ADHD · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 21: Support Systems

As yet another alarm went off on my phone this morning, I started thinking about our support systems and how you might make good use of them as you build your practices.

Note: every time you see the words should or shouldn’t in this post, please imagine me rolling my eyes and sighing it out as if I am fed up with the very concept of it. Because I am.

Story time

(There is no escape from my stories.)

Because I have ADHD, I use a lot of external cues to help me do the things that I want to do. I have umpteen timers, reminders, and alarms. I make good use of the timer on the stove when I am in the kitchen. I try to shape my environment by putting things in the place where I will need them – like putting my meds on the kitchen table before I go to bed so I will see them first thing in the morning. I have routines and checklists. I ask other people for reminders and I have accountability partners for all kinds of tasks. *

Before I was medicated (and especially before I was diagnosed), I tried to get away without using most of those things. I felt that, as an adult, I shouldn’t need so many reminders to get through the day – especially since, in many contexts, I have a good memory. I tried to fake my way along – this is called masking, by the way – and I did ok sometimes, maybe even most of the time, but with A LOT of additional stress and worry.

It was MUCH harder for me to manage the details of my life and to follow through on my plans without those things. Once I was diagnosed, I gave myself ‘permission’ to use any supports that worked for me and life got a bit easier. Once I was medicated, I could make even better use of those supports, and every increase in my medication makes them more and more useful to me.

Accepting that it was ok to have that support system in my days made a huge difference in my life. I could use more of my mental energy to actually do the things I wanted to do instead of using that energy to try and remember to do them.

And the really annoying thing is that I could have been saving that energy all along by just letting myself do things the way that I needed to do them. I could have had those supports in place all along and felt much better every day.

Instead, I fell victim to our cultural message that if things are difficult it is because we aren’t working hard enough. From that perspective, my reminders and notes and systems would be a sign of being inept or being weak, or being stupid.

What a load of crap, hey?

Now that I am aware of that whole set of messaging, I am so annoyed. I am annoyed with the message and I am annoyed that I was stuck in that mindset for so long.

Find/create/use your support systems

Maybe ADHD isn’t an issue for you but I’ll bet that you have other things that get in your way as you try to build your new practice.

You don’t need a reason or an excuse to seek support. I know it can be hard to seek support or help but don’t let the idea that you shouldn’t need it be part of the challenge of asking.

If you need a reminder, a pep talk, or some sort of tool in order to remember/start/do/complete your practice, then please seek those things out and use them.

Please don’t should yourself out of making your own life a little easier.

Try to think in terms of solutions instead of whether you should need support.

Use the timer on your phone, your watch, your stove, or your computer.

Stick notes all over the place. I often write notes in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror and I frequently attach sticky notes to my kettle. I have also been known to put a sticky note on my phone, which I find hilarious – a literal note to self on my phone!

If you need a pep talk, ask your friends for one or look up pep talks on YouTube, TikTok, or on a podcast app.

If you need an accountability partner, check for online groups who are doing a similar practice to yours. Or ask on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or via text for someone to check in with you after a certain amount of time.

If your arms are strong enough to lift some weights but gripping them hurts your hands, could you wear gloves? Could you put the weight in a bag that is easier for you to lift?

If you don’t want to get on your yoga mat because it is hard to get back up off the floor, what can you use to help yourself up?

In fact, yoga can be an excellent example of how to casually allow yourself to use the supports you need. In yoga, you are supposed to meet yourself where you are today. If you can’t reach the floor with your fingertips, you put a block down and touch that instead. If you are struggling with a pose, you either adjust it to meet your needs or you use a strap, a bolster, a blanket, or a block to support your efforts.

Today’s Invitation

I know that it is hard to ask for support, even if we are just asking ourselves to use something that makes our lives easier.

This whole cultural thing we have around independence and how we should be able to operate with out support is a racket but it is a pervasive one. It keeps us all stuck and prevents us from getting the help to manage all kinds of situations.**

Today, I’m inviting you to seek and use supports for your practice, whether those supports are post-it notes or a friend to walk with you. Let yourself make your own life easier whenever possible.

And here is your gold star for today’s efforts, whatever they entail.

Your efforts matter. You matter. And it is ok for you to ask for help, to use supports, and do the things you need to do in the way that you need to do them.

Sending you ease.

a small drawing of a gold star surrounded by black dots
It occurred to me that I should try to make my star drawings connect to the topic of the day but then I noticed the word ‘should’ in that sentence. Should is always a sign that I need to reconsider. If I start trying to connect my drawings and my topic, it will box me in and make it a bit harder to do my drawing (and my writing) and that goes against my big picture plans for spaciousness. Sooooo, I’ll just stick to drawing whatever star shows up when I start moving my pen. Image description: a drawing of a gold star surrounded by tiny black dots on a white card. The edges of the card are outlined in a wavy black line and the card is resting on a black computer keyboard

*Because of how the huge variety of ADHD traits work in each individual brain, all ADHDers will have some traits in common with others and also have their own unique spin on the condition. Most of the time, my reminders, timers, and environmental shaping works for me but for other people with ADHD, these things may not work at all. Please DO NOT use me as an example of why someone else should be able to use these things effectively.

