fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 31: Leap, Forge, or Trudge Ahead

Here we are at Day 31!

We’ve made it all the way through January and we’ve kept returning to our plan to expand our lives by building a new habit.

Maybe you have been diligently doing your practice exactly as planned.

Maybe you are still figuring out how to start or even what to start.

Maybe you are somewhere in the middle with some successes and some challenges and a few starts and stops.

All of those variations on habit-building are perfectly ok.

Yes, the person who could follow their plan diligently might be ‘ahead’ of the person who is still figuring things out but that’s only a technicality. Those two people aren’t in a race, their efforts can’t really be compared – they are two different people with two different backgrounds living two different lives.

They each have to find their own way forward and both of their efforts matter.

Sure, it is frustrating when all of your efforts are about getting to the mat and (as far as you can tell, at least) someone’s else’s efforts don’t really start until they step on to the mat. But your efforts to get to the mat count, even if they are invisible so far. Those efforts WILL pay off over time because you will be building a practice that works for you, whatever form that may take.

I’d rather see you figure out how to celebrate your efforts, to accept your gold stars, and to keep building your own practice, to recognize where you are in your own story, instead of letting frustration deter you. I know that working around the frustration requires effort in itself, it’s not easy, but it can be done and I believe that you can do it.

It seems a bit silly but one of the most powerful tools I employ when I am frustrated is the word yet. In fact, I wrote a whole post about it last year: Say Yet (that’s not a typo)

Ok, to be completely accurate, first I fume and stomp and complain a bit and when that initial annoyance has settled, then I get into my yets.

‘I can’t land the kick in that pattern…yet.’

‘I can’t keep my balance on my right foot in tree pose…yet.’

I haven’t been able to stretch after lunch…yet.’

Like I said in last year’s post linked above, the word yet adds an element of possibility, the idea that my capacity for that skill can grow, that I may be able to do it in the future.

Using ‘yet’ helps me remember that I might be in the beginning or the middle of my story instead of the end.

So, what’s next?

This is my last Go Team! post in this series and I have enjoyed showing up each day to remind you to be kind to yourself as you do your practices and build your habit. It’s been fun to explore my ideas around how to encourage you and I hope that you have been collecting your gold stars for your efforts throughout the month.

I won’t be posting daily from now on but I will create a Go Team post once a month to remind you that your efforts matter.

I have no way to know where you are in your practice and how you plan to continue from here but I want to remind you that leaping, forging, or trudging ahead are all valid ways to proceed.

And so is resting while you recover or while you figure things out. And it’s also valid to change direction based on new information, new plans, or because you want something different than you thought you did.

However you are proceeding, please default to self-kindness in the process.

You are doing the best you can with the resources you have and that is something to be celebrated.

Speaking of which, here is your gold star for today and with this star, I celebrate you – your efforts, your ideas, your plans, your detours, the things you have figured out and the things that you are still uncovering.

You matter. What you want matters. Your efforts matter.

Your hard work counts.

GO TEAM!

 A small painting of a gold star with black trim that has the words Go Team! written in black in the middle. The star is surrounded by multicoloured dots and speckles
Is this perfect? No. Did it turn out like I envisioned? Also no. Does it still do what I need it to? Hell, yes. That all seems fitting, doesn’t it? Image description: A small painting of a gold star with black trim that has the words Go Team! written in black in the middle. The star is surrounded by dots and speckles in red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, green, and black on a white background. Some of the dots and speckles are smeared. The painting is resting on a black computer keyboard.

Need a reminder to be kind to yourself while you keep building your habits?

You can see all of my Go Team! posts from this January, last January and throughout 2021 by clicking this link: Go Team! and I have linked all of this year’s posts (except this one!) below:

January 1: New Year, Same You

January 2: Go Easy

January 3: Pick a Time

January 4: Consistency Beats Perfection

January 5: Or Something Better

January 6: Beyond Compare

January 7: Focus on what you CAN do today

January 8: Powerful Attention

January 9: Feelings: Part 1

January 10: Feelings: Part 2 of 3

January 11: Feelings: Part 3 of 3

January 12: Go Ahead and Grumble

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

January 14: What can you notice?

January 15: Go easy on yourself

January 16: You’re not the problem

January 17: Keeping Perspective

January 18: Give yourself some credit

January 19: Create a ritual

January 20: You’re worth it

January 21: Support Systems

January 22: Encourage Yourself

January 23: When your some is your all

January 24: What if you always dread your practice?

January: 25: Who (else) is on your team?

January 26: Remember the basics

January 27: Stories (Part 1 of 3: the story of these posts)

January 28: Your Internal Story (Part 2 of 3)

January 29: Your Story Arc (Part 3 of 3)

January 30: Match your expectations to your capacity

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 30: Match your expectations to your capacity

A lot of goal-setting advice includes a reminder to be realistic about your goals, to ensure that you are choosing something that you will actually be able to do.

That’s useful advice but it’s something I have always struggled with* because it was hard for me to figure out what is a realistic result for the practice I am trying to build.

Yet, I know that there is value in being to be able to measure your progress and to feel like your hard work is leading somewhere.

So that’s why I started advising people to match their expectations to their efforts and, later, I refined that advice to ‘Match your expectations to your capacity.’ It’s still not exactly what I want to say but it is closer.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged in the process of building a new habit. It’s even easier to get discouraged if your expectations are completely out of whack with your capacity for working on that habit.

And I think this is compounded by the fact that advice for beginners and advice for experienced exercisers often gets jumbled when you try to do some research. Add in the fact that people have different skills, abilities, schedules and capacity for adding new habits to their lives and it becomes even more of a challenge.

So, what I’m saying if you have trouble setting realistic goals or if you expectations for progress are out of proportion to your current capacity, it is completely understandable. It is not your fault.

But let’s try to bring your expectations closer to your reality so you can stay encouraged and see your progress.

Side note: You’ll see lots of advice out there about how you need to practice a certain number of minutes a day or work at a certain level in order to be healthy or fit. Leaving aside the issue of how ‘healthy’ or ‘fit’ might be defined in those cases, that advice might not be useful for you, yet. If you are starting out with fitness/meditation or if you are starting something that’s new for you, those numbers may not be relevant. Obviously, it’s ok to try it out and see if it works for you but if you find that it takes too much time/energy or that it leaves you discouraged, start waaaaaaay smaller. It makes much more sense to consistently do 2 minutes of practice twice a week and build that up over time than it does to try something intense for a week and then have to abandon it.

Connecting Capacity and Expectations

I hope that after a month of posts, I have started to convince that it is ok to start where you are and gradually expand your practice, working past obstacles and challenges, living your own story, until you have made the changes you want to make in your life.

In fact, it is more than ok, it’s literally the only possible way to do it.

That being said, if you are doing small practices and building up, then you aren’t going to get the same results as someone who can put hours into their practice.

