TIP 1: Ask yourself the miracle question.
As a social worker, I work with adults and children in a therapeutic atmosphere. One activity we often use to help us gain a better understanding of the client’s hopes and dreams is “The Miracle Question Activity.” The Miracle Activity helps me as a clinician to understand the underlying goals of my clients, even when they may not be able to identify the goals themselves. Over the years, this tool has not only helped me to outline client goals, but has also helped me identify goals for myself. This is how it works:
When you’re ready to sit down and really spend some time thinking about this next year and the changes you want to make, ask yourself this question: “If I woke up tomorrow morning, I would know a miracle happened overnight because my life would now look like this ______.” From there just fill in the blank, and don’t be afraid to get really detailed. For example, what physical health would you be in? What kind of relationships would you have? Where would you work? What would your hobbies be? Where would you live? Even if all of your answers seem unrealistic, write them down. You may be thinking, “My dreams are impossible,” and some may be, depending on financial and physical limitations; however, you may also be surprised at the kind of doors that can be opened once small changes are made.
This activity is in no way supposed to make you feel overwhelmed or bad about yourself, because shaming and blaming is never helpful. The key here is: you can’t expect yourself to do better while making yourself feel worse. BUT what it is supposed to do is help guide your process. So often we have an idea about where we’d like to be, but with no clear picture of what this life looks like, and without a clear picture, how are we going to create the map to get there? As you go through this process, and your specific process throughout this next year, you may realize some of the things you thought you wanted have changed. This could be due to a shift in priorities, or a shift in worldview, but unless you write these things down, it may be difficult for you to truly see and understand the progress you’ve made mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So when you’re ready, get a pen and don’t be afraid to dream big. An amazing example of a big dreamer is my best friend for 18 years, Ama. About a month ago she could barely run a mile, and this month she’ll be completing her first 10k, and the same goes for my 12-year-old cousin Luke. All to say, the biggest disservice you can do is to underestimate your ability to be great and to do great things. Don’t be afraid of rocking your world!
Maia Detmer and Sam the day before completing the Kodiak50 (50 mile trail run) in Big Bear, CA.
TIP 2: Plan for your weaknesses.
In a previous post titled “Plan for your weakness,” I shared some of my strategies to keep me moving and motivated. Over the past few years I have really been focused on getting to know myself and being honest with myself about the person I am, the challenges I face, and the excuses I make. This road of self-discovery so to speak, has allowed me to make realistic plans to keep me on the healthy lifestyle road.
The reason making solid plans is so crucial for me is because I’m a flawed person. Sometimes I’m grouchy, moody, and completely unmotivated. Therefore, I plan for my weaknesses because I know this about myself, and commitment must supersede emotions. I heard a quote a long time ago that read: Commitment is doing what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has passed. That one quote has had a profound impact on me. I mean for example, I’m sure you feel like changing your diet after the 8th piece of pie you ate because you’re full, feeling gross, and over it…and then the morning comes along and the food is digested. Suddenly, you’re shocked how your sneaky little hand is already going for the same pumpkin pie you swore off the night before. Let’s get serious ladies; most of the time commitment seems like a great idea when you’re in the mood, and then when you’re not, it’s easy to roll with emotions. So, how do we take emotions out of the equation? Well, we can’t. But what we can do is plan for them.
About ten years ago I watched some documentary and made the commitment to stop eating fast food. At the time I made the commitment, it was a simple, uncomplicated goal: I was not going to eat anywhere that had a drive-thru. I didn’t really change anything else about my diet, because at that point, this was enough. Looking back that one goal translated to never having “junk” food in the house, meal prepping, and clean eating. Now (full disclosure), I have definitely had fast food in the past ten years, but I can honestly count the times on my two hands (this does not include authentic fast Mexican restaurants. I live in San Diego and the Mexican food is out of this world… AND they don’t have drive-thrus J ). Although my goal ten years ago was to adopt a completely clean diet (for more information on clean eating stayed tuned to an upcoming blog with guest blogger: Melanie Rodgers), making that large of a change so drastically would not have stuck. Instead, I made a small commitment. That was the catalyst to my nutrition awareness. Perhaps for yourself, think about just cutting out soda, or making a commitment to drink one cup of coffee a day instead of four. Just pick something small and realistic, and remember all is not lost if you slip up. In a later tip I will explain more about how to get back on track when you’ve stepped off.
The purpose of choosing something small is so that your mind and body can develop a solid habit. When not drinking a pot of coffee a day seems and feels normal, then you can start adding in other goals and habits. Trying to change your entire life in one day, to me, is unrealistic. Now, be cautious about dropping down to one cup of coffee and then compensating with 3 more sodas. When you pick a goal and decrease something unhealthy or increase something healthy, be sure not to start adopting unhealthy habits along the way. Try to keep everything else in your diet the same, unless you are super confident you can take on more. In my opinion, you have a better chance of changing your lifestyle when it happens at a realistic and moderate pace.
You know yourself…and if you don’t, get to know yourself and get to know your weaknesses. Develop a structured plan. In climbing, you quickly learn that sheer determination and muscling through the climb will not last. You have to have a strategy. You have to develop a technical game plan and you can’t rely on your upper body to do all the work. So take this analogy and stop relying solely on determination to get you through the next 12 months. Make a list of all potential pitfalls and develop a plan…and not just any plan, but a good plan. When I say make a list, I literally mean get a pen and paper and make a list. One column can be concerns and the other column can be solutions or the action plan. Remember, you are the expert of your own life, so put yourself in the mindset of the hungry girl dying for the huge cheesy breakfast burrito, and figure out what you’re going to need to say to her and to have in place so that she walks away. Determination and motivation will waver, and you have got to learn what you can do during those times to get your butt out of bed and get those running shoes on!