment with you that I think was especially powerful and reminds me of the power of retreat.
On the day before everyone arrived, I did my best to prepare everything. I spoke with the resort staff the previous day and that morning to make sure the check in process was to go as smoothly as possible. On the day everyone was supposed to come, I reiterated my requests and was assured that everything would be fine.
The next day, my first two ladies checked in with no problems.
However, my third lady experienced a very difficult check in process in which everything that could go wrong did.
There was a language barrier with the staff of the resort. We were waiting outside the reception building, sure that we would see her as soon as the bus arrived. I wanted our faces to be the first she saw.
But somehow we missed her and she was waiting for us inside the office. Meanwhile, management was calling our villa in front of her to tell us of her arrival. And we of course, were not there to receive the calls. By the time we met up, she was quite upset and understandably so. She had just gotten off a long international flight in a country she had never been to, and had experienced nothing but frustration.
While we apologized profusely for the confusion around her arrival, she was inconsolable and I felt horrible and looked for ways to try to make it up to her.
By the time we got back to the villa, she was still upset and not quite in the mood to chat or meet with the other ladies. Again, totally understandable.
We all kind of settled into our own rooms and prepared for the welcome dinner in a few hours.
How Retreat Transform Us
After the welcome dinner, we all returned to the villa. I had wanted everyone to have plenty of time to settle in and informally get to know each other, so I did not have any formal activities scheduled until early the next morning.
I changed into my bathing suit, took my Ipad and speakers out to the pool in the back yard and blasted some soul music.
One by one, the ladies came out to join me in the pool. And it was so much fun. We laughed and got to know each other all night. There were discussions about music, food, love, adventure. We shared our hopes with each other and named our fears. It was really magical.
The overall retreat was a success. I saw each woman bloom in her own way and it was honestly an honor to watch. Each woman had a breakthrough in her own right and left feeling better and more focused than she had when she arrived.
And it all started in that pool.
It was in the pool where we all let the stress of the day leave us and opened ourselves up to the promise of connection and self-growth. This event set the tone of the retreat.
This is the power of retreat. Allowing ourselves to withdraw from the day to day and tap into what’s important. Retreats allow us to slow down and be mindful of our thoughts and take control of our experiences.
And even those who don’t exactly hate their job, admit to resenting it in some way. This is so messed up because we spend so much of our lives at work. Our jobs give us money and we need money to live. I recently read a statistic that said the average person will spend about a quarter of their lifetime on this earth at their jobs. I know, bananas!
So why exactly do we hate and resent our jobs so much?
Truthfully, there are tons of reasons, more than I could ever begin to name. But here are just a few possible reasons why you hate your job.
1. You, an adult, literally have to ask for permission to take time away from the job to handle important life tasks and responsibilities.
2. You, a perfectly reasonable person, have to spend inordinate amounts of time with people who are sometimes not very reasonable, or friendly, or bright, or professional, or kind.
3. You, a person with much to offer the world, is often “supervised” by people who are not as talented or insightful as you.
4. You, a creative person, have to reign in your talents and prioritize the boring unexciting demands of your job routine instead of the all the ideas that race around your mind.
5. You, a person with relationships, hobbies, and interests, spend at least 40 non-negotiable hours of your peak productive time a week meeting the demands of your employer while your needs and desires sit on the back burner.
6. You, a person with material needs and obligations, never seem to make enough money at your job. If things arise in your life that require more cash than you have on hand, you cannot negotiate with your employer to pay you more just because you need it.
Any of that sound familiar?
After many years of working for myself and pursuing independent research in a doctoral program, I took a job with a large organization so that I could relocate back to my hometown of New York City, a move I’d been wanting to make happen for awhile. I couldn’t move my practice to NY straight away because of state licensing issues and I wanted so badly to be back in New York that I just couldn’t wait for things to sort themselves out.
So I took a job in the meantime while I figure out my next steps.
