Indigo30 DAY 26: The purpose of happiness, and the happiness of purpose

Can you imagine how many Americans have “lose 10-20 pounds” on their goal sheet on January 2? I am in the fitness business. I know first hand that it’s… a lot. It’s staggering, actually. This goal is above most all of the following:

  • overall health and wellness
  • family goals
  • financial growth/stabilityimage.png
  • work success/promotion/earning
  • travel
  • buy a new ______
  • get the diploma/degree/certification
  • home projects
  • activities and hobbies
  • happiness

You read that right … happiness is sometimes not even on a goal list. It’s not on the little picture I posted here either. But “weight loss” is on there THREE TIMES. “Happiness?” Nowhere to be found.

Are you happy?

Like, truly?

I am leaving a lot of space right there for you to think about it. I know some of you are truly happy. In fact, one of you just texted me this: “I am grateful to be at a place in my life where I am just immensely happy and feel like my cup truly runneth over.” But you know what? This girl means it. And she works hard for it. In a way that I’ve never quite seen anyone do before. But if I tell you how I think she does it, I will give away the whole story…

Again,

Are you happy?

While that simmers, recall all we have learned about cues, routines, rewards, habits. Now I will add in a new concept; not so different from routines and habits — rituals. I spoke about this in my very first blog for the program. A ritual is different from a routine and even a habit in that it is motivated by a deeply held value. These routines and habits really truly mean something to our wellbeing, to who we are, to what gives us joy, to the respect we have for ourselves and others. Now, it’s not to be denied that a ritual can certainly go down a destructive path; drug addicts often have rituals for the administration of their chosen drug. Over-exercisers and people suffering from eating disorders have rituals for when, where, how often they workout and eat, or don’t eat. Of course this is possible. But so is a ritual of happiness.

How can or should happiness be a routine? Doesn’t that kind of take the creativity and spontaneity out of the entire concept? I suppose it could if the ritual becomes a chore for whatever reason. But, even “the most creative individuals — whether artists, businesspeople or parents — have rituals they follow. Paradoxically, the routine frees them up to be creative and spontaneous,” writes Tal Ben-Shahar, of Happier. Shahar, before diving into any of the substance of his book, gives the reader an assignment straight out of the gate before anything is even studied:

Each night before going to sleep, write down at least five things that make you happy — things for which you are grateful. These can be little or big: from a meal that you enjoyed (yes! a Whole30-compliant meal!) to a meaningful conversation you had with a friend, to a project at work, to God.

“In research done by Robert Emmons an Michael McCullough, those who kept a daily gratitude journal — writing down at least five things for which they were grateful — enjoyed higher levels of emotional and physical well-being.

If you do this exercise regularly, you will naturally repeat yourself, which is perfectly fine. The key is, despite the repetition, to keep the emotions fresh; imagine what each item means to you as you write it down, and experience the feeling associated with it. Doing this exercise regularly (as a ritual) can help you to appreciate the positive in your life rather than take it for granted.”
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Do this on your own, but also consider doing it with a loved one. Your spouse, your children, a close friend. It’s powerful. Get creative with it and channel it in unique circles. Every morning, my leadership team and I do our “morning huddle” by text. Most companies all get to meet in the board room, but we are yogis and usually on five different ends of town teaching all the yoga in all the places (and, we don’t have a boardroom.) So every morning, before 10am, we just check in and say the following things: Good morning! Then “my one big thing” (that I must accomplish today). And then we say if we are stuck. Like, “I’m stuck with getting the new schedules printed because there were errors on the last draft,” to which, as a team, we then pitch in and help our comrade get un-stuck. At the very least, we know they are struggling some, and can empathize instead of being left to guess. If we don’t hear from someone, we find them and make sure they are good — oftentimes they are so buried they haven’t had a chance to check in, and it’s an amazing opportunity to ask for help and offer it … and receive it.

Because of this blog and this program, I am also tasking them with doing a “goodnight gratitude text;” sometime in the evening before 9pm, we text the group and list 5 things we are grateful for. We all have to contribute. We all have to stop down, pause, breathe, feel, and write.

“A happy person enjoys positive emotions while perceiving her life as purposeful,” writes Shahar.

