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My Interview with Hatice Ozyurt

I recently had the privilege of chatting with Hatice “The Turkish Delight” Ozyurt for Combat Arena.  Hatice is one of the bravest and most inpirational ladies I have ever come across.  She will be coming to Dublin to face Leah McCourt in Bellator 217 later this month.  I can’t wait x

Bellator 217: ‘The Turkish Delight’ with plenty of motivation to light up Dublin

 

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When Nothing Goes Right, Go Lift!

Last week was one of the silliest, messiest weeks that I have had in a while.  There were no major catastrophies.  Rather a domino effect of minor irritations that all added up to a fairly “off plan” week.

The irony is that just the week before I had been busy congratulating myself on how I had it all going on.  My training plan was coming together.  My nutrition was on point.   Like it says on my pj’s I felt like the Queen of Everything!  Nothing could knock me off track.  Yeah, right!

Things started to go awry on Monday, when a half day from work due to a plumbling problem, meant I couldn’t get to the gym.  Tuesday and Wednesday I wasn’t feeling my best so no gym again.  I hadn’t planned on training Thursday anyway because I had an appointment with my therapist, which was then cancelled last minute.  By this time I was firmly in the “are you kidding me right now?” zone.

Friday eventually rolled around.  I was having the whole will I or won’t I debate with myself when it came time to head to the gym.  Rationalising that there was probably no point in going on a Friday when the rest of the week had been so bad.  Surely it was better to just start fresh on Monday?

Knowing that the much maligned double unders were in the workout did not serve to encourage me.  For those of you who might not know, double unders are when you are skipping and the rope passes around your body twice with each jump.  In my former iteration as a “Crossfitter” I cried many, many tears of frustration while trying to get to grips with them.  I didn’t think my new gym buddies were quite ready for that.

After a lot of back and forth, I eventually decided to go.  I was so glad that I did.  The workout was fun (by fun I mean it was really tough and made me feel like my lungs were on fire) and there was a super atmosphere in the gym.  Everyone seemed to have that Friday feeling and their energy was infectious.  I really enjoyed the session and I even managed to get a few double unders and there were no tears.

By the time I left the gym I had an entirely different prespective on my week.  I felt like it had ended on a positive note and that at least something good had come out of it.  I am not going to say that a workout will always do this for you.  However, if we are in a negative mindset, as I was, sitting in it is not going to help.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Good Vibes Only?

There’s so much talk about “positivity” and “good vibes” around these days.  To be honest, I don’t buy into it.  Nobody can go around being ridiculously happy all the time.  Bad days and bad weeks happen.  It is all part of a whole and authentic human experience.  My point is that in each bad day or crappy week, it is still possible to pick out a thing or two which was good.  Or at least better than the rest of it.

When I look back on last week, I still chalk it up as not being the best I have ever had.  Not every week can be the best after all.  But at least when I look back now, I can be happy about my Friday workout, and remember how energised I felt leaving the gym.  If I had been determined to write the week off, I would have deprived myself of that.

Perhaps more importantly for me from a mindset point of view is that I stopped the rot last week.  I am not facing into the new week with all of the carried forward negativity.  I can instead say to myself that yes, the Queen of Everything’s crown was a little crooked at the start of the week, but it was back in place before the weekend.  The gym bag is packed, the meals are prepped and I am ready to rock it.

So, if your Monday hasn’t been going according to plan, don’t worry.  Tomorrow has every chance of being a better day.  In the mean time, try to pick out something you can be happy about.  Even if it is just that you managed not to spill coffee on your white shirt.  Life is not all unicorns and rainbows, and that’s okay.  Be well xxx

 

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Being Enough

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.        –  C.P. Cavafy

Do you ever get the feeling that you should be farther along your path than you are?  Do you ever get frustrated by set backs?  Do you tire of hearing yourself talk about starting over, again?  Yeah?  So do I.

As I sit writing this, it is “Blue Monday.”  I am looking out at a black night.  Neither of these however, is the source of my malaise.  I feel depressed and down due to the sisyphus condition I find myself in.  The near constant roundabout of a little progress followed by a big backslide, has started to wear me down.  Just like in the Greek myth, I am beginning to wonder if I am destined to carry the same load up hill for all eternity.

I am not writing this because I want to host my own pity party.  Or to elicit sympathy from my readers.  Instead, I write because I promised you and myself, almost exactly three years ago, that I would always be authentic.  It is extremely tempting to show only the highlights.  To invite you in, only when my house is tidy and everything is in order.  However to do that, would be to fail to honour the relationship we have built.  The trust you show me, each time you turn up to read my words.