On very good days, I am thankful to have stable employment with great benefits which currently allows me to keep a roof over my head and food in my tummy while being in my most favorite city in the world. On these days, I am proud of the interesting work I do and for the opportunities and challenges that encourage my growth and development.
But on bad days, I am resentful of both the large and small indignities of my job and plot how quickly I can leave it. And I am not alone. To say that most people at my job don’t want to be there is an understatement. And while I am totally grateful and the job has its perks, it’s been a very long time since I’ve worked a full time job. There are supervisors, “chains of command,” office politics, and job hazards to deal with. And I have to admit that it has been a bit difficult readjusting. Personally, what’s been most difficult is not really owning my own time and no longer being able to do with it as I please.
In the five months that I have been working there so far, I have found a handful of coping strategies to help me maintain my sanity and stop myself from completely succumbing to negative thoughts and bitterness. And I’m sharing them with you here, just in case you are allowing your job to rob you of your happiness:
1 Bolster yourself with your morning commute
I take two different trains during my morning commute. It takes about 45 minutes on the subway followed by a 15 minute walk. So all together I have an hour between the time I leave my front door and the time I am walking through the front door of the office. In that hour I usually listen to audiobooks on self development, business, politics, and any other subject that I’m super interested in. I’m a very mental person and I love ideas. So beginning the day with a surge of ideas get my brain moving and I am reminded of how big the world is and that my job is a temporary place. Other times I listen to music to psych myself up, like my own soundtrack or theme song. I choose to listen to songs that build me up, and remind me that I am not my job.
2 Don’t seek validation from your job
I have much to offer. And so do you. But my job description calls for me to contribute only a small bit of my knowledge and gifts at work and there is little to no room for me to veer from that. Also, the higher ups do not see, nor are they interested in my full potential. Not only is this incredibly frustrating, it can be downright demoralizing. But at the end of the day, the only thing my employer owes me is pay for the work that I do. That’s it. Full stop. Expecting more only leads to disappointment. Your crappy job is your way to put food on the table and a chance for you to work out challenges and pushing yourself. It is not the source of your self-esteem or validation of your worth as a person.
3 Take ownership of your actions (wherever you go, there you are).
I know of many people who work in an office environment in which their coworkers are not very pleasant, are super competitive, and dismissive. My current work environment is one of these places. There is a deeply ingrained dysfunctional work culture that regularly takes down those at the very top and absolutely crushes those on the bottom. It is not fun. It can feel dehumanizing. But worse, it can make perfectly lovely and reasonable people begin to act like the very sour coworkers that they despise. This is how culture works and recreates itself.
If you have a similar work work environment, be conscious of this. Fight against adopting the personal destructive habits of an unhealthy place. Because the only thing that you will have to show for it is getting further ingrained in an unhealthy work culture that drains your spirit and your humanity. This sucks, don’t do it.
Instead be mindful of your thoughts and actions. Call yourself on it when you find yourself behaving and thinking like others around you. Remember, your abundance comes from within. And sometimes you have to guard it at all costs.
4 Manage your work space well at your crappy job
Maintain a neat and orderly physical work environment to the best of your ability. Walking into a chaotic office or trying to find things under a heaping, unruly mound on your desk makes an already undesirable situation almost insufferable. So don’t do this to yourself. I have found that disorganization and overwhelm can be a very slippery slope.
Awhile ago, I read this book on work space organization and it completely changed the way I thought about how I arrange my desk and work space. Set up your space to accommodate your most redundant and essential tasks. And if you’re a visual person, like I am be sure to have inspiring pictures, desirable colors, and quotes in your view so that you can see them when you need some momentary inspiration. I for one, have a bunch of yellow accents on my desk because that is my happy color.
Part of managing you work space is paying attention to your physical presentation. Be neat and take pride in your appearance. Look good for yourself because when you look your best, you are closer to feeling your best. Maintain your work clothes. Be sure to buy cuts, colors, and accessories that flatter you and accentuate your physical assets while detracting from your problem areas.
