How to “Rate Your 8” Using the Living Upp Self-Care Model

Before you can develop a meaningful self-care practice, you must first have a thorough understanding of what you need to feel your best and give your best. And that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Knowing what recharges and re-energizes you helps you determine where to allocate your time and energy — but the truth is, many of us have become disconnected from ourselves.

We schlep our way through the workday, already exhausted, and then return home to a pile of laundry and sink full of dishes. Rinse and repeat. We do our best to “do it all” but neglect ourselves in the process. (And, secretly, we don’t even want to do it all.)

woman overwhelmed by stress

After leaving my corporate job to take a sabbatical in 2015, it took me six months to feel comfortable sitting alone with myself in quiet. I had become so conditioned to my phone’s incessant dinging that silence made me feel uneasy. My body understood doing, not being.

But when I started asking myself what I truly needed — and actually listened to the answers — I was amazed at the power I held to make my life more beautiful.

Self-Care is Multidimensional

Self-Care is multidimensional, meaning it isn’t just about our physical well-being. It includes all the complex facets of our lives, which I’ve distilled down to 8 key areas:

  • Systemic: How we eat, move and rest
  • Emotive: How we express ourselves
  • Luminescent: How we illuminate our inner truth
  • Financial: How we allocate our resources
  • Cognitive: How we think
  • Aptitudinal: How we contribute to the world
  • Relational: How we connect with others
  • Environmental: How we harmonize with nature

Hint: The first letter of each dimension spells the word “SELF CARE.”

How to “Rate Your 8”

The Rate Your 8 tool is designed to help you identify the areas of your life that need more attention. If you’re like most of my clients, you’re probably doing well in one or two areas of your life, but there are others you’ve been neglecting.

Here’s how to Rate Your 8:

1. Understand the 8 Dimensions of Self-Care

Before you jump into the ratings, it’s important to get familiar with the dimensions so you understand what’s included in each of them. You can learn more in my book Uppward: A Self-Care System for Purposeful Living.

Buy the Book

Once you have a solid understanding of how each dimension fits into your life, it’s time to assess how well you’re supporting yourself. How well are you taking care of yourself when it comes to your eating habits? Your personal relationships? Your emotional health?

2. Rate each dimension on a scale of 1 to 10

ratings of the 8 dimensions of self-care

Next, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), rank how well your current habits are supporting each of the 8 dimensions.

For example, if your exercise routine has become part of who you are and it’s no longer something you struggle to accomplish, then you’d probably rank yourself somewhere between 7 and 10. But if your spending habits are moving you closer to debt, then you might rank the financial dimension lower.

Don’t overthink it; trust your gut.

For additional guidelines on ratings, download the Rate Your 8 Assessment here:

Rate Your 8 Assessment

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: you’ll probably never be a “10” in any category.

Why?

Because perfection is an illusion.

woman in red cape

And because people who select 9’s instead of 10’s see more capacity for growth — that alone is a motivator for achievement. So, my overachieving friends, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t rocking 10’s in every category. Once you start using this tool more consistently, you’ll see how your ratings change along with the ebbs and flows of your life. And soon, you’ll probably be able to predict how your life’s events will play out in terms of your health.

The purpose of using a measuring tool is to recognize changes over time so we can allocate and reallocate our resources accordingly.

