Do You Mind?

I Want To Be the One In Control

Are you in control of your life?  What areas of your life do you wish you had more control of?  Do you think control is not your choice to make?

 

These are very important questions that if you are not asking yourself every day, or at least once a week, you may not have the level of control in your life that you desire.  One of the most interesting things that I think I have discovered is that we human beings typically are prone to feel like we are drifting down the swift river of life, rarely swimming or taking charge, but often just flowing with the current…and then we complain about it.

 

I think this is because in all of our lives bad things happen.  People we love die.  People experience disease, accidents, disasters, and economic downturns that result in loss of job and/or financial security.  Rarely could it ever be said that we have any control over those things, and a lot of the time we don’t.  But we do ourselves a disservice when we generalize our lack of control over major life stressors to everyday living.  We have more control over what happens to us during the daily routine than we give ourselves credit for.  We probably tend to think we don’t have control most likely because we are afraid to take on that level of responsibility every day.  It is a lot to handle.  However, taking control of the day-to-day in little ways can lead to an overall sense of control in one’s life, which for most people equals a reduction in anger and fear, and an increase in happiness.  The level of control has very little to do with what happens to you, but more so about how you react to those events.  Once you know how important that is, isn’t it worth paying attention to?

 

It took me many years to realize this, and because I tend to be a sensitive person, I don’t get it right all the time.  I can’t tell you how freeing it is to be able to remind myself several times a day, “I’m in control of this day.  I may not like what just happened, but if I give myself a few minutes, I can control what I do next.  What I do next, can totally change the outcome of how the rest of this day is going to go.”

Mail Is For Letters, Not Lives

I’m not sure if it was because of World AIDS Day last week, and my awareness about the importance of life being heightened by things people were posting about it on facebook, or if it was really more seeing people complain about their lives on facebook in the next status update, that got me to thinking about the value of life.  I routinely see people post things like “What a sucky day”, “I can’t wait for this day to be over”, “Can Friday get here already?”, or the infamous, “To the stupid bitch that just cut me off in traffic: You are a stupid bitch.”  My personal rule is to never put anything negative about myself, my life, people I know, people I don’t know, etc. on facebook.  I just believe that it creates a negative space around me that I don’t want or need.

 

What all of this got me really thinking about is reading people’s status updates in which they wish their lives away because today isn’t over, or it isn’t Friday, etc.  It got me to thinking that if life is actually that important, I should be celebrating the moments I have, rather than the ones I hope to have in the future.  I decided on that day last week that I don’t want to have anymore “mail it in” days. I want to make everyday have some small meaning for me that makes me glad I stuck around for it.  It doesn’t have to be momentous, but it does have to have meaning in order to inspire me to want to look for something new and meaningful the next day: just enough of a thing to encourage me to stick to my commitment of not “mailing it in”.

 

How many days have I mailed in throughout my life?  Too many to count, I’m sure.  I’m even surer that I don’t remember most of them because since I mailed them in the first place, that only makes them all the more forgettable.  So, how has it gone so far?  On December 1st, I started doing a video blog on my you tube channel that is different from the ones I write here.  Each day, I’ve made a special commitment to get my each of my clients to think about something new in their lives, something small, yet positive, to help them create a new trajectory, a new possibility.  It energizes them, it energizes me.  I prepared and mailed out business holiday cards (something I’ve never done before) specifically targeted to people and businesses that can send me referrals, and I’ve been working on my budget and business plan for 2012 (also something I’ve never done before).

 

It feels great and hasn’t been nearly as hard as you would think.  Life has taught me that little commitments that energize lead to big life changes.

What Do You Want To Build Today?

