Blooming in our own time….

Orchid in bloom

I have this orchid plant next to my bathtub, in hopes that that location might be slightly higher in humidity than the rest of the house (Relative humidity in Colorado does not support tropical plants). Anyway, I’ve had this plant for years. I bought it when it was blooming, enjoyed the blooms and then spent several years looking at it with scorn because it was not blooming. My husband would tease me about ‘my under-performing plant’, asking why I bothered to water it.

I’ll be honest, I’d pretty much written it off as simply an oxygen producer and nothing more. I felt slightly let down and a bit embarrassed that I could not get it to bloom or bother to figure out what it needed to bloom. And then guess what… I’m sure you can guess if you’ve seen the picture posted with this blog. It bloomed, not only did it bloom, it currently has four huge, bright, glorious blooms in the dead of winter.

While thinking in the shower, where all great thinking occurs, I had a real ‘a-ah’ moment. The orchid was going to bloom in its own damn time, regardless of my feelings negative or positive. I did support it, in the fact that I kept watering it, but that was it, minimal support. Over the years I’ve put in an absurd about of thought and judgement about this silly plant… and it could not care less.

The a-ah for me was really more of a ‘duh, I’m guilty of believing that I could influence the blooming of the plant, because that is what I wanted to happen’. I see this all the time with my coaching clients, they’ve been hounded, often for decades, by ‘concerned’ family and friends to lose weight, get in shape, do this or do that. Often these clients have tried so hard to do what everyone else has told them they should do, they have tried so hard to bloom for someone else, but time and again they fail to achieve what someone else wants for them. That cycle of criticism, effort and failure is exceptionally painful and paralyzing for people.

So for everyone out there who is worried about a family members weight, physical fitness, bad relationships, etc. you can support, you can ‘water’ but that person is going to bloom in their own damn time. People make lasting change for their own reasons, not yours. Wishing, wanting, demanding, bribing, cajoling, cheerleading may feel like support but frankly it is just an arrogant expression of believing that you can influence the path of another, because that path would serve you. I know that sounds harsh, and I’m guessing many people would bluster and claim ‘I’m doing it because I love them’, and likely that does play a role, but if you want to support someone making a change in their life help them discover their own reasons for doing it, not yours.

This discovery process is one of the things I like most about coaching. Helping people discover their own reasons for making a change, doing something differently, or just experimenting with new things. We have an epidemic of people who have lost their autonomy and are shocked at its power when they rediscover it.

For those people who are struggling, who are being hounded to make a change, you will bloom in your own damn time, and you get to choose what that bloom looks like. Have courage and remember you are in charge and it is your decision what happens next in your life, be the orchid, forget what everyone else wants and decide what you want. Then make it happen!

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My Triumphant Return

My Triumphant Return

Wow does that sound cocky. A return implies that I went somewhere. A triumphant return implies that I’ve overcome something… and in both things are true. And while no one might have noticed, I certainly did and I’m excited to be back. In the summer of 2017 I became really disillusioned with my new career path. I started to feel like being a coach was equivalent to being a life insurance sales man (think Ned Ryerson in the movie Groundhog Day). Every coach I met, promised to help me achieve my goals by applying their secret sauce… and I believed several of them… and guess what the secret sauce was bullshit. At the same time I was working with a client, who I knew in my heart of hearts was not a good candidate for the type of coaching I do… but I was so excited to practice my craft. I ignored my gut feeling that said… Julie you cannot successfully coach this person, what she expects from coaching is not what you deliver. And you won’t be shocked to discover that it was not a successful coaching relationship, and it made me feel like the charlatans who kept promising me the secret sauce. Which made me feel ‘lower than whale shit’ (a famous phrase of my father’s) And as these things tend to go I went down a rabbit hole of feeling like coaching was only for the affluent and beyond the reach of regular people, which made me feel like shit as well.

So what did I do? I pulled back. I withdrew from all the ‘professional guides’ I’d assembled. I stopped all my social media activity, I stopped much of my so called networking and I did a lot of soul searching. I am really passionate about this work, and I knew I needed to find a path that would allow me to share my talents and genuinely help a variety of people, while separating myself from the cons which apparently abound in this profession.

