Indigo30 DAY 29: Your words

All of this Whole30 and yoga stuff is a really super good idea, but if we never found out from anyone if it actually worked, then none of it would even matter. It’s because we tell each other about the results we’ve experienced (or haven’t) that we continue to learn and be motivated to be better. Human beings are results-driven, even in the minor things. We expect our car to start and run. We expect certain things to happen at specific times of day. We want to know that our efforts are seen and that some things in life are certain. The expectations and desire for results are driven by habits, which mold and frame and direct our days — thousands of them. Some are simple, like the habit you have of making your coffee in the morning, with the reward of the delicious, foamy first sip. And others are complicated, like the habit you have or know of someone having of fighting an addiction. They all swirl about and pull from emotions and often times feel vastly out of our control. “But every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager,” writes Tal Ben Shahar, of Happier. 

In the course of the last 28 days, really more like 35 days, because the preparation week really counts in my opinion, you have shaped, formed, shifted, reorganized and changedimage.png some of the biggest habits a human being can have. You have done this. Your willpower has a pattern now, and you are the one who made that happen. You decided, consciously, to do the work, see the cues and the rewards that drive your routines, and create new rituals around your daily behaviors — rituals that have meaning and value not only to you but to the people in your lives. Your families have been impacted. Your friends have watched you shift and change and stay the course. People who were once strangers, are now your friends, with their superhero capes ready to throw on and help you back up anytime you stumble.

You did other things too, things that no one could predict and things that won’t sell diet books: you became accountable for your behaviors.

“I realized that I am the reason my family eats out so much. My lack of organization around meal planning and just plain laziness at times created chaos during what would have been time of comfort for me and my family. By not having a plan, I made their evenings hectic while we all tried to figure out dinner and usually made an unhealthy choice,” writes one I30 participant.

I have been working with students for over a decade, helping them to come clean and get straight and own up to their role in relationships and breakdowns that occur in their lives. Especially when the default is to blame.

Very rarely does anyone own it like this.

“I realized I’ve been dropping the ball,” she said. “Cooking for my family for the last 28 days has been so lovely. They can’t wait to hear what’s for dinner. They have never once said, ‘I wish we could just go out to eat.’ My daughter even said, ‘Momma, I love this whole thing you are doing because the food is so good!”

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You can’t put a number, especially a scale number, to something like that. These children are going to remember this time for years to come. They will be in college someday longing for their mom’s healthy home cooking. It will be part of the reason they can’t wait for the holidays. They will remember going to yoga with their mom and remembering holding her hand at the end. They will remember her encouragement and how she took care of herself. And the pride in their eyes when they look at their mom — glowing, healthy and happy, is nothing anyone can put a number to. That is what quality of life looks like. That is happiness.

“When I was told I had to stop running because of an injury,” writes another participant, “I spiraled into what I couldn’t do. I got depressed and ended up having surgery. Surgery didn’t help. It made things worse. Had I found yoga, I wouldn’t have gone that route. Yoga reminded me that I could exercise and not injure myself. I just do what I can do. Some days it’s not much, but it’s better than me sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself. Thank you for putting this program together. I’ve learned so much it’s crazy.”

Many of you have remarked that the combination of nutrition and movement has been a game changer — that the diet without the yoga might have left you feeling a little obsessive over the food, and that the yoga without the diet might have kept you eating stuff that wasn’t really working for you but that you might have dismissed “since you were working out all the time.” The two components are what creates the balance, the effort and the ease. The two disciplines actually hold each other accountable. As we have learned, you cannot be all in on one and sort of in on the other. They work together. Add in meditation/mindfulness/self-reflection, and you have a perfect triad of balanced wellness.

“I’m actually more nervous to end the Indigo30 than I was starting it,” writes a student new to the Indigo30. “I’ve never had so much energy. It makes me a better speech language pathologist, a better friend, and a better person to be around. The meetings were so helpful and I loved hearing about other people’s NSVs. The blogs helped me A LOT — the introspection is huge for me. I tell others that it’s not about losing weight; it’s about seeing how your body reacts to certain foods. It’s about gaining insight into your own habits with food, and it’s about doing something you didn’t think you could.”

Some of you were looking for education, and were curious. Others were looking for a reset. Still others were looking for a distraction from the hardships of life, something to redirect your focus. You all have admitted that this was more than you thought it would be — why were you suddenly finding yourself crying tears of gratitude on your mat? Why and how were you suddenly not craving a drink amidst friends and normal social circles, totally content to say, “no, thank you” with ease? Why was it easier than you anticipated?

Because you didn’t do it alone. You redefined what “hard” really is. And you saw change occur.

“I probably would never have done this type of regimen without Indigo as a support group.”

“I have struggled with anxiety and depression. Over the past month my mood swings have been almost non-existent. I have not felt so ‘stable’ in several years. My chronic migraines have almost disappeared. I have decreased my caffeine intake significantly. These are things I never, in a million years, though possible.”

“I’ve had personal challenges/disappointments/losses that I’ve experienced for years. All of THAT was hard. And it still is. Pouring my energy into what I thought was going to be a ‘distraction’ that turned out to be a blessing — this reset — was not hard. I have learned so much, made new friends and bolstered my confidence as I prepare to take the next steps on my journey.”

_______

It’s not always easy to know what our purpose is. There will be days when you feel aimless and lost, alone and so vulnerable. You will think you are just chasing your tail or wandering directionless, feeling like no one and nothing even notices the path you are traveling, because they are so hyper-focused on their own path. Most of all, you may battle mostly with yourself, relentlessly seeking achievement and perfection; running toward some intangible goal of “finally good enough” when all the things have, at long last, perfectly lined up. Until the day comes, and it will if it hasn’t already, when you realize that the battle is only with your own reflection. If you reach out and try to touch it, there will be nothing there. But if you look around and see what’s outside of, and beyond that reflection, you will find real people with real feelings and similar, real battles, whose hands need to be held and who also need to be pulled away from the enticing reflecting glass so that they can see, in your eyes, who they really are.

The mission of the Indigo30 was to educate participants in nutrition and yoga in such an impactful, but balanced way, that how they live — their lifestyle — will automatically, by default, impact and balance others as they exemplify and share what they have learned.

“As I now look toward my future,” a hesitant-to-share Indigo30 participant writes, “this experience will always go with me. My degree is concentrated in Nutrition and Wellness; my goal now is to work with individuals who want to make lifestyle changes to improve their health. Therefore, I thank you, for providing this experience. It has not only helped me but will help others with whom I share it.”

Mission accomplished.

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One more day.

Keep going.

B

 

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