Thursday, August 10, 2017

One Thing I Wish I Could Teach My Younger Self

I may not like a lot of things that have happened in my life. But even some of the worst times have led me to become the person I am now. I wouldn’t be as strong as I am, if I had not been through what I have been through. So, when the question comes up that if you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be, I hesitate to say I would change anything. If I didn’t have that experience, who’s to say some things I’m proud of would have ever happened either?

However, if there were one lesson I could teach my younger self, or one thing I can pass on to another person so they could avoid the kind of mistakes I made, it would be this:

It is NOT selfish to take care of yourself.

A counselor a long time ago used the gas tank analogy. If you keep siphoning off your gas without ever refilling your own tank, eventually you’ll have no gas to give anyone else and both of you will have empty tanks. Another example I hear often is that there is a reason the safety briefing on a plane tells you to put your own air mask on first before helping someone else.

In our society, we’re taught that putting yourself first is selfish; it’s a bad thing. Although it is not gender specific, women often are more susceptible to this because we’re taught to put our families’ needs above our own, especially if you have children.

I am not talking about acting as if the world revolves around you and your needs. “Me, me, me” and “What do I get out of it” without caring about others, that IS selfish. I’m talking about making sure you can help others by seeing to your needs, too. And sometimes that does mean putting yourself first.

Let me give you a couple scenarios.

You don’t eat well or exercise and you have health issues because of that. That means you physically can’t play with your kids/grandkids without getting winded, or go hiking with your significant other without having to stop every few minutes. Or maybe it means you are at a higher risk for a heart attack. What happens to your family when you have one? In that case, then, when you exercise you are doing it not only for you, but also so you can be here for them. (Bonus if you have kids, you’re teaching them how to live a healthy life, too.)

You say yes to every function or committee your church needs people for. Sounds generous, right? Sounds like what you “should” do. But stretching yourself that thin, trying to do that many things, means you get tired, don’t do any of them well, and probably are not giving joyfully. You may even start to resent “having to do it all". Who does that benefit? Wouldn’t it be better, then, to commit to fewer tasks at a time, but doing each one well? And wouldn’t that, in turn, be a bigger benefit to whatever organization you work for or are giving your time to?

It’s time we learn that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of anyone else. If we take care of our needs so that we CAN help others in some way, that is far from selfish.

What is one thing you wish you could teach either your younger self or someone else today?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Writing Prompt Day 7 - What Revolution Will You Lead?

In the traditional sense, I don’t want to lead one. As an introvert, leading a large movement, trying to bring about social change, does not sound like something I would love at all! That sounds more like torture.

However, if I look at “revolution” from a different perspective, as “a transformation”, a “metamorphosis”, then the picture changes. In that sense, I can lead a revolution of ONE. I can bring about change in myself.

As I noted in the end of the day 6 prompt, I believe we influence others just by the way we live even when we’re not trying to. So by leading that revolution in myself, I will affect others even if they never tell me.

Here are some of the ways I can imagine that happening.

I can continue to practice the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle lifestyle and journal about it in the Inner Circle online community. I can also continue to encourage others in that community. By doing that, I continue to grow in my competence level, and expand the knowledge I can share. Sharing even the things I struggle with will help someone who reads my posts later and I will be leading them to bring about a transformation in their health.

I can transform my yard into a sustainable garden. The butterflies and bees that benefit won’t be able to speak to me to tell me they appreciate my efforts. But seeing them flit around the flowers, noticing one or two at first later become a bush filled with them. . . these things will help those populations. And if, by sharing photos of my garden, writing about it, or just having it be a beautiful spot that someone sees as they drive or walk by my home, I educate someone or influence them to try it in their yard, then I have, in effect, led a revolution.

I wrote once about the “Metamorphosis of Mindset” and how I was beginning to change in several ways and looking at different avenues to explore and expand on my hobbies. That mindset change helped me win a body transformation contest. More than that, it IS helping me grow even more now because I am open to “What IF. . .”. I don’t know what further change it will bring, but I know it WILL. In that sense, then, I am leading my own revolution.

Transformation does not have to be on some grand scale; it just has to be change.

So all I have to do is change me. I will in turn affect someone I encounter even if I never know about it.  I don’t have to be a rushing waterfall that erodes rock to affect change. I can be like a single drop of water hitting the calm surface that starts ripples reaching out in ever widening circles.

I don’t have to lead a major social change to lead a revolution.


This ends the 7 days of writing prompts from Live Your Legend’s writing challenge. I hope sharing them led to you think about some of the same questions and even write about them yourself. If you did, please share some of your thoughts in the comments on each post. Better yet, if you have a blog of your own, feel free to share a link. I’d love to see how others approached these prompts.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing Prompt Day 6 - What Difference Do You Want to Make?