2. Create (or Adjust) Your Self-Care Practice

Use your ratings as a guide for determining where to invest your time and energy. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Start with the areas you’ve ranked lowest. If your gut tells you things aren’t going well in a particular area of your life, it’s probably a sign that something needs to change. Chances are, you’ve been thinking about making a change for quite a while, but you just haven’t put any energy into it. Prioritize your plan by targeting the areas with the most obvious needs.
  • Choose fun and unusual activities. As you select your self-care activities, make sure they excite you. We look forward to things we perceive as fun, and higher levels of enthusiasm increase your chances of following through with your intentions. Use your excited energy to your advantage!
  • Don’t expect perfection. Don’t expect 100% from yourself. Perfection is an illusion. Just don’t even go there. You’ll create more stress for yourself and find a reason to stop trying.
  • Clear your plate. Sometimes self-care involves removing something from your plate rather than adding to it. Setting a boundary, leaving a relationship, canceling a membership — at times, saying ‘no’ can feel more like saying yes, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Put it on paper. Sketch out your plan on paper and place it somewhere visible. If you journal in the morning before starting your day, use your plan as a bookmark. If you mindlessly grab unhealthy snacks from your kitchen frequently, put it there. Writing down your intentions and reviewing them regularly makes it more likely that you’ll take action.
  • Rate Your 8 every day. Get into the habit of taking your self-care pulse daily on a daily basis. I rate my 8 every morning as part of my morning practice. It takes about 20 seconds to sketch out, and the impact of that simple task sets the stage for my entire day. It helps me identify faulty thinking patterns and strategically weave self-care into my day. Some of my clients carry the 8-dimensional model in their purse, or hang it on their bathroom mirror.

Ready to get going?

Download the self-care plan worksheet and fill it with things that make you happy and healthy. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to designing your self-care practice. As long as it’s supporting your health, you’re on the right track.

Download Worksheet

Need More Self-Care Ideas?

During the 2016 leap year, I experimented with a one new self-care activity every single day for 366 days. (Yes, it was intense!) But that experience helped me understand the depth and breadth that exists with self-care, and it helped me identify the activities that best fit my needs and personality. The possibilities are endless. If you’re not feeling especially creative, grab some new ideas from my personal list here.

Still Struggling?

If you’re still feeling stumped about what to include in your personal self-care plan, enroll in our self-paced Uppward eCourse, which offers one-on-one coaching, pre-recorded videos, and a workbook to help you pull your plan together.

Enroll Now

Don’t need coaching? Enroll in our Design-It-Yourself eCourse:

Enroll Now

I’m excited to see what you come up with! Send me a note at Share@LivingUpp.com and tell me your story.

Is Your Self-Care Practice 8-Dimensional?

8 Dimensions of Self-Care

The idea for an 8-dimensional self-care model came to me in the middle of the night. It was one of those vivid ideas that pops into your head when you least expect it – the kind that come when you’re in the shower and have nothing to write on.

As I stumbled out of bed into the darkness to sketch out the first draft, I envisioned a sphere-like structure where everything was interconnected. Each dimension was unique, but dependent on the health the others. As I sat back and looked at the circular diagram starting back at me, I felt a jolt of excitement. I knew I was on to something.

hand sketched model for Living Upp's self-care system

Self-Care is Multidimensional

For the last 17 years, I’ve worked in a variety of health care settings as a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, and what I know to be true is that optimal well-being involves more than just eating well and exercising. Much, much more, it turns out.

Read my article “Take {self} care: A multidimensional approach to health” in The Costco Connection for more on this multidimensional approach.

I also noticed that most people tend to invest all of their energy into just one or two categories. Maybe it’s physical activity or healthy eating or mindfulness that gets their full attention, while the other areas of their lives are snowballing into major sources of stress: unhealthy relationships, financial strain, a low sense of self-worth, unfulfilling careers, etc.

Those who are fortunate enough to recognize the imbalance early are more likely to avoid the costly health consequences that come with long-term self-neglect.

In my work as a self-care coach and designer, I help clients explore new ways to support themselves in each of these major life areas. Most of them come to me when they realize their current habits aren’t working for them anymore, and they’re ready for a lifestyle redesign that leaves them feeling stronger, more confident, and more fulfilled.

The whole of our health is much greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s where this 8-dimensional model comes in.

The 8 Dimensions of Self-Care8 Dimensions of Self-Care

Living Upp’s 8-dimensional model includes:

  • Systemic: How we eat, move and rest
  • Emotive: How we express ourselves
  • Luminescent: How we illuminate our inner truth
  • Financial: How we allocate our resources
  • Cognitive: How we think
  • Aptitudinal: How we contribute to the world
  • Relational: How we connect with others
  • Environmental: How we harmonize with nature

Note: The first letter of each dimension spells the word “SELF CARE.”

