Over recent months, some close friends and I have found ourselves in a bit of a rut and woken up to the fact that we aren’t getting any younger and don’t really have a plan. Naturally, this can be upsetting to a person and it’s something that can be easily rectified.
In this post, I want to focus on 5 things which can help you get out of the place you are in and to the place that you want to be. These are based on my own personal experience and the experiences of people close to me. We will cover: Nutrition, Dreaming, Goal Setting, Gratification and Daily Affirmations. What I describe has worked for me, you might want all of the information or just some of it. Either way, I’d be happy to help you on your journey.
A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools - Spanish Proverb
Have you ever heard the phrase, positive things happen to positive people? Well it’s true, the persona you project directly affects the relationship you have with those around you. So what does this have to do with nutrition you might be asking? It’s simple, it’s hard to be positive when you feel like rubbish. By eating correctly, you will feel better. When you feel better, you will have a better outlook on life.
So how do we go about correcting ourselves? For starters, take a look at the amount of sugar and caffine that you consume each day. Refined sugar and caffine are widely known to cause quite a large variation in both your mood and blood sugar levels. The more that we minimise that variation, the better we will feel throughout the day.
Prior to starting my last position, I consumed 2-4 cans of Monster/Redbull a day under the illusion that it was helping me work. What was actually happening, which I didn’t realise at the time, was that I ended up being really lathargic towards the end of the day and leaning towards the foods that weren’t exactly great for me (eg: pizza, chocolate). One day, I decided that I was going to give up all of the caffinated drinks I consumed to see how it affected me. I won’t lie, day one was absolutely fine, days 3-5 though were a nightmare with the headaches. Nevertheless, I powered through and consume no more than 100mg of caffine in a typical month these days. The net effect is a substantial improvement in my ability to wake up in the mornings, exercise and think clearly.
When I began to substantially reduce my intake of refined sugar, I noticed that I also experienced headaches probably to a greater extent than when I gave up caffine. I didn’t give it up completely, but really watched the amount that was going into my body. I experienced similar results to those I received when giving up caffine but also found that I began to loose a substantial amount of weight.
Whilst caffine & sugar are some of most common offenders I see, especially amongst office workers, other areas of nutrition are just as important. I really focused on what was going into my body and trying out what worked for me. Different things are going to work for different people. I knew that I needed to eat more veg and less pizza/pasta as my carb intake was too high. It wasn’t too difficult for me to make the change because I felt better in the evenings after making the changes above.
One major tip is preparation. Preparation is paramount to success when it comes to nutrition. If you’re going on a roadtrip, pre-plan your snacks to take with you. Think along the lines of carrot sticks and hummus. You can also plan your meals for the week, ensuring that you have the right balance for the week which also minimises the amount that you spend in the shops on things you don’t need.
I started my nutritional changes around October 2016, along with a slight increase in the amount of exercise that I was doing, and by the end of January 2017, I had lost almost 16kg. I looked better, my skin was better and I felt more confident in myself. With this better outlook on life, I was then able to dream big…
What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create - Buddha
Remember when we were kids, we used to want the seemingly impossible. Our dreams were big, they were wild, they were ours. Over time, something seems to happen to each and everyone one of us where we loose the ability to dream. Dreaming is a skill that needs semi-regular attention so that you keep focused on what you truly want.
About ten years ago, my equation for life was pretty simple: Get a good job -> Get paid well -> Success & Happiness. Recently, I have been figuring out what would make me happy in the long term, not the short term. In fact, I have just turned a job offer for £50,000 a year. Why? There are other things that I dream of doing and that role doesn’t quite align with those dreams. I figured out what would make me happy by grabbing a piece of paper and writing in the middle “Happy”. From there, I used a mind map style to note down everything that I associated with happiness.
I spent a good couple of hours reflecting, thinking and dreaming. Some of them were known happiness triggers, others are things that I have wanted to do for a long time but have never managed to be able accomplish thus far. During the exercise, I let my mind wonder as much as it wanted whilst staying away from my current life. Some of the things that you will write down will seem far-fetched, some may even seem impossible, but they are all relevant to you in some way, for your journey.
Note: I have purposely refrained from sharing my dreams as examples here. I want you to go through the exercise and discover yours for yourself and not be influenced by mine.
Once we have rediscovered our dreams, we can work towards them with the help of goal setting…
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step - Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu’s quote above is one that we should always remember when embarking on our new journey to our dreams. After selecting a dream from the exercise above, begin to write down a high level journey to achieving that goal making sure that you are sticking to the S.M.A.R.T principals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound. It’s okay if you don’t know where to start on this plan, because that’s the initial plan: research what you need to do to achieve X, where X is your dream.
Once you have a high level plan, continually itterate through the plan making each stage smaller and smaller until you can fit each stage into a single day. I set myself daily, weekly and monthly goals using this approach which works fantasically for me. In fact, this blog post is one of the goals that I had set myself.
Having the plan ready to action is all well and good, but how are you going to ensure that you stay on task. It’s natural to let things get in our way and our goals slip. One approach is to make yourself accountable to someone close to you, someone that you are scared of letting down. Increased accountability will alter decision-making strategies. When expecting evaluation from an audience, people will think more carefully about their decisions than they normally would. They will consider the outcomes of their judgments and process the relevant information more deliberatively (Source). Ultimately, accountability helps prevent us letting life get in our way and remain on task.
If you miss hitting your goal, evaluate with your accountability partner and see what you can do to prevent missing the goal again, if anything. It is important to re-visit your goals on a regular basis to ensure that you are on-track, re-evaluate where necessary and to replan due to external influences/missed goals.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it - William Arthur Ward
A part of getting what you want, is being grateful for the things that you already have. For me, this takes the form of a daily gratification, where I tell my accountability partner the 3 things that I am grateful for the current day. You could be grateful for the simple things such as clean running water, or the more complex things in life such as internet connectivity. We usually take the form “Today I am grateful for insert gratification because reason”.
Studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful—benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness. If you don’t have a accountability partner just yet, don’t worry, you can still practise this activity by using a physical journal instead. In fact, my accountability partner does both. She writes it down in her journal first and then repeats them to me when we talk each day.
I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents - Dr. Carmen Harra
We’ve all heard of the phrase “you are what you eat” - so if you eat rubbish then you’ll feel rubbish. Well the same is true for your thought processes - you are what you think. Daily affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. They have exercise like effects in that they raise the level of feel-good hormones and help to put us into a positive frame of mind for the day ahead.
An affirmation can be created from a self-limiting belief, and turning that belief into one that empowers you. Let’s take the example of you believe you have a lack of energy. We can rewire our brain with empowering belief that we have more energy than the day before, eg: Each day I wake up with more energy than the day before
One the back of the door to my flat, I have 4 pieces of paper on there, each with a different affirmation. I say these affirmations a minimum of once a day, sometimes everytime that I leave the flat depending on how I am feeling on that day. I would recommend on no more than 5 affirmations for each day but that is something that is completely up to you. I change the affirmations every 3⁄4 weeks depending on how much progress that I feel that i’ve made in the choosen affirmation area of my life.
I hope that you have found this article useful. I strongly recommend that you try the approaches that I’ve mentioned as they’ve massively helped me. I would be more than happy to help you or answer any questions you might have through my social channels (Facebook / Twitter).