**For this post, I am generally talking about some pretty straightforward things, small supports that we can use to expand toward our new habits. But, I want to acknowledge that this same thinking trap extends in all directions and has all kinds of deep implications for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. Vulnerable and disadvantaged people are discouraged from asking for the things they need. If they do ask, they are criticized, judged, and put through all kinds of extra work and invasive questions to try and get it. And many of us with privileges and advantages are encouraged to think of this as ‘the way things are’ because we are used to the ambient sense that no one should ask for support and that becoming an independent person who can do everything on their own is the ultimate goal. Obviously, this post about supports for the practice you are building isn’t going to create social change but I didn’t want to pretend that the need for support in our society stops at a pep talk or putting a chair next to your yoga mat.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 20: You’re Worth It

Have you ever sat around feeling kind of meh about doing anything but then someone needed you and you sprang into action to help them out? Didn’t you feel less meh when you were done? Maybe kinda tired but decidedly less meh?

You probably decided to take action for them because you value them, they are important to you, and you want them to be happy and at ease. *

They are worth taking action for.

Well, Team, I’ve got some news for you: YOU are also worth taking action for.

Let’s talk about that a little.

Inertial Meh

I know it is tricky to generate internal motivation sometimes. Inertia is a powerful force.

Plans, and encouragement, and rituals can help but there will still be days when things are kind of meh.

Even if your practice is important to you. Even if you really want to do it. Even if you have the time and the capacity and the ability to do it. You still may struggle.

And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that you have given up. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ‘really’ want to build your habit. It just means that things are, well, meh, right now.

If that meh feeling compels you to rest, have at it.

But, if that meh feeling is generating thoughts like ‘This isn’t worth the effort.’ ‘I won’t bother.’ ‘Who cares if I do this?’ or ‘It’s not making any difference anyway.’ Then I want to remind you of why you are putting in the work to build a habit in the first place.

You Want Something Different

Sorry to spoiler you by putting the main point in the heading but here we are.

You want something different in your life. You want to be stronger or calmer or more flexible or to have more ease or to have less pain. And your planned practice is a path toward that new thing, that expanded self.

Yes, it takes effort. Some days are easy, some days are hard, and some days you have to take a break. But you are trending toward the difference you are trying to create.

If you knew that your effort on this meh day was going to make a difference for someone you care about, if it was going to move them in the direction of something they wanted for themselves, you would be up stretching/dancing/meditating/practicing your Taekwon-Do/doing the hokey-pokey and turning yourself around, in a heart beat.

Today’s Invitation

I’d like to invite you to treat yourself with the same kind of care and compassion.

I’d like you to consider your practice as a way to put that caring and compassion into action.

You, your well-being, your feeling of ease, your sense of satisfaction, are worth the effort to do your practice.

It may not be fun today. It may not be easy. But, like Nicole said in her post today. It can be worth it to push through.

You matter. Your efforts matter. You are worth taking care of.

It makes sense to put effort into your well-being, even when you feel meh.

And my robot friend here is offering you a gold star for your efforts today, whether your efforts were epic or whether they were about creating a tiny sliver of space in your brain for the idea that you are worth the effort you need to put in to have something different in your life.

an ink drawing of a robot holding a gold star
I don’t just draw gold stars, sometimes I like to draw a robot holding a gold star. That’s me, living on the edge over here. Image description: An ink drawing of a mostly rectangular robot with arms drawn as spirally wires. The robot is holding a gold star and smiling. The drawing is on a small white card and the card is resting on my black keyboard.

*Yes, I know this is a very positive spin here. You might also spring into action to avert disaster, to get someone to stop whining, to prevent a mess, or because you don’t want to/are unable to face the repercussions of inaction. I’m not denying or downplaying the existence of that sort of motivation but for this post I am talking about times when you’re just kind of sitting there and ANY sort of request from someone you care about can shake you out of your malaise.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 19: Create a Ritual

Do you find it hard to start new tasks or to switch from one task to another? I do.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to do the next thing. It’s that if I am already doing something it feels incredibly hard to stop. And then it feels hard to start the other thing. And all of that creates a lot of static around the task I plan to do.

I imagine that this happens to everyone sometimes. Especially if you are enjoying (or are committed to) the task at hand or if the task ahead is poorly defined.

My ADHD brain has been known to get caught in a task switching loop for ages. I might keep telling myself that I will do ‘just this last part’ of the task at hand. Or I may know that I need to start something else but I can’t quite make myself do it. The task ahead could be something I love doing or something that is very important to me, and I still struggle to start it.

Whether or not you have ADHD, I’ll be that something similar comes up for you, at least sometimes, when you are trying to practice your new habit.

Your habit may be important to you. Your action may be relatively easy. You may not even be enjoying your current activity. But you are still a victim of inertia, you still feel unable to get started.

That’s when a ritual* can come in handy.

A ritual gives you somewhere to start, an on-ramp, and it lets you see the path ahead as a series of steps instead of sheer drop into (insert ominous voice here) THAT THING YOU MUST DO.

Your ritual doesn’t have to be complex and it doesn’t have to involve anything from beyond the veil (but feel free, if that’s your sort of thing), it just has to give you a way to get started.

Let me give you an example.

Story Time!

One day last week, I was caught in a can’t-get-started loop about one of these posts. I knew what I wanted to say. I was interested in writing about it. And I knew that it had to be posted that day at 2pm EST. My brain wasn’t having it.

I tried logic-ing my way out of it but still no go. And since I couldn’t write this, my brain wouldn’t let me write anything else. So, I went to my back-up back-up plan and started to draw.

I drew a gold star, of course.

And then I realized that I could use the drawing as the star for my post.

So I took a photo and uploaded it into a draft post. And I gave the post a name. And I set up the tags and categories. And did an image description.

And, as I sat there, looking at a screen with all of the detail-oriented bits already done, it was suddenly much easier to start writing.

The next day, I started by drawing and then I went through all the same steps. I’ve used this same little ritual for 5 out of the last 6 posts. (My post for Saturday was about going easy on yourself and it was pretty easy to write, I didn’t need the ritual.)