PURPOSE

For the last 25 days you have had two very clear (new) purposes alongside all of your other purposes: to eat Whole30 and do yoga each day. Because of those two purposes, you could very well feel called to other purposes —

  • perhaps you want to keep going and do another 30 days?
  • perhaps you want to read, Food Freedom Forever, which is a “life after Whole30” book by Melissa Hartwig and continue to learn more about habits, guilt and anxiety around food?
  • perhaps you are intrigued by the concepts I have taught, by the culture my team and I have created, and are considering becoming a yoga teacher?
  • perhaps you want to teach what you’ve learned to others?
  • perhaps you want to commit yourself to a Paleo lifestyle that you can maintain, sustain and experiment with?
  • perhaps next year you want to somehow contribute to the program?
  • perhaps you want to bring this program into your workplace or school or social circles?

Whatever you plan to do after Day 30, there is likely some purpose behind it. Even if it’s just eliminating your daily run to Starbucks because you’ve noticed you’ve saved $150 already by not buying a latte every day. Somewhere around those plans that are nurturing your deeper purpose, you have some emotion. Excited, nervous, certain, uncertain, worried, strong … emotions are stirring in there somewhere. Whether they are positive or negative, emotions move us … they move us from apathy, indifference, resignation and inaction to motivation. That very motivation makes us act. Imagine if we had no motivation at all, if we were totally indifferent … even to consequences. At some point, doing nothing will lead to harsher and more difficult consequences… until a breaking point. It will come eventually. Emotion plays a big role in the choices we make and the actions we take, especially our innate, deep down desire to be happy, which every human being wants. But emotion is not the only role.

“When speaking of a meaningful life, we often talk of having a sense of purpose, but what we sometimes fail to recognize is that finding this sense of purpose entails more than simply setting goals,” says Shahar. We are all in the middle of a goal we once set for ourselves — in fact, maybe some of you said, “I will never make it 30 days, or even 2 weeks!” — and you have. Are you acting like it? You all should be running around like crazy people, shouting “I DID IT! I’M DOING IT!” And yet, we aren’t. Instead, we are push the goal out further. Why do we do this? I think because often we set goals that perhaps don’t have true meaning and purpose. “When I lose 20 pounds I will be happy. I will be happy when I can fit into skinny jeans and look awesome.” And, the 20 pounds come off, and we say, “I want to lose 5 more.” Simultaneously, we say, “I so deserve a doughnut…” and then we feel guilt and shame and the goal that we achieved — because we didn’t tie a meaningful purpose to it (like, “I want to lose 20 pounds so that my body is healthy and therefore functioning more effectively, so that I am less reactive, more clear-headed, and more present with my family,”) is void of true meaning. Do you see the difference? To experience long-term happiness around something, we must determine if that thing has purpose and meaning, or if it is just a short-term benefit with long-term detriment.

Some of us know our main purposes, and they are usually in big buckets like “family” or “career” or “spiritual life.” An amazing exercise for all of us would be to see if — within those big buckets that no one will argue have great meaning and probably line with your values and passions — there are smaller buckets of purpose that do not have positive meaning. Look for the places where you feel like you are treading water, or exasperated, or apathetic. Look for places where deep down, if you told the truth, you were only doing or only a part of to make someone else happy or to look good. Think about how, if you continue to pour into those people, things, exercises, ideas, routines, you will strengthen the apathy versus strengthening the meaning. By continuing to keep up or look like you “have it all together,” with each passing day, your innate desire for happiness loses it spark. In one of my favorite books, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes that “each successive generation worldwide since the opening of the [twentieth] century has lived with a higher risk than their parents of suffering a major depression — not just sadness, but a paralyzing listlessness, dejection, and self-pity, and an overwhelming hopelessness — over the course of life.” He calls our age, “The Age of Melancholy.” If you watched the interview with Simon Sinek that I cited in a recent blog, you will recall him speaking about the Millennial generation: “The worst case scenario is that we are seeing an increase in suicide rates in this generation, an increase in accidental deaths due to overdose, and an increase in more kids dropping out of school or taking leaves of absence due to depression. This is unheard of. The best case scenario? We will have an entire population growing up and never really finding joy or deep fulfillment in work or life. They’ll just waft through life, saying, ‘It’s fine.'”

I submit that part of our problem here is that we are assigning meaning and happiness to the wrong things, things that don’t actually fulfill us at all. And sure, we make goals, but often don’t establish a healthy routine to get them. And if, by chance, we do, once we get what we want, we have already moved on to what’s next, not having taken any time at all to love — truly love — what we already have. No one wants to go through the climb to find happiness described by Sinek as, “…arduous and long, and difficult. They are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes. What [we] need to learn is patience. That some things that really really matter, like love, or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self-confidence, a skillset — any of these things — all of these things take time. If you don’t ask for help and learn that skillset, you will fall off the mountain.”