And if you have time and want a laugh, check out the video below. Its an oldie but goodie, insanely hilarious and over the top but I think it has some takeaways that we all can use. The extremely snide narrator points out Barbara’s sloppiness, disorganization, and lack of preparedness throughout the course of a day from the moment she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. Poor Barbara. Don’t develop a reputation for being like Barbara at work!
And aside from your personal and physical appearance, be mindful to manage your relationships with others. Be purposeful about setting healthy boundaries and expectations. Show others how to treat you by exhibiting the behaviors you expect from them. Try not to let the poor behavior of others rattle you too much. Make extra efforts to be professional and courteous with such people. This is not always easy and you won’t be able to do this 100% of the time, but be purposeful and make the effort. This is super important for both your immediate mental sanity but also in the long run. You know that you are not destined to say here, so rise above those that are.
5 Perform your crappy job to the best of your ability
Your job is crappy. You are capable of so much more. Prove to yourself, your coworkers, your supervisors and the universe that you can not only meet the challenges in front of you with grace and style, but you can exceed them. Take pride in the work you have now even if it is not exactly what you want to be doing.
And once you have mastered your crappy job, be on the look out to develop new skills and be more efficient. At the very least, the more efficient you become the more room you free up in your mind for things you actually want to be thinking about.
But by all means, do not allow your crappy job to stagnate you. In nature, if you are not growing, you are dying. If water does not flow, it becomes stagnant. So move, grow, and thrive.
This is no way to live and you owe yourself more. The less developed your life is outside of work, the more you look for your crappy job to fulfill your inner needs. That will not end up well. You are a multifaceted beautiful piece of work and you deserve to shine and grow in multiple arenas.
Host dinner parties. Train for marathons. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Join a club. Play the saxophone. Sing in the choir. Learn a language. Write a novel. Start a YouTube channel. Go talk to that interesting looking person who you see every morning in the train station. Make connections.
Do interesting things that give you something to look forward to and provide you with the opportunity to channel your energy, develop new skills, and use different parts of your brain and body.
7 Make allies (or at the very least try not to make enemies) at your crappy job
I don’t care if its the receptionist, the janitor, a person who works in another department. The guy who sits in the next cubicle. The person who occupies the highest level job in the building. Whomever. Make friends and play nice with as many people as you can at your crappy job.
If this is exceedingly difficult to do, find someone with whom you can at least exchange smiles. Even if this is infrequent. A friendly face is worth its weight in gold.
Do your best to minimize hostility in your workplace. Go the extra mile to form and maintain relationships. You don’t have to be best friends with folks, but at least try to remember names and exchange greetings. Once in awhile, volunteer to do things so that others don’t have to do them. Bring in food to share with your coworkers. Give compliments. Thank them. Be helpful. Allow them to shine. Be empathetic. Treat them like human beings.
When conflict does arise, make sure to address it directly and professionally. Do not hold grudges and make sure you show that you have moved past it once the issue is resolved.
8 Take time off from your crappy job
Go on 2 week long Caribbean vacations if you can. If you can’t do that, go on week long vacations. If you can do that, go on a weekend road trip. And if you can’t do any of this stuff, take mental health days. If you can’t do that, go on walks during your lunch breaks.
9 Plot your escape from your crappy job
When I was a little kid, I was really interested in stories about escaping slaves. I would read about how they didn’t just wake up one day and run away. They did not take their freedom lightly because they knew if they escaped haphazardly, they could be captured. And being captured meant being beaten or even killed. In other words they would make their situation worse if they did not plan well. So they did things to help ensure their success and survival.
They did their best to save food for the journey and gather information. Escaped slaves were selective about who they shared their plans and waited until the time was right. They learned how to read the stars for guidance, and make connections. And perhaps most important of all, they had specific destinations in mind.
You are not a slave and neither am I. But I do find this metaphor helpful. We can plot your escape too. Life is too short to work a crappy job for very long.