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk to write but instead of actually writing, I was putting pencils away and tidying all the stuff on my desk. Instead of just trying to push myself to start, I actually said aloud “Oh, right! I start by drawing!” and I grabbed one the half-index cards from the box on my desk and drew a gold star and surrounded it with lines. Once that was done, I knew the next step was to take a photo.

Having the ritual doesn’t remove all the challenges of getting started but it does reduce them and there is momentum built into the process.

If you have trouble getting your practice started, having a ritual could really help.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to prepare for a time when it is hard to get started on your practice. Even if today isn’t particularly hard, it can be useful to use the ritual so it becomes part of the momentum of your practice even sooner.

So, what kinds of things could help you get started?

Could you play a specific song (or part of one) as you set up or as you do the first parts of your practice? Or could you have some specific phrases that you say to get you started?

Is there a specific piece of clothing you could put on or furniture that you could move/close/open/cover that could signal that you are getting started? Would it help to write out your practice like a checklist?

Could you make a ceremony out of putting out your mat? Or maybe light a candle or turn on a specific lamp? Would it help to tell someone else you plan to do your practice? Perhaps your ritual could involve putting on a specific TV show or podcast?

The details of the ritual will differ from person to person, of course. The important thing is that you have something that prompts your brain to accept that *this* is the time when you do your practice.

Gold Star!

Here is your gold star for your efforts today, no matter what they were.

Please be kind to yourself about the things that feel hard and celebrate the work that you have put into everything you did today.

(My ritual for writing these posts includes drawing. It doesn’t include worrying about whether the drawing is perfect. Please apply that to your own rituals and may those rituals serve you well.)

a drawing of a person perched on a stone wall lifting a gold star on to a hook hanging from the sky.
Image description: a small drawing of a long-haired person in a pink dress perched on a stone wall reaching overhead to a gold star on to a hook hanging from the sky. The drawing is on a small card that is resting against a black computer keyboard on a white desktop.

*You might prefer to call it a routine and that works marvellously. I chose ritual because I like the connotation of invoking great power and because I like the idea that people might use ritual words or movements as a starting point.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 18: Give Yourself Some Credit

I hope that you have been collecting your gold stars for your daily efforts but have you been taking a moment to really give yourself credit for your hard work?

Whenever I chat with people about their efforts to build a new habit or routine, I usually discover that they are not giving themselves enough credit for the work they are putting in and they dismiss the impact of the challenges they face to do that work.

Since I really want you to be able to recognize all of your efforts and claim your well-deserved credit, let’s have a closer look at your work and at your obstacles.

Dealing With Obstacles Takes Effort

Lots of motivation-minded people try to cheer us on by saying things like ‘we’re all in the same boat’ or ‘we all have the same 24 hours to work with.’ And then they follow that up by some comment that implies that if the reader just focused and got their act together, they too could achieve the ideal results on display.

This is bullshit, of course.

Aside from the glaring lack of awareness of the privilege on display in those phrases, no two people are living the same life or facing the same obstacles. Even people with the same size families living in the same economic conditions with the same educational background and the same basic daily routines are not facing the same challenges. From a strictly chronological sense, we have the same 24 hours in each day but in a practical sense some people have a lot to deal with minute to minute while others have a very smooth path.

You may see yourself as being ‘just like’ your friend who can easily get up at 5am for yoga and chastise yourself for not being able to do that, too. But maybe their internal clock is set to different hours than yours. Maybe their children sleep through the night. Maybe your body is structured differently than theirs and yoga isn’t accessible for you. Maybe you have early morning obligations that prevent you from focusing on yoga at that point in the day. Maybe you are dealing with all of that and your morning starts at 7 and you do a few neck stretches before plunging into your day.

Sure, from a energy burning standpoint, you have put in “less” effort with your stretches than they put into their yoga.

But from a giving-yourself-credit standpoint, you are putting in far more effort. They can roll out of bed and hop on their mat, you have to overcome a bunch of obstacles to do a few a neck stretches.

I don’t really mean to frame this as a competition but since we tend to compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking, I thought it might be useful to be at least a bit more realistic about it.

For some habits, on some days, it will be easy to do what we planned. On other days, we have an uphill battle to do our placeholder habit. That is not a failing on our part. That is a victory. And we need to give ourselves credit for that.

In fact, we also need to give ourselves credit for the days that we decide to NOT include our new habit so we can get more sleep, connect with someone important to us, or just to rest. Making that decision is a victory too. After all, we’re not building these habits for their own sake, we’re building them to enhance our experiences in our own lives.

So, instead of being hard on ourselves for doing something “less” than what someone else did, let’s give ourselves credit for the effort we put in to be able to work on our habit.

It’s Still Hard Even If You’re Used To It

And, for heaven’s sake, please object when your brain coughs up things like ‘But it has been this way for so long I should be used to it!’

That ‘should’ in there is a clue to pay close attention.

Even if you are used to things being this way, THEY ARE STILL HARD. Give yourself credit for those efforts. You are still busy. You are still spending a lot of energy just to get through your day.

Denying that is like telling an Olympic weightlifter that their weights must be light because they can lift them. The weight is objectively, measurably heavy. Most people couldn’t easily lift it. It took training and a lot of effort on the athlete’s part to reach that point and no sensible person would suggest otherwise.

The energy and effort you need to do the things required of you every day are unique. What feels easy for you is hard for someone else. What’s hard for you might seem easy for someone else.* Or it might LOOK like they find it easy but they are like the proverbial duck, floating along on the pond with their feet paddling furiously beneath.