I know this blog is not a read that you will feel all warm and fuzzy about. It may leave you feeling scared or sad or even worried. Maybe this is just the emotion you need to feel to be motivated to act. I bet there isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t said or felt the notion that, “I just want my kids to be happy.” So be the example. Do the work. Stop messing around with your can’ts and shoulds and supposed tos. Stop wasting time self-deprecating and complaining about what you don’t have and what or who is wrong. You have yourself, AND, you have an entire generation that needs you now more than ever to guide and lead with authentic happiness. You have tools for nutrition, yoga, meditation, wellness, patience, discipline and community — do not let them go to the wayside. We have to work extra hard right now to make sure that we take the focus off of our little worlds of not-good-enough and direct it to the people who have the fewest amount of tools and the most amount of pressure, the generation behind each and every one of us.image

And while you are doing that, do some self-examination and get even MORE clear about what your purpose(s) are. You may find it’s time to slough off more than just sugar and carbs. The good news? When you figure out genuine purpose — no one can stop you, and you shine more brightly than the brightest star in the sky.

KEEP GOING.

B

Indigo30 DAY 15: HALFWAY THERE! What to expect, what not to expect.

Expectations are a darn tricky thing. In fact, there have been thousands of moments in my life where I realized the only thing that was causing my suffering was an expectation I had of something or someone. And being brutally honest, the expectation was usually unreasonable. And yet, how does one set goals without having expectations? I mean, even just logistic expectations? “I have a goal of completing the Indigo30. If I do 30 days of yoga and follow the nutritional standards of the Whole30, Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 10.05.14 PMI expect to feel great at the end of the program.” Not unreasonable. It’s when we inflate a reasonable expectation with something that’s irrational. Maybe for a few days, you could think about expectations like math (I seem to equate (haha) so many things with math these days, but damn it’s logical!) — listen, everyone knows that 1 + 1 = 2. “If I eat an apple, (1) and I add raw almond butter (+1) I can be sure that I had a healthy, compliant, nutritious snack (=2).” The facts equal the outcome. There are no variables or unknowns.

It’s when we do this: If I do yoga (1) and eat Whole30 (+1), I should lose 10 pounds by Day 15.”  Wait, what? That didn’t even factor in any variable (body composition, fat to muscle ratio, how many other and what kind of calories you’re eating, how hard you are working in class, if you are losing fat but gaining muscle, or even if you had any real weight to lose in the first place …?)  Do you see how easily we can create stories and unreasonable expectations? And it’s happening in your sweet little brain and therefore in your surroundings ALL DAY EVERY DAY. With your spouse, with your children, with your colleagues, with where you are in life, even with strangers in the car in front of you, expecting them to behave exactly like you need them to so that they keep your life moving at the pace you think it needs to move: “<<HONK>> WHY IS HE JUST SITTING THERE AT THIS LIGHT! <<HONNNNK>> GET OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE YOU _______!!” (Meanwhile, who knows but what this man in front of you just lost his wife to cancer and put his head down to cry at the stoplight.) You know it possible. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

I’m serious you guys, your expectations are unreasonable. And wherever they sit with this program right now, I want you to do a very serious real-talk check in. Because if you’ve even followed the program 80-90%, your body is absolutely, positively changing somehow, even if its minor because 80-90% effort is 80-90% better than 0% effort. You’re likely sleeping better, your skin is likely clearing, your eyes are probably brighter, and no matter what, because I’ve thrown about a million things at you, one noodle is going to stick on the wall that you will remember, so admit it or not, you have also learned something.

Now I don’t want to discount the potential feeling of discouragement or overwhelmment. I know it’s real. I know the benefits everyone raves about are so coveted that you want them all and want them now. And some have them already. But for others of you, you have to stay the course. Your math equation has way, way different variables than your fellow team member. Your expectation of how something “should” be or “is supposed to be” could very well be the thing that’s holding you back. It usually is.

Today I realized that I’ve cared more about what I weigh than the true health of my body. I understand now that if this doesn’t change, I will never lose all the weight that I need to. This is my goal for these 30 days: changing my mindset and changing my life.” — Sara K., Whole30 Day by Day

What’s Actually Happening

During week three (can you believe it?!) you are still adapting. You have a groove, for image.pngsure. I like to think of the ego right now sitting in time out with it’s arms tightly crossed, smirk on its face, just tapping it’s foot, plotting. Like it’s saying, “Okay fine. I’ll let her do her ‘Indigo30 thing’ (in a snarky tone with and eye-roll and air quotes). She will be back. And when she is, we are going back to how it used to be, when I was in charge of her decisions and self-worth. And I will entice her by reminding her that she deserves that glass of wine and coconut cream pie, and everyone around her is WRONG.”