At first this prompt led to a list because I am still trying to figure that out. But as I started pondering on it further, and looking at the list, I decided it might all have a theme after all.

I want to live abundantly and encourage others to do so as well.

An abundant life, to me, does not mean financial wealth or material goods, although that may be part of it.

One definition I found of abundant was really intriguing: in plenteous supply but not excessive. That fits my image of what I mean by living abundantly.

It’s living a full life; one rich with experiences. It means growing and learning, and using what you learn to enrich the world around you. It doesn’t mean rushing through life, but rather being in the moment. It’s about having enough to give back, and giving of yourself rather than what you get out of it.

The neat part is that when you give, joyously, you do receive in kind; you become rich in ways money can’t quantify. You have meaningful relationships and make memories. You create beauty around you. You touch others’ souls.

I do still have that list. For example, to “live fully” I know I don’t want to be unable to do anything but sit in a chair in a nursing home for decades of my life. To do that, I need to live a healthy lifestyle – eat well, exercise, keep my body and my brain active.

Another example is that I want to be open to possibilities, rather than limit myself with doubts or pre-conceived notions. Age is just one example. I don’t want to be “old” in thought, limiting what I am capable of because of a number that says how long I have been on earth. Right now, there are body-building champions in their 70’s and 80’s. I just read an article about a woman who started teaching yoga at 103. My trainer and very good friend, Dougal Macdonald, was in a horrible surfing accident and broke his neck from C1 to C4. If he had listened to what others said was possible, he’d never have walked again. Yet he rehabbed back to being a physical trainer and is even, at the time of writing this, preparing for his first body building competition.

None of those things would have been possible if those folks had let self-limiting thoughts (or societies limits) prevail.

As part of that, I also want to encourage others to think positively, aim to be the best person they can, stretch their boundaries by replacing “I can’t. . .” with “What if I can?”

I also want to improve the world around me. I was appalled to learn that Monarchs were “at risk”. In other words, they were not officially endangered yet, but getting closer. Several species of bees also have rapidly declining populations. If we lose these valuable pollinators, we lose food crops too! So many people desire a lush, perfect carpet of turf, when a sustainable garden of native plants would require less water, less maintenance and fewer toxic chemicals. And by the way, I personally think it would be more beautiful, too. So I’d like to do what I can to improve my little corner of the world and create a haven for butterflies, bees, birds, and other wildlife.

I want to use my photography to celebrate the beauty in nature; share it with others.

I believe that we influence others even when we don’t realize it and aren’t trying to; just the way we live can be an example to someone we encounter. I want to be an example of someone who celebrates the wonder of life, who tries to improve their world in little ways, and uses their blessings in life to bless others. Because if I, just by being the best person I can be, inspire someone else be the best they can be, then I have made a difference.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Writing Prompt Day 5 - What is Your Elevator Pitch?

This elevator pitch prompt is killing me.

I have looked at articles online, including the Live Your Legend site, with suggestions for creating one. I’ve looked at my taglines, bio blurbs, etc. across multiple social media platforms.


I thought about my hobbies and all the things I would like to do if I didn’t have to work full time to pay the bills, things I hope to do after retirement, and things I enjoying doing in what spare time I have now. It’s obviously stuff I enjoy doing, but something I think would grab somebody’s attention enough to include it in an “elevator pitch”? No.

I guess part of my problem is the “sales” concept of an elevator pitch. I don’t like sales. I’m not good at it. Even products that “sell themselves” would sit on a shelf in my inventory because in order for them to sell themselves, you have to tell people about them, and that means finding people to talk to.

Thinking of it as my introduction doesn’t help a whole lot either. I’m uncomfortable when meeting new people. I like watching people, but striking up a conversation? Not. My. Strength. A “hello” and smile is much more my speed. LOL

Are there topics I could run with, get carried away talking about? Yes. I enjoy talking about something as simple as planting certain plants that attract butterflies and bees rather than having a perfect carpet of sod. I could wax eloquent on the amazing power of the brain and how you can use visualization techniques to get your brain to help you create the changes you want. I ramble frequently about what I’ve learned following the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle lifestyle. And any sense of time (or how many pictures I’m taking) is lost when I’m out for a photo day. It wouldn’t surprise me if at least one person out there finds one of those topics interesting as well.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for me to boil it down to a simple paragraph or a couple sentences aimed at engaging someone, making them want to know more.

I don’t have an elevator pitch and have no idea how to come up with one.  If you have suggestions or tips I haven’t looked at, please, lay ‘em on me. Maybe someday one will just click for me. Meanwhile, I’ll just go with my smile approach and let someone else do the talking or stick to rambling about it in writing.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Writing Prompt Day 4: What is One Thing You're Proud Of?

LOL Another toot your own horn topic.