Late last year, I was invited to resign from my job.  I watched a career that I had spent over a decade building crumble in the space of a single conversation.  The words “you’re not right for the job,” have echoed in my mind many times since then.  Reverberating and repeating.  Their message clear, you are not enough.

I had always known that a lot of my self worth was tied up with my job.  I am a natural striver, always obsessed with the next thing.  An upward career trajectory was good way for me to channel this.  What I had not known, was that when the label of accountant, professional and general good girl was taken away from me, I would struggle to recognise myself.

I wish I could tell you that this was limited to my professional life, but sadly that is not the case.  I am routinely plagued by the curse of more.  If I am fit, I want to be fitter.  If I am thin, I want to lose more weight.  When I fail it is all my fault and when I succeed it has nothing to do with me.

Lately I been doing some writing for another blog.  A couple of weeks back, I did an interview with an up and coming athlete.  My editor messaged me the day after it was published to let me know it had been the most read interview on the site.  As a writer this should have thrilled me.  Instead I immediately started to catalogue all of the possible explanations for the article’s popularity that didn’t involve its author.  Conversely, when we publish an article of mine that doesn’t do so well, I am crushed.  My inner demons launch into a chorus of “you’re not good enough, why would you even try?”

Daring Greatly

I have a small library of personal development literature at home.  I have just finished Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Rarely has a book so profoundly affected me.  I was literally moved to tears as I listened to her telling her stories.  Her struggle to connect with vulnerability seemed to mirror my own almost exactly.

In her book, she asks so many important questions.  But the one that struck me the hardest was this;  In a world where enough is never enough, how can we cultivate a sense of worthiness?  How can we learn to feel loved and lovable in a culture that values exhaustion and burn out over communication and connection?

I remember as a child and even into adulthood challenging both of my parents.  I distinctly recall screaming at them “Why can’t you just be proud of me!”  They would always assure me that they were.  As I look back, I can see that was the truth.  The chronic need for achievement came from inside me.  Any words of support and encouragement they gave me were at best, a temporary balm.

As I have gone through life, the need for approval, the desire to be seen has remained.  However, now it is not just my parents that I seek it from.  The need to be relevant, to feel like I am enough, has brought me to some dark and dangerous places.  I am caught in the vicious cycle of “I will be happy when… ” When my blog is a success.  It won an award and still I wasn’t soothed.  When the podcast reaches more listeners.  How many will it take?  When I am doing well at work.  I am now a finance manager, and “successful” by any objective measure, but still nothing.

It is slowly dawning on me, with the help of those supporting me, that the feeling of being enough will never come from outside.  It will not come from being athletic.  It will not come packaged in skinny jeans.  A good hair day, an orgasm, or a promotion will not conjure it.  It can only come from within me.  A truly terrifying prospect.

Becoming Enough

As I draft this post, the words of an Alanis Morissette song have been going through my head.

I’d be productive and still it would not come
I’d be celebrated still it would not come
I’d be the hero and still it would not come
I’d renunciate and still it would not come

I take comfort from knowing that if someone as wealthy, talented and accomplished as she can have these same sentiments, perhaps it is merely part of the human condition?  Maybe we all have demons to slay.  Perhaps the hardest thing is to set down the need for pleasing and perfecting, to just allow ourselves to be.

I know that I have a lot more work to do in this area.  I have enlisted the help of a therapist as I set about unlearning the habits of a lifetime.  Over the past few years I have driven myself to the point of exhaustion several times.  The “not enough” feeling is impossible to out run.  The only solution is to try to meet it head on.

I am committed to dealing with the shame that losing my job brought.  To shining a big, bright light on it.  Because shame loves the dark.  It delights in festering in unlit corners, gaining strength and power.  As I try to shed the pounds I gained when I was eating my feelings and too depressed to exercise, I am determined not to allow my self worth to depend on this.

At various stages of my life I have weighed less than 50kgs and over 80kg.  I was not happy with my body at any stage.  I am going to turn that narrative on its head.  If my weight can’t make me happy, why should I let it make me unhappy?  Brene Brown tells us that when we own our story, we get to write the ending.  That fills me with great hope.

I am imperfect.  I have flaws beyond counting.  But yet, I am worthy.  I am capable of giving love and receiving it in return.  I have gifts to offer this world.  I will enter the arena and fight.  Overcoming these demons may turn out to be my life’s work.  I will learn to be okay with that.  I will not hurry the journey at all.  Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Sip of Crossfit Kool-Aid

An Affair to Remember

I have always loved Crossfit. I loved the community aspect. Everyone rooting for everyone else. The last guy across the finish line get the loudest cheer. The training itself was always fun for me too.