On the one hand, that’s obvious. But on the other, it’s a comparison trap that is easy to fall into. Particularly since people may not often share the small practice stage of their progress. We’re more likely to see someone who has already built up a certain level of fitness, or someone whose schedule allows long practices start to share about their ‘fitness journey’ without realizing the difference between their capacity and ours.

The way around that comparison is not about trying to practice above your current capacity, it’s about adjusting your expectations. (And probably your timeline)

If you can exercise for 10 minutes of exercise a day right now, it wouldn’t be reasonable to sign up for an hour-long road race at the end of the month (unless you are just planning to do part of it!) It wouldn’t be fair to put that pressure on yourself and you’d probably end up frustrated and disappointed. It would be better to connect your capacity with your expectations and plan to time your speed on a shorter walk (maybe with a friend) as a measure of your progress. You can save the road race for your future self when you have a larger capacity for training.

If you are currently building your capacity for sitting up unassisted a few minutes at time, it wouldn’t be reasonable to sign yourself up for a tabletop board game tournament this weekend. Unless they have appropriate accommodations in place, you’d probably have to sit up for longer than you are ready for right now so that wouldn’t be a good measure of your progress. Instead, it might make sense to plan to play a game for a short period of time in a place where you can accommodate your need to alter your position regularly.

If you are building your habit with small practices and short sessions, it will be far more encouraging if you choose a benchmark that relates to where you are right now than if you choose a standard marker that is unrelated to your capacity.

Any practice you CAN do right now is valuable and it will lead you where you want to go.

If your capacity is limited right now, you may move slowly but you will still get there, on your own schedule.

Just be kind to yourself and align your expectations accordingly.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I invite you to consider whether you have been asking too much of yourself.

Is the progress you were hoping to see aligned with the practices you have the capacity to do?

If you find that you were using a measurement that doesn’t match your capacity, please adjust the measurement instead of judging your capacity. Your capacity will expand over time, one way or another, but there is no need to let misaligned expectations to make you feel bad about your current abilities.

And here, as always, is your gold star for your efforts today. No matter what they were.

Your efforts count. Your hard work matters.

YOU MATTER.

Please be kind to yourself.

a drawing of a gold star surrounded by a variety of patterns drawn in black ink and coloured with coloured pencils.
Image description: a drawing of a gold star surrounded by a variety of meditative drawing patterns. Each pattern is drawn in black ink and then coloured with colouring pencils. (I call colouring pencils leads but apparently that’s a regional thing and many people wouldn’t know what I was referring to. Language is weird, isn’t it?)

*I don’t know if this is an ADHD thing or just a being-a-person thing (I’ve always had ADHD so all my being-a-person things have an ADHD layer to them) but I rarely know what is a realistic result for one of my fitness plans. And that’s part of the reason that I tend to hang out in the create systems/choose a time-based practice area of habit-building and I try to trust that my practice will bring me closer to the changes I want.

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 29: Your Story Arc (Part 3 of 3)

So far in this series, I’ve written about the story of me recognizing that my initial plans were a big project, not just a single post and I’ve written about how your internal stories can affect you, your practice, and your habit-building process. Today, our project is to consider the arc of your habit-building story.

I’m not going to drag us into a debate about the application/validity of hero/heroine myths and I am not going to get into all the possible variations on stories because we would be here all week. For the sake of my time, your time, and the utility of this comparison, I’m going to choose some parameters for our discussion.

The Story Parameters

When we are asked what a story is about, the knee-jerk reaction is to think of story in terms of plot – the series of events that happen. I prefer the definition that says a story is really about how the characters change in response to the events in the plot.*

Of course, those changes will only make sense if the plot follows an arc of some kind. And while there are many variations about what goes in what part, the most pervasive arc is the one we are probably most familiar with – a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In the beginning, characters and settings are introduced and the current ‘normal’ is established and then disrupted in some way. In the middle, tension rises as the characters are reacting/responding/trying to adjust to the disruption. At the end, the characters have come to terms with the disruption, they have made changes or have been changed in response to it, and they establish (or start to establish) their next normal. **

The Analogy

If you think of the habit you are building in terms of a story, you are choosing the disruption in your ‘normal’ but it can still play out in a similar way.

Beginning: Recognizing your normal and deciding that it needs to expand to include a new habit. Figuring out what your character (i.e. YOU) is like – What you will enjoy doing or be able to do to build your new habit. Identifying your setting – Where and when will your practice take place? Do you need to change anything in your ‘normal’ setting to facilitate this?

Middle: Figuring out ways to make this disruption (your practice) work for you by exploring/working through the various challenges/obstacles/setbacks/victories/self-discoveries that arise as you respond to your practice.

End: You have responded/adjusted to the disruption and now your practice is part of your next normal. Challenges may still arise with the practice (you may take on a new disruption/practice) but, even if you revisit what you learned in this habit story, those challenges/new practices will be part of a new story.

Alternatively, the story of your habit building might end when you decide that this is not the right story for you. Sometimes, the things you explore in the middle of the story help you to realize that you don’t want the ‘next normal’ that this story is leading you to. In that case, you can take the story in a different direction towards a new end or you can take the lessons of your current tale and start a new one.

The Questions

One of the first useful things about using a story as an analogy is that you can recognize that there are different stages in your process and that there will be specific situations and feelings that will arise in each one.

When you read, listen, or watch a story, you don’t expect to have the same information or the same feelings at each stage in the tale. The same is true when you are building your habits.

The way that you feel as you are discovering things at the beginning is different than how you feel as you are meeting challenges or finding victories in the middle. It’s okay to feel differently about different points in the story of your practice.

What part of your story are you in?

And I think that one of the reasons that habit-building can be so frustrating is that we often don’t realize what part of the story we are in.

For example, if you haven’t been thinking of your habit-building in terms of a story, you might be trying to rush your progress. Once you have made a plan and done some practice, you might think you have everything sorted out and things will be easy from here. If you are in that mindset and an obstacle pops up, you will be extremely frustrated and you will probably give the obstacle more meaning than it deserves. You might see it as a sign that you haven’t been working hard enough or that you chose the wrong practice.

However, if you have thought of your habit-building process as story, you’d recognize that the plan and the first part of your practice is only the beginning of the story. You’d be expecting the challenges and the required adjustments that come next. I think it would be a lot easier on your brain if instead of thinking ‘Oh, this challenge means I messed up.’ you could think ‘Oh, I’ve reached the challenge stage! How can I adapt to meet this first one?’

I don’t mean to imply that thinking of the process as a story will make every adjustment easy but knowing that challenges are an expected part of the process will make it easier to be kind to yourself as you adjust. You have no reason to blame yourself for obstacles since they crop up for everyone who is trying to create a habit-building story.

What are you feeling right now?

And, it is good to know that the feelings that you have at every part of the story are perfectly normal. While your feelings may run the gamut at any stage, and those feelings are all OK, there are specific things that are typical of different parts of your story. You’ll feel a mix of hope, confusion, anticipation, and overwhelm at the beginning, the middle will be a mix of victories, frustrations, and maybe even anger/the desire to quit, and the end will include pride, excitement, positivity, and maybe some regret.