So figure out what your specific destination is and make a plan for yourself on how to get there. Learn new skills in your current job that will serve you well in your next destination. Learn how to read the signs so that you will know when it’s the right time to move on. Lay the groundwork so that you will be ready when the right time comes along. Make connections with people who are also moving in the same direction or may already be there.
Respect your earned money. Save it. Spend it on things that improve you and bring you joy. Invest in your future. Make sure you are taking advantage of any discounts that are afforded you because of your job. Some employers provide discounts on gym memberships, commuter benefits, savings club cards, access to credit unions, etc.
So those are my tips for getting through a crappy job. I hope they were helpful. In the comment section, please share what helps you get through your job. I’d love to hear from you.
Today, I am writing this post while sitting in my very own living room in New York City. This time last year, I was living in Chicago and would not have been able to predict this at all. I wanted to move but was not exactly sure how I was going to make all the pieces fit together. All I knew was that I was starting over, no matter what.
Have you ever reached a point in your life where you thought, “How did I get here?”
I have too. That’s where I languished mentally for about a year.
I did not like the mind-numbing monotony of my life. There was nothing exciting or interesting to look forward to in my immediate future. Basically, I was in a deep rut. I had allowed my world to get too small and I was suffocating in it.
What I needed was a change of pace, an adventure, and some fresh new energy. Also, I had conquered all of my immediate challenges and was in need of new challenges and fresh obstacles. And thinking the same thoughts over and over was mentally exhausting.
When my mom passed away a few years back, I had promised myself that I would not let myself languish too long in any one place, physical or mental. So I decided that I needed to shake things up. It was my life and I was the only one responsible for how I felt and my happiness.
I needed a do over. I needed to hit the reset button.
So, I decided to leave Chicago, my adopted city for more than a decade and return to my hometown, New York City. I left New York at the age of 17 to go to college and never returned. I had gone out into the world and put together a comfortable life for myself. My past accomplishments made me proud. And now I was ready to come back home and start the next phase of my life.
But moving to New York and creating a new life for myself was no easy feat. Deciding to do it was the easy part. I had to make things happen. And starting over is never easy.
Step 1–When Starting Over, Take Stock of Lessons Learned
Even though I had decided that moving back to NYC was in fact what I wanted to do, I did not want to discount or minimize the things that I accomplished in Chicago. I started a business and had some really transformative relationships. It was in Chicago that learned how to maintain a household and save money. I learned how to get jobs and leave them with connections that could help me in the future. I learned how to drive and earned a master’s degree. In Chicago, I had learned all these major life skills through trial and error. And I’m grateful because I can use these skills in New York, where the stakes are a bit higher.
Before embarking on a new phase and making dramatic changes, be sure to take stock of all the things you’ve learned in your present life phase and think about ways that you can build on this foundation in your next phase.
Step 2–When Starting Over, Honor What You are Leaving Behind
In addition to taking stock of the lessons that I learned, a part of me was really sad to leave. I love Chicago. I love the people I met. At one point, I never thought I would leave. And if I’m being honest, there was even a little part of me that tried to sabotage the move because Chicago was just so comfortable for me.
And even though Chicago no longer fit the life I wanted I was so thankful for her because at one point she was everything I needed. You will never hear me speak ill of her! But life is about growth and movement.
Step 3– Sketch It Out
But deciding to move was not enough. I was looking to do a complete life shift, so I had to imagine a new life for myself. Location was just one aspect. But I also had to think about: what type of experiences I wanted to have, what type of people I wanted to be around, how I wanted to feel. Sometimes we get so focused on what we don’t want that we don’t make enough effort imaging and naming the things that we do want. Vision board anyone?
I got busy naming and claiming the exact neighborhood I would live in and what my apartment would look like and how much my rent would be. Next, I looked up the activities that I knew I wanted to participate in. Then, I made a budget that allowed room for all the things I wanted to do. I even named the organization that I would work for.