Read more about each of the 8 Dimensions in my book Uppward: A Self-Care System for Purposeful Living (Amazon Associate Link).

Buy the Book

Let me ask you this: What would your life be like if you were well-rested, nourished, physically fit, emotionally stable, self-confident, financially secure, optimistic, fulfilled in your career, surrounded by supportive relationships, and living in an environment that brings out the best in you?

What would your life be like if you were firing on all eight cylinders?

You’d be a force to be reckoned with, wouldn’t you? You’d have a lot more to give your family and community, wouldn’t you?

The Power of a Self-Care Plan

Self-care is the most powerful preventive health tool we have – some might even call it an act of civil disobedience. But quite honestly, we can’t afford not to make it a priority. Health care is expensive – from insurance premiums to deductibles to coinsurance to copays to out-of-pocket expenses (and that doesn’t even include the time we spend coordinating medical appointments and trying to make sense of our bills) – the system itself has become a bureaucratic nightmare.

The traditional health care model focuses primarily on the physical aspects of health – our nutritional status, fitness level, laboratory values, organ function, signs and symptoms of disease, and sometimes our mental and emotional health. But the problem with this narrow focus is that it fails to fully encompass the multidimensionality of wellness.

The good news is, no matter what you choose to include in your personal practice, the 8-dimensional model serves as a framework for designing a comprehensive plan to support all of the areas of your life that make you unique.

And it isn’t called a practice for nothing. Building a self-care plan takes time and a deliberate commitment to experimenting with new activities to determine what strengthens and nourishes you. But that’s also what makes it so fun.

So, will you continue to invest in just a few areas of your life, or are you ready to expand your practice to support yourself more fully?

How well are you supporting yourself today? Take the Rate Your 8 Assessment now.

Download Assessment

 

When Self-Care Isn’t Enough (Please Tell Me This Isn’t a Heart Attack)

Being wired up to an EKG in the Emergency Room wasn’t exactly my idea of a good start to the holiday weekend, especially after the last couple of weeks I’ve had. But, once again, I’m feeling fortunate that I had a solid self-care practice to fall back on.

Life is hard sometimes. For all of us. Just in different ways.

I’m Too Young To Have a Heart Attack (Right?)

Around 2 AM I woke up with intense pain in my chest that felt like I’d been shot by an arrow. And judging by the pain between my shoulder blades, it seemed like a reasonable explanation. I winced as I sat up in bed, noticing almost immediately that it was hard to breathe. I could only take half breaths before the pain became unbearable.

Assuming it was nothing more than an exceptionally bad case of heartburn, I quickly enlisted a few home remedies:

  • I adjusted my pillow and repositioned myself in bed. No relief.
  • I sat upright for a few minutes. Still no change.
  • I stood up, walked around, and did a few stretches on my yoga mat. Nope, the pain persisted.
  • I drank a few sips of baking soda water. It didn’t even touch the pain.
  • Finally, I took a Pepto Bismol and watched the clock.

But after 15 minutes of waiting for even the slightest sign of relief, the pain only got worse.

And when I felt an odd, stinging pain in my jaw, a warm blanket of fear crept in.

When Should I Panic?

I started to panic. I remembered the Just a Little Heart Attack video. You know the one: Where the super mom ignores all the warning signs of a heart attack because she’s too busy doing it all? I saw her vividly, fluttering around the kitchen preparing lunch for the kids, jotting down to-do’s in her planner…and then lying on the floor calling 911.

The pain intensified, so I finally woke my husband and asked him to drive me to the Emergency Room. The fear in my voice as I pleaded with him to drive faster and hurry wasn’t reassuring to either of us. This was my first trip to the ER as an adult. My last visit was about 35 years ago, when I was treated for anaphylaxis after a yellow jacket bee sting.

When we arrived I walked, albeit slowly, toward the sliding glass doors that glared back at me like a spotlight, and all I could think was Why the hell is my purse so heavy? It felt like I was lugging a bag of bricks. Why do I carry so much crap around?