I could talk about graduating with honors in my degree field, or earning the specialist certificate. I could talk about all the work I did getting a new software system validated and ready to use at work. I could even touch on teaching myself to play flute, knit or crochet, or how much I have grown in my singing by being part of a praise team at church.

But I think I want to talk about winning the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle 2016 Holiday Challenge.

What makes me most proud is not that I won, although that IS pretty darn cool! What I am proud of is what I learned in the process.

My trainer and I had talked about it. I was content to participate. I did want to do well, for sure, but at first never thought about even trying to win. Before it started, he challenged my thought processes by suggesting what he believed was an easily doable rate of fat burn. I PANICKED!

I’m not kidding. I was terrified. Heart racing, full blown panic. And I did not react well to that pressure.

I honestly did not believe that was possible for me. I had mentally put myself in the “slow-burner” category because I hadn’t not done well the time I participated before. I was positive I would be LUCKY if I managed an average 0.5% because I hadn’t even done that before. And he thought I could do 1% a week!! No. Way.

But I’ve been through some rough patches in life, and needed counseling to help me through. Because of that long-ago experience, I recognized that my very strong emotional reaction was trying to tell me something. I knew it wasn’t really the 1%. There was a deeper issue going on and I needed to figure out what that was.

I journaled. I prayed. I bawled. But eventually I figured out what was really holding me back – I didn’t believe I was worth the effort it would take. I was also limiting my success by using my past “failure” as a measure of the best I could do.

I started with a mantra to remind myself I AM worth the effort; put it on my keychain, wrote it on the mirrors in my home that I used every day, and said it to myself often. Maybe I didn’t fully believe I could meet his goal for me, but why not see how good I COULD do? So I also changed the mental tape. Instead of “hoping for 0.5%/week”, I reworded to “I will burn an average of at LEAST 0.5%/week”. I opened myself up to the possibility that maybe I could better than I thought.

I started to believe I could win, and said as much to my trainer. But limited myself again with “but I’m not going to put that pressure on myself”.

His reply? “NO! Put that pressure on yourself! If you think you can win, WHY NOT go for it?”

Suddenly, I wasn’t just going to participate in this challenge, I was going to win. He called it. And yes, I did.

Why is this important?

I have always been confident of my academic abilities. That wasn’t a challenge for me. I knew I needed to do well, I knew I could do well, and I did. I learned a lot academically, but I didn’t ever step outside my comfort zone.

And that, friends, is where true growth occurs.

This challenge was a whole new world for me. I had to practice skills I wasn’t sure I had (nutrition) and do something different I didn’t like (plan and even prepare meals in advance). Most of all, I had to STOP the destructive limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.

My parents had books by Norman Vincent Peale, Jay Van Andel, Rich DeVos, Dale Carnegie, and many others when I was growing up. You would think with all that positive thinking I would have learned that lesson well at a young age. But here I was, over 50, still needing to grow in that area.

I drew on my old experience in another way, too. I had not, in the past, felt like I had support in efforts to live a healthier lifestyle. I had allowed my spouse to drag me down with his efforts to sabotage me because it felt easier. (In reality, that was just to avoid conflict. It wasn’t easier in the long run.) I no longer had that negative influence, but I knew there was someone, somewhere who felt like I had before. Someone felt like they had no one in their corner; no one supporting them. So I decided to do what I could to change that! I took full advantage of something Tom Venuto, the BFFM author, calls the “5th Element”. I dove into the challenge threads, finding people who seemed to need someone, anyone to say “hey, hang in there” or “you’re doing well, keep going”. I made every effort to not just say some banal, meaningless “you got this”, I tried to find something I could point out that they were doing well.

I focused on someone else.  In the process, time flew by. I enjoyed the challenge and had FUN! Most important, I learned that I was limiting myself, but I could change that.

One of the things that drew me to Live your Legend was that I am in the process of trying to figure out what life “after retirement” will look like. I know what I don’t want, but I’m trying to figure out exactly what I do want. As a writer, the double negative of doing what you “can’t NOT do” makes me want to reach for a red pen. LOL But at the same time, I am drawn to the idea that whatever I do after I retire, it can be something I love so much my enthusiasm is contagious.

Because of what I learned about self-limiting beliefs, I have new mantra now. I am open to amazing possibilities, and I am worth the time and effort it takes to turn those possibilities into realities.

I may not yet have a clear, vivid image of exactly what that “something” will be. But I know two things. One: I know it’s already started happening. I know that I am building on what I have already learned and that this new knowledge will become the foundation of even further growth. Two: I know whatever it is, it will be AMAZING! And I am excited about that!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Writing Prompt - Day 3: What do People Thank You For?

I have been keeping a journal on a community of fitness minded folks. The things I have posted about are things that I struggled with at one time, still struggle with, or things I have learned during that journey. People thank me for the inspiring posts I put there.