In order to get the life I wanted, I knew that I had to design it. Because if I wasn’t purposeful, I could end up in the same old rut that I was breaking away from. So I needed to be intentional, like an artist making decisions.
Step 4– Make Small, Gradual Moves
Knowing that I was going to be moving to NYC, I knew that I would undoubtedly be moving into a smaller space. So I slowly started to get rid of things. Books, dishes, clothes, housewares.
I also sought to re-familiarize myself with my hometown. After all, I had not lived in NY for many many years and never as an adult. A few things I did: visit family more, joined email lists of organizations that held the types of events I planned on attending after the move. I also reached out to my network to see if anybody knew of any job opportunities. I started watching YouTube videos about NY culture.
Step 5– When Starting Over, Make Some Big Moves
About six months after I decided to move, I closed down my physical office space. I had not made any definite plans. I did not have a job and I certainly did not have an apartment. But somehow I knew that closing down my business would bring me dozens of steps closer to my real goal. And it was super scary. Yet I knew that it sent the right signals to myself and the universe that I meant business and there was no backing down from it.
I also spent one whole month in New York staying with family. While I was there, I really imagined how my life would look on a daily basis. I reached out to people I hadn’t seen in years. It was a lot of fun and my mind really started to see this move as a real thing.
Step 6– Be Singularly Focused About Starting Over
When you are committed to starting your life over, you have to be singularly focused. I for one am very susceptible to succumbing to multiple attractive projects at the same time. But to undertake something as big as relocating and changing your lifestyle, you have to concentrate on the monumental task at hand only, even if other things fall by the wayside. I admit that this is why I was away from the blog for so long. I was getting my ducks in a row and brainstorming and figuring everything out. Some days, it was all I could think of. That meant that other things had to fall by the wayside. But the goal of starting over was more important that anything else at the time so it was given priority over everything else.
Step 7– When Starting Over, Do Not Give Up
Starting your life over takes a great deal of perseverance. And I was firm on two non-negotiable parameters: I had to have a job and an apartment before I moved. Even though I had tons of friends and family in NYC, it was very important for me to be self-reliant. That meant that I wasn’t going to put anybody out or be a burden or inconvenience.
Finding jobs and apartments in Chicago had been relatively easy, but finding them in NYC appeared impossible. I had begun sending my resume off to several jobs in late 2014 and did not land a job until late 2016.
And there were some pretty bleak times. Like the time I had managed to get a phone interview through a college acquaintance. I was interviewed by 2 women and the interview lasted about an hour. I felt pretty good about the interview when I hung up the phone. In the 90 seconds it took me to walk to my kitchen, pour myself a glass of water and walk back to my living room, I had already received an email from them notifying me that I was not selected for the job. Damn, that’s how y’all feel?
Or going apartment hunting and seeing super expensive teeny tiny walk up apartments with no light and that reminded me of elevators or cells. Or finally finding an apartment that I thought was perfect for me only to be rejected because the landlady preferred another couple.
But I kept at it.
In the end I got a better paying job with a better organization than the one that rejected me in 10 seconds. And I also ended up finding and securing a rent stabilized apartment in a better location, for a better price with all the amenities I wanted. It was almost spooky how much my job and apartment matched the original sketch I imagined when I first made the decision to move.
The moral of the story is not to give up. Just focus on putting yourself out there and moving toward what you want with steadfast determination. The rest is not up to you.
Step 8– When Starting Over, Build the Life You Want
Life does not simply unroll in front of us like a plush red carpet. We have to actively pursue the things we want.
A major reason I moved back was so that I could spend time with family. And huge part of my vision included long leisurely walks in Central Park and all around Harlem. So I got busy making sure I was doing those things.