The ER doors opened.

Welcome to the ER

After muttering the words “chest pain” to the woman at the front desk, I was quickly ushered into a room where a throng of uniformed hospital employees with expressionless faces began to follow their triage protocol. (It was sort of like watching a Subway sandwich artist in action.)

Before I knew it, I was undressed, gowned, and shivering on a cold hospital bed, while an IV line dangled from my left arm and a pulse oximeter was snapped tightly onto my right finger. Seconds later, EKG electrodes were placed all over my body while a nurse, who stared intently at her computer screen, asked me a barrage of questions.

Having worked for a decade as a consultant for more than 50 nursing homes, I know what scurrying medical professionals look like. And all the buzzing only added to my fears. I kept watching the faces of the staff, hoping to interpret the meaning behind their glances. What do they see? What do they know?

The doctor arrived and I held my breath as I waited to hear what the tests revealed, exhaling only after I heard the words “no evidence of a heart attack.” EKG, cardiac enzymes, and xrays…all normal.

Relief.

But that didn’t change the fact that I was still in a lot of pain. Then, my afternoon food selections flooded back to me: tomato sauce, coffee, chocolate, cheese, and wine—a list of foods that I routinely rattled off hundreds of times as a registered dietitian while counseling patients with GERD. It was the perfect storm for heartburn.

But I had never experienced anything more than mild heartburn a handful of times a year, and I had no idea the onset of severe symptoms could be so sudden—and so painful.

Well, hello esophagitis. I wish I could say it’s nice to meet you.

It’s Hell Getting Old

As the reality of what happened began to sink in, I could hear my father’s wise words: “It’s hell getting old.”

True.

Evidently, reflux and I are now befri’s, judging by the giant, ugly triangle-shaped pillow that now adorns my bed. I’d say I’m adjusting to my forties quite well, wouldn’t you?

The scary thing about chest pain is that it’s either gravely serious or it isn’t. And it’s tough to know the difference.

This, dear friends, is self-care. (I told you it wasn’t just about manicures and spa days, didn’t I?) It’s about doing our best even though we can’t control everything that happens to us. And it’s about doing our best to heal when our bodies don’t cooperate with our life plans. Self-care practices are designed to change with us as our lives evolve. When our needs change, so do our routines.

But, perhaps most importantly, self-care helps us recognize when to seek professional help.

What would you do if you thought you were having a heart attack?

Learn when to seek help here.

Are you ready to design (or redesign) your self-care practice? Download the Self-Care Assessment now:

Take the Assessment

Why We Need to Redefine Self-Care

single red rose

Self-care is the most powerful preventive health tool we have. Yet, ironically, it’s a tool that few of us use – at least not consistently. Instead, we’ve become passive dependents on a broken, overpriced health care system that is far from accessible (unless, of course, you’re a wealthy member of Congress).

We’ve grown used to seeking medical attention after an ailment interferes with our life, expecting medical providers to “fix” us so we can return to our usual routines. According to a 2015 Australian-based report published by Global Access Partners, “people overwhelmingly believe they are responsible for their own health (88%), and half agree they should do more to improve their health, but almost a third claim to be too busy to look after themselves better.”

We hold a great deal of power when it comes to our health.

Now, I realize there will be critics who reject the idea that we possess this power. Many have argued that the notion itself perpetuates victimization – for example, the idea that a person with diabetes is somehow personally responsible for it. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Self-care is a preventive strategy that serves to enhance our quality of life. Taking responsibility for our lifestyle choices doesn’t make us a victim any more than ignoring our role in our health does. And since self-care also includes managing existing conditions to prevent further progression, that argument just doesn’t hold up.

self-care coaching for better health

While the truth is that, yes, at times our personal choices do play out quite visibly in the form of chronic disease, there are also cases where our best efforts at taking care of ourselves are no match for genetics or environmental forces: The non-smoker who is diagnosed with lung cancer, the athlete who is being treated for heart disease, the happy-go-lucky person who is secretly battling depression.