If you are feeling very frustrated, it might be a comfort to know that that means you are probably in the middle of your story and that you are learning to adapts to the challenges. You don’t have to stay in this story, of course, but the frustration is not automatically a sign that you have chosen the wrong practice.

If you reach the end of your habit-building story and you are feeling some regret, that’s perfectly normal too. Sometimes our stories include regret that we didn’t try this earlier, regret that we took a longer path, or a feeling like regret, a kind of sadness, about finishing something that we have worked on for so long. Those feelings all make sense and we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about them. Since we know that those feelings can crop up at the end of a story, we can recognize and accept them instead of pouring energy into trying to fight them.

Are you trying to rush the story along?

It’s natural to want to rush your habit-building story along. I’m sure that’s why the training sequences in movies are almost always include a montage – we just want to zip through the challenging bits and get to the skills and the muscles.

But sadly, we can only see our own montage when we look back.

The story of how we built our habits has to happen in real time, there’s no other way to do it.

We have to figure out our beginning, address the challenges in the middle, and then enjoy our next normal at the end. It’s not possible to do things in a different order when it comes to establishing our wellness practices.

So, if you haven’t been able to figure out your practice yet, you are probably just at the beginning of your story. If you seem to be facing a bunch of challenges, you are likely in the middle. Even though it would be great to jump ahead, it’s probably easier on your brain and on your body if you don’t.

After all, you can’t face the challenges in the middle of your story until you have the information from the beginning. You can’t have the expansion you seek at the end if you haven’t gone through the changes and growth in the middle.

Your story won’t be complete if you haven’t changed in response to your experiences.

Try to remind yourself that the work you are putting in at this stage is an important part of your story and, even if you can’t see the progress yet, you are, indeed, moving toward your satisfying conclusion.

The growth you seek comes from the process of experiencing the whole story.

The Invitation

Today, I invite you to consider yourself as the main character in your own story.

You may be at the beginning of that story, somewhere in the middle, or you may have the end in sight, but all of those stages are valid and valuable and it is ok to feel however you feel about them.

Please be kind to yourself as you consider where you are now, how far you have come, and the parts of the story that lie ahead.

No matter which stage you are at, your effort counts and your hard work matters.

You matter.

Here is your gold star for your efforts today, no matter what they might be

A small painting of a gold star hanging in the window of a house with orange siding.
Hmm, I had no idea my computer keyboard was so dusty! I could edit this photo or I could start over with a new one but I’ve decided to choose progress over perfection and just go with this. Image description: a small painting of a gold star hanging in the window of a house with orange siding. The painting is sitting on my (apparently quite dusty) computer keyboard.

*I think I first encountered this approach in a Lisa Cron book but I’ve seen so many variations of it now that I can’t be sure. I do love her work though.

**I heard the phrase ‘next normal’ in a John Green podcast (possible Anthropocene Reviewed) a while ago and I just love it. Forget ‘new’ normal, NEXT normal includes a great sense that we aren’t getting back to anything, we aren’t creating a new constant state, we are part of something that will continue to change.

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 28: Your Internal Story (Part 2 of 3)

Note: Get a cup of tea or a glass of water before reading, this is an especially long one.

What kind of stories do you tell yourself on a regular basis?

I’m not talking about the fairy tales or TV episodes or mystery novels you might read or watch on a regular basis, although those stories are useful, too. I’m referring to the ways you create a story about who you are and what you are like. How you make things make sense for yourself when things happen to you. How you explain to yourself why you did certain things or why you did them in a certain way.

You may not think of those types of thoughts as stories but framing them that way can help you see them more clearly AND it can help you learn to reshape the ones that don’t serve you well.*

A lot of the time, these stories are automatic and almost subconscious. And they are usually a mix of things people told us, things we picked up for ourselves, and little bits of information we stitched together to explain something. We throw all of that stuff together, often uncritically, and then use it as a guideline to proceed – choosing our actions and activities based on that information.

My (old) Internal Story

I am not a naturally sporty person and my family is not particularly sporty so while I did lots of climbing and running and other little kid things when I was small, I didn’t get a lot of practice playing sports or doing things that would train my body and mind to work well together. I wasn’t always the last one to be picked in gym class but I was definitely in the last few. I struggled with understanding the rules of games in gym and I often took them too literally so it frequently seemed to me that the rules were unevenly applied. My efforts to try and figure out what was going on tended to lead to me being told that I wasn’t a good sport, that I was uptight, and that I really needed to learn to ‘roll with the punches.’**

I was often told not to worry about my physical skills, or lack thereof, because I was smart so I didn’t need to be good at sports. (Let’s all just roll our eyes right here at yet another pointless binary in our world) I began to think of my body as just a carrying case for my brain.

My internal story was that I wasn’t good at sports or ‘things like that,’ I wasn’t coordinated, and I was a bad sport. So, I definitely didn’t try to get involved in any sort of group sports where I would be letting the team down with my lack of skill and causing a disruption by being a bad sport. And even when I wanted to try a new fitness practice on my own, I struggled because when I hit one of the setbacks that are inevitable with learning a new thing I didn’t have the experience to know that it was part of the process. Instead, I would fall back on my internal story that I just wasn’t good at these things.

I didn’t realize that I was dealing with an internal story. I thought I was dealing in facts.

I did keep trying fitness things that appealed to me but when things went awry I added more details to the story of ‘Christine isn’t good at this.’

My internal story started to change when I read Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset‘ and realized that part of the issue was how I was approaching learning new things.

Then, I started Taekwon-do with my son. I felt like I was terrible at it but my instructors didn’t seem to think so and I trusted them. (Now I can see that I wasn’t terrible, I was just doing my techniques with an appropriate level of skill for a white belt.)

And, eventually, I was diagnosed with ADHD and realized how it had been affecting me my whole life. Including things like struggling to understand rules and how to put them into practice. And finding it challenging to start and continue new practices.

And because I was learning about storytelling at the same time as all of this, I realized that my internal information was a story I was telling myself.

And as every writer and storyteller knows, stories can be revised.

I’m not going to pretend that that realization wiped away all of the challenges and everything has been easy ever since. However, recognizing that I was working with a story helped me to proceed differently.

I was open to learning that my ADHD made it challenging for me to pick up on the skills for various sports by just playing. And because my lack of skill kept me from playing often, I didn’t get enough experience to get any better. And learning that that led me to the fact that coordination can be learned.

So, all along, I was telling myself a story based on bits of information, some facts, and some opinions (from myself and others) and I was shaping my approach to physical activities based on a faulty story. I was using inaccurate information to make decisions and subconsciously creating limits for myself.

Letting go of the idea that the story was a fact meant that I could expand my idea of what I was capable of.

It didn’t make me more coordinated but it changed my thoughts from ‘I’m just not coordinated’ to ‘How can I become more coordinated?’ And it changed my perspective from ‘I’m just not good at physical things’ to ‘What physical things are important to me? What do I need to learn to get better?’