I moved 6 months ago and I am still adjusting. Driving a car here still scares the daylights out of me. And the non-stop pulse of the city is both exhilarating and exhausting. I’ve set up some of my life rituals- my Sunday walk in Central Park with a cup of coffee and an audible book. Exploring fancy neighborhoods where celebrities live. I found a hair salon through trial and error. I’ve made a few new friends. But there is still much that still needs to be done. And I am excited about all of my new challenges.
I, for one, have been a little under the weather this past week. (Actually I’ve been A LOT under the weather. I know my poor neighbors probably think I have hacked up both my lungs). But I’m getting better day by day.
Now, I don’t get sick very often but when I do it always seems to be around the time the seasons change. Ever since I was a little girl. And I hear a lot of people do, too. Maybe that’s the origin of the phrase “under the weather.” Or maybe it’s my body’s very own built in spring-cleaning system.
Anyway, seasons are powerful things.
Seasons help us understand time periods in our life better. Yes, I’m talking about seasons of the year—winter, spring, summer, and fall- but I’m also talking about big seasons in our lives too. Like those seasons that are marked by specific people or events. Or those seasons when we are learn specific life lessons.
When seasons change they invite new energy into our lives and can get us out of our ruts by changing things up and forcing us to adapt. We have new things to look forward to. We have new problems to solve. All of a sudden we have new things to think about.
Today I want to urge you to use the power of this season change to your advantage. Here’s the challenge:
Plan out your next 90 days and be sure to
Include new things and new opportunities that you’ve never done before
Get rid of things that are no longer working for you
(Please note that this is an account of a personal experience and not an endorsement or recommendation of any sort. This should not be mistaken for health care advice. And I urge everyone reading this to consult their physician or registered dietitian for nutritional advice because I am neither.)
Many in my self-love challenge community know that this year my self-love practice is focused on my physical health. I want to be healthier in general and lose a considerable amount of weight in particular.
In January and February, I focused on being more active and going to the gym.
While I knew I needed to radically change the food I put in my mouth, to some degree I felt really stuck and overwhelmed. I would make a commitment to myself to eat better and then it seemed as if my self-control would betray me almost without fail.
And I would feel really awful afterwards. And every day was a struggle– knowing I should do better, but not knowing how to make it happen.
Then I heard a neuro-psychologist talk about the addictive properties of certain foods, namely flour and sugar and the way they affect the brain. She argues that certain people are more susceptible to the addictive nature of these foods than others.
And the solution to this is total abstinence from flour and sugar.
For those in the back, I’ll say it again: She advised a lifestyle change in which people don’t eat any foods that contain processed refined sugar or flour of any kind because it’s the flour and the sugar that addict people and trick the brain into thinking that you need more and more. Some experts have even gone so far as to label sugar and flour to be drugs, or even worse, toxic poisons.
This completely changed the way I thought about food.
Now it’s not like I thought pop-tarts, cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes, or doughnuts were good for me. I mean, I wasn’t delusional.
But I didn’t quite know how eating those types of sugary, doughy “foods” leave my brain craving more and more until I felt powerless to control the cravings.
In other words, the more of those things I ate, the more I craved those things.
The solution it seemed was to completely eliminate all of those things from my diet.
Now, I cannot express to you just what a big deal this decision was for me. I mean, virtually ALL of my favorite foods had flour or sugar in them– preferably both. And it took me a couple of days to process this information. But I eventually knew I had to at least try it.
The first thing I did was make a list of all foods I wouldn’t be able to eat, if I were to adopt this lifestyle. Including all the foods I listed above, I’d also have to eliminate- cornbread, crackers, noodles, sweet potato pie, bread of any kind, syrup of any kind, honey, virtually any kind of box cereal, any kind of boxed food in the grocery store, many salad dressings and many many more things. So really quickly, I knew that I would be cooking almost every meal I put in my mouth. Manufacturers put sugar or some type of “syrup” in dang near everything.
Since March 1, 2016, I have not had any flour or refined sugar.
