Episode 241 – How to Practice LifePosted on February 13, 2017
About 10 years ago when I first started working with clients that were trying to change something about their lives whether it be exercise or nutrition changes, I used to say this to them, ‘if this isn’t a change you’re ready to make for the rest of your life then don’t do it, because eventually you’ll just go back to being the way you were before.’ Except now that I’m a bit older and arguably a bit wiser I’ve come to realize something, forever is a really long time, things are going to change and to a certain extent the ‘you have to do this forever’ mindset flies in the face of the ‘be better’ mindset, because it preaches you’re either doing it or you’re not. Not you’re trying to do it and adjusting as you go to make it work better for you and your situation. On top of this you may absolutely hate or think you absolutely hate something or think something is silly or stupid meaning you will never give it a chance.
For example, I used to give vegetarians a hard time about being vegetarians and not eating meat and tell them I thought they were weird and it wasn’t a smart thing for their body. Then I started doing some reading and listening to researchers that are well versed in the topic and decided that maybe it would be a smarter and healthier way to eat, if I ate more vegetarian or plant based, so last August I decided to practice being vegetarian for a couple of months. Not the rest of my life just a couple of months and then I listened to my body as I went, and after those two months I decided that at this point in my life I’m not ready to be totally vegetarian so I decided to start eating fish 1 to 3 times a week depending on the week. Adding the fish and seafood back into my diet has really helped how I feel and I’m currently eating in what I feel is a sustainable way.
Going through this period of practice really helped me try something new for my body, if I had gone into it saying I had to be a vegetarian forever I never would have considered it, but practicing and adapting as I went really helped bridge that gap to making a change in the direction I want to go.
Another example, I have a client that hated exercise, in fact she hated exercise so much she said she would never do it on her own, then one day she said to herself, ‘I hate exercise, but I think I might like yoga and that’s kind of like exercise so I will try that.’ The next week she signed up to go once a week for a month just to see what it was like. She made it to 3 of the 4 classes, which we both thought was really good, so she registered for another month, this time she made it to 4 of 4 classes, and she started telling me about the exercises she was doing in the class. Which I thought was interesting because she was always telling me how much she hated with a capital ‘H’, hated exercise.
After a few months of this yoga class she decided that maybe she didn’t hate exercise as much as she thought and decided to practice walking two times a week, for a month just to see if she liked it and she did, in fact she liked it so much she decided to start practicing for a 5k run, and after 3 months of practicing for a 5k run she did the run and decided that she doesn’t hate exercise anymore and that she may even actually like it.
Now, if she had jumped into running 5k right away saying she had to do it for the rest of her life or if she had said I’m hiring a trainer to make me exercise once a week and I will do it twice on my own for the rest of my life, even though I hate exercise, she probably wouldn’t be doing anything right now. But, by practicing exercise in different formats without committing to it allowed her to try new things and if it wasn’t going well or she didn’t enjoy it, she gave herself permission to stop, she gave herself permission to stop and that’s okay.
As you think about your life and the different things you could change to be a healthier person, what could you practice to make that happen, I can’t answer that question for you but I can give you some guidelines to make for a better practicing experience.
- Commit yourself to at least two weeks of practice, but I’ve found about a month to be the sweet spot for my clients. This is enough time to give it a fair shake and really see how you feel about it.
- Make it as small or extreme as you want, just make sure it’s realistic for your life. If you’re practicing not drinking, but your partner puts wine on the table right in front of you every night that might be something that’s really hard to practice.
- Give yourself permission to quit practicing after a certain period of time if the change isn’t working for you, at the very least it will give you the chance to understand more about yourself and the types of things you can practice.
Practicing life gives you opportunities to try things you’re not sure will work and gives you permission to stop doing them if they don’t.
What can you start practicing, that nudges you to being the healthiest and most active version of yourself?