In the fall of 2017 I started working as a Wellness Coach at a company in Loveland Colorado. I only worked there a few hours a week but what it gave me was a lifeline. I was able to work with a huge range of people, men and women, executives and admin assistants, and everyone in-between. I was able to work with people who all want to improve their lives in different ways. I worked with people who were willing to face major life challenges and push forward, choosing to believe in themselves, and work on themselves in spite of everything. The experience of coaching in this environment restored my faith in this avocation. I could see that I am one hell of a good coach, and I don’t and never have offered a secret sauce. What I offer is an unwavering belief in the capacity of my clients to achieve their goals. I continue to work at this company and honestly coming out of those sessions is pure joy! The metamorphosis that I’ve witnessed in a number if my clients is truly awe inspiring. They often thank me for my help, when in truth they’ve done all the work, and I want to thank them for restoring my faith.

2018 was spent getting my bearings, getting grounded and designing a path forward. So 2019 is the year of my Triumphant Return. It is not cocky it’s just what is true for me. I have some big plans that I look forward to sharing with the world. I’m back baby… and I’m not going anywhere!

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What’s the deal with my timeline anyway?

This meme cracks me up… because I’ve totally said it to myself and it got me thinking about timelines and personal goals. When I decide I want to make a change I want it now and part of that mentality often includes an artificial timeline in which I believe I should be able to accomplish a goal. If I’m not keeping pace with that schedule I’m disappointed, frustrated, and petulant and in the worst case scenario I give up on the goal all together.  I see this same time restriction with some of my clients and on social media, especially when it comes to weight loss.

As a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers, I’m a frequent user of their Connect community, which is basically Facebook for Weight Watchers members, but a really positive and supportive space where trolls are not welcome. I cannot tell you how many times a day I see a post about being disappointment with the pace of someone’s weight loss or frustrated that they only lost .4 pounds that week.  And I get it. I’ve been there. I know it is crazy frustrating when you feel like you’ve been putting in the work and you are not seeing the results you expect.

While it is totally normal to be disappointed or frustrated the danger of having a strict timeline is you are putting yourself under undue stress over something that is not a linear process. While many would have you believe that weight loss is simply about calories in versus calories out, it is far more complex than that; and holding yourself to a linear timeline for a non-linear process will only end in frustration and disappointment.

I’ve thought about this timeline trap quite a bit, and the phenomenon of quitting a goal when your progress is not fast enough. I think a number of things come into play to create this dynamic.

  • We all want immediate outcome results, forgetting that outcomes goals require behavioral action, and that requires time.
  • We’ve been taught that weight loss is about calories in versus calories out, which sounds like an easily controlled process, when in fact it is far more complex.
  • We are spoon-fed unrealistic expectations in the media from shows like the Biggest Loser to quick fix diets promising that we can lose 10 pounds in ten days winking at us in the checkout line at the grocery story.
  • This mentality speaks to a destination view rather than a journey mindset. Especially in weight management there is no destination, it is a journey and one that changes course throughout your life. Thinking that you’ll be done when you hit your goal weight is setting yourself up for failure.
  • This thinking smacks of the ‘shoulds’, which is just a sneaky way of judging ourselves.
  • We don’t seem to appreciate that the time is going to pass anyway; you might as well continue to focus on making healthy changes in your life, even if it feels like it is taking too long.

The real disconnect is mixing expectations for achieving an outcome goal, like weight loss with the ongoing experience of a behavioral change. There is no end date for behaviors. Make your experience easier and more enjoyable stop imposing some artificial timeline on your journey.

When that little voice pops-up and says “You should be doing this faster.” Please give yourself the gift of pausing and asking “Why?”

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A lesson in honoring choice

Pile of Candy

As a Certified Health and Wellness Coach one of my core philosophical beliefs is that people can attain their desired level of wellness when they make choices with intention and purpose. This philosophy came into my life at a very young age and I credit one event with planting the seed.

I was a Girl Scout, and around the age of 10 my Troop was working on our various merit badges, one of which (I have no idea which one) brought us to a retirement community in Boulder Colorado to spend time with the elderly residents. We were each assigned a resident and a nurse walked us to their rooms. As I walked down the hall the nurse grabbed my shoulder and said “Mr. Smith has diabetes, and cannot eat any sugar. If he asks you to go down the hall to buy him a candy bar, you must say no. Because if he eats that candy bar he will get VERY SICK!” I had no idea what diabetes was at that time, but her warning scared the hell out of me.

