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Succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions

We are now a month into the new year. If you made a new years’ resolution and are on target, congratulations! If you find yourself beginning to slip, read on.

There is a science to this process of succeeding with a resolution. Knowing the science is like having a map to follow, a GPS that tells us what the best route is and when we’ve made a wrong turn.

Blue brain

How do we develop this map, make use of the science? We can begin by asking what may seem like an obvious question: What does it mean to succeed with a new years’ resolution? Success means that 1) we reach our end goal and 2) are able to maintain it. Two components, each needing consideration.

Deep change and die-hard habits
People usually make resolutions that involve life changes, like getting healthier or improving our lives in one way or another. A life change is not superficial. It involves the very core of who we are, of changing perhaps long-held habits, tendencies that seem to have a life of their own. For example, if we want to eat better, what we put in our mouths affects us very deeply, involving not only physiological processes, but also an emotional element, i.e. hello cravings!

Examining the road map of success
Having an understanding of the fundamentals can arm us with the right mind set and some effective tools.

Are your resolutions realistic – all things considered?
Assessing our goals in light of our life circumstances helps us determine whether everything lines up. Every day when we wake up – and given that we slept well – we have freshly charged batteries to live another day. How we expend this energy greatly impacts what we accomplish. If we have high stress at work, less will be available for personal goals. Or maybe it’s the opposite. We struggle with family problems, then expect to be fully motivated and excel at work.

So we might formulate our first tool as: If, at first, you don’t succeed, reduce the goal. Our self image often prevents us from taking the simple step of expecting less of ourselves when we are not measuring up to our self-imposed goal. Usually we fall into self-criticism – an energy drain with no return on investment – instead of admitting the truth. The old saying: “The truth can set us free” has practical merit.

Body type strategies
We are not all built the same. Understanding our body type can guide us in setting our goals and, more importantly, tell us what we need to stay the course. In Ayurveda, India’s ancient, time-tested healing tradition, there are three main body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each has its own unique physiology and emotional disposition.

A Vata, for example, has lots of initial enthusiasm and is great at getting started but can easily get scattered and move on to another goal, never fully landing on any one. A person who is predominately a Pitta type has great determination and self-discipline but can sabotage themselves with too much impatience or too high expectations and quit half way through. Kaphas are loving, forgiving types yet they have a slow metabolism so getting started is usually the hardest thing.

To discover your Ayurvedic body type, here is a short online quiz:
Ayurvedic body type quiz

After you assess your body type, if you want to learn more about body types and motivation, you can go to an article I wrote:

http://louisegabrielle.com/2014/08/12/smart-self-discipline-part-3

Why sweat it – Use your intuition
Our intuition is a powerhouse, a valuable resource that many of us don’t tap into. It does take training and practice to hone it into an accurate, reliable skill. But it is well worth the investment of time and effort. Our intuition is capable of connecting many dots at once making it an extremely efficient tool to navigate life’s challenges.

How to program your intuition: A simple way to begin working with your intuition is to program yourself before going off to sleep at night. Envision your end goal (not the problem). Breathe and relax your body, and as best as possible, feel what the end goal would be like, feel like, if it were true in the moment. Finish by telling your intuition to guide you in fulfilling it. It’s best to practice this every night until you get proficient.

Support Makes All the Difference
A Kapha friend of mine, with a life-long tendency to put on excess weight, decided finally to hire a personal trainer. It changed his life. Not only did he lose forty pounds – slowly, in a healthy, maintainable way – but now, a year later, he is still on track. Surprisingly, it’s not so much the lost pounds that we all noticed. He also became cheerful and energetic, and his trademark slumping posture all but vanished. He became a different person. But take note, he did it with help.

You may ask – what about all those people who just forge ahead independently, without support? Those amazing athletes? Well, they are probably Pitta body types. Pittas have determination and drive in abundance. If you feel envious, just know that they can also be impatient and critical.

Even Pittas, however, can fall into despondency or inaction and never get started. Their overly high expectations can be paralyzing. A Pitta I know has wanted to change his career for ten years now and is still unhappy. He claims he can’t make up his mind, that nothing seems to light up for him. But nothing can light up for any of us if we never give ourselves an opportunity to step up to the plate and swing a bat for the first time, feeling awkward and inept. Pittas hate feeling like that. Even determination-filled Pittas need support.