I’ve been thinking lately about psychological constructs.  In the world of psychology, we pronounce it “KON-struct”, rather than “kun-STRUCT”. While it does have to do with “building”, it is a term used to identify a concept that people have a general mutual understanding of, but at the same time may be difficult to accurately measure, such as emotions or intelligence.  I also use the word construct to describe a generalization that a person gives to a certain aspect of his/her life, sort of like a personal philosophy about something.  I guess you could also call it an opinion, but I think it goes a little deeper than mere opinion.  To me, opinion is more along the lines of “I like purple better than red”, but a construct is an understanding about our world that we have built to drive our decision-making process, sometimes even without our knowing it.  This is really important because while some of our constructs may be true (i.e. “I love dogs, but not all dogs are friendly.  Check with the owner first or approach cautiously”), some may be very untrue, or at least not true all the time, and adversely affect our lives in ways we don’t even realize because we simply assume it to be true.  Some examples of some negative constructs I’ve seen people struggle with are:

 

“All men will cheat on you.”

“Dating sucks and people are crazy out there, so it’s a waste of time to try to get to know new people.”

“The minute you cross me, you are not worth my time or effort anymore.”

 

Two of the absolutely most destructive are:

 

“I should never, ever, EVER feel sad, upset, or badly about anything and it should be my life’s goal to never feel hurt and I should do whatever it takes to avoid pain at all cost.”

 

“I should live my life the way others want me to live it so they can be comfortable, so I will never have to be uncomfortable, because they won’t make me uncomfortable…except that I really won’t be myself and while that is uncomfortable, perhaps I can put up with it as long as they are not actively making me uncomfortable.”

 

The reality is that because we are human, we can, and should, experience the full range of human emotions.  That includes feeling badly sometimes and being hurt.  It is normal and natural. Life is hard and complex and things happen every day that are hurtful, upsetting, or make us uncomfortable.  Being upset, hurt, or uncomfortable does not automatically equate to being on the wrong path.  More often, it is exactly the opposite.

 

Constructs can also be really insidious and affect us in small ways that add up to big issues.  A favorite story I like to tell about one of my own erroneous constructs is my weight.  Throughout my whole entire life, if anyone asks me if I’ve ever had to struggle with my weight, I will automatically and emphatically say, “oh, yes!”  I have always believed that and never challenged it until this year.  The truth is that I have never really struggled with my weight at all.  Of course, I have battled the gay-male Adonis complex and struggled with being “gay fat.”  For my non-gay male readers, gay fat is a self-condemning condition that affects gay men in which they are in good shape according to most regular standards but feel substandard because they may only have a 6-pack, instead of a 12-pack, or be just in shape rather than defined.  This year I am working on getting rid of this particular construct.  I have spent way too much time bemoaning my not looking like all the hot 25 year olds, even though I’m in great shape for a man near the mid-century mark.  Even when I was 25, I remember constantly complaining about my stomach and abs, which now makes me laugh because I was 176 pounds…I’m 6’3”!!! I have decided that I have wasted way too much time trying to deal with a problem that doesn’t exist and is probably even a little insulting to people who really actually struggle with their weight.  Also, I think this kind of insidious construct did additional harm by not only affecting the way that I feel about myself, but the way I carry myself around others (I also realized this year that I have horrible posture, both sitting and standing, and I really think it is due to this lack of self-confidence, by feeling fat all the time).

 

I think it is important for us to continually examine our constructs because they really are the driving force behind our decisions and our interactions with others.  It is important to know which get in our way of being our best selves, so we can work to get rid of them.  It is equally important to know which ones serve us well, so that we can be thankful that we have them.   Ask yourself, “What do I want to build today?”

I hear What You’re Saying, But…

I feel very lucky right now that I have several couples that I am working with who really, really want to save their relationship and make it work.  Couples therapy is some of the most challenging situations therapists face.   It is challenging for the clients too. The challenge is that often, one of the persons in the relationship really doesn’t want to be there and usually both members of the couple use therapy as a last resort to mend their relationship. That’s like waiting until your car is on its very last leg prior to going to get the oil changed and a check up.  Hey, I know people do it all the time, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

 

So, often when couples come to see me, at least one of them is already “done”, or one person is so entrenched in a degree of anger and bitterness that seems impossible to get over or give up.  I ask each member of the couple, “Are you ready to do everything I ask, no matter how hard or impossible it may seem, in order to save this relationship?”  They always reply, “Yes!”, but they mean, “Yes…as long as you fix him.”