We can’t control every variable in our lives, but we can certainly make adjustments that move us closer to good health. And that’s where self-care comes in.

What is self-care exactly?

To illustrate the inconsistent nature of this term, I’ve compiled a list of self-care definitions that have been proposed by global organizations since 1983:

Date Organization Definition
1983 World Health Organization Self care in health refers to the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health. These activities are derived from knowledge and skills from the pool of both professional and lay experience. They are undertaken by lay people on their own behalf, either separately or in participative collaboration with professionals.
1998 The Role of the Pharmacist in Self-Care and Self-Medication Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal); nutrition (type and quality of food eaten); lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc.); environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.); socioeconomic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.); self-medication.
2009 World Health Organization, SEARO Self-care is a deliberate action that individuals, family members and the community should engage in to maintain good health.

Self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.

2008 Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th Ed. The personal and medical care performed by the patient, usually in collaboration with and after instruction by a health care professional.
2015 Global Access Partners, Australia The activities people undertake to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health, prevent illness and accidents and avoid unnecessary risks. It includes self-medication for minor ailments and chronic conditions and actions taken to recover after acute illness or discharge from hospital. Responsible self care requires good health literacy and communication with health professionals including pharmacists and GPs.
2016 Department of Health, UK The actions individuals take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and longer term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after an acute illness or discharge form hospital.
2016 Self-care use patterns in the UK, US,  Australia, and Japan: a multinational web-based survey, Integrative Medicine Research The practice of self-determined home healthcare activities using appropriate products…without guidance from healthcare professionals.

But, while these definitions do address some aspects of self-care, they don’t encompass its breadth. It includes far more than just caring for ourselves after we’re discharged from the hospital, and it certainly doesn’t exist independent of guidance from our healthcare professionals.

That’s why I’m proposing a simpler definition, along with an 8 Dimensional Model that captures the essence of self-care more completely:

 

Self-care is a preventive health strategy involving actions and behaviors that improve, restore, or maintain good health.

Essentially, it includes anything and everything we do for ourselves that supports good health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that self-care is “the most dominant form of primary care in both developed and in developing countries,” and it has been estimated that “65% to 85% of health care is provided by the individual or the family without professional intervention.”

Creating a personal practice involves making deliberate choices about how we want to experience life. It’s not just about avoiding illness; it’s about designing a life we love.

Self-Care as Health Care Reform

So, is self-care the answer to our health care crisis? In some ways, yes. An emphasis on prevention would certainly reduce our dependency on the health care system as a whole, and reducing our utilization of services would also reduce the outrageous expenses that often come with them.

But let’s not forget that the goal of self-care is not to make traditional health care unnecessary or obsolete.

The primary objective is for us to begin leaning into our power – the power to make medical decisions without feeling bullied by the system, the power to treat health care providers like the consultants they truly are (we are the ultimate decision makers), and the power to vote with our wallets for the kind of care we believe is right for us and our families.

Self-care offers everyday Americans an opportunity to be part of health care reform.

Self-care is what we do between doctor’s appointments, so if you really think about it, aren’t you your most important health care provider?

Even so, self-care does have limits and highly trained medical professionals still have a role to play. (A big role.) Ready or not, health care is changing.

With a clear understanding of our needs, and a plan in place to meet those needs, we can navigate our well-being in a way that aligns with who we are as individuals. As mentioned, self-care is about designing a life we love.

Are you ready to design a self-care practice that you love?

Living Upp offers two options to help you design a self-care practice that you love. Want to roll solo? Enroll in the DIY Uppward eCourse, which includes a workbook and pre-recorded video trainings. Need extra accountability? Enroll in the Uppward eCourse + Personalized Coaching, which includes everything in the DIY course, plus one-on-one coaching.

Roll Solo with the Uppward eCourse

Self-Care eCourse

Get the Uppward eCourse + Personalized Coaching

Self-Care eCourse + Coaching

Have Questions? Let’s chat…

Chat with Stacy

Focusing on Solutions

small red mini dachshund

My dog almost died today.