Lastly, consider hiring a therapist or life coach to help you identify any self-defeating habits and beliefs operating under the surface. If, as a child, you were told things like: “You’ll never amount to anything.” or “Life is just one burden after another.” these attitudes become lodged in our subconscious and continue to operate in us as adults without our awareness. One sign that they are operating is when we find ourselves doing the opposite of what we intended and feel powerless against a nameless force within us.

Refrain from comparing yourself to others
I’d like to end with a quote that I encountered many years ago and found valuable in helping me not to compare myself with others. When we stop comparing ourselves to others, we start being more who we truly are.

Success distance traveled quote

Smart self-discipline Part 3

The power of knowing your body type
The more we know about how we operate on the inside, the smarter we become at self-discipline. Effort is still needed but it is informed effort. If you’ve ever played darts, you’ll know that in order to hit the bull’s eye, you have to steady your hand and focus your sight. The calmer and steadier you are, the better you will be at hitting the target. It takes the same physical effort, or more, to throw the dart sloppily and miss the target.

One system that can inform us is Ayurveda, India’s ancient holistic healing tradition. Ayurveda, which means the science of life, is a comprehensive system that treats mind, body and spirit as one entity. It provides us with a valuable body type system that describes each individual’s unique mind-body make-up and natural inclinations, essentially our inborn nature. Our body type influences our way of thinking, our emotional temperament and our lifestyle choices.

Ayurveda chakrasKnowing our body type can help us better understand what motivates us and what kind of self-discipline approach is best, as well as alert us to the specific things that can get in the way of maintaining our momentum over time. After all, most goals are not achieved in a day. It is usually a process over time.

In Ayurveda, there are three main body types or constitutions called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each type is associated with a particular element of nature: Vata with air, Pitta with fire and Kapha with earth/water. Each type has its characteristic physical attributes, emotional disposition and lifestyle preferences.

No one body type is better than another. Each has its strengths and vulnerabilities. So, for example, a Vata type can be enthusiastic yet be restless and scattered. Pittas can have strong discipline but can get willful or impatient. Kaphas tend to be calm and easy-going but can have difficulty getting started.

Your body type also determines the kind of metabolism you have and hence how foods, environments and activities affect you. For example, the same food can affect each type differently. Sweet foods have a calming effect on Vata but create heaviness in Kapha. Pittas strongly dislike hot weather whereas a windy day unsettles Vata. In exercise, Kapha does well with endurance exercises whereas Vata fairs better with short sprints and light exercise.

The following is is a brief description of each body type to help you identify yours. You can also fill out a free, short quiz at http://www.mapi.com/doshas/dosha-test/index.html  Keep in mind that most people are a combination of two types.

Vata, the Great Initiator:
As a Vata, you tend to be energetic, enthusiastic and good at initiating things. You like to be active, always on the move, sometimes a virtual whirlwind of activity. However, your energy level is inconsistent and comes in bursts. Your mind also likes to be active, you love thinking. You are creative, have a vivid imagination and like to express yourself.

Ayurvedic-VataYou are quick paced. You walk quickly and perform tasks quickly. You speak quickly and as a result, you are not always clear in your communication, leaving out relevant details. Because you crave activity and excitement, you are prone to crash and burn. It is difficult for you to slow down and not get overloaded. You are convinced that more is better so you can drive yourself to excess from over-activity and also because you love to expend energy. You are also prone to being anxious and to worry a lot.

You have no trouble having a goal to begin with because you have lots of them – at least lots of ideas about your goals. With your propensity for creative thinking and an urge for new experiences, you find it easy to get started. Keeping the momentum going is another matter. More on that later.

Pitta, Only Your Best Foot Forward:
If you have strong Pitta energy, you like to excel. You tend to be assertive, focused and determined. Like fire, you can have strong drive. You have leadership qualities and are naturally courageous. You excel at planning and implementing new ideas and are efficient and practical.