I found a no flour, no sugar food plan that dictated 3-4 meals a day with no snacking in between, broken down as follows:
Breakfast: one serving of grain/or starchy vegetable, one serving of fruit, one serving of dairy, and one serving of meat or protein
Lunch: one serving of protein/or meat, one cup cooked veggies, one cup fresh veggies
Dinner: one serving of protein/or meat, one cup cooked veggies, one cup fresh veggies and one serving of a grain/or starchy vegetable
Snack (optional): one serving of dairy or meat/protein with with one serving of fruit
So here’s what my food has looked like for the past 30 days:
My usual breakfast is one cup of skim milk, 1/2 cup plain oatmeal (not the sugary instant kind), 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter, a banana, and a few chopped walnuts. But sometimes, I’ll have scrambled eggs and potatoes with yogurt and a piece of fruit.
Honestly, the first day that I had this breakfast I really missed the sugary oatmeal, so I was not in love with it. But funny enough as the weeks have gone by, my bowl of oatmeal is my favorite meal of the day.
On days that I have a lot of writing to get done I will have a cup of coffee right after breakfast or lunch as well. Since I can no longer have sugar and limit my dairy to 1-2 servings a day, I lighten my coffee with a bit of coconut milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It gives the coffee a creamy texture, and a nutty flavor and it is very very good.
Four hours after breakfast, I have my lunch.
Honestly, I’m still getting used to a meal with no starch or grain. This is my least favorite meal of the day because of that.
I have dinner five hours after lunch and one some days I REALLY feel the absence of a grain/starch.
Dinner is usually very filling and satisfying.
Four hours after dinner, I usually have a snack because I don’t like to go to bed with an empty stomach and depending on when I had dinner on some days, it has been as much as 6 or 7 hours.
Getting though the first 7 days was very difficult. I’m not even gonna lie. It took a whole lot of effort to eat on a particular schedule and to plan out my meals in advance simply because I wasn’t used to eat. Further I was not at all used to not snacking between meals. But by day 3, this part got easier. I just fell into a routine.
By about day 4, I started to have really intense cravings for certain sugary and doughy foods. It was kind of ridiculous, honestly. And I had a headache for like 48 hours straight. I was irritable and began to notice how advertisements for these foods were EVERYWHERE.
Almost immediately after cutting out the sugar and flour, my body started to feel better. I was able to move more. I woke up each day feeling a bit lighter. Honestly. I didn’t realize just how bloated I had been.
By day 14, I had noticeably more energy.
My vegetable variety has increased a great deal. In the past 30 days, I’ve had avocado, cabbage, carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, red peppers, yellow peppers, habenero peppers, string beans, squash, white potatoes, cucumbers, red beans, and romaine lettuce. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that many different vegetables in such a short period before. I don’t know why, but that felt like a big accomplishment. LOL.
And I lost 10 pounds.
So I’m planning to continue. I’m going to take it one day at a time and continue to monitor how I feel. I’m hopeful.
My guess is that you probably could push yourself to do so. But it would be a struggle.
So since we’re creating a movement of women who are committed to loving ourselves, we must also be dedicated to knowing ourselves better. Completely. Because knowing yourself allows you to accept and love yourself.
So who are you?
No, really. Who are you?
I got some questions for you:
What are you into?
What’s your “thing”?
What do you believe in?
What’s important to you?
What’s not important to you?
When it comes down to it, what do you want your life to stand for?
If you knew you had 6 months to live, how would you spend your last days on earth?
Knowing who you are and what you value helps you to weed out and filter through all the “stuff” that comes your way on a daily basis.
And most importantly, knowing yourself and your values stops you from judging yourself based on the opinions of other people. It frees your mind.
For example, I know that I value freedom, simple living, fairness, and knowledge. These values guide my decision making. So when well meaning people, for example, suggest things that they think will be of use to me, if these suggestions are not in line with my values, I simply don’t do them. Plain and simple. They are not for me. And when other people don’t live according to my values, I’m OK with that, too. They have their own life to live, just as I do.