 

We all know that the key to a successful relationship is communication, but where people get tripped up is that successful communication relies more on hearing the other person rather than getting them to hear you.  I realize that it seems like going after the opposite of what you want, but it actually works out.  Seeking to understand others prompts others to seek to understand you.  I can look back on my life and see that every major conflict that I have with another person is because I was heavily invested in them seeing my point of view and couldn’t have cared less at the time about his/hers. It makes me think of the many times that I have seen on MTV’s The Real World some cast member say, “I came on this show, so that people could get to know me.  See who I am.”  It looks really shallow and selfish when you see someone say it on TV, but it’s not really that far removed from everyday life.

 

Typically, when any two people are locked in a stalemate conversation they are both operating from the same two perspectives: 1) I NEED you to hear my point of view and I need you to CONFIRM you hear my point of view (so you will agree with me, because if you really truly heard my point of view, you would have no choice but to agree with me…because I’m right), and 2) I absolutely do NOT have to listen to you right now, because I’ve heard your point a thousand times, quite frankly, and I GET IT, ok? Look, it’s not my fault you happen to be mistaken about this, but you are, so deal with it and listen to me. Here’s the problem: If both people have this same perspective, no one is seeking to understand, because the assumption is there IS nothing left to understand…at least on my part, lol.

 

Sometimes we even think we are trying when we are not.  I had to giggle recently when a client told me, “I don’t know why he doesn’t listen to me.  When we are arguing, I always start my sentences with, ‘I hear what you are saying, but…’”.  I had to tell him that he might as well say “Shut the hell up, bitch, I want to talk now.” It would have exactly the same effect. I’m not judging.  We only do the best we can with what we know, and we can’t be better at communicating until we learn how to be a more effective communicator.

 

I heard a quote once that has always stuck with me.  I thought it was attributed to President Lincoln, but I can’t find that connection on Google.  It is, however, listed as Habit #5 in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Successful People: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If you are certain that you already know, perhaps you could check in with your partner just to be sure.  What could it hurt?

 

Anger Is the Best Anesthetic

As a young adult, I was a rage-aholic.  I’m pretty sure I learned it from my grandfather, who was definitely a rage-aholic.  As a little kid, I often witnessed my grandfather flying into rages at all family members and saw how everyone walked on eggshells around him.  Looking back on those episodes today, his behaviors seem immature and unnecessary to me.  As a six year old child, however, it looked like power.  To me, he got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it, and everyone in the family was eager to please him so as not to upset him.  I have a very vivid memory of a situation in which he flew into a rage at my grandmother over something really innocuous, and called her “Commander Fuck-up”.  It seemed rather normal to me at the time, but much more serious and irresponsible to me now, that he behaved this way in front of his 6-year-old grandson.

 

I grew up thinking that this was the way to get people to do stuff for you.  I was mistaken.  That “traditional family values” dynamic that some people are so enamored of when you can have a leader in the family act like a spoiled brat and everyone else goes along with that to keep the peace, doesn’t work in the outside world very well.  What I found instead was that people would shut down on me and I would get exactly the opposite of the something, which would be nothing.  I would rage at co-workers, friends, supervisors, employees, customer service representatives, boyfriends, anyone who wouldn’t let me have my way.  I kept hitting my head up against the wall not being able to figure out why this didn’t work for me, when I saw it being so effective in my family unit growing up.

 

I started to work very hard on not letting anger be my default emotion, when I was fortunate enough to come across a random encounter that brought it all into perspective for me.  I was at a 7-11 that was always very crowded and had a complicated parking situation.  A man with one of those really huge pickup trucks was pulled into a parking spot, and behind him, in a legitimate spot, was a cargo van.  Normally, pulling out of this spot would be a squeeze anyway, but because both vehicles were oversized, the guy in the pickup could not back out.  He came back into the store and completely lost his mind on the van owner standing in line in front of me.  There was a really long line to check out and the pickup owner just didn’t seem to care.  The driver of the van just kind of stood there and said nothing, but the “aha” moment for me was that I was standing there, watching this guy yell, scream, and point his finger, and I thought, “Wow, is that what I look like?  Because that is not pretty.”