The key here is that you give yourself credit for all the effort involved in adding your new practice to your life, even if you are used to challenges in your day to day.

Don’t pretend that the obstacles weren’t there, give yourself credit and make those obstacles part of your celebration of your efforts.

Coax yourself out of saying things like ‘I’m so worn out from getting dressed that I could only do neck stretches.’ Instead, try ‘I’m so worn out from getting dressed AND I still managed to do these neck stretches!’

It will be weird at first but I think you’ll like it over time.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to notice the challenges you are facing on your path to incorporating your practice into your life and to give yourself credit for them.

If you don’t take the time to notice these things, it can be easy to feel like you aren’t working hard enough on your practices and then you can get into a whole negative mental tangle.**

The truth is most of us have a lot of things to deal with every day and the impact of those things will vary depending on all kinds of factors. Acknowledging their impact is not making excuses or letting ourselves away with anything, it’s being realistic and choosing to have compassion for ourselves.

Here’s your gold star for your efforts today, whether those efforts are applied to your practice, to getting to your practice, to thinking about your practice or to taking the time to notice the obstacles to your practice.

You matter. Your struggles matter. Your efforts count.

A small white card with a gold star outlined in black lines rests against a black keyboard on a white desk.
Today’s gold star was fun to draw and I am mesmerized by looking at it. Image description: a small white card with a gold star drawn in the middle. The star is surrounded by black lines that outline the star at regular intervals to the edge of the paper. The card is resting against a black keyboard on a white desk.

*They might also be PRETENDING it is easy but that’s a whole other issue!

**A few years ago, I was having extra trouble focusing on my work and for some reason I decided to make a list to see what might be affecting me. I felt a bit foolish and like I was complaining too much but I made a huge list of everything that was bothering me, even in the slightest. When I looked the length of the list, I had the helpful idea to put it on a timeline. That’s when I realized that I had some challenges that I had been going on for at least 5 years that were still requiring effort at that moment, others were 2 years, 3 years, a few days, weeks or months. Some of those challenges were internal, others were things I was supporting other people through. It was incredibly enlightening and I could immediately conjure up more self-compassion than I ever had before. If your brain is crowded, you might not realize how much you are trying to handle on a day to day basis. Trying something like this could help.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 17: Keeping Perspective

A few years ago, I was doing a writing challenge that required me to write 1000 words a day. It didn’t matter what those words were – fiction, non-fiction, a journal entry – as long as I met the target for the day.

As you can tell by my chatty posts, I can pour out a lot of words in a day. That capacity increases if I can just go on about any old thing. And if you take out the need for quality and/or comprehensibility, I can churn out all kinds of half-useful nonsense at lightning speed.

After a few weeks of figuring out when to schedule my writing time/how to break my writing up into sessions, I found my rhythm and the challenge was not much of a challenge for most of the year. For months and months and months, I didn’t break the chain – I churned out 1000 words every day. Some were good, some were mediocre, some were awful, but they all counted.

And then, one day in December of that year, I forgot to write.

I was so annoyed with myself. I had time to write. I even had things to write about. I just forgot all about it.

I was complaining to my friend Nat about it. (This isn’t blog friend Nat, it’s a different delightful human. Let’s call this friend Nat the Engineer, because that’s one of the things she is.)

Nat the Engineer, being math-inclined, quickly came up with a new perspective on my frustration.

I was looking at the situation as me having broken the chain and ruined my streak of success. I wasn’t going to give up writing for the rest of the year or anything but the whole challenge felt a little tainted. I had long since gotten over the idea of aiming for perfection in my words but apparently I had been aiming for perfection in my habits without even realizing it. I was inadvertently telling myself that only 100% success would count. (Glerg.)

Luckily, Nat the Engineer came to the rescue with a reframing that looked like this:

Christine wrote for 348 days out of 349. That’s a 99.7% success rate. That’s cause for celebration.

Nat the Engineer’s perspective snapped me back to reality.

Yes, it would have been cool to be able to say that I had written every single day but saying that I had a 99.7% success rate was a whole different kind of cool.

99.7% of the time that I had tried to write, I had succeeded. That’s terrific!

Your Success Rate

If you are being kind to yourself and you have set reasonable expectations about what counts as a practice, given your current capacity, resources, and abilities, thinking in terms of success rate can be really motivating.

Sure, it’s fun when you can complete your practice every time you had planned to but life can often get in the way. Using a success rate lets you keep perspective on how many times you *could* pull it off instead of feeling like missed days have ruined everything. It keeps your focus where you need it to be.

In fact, you could even make a certain success rate into a goal and track your progress that way, if that serves you well. If you had a low success rate in a given week, you could challenge yourself to increase it a little the following week. Or if this month was rough, you could tweak a few things to see how the changes affect your success rate.

Remember, you set your own bar for success so keep it reasonable. If you are just starting out, you could make putting on your sneakers or sitting on the floor for meditation the marker for success. If you have more practice, you could choose something else that has meaning for you. Right now, I’m using the ‘cardio’ percentage of my daily steps on my Fitbit as a marker, for example.

While I know that lots of our readers will be comfortable with calculating a success rate, I also know that the idea of math makes some people’s brains freeze. To alleviate brain freeze, here’s how to calculate your success rate: take the number of times you did your practice and divide it by the number of times you had planned to do it. Multiple that answer by 100 to get your rate.

Keeping Perspective

This post is not intended to narrow your focus to one particular definition of success. And it is definitely not meant to imply that the number of complete practices is the defining metric for success.

Instead, this post is an invitation to keep perspective on your efforts by finding different ways to celebrate the things that are going well for you as you develop your practice.