And it would have been my fault.

In the hustle and bustle of the morning’s flurry of activities, I inadvertently gave my 10-pound miniature dachshund, Zoey, a dose of medication that was intended for our 90-pound German Shepherd.

The moment I realized what I’d done, I felt sick.

Frantically, I pulled up a web page and began searching for the signs, symptoms, dosage calculations and treatments associated with the medication. And, after finding a handful of conflicting answers, I darted out the door with my purse under one arm and my pooch under the other.

Thankfully, she’s fine now. The emergency vet administered an emetic after discovering the dosage was 7 times the level that was appropriate for her body weight. We got there in time. And fortunately, Zoey accepts apologies in the form of treats.

But moments like this are a reminder that we all goof up sometimes. Despite our best efforts to sail through life smoothly, developing habits and routines that put us on auto-pilot, we still make mistakes.

And when our mistakes have a negative impact on others, it’s a bit more difficult to accept. So, as I sat in the waiting room this morning, some unkind thoughts starting swirling through my head. “Stacy, how could you be so stupid?!?” “Was getting to the gym really so important that you couldn’t spend that extra minute to make sure your animals were taken care of?” “What were you thinking?!?”

You know the thoughts I’m talking about. The ones that are accompanied by guilt and sadness and negativity.

But when I remembered that my 3-pound brain was causing me to have those useless thoughts, I managed to turn my attention to the more important thing: to solve the problem by focusing on the solution. 

Do you find it hard to forgive yourself when you make mistakes? Are you unnecessarily hard on yourself when you goof up? Do you continue to punish yourself long after you’ve learned from your experiences? By focusing on solutions rather than problems, we can work through life’s difficult moments faster and enjoy more of life’s beautiful moments. That’s what self-care is all about.

Tonight, rather than beating myself up for making a mistake, I’m going to spend the evening in gratitude, cuddling with sweet little Zoey.

10 Tips for Staying Motivated to Reach Your Health Goals

Does this sound like you? You feel unstoppable that first week after setting a new goal, only to find that you’ve completely abandoned it just a few weeks later? Staying motivated is tough, but there are a few things you can do in advance to give yourself a kick in the pants when you need it.

Hand-lettered goals title in dotted bullet journal1. Get clear about your goals

What is it that you really, really want? If you’re vague about your targets, then you probably won’t be happy with the results. A goal to “be healthier” isn’t nearly as clear as to “exercise for at least 150 minutes each week.” A vague goal is hard to measure, and it’s even harder to put into action. 

2. Create a visual image

Whether it’s a mental picture or an artsy vision board, creating a vivid image of the end result you are seeking is a powerful strategy for goal achievement. The moment you feel your motivation start to wane, take a peek at the vision you are trying to create to remind yourself why you’re working so hard in the first place.

3. Partner up

Research has shown that our goals are more achievable when we have healthy support systems. I like the term “partner” rather than “buddy” because it conveys a sense of collaboration and commitment. Partners are equally invested, and understand the power the relationship holds. When your efforts to improve your own health also support someone else, it’s much more motivating.

4. Track your progress

Get some stickers. Use an app. Or grab a pencil and your favorite journal. Whatever you use to measure your progress, daily tracking can help keep your priorities straight.

5. Create an action list

Make a list of at least 20 actions you could take to achieve your goals. (Include some outlandish ones too!) This list will come in handy when you get bored with your current strategy, or find that it’s no longer working. Keep adding to the list as you run across new ideas, or feel inspired by what others in your circles are doing.

6. Celebrate

Celebrate every single week. No matter how much or how little progress you’ve made, you are sure to find something to celebrate. Did you “think” about going to the gym? Celebrate that. Maybe next time you’ll actually go. Give yourself some credit and stop beating yourself up for not meeting your expectations 100% of the time. 

7. Have fun

We often forget that developing new habits should be fun. Unless we actually look forward to putting effort into our goals, we’ll avoid them at all costs. Pay attention to what makes you smile, what makes you excited, and what makes you happy.