 

After calmness became more a part of my routine response system, I began to notice more and more how there are so many people in this world that are completely pissed off a lot of the time.  Everyone seems to be pissed off at something and looking for a fight.  I was wondering if everyone had come from a family with a rage-aholic in it.  While that may have happened a lot, I thought there might be more to it.  What I eventually discovered is anger is the best anesthetic.

 

Being angry at other people for life’s little inconveniences, and even being offended by things that you will probably be over tomorrow, if not later today, ends up being much easier than dealing with yourself.  When we think of the serious ways that people avoid dealing with their own problems, we usually think of alcohol, drug, or food addiction.  I haven’t really seen or heard a lot of talk about how we use anger in this same way.  Probably because that would be uncomfortable.  And we should never be uncomfortable, right?

 

I eventually found out, that my grandfather at age 4, was taken to the children’s home to be put up for adoption by his mother because she decided she didn’t want to raise a child.  He was eventually taken in by his grandparents who raised him.  I’m pretty sure he never got over that.  It just ended up being much easier to be angry than to really face the pain of being rejected by his own mother and try to heal from that.  I, of course, found out that a lot of my anger stemmed from my own pain of feeling rejected by the world for being gay.  I consider myself lucky, as I did find the courage to face that pain and work to heal myself.  I realized that in my work with my clients that the continuing rage, or even the slow, simmering boil, is the unconscious mind’s signal to us that we are anesthetizing ourselves to something that probably needs closer review. The anger may fool us into thinking that we are not the problem, but there really isn’t any freedom in that.

Clean Out Your Closet

A client and I were talking the other day about how your mind is like a closet, a really big one.  The front part of the closet, your conscious mind, contains all the things that you use regularly; the clothes you typically wear (behaviors, attitudes, thoughts that make up most of your regular daily living).  Then there is the back of your closet; things that keep getting pushed to the back because you don’t really know what to do with them, but you don’t want to discard them because you are convinced that you will need them someday.  The back of the closet is like the unconscious mind.  We all typically have a lot of stuff back there, that we don’t really want to get rid of, or maybe never figured out how.  Usually, what is stuffed back in there are old beliefs and programming from the past, wishes and hopes unfulfilled, and resentments.

 

If you never clean out your real closet, stuff will accumulate, and the closet will become unorganized and messy.  It may even become such a problem that the closet doesn’t really even serve you anymore, so you start using another closet, until the same thing happens, and next thing you know, you are parking your car on the street because your garage is now full of stuff you can never get around to sorting and organizing.  No one ever means to let his/her closet get out of control; it just does if you don’t pay attention to it. Our minds are like that too.  If we don’t go internal every once and a while and clean out the clutter of our minds, we will start to become overwhelmed with the mental junk.  We need to take a look at the things we are holding onto:  those resentments we are so justified in having, or believing things that no longer serve us and no longer apply, probably taught to us by someone who was more invested in having us believe what they thought about things, rather than what was in our best interest. We might find a lot of hopes and dreams never fulfilled, because we could never seem to get around to investing in them.  If you don’t think there is any clutter in your mental closet, you may be right, but look around you first.  I firmly believe that our physical surroundings reflect our mental state.  What do your physical surroundings look like?  That might be a clue to the condition of your mental closet.

 

Ok, so maybe there is a little more clutter than there should be, or you would prefer.  How do you go about dealing with it?  Schedule yourself some quiet, personal time, ten or fifteen minutes every day for a week.  Sit quietly at the computer, with pad and pen, or with your sticky notes app on your phone.  Simply ask yourself, “What do I need to clean up in my mental closet?”  Just make notes of anything that comes to mind and when time is up, stop the exercise and walk away from it.  Resist the urge to edit or problem solve.  Just write down what comes to mind.  After the week is up, go back and look at what you’ve written.  You might be surprised at what you find.  You might find lingering problems you’ve never dealt with because you didn’t have a ready solution or you were too afraid of the right answer.  Make a commitment to deal with them now.  You might also find some lingering resentments.  Make a commitment to deal with them now.  You might find some old hopes and dreams never fulfilled.  Make a commitment to deal with them now, or let them go and get some new ones that fit you better in your current life.