In the four years I spents doing Crossfit style strength and conditioning workouts, I was never the strongest, the fastest or the best. In truth I struggled enormously with most things! But I was hopelessly addicted. There is something so insanly satisfying about seeing how far you can push your body. It is also very cool learning new skills, and gaining a different appreciation for what your body can do.

My love affair with the sport ended a little over a year ago. The break up was not mutual.  The injuries I kept picking up were becoming hopelessly frustrating. My coaches did their best to scale workouts for me and help me to train around my issues, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt disconnected from the rest of the class. I just wanted to be able to play with the other kids.

I ultimately made the decision to walk away from Crossfit and I started working with a great physio, Noel Mallon. When he was finished mending me, I spent some time training with a local personal trainer, Ross Lynch. He was incredible. Patiently and methodically working with me to improve my movement patterns. Making sure I stayed fixed.

Ironically, our pathes crossed accidentally. I asked for a consulation in the gym I had joined and he was assigned to me.  He has definitely had way easier clients.  His misfortune turned out to be very lucky for me!

At the time I was teaching Zumba a few times a week.  I suppose I was probably too busy to miss Crossfit. That all changed a few months back when I found myself unemployed and then re-employed. Working in Dublin was going to mean scaling back my Zumba classes.  I needed to find something to else to do.

To be completely honest, the second half of 2018 was such a crazy time for me. I stopped focussing on my goals and I piled on a whole load of weight. It also made me question how I want to identify myself. For the previous few years I had enjoyed identifying as a “fit person.” Someone who loved the gym and prioritised it. Someone who made time to train and slotted the other optional things around it.

As Christmas approached and the number of items in my wardrobe that fit me continued to decrease, I did some soul searching. Something needed to be done to stop this back slide, but what? I toyed with the idea of taking up Jiu Jitsu, or boxing. I looked into joining the commercial gym across the street from the office, but nothing really appealed. None of it seemed like me. I felt as though I had completely lost sight of myself and taking up something else new, was just going to exacerbate this.

Finding My Way Back

Eventually it dawned on me. Go back to Crossfit. I contacted Alan, a coach I knew, but had never trained with.  He must have thought I was out of mind.  I tried to explain where I was coming from. “Treat me like a complete beginner,” I told him. I went on to explain that I am finally injury free and above all else I want to stay that way. I don’t want the coaches to let me get away with any shitty movement.

When the day came for the first of my Elements classes, I wondered if it was possible to die from anxiety. I was shaking like a leaf as I walked through the door. I received a warm welcome and Alan tried to put me at ease. We got to work right away and soon I was too busy huffing and puffing to worry about nerves.

My God! All I could think was “how the hell have I let myself get so out of shape AGAIN!” The simplest of exercises seemed beyond me. Over the course of our five introductory sessions together, I had that same thought a million times. Each time Alan asked if I was familiar with a certain movement I would parrot “yes, well, I used to able to do that.” I might well have added, in another life. There were times during those classes when I thought I might cry. The combination of shame and dissapointment in myself was a heady one.

Last night was my final introductory session and tonight I get to go play with the big kids. To say I am nervous would be a huge understatement. I have been completely humbled over the last couple of weeks. One thing I have going for me now, is that I don’t even have an ego to leave at the door.

I knew coming into this that I had a massive amount of work to do. I am hoping that at least some of it will be like riding a bike! 2019 for me is going to be a year of working on me. Trying to figure out how I want to feel about myself and acting accordingly. I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  As long as I can be patient with myself, I think good things are going to happen.

I am not sure if I am quite ready to embrace the Crossfit lifesyle again. The thought of being on a team, even just for a workout, is extremely uncomfortable. I am painfully aware of how much of a liability I would be. It is reminiscent of being picked last for PE. It will be a while I’m sure before I start talking about benchmark workouts, and thinking about entering The Open.

The only positive about being back at square one again is that I get to start over with a little bit of knowledge. I know that it gets easier. In time I will no longer be anxious before workouts and sore after them (at least not as much.) I also know that although the community aspect is nice, at the end of the day it’s down to me. Only I can close the gap between where I am, and where I want to be. Be well xxx

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Powering Up For 2019

As the start of my second week in my new job dawned, I was determined to hit the ground running.  I went to bed reasonably early (not something I am usually very good at) and awoke refreshed and ready to face the day.  I battled the traffic and managed to arrive at my desk in good time.  Yay me!  No sooner had I made my morning coffee, than the lights went out.  Power cut.

