Monday, June 19, 2017

Block Your Bad Habits With Obstacles!

We have all been the victim of our own bad habits!  

Sometimes those bad habits seem so far entrenched in our every day lives that we are helpless against them.  No matter how hard we know we shouldn't be doing them, having a lack of mindfulness can lead you to not even realize you are sabotaging yourself until it's too late!

Bringing mindfulness into your life can be so powerful with a small amount of planning and some ingenuity, even breaking some bad habits you thought you had ZERO power to overcome.

When I was in the corporate world, my life was riddled with unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stress and depression I experienced on a daily basis.  Of these coping mechanisms perhaps one of the most damaging to my physical health was a nasty habit of having a martini almost every night I came home.

I knew I needed to stop this habit but in the short-term it became a release...a way to wind down from the stresses of the day and medicate myself to a calmer place.

But how could I get past this habit that was so engrained in me that I had already prepared a drink and put it to my lips by the time I was cognizant of my actions?

I needed an obstacle, something to get in my way so I could become mindful of my actions!

Here's what I did:

  • I put the cocktail shaker on the bar in the dining room, far away from the kitchen where I would have to walk across the house to get to it.
  • I placed my favorite gin high up on the top shelf of my cabinet in a corner so I would have to climb on the counter to get to it.
  • I stored the olive brine deep in the refrigerator, behind the condiments so I had to move them in order to find it.

At first having these obstacles in my way only served to annoy me more than my stressful day already had.  I would swear to myself as I had to perform each ritual to make my drink.  Or swear that I would stop rearranging everything.

But soon, I found that just the simple act of having to jump all these hurdles started to make me think...

"Is it really worth it to go through all this for a drink?"

"Am I just going to regret making this drink once I'm done like last time?"

By forcing these questions upon myself I found that the answers entered my mind and brought me to a place where I became mindful of my current actions.  It was REALLY effective!

Give this strategy a shot and you may find that your bad habits don't have so much control over you afterall!

Some quick tips if you want to try blocking your own bad habits with obstacles:

  1. Make the obstacles easy to install, don't come up with a crazy ritual to disrupt a highly habitual one.
  2. Put the obstacles in key areas that interrupt your "automated behavior" before you get there.
  3. Find hiding places or put things in places where they make no sense. Habits are tied to logic, disrupt them!
  4. Get creative!  The best obstacles make you laugh, confuse you or even surprise you!

Have fun coming up with your obstacles.  Don't let your absent mind have control over you, challenge it and discover the power you have over your bad habits!

Stay Motiv8ed!

Coach Joe

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mindfulness: USE negative space, DON'T fill it!

Are you filling your negative space?  STOP!

Negative space is the concept of using a lack of "content" to create a feeling, an action or to communicate the importance of the most important element in a creative design.

Some of the best advertisements use negative space and we tend to be attracted to the simplistic idea of using only a logo or a simple statement surrounded by nothing else.  We tend to think of these advertisements as "clean", "upscale", "classy" or "intelligent".


In fact the proper use of negative space in advertising can be very elegant. BUT, we don't tend to place the same importance on negative space in our every day lives!  In fact, we often look at holes in our day as some type of emptiness or poor planning on our part.  Maybe we even think we are being lazy by not filling that void?

When you encounter negative space in your day, USE it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness!

Take inventory of what is important to you.  Think of ways to use this time as a way to learn something about yourself instead of as a way to "get things done".

Instead of mindlessly looking for a way to fill that space, seek to recognize yourself in that moment.  This is where taking stock of your experience can be a HUGE wakeup call.  Notice your breath in this moment, notice your heartbeat, observe the world around you.  How does this moment feel different than when you are rushing around "getting things done"?  Do YOU act different?  Are your behaviors, habits or routines different?  However different they are, realize that your "default" is here and now.  Notice how this default varies from your reactionary state in a moment of stress or anxiety.  That lack of centeredness can lead us to make poor judgement calls or distract us from doing our best work.  Take a mental picture of this moment.  

What if DO have things to get done even though I have negative space?