When I forgot to write on that December day, one part of my brain really felt like I had messed up a whole year’s work. I kind of felt like one missed day had negated all the effort that went before. This is foolishness, of course, but you know what brains and feelings are like once they get going.

Nat the Engineer’s calculation of my success rate helped me shift my focus to my overall project.

While I had been planning to write every day, that was just the process not the actual point of the exercise. My true goal was to make writing sessions routine, ordinary, and low pressure. And looking at my success rate made me realize that all my work was adding up to that result. Even if my success rate had been 10%, I would still be 10% closer to making my writing easier.

Your success rate can point to the same thing. It can take the pressure off any given practice. AND it can remind you that all of your efforts count, even if they add just 1% to your success rate.

Here is your gold star for today’s efforts, big and small, visible and invisible. Your efforts matter. Your work counts.

And you are doing the best you can with the resources you have available.

You have a 100% success rate for showing up for yourself. Your rate for everything else will add up as you go along.

 a drawing of a gold star with a happy face on it standing on a hill made of gently curving lines.
The lighting in my office right now is making this star look copper instead of gold but it is celebratory all the same. Image description: a drawing of a gold star with a happy face on it standing on a hill made of gently curving black lines. I coloured the hill green and the sky blue using coloured pencils, the star is coloured with a gold marker, and there are asterisk stars in the sky drawn in black ink. The words Go Team! are next to the star.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 16: You’re not the problem

I’ve had a lot to say about the different kinds of challenges and obstacles we face when we try to make changes in our routines and habits. Those things will affect us all in different ways and to a different extent, of course, but I would encourage you to consider that if something is an obstacle or challenge for you, then it is a real obstacle or challenge. No matter whether you think it *should* be or not.*

Maybe you have been making tweaks and adjustments and additions to your practice as you went along and if so, that’s great! Collect your gold star for your efforts and forge ahead. Go Team!

But if you are proceeding like I usually end up doing, you have probably been trying to make your original plan work and getting frustrated because things keep going awry to various degrees. (Knowing the difference and applying for myself are two different things, Team.)

Not being able to make your plan work does NOT mean that something is wrong with you. You are having a perfectly natural response to an annoying situation. The problem isn’t you – it’s your system. And your system can be changed.

Now, to clarify, I am not suggesting that we assess our systems for any potential results.

Instead, I am inviting us all to look at our processes, find out where the glitches might be, and reshape our systems to serve us better.

I figure it’s a good idea to do this after about two weeks instead of fighting with our systems for a month or more and then making some tweaks.

(I can’t even begin to tell you how often my wonky sense of time has resulted in me suddenly becoming aware of something that has been impeding me for ages but that has a relatively easy fix.)

Sidenote:

Before I go any further, I have to remind you that we are living through a pandemic.

Don’t roll your eyes too much yet. Actually, never mind. Roll your eyes a bit. Curse if you need to. Be annoyed at me. Do what you must.

Now, back to my point.

THESE ARE NOT NORMAL TIMES.

Your usual plans, coping mechanisms, and support structures might not be in the best working order and you may not even realize it. In many ways, we have gotten used to the fact that things are weird and we are probably assuming that we have adjusted. And we have in some ways, but the ambient stress and weirdness will still be affecting us all in unpredictable ways. So if your capacity isn’t what you thought or if your stress-tolerance is off-kilter, please be kind to yourself about the whole thing. If changes, whether epic or minute, are beyond you right now, that is ok. To paraphrase a quote from one of my favourite movies that I watched as a teenager (Pump Up The Volume) – Feeling screwed up at a screwed up time in a screwed up place does not necessarily mean you are screwed up.

Increase your self-kindness accordingly. Pretty please.

System-tweaking questions to consider

Have you picked a practice that you are interested in? Or did you pick one that you thought you should do?

If you are interested in your practice but you just can’t work it into your days the way you had hoped you would, please skip to the next section.

BUT if you are trying to work on a practice because someone said you should, well, that’s an immediate source of extra friction. If you don’t care about the practice, it’s going to be really hard to add it to your days. If this practice isn’t specifically related to a health condition, is it possible for you to just drop it and choose something you want to do? If it IS related to a health condition but you hate the practice, can you figure out why it was recommended and find something else that will get you that same result? For example, if meditation has been recommended to you but you have zero interest in meditating, you will have trouble doing it. BUT if it was recommended because you need to reduce stress or practice mindfulness, then you could colour, listen to certain music, knit, or do gardening and still get those results.

What are your complaints?

When I have a new coaching client, the first thing I get them to do is to whine to me about all the things that they are having trouble with. I know that whining isn’t productive in the long run but it’s an excellent way to get all of someone’s frustrations out in the open so we can see what to work on and what bits and pieces might be connected. This process can help you figure out the glitches in your system, too. Make a big whiny list/journal entry/voice memo about the things that are frustrating you. You don’t have to add in the ‘oh but I know I should be grateful’ or the ‘I know they are doing their best’ caveats that we usually add when we complain aloud because you know all that and that stuff is beside the point right now.

Once you have that list, you can see (or hear) the things that are gumming up the works for you. Maybe your mornings are actually busier than you thought so morning yoga can’t be a thing right now. Maybe you fall asleep if you try to meditate at night. Perhaps your sister always calls when you try to walk lunch time and you don’t don’t enjoy talking while you walk. Maybe you hate facing those lunges first thing in your strength training. Maybe using your phone as your alarm clock means that you get drawn into texting late at night and you can’t get the sleep you need.

None of these things are a moral failure on your part. None of them show a lack of dedication. None of them show any problem with YOU as a person.

What they show is that you have competing priorities and that you are juggling a lot of different things.