Recognizing the story you are telling yourself won’t give you immediate access to skills or abilities. We all have different bodies, capacities, and physical capabilities and those factors will affect how we move through the world. However, identifying your internal story (or stories) will help you ask questions about your own skills and practices and help you start to discern when your beliefs about yourself are based on incorrect information.

Now, Back To You

I wish I could wave a wand and show you the stories that you have been telling yourself. I would love to be able to wipe away all of the old tangles and give you a fresh new brain approach to your habit-building.

But since I can’t do that, I’m inviting you to gently poke at your own assumptions to help you find the stories you are telling yourself. If those stories are serving you, please hold them tight. If they are obstructing you, please question them, talk back to them, or get stubborn with them until you can shape them into something else.

And please, please, please, don’t be hard on yourself because these stories were in there in there in the first place. Our brains love stories. They want everything to make sense. And they will be so sneaky about weaving everything into a narrative and we won’t even realize it is happening. You can’t blame yourself for an automatic brain function like that one but you can work to reframe and reshape that function so it tells you a more useful story.

Here are some questions to help you recognize some of your stories:

What do you tell yourself when stuff goes right?

When things go the way you have planned, do you see that as just lucky? Or do you recognize that your planning ability, your choice to scale things to the time you had available, your combination of skill and experience also played a role?

If you think of it just as lucky, consider what that thought is based in. Is there a reason why you don’t acknowledge the effort you put in toward that result?

No matter what the answers are, see if you can start to coax yourself to recognize the skills you employed in making things go well. At the beginning, that might mean having the ‘it was luck’ thought and then adding to it by saying something like ‘Yes, it was lucky AND I was well prepared to make the most of that luck.’ Gradually, you can begin to include other aspects of your skill and preparation as you celebrate things going right.

What do you tell yourself when stuff goes wrong?

When things don’t go as planned, are you quick to blame yourself and/or some inherent aspect of your personality? (seeing yourself as ‘just unlucky’ counts here) Or do you recognize that while you may not have been as prepared as you thought, sometimes things just go awry?

Obviously, we aren’t equally skilled in everything we attempt. Sometimes, we don’t have the skill we need to do what we are trying to do. Sometimes, we think we have the resources but we don’t. Sometimes we underestimate the effort required, sometimes we overestimate the time we have. These things happen to everyone on occasion.

If they are happening to you on a regular basis, that’s not a sign that you are flawed or unlucky or bad or undeserving. It’s a just an indication that there was a mismatch in your plan and your process. It means that you need to have another look at your approach and your techniques, it doesn’t mean that YOU are a problem or that YOU are broken.

If your brain is telling you a story about things going wrong that is based on the idea that there is something wrong with you, I hope you can question that story. If your brain is telling you that you can’t build this habit because you never get anything right or because you always fail or whatever, definitely question that story. See if you can figure out where it came from and why it has stuck with you. It’s definitely untrue but you’ll want to make sure you pull out its roots not just cut off the top. Note: While we’re on this topic, I love this post from Karen Walrond that offers a great way push back against internal stories about never and always.

You are a unique combination of skills and experiences and you are doing your best to apply them to the task at hand. If they can’t help you complete the task, you can ask for help, you can change your approach/thought process, or you can change the task.

When that self-blaming story pops up, try to counter it with evidence as Karen Walrond suggests in the post I linked above, or try to say something like ‘Oh, I have struggled with this is in the past and I am going to give it another try.’ or ‘Yes, this has gone wrong before but there were extenuating circumstances, this time I have a new plan.’ Acknowledging the current story and taking it in a new direction can be a great way of creating a whole new tale.

How do you see yourself in the story?

(This could be a detailed and complicated post in itself but I’ll just touch on a few things here so this post doesn’t become a novel.)

When you have those automatic response to things going wrong or things going right, what role do you see yourself playing in the story that pops up for you?

Do you have agency? Are you in charge of anything? Or do you see yourself as the hapless person who needs rescuing because they are buffeted by fate?

In reality, we play all kinds of different roles in different situations at different times in our lives. Those roles may serve us well sometimes and they may impede us at other times. But, overall, it’s good to know which role we feel like we are playing at any given time.

I know that I have sometimes gotten overwhelmed and felt like I was a victim of circumstance. And sometimes it was true and just trudging along to the other side was the best approach. Other times, even though I felt like that, it was the overwhelm talking, and once I recognized that, I could take action and start to feel more in charge.

Other times, I have thought I was in charge of things but I had misunderstood the scope of the situation or the contributing factors. When things went wrong, I blamed myself and I felt terrible. When someone was able to gently inform me that I was taking responsibility for a situation that was far beyond my control, I felt better and I was able to reset my brain to focus on the things I was able to act on.

What does this have to do with your habit-building?

Well, if you are seeing yourself as the victim of circumstance, unable to take charge of anything, it is going to be hard for you to establish a new habit and make the changes you want to make. If you notice yourself telling that story, try to reframe it as something like ‘Yes, all of this crap is going on AND I am going to take 5 minutes to meditate in the car before I go into the office.’ Or, if things are too challenging for that, reframe it as a choice, ‘There is so much crap going on right now that adding something new would be too stressful so I am going to let that go for right now and come back to it another time.’ Making statements like that can help you to reshape the story and give you a better sense of your own power.

And if you are seeing yourself as the person in charge, responsible for everything, who is to blame if things go wrong, you will be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes, have to start over, or if you can’t follow through on your plans. You can reshape the story of you as invulnerable superhero into a story of you as an ordinary person by reminding yourself that you are not in charge of everything and that some things are beyond your control. Even something like: “Yes, I can get a lot of things done in a day but I don’t have to do everything. It is ok for me to do something for myself or for me to choose to sleep instead of doing my practice.” can be helpful in letting go of the sense that you are responsible for everything.

What story are you telling yourself about your practice?

Another way that your internal stories could be affecting your habit-building involves the story you tell yourself about your practice.

Do you see your practice as enhancing your life? As part of your self-care?

Do you see it as worth the effort? Do you consider it energizing?

Do you feel that your practice is making you stronger? Or giving you ease? Or adding calm to your life?

Do you see it as something you should (shudder!) do? Do you see it as another obligation?

Do you see your practice as too hard for you? As impossible? As energy-draining?

Do you see it as pointless? A waste of time?

If the story of adding your practice into your life is a positive one, it will be a lot easier to incorporate it into your schedule. If the story of your practice is negative, you will find it hard to include it in your day to day.

I’m not suggesting that you ‘just’ need to be positive about your practice and everything will be easy. I’m suggesting that recognizing the story you have around your practice will be a factor in how you incorporate it into your life.

Identifying the ‘mood’ of the story of your practice gives you information that you can use to make it easier to build your habit. Maybe you need to change some aspect of your practice, maybe you have started too big, maybe you have started too small, maybe you need a different practice, or, maybe you need more time to get used to it. And, in some cases, you may need to find ways to adjust your attitude towards it but that does not need to be your default assumption, not everything is an attitude problem.

