How You Can Change the World, One Sticky Note at a Time

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My awkward face.  Not pretty.

You may remember that I promised a laundry list of my most terrible habits at the end of my last post.  Well, I might have been the slightest bit hasty in that assertion.  You see, in a non-exhausted state of mind, I realized that it might make my life really awkward to truly lay out all that stuff in so public a manner...seriously.  What if one of you fine blokes decide you want to date me, but then you already know all my crappy, embarrassing stuff (which actually may reverse that first statement) and I know none of yours?  Awkward.  Walking into the gym, I'd be super self-conscious that everyone would be thinking about my weird habits and therefore would turn red a lot and probably stutter as well.  Awkward.  So, here's the deal...I will happily share my crutches as they are relevant to "The Clean Year" and upcoming goals.  Cool?  Thanks, I appreciate it.

Last week, I hit a wall.  A big one that had scary, militant gorillas on top of it.  And battery acid dripping down it's sides.  I wrote about the wall and the aftermath of the crash and was was surprised by how uplifted I was by both the process of putting my thoughts down on the screen as well as by the emails and calls full of encouraging words and listening ears.  Thank you.  Sometimes it is scary to just be real and lay all your cards on the table.  It puts you in a very vulnerable, uncomfortable, even awkward spot, standing with your arms raised, not knowing if a hug or a swift punch to your gut is on it's way.  It's especially difficult to be real when the "real" is just not that pretty.  Often, with great risk comes great reward.  This time was one of those.  Sometimes, a little affirmation, empathy, and just knowing that people care is all a person needs to climb back outta that funk, ready to take on the challenge that previously beat her down.  The whole journey of last week had me reflecting on how powerful these seemingly small gestures can be.  Even more, how these individual actions joined together to form a straight up tsunami of love that lifted me up right out of the gloom.


A Case of the Mondays

"Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives."  -Henry David Thoreau

I'm going to lay it all out there.  All the raw ugly of this week and how I got here...exhausted, disappointed in myself, and sacrificing precious sleep to get the words whirling around in my skull out on a screen in hopes that they will R.I.P.  Why air my embarrassing secrets on the worldwide web?  Because, this is my year long project to make increasingly better choices and habits to enrich my life, increase the good I do in this world, and feel/be/look a lot healthier.  That all starts, and can only continue, with frequent honest reflections on what IS...right now.

Right now, work is a cluster f-bomb.  Please excuse my near swear, dear readers...but there's no other way to put it.  I've had the beginning of anxiety attacks (which I've only experienced a handful of times before, but never at work) and nearly cried almost every day.  Why?  Well, I certainly will not bore you with the mundane intricacies of my career as an educator in an extremely under-funded, extremely high-needs school...but I will just say that every person in my building does the work of two or three people...and no matter how much you do, it's just never enough.  And at the end of the day, you're working your ass off, spread so thin that you can't really do anything well, knowing you're doing a crappy job, but not knowing how to make anything better and carrying the heavy knowledge that in the end it's just the kids and your health that pay the price.  

Muffins from today.  Don't worry, I gave them all to my
coworkers.  I did smell the crumbs though...is that weird?
I hit this wall every year.  Emotionally, physically, and mentally, I find myself in a place of hopeless, exhausted despair.  It's around this time when my good ol' crutches calm my mind, numb my emotions, and give me the energy to carry on.  The crash came early this year.  And as my "case of the Mondays" continued to Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday...I began to drown in the old urges.  (Man, it was so easy to be crutchless when I wasn't stressed and sleep-deprived!)   Tuesday and Wednesday, I had to fight my brain, which was wheedling, "It's only ooooone cupcake, no one will even know!"  By the time school ended today, I was done.  Capital D.O.N.E.  I had a stream of pirate curses and not so choice "French" running constantly through my mind as I walked out my car.  My brain and body and stress-induced urges were screaming for alcohol, "just a bottle of wine...sit on the rooftop and drink till you're relaxed," that sneaky voice in my brain coaxed.


Bovine or Bust: Cows and Your Diet

"One decision [does] not stand on its own. Each one is laying neural groundwork that will bias future decisions and eventually you [become] the summary of your habits." - Craig Weller, Barefoot Fitness

We've all said it..."This has been a super hard week, I deserve this beer/cupcake/pizza/Starbucks."  I know I said it nearly every day of teaching...or, well, to be honest, probably adult life.  It was just more true the days I was teaching.  The days I didn't "deserve it" because of how rough life's been, I deserved it because it was  special occasion.  You know: my birthday, Christmas, the day before Friday, Friday, the day after Friday.  Sadly, this one justification, "I deserve ______", has been the downfall of nearly all of my health-related goals.  The knee injury to my box jumps.  The dial up to my Internet.  The empty bank account to my to-do list of international destinations.  You get the idea.  But here's the truth: you deserve to feel great, to look awesome, to be insanely healthy, and to function the best you can for as long as possible.

Brain cow - so cute...but dangerous!
I've read some wisdom-ous words (yes, I make up words when I can't find the perfect one) recently.  Craig Weller, a guy I used to train with and learn from writes a brilliant blog about life, fitness, nutrition, and other topics.  He describes a concept called self-herding in one of his blogs (originally written about by Dan Ariely...author of fascinating books about human behavior and decision making).  Self-herding is basically the tendency humans have to make the same choice they have in the past when facing a similar situation, even when the past choice was made emotionally, irrationally, or under diress.  Basically, your choice is the lead cow part of your brain and the subsequent choices are the herd cows that brainlessly and forcefully mosey on in the same direction unless you really fight them.  Mooooo.


The Key to Success: Persistance over Perfection

"If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."  -Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

So what is failure?  Failure is not making mistakes.  Failure is not trying something new and crashing and burning.  Failure is quitting.  Period.

In our society we are brainwashed by this idea of natural ability or being born smart.  This accepted belief sets up life in such a way that we tend to give up...quickly...rather than be willing to put in the work.  Think about it.  When you get praise (especially in the formative years) it is almost always commending your talent or intelligence, and not as often applauding the processes you used: amount of effort, strategies you employed or choices you made. The latter sends the message that success is often a process laden with mistakes and revisions, whereas the former simply acknowledges and values the end product giving no weight to everything that came before.

Inspirational message brought by the 6th grade hallway in my school.
Every day I join students in the battle of "catching up."  In a situation where they are already far below grade level, it is easy for them to give up and mumble, "I'm stupid."  It feels hopeless to them because effort and growth are often not what is most praised and recognized by adults.  And the sad thing is, when I am in their spot (like during my grad statistics and algebra classes last year), I do the same thing!  When I don't get it quickly, I (more often than I'd like to admit) get frustrated, throw up my hands, and start making excuses.  "I just don't get math."  "Why do I need to know this anyway?"  "My teacher sucks."