So, your solution doesn’t lie in trying to work harder or ‘be better.’ The solution lies in finding a system that fits into your life as it is right now.

Sure, as we add new habits we will be adjusting our lives bit by bit but those adjustments start from working with what we have right now, not from pretending things are different and judging ourselves when we can’t meet impossible standards.

What needs to change? How can I change it?

Now that you have identified the kinds of things that are getting in your way and you have eliminated the possibility that you have some sort of inherent flaw that prevents you from establishing this habit…

Wait. You have eliminated that possibility, right?

You are NOT flawed.

We all HAVE flaws and imperfections and unfortunate habits and counterproductive responses and so on but we are not FLAWED. We aren’t BROKEN. We are doing the best we can with the resources we have right now. YOU are doing the best you can with the resources you have right now.

You can and will change and grow over time. You can learn to adjust your habits and responses and approaches. You can expand your resources and your capacity and firm up your boundaries. All of those things are possible but NONE of them mean you are broken or bad or flawed now.

Ok, rant over. (If you think that was weird, you should see that rant in person. There’s flailing and dramatic sighs and imploring looks, the whole she-bang. It’s a production.)

Anyway, since we are putting aside the whole notion of you as the problem, we can look at the the actual problems and seek solutions.

You can brainstorm all kinds of ideas for how to make things work more smoothly for yourself and you can experiment to see what works.

Meanwhile, for me, the solution to my challenges often has its roots in the challenge itself. Maybe it is the same for you?

For example, if you are falling asleep in meditation at night you could start by asking yourself if that actually is a problem. Maybe it’s not the perfect meditation you envisioned but it is clearly helping you relax. If that doesn’t reframing doesn’t sit well with you, perhaps you can start your meditation a littler earlier, or do it an a different time of the day, or consider walking meditation.

If your phone as alarm clock is preventing your sleep plans and you are straining your willpower to avoid text chats, can you get a separate alarm clock? Can you put your phone in sleep mode? Can you get an app that shows the time but blocks notifications?

Once you take ‘I am the problem’ out of the equation, it usually becomes much easier to brainstorm other solutions.

And keep in mind that sometimes the solution is ‘This habit is not something that’s important/available to me right now.’ There are lots of great things that help you feel good, help you be kind to yourself, and that enhance your life and your days, if this one isn’t right for right now, that’s totally ok.

Gold Star Time!

As always, here is your gold star for your efforts, whether those efforts are big or small, consistent or erratic, they all count.

Maybe today’s gold star if for your commitment to tweaking your systems all along, maybe it is for being like me and only remembering to tweak things when prompted, or maybe it is for giving yourself just a little space to consider that you are not broken.

Either way, I celebrate you and your efforts. Go Team Us!

Bonus stars for reading this long, long post: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An ink drawing of a gold star with variously shaped and coloured ribbons and lines extending from behind it.
Did this drawing go as planned? It did not. Am I rolling with it all the same? Of course! Image description: A drawing on a small white card that is resting on a dark green surface. The drawing features a large gold star with various shapes of ribbons and lines extending out from behind it. some ribbons end in inverted V shapes, another ends in a heart, another in a circular shape, and some lines just have dots or circles on either side. The card background is covered in gold speckles.

*For example, if all of your socks are too tight on your ankles when you sit in meditation and you find that distracting, telling yourself that you *shouldn’t* be distracted won’t help. All that *should* will do is add a kind of frustration or shame to an already distracting situation. You’ll end up pouring energy into trying to correct your feelings or perception when you could just take off your socks and put a blanket over your feet while you meditate.

About the Go Team! posts

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 15: Go Easy On Yourself

Hey Team,

I had my booster shot yesterday and I’m feeling under the weather so today’s post will just be a short invitation to go easy on yourself.

Not every day needs to be epic.

Not every workout or every practice has to push you to your limits.

Resting, recovering, and taking good care of yourself is just as important as focused work on your new habits.

And a gentle, kind, encouraging inner monologue will serve you better than a harsh, judgemental one.

Here are some gold stars for for your efforts today, whether you are in work mode, in rest mode, or in figuring-it-all out mode.

Please be kind to yourself.

A string of lights shaped like gold stars.
Image description: A string of lit gold star-shaped lights sitting on my white shelf.

And if you need a booster shot of encouragement, perhaps you might like to check out this Go Team! post from last year: Give It Your Some

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 14: What can you notice?

When I was doing yesterday’s video from Yoga with Adriene’s current series ‘Move’ and she reminded us to pay attention to HOW we were moving I suddenly realized that I have a lot more mobility in my upper back that I did when I started the series.

It has only been 12 days of practice so I wasn’t expecting any results yet. I doubt that there’s any visible change in my movements or my mobility but something good is definitely happening. And if Adriene hadn’t prompted me to notice, I may not have felt that extra mobility right at the base of my neck.

That feeling, in turn, prompted me to notice a few more differences in my movements. My ankles are moving with slightly more ease. It’s a little easier for me to go deeper into downward dog. All kinds of small differences that I hadn’t recognized until I was prompted to notice.

So, I wanted to prompt you to notice some small things about your practice today.

Is there anything different about how you are sitting in meditation? How does your body feel while you are there? Are your thoughts behaving any differently?

If you have a physical practice, have you noticed any differences in your movements or in your strength? You probably aren’t breaking any world records at this point but I’ll bet some things feel a bit easier or more natural or at least little less hard.

If you are trying to rest more or to be more mindful, can you notice any difference in the details of your practice?

If you are at the ‘trying to figure things out’ stage, have you noticed any softening around your concept of what would be useful to do? Or around your steps toward clearing time or space for your planned routines? Is your brain starting to maybe, perhaps, kind of, work its way around to considering the idea of making a low-key plan?