Today’s Invitation

This whole post is a long invitation to think about your internal stories and consider how they are contributing to your habit-building process. Ideally, you want to find ways to practice self-kindness and to reshape your stories to support the changes you want to make. You are not responsible for the initial formation of your stories but you can take action to reshape them to serve you better.

And, as always, here is your gold star for your efforts, whatever they may be.

The emotional labour described in this post is hard work. It counts toward your practice.

And anything you do can count toward your practice if you say it does.

You know what you need today and I celebrate your efforts as you seek to meet those needs.

a drawing of a gold star atop a tall green stem with leaves on it.
Gold stars you grow for yourself might not be perfect but they are still delightful. Image description: A drawing of a gold star atop a long green stem with leaves on it with blue dots in the background. The stem starts at the bottom of the page and extends almost all the way to the top of the page before reaching the star.

*Again, I want to stress here that my advice in this post is about the sorts of day-to-day struggles that crop up again and again, ones that are frustrating and challenging but are fairly limited in scope and intensity. Guiding you through the process of identifying and navigating internal stories that result from trauma or other life-altering events is far beyond my expertise. I’m not trying to abandon you to your fate here, I am trying to make sure that I don’t cause any further harm.

** For the record, I love that as a martial artist I have learned to evade punches and I have learned to block them but I am never told to roll with them. Do I know that ‘roll with the punches’ is metaphorical? Yes. Do I find it irritating all the same? Also yes.

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 27: Stories (Part 1 of 3: the story of these posts)

I’ve been planning to write a post about our internal stories all month but, despite trying several times, I couldn’t quite make it work.

This morning I decided to try again and realized that the problem was that I was trying to accomplish two things at once. I was attempting to write a post that incorporated two separate sets of information and I was moving back and forth between the two and getting annoyed because I wasn’t getting the post written.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’re not a writer but I’ll bet you’ve done something similar in the past while trying to build a habit.

I know that have. I’ve set a goal that was too big and had too many parts and I’ve tried working on all them at once without realizing that’s what I was doing. And then I found myself annoyed because I wasn’t making any progress, because I couldn’t figure out what to be doing at any given time, and because I felt like I was making a mess of things.

Now, that’s not to say that your practice can’t have multiple parts. And I am not suggesting that your practice can’t serve multiple purposes. BUT I am saying that you need to be aware of what you are doing and create a structure that will support your plans. And, finally, to avoid frustration, you need to be able to set expectations that match your efforts.

Just as I had to realize that if I wanted to write about our internal stories, I would have to choose a method to deliver the information effectively or I would end up with a frustrating jumble of words that I might not be helpful. In fact, if the jumble was too big, I might not even be able to share it at all.

So, I’ve been through the part where I sort of knew what I wanted and I just worked in any old way for a while, coming back over and over to the topic but making no tangible progress. Then I reached the point (today) where all of my repeated actions helped me to see the obstacle in my way.* Once I could see the obstacle, I could figure out a solution.

And the solution is to write 3 posts. This first one tells the story of writing these posts and how my approach might apply to your habit-building process. The second one will be about figuring out your existing internal story about you and your habit and how you might begin to revise it. And the third will be about figuring out which part of your habit-building story that you are currently living and how accepting that might help you keep the plot moving forward.

See why I couldn’t get that all in one post? That would be like you trying to make a single practice session be a Taekwon-Do practice, a yoga practice, and and do strength training cardio all at once.

Sure, it could be done but there would be a lot of extra work involved as you tried to fit everything in and get just the right balance. You would probably be very tired and sore afterwards and you probably wouldn’t be looking forward to your next workout.

I could have put hours and hours of extra work into crafting an enormous draft post about internal stories and then spent even more time revising it into something readable. That would have been exhausting and frustrating and I definitely wouldn’t have been looking forward to writing my next post. And, to top it off, writing that post would require more time than I have to dedicate to writing for the Fit is a Feminist Issue blog so I probably wouldn’t have finished it. So, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I set out to accomplish because I didn’t match my expectations to my capacity.

Or, I could have chosen to shorten my post dramatically and just mention a few key things. That would have been a smaller step toward my goal but would still be useful. If I was going to be writing a blog post daily for the rest of the year, I might have chosen that route because I could return to add to the ideas later.

But, given that I am only doing daily posts for another few days and since these story-related ideas are specially important to me, it makes more sense for me to break down my ideas into three posts and focus on each one separately.

And, to go back to the example above, if doing all the bits of your huge practice would be exhausting, it would make sense for you to either separate your different types of practices or to design a practice that incorporates all three but for less time and/or at a lower intensity.

Once you’ve figured out what the obstacle in your current practice might be, you can make a choice that serves you best.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to consider how my challenges with writing this series of posts might apply to your own habit-building practice.

Are you feeling like you are practicing over and over but not making any progress?

Are you trying to do too much at once or maybe hoping that a multi-purpose practice will pay off in all areas at once?

Is it possible that your work so far is not just about making progress in your habit but also about helping you to learn to see how to identify obstacles or adjust your methods/techniques? (like how all my attempts to write ended up showing me that I was trying to incorporate too much at once)

Can you see any ways to encourage yourself to break your practice into sections, approach it in a different way, or scale it to fit your schedule?

No matter how you answer the above questions, and now matter how you are doing with your practice, I would like to offer you these gold stars to celebrate your efforts.

Your hard work counts. Your efforts matter. And, most importantly, you matter.

a drawing of 7 gold stars against a background of overlapping lines
Image description: A small drawing of 7 gold stars against a background of overlapping lines. The drawing laid on black computer keyboard on a white surface.

*So, from this perspective, all of my fumbling around with earlier versions didn’t mean I wasn’t make progress. I didn’t FINISH what I was doing but I was, unknowingly, working my way toward today when all of my wordy fumbles brought me to the point where I could see the obstacle. And while it would have been great to have known that I was on this path and it would have been terrific to have reached this point earlier, I guess this is another damn lesson in trusting myself and trusting my process. It’s a shame we can’t just learn that lesson once, isn’t it?

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 26: Remember the Basics

Some days are just a slog, aren’t they?

You know the kind I mean.

There’s nothing in particular that’s wrong but everything seems to be a little more challenging that it needs to be. You probably have time to do the things you need to do but you aren’t particularly enthused about them. Your energy is a bit low and nothing is really appealing to you at the moment.

You feel like you are trudging through mud and that the day is going to go on forever.

This is an excellent time to choose extra self-kindness, to take breaks when you can, to remove any unnecessary items on your to do list, and to go easy when it comes to your practice session today.

It’s a good time to go back to basics, to pare down you practice and any other work to the bare essentials, the things that will meet your most fundamental requirements without adding any additional weight to your day.

If I have to write on a sloggy day, I start by freewriting or brainstorming. (Sometimes my first sentences is ‘Ugh, I don’t want to write today…)

If I need to draw, I’ll start with a basket of stars – an easy and recurring drawing for me.

If I’m practicing Taekwon-Do, I’ll do front punches and sidekicks – two movements that require muscle memory but not a lot of brainpower at this point.