 

Remember, that our goal in life is to always learn how to do better and be better; we seek to become better life managers and problem-solvers.  While it is no fun to have a messy, unorganized closet that is overflowing with junk, we cannot be our best when our minds are messy, unorganized and filled with junk either.

Psychotherapy 101

I don’t think I ever gave much thought about psychotherapy or mental health prior to my mid-20’s.  I don’t think I even knew really what therapy was all about.  I don’t remember ever being particularly afraid of it, or feeling uncomfortable about it.  I never associated any kind of stigma with it.  So, when I started going to therapy in my mid-20’s, I thought it was a really great experience.  I looked forward to my therapy sessions, and I always remember thinking I didn’t want them to end, because I got to spend all that time talking about me!

 

As I became a therapist myself, I was increasingly surprised by the stigma that surrounds psychotherapy and the field of mental health.  I found that it is not unusual for people to look down on others who go to therapy, people who go to therapy keep it a secret, and that people demonize the whole concept by saying to others  “You need to get professional help” as a way to emotionally disarm others and win arguments. Very sad.

 

Furthermore, I find that while most people have at least a surface level idea that therapy exists, very few people actually know what therapy really is and what it is most useful for.  Psychotherapy is a way to teach people how to do better and be better; to become better problem-solvers and life managers.  I think that is really useful and exciting and who wouldn’t want that for themselves.  Therapy is not about being mentally ill.  I don’t care if you are having relationship problems or if you have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness like schizophrenia, the principles are the same:  You can benefit from education about how to make better choices in your life to increase your sense of life satisfaction.

 

Whether we do it or not, we all understand that if we want our bodies to operate at maximum health, we have to make sure that we exercise and discipline our bodies and we have to be careful about what we put in it.  The same goes for our brains.  We have to exercise our brains every day through learning new things and challenging ourselves.  We have to be careful and mindful of the thoughts we put into our brains.  Negative thinking and self-defeating thoughts are like junk food for our minds that make us lethargic, depressed, and unhealthy.  Where do we get help with that, or even begin to learn how to change our behaviors in ways that set us up for success?  The psychotherapist’s office.

 

Don’t get me wrong, psychotherapy is work.  Just like school, just like your actual job, just like going to the gym, it is work.  It can be very difficult to have a frank conversation with someone about something you did and have to look them in the eye and say, “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”  It is equally challenging to look someone in the eye and talk about the very substantial hurts that you have experienced from others in your past. There can be all kinds of challenges and difficulties, and sometimes it will feel just too hard.  However, that happens with a lot of things in our life.  Something being difficult or challenging does not make it wrong.  The benefits of developing a better sense of mastery over your own life is worth the effort.  Besides, you have to remember that psychotherapy is really nothing more than an ongoing conversation sharing ideas, thoughts, and experiences.  The real hurts come from outside my office, rather than inside.  I’m not handing out hurts.  I’m handing out strength and healing.

Deal With It

I went to a seminar the other day that was marketed to be about breaking bad habits, specifically addictive behaviors.  I was excited to go because over the years I have begun to realize that addictive behaviors are not the only behaviors that are habitual.  A lot of the things we do are habitual and we don’t have to be struggling with an addiction to have a behavioral habit we should probably think about changing.  Sometimes moods, like anger, can become a bad habit (see my entry Anger Is The Best Anesthetic). Anyway, I was looking forward to this seminar and how it might help me in my practice, only to become very disappointed that it was really a day-long lecture on how the neurotransmitter dopamine creates senses of reward and punishment that in laboratory mice…zzz…bored yet?  I facebooked.