Pitta-LogoAs a Pitta, your manner of speaking is precise and to the point. You are confident about what you want to communicate and what response you wish to elicit. Your voice often sounds impatient or intense. Your anger can be explosive and, like a burning log, can smolder for a very long time. Or you easily feel angry inside and do not show it.

With all this drive and determination, you would think that Pittas have no problem attaining their goals. They usually do except when they don’t. More on that later.

Kapha, the Salt of the Earth Dependable One:
Kaphas are emotionally steady, calm and easy-going. You are warm and understanding, the most loving and forgiving of all the types – although not always with yourselves. Like earth, you are stable and dependable, have a strong build and good endurance with a high reserve of energy. Yet you often lack the motivation and discipline to put your energy to good use. With external prodding, you tend to stay the course. You are good at stabilizing and running a new enterprise smoothly.Kapha-2

With your innate slow metabolism and slow pace, you are good at staying the course – that is, once you get started and establish a routine. You are good with routine because you tend to be loyal, to others and to ‘the way things are done’. It’s the getting started that’s the challenge.

Stumbling blocks for each body type

Vata’s stumbling block – lack of follow-through
After such a whirlwind of activity, the ballon suddenly deflates. You run out of energy. You’re exhausted at the end of the day and wonder why. Everyone else around you knows why. Watching you anxiously dash off here and there, eat on the run, worrying, trying to do too many things at once, others wonder how you kept going as long as you did.

Or maybe you just lost interest. Losing interest is deadly for a Vata, like having an empty tank of gas. As for self-discipline, it’s not so much that you lack it but rather that you don’t like routine. These natural inclinations can make your efforts to attain your goals variable and inconsistent.

Pitta’s stumbling block – overly high expectations
Pitta types are prone to perfectionism. This either prevents you from starting anything at all since deep down, you fear you will never measure up, or you over-strive and bring too much intensity into your efforts, causing you to self-sabotage. Never starting what you intend can be due to sharp self-criticism. A Pitta client of mine ruthlessly criticized himself for failing to move forward in his career. Yet this harsh attitude contributed greatly to his incapacity. As a Pitta, you might never start something because it is better to keep things as a potential: “One day, when I’ve got myself all together, when I know exactly what I want and exactly how to proceed, I will start.”

Pittas like efficiency and being productive. You want things to improve and you want it now. Staying the course might be difficult because you may get frustrated by the slow ‘progress’.

Kapha’s stumbling block – never getting started
Gazing admiringly into your friend’s eyes, you compliment their prowess at accomplishing their goal. You wish you had their energy and determination, but alas, you feel you don’t. Kaphas actually have lots of energy – in reserve, that is. The problem is the ignition switch. And it’s difficult getting to your car when it’s parked in a big, muddy puddle. Kapha’s slow metabolism creates tendencies towards complacency, lethargy and even depression. Many pure Kaphas can have overwhelming feelings of heaviness, so getting started with any endeavor can feel like a formidable task.

You are prone to self-deprecating attitudes. This self-flagellation will not get you started, however. It will simply bog you down even more. (Pitta tends toward self-criticism for not measuring up, e.g. “I should have done better.” With Kapha, on the other hand, it’s more about low self-esteem, e.g. “I’m such a slob, … idiot, etc.”)

As a Kapha, you actually have lots of energy and stamina but it feels like you don’t. Your slow-moving energy makes it easier for you to gain weight than others. Combined with your gentle, kind, loving tendencies, you are prone to drift into pleasant reveries and fantasies. You can easily imagine yourself resting next to a quiet lake on a warm summer day with the soothing sound of birds.

Self-discipline strategies for each body type

Vata self-discipline strategies:

1) Develop regularity: Irregularity, or lack of routine is Vata’s biggest obstacle. So you need to focus your attention on developing regularity. To help you with this, make it a priority to get enough rest. Your overactive mind and enthusiasm can drain your energy so there’s none left to pursue your goals. Take periodic short breaks during the day to actually slow down and rest.

2) Stay the course: Pick one goal and stay with it. Only change direction or goal if you are absolutely sure it is not right for you. Watch out for enticing reasons to pursue something else. Indecision is something to watch out for. When we stay indecisive, we never move forward.