I remember when I was a kid, feeling shy and insecure and terrified if anyone came toward me because I might actually have to talk with them. Yet at the same time, I felt alone. I’ve felt alone in fitness struggles, self-esteem issues, and other areas too. I appreciate the folks who pushed, pulled, and even shoved me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me along the way. Because I know how that felt for me, I strive to encourage others even if all it is is a listening ear or a virtual hug. I am still humbled, and very honored, when someone lets me know that it helped them.

I have a strong sense of empathy. People say I understand them, that I know what they are feeling, and thank me for just being there for them. Sometimes, my words help them figure out how to express what they couldn’t.

Mom thanks me often for opening my home to her. To be honest, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. She is my inspiration and I hope to “grow up” like her. She helps me around the house, and I know I am there for her as she has been there for me my entire life.

I hate “blowing my own horn”, so a topic such as this makes me a bit uncomfortable. Okay. A LOT uncomfortable. And I’m sure it shows above in the choppy, disconnected writing. But again, I understand the value of it.

First, we should celebrate our victories, both big and small! Achievements motivate us. The popular concept of “fixing our weaknesses” implies that something is broken. Instead, we should take the viewpoint that we are all unique, we each have different strengths, and can use those strengths. We are not “broken” or in need of “fixing” just because we don’t fit someone else’s model. Even your body has different parts that all work together, different senses that provide varied input. SO much more is true of people, and we should focus on how wonderful that is. Celebrate YOU! Celebrate what you have accomplished and what you excel at.

Second, the Live Your Legend site from which these writing prompts come is aimed at people finding the work they love doing, that thing they “can’t NOT do”. If you look at what people already thank you for, it can give insight to what you’re doing already that may be part of that. What people thank you for is something that you do naturally, something you probably do even though you don’t get paid to do it (or would do so if you do get paid for it). It points to things you care about enough to make sure you do well.

It doesn’t matter WHAT that is. You could be the best busboy at a local restaurant, an efficient and pleasant checker at the store, or a genius at programming. What matters is that you find value in it, and do whatever it is with a giving attitude. You provide a valuable “service” and others will find value in it as well. (By the way, if some people thank you for it, chances are there are also others who value this about you even if they don’t say so. You could be doing a lot more good than you know.)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Writing Challenge: Day 2

It’s been too long since I wrote on a regular basis, so I am doing a 7-day writing challenge.

Yesterday’s prompt was to tell your story. I’ve done that in my introduction page, and as an introvert, don’t feel the need to publish what I wrote for that one.

Today’s prompt: What makes you angry about the world?

That’s a tough one for me because I see “anger” as unproductive. When you speak in anger, you’re more likely to speak hastily and from an adversarial viewpoint. You want to convince the other party you are right and they are wrong, dang it.

But how does that really help anything?

How can you persuade the “other side” if you knock them down and tell them what’s “wrong” with their position? Mostly likely, all you’re going to do is make them push back harder, dig in even deeper.

So I decided to approach it with a different word.

What stirs really strong emotions for me about the world; what am I passionate about?

Intolerance of other opinions.

I am not talking compromising values just to not offend another person. I am NOT politically correct. I have strong opinions (even when I don’t always voice them).

What I am talking about is not acknowledging that people disagree; that other opinions have value, too.

Example: Here in the US, there are too many people, on BOTH “sides of the aisle” who are adamant that their political party is right. What bothers me is not that. What bothers me is when people on BOTH sides get obnoxious, start name-calling, belittling, and assuming everyone in the other party is evil. The “other side” has just as much right to their opinion as you do.

Poaching, animal abuse, and similar topics.

Animal abuse, to me, is a crime that sickens me. How anyone could do some of the things they do to animals? When they up the ante and do something just for profit, like whacking off a rhino’s horn or killing lions just for the bones, that disgusts me. I’m pretty sure if I had audience for it I could get pretty passionate on what should be done with perpetrators of such crimes.

Along the same lines is any kind of abuse of another person.

If you feel so little about yourself that you have to cut others down just to make yourself feel good, then you need help. We should all focus on doing things that improve the people and world around us, not cutting others down.

So that’s a few of my “hot buttons”. There are other topics I could spend ages talking/writing about; other things that stir emotions, but those are a few.

More important, however, is why a writing prompt like this is helpful.

It can help get someone started. People are a lot more likely to start writing/talking about things they believe in and that stir emotions in them than if you gave a generic topic. And if the goal of the challenge is to get people started, this is a good way to do that. This approach could also be used when you want to get to know someone – ask them something similar. IF you dare. (Just remember if you do that they could have some viewpoints that are hot topics for you and you might not agree with them.)

Your turn.

Take some time to think about what you’re passionate about. Then come back and share in the comments how the exercise helped you.