It’s worth your time and energy to notice any and all changes that you are experiencing.

This is part of focusing on the process of change rather than on a specific result. Noticing and celebrating positive changes (or noticing and adjusting things that aren’t working) lets you be more in charge of your routines (notice that I didn’t say in control!) and shifts your focus away from a distant future and into what’s happening today.

Noticing lets you celebrate every stage of expanding your comfort zone.**

It lets you enjoy even the smallest difference in your capacity, ability, or strength.

And even though your efforts ALWAYS count, having a little bit of evidence can really reinforce that message.

So, Team, today, I invite you to notice even the smallest of changes and celebrate them.

Whether you sat for an extra second of meditation before checking the timer, or you took one extra step, or your outstretched fingers are one iota closer to your toes. Or if your hips are more comfortable when you sit down, or you have a little more energy in the afternoon, or you feel a bit calmer behind the wheel. It all matters, it all counts, and it is all worth noticing.

To celebrate your small efforts, your small victories, and your small changes, here are three small gold stars that I drew earlier today. I had so much fun with yesterday’s burst of creativity that I decided to give it another whirl today.

A small ink drawing of three stacks of coloured shapes on strings with a gold star at the end of each one. The background is white with green dots.
Apparently, these drawings on strings are called dangles, which I think is a fun name for them. Image description: A drawing I made of three gold stars on individual strings. Each star has a small stack of shapes on top of it, an orange triangle, a purple square, and a red circle, in a different order. The background is white speckled with green.

*I like to consider myself as expanding my comfort zone rather than stepping outside of it. I know it is really a matter of semantics but word choice matters (it matters A LOT to me.) The idea of expanding my zone of comfort has a lot more appeal than being forced outside of that zone. I can tolerate discomfort in the name of growth but I sure as hell don’t want to be told that I have to leave all comfort behind in the process. Your mileage may vary so feel free to expand your comfort zone or to step outside if it, whichever works for you!

About the Go Team! posts:

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 13: Give yourself the things you need to feel good

For 30 minutes this morning and 30 minutes this afternoon, I met two halves of a Grade 3 class online. I told them a story* about how feeling like yourself helps you access your power and then I led them through an activity to create a list of things that make them feel like themselves.

My basic premise in my workshop is that while we all have a variety of skills and abilities, it is very hard to access them when you are don’t feel like yourself and you can end up feeling pretty powerless. So we want to figure out ways to feel like ourselves even when we are overwhelmed or feeling weird or we can’t follow our usual routines (say, during a pandemic, for example.)

And, as usual, focusing on explaining these ideas to someone else reminded me of ways that I needed to apply them in my own life.

Last year, one of my Go Team! posts was about giving yourself the things you need to make your habit work.

I still want to encourage you to do the sorts of things I suggested in that post – setting reminders, getting kneepads for yoga, whatever works. AND I want to encourage you to think about the other kinds of things you might need, activities, objects, habits, and support that help you to feel like yourself and to be able to make good use of your personal power.

It feels a bit weird to be using the word power that way, like I am trying to be a self-help guru shouting at you about personal empowerment so I am going to explain a little further. A therapist once explained to me that we all have a variety of skills that use to get through situations we encounter and we store them until we need them. It’s a bit like having things on shelves in the basement, ready for when we need them. However, when we get anxious or overwhelmed or end up in the grip of a challenging emotion, it is like the basement floods. The tools are still there but we can’t quite get to them.

When I’m talking about power in this post, I’m not talking about roaring at ourselves in the mirror or viewing ourselves as superheroes. I’m talking about the everyday power we have, our skills and abilities, our capacity, our feeling of well-being. When we don’t feel like ourselves, for any reason, it is harder to use our skills, to access our abilities, to figure out our capacity or to find a sense of equilibrium.

When we don’t have access to those things, it’s extremely difficult to add new habits or to adjust to new routines and there is a real risk that we will be hard on ourselves about our inability to do so.

So, we want to do whatever we can to maximize our access to our power and that means, in part, giving ourselves the things we need to feel good, to feel like ourselves.

For me, that means things like practicing my Taekwon-do patterns even though we can’t have class right now. It means choosing to have tea in my favourite mug. It means drawing and reading and taking the dog for a walk. Giving myself all of those things, even if I have to alter them slightly for time or circumstances, makes me feel like myself. When I feel like myself, I can more easily use my existing skills, and I have more patience with myself as I a develop new practices.

I hope you can consider what sorts of things you need to feel like yourself and that you can provide them for yourself in some form, as soon as possible.

Note: Meanwhile, if you are dealing with an especially stressful or difficult situation right now, also consider pausing the habit-building until things ease off. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone and you don’t have to take on a new habit just because it is January or just because you thought you would try it now. Please be kind to yourself.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I invite you to consider the things YOU need to feel like yourself and to feel a bit more in charge of your habit-building and of your day-to-day.

What do you need to feel more like yourself? Do you have some anchor activities that can help ground you? Like drinking from a specific mug, doing things in a particular order, or taking a break at a specific time?

What do you need to be able to include your habit building in your current routine? Do you need some of the straightforward adjustments like reminders and specific clothes that I suggested last year? Do you need specific support to make your routine work?

Drawing is one of the things I do to feel like myself, so I decided that I would draw today’s gold star and enjoy the little burst of creative energy that came with that process.

I am offering this gold star to you in celebration of your efforts today, no matter what they are.

I hope you feel like yourself and I hope your habit-building process is working well for you, whether you are starting out or well-underway.