Pitta self-discipline strategies:

1) Examine your expectations: As a Pitta, you view your high standards as simply basic requirements. Compared to others, your expectations often appear unrealistic and they usually are. For example, having the expectation to excel at something before fully learning it is unrealistic. Yet Pittas are prone to this. You won’t allow yourself mistakes or ‘making a fool of yourself’. You must appear competent at all times.

2) Watch your impatience and frustration: That Pitta fire, so good at forging ahead can quickly turn into anger and impatience. Simply noticing this impatience with … and here’s the important part …. as neutral an attitude as possible, can help you to ride it out and calm down. It’s a practice.

Kapha self-discipline strategies:

Get support: As a Kapha, your tendency towards a slower pace, coupled with an insipid feeling of heaviness, needs external prodding. Needing help and support to attain your goals does not mean there’s something wrong with you – in case you might be thinking that. One man, who tried for years to “lose weight”, finally hired a personal trainer and succeeded in not only slimming down but getting healthier.

2) Go for a walk, even for a few minutes: Lack of physical activity is deadly for Kapha’s motivation. It’s like a feedback loop – the less exercise you get, the less motivated you are, and the less motivated you are, the less effort you make in working toward your goal.

In conclusion, a well-known quote originally spoken by Woody Allan, might help us regardless of our body type: “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” For Vata, that would mean showing up repeatedly and consistently, for Pitta, it would mean showing up free of high expectations and for Kapha, it’s getting support … to just show up.

Smart Self-discipline part 2

Identifying negative self-talk

Our self-talk, that is, the stream of thoughts that continually run through our minds, is so automatic that we aren’t aware of a good portion of it. If you have had trouble attaining your goals, more than likely you have some sort of negative self-talk.

It is only when we slow down, calm down and pay attention, that we can really catch it. Knowing our negative self-talk is an important part of smart self-discipline. It may seem like too much effort at first but we are building a foundation. Once built, it will be easier to accomplish whatever goal we wish with less effort, like investing in a map when we are travelling in unfamiliar territory.

Tarot Art cardTypes of negative self-talk

We human beings are complex. We believe ourselves to be one person but in actuality, we have what modern psychology calls sub-personalities. This is a great tool to use for self-awareness. It helps us target more specifically what we keep repeating to ourselves that sabotages our efforts. Remember, smart self-discipline is about ‘informed effort’.

Negative self-talk generally falls under one of four categories as described below. Read through them and see if you can recognize anything about yourself.

The Worrier: If you are prone to being anxious, you probably have a worrier sub-personality. Your self-talk will include worry statements such as “What if the worst happens?”. You anticipate failure or catastrophe. Or maybe you are afraid of something embarrassing happening to you.

The Critic: If you find yourself constantly judging or criticizing yourself, always focusing on your flaws or limitations, you have a Critic sub-personality. Your self-talk will include harsh judgments such as: “I’m so stupid.”, “I could have done better.”, “Can’t I ever get it right?”

The Victim: If you have a tendency to feel helpless or fall into discouragement and feeling easily defeated then you may have a Victim sub-personality. Typical statements that you might repeat to yourself are: “I can’t do it.”, “What’s the point of trying, I won’t succeed.”

The Perfectionist: This sub-personality is a close relative to the Critic. Rather than put you down, like the Critic, it is extremely demanding and has overly high expectations of you. There is no room for mistakes or failures. Your self-talk, when driven by the Perfectionist often has a should or have to: “I should do better than that.”, “I have to be on top of things.”

The power of our subconscious mindsubconscious iceberg

We all have a subconscious mind which is essential for our functioning. Without it, we would not be able to perform basic tasks. Every time we walked across the street, for example, we would have to learn how to take each step, much like a baby learning to walk. As adults, our walking ability is automatic and efficient because it is performed by our subconscious mind.

Our subconscious – helper or saboteur?

The trouble occurs when we, as children, are either treated poorly by our parents or family members or have traumatic experiences that cause us to feel badly about ourselves. This gets registered in the subconscious as truth and begins to operate automatically.