8. Keep it positive

Have you noticed the difference between positive goals (what we want more of) and avoidance goals (what we want less of)? Setting a goal to “drink 32 ounces of water daily” often feels much more achievable than to “stop drinking soda.” How we frame our goals can make a big difference when it comes to our willingness to do the work. Craft your goals so you are moving toward something positive rather than away from something negative.

9. Stack your goals

As you consider what you want to achieve, try to create goals that move you toward more than one goal. If your goals are to lose weight and improve cardiovascular fitness, then set a goal that supports both. Getting enough sleep might be exactly what you need to stay on track.

Washington State10. Spend time outside

Spending time outside helps reduce stress, and we know that high levels of stress interfere with goal achievement. It’s much more difficult to put effort into establishing new habits when we’re sleep-deprived, anxious or disorganized. Spending time in nature has a way of calming our spirits, and it helps us see the bigger picture. Take a walk outside during your lunch break or make your next business meeting a walking meeting. Spend some quality time with your family and friends while you go for a hike. It will boost your mood and help you stay focused on what’s most important.

It takes more than simply setting a goal to achieve it.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated with your goals, use one of these tips for a boost in motivation.

 

Choose Your Circles Wisely

I was about to turn the last page of the March issue of Seattle Business Magazine when these words caught my eye:

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words;
Be careful of your words, for you words become your deeds;
Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits;
Be careful of your habits, for you habits become your character;
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

How true.

I learned this the hard way as a teenager. One day I was particularly fired up about something that had happened at school and I was telling my mom about it. After explaining the situation I said, “She’s such an a……,” but quickly caught myself and finished the phrase with “…armadillo!” instead. You get the idea. The girl in my story wasn’t an armadillo and my mother wasn’t fooled. Her response to my awkward attempt at redeeming myself was, “You better be careful with the words you use. You may end up saying something you don’t mean to in front of someone you wish you hadn’t.” Well, clearly. The words I used among friends were certainly not the ones I had intended to use in the presence of my mother. They just sort of slipped out. That’s how habits work. 

We emulate those around us whether we intend to or not. That’s why it’s so important to choose our circles carefully. Habits, mannerisms and behaviors are contagious. In fact, Harvard researchers found the risk for being overweight is increased when those within our social networks are obese as well. Do you ever feel like you aren’t being true to yourself in the company of certain people?

Here are some tips for choosing circles that align with your values:

1. Limit the time you spend with those who drain your positive energy or prevent you from moving toward your purpose. You know who I’m talking about…those people who consume so much of your time and energy that you’re not able to focus on things that are important to you. 

2. Trust your inner wisdom and spend more time with people who bring out the good in you. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to be authentic and daring rather than those who criticize you and complain.

3. Be aware of your discomfort. When those around you are saying or doing things that make you feel uncomfortable, it’s a red flag that your values and beliefs are being compromised. Being around them also suggests to others that you are like them and approve of their behavior.

Who is inside your circle today? Do their behaviors align with your values? Are they pushing you toward or away from your life’s purpose? How are they supporting you to fulfill your life’s purpose? 

Do You Squeeze or Steamroll Your Lemon?

Lemons in an antique Jadeite Fire King pitcher

My husband and I were discussing our differing philosophies on life recently – Jeremy is much more laid-back while I, on the other hand, am frequently described as being “intense” – and I mentioned that I wanted to experience life to the fullest, to squeeze the proverbial lemon. His response was, “I don’t mind giving it a crank or two, but you want to run a steamroller over it!”

Well, that’s probably true.

I mean, I want to enjoy life’s lemonade as much as the next person, and I am finally learning to let go enough to understand the value of spontaneity…er, planned spontaneity as I like to call it. But I also enjoy pursuing goals and taking an active role in my life. That’s who I am. I like to make lists. I enjoy scheduling my tasks in advance – days, weeks and sometimes even months in advance. However, there is a definite sense of freedom in tossing out itineraries too. It’s liberating to experience life without an agenda from time to time because it allows us to make ourselves open to opportunities, experiences and lessons that aren’t part of our tightly packed agendas. It allows us to be more grateful for the things around us and to experience life through all of our senses.