If I’m trying to do yoga, I’ll do downward dog and warrior II – two of my favourite poses that let me pay attention to some of the areas of my body that need it most often.

And, if I am trying to write a blog post, I’ll talk about how it is ok to feel like you are slogging through your day, and then I’ll remind my readers about the importance of self-kindness, the value going easy on yourself, and how going back to the basics is useful and still counts as a practice session.

Maybe going back to basics will give you a burst of energy that lifts that slog feeling and you’ll go on to do more. Maybe your very basic practice will be all you can manage today. Either of those things are perfectly ok.

And you know what else is ok? Realizing that even the basics aren’t possible today and you just need to rest.

Go ahead and experiment by giving the basics a whirl but trust yourself to know what you need today and every day. Most of the time you’ll be able to tell the difference between when you feel like ‘I just need to push myself a little’ and when you feel like (to borrow a Dorothy Parker quote) ‘What fresh hell is this?’

Today’s Invitation

So, as you can tell, if your day feels like a slog, you aren’t alone. My metaphorical boots are covered in mud and I swear that I am getting a twinge in my wrist from checking my watch over and over. *

Today, I’m inviting you to meet yourself where you are – go easy if you need or want to, challenge yourself that feels good to you, or grab a blanket and take a nap if that’s the right option for you right now. All of those approaches are part of the big picture of building a habit that serves you well.

Here’s my ‘back to basics’ basket of stars that I am offering to you for your efforts today, no matter what those efforts are.

Your hard work counts.

a small drawing of a black and white patterned basket filled with gold stars
Image description: a small drawing of a black and white patterned basket filled with gold stars. The background of the drawing is covered in gold speckles. The drawing itself is resting on a black computer keyboard.

*For the record, I am perfectly fine, it’s just one of those days that feel like a slog. I’m taking good care of myself and sticking with the basics for every task I have on my list, including this post. 💚

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 25: Who (else) is on your team?

One of the things that I love about a heist movie is that every person on the team has a specific expertise. They may not be needed for every heist or they may only be needed for a short time, but they’re ready to do their part at any point in the caper. And the person in charge knows everyone’s role and knows when to call any specific person into action.

What does this have to do with you and your practice?

Well, your practice is a heist, of course, and YOU are the person in charge.

You are seeking a specific result whether that result is incorporating something into your daily life or achieving a specific end goal. You need information in order to make that happen. You may need specific equipment. You need a way to track your progress. AND you need people beside you – literally, virtually, or metaphorically – to make that happen.

So, who is on your team?

Actually, to echo the title of this post, who ELSE is on your team?

After all, you are on your own team.

And I am obviously on your team – I’ve been writing you every day since January 1 to remind of that.

So, that makes two of us who want you to pull off this caper.

Now you can figure out some more people who belong in this ragtag group of misfits who will rally together to make this happen…sorry, maybe I’m running with this metaphor a bit too much. 😉

Do you have specific friends who have either the expertise or enthusiasm to offer you support when you need it?

I specifically recommend including at least one friend who you can complain to, one who can boost your spirits /coax you into working on things when you are a bit meh, one who will say something like “Oh, come on, we’ll try this together.” and one who will have fun but odd solutions to your dilemmas. You may even find that one person can fill all of those roles?

Do you have someone who can trade expertise with you?

I’m good at creative solutions and troubleshooting. I have a good friend who is rocks at creating systems and tracking things. We trade expertise on the regular so neither of us has to spend a lot of time in the dregs of work that frustrates us. Someone like that makes an excellent team member.

Do you watch specific exercise videos on YouTube?

Why not consider those instructors to be on your team? Sure, it’s para-social and you probably can’t invite them to your birthday party but I’m pretty sure that anyone making fitness or meditation videos is wishing all of their viewers well, so that counts.

Are you part of a fitness class or program?

If so, that’s another group of team members. When I posted on Facebook this morning about my plans for Taekwon-Do practice, I tagged three people from my classes (who are definitely on my team) and moments later I had a response and an offer of support.

Many members of the blogging team here at Fit is a Feminist Issue are part of a group that is aiming for 222 workouts in 2022. They check in when they have done a workout and get encouragement and support. They don’t know everyone in the group but the whole group is on their team.

How about family members? Your doctor? Your therapist? The person you always see on your daily walk? The person on Instagram who posts about their workouts? The person on TikTok with the pep talks that you love? Your connections on social media?

Any and all of those people can be on your team*, even if they don’t know it. 😉

Unlike in a heist movie, you don’t have to literally recruit all of the members of your team.

If someone you encounter on a regular basis brightens your day, helps you feel inspired, or reminds you to focus, you can consider them part of your team.

In fact, you don’t even have to limit yourself to human team members. Your dog, your cat, your lizard, or the crow you see on the mailbox on the corner can all be part of your team, if you want them to be.

Today’s Invitation

This whole post is kind of an invitation but let me be even more specific here:

Today, I invite you to consider the team that’s working with you to help you establish your practice.

These might be people you have asked for help or they might be people (or animals) that you encounter regularly as you build your habit. They can be directly offering help and support or they can be motivational or inspiring in some other way.

Even if you are working on something on your own, you are not alone.

Creating a list of team members can really help you to see who is cheering you on.

Here’s your gold star for today, whether you are listing your team or happily flying solo.

Your efforts count, your work matters, and you will find your way forward.

A cartoon drawing of a happy gold star holding purple pompoms in the air and saying ‘Go Team!’
This gold star is definitely on your team. They even brought pompoms to cheer you on. Image description: a cartoon drawing of a happy gold star who appears to have jumped into the air to wave their purple pompoms. The words ‘Go Team!’ are at the upper right of the image. The drawing is propped up against a black computer keyboard on a white surface.

*I realize that not everyone you know is on your team and that’s ok. While it would be great to have universal support, you don’t actually need it. You can proceed without their approval. Even though it can really suck if someone close to you is creating obstacles, I hope you can find ways to ignore them, to work around them, or to build your practice in spite of their opposition. Personally, I have had a fair bit of success with spite-fueled missions so don’t worry if you have to use that tactic.

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 24: What if you always dread your practice?

I’ve had a lot to say over the past 23 days about all of the things you can encounter as you build your practice. You’ll have ups and downs, there will be obstacles, things might feel weird, you might be grumpy. All of those things are part of the process. It’s ok to feel how you feel and you don’t have to assign any particular meaning to those feelings, unless it serves you well to do so.

But what about if the only thing you feel about your practice is dread?

What if the idea of your session never feels good or even neutral?

Let’s be clear, feeling psyched about your practice session isn’t a requirement for building a habit. You don’t have to be excited or even want to do your practice. If you can go ahead and meditate or move without any motivation or enthusiasm. – you can be fueled by stubbornness, anger, or you can have no discernable feelings about it at. If your feelings on the matter are irrelevant to you, or if you can make a practice so routine that you can do it on autopilot, have at it. You don’t need my advice on the matter.