Our negative self-talk happens in both our conscious mind and our subconscious. This is an important aspect to understand. If you have found yourself doing the opposite of what you intended, very likely, lodged in your subconscious, is an opposite message or tendency to what you consciously wish for. For example: “I wish to eat less” is your conscious desire. Yet you may have in your subconscious a tendency or belief that says: “Eating makes me feel better, it calms my nerves.“ So as soon as you try to eat less, it triggers your subconscious to react against it.

The good news is, our subconscious, being like a computer, can be reprogrammed. We can input a different and positive message or belief into it. The trick is to be strategic, what I call, ‘going in through the back door’.

The smart self-discipline basic steps to follow:

1) Calm down and relax just 5 minutes a day. If anything, it will at least be a good investment in your health and well-being.

We live in such a frenetic, productivity-based culture and, unbeknownst to most of us, have become so accustomed to this as the ‘new normal’. We are not built to be constantly on the go, constantly stimulated. This actually wastes valuable energy, like going on a shopping spree and buying clothes without trying them on. The only difference is we can return clothes but our energy only gets spent. We can’t call it back.

Being busy all the time means we don’t have energy left over to observe our negative self-talk. So slowing down is essential, like our Far Side cartoon school boy who finally stops to see that he needs to pull rather than push to open the door.

2) Observe your negative self-talk:

a) Write down in a journal anything you are aware of about this. Ask yourself “What do I think or believe about myself or my attempts to achieve my goal?” e.g. “I failed.” When I was training to be a psychotherapist I was taught a saying to help with the fear of making mistakes: “There are no mistakes, only consequences.” To some of you, this may sound negative but for me, it was liberating. I later came to realize that it wasn’t my mistakes that were a problem, because mistakes in life are inevitable, but rather how I dealt with them.

CD Front Coverb) Meditation can be a valuable tool for observing our thinking mind and the constant stream of thoughts running through it. It can also help us to relax and calm down. Most people don’t value meditating either because it seems like a waste of time or because it is uncomfortable to be confronted with how we really are, rather than what we imagine ourselves to be. To help people get started, I have created a guided meditation CD based on the Ayurvedic body types. All the meditations are under ten minutes. There is even a lying down one for when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. (For more info, go to https://louisegabrielle.com/meditation-cd/)

3) Reset your goal:
We often focus on what we need to change or fix rather than where we want to get to. For example, the goal of losing weight means we are focusing on the problem. We weigh ourselves daily to see how much weight we lost – or didn’t lose. If, instead, we enlist the help of our subconscious, we can simply spend a few minutes each day, imagining ourselves thinner or healthier. Doing this before bed every night is a good time. We are tired and our subconscious is more receptive and accessible. It’s important not to push it but rather make it a soft, receptive attitude towards yourself.

If you want to use an affirmation, it’s best to make it permissive rather than definitive. For example: “I’m learning to eat only what my body needs.” or “I eat less by attending to my anxious feelings.” rather than “I now will eat less.” which will almost certainly trigger a negative reaction in your subconscious.

4) We can’t do it alone
We are social beings and rely on others, perhaps more than we realize. If you’ve been struggling with a particular goal repeatedly, why not enlist the help of a therapist or life coach. There is an old Sufi teaching: “You can’t see the back of your head no matter how quickly you turn around to look at it.” Let’s not reinvent the wheel, so to speak. There are professionals who have studied and understand how the human psyche operates. Most of us seek the help of a financial adviser to safeguard our investments. Why not do it for yourself?

Another possibility is to work with a “buddy”. Find someone with a similar goal and team up. Agree to check in with each other once a week for help and support. As long as each of you stays out of advice giving or judging the other, it will work to keep you moving forward in attaining your goal.

Part 3: https://louisegabrielle.com/2014/08/12/smart-self-discipline-part-3/

 

 

Happy Winter Solstice!

I want to wish you all a very happy Winter Solstice. With the days now beginning to lengthen once again, this is, for me, a time of rebirth, of planting the seeds of something new. I don’t know why but I associate the Solstice with this image of a griffin fresco from the ancient Knossis temple of Crete. Perhaps because it represents a blending together of different elements to create a new form. Best wishes for the holiday season!

Knossis sm