Where is My Mind?

When I moved to California in August 2004 one of the first weekends I was here, I was lucky enough to see The Pixies at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley. (Thank you Heidi!). And like most Pixies fans, I was pretty stoked to see “Where is my Mind?” live.

And this song is the first thing I thought of when I set out to right this post about mindset. I mean, with that title, it’s obvious, right? But also, it’s kind of 100% my point — where is my mind? Where is your mind at? What are you thinking about, what are you focusing on, what do you want, how do you talk to yourself?

I think, most importantly, that you are indeed the expert on your own life. Not me. I cannot tell you what is important to you, I cannot tell you the right choices to make.

But, let’s talk about what “mindset” even means. In general terms it is basically:  “the established set of attitudes held by someone”. Simple. It’s your attitude.

It’s how you think about the world around you. It’s how you interact with people. It’s how you perceive yourself. It defines the relationship you have with yourself.

And at the end of the day, these are the things that matter most. You can lose your job and be broke, but your attitude in these kinds of situations will absolutely make or break you. You can either see a way out, or you see the world crushing you as you are too crippled with fear to act. Yes?

Ultimately, mindset is everything. And part of my path to get here might be something you can find useful in your own life:

Fitness is indeed transformative. Knowing that you have the ability to push past that little voice of doubt in your mind and tackle a tough workout is important. And being able to meet a goal that you didn’t ever think was possible — like swinging a 55# kettlebell with ease, is powerful.

I believe that this is partially to do with modern life. We spend much of our day disconnected from our bodies, clicking, typing, and tweeting that I think once we realize we can do something like a full push-up for the first time ever that the power of that movement does indeed translate to feeling more powerful and confident in other areas of our life. Because ultimately our bodies are ours and ours alone and the power of knowing that with hard work YOU can make things happen is a huge boon to our mindset.

But, this doesn’t always just happen. To achieve fitness goals, we need to have some sort of consistency, right? We need to exercise on a regular basis to achieve these kinds of results that are powerful. And the same remains true of mindset shifts. It’s a practice that we have to nurture. It’s a practice that needs to be consistent.

A fitness practice without a mindset practice is ultimately setting yourself up for failure.

I know this, because this was me. I exercised in my 20s. I exercised quite a lot. But in general, I was direction-less. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career and mostly I was having fun living the dream in San Francisco. I have no regrets. But I exercised with only the purpose of checking it off my to-do list. To be thinner. To be prettier and more accepted.

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{The city I love and that distracted me for many years!}

And then I mostly stopped. I was working for BCSF and yet I had about a year where I gained 15 pounds, was depressed and the times I did exercise it felt like torture.

But when I re-committed to exercise, things had changed. I was devoted to working on the whole me.  And, knock on wood, I’m turning 34 next month and I haven’t fallen off the wagon again, yet. Save a little time off for injury rehab, that’s 6 years of successful consistent exercise and mindset practice. So it’s safe to say, I’ve learned a bit along the way.

Initially my mindset practice was simple and just involved changing some of my thought patterns and habits. The three mindset shifts that I did initially made were:

1. I wanted to be proud of my decisions. On days I struggled, I thought about how I would feel tomorrow and the next week, etc. I wanted to choose feeling proud, rather than shame.

2. I moved in ways that made me happy. I didn’t go back to the gym and ride the elliptical for 30 minutes. I did get a road bike and start cycling like a maniac which made me ridiculously happy. I did start running around San Francisco again with my pup — this never fails to put a smile on my face. I did start working on my strength training.

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{Stella always teaches me the important lessons, like stopping to roll in the grass mid-run.}

3. I didn’t want to give myself the easy way out. I had always been someone that was successful in the things I wanted to be successful at. Throughout college and my first job out, things had always fallen into place. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco and I had struggled a bit that I was shaken in this capacity. At the end of the day, I knew I was better than how I was acting. I knew that I was capable of so much more than I was doing at the time. In short:  I wanted to live up to my potential.

If you are struggling with motivation, I hope you’ll consider starting a mindset practice. And if you’re not sure where to start, consider starting where I did with changing your thought patterns. Sometimes all it takes is literally just shifting the words you choose to say to yourself.

Just like with exercise, mindset practice is very simple when you look at it up close. But as with exercise that doesn’t make it easy, especially when the going gets tough.

Trust me, though. You got this. Because if I can do it, there is no way you can’t do it either!

Happiness is Choosing Yourself Above All Else: Or, Why I’m Having Jaw Surgery

“It’s a cosmetic surgery.” She said, before going into another plank at my command. I was telling one of my classes about my upcoming jaw surgery. And I replied to the group that yes, while aesthetic results were a definite outcome, my surgery was a medical neccessity.