Finding negative space in life can be a GREAT way to identify habits or routines that have been holding you back from your best!  As tempting as it may seem, I urge you NOT to attempt filling the new found void with a new activity, new goal or new project.  

Instead practice the art of SLOWING DOWN!

Take your highest priority item on your to-do list and give yourself extra time to work on it.  When you do, try to break up your work into segments that you can focus on closely.  Then take each segment and analyze the importance of it's inclusion in accomplishing your to-do item.  Are you focused on the wrong part of the job?  Is the time spent on each segment enough?  Too much?  Are the separate pieces of the greater whole even necessary?  Can you take steps out to remove frustration, gain time and create a faster or better result?  

If your "to-do" is a part of a routine, maybe it's time to rethink your routine?  Are you usually rushing through this activity so quickly that you don't think about what you're doing at all?  NOW is the time, you have negative space to concentrate on this activity and seek out where you may be inefficient or redundant in your action.

We have become so conditioned to fill our time with activity that sometimes we fail to respect our "time earned".  If we can't appreciate the moments in life that give us space to reflect internally, we cheat ourselves of the opportunity to become our best.

Stay Motiv8ed!

Coach Joe

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mindfulness: Prioritizing Stress

Hey Motiv8ers!
This month we want to challenge you all to a Mindfulness Challenge!
Mindfulness is all about taking every moment in it’s current state and not attributing emotion to anything you experience.  Our feelings are experienced from a source of either love (positive) or fear (negative).  Feelings come and go.  Emotions however are feelings with stories attached to them!  When we are not mindful of our emotions, sometimes they can get the best of us and start to control our actions or create a false reality.  
Much of our stress in life comes from our reality being mismatched with the expectations we create through our emotions!

By far the worst emotion we can experience is Powerlessness!  The range of fear-based feelings we can have whether negativity, sadness, rejection or anger cannot compare to the sense that we have NO CONTROL over our future nor the ability to impact our world around us. 

So here’s your first Mindfulness Lesson!

Do this quick stress exercise to help you create focus on the things you can control and stop fretting about the things you can’t.  

This is a REALLY helpful exercise if you take the time to do it!
Start with a blank piece of paper.  Draw a line down the middle and across the middle…so a big plus sign!  Make a title in each of the four boxes:
Important / Can’t Control
Important / Can Control
Not Important / Can’t Control
Not Important / Can Control

  1. Write down anything causing you anxiety. All your struggles, challenges, responsibilities and anything else stressing you out. 
2. Ask yourself the two simple questions to each of these. Is it important? Can I control it?  Then you’ll know what box to put them in!
3. When you’re done here is what your priorities for each quadrant should look like:

More Attention, Make a plan to address these challenges, educate yourself to gain control, seek out help from those with ability, influence, decision making

Most Attention, Decide on and take action NOW to overcome! Place most of your effort in life toward these things!
NO Attention, Ignore these things! These things DO NOT serve you to worry about or pay attention to!

Least Attention, Build a habit to make action automatic, Schedule monotonous activities into your free time, Set
reminders so you don’t forget!

The moral of our lesson here?

It is completely normal to emote Powerlessness BUT, you always have control over how you react to an emotion.  If, in fact, you are feeling powerless over a situation ask yourself if it's even important?

Will your anxiety about a situation matter in:

5 hours?
5 days?
5 weeks?
5 months?
5 years?

If your answer is "no" to any of those it's time to change your perspective about how important this stressor really is!  Maybe it's time to stop obsessing over it?

Focus your concerns on what you have control over (either individually or with the help of a friend) and forget the concerns that you can't control.  Putting yourself in a place of distress or agitation will only compound the effect of something negative happening to you.  

Here's a final thought: What if the negative thing we've created this emotion over never even happens?  We've just created stress where it didn't deserve to exist.  Aren't there enough REAL things to worry about?

This is one of the foundational elements to creating Mindfulness in your daily life.  We will explore other areas in future blog posts but, acknowledging and prioritizing the importance of your daily stressors is one of the biggest impacts you can make to your mental health starting today!  Try it, I promise it will help!

Stay Motiv8ed!

Coach Joe