I wish you ease.

a small drawing of a gold star, gold dots, and the words 'Go Team'
Image description: a small drawing of a gold star surrounded by gold dots with text reading ‘Go Team!’ at the top. The edge of the paper is outlined in black and the paper itself is sitting on an orange surface.

*The story in question is a version of Lady Sif’s Golden Hair that I have reshaped to emphasize specific aspects and to highlight Sif’s power instead of making her just a plot point.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 12: Go ahead and grumble

I have said a lot so far about adjusting your practices to meet your needs. I’ve invited you to change or drop anything that doesn’t serve you or that makes you avoid your planned sessions. And I fully stand behind those statements. If you have discovered that you hate the activities that you had hoped would lead you to your goals, then I think it is perfectly fine to adjust them or ditch them.

And, I also think that it is ok to go ahead and grumble through activities or parts of activities that you hate if they aren’t causing you distress/if they don’t make you avoid your practice.

You don’t have to love every part of your workout. You don’t have to be excited to sit in meditation. You don’t need to make every wellness activity into a party.

It’s possible to take actions that will move you toward something that is important to you without making them fun or appealing. You can just do them and check them off your list. Finding fun approaches can make it easier to take those actions but progress does not always require passion.*

I like finding the fun as much as the next person and I often need to make things extra appealing so my ADHD brain can be convinced to do them. Sometimes, however, it’s easier and more straightforward to just trudge ahead through the task at hand. There’s a time and place for both/either, and you can choose the one that serves you best in the moment.

Tangential anecdote that I probably shared before but I am going to share again anyway: Even though I am strongly pro-fun, I have a long history of resisting the idea that everything has to be fun. When I was a Girl Guide in the 80s, one of the Guide laws (at the time) was ‘A Guide smiles and sings, even under difficulty.’ and I HATED that idea. It was bad enough that I might be facing difficulty but the idea that I would have to pretend everything was ok and smile and sing through it? I WAS NOT HAVING IT. I appreciate the sentiment behind it, that a positive attitude can be really helpful in many situations but my super-charged-idea-generating brain immediately presented (and still presents) me with multiple ways that that phrasing could be used against me. I decided that while I would say the law aloud as written, in my head I would consider the law to be ‘If you can’t smile, then just try not to throw up.’ That version worked much better for me, and still does. One of the lessons you can draw from this anecdote is that, yes, I have always been like this. 😉

And you don’t HAVE to have a good attitude while you trudge your activities, either. Sure, a positive attitude can be useful in many situations. And you’ll want to choose who you grumble to/with but you can be, to borrow a local expression, ‘as crooked as sin’ (translation: extremely cranky) and still finish your workout. Stubbornness and being crooked as sin can get you through the hard parts of your practice just as much as smiling and singing will get you through other parts.

a black tank top with white lettering that reads 'I won't quit but I will cuss the whole time.'  The top is displayed on a brown wooden floor.
This is a sentiment that I often employ when I am unenthusiastic about the task ahead. Go on and ask my sparring partner Kevin how often I tell him that I won’t quit but I will curse the whole time. Image description: a screen capture from Etsy shop WithLoveByJessJames of a black tank top with white lettering that reads ‘I won’t quit but I will cuss the whole time.’ The top is displayed on a brown wooden floor.

As you know, my whole coaching schtick is about being kind to yourself while you reshape the bits of your life that cause you unwanted friction. Part of being kind to yourself is recognizing that your life won’t be perfect and you will react differently to various ups and downs – sometimes you will smile and sing under difficulty, sometimes you will make changes so the situation is easier or more palatable, and sometimes you will decide to forge ahead even when you are as crooked as sin and cursing the whole time.

You already have lots of bits and pieces of your life that you do because they need to be done or they serve you well in some way. You don’t worry about your attitude toward a lot of those things because it is kind of beside the point.

Take flossing your teeth, for example. It’s a task that needs to be done but you don’t need to do it perfectly every time. You don’t need to be happy about it and you don’t need to make it fun, you just need to find a way to make sure it happens. Whether that involves creating an enjoyable environment for flossing or cursing your way through the process is your business, you can do whatever works for you in that moment.

Your practices for well-being work the same way.

If you find yourself dreading or avoiding your practice, make adjustments, ditch something, or make it more fun. If you just hate or lack enthusiasm for some parts, you don’t have to learn to love them, you can just do them and curse the whole time.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I am inviting you to go ahead and grumble about anything you don’t like about the process of building your habits. Just be kind to yourself about your grumbling.

Not enjoying every part doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your practice is wrong for you, it just means that you don’t enjoy everything equally. You’ll know the difference between dreading and disliking and you can choose your path accordingingly.

And, as always, here’s your gold star to celebrate your efforts today, whether you are smiling, singing, cursing, or just trying not to throw up while you do them.

This is the eraser on my whiteboard and even though she is smiling, she doesn’t think that you have to smile. In fact, she just glad you are showing up for yourself in whatever form you are choosing today. And she is in favour of cursing the whole time if that’s what serves you best.

a whiteboard eraser shaped like a smiling star emoji is attached to a partially erased whiteboard.
This is the eraser on my whiteboard. I like how the smile is a bit smirky and the expression is a bit tentative but she has shown up in full gold-starriness all the same. She is okay with you being crooked as sin, she still wants to celebrate your efforts today. Image description: a whiteboard eraser shaped like a yellow smiling star emoji is attached to a partially erased whiteboard.

*This kind of reminds me of this writing advice from A.J. Liebling: “The only way to write is well and how you do it is your own damn business.” It’s your own damn business how you approach your practices as long as they serve you well.

About the Go Team! posts:

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.