 

It did, however, get me to thinking about how we constantly seek to soothe ourselves with reward.  I think that is why so many people struggle with addiction in the first place.  It all goes back to our earliest months of life when the only things we do are eat, poop, and sleep.  In between those things, people pay attention to us and make us feel good.  It should all happen in just that order, too.  If two things happen at the same time (i.e. pooping and sleeping), or If there is any interruption at all in this cycle, we do what comes natural to fix it.  Throw a fit. It’s the only skill set we have. Typically, whenever we throw a fit, someone comes along to right the wrongs in our universe and everything goes back to normal.  Even as we age a few years, nothing is more upsetting to adults than a crying child so even as rules begin to be imposed on us, if we throw a big enough fit, someone will come along to try to soothe us.  Soothe.  Even when you say it, it sounds nice.  Having someone, or something, soothe you when you are upset is a powerful drug, and the imprint it makes on the brain has lasting impressions.

 

I think if I would have developed that seminar, I would have spent more time discussing how these early life experiences create mental habits that endure throughout the lifespan, and can become counter-productive, if we are not careful.  An all-day discussion on dopamine doesn’t do much to help you understand why you react the way you do and what you can do about it. The level of dopamine in your brain is not the cause. It is the result.  What we really need to know is our first experiences in life teach us that when things don’t go our way, someone is going to come along to fix it and we don’t really have to do anything about it besides throw a fit.  Who would want to give that up?  We spend the rest of our lives trying to get people, or things, to fix “it”.   When no one comes along to fix “it”, we turn to anger, manipulation, food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc., all in an effort to find that original recipe for soothing the hurt.  Normally, we do those things instead of just facing the problem head on.  I find that is often our biggest challenge.  We need to deal with the issue.  Psychiatry can preach on all they want about how brain chemistry is the problem and “you may have a chemical imbalance”, but there will never be a pill that takes away the need to deal with the issue.

 

I find that any time I ever have a meltdown, it is because I am assuming in that moment that I do not have the talents, skills, and abilities to solve the problem that is upsetting me.  Typically, I am underestimating myself.  Or, at least if I don’t have the requisite skill set, there is someone near to me that does.  I see this occur every day with my clients.  We underestimate our abilities to deal all the time.  We also underestimate our resources.  We just want it to be quick and easy, like when we were infants.  Of course, I don’t remember what I was like when I was 6 months old, but I bet it didn’t feel all that quick or easy then.

Wow, That Was Emotional

Well, it’s been a whole month since I’ve updated the blog, so I apologize for being out of touch.  A lot of things happened to throw me off this month, going to Mexico and the Thanksgiving holiday.  But mostly it was because one of our dogs died.

 

We have (had) two dogs that we raised from puppies.  They came from the same litter and they had never been apart their entire lives.  They were 14 ½ and had been in relatively good health their entire lives until about mid-September Chanel was diagnosed with terminal kidney failure.  The vet said that there was no way to tell how long she would be ok, before she started to get sick, and at first I really started to believe that it might be a while.  She wasn’t really her spunky, big personality self throughout October, but she was ok.  While we were gone for a week in November, she got really sick and declined fast.  We had to put her to sleep the day we got back.

 

I had never done anything like this before and I was unprepared for how it was going to hit me.  I thought I had it handled, though.  I was lying in bed at 5 am on the morning we were going to go to the vet and I remember thinking to myself, “I am going to be ok.  I have to be, after all.  I have to be strong for my husband, because he is going to take this very hard.  She was really his dog.  My dog is still fine and healthy.”  Also, the last real significant death that I have experienced was when my father died.  I was eight years old at the time.

 

So I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t ready.  It hit me hard.  I also managed to make a full waiting room of pet lovers veeerrrry uncomfortable since as soon as we walked into the office I broke down and cried like I don’t remember crying before.  Later that morning, I was sitting on the living room sofa with the other dog, just feeling so raw with emotion. I thought about my husband sitting upstairs at the office computer and I suddenly had the strongest urge to go up there and just yell at him.  He didn’t do anything to deserve that.  I was just so overcome with uncomfortable emotions and life putting me in a situation in which I had no control; I just wanted to hit something.  It gave the graveyard scene in Steel Magnolias a whole new perspective for me.