My client wasn’t wrong, though. This is an expensive surgery that most Americans will never be able to pay out of pocket for and therefore need to get medical clearance for insurance purposes — but looking better is a major reason a lot of people will fight tooth and nail to get this surgery. And I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited to see what my results will look like.

But there’s more to it than that for me. For me this surgery is a testament to my independence. It’s a about making a choice for me. Only me and no one else.

And isn’t that the best kind of choice we can ever make?

I’ve known I needed this surgery since I was 15. I had crooked teeth and had wanted braces but my family wasn’t exactly rich and braces seemed like a luxury that I wasn’t pushing for. But one day out of the blue, my dad took me to see an orthodontist. The first thing the ortho said to us was that I would require surgery to completely fix my bite. Without hesitating my dad said no. And I rolled with it. I got the braces and had them for a mere 18 months. My teeth were straighter and I didn’t think too much about it for the rest of my teen years.

As I got a little older and ostensibly my imbalances became more pronounced (the growth plate in your jaw is one of the last to close, so it can grow well into your mid 20s), I started to think about it more. I started to avoid having my picture taken. I practiced which angle of photos looked better.

Every time I saw a dentist in my 20s (I switched at least 3 times) the first thing they mentioned to me was my “crooked” jaw. And it bothered me. I remember once telling a dentist “Well, when I can’t get a date, maybe then we can talk about this.” All they were suggesting was for me to get a consult with a surgeon. It was a defensive response.

On the surface I thought to myself “I’m confident! I don’t need a perfect jaw to feel good about myself. I’m not that shallow!” And that is all true and fair points: we are more than what we look like. But…because of my defensiveness, I never stopped to listen to the medical benefits to fixing my jaw. I assumed the only reason they were suggesting I look into was to look better. And damnit, I was better than that.

It wasn’t until I was 29 or 30 that I started to casually research this surgery. Fast forward to last year and at 33 I was fresh out of a long relationship and having a heart to heart with my best friend. She’d had a co-worker have a similar surgery that loved the results. And when Lindsey said to me “Why not get a consult? What’s the worst that could happen?”, I realized she was right.

And the rest is history. I had that consult. I had confirmation that my surgery was classified as a medical necessity and would actually be covered by my insurance plan. The day I got my braces I cried. I knew there was no going back. And here I am:  8 months later and 1 month out from my surgery.

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I’ve had a lot of time to consider what I’m doing. And while I am intrigued to see how different I’ll look, more than anything I am proud of myself for taking the leap.

I’ve let other people make a lot of big decisions for me in my life. I certainly understand my parents choices, but I wish I would have had the courage to dig deeper for myself when I was younger. I wish I would have listened to the dentists in my 20s. But hindsight is 20/20, right?

All we can do is live in the here and now. And in the here and now, I’m so excited that I took the bull by it’s horns. That I spent the time to consider what is my best for MY future. Sometimes choosing what’s best for you won’t be apparent to others. They may see your choices from the surface only– they may think that you are choosing to change your fitness routine for vanity. They may think you are eating healthier to simply be skinnier. But no one knows what is in your heart. No one knows your true reasons, except YOU.

So how do we handle these bigger changes? Especially when it’s the kind of thing that people notice and that have opinions about? And namely, how do we handle comments by those close to us about these kinds of changes you are making in your life?

1. We Give People the Benefit of the Doubt. My client that made that comment wasn’t trying to hurt me.  This is a group I am close to, so she likely just felt comfortable saying it. She probably knows someone that has the surgery and maybe their reasons were aesthetic. WHO KNOWS? The point is, even though it was a little jarring for me to hear it, it wasn’t with malice.

2. We Foster Resiliency in Ourselves. Negative emotions and interactions happen. It’s a fact of life. If we’re resilient, though, we we are able to roll with the punches much easier. We are able to brush things off. But, according to research, there are a few things that are facets of resilient people:

The ability to make realistic plans and being capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them

A positive self-concept and confidence in one’s strengths and abilities

Communication and problem-solving skills

The ability to manage strong impulses and feelings

3. We Know Our Why. I’m having this surgery so that I’m not in pain any longer in my TMJ join. I’m having this surgery so that my teeth wear evenly for the rest of my life. I’m having this surgery because it’s the best choice for me. You have your reasons for why you want to change. Maybe your blood pressure is too high. Maybe you’re just fed up. There are millions of valid reasons for why you want to change. That is no one else’s business but yours.

And the end result of making these kinds of changes? Likely it will result in a happier you. Right? And isn’t happiness all the reason we ever need to make a big decision in our life? I’m going to give that one a resounding YES.

If you’re struggling with a choice like this, try to focus on one of the above things to work on. Maybe you need to focus on giving people the benefit of the doubt. Or maybe you need clarity on what your why is. That’s okay. But my advice would be to focus on one step at a time. Enjoy the journey, trust the process.