However, if you dread your practice, constantly look for ways to avoid it, or if you feel like you have to climb a metaphorical mountain every single time you consider practicing, it might be time to review why you have chosen this practice and whether it is actually serving that purpose.

If, for example, your practice is about recovering from an injury or dealing with an ongoing issue, you might want to stick with it, even if you dread it, because it will serve you well down the road. You might be able to make it less awful by choosing music or a podcast or show to entertain yourself while you do it, or by getting a friend to join you -in person or online- while you do your dreaded thing and they do something that they dread. You are the only one who can make the call about whether the dread is worth the results.

But, if this practice is something you have chosen with the idea of expanding your life in some way and you are hating every part of it?

RECONSIDER!

Pretty please.

Why did I choose the word reconsider instead of just telling you to stop?

Because there is probably a complex thought involved in choosing your practice and in choosing whether to change it. Being told to just drop it doesn’t honour that process.

That being said, it may not be that complex for you. So, if you hate your practice, you wish you had never started, the mere thought of it ruins your day and you have no real reason to continue it, consider this is your official permission to drop it and carry on with your life.

If it is more complex than that, please read on.

Why did you choose this practice?

So, there was a reason you chose this practice in the first place.

Maybe you want something that this practice will bring.

Maybe you started this practice to keep someone else company.

Maybe you’ve been given a medical reason for this practice.

Maybe you just thought you should do this.*

Maybe it was a whim, something you thought you would try.

Those are all valid reasons for starting a practice. (Yes, even the word should. Should is a trap but it catches us all sometimes.) But they may not be reason enough to continue.

And we all dread our practice sometimes, especially at the beginning when our brains are keen on sticking with the old pathways instead of putting energy into building new ones.

But now we are a few weeks into our practices and it’s worth taking some time to evaluate how we feel about them.

And if you are still dreading your sessions all the time (or if you haven’t been able to do them at all), this is your chance to take a close look at your intended practice and the reasons behind it.

Things to (re)consider

1) If you want something that your practice will bring, peace of mind, greater strength, additional flexibility, increased endurance, but you dread your practice so much that it ruins your day or that you can’t make yourself do it, your practice is not serving its purpose. There are very few things that can only be achieved in one way. You don’t have to stay on this path because you have already started walking it. Research different ways to reach the same destination.

If you feel weird about starting over or if you are worried that you ‘wasted’ this time so far, remember that your efforts so far count – even if all of your energy went into avoiding your practice. And you are not starting from the same place you were weeks ago. Now you have more information and you know some things to avoid.

2) If you started this practice to keep someone else company, perhaps you can change your side of things. If they are doing yoga and you can’t stand getting on the mat, perhaps you renegotiate. If you are working together in person, perhaps you can do strength training or regular stretches or meditation or read or write or colour while they get bendy. Or perhaps you can find another way to keep them company and cheer them on while you undertake a different challenge.

3) If there is a medical reason for your practice, you may not have the option to stop trying to do it. I’m sorry about that, I know it sucks.

If you can’t escape your practice, you’ll need to find a way to live with it. This might be a good time to engage for full stubbornness abilities and go for angry self-care, or it might be a good time to pay some attention to the issue as a whole.

You may want to start with exploring your feelings around the whole situation. Sometimes our resentment or frustration around medical issues can show up as our brains refusing to cooperate with the very things that will help us most. I find that freewriting in my journal or recording my thoughts as I complain aloud often helps me to figure out the emotions that are getting in my way.

If you start to wade into your feelings around this and you get overwhelmed in any way, please speak to a mental health professional. Not only is it outside of the scope of these post but I am not trained in guiding people through intense emotional reactions. I don’t want to ignore the fact that there may be deep-seated emotions involved in these things and I don’t want to appear cavalier about how to address them.

If the problem doesn’t seem to be based in your feelings about the medical situation, it will be helpful to get specific about your dread. If the practice painful? Is it boring? Are you annoyed about a lack of progress? And then try to figure out what you can do to address those issues. Can you do a different practice and still help your medical situation? Can you do something to make it more interesting? Do you have a realistic sense of how long it will take to make progress? Can you measure progress in a different way? Can you develop a wildly disproportional reward system (i.e. every set of reps earns you 30 minutes of reading your novel)?

4) If this practice was something you thought you should try for some reason but it is not serving you it is definitely ok to stop.

You can take some time to explore why you thought you should try it and if those reasons are important to you, you can figure out a different way to accomplish the same thing.

There is no reason to feel guilty or bad about not doing something that doesn’t work for you.

Yes, even if you announced it to everyone and asked people to ensure that you stick with it.

You are allowed to change your mind and if someone gets uppity with you about it, try adopting a shocked, haughty tone of voice as you respond with something like, “Surely you wouldn’t expect me to continue a practice that didn’t meet my needs? That would be ridiculous! Maybe you like getting trapped in that sort of thing but I refuse to treat myself that way.” Usually that baffles people so much that they back off.

5) If you started this on a whim but you hate it? The experiment is complete. You have your results. You hate it. Feel free to move on.

Changing your mind doesn’t mean that you give up too easily. It doesn’t mean that you can’t stick with things. It has no meaning at all unless you give it one.

If you get any grief about it, respond that you think life is a buffet and that you have no intention of having seconds of a dish you didn’t enjoy.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I invite you to either recommit to your practice, to change it, or to ditch it, whichever serves you best.

You don’t owe anyone else an explanation about which one you choose and you are the only person who knows what is right for you.

I wish you ease as you figure it out.

And here are your gold stars for today. There are lots of them in the photo because the process in this post may require lots of different little bits of hard work.

Your hard work counts. Your efforts matter.

And, what you WANT and what you LIKE matters.

a small rectangular drawing of a tree made of curling lines with a spiral at the end. Gold stars hang from each spiral.
After I finished this drawing, I considered redoing it because the tree was so tangled but I decided it was a metaphor for the fact that even when circumstances are tangled we can earn a gold star. Image description: A drawing of a tree covered in gold stars, the drawing is on a small white card that is resting against a green notebook on my ink-speckled white desk. The tree is drawn near the right edge of the card and it is made of black lines that stretch upward before looping at the end. Each loop has at least one gold star hanging from it. There is a pile of gold stars at the base of the tree and the ground is green and slopes upward to the left. The sky is light blue.

*There’s that damn word again. *shudder*

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 23: When your some is your all

On January 23 last year, my Go Team! post advised you to Give it your some. I was reminding us all that the process of building a habit will include some hard days and some easy ones and days when showing up is pretty much all that we can manage. In last year’s post, I was suggesting that you can’t always ‘give it your all’ and that it is perfectly ok to ‘give it your some.’

Today, I want to expand on that a bit and maybe help us further let go of the idea that only epic sessions that push us to our limits can count toward our practice.

SPOILER: All your efforts count. If someone says otherwise, send them to me for a chat.

This might get a little convoluted. Perhaps you should tie a rope around your waist before venturing in.

What if your some IS your all?

It seems to me that ‘giving it your all’ means that you pour as much energy as you possibly can into the project in front of you right now.