I can remember his room, his deeply lined face, and his soft kind eyes. He was 89, and wheelchair bound. He had been a hard working farmer his whole life on the eastern plains of Colorado. In many ways he was like my grandfathers and it was easy to talk to him. We talked about school… did I like it? No. I liked to swim and play with my dog.

After a little while he very casually asked me if I wanted a candy bar. AND I went on full alert. I was ready. I was not going to buy him a candy bar, and make him sick. I had a job, and the nurse had entrusted me with that solemn duty. I politely said ‘No thank you’ hoping that he would let it drop. I must have had panic written all over my face. He got this mischievous little smile and said ‘well I’m going to have one.’ He rolled over to his dresser, which I was sitting next to and opened the bottom drawer.  Tucked underneath an old jacket was a treasure trove of candy. Full sized candy bars, shining in their brightly colored wrappers. Like any kid of 10 I was astounded by this collection, but the rule follower in me quickly kicked in and I said. “You are not supposed to have candy, where did this all come from?” And he laughed, not a mean derisive laugh but a laugh of true enjoyment. He said “Sweetheart, I’m 89 years old and I love candy. It is one of the few joys I have left, and so I choose to eat it. My son brings it to me, because he knows I would rather enjoy my days than live to be 100 but totally miserable.” I told him I was worried it would make him sick, and the nurse had told me not to let him eat candy. I was upset and confused. And he took my hand and said. “Sweetheart this is not your responsibility. You are not responsible for other people’s choices. We are only responsible for our own choices. I choose to eat candy, knowing it might make me sick.”

It is amazing how frequently I think of this man. A profound lesson taught with kindness and for that I’m deeply grateful. It took me years to understand the importance of this conversation, and how deeply  it would influence my life. We are always at choice whether we choose to recognize that power or not. We are solely responsible for our choices, and no matter what we are making choices why not give ourselves the gift of making those choices with purpose and intention.

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What is your boiling frog problem?

We’ve all heard that if you drop a frog into boiling water it will hop out immediately, but if you put a frog in a pot of water and bring it to a boil, the frog will boil to death. So a boiling frog problem is one that happens gradually over time, creeping, creeping, creeping getting slightly worse every time you turn around.

In my work as a health and wellness coach I help clients with boiling frog problems all the time. The professional working mother, who keeps thinking ‘yes, I should be taking better care of myself, but I don’t have time. I’ll do it when things settle down.’ Things never settle down when you are a professional woman with children. (I know this from personal experience!) The former weekend warrior who looks fondly at pictures of past running races, and wonders when did racing become a thing in my past? The middle manager who is bored at work, but the thought of making a change is too daunting, so he convinces himself that bored and secure is better than the alternative.   To the woman who knows she should go see the dentist, but can’t seem to find the time to make the appointment, until she cracks a tooth.  We notice the boiling frog problem, but the water is so nice and warm it’s easy to minimize it or convince ourselves that we’ll get to it later.  And the temperature keeps rising!

We are all busy. We all have many competing priorities screaming for our attention, energy and time. For many people the easiest place to find a bit more attention, energy and time is to steal it from the things we need to do to take care of ourselves. In doing so we allow what might be an 8 pound weight gain over the last two years to become a 23 pound gain in the next two years.  The time between dental visits expands from 2 years to 5 years, and now we can add embarrassment to our list of reasons why we don’t call and make an appointment.  And the temperature keeps rising!

When people think about changing their boiling frog problem they usually do two things. The first is they ‘should’ themselves. I should do this. I should do that. There a mountain of research into motivation that says ‘should’ should be the new ‘s’ word, because it is really shitty as a motivational technique. The second thing we do is we try to tackle the whole problem at once. Rather than just swimming to the side and looking up, we expect to be able to jump clear of the pot, spring to a lovely stream and have the problem behind us. We are just setting ourselves up for failure when we try and tackle the whole challenge at once. And the temperature keeps rising!

It’s time to hop out of the water before you boil to death.  What is your boiling frog problem? Is it at work? Is it in a relationship? Is it tied to your weight or fitness? Pick one thing where you habitually say, ‘I’ll get to it later’ and ask yourself why might I want to start working on this thing today? What would a change in this boiling frog problem give me, and why is that thing important to me? By connecting to what is valuable to you now is a far better motivational technique, and one that will serve you well as you swim to the side of the pot and reach for the lip.

If you have a boiling frog problem, but it seems too daunting to tackle or you don’t know where to start I would love to have a conversation about how I can help you out of the boiling water.

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