 

I talk to people everyday about the intense, raw emotions that they experience.  It’s been a very long time since I have experienced something like that myself.  It certainly gave me a new perspective on what if really feels like to be deeply hurt, upset, angry, out of control, etc.  Chanel gave me a lot during her short life.  This was one of her last gifts.  She was a great friend and good companion.

Exercise

“Eat Right, Sleep Right, Think Right, Exercise” – part four.

“Hi, my name is David.  I am a homosexual…and…I hate the gym.” I realize that because I am gay, I am supposed to love the gym.  To do otherwise is against the law, or something like that, but I do.  I do hate the gym.  I have spent many years trying to like the gym and being dissatisfied with the fitness results I was getting from my workouts there.  Then, for a few years it got really bad, and I would end up going once a week, sluggishly plow my way through 30 minutes on the elliptical and then reward myself with a 10 minute workout with the 5 pound weights.

 

I’ve realized this year that aside from my less-than-ambitious workout, my real problem was I wasn’t thinking about the process of fitness in a way that would make sense to me.  I was only focused on what I wanted for the result and then just following the crowd and doing what I thought I was supposed to do.

 

Fitness is no different than anything else you do in life that is important.  You have to look at not only the goals, but the process as well, and choose a plan that works for you:  a plan that you can make time for, a plan that makes sense to you, a plan that feels good, and most importantly, a plan you are willing to stick to.

 

I recently had a client tell me that it was easy for him to become confused about these kinds of things because it seems like every issue of “Men’s Health” has conflicting messages about what to do to meet fitness goals, sometimes even in the same issue.  True. If you look around, you will see plenty of messages telling you that “this is the thing you must do” to meet your fitness goals.  However, most of that is marketing, not information, and we have to learn two not confuse the two.  Additionally, even real fitness information can vary from professional to professional, and that is simply because fitness is personal.  One size does not fit all and each person must explore all the options out there to craft a plan that fits him or her.

 

It took me a long time to finally find a fitness plan I can connect to.  I tried to do the gym thing for so many years, but it never really worked for me.  I thought it was because I don’t have the discipline to push myself (true), so I hired a trainer.  I went through a lot of trainers.  Some were better than others.  Most of them unfortunately had a “one size fits all” approach which did not suit my needs.  Those that had a better understanding of the interaction between bodies and exercise, I could not afford for the long haul.  I came to realize that I am most connected to fitness in the way I was introduced to it in the first place: outside, with other people, doing basic pushups and sit ups and running drills.  That is how we worked out in the Navy.  Every morning at dawn on the “grinder” doing calisthenics.  No weights or big machines, no fancy gadgets.  Watching the world wake up.  That’s how I discovered fitness boot camp and I love it.

 

That particular fitness plan is not right for everyone and my point here is that every person must find something that fits with him or her, even if it is only walking for a certain amount of time each day.  I also know that what works for me now, may not always work for me in the future and I may have to be prepared at some point to modify my current plan. That is why thinking about the process of fitness is just as important as thinking about the desired outcomes.

 

Back in the early 90’s, when infomercials were starting to become really big, there was an outlandish fitness guru named Susan Powter, who I will always remember her tag line, “Every day you gotta move, you gotta breathe, and you gotta eat.”  She was absolutely right about that.  It is important to pay attention each day to how you move, breathe, and eat, because it has a great impact on what you do next. Additionally, you have to plan to move in a way that suits you, and you can commit to.

 

So, there they are over the last four entries:  Eat Right, Sleep Right, Think Right, Exercise.  ESTE (pronounced es-tee).  I encourage my clients to pick 3-5 simple things that they can do each day to support these goals.  Even if you did absolutely nothing else to change your life but follow these guidelines, you will still find yourself in a better place than when you started.