Our differing philosophies have served us well over the years. He can persuade me to relax when I need to, and I can light a fire under him when he needs it. The challenge with living a good life is to live with intent while not taking it all too seriously. Expressing our authenticity by using our strengths and gifts while also remaining open to receive life’s spontaneous blessings is the sweet spot.

It’s a balancing act like everything else.

Whether you prefer to squeeze or steamroll lemons probably depends on how you learned to experience life as a child. I like the feeling I get from accomplishing things. I like to cross things off my list and to look back at what I’ve achieved each day. It makes me feel alive and that I’m contributing something good to this world. That likely comes from my Midwest upbringing and the time I spent on our small family farm. There is no right or wrong here, it’s just interesting to see how differently we all choose to approach life.

So which one are you…a squeezer or a steamroller?

 

Who Pushes You?

Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite movies of all time. (My husband, on the other hand, dreads scrolling through the cable menu for fear that I will see it listed and want to watch it again.)

Of course I love the part where Matt Damon tells off a pretentious, smarty-pants rival in a bar, but the overall theme of film is what really thrills me. A societal has-not possesses the ability to solve complex mathematical problems that some of the smartest haves cannot, yet struggles with whether or not to actually use his gifts.

The one thing that saddens me about the movie, though, is that in truth all of the characters have potential, not just Matt Damon. Maybe they aren’t all math geniuses, but they all have something special to offer the world. When friend Ben Affleck challenges Damon saying, “…you don’t owe it to yourself man, you owe it to me.” I couldn’t help but wonder if Affleck’s character would ever have someone to say the same thing to him, to challenge him and push him toward his full potential.

We all need a push from time to time because it’s so easy to become complacent and stuck our familiar routines. Who pushes you toward greatness? And when is the last time you thanked him or her?

Taking Time for Fresh Air

Italian Countryside

It’s okay – healthy even – to stop “doing” every once in a while and simply enjoy “being.” Sometimes our brain and body just need time to rest.

While hiking through Agliano, Italy, my husband and I marveled at the number of Italians simply sitting outside enjoying the fresh air. They were of all ages and we saw them at varying times of day. Inactivity has a tendency to make me feel uncomfortable, but these people seemed genuinely happy to be just relaxing in contemplation. They appeared calm, peaceful even.

To them, I probably appeared to be the exact opposite: fidgety, watchful, keyed-up and unsettled in my thought. I was taking it all in – the landscape, the culture, the architecture and the norms that were so unlike mine. But I also remember longing to feel that same sense of calm and peace.

As we climbed the winding road into the city, we met one gentleman who was sitting in the shade outside of a small church. He was alone when we first approached and we were surprised to find that he spoke a little English. We asked him a simple, one-word question that I’m certain he’d heard before from other American tourists, “Vino?” He chuckled before answering, “It’s too hot for that.” Indeed, it was high-noon and nearly 90 degrees. But that was beside the point.

He was eager to practice his English and went on to tell us that his life dream was to visit the United State before he dies. Not long after, a young boy, probably in his teens, approached us. He did not speak any English, but the gentleman told us that this boy was a talented culinary student at the university in town. I have no idea if they were related to one another, but I knew without a doubt they were related by community. It was heartwarming to hear this man proclaiming accolades about the boy to complete strangers, and also interesting that the boy had no idea what was being said about him.

The other thing that struck me is that there was nothing extravagant about this town. There were a couple of churches, a park, a school, a few restaurants, a few general shops, a grocery store and apartments. There were no parking lots, shopping malls, stoplights, lighted signs, car horns or people texting or shouting into cell phones. And yet the town had everything its residents “needed.”

For this man, life was pretty darn good without the luxuries of our modern consumer-driven society. What he had was enough. He had a happy heart and a sense of community. To be grateful is to love what you have…your enough.