But, if you think about it, your ‘all’ will depend on a lot of factors and it will look different every day.

When you take everything into account, other priorities, how tired you are, whether you are injured, your schedule for the day, your mental energy, what you have eaten, how much time you spent on Zoom, your emotional health, today’s ‘all’ might vary wildly from yesterday’s ‘all.’

If today you have a teaspoon of energy to sprinkle on your practice and tomorrow you have a cupful of energy to pour into it, you are still giving it your all both times.

Maybe neither of those is your average effort, your usual ‘all’, but if you are pouring in all the energy you can spare, then you can’t give any more than that.*

On any given day, ‘giving it your some’ might actually be ‘giving it your all’ even if it is a different level of ‘all’ than yesterday.

And I don’t want you to be hard on yourself about that. Having varying capacity and energy levels has nothing to do with not trying hard enough or not being committed to your practice – those variances only mean that you are human with a human body and a human brain. (Sorry if that dashes your cyborg hopes or superhero dreams, Team.)

Meanwhile, phoning it in can build momentum, too

Now, you might be asking yourself ‘What about those days when I’m not giving it my all? Those times when I *could* do more but I just don’t want to?’

You’ll be shocked to discover that I think it’s ok to phone it in sometimes, too.

Showing up for yourself, going through a half-assed version of your practice, and then going back to your day is still doing your practice.

You might not see a lot of results from that specific session but you are still creating room for your practice in your life. You are still reminding your body and your brain that this activity is part of your schedule, that it is something that you want to include in your day-to-day. And besides, results take time, you won’t see a big change from any one session, no matter how hard your worked.

Every single practice session helps you build momentum whether you showed up full of energy or full of a desire to get this over with. A phoned-in session is still a session.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to remember that you don’t have to put in an epic effort every day.

(In fact, if you *did* put in an epic effort every day, it wouldn’t be epic, it would be your ordinary effort and you’d have to take things up a notch in order to be epic. Improvement over time is great but seeking to be epic every day is a trap)

Establishing a habit does not depend on wringing every last drop out of every session.

Habit building depends on doing what you can, when you can – pushing hard some days, giving a solid efforts on others, showing up even when you feel meh about the whole thing, and, of course, resting when you need to. All of those types of effort are part of the cycle of building a new habit and they all count.

Your effort today – no matter where it falls on the scale of epic-ness – counts and I offer these gold stars in celebration of your hard work.

A drawing of of a vase of stars. The stars are on stems, like flowers. The drawing is resting against a black pencil case on a piece of cardboard.
I love the idea of being able to keep a vase of gold stars. I haven’t done it quite yet but I did keep a jar of a string of star lights on my desk for a while. Image Description: A drawing of a pink vase of gold stars sitting on a purple table. The stars are on stems, like flowers would be. The drawing is resting on a piece of cardboard and leaning against a black mesh pencil case.

*I’d also like to add that a lot of people who shout at you from ads and screens about giving it your all and putting in epic efforts and trying to shame you about whether you are working hard enough are not doing everything that you are doing in a day. A lot of those people might be bragging about their exercise efforts but they aren’t picking up their own sweaty towel, putting it in the laundry, taking a shower and then washing the tub, making their own lunch and cleaning up after, and balancing their family and work responsibilities on top of all that. If you had people to take care of all the other details of your life, you could make every exercise session epic, too.

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 22: Encourage Yourself

I’ve written all kinds of things about not getting discouraged and about celebrating your wins and about noticing your progress and being kind to yourself as you build your habits but I don’t think I have said this loud and clear yet:

PLEASE CHEER YOURSELF ON!

You probably aren’t used to cheering yourself on.

We all have a lot more training in keeping a detailed mental record of the ways we fall short of our plans, the times that we don’t meet our goals, and the things that don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

This isn’t the same as celebrating your wins. That’s a tricky practice in itself but, for many people, it’s a little more straightforward than cheering themselves on – you track something and celebrate when you see a change.

Cheering yourself on is motivating yourself to make an effort, it’s about noticing that effort, and reminding yourself that your effort matters.

Hmmmm, where have I heard that before? (imagine my friendly, slightly smirking expression here)

I’m thrilled to be able to offer you a gold star every day and to remind you that your efforts matter but I would also like for you to be able to practice that regularly on your own.

(Yes, I am asking you to put a practice on top of the practice you are already working on. I am ruthless like that. )

When I’m doing a Yoga with Adriene video and she asks us to say, aloud, ‘I am strong.’ I feel silly but I do it anyway and then that silliness is (mostly) replaced by the thought ‘Huh, I AM strong.” Which is way better for cheering myself on than the other thought (How long to I have to hold this?) that would probably be running through my head otherwise.

If I turn on an exercise video and say ‘Ok, Christine, let’s go!’ I feel much more energized that if I start with ‘Ugh, I guess I should do this.’ (You saw that vile word should in that sentence, right? *shudder*)

If I remind myself that I overcome challenges all the time, if I roll my shoulders back and take a deep breath before I begin my practice, or if I give myself a solemn nod or a high five in the mirror as I start my day, I feel better about my practice and my momentum.

All of those actions make me notice and acknowledge the efforts that I am making on my own behalf.

Now, I am not suggesting that you need to become sort of ridiculously-positive, high-energy whirlwind. After all, I DID say it was ok to grumble. You only need to do the things that work well for you. And frankly, if angry self-care or pushing through is all you need then forge ahead!

But I always like to have a variety of tools at my disposal and cheering myself on through my day, through a practice, or through a few extra seconds of plank has proven to be an extremely useful tool.

Cheering myself on never fails to remind me that even though things might be challenging, my efforts count.

Today’s Invitation

So, today, I invite you to find a way to cheer yourself on as you build your habits.

Can you choose an encouraging phrase to repeat or an action to take that signals that you have shown up on your own behalf?

Can you set a reminder on your phone or your email that tells you that your efforts matter? You don’t have to make it an embarrassing string of words – you could choose a gold star (obviously!) or a turtle (slow and steady wins the race) or a crown or a medal or a cookie or anything else that helps you take a moment to notice your efforts and (hopefully) to agree that you are doing pretty damn good with this whole practice thing thankyouverymuch.

You can also do a screencap of the gold stars I have shared here and send them to yourself one at a time with scheduled emails.

(The details are up to you, of course. Just please find the thing that will serve you best – don’t do this just because it works for me!)

No matter what kind of self-encouragement you choose, I’m offering this gold star as encouragement from me.

As always, you matter. Your efforts matter. It is ok to take time to take good care of yourself and it is ok for you to choose the form that will take for today.

Go Team!

A small drawing of a gold star with a variety of black and white patterns in the background.
I went all in with meditative drawing for my ritual this morning. After drawing the gold star, I filled in the background with a variety of doodle patterns. Image description: a small drawing of a gold star with a variety of black and white patterns in the background. Some patterns are overlapping lines, others are spirals or circles. The card is sitting on a wooden tabletop.

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.