I determine my worth. No one else gets this privilege. And the same goes for you. You determine your worth. Other people’s opinions belong to them, not you.
Listen, we each only get one life and we need to make sure that we honor it by being true to ourselves and not living the life that other people think you should live.
So here’s what I want you to do. Right now I want you to think about the three things that are most important to you. And in the comments section below, I’d like you to share your top three values with us.
It’s the place in the home where you can put any and everything that doesn’t seem to really have a place of its own. Things like extra condiment packets, old batteries, tape, pencils, scissors, take out menus, tools, etc.
And because the junk drawer is so great at storing things, you can kind of forget all the stuff that’s in there. And the irony is when you actually need something that’s in it, you can’t find it. Years can go by without clearing it out and before you know it, you have all this useless little stuff that you never use, just taking up space in your home and being an eyesore.
But do you also notice that sometimes, we behave like we are junk drawers?
We hold onto useless baggage from the past that other people left in our lives just for the sake of holding onto it. And all this useless stuff weighs on our emotions, self-worth, and relationships.
Here are some examples:
An ex-lover was unfaithful and treated you badly which made you feel unworthy, so now you hold on to that “junk belief” just because a temporary person came and dropped it in your mind.
You got fired or let go from a job, so now you hold onto the “junk belief” that you are disposable and have little value.
You made a mistake for which you were embarrassed and now you carry around a great deal of shame around this mistake, even many years later.
But you are not a junk drawer.
And you simply have to let all this stuff go. Stop holding onto old useless resentments, shame, heartaches,etc. Let it go! Forgive people. Forgive yourself. Try things again. Try new things. Live in the present. Because life is happening now.
Junk is stagnant and still, but life is always moving, growing, developing, and changing. Since you are alive, you must do these things too.
Because the more you hold onto all that junk, the more it weighs you down and gets in the way of living. You will remain stuck and stagnant too.
The more you hold onto these useless unnecessary junk, the less free you are.
And I don’t know about you, but I want to be free!
So here’s what I want you to do right now:
In the comments section below, please tell me what junk beliefs have been hanging out in your mental junk drawer for far too long that you are finally deciding to let go of.
Because EVERYTHING begins with the relationship we have with ourselves. And when that relationship is rooted in uncompromising love, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.
Self-Love is the ability to see your own value as a human being.
Self-Love encourages you to set healthy relationship boundaries that prevent other people from treating you badly. And it’s through self-love that we can stop sabotaging ourselves. Self-love is believing in your own worthiness enough to say what you need and go after what you really want.
But most of all, self-love is believing in your yourself enough to get up and keep living after each fall. After each disappointment.
And I know all about falling. Believe me.
My mission is to teach as many women as I can how to love themselves no matter how many times they have fallen. I want more women to understand that they are valuable and worthy just as they are right now and that they do not need any source of validation in order to “achieve” worthiness.
Below is my self-love manifesto. Please download it and share it with whomever you like. These 10 statements are the basis of my self-love practice. I try to practice each of these statements everyday in real time. And as all things, it’s a practice. Some days are easier than others. But this is my foundation.
The Abundant Life Practice Self-Love Manifesto:
I am enough just as I am. I don’t have to do anything to make myself “worthy.” I am my own source of validation.
I have many things to be thankful for. So I begin each day with a grateful heart.
I make mistakes often. This is how I know I am alive and willing to try new things. There is no other way to grow. Life is all about growth.
I have wonderful gifts to share with others.
I give myself permission to let go of everything that gets in the way of loving myself.
I must always put myself first. I understand that I cannot give anything to anybody if I don’t first give to myself.
I don’t take the actions, words or beliefs of others personally. Because what other people think, do and say is always about them, not me.
I forgive myself and others easily. This is how I let go of the past.
I stay away from people with bad intentions. This is how I protect my precious time, energy, and spirit from being wasted and devalued.
I practice a habit of self-care that honors all the parts of me—physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.