No, we aren’t going to let that happen. Ego may be sitting there tapping its foot, but the truth is, it’s hanging on for dear life. It knows its days are numbered now that you have control over your health. It may deliver some sucker punches as it tries to claw its way back — like cravings, negative self-talk or making you question yourself. But you have the tools now: phone a friend and get to your mat. STAT.

Now as long as I am ranting about reasonable expectations and being real with how things actually are versus the story, I think it’s good to address this question: What if, after these two weeks, you haven’t noticed much happening? Nothing miraculous, nothing huge, nothing out of the ordinary or surprising. You may be asking, is this Indigo30 thing really working?

First, it’s an absolutely fair question to ask. So think about the math equation again. Some of you came in already having done yoga for quite some time. And your diet might have already been relatively clean. So your equation is going to be pretty simple — you will just keep getting cleaner and stronger, but it’s also possible that your “progress” feels  smaller and slower because you were already pretty far along to begin with. This program, this time, has put you into what I call “refinement mode” or “polishing mode,” where your focus becomes even more detailed and specific. It’s like when you’ve been doing a yoga pose for a few years — and the teacher has you move your knee one half-inch to the right. To the beginner that would be silly if the rest of the pose was all over the place. But to the more intermediate student, that half-inch is refinement, and it can change the pose entirely for someone who is advanced. If your equation is different, say you’ve never done yoga or you were drinking soda pop every day or whatever that might look like — your results will vary as well. If you had a fair amount of weight to lose, it’s likely that you’ve lost a bunch already. And remember — please, please remember — IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS. Your body is literally healing and fixing itself and can finally function effectively, like it was designed to do from the months and years and DECADES of dietary abuse. You cannot expect it to be totally transformed in 2 weeks after years of neglect. It’s put up with a lot of your negligent shit for a long time. And a good portion of it is probably stuck in your lower intestine.

However, check this out, just because. If you are not seeing results, ask:

  • Is your food quality truly 100% Whole30-approved? A few small diversions (a single nibble of a cookie here, a splash of cream in your coffee there, and that one half-glass of vino when you really needed it after that grueling day at work, those few days you “took off” from yoga because gosh, you were tired …) All of this, even just the singular events themselves, are more than plenty to impede your progress. The program must be completed with 100% food quality and consistent yoga practice for the full 30 days for optimal results. My teacher, Baron Baptiste, usually says this at the beginning of a training, “You will either do this program, or your program. If you do this program, you will get certain results. If you do your program, you will get the same results you’ve been getting your whole life.”  …Sobering, huh.
  • Are you eating regularly? If you are cheating yourself out of meals you are cheating yourself of valuable nutrients by eating too little or too infrequently. And because you are doing yoga every day, I’m telling you — you won’t make it through class if you don’t have fuel. I’ve done this to myself a few times, not on purpose but because my brain runs so fast that I forget to eat. I am strong and practiced, but when my diet is this squeaky clean, I need to nourish a lot more regularly; if I don’t, even I’m in child’s pose seeing stars. Not good or smart.
  • Are you adding plenty of good fat to each meal? Straight up, y’all: if you skip this you simply will not have enough energy to keep going or think straight. Fat is image.pngGOOD. Fat is your friend! Maybe think “PHAT” instead and you will like it more. Same with good carbohydrate. I am not going to even say add in more say “especially if you are active,” because if you are doing yoga every day, you are beyond active. You are busting ass. So feed your body properly – add in sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin… all great fuel sources.
  • Are you sleeping enough? Lack of sleep affects hormone and stress levels, which as we have learned, absolutely, 100% affect body composition.
  • Are you exercising too much? I know we challenge you to get on your mat a lot, but are you doing other workouts as well? Are you maxing your practice every time you go to yoga? You must pace for the long haul and always aim for balance.
  • Do you have an underlying medical condition that could potentially be affecting hormone levels, energy production, etc?
  • Are you stressed? I don’t have to explain. You know.

If you can honestly, completely say that you have ALL of these factors in line, then my answer is not only irritating but probably what you need to hear and practice above everything else you’ve learned: be patient. Many people report that it truly did take the whole 30 days (and even then some, remember Melissa Hartwig’s testimonial?) to feel the magic. Let the journey unfold. You are a complex, complicated being. It’s good to have some goals, but let the results and enlightenment come when it’s all ready to reveal itself. If you do your math right, your answers will be exactly what they are supposed to be.

Keep going.

B

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