It came back after about an hour, so at least we weren’t sitting in the dark (a tiny bit awkward with virtual strangers.)  However, there was a further delay before our IT systems recovered.  I started to become irritated by the interruption.  I had a to do list as long as the M50.  Besides, even though we were all in the same boat, I didn’t want to seem like I was wasting time.

The frustration quickly melted into amusement as I couldn’t help smile at the irony.  It served as a timely reminder that try as we might, we cannot control everything.  There will always be times that despite the best laid plans, everything goes tits up.

As the year draws to a close, I always like to reflect on the past 12 months.  This morning’s outage pretty much sums up the entire year for me.  2018 has been one false start after another.  It has been tempting at times to throw my hands up and shout “what’s the bloody point?”  It has taken no small amount of effort to pick myself and dust myself off.

In the words Kipling, of one of my favourite poets,

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.”

When you think about it, that is exactly what happens when you look for a new job.  You accumulate all your experience and skills, your winnings, and risk it in the hopes of obtaining something better.  You sacrifice your security, and your comfort and take a giant leap into the unknown.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my career hasn’t been the only tumultuous part of my life in recent months.  I am very much the type of person who needs stability and routine.  If one area of my life is in discord, the rest of it will inevitably follow suit.

I am loath to admit the amount of weight I have put on since this time last year.  My fitness levels have also taken a huge back slide.  In all honesty, I am very much looking forward to January and the natural reset point it always brings.

As I write this, I have a plan in place to get myself back to a level of fitness that I can be happy with.  Tomorrow evening, I am joining a Crossfit gym.  I know it probably sounds crazy to start a health kick Christmas week, but I have been putting this off long enough.  Plus, I know if I delay it any further, chances are I will talk myself out of it.

It can be difficult when not only have you failed to make progress, but you have actually gone backwards, not to feel like a failure.  It is hard not to look back with rose tinted glasses, to a time when you were slimmer, fitter or just generally had it more together.  However, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are peaks and valleys in life.  Progress is definitely non-linear.

With a shiny New Year on the horizon, I take comfort in the fact that I have a plan in place, and that I have walked this road before.  I know that following in old footsteps is always easier than trying to forge a new path.

Another lesson that is beginning to take root is that I am not my weight.  I am not my dress size or my body fat percentage.  Neither am I the job title I hold or my bank account balance.  Of course, it is easy to “know” these things on a rational level.  It is another thing entirely to actually feel it.

I spent more than three decades allowing these things to define me.  So much so that when I was unemployed, albeit briefly, I was surprised that people still wanted to be around me.  They sought me out and looked to me for my opinion.  They asked me for help and tasked me with projects.  The value they placed in me wasn’t tied up in my employment status.  Why then did I allow a temporary career set back to impact my confidence levels so profoundly?

I know it’s hackneyed, but I firmly believe that things to happen for a reason.  Events of the recent past are not far enough behind me yet, for me to have perspective in my rear-view mirror.  Their lessons will only begin to take shape in time.  In the meantime, I am very hopeful about the future.  I eagerly anticipate a few months of relative calm in which to get to work on myself.

In truth, we never know what is around the corner.  As prepared and ready as we think we are, there is always something which could potentially upset our little apple cart on the horizon.  All we can do is keep going.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other in the general direction of our goals.  Keep hoping the lights don’t go out.  Be well xxx

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Baby It’s Cold Inside!

Sometimes, even the best laid plans go awry.  This week has been all about that.  As the Festive Season approaches, many of us set about getting our house in order.  Seeing to things which may, in my case anyway, have been put on the long finger.  The countdown is on, and the thought of having a house full of friends and family has nudged some D.I.Y. projects further up the to do list.

Our dishwasher has been acting up lately so I ordered a new one, in an attempt to preempt its demise.  We are hosting Christmas dinner and I could foresee it choosing that particular day to lay itself to rest.  I was happily congratulating myself at such a splendid show of adulting, when the plumber arrived to perform a routine service on my gas boiler.  Fantastic, we are on a roll.

Not so much.  About 20 minutes after he arrived, the plumber sought me out, the look on his face read “expensive.”  He hesitated for a moment before breaking the bad news “you have a gas leak,” he said.  He launched into a monologue of explanation, much of which went over me head.  I desperately wanted to interrupt him and say “just tell me what has to be done and how much it’s going to cost.”  Instead, I patiently waited for him to cut to the chase.  The long and the short of it was he had to disconnect our supply and he would be back in a couple of days to fix it.  It was probably going to cost a few hundred euro.

Far from ideal.  As you all know by now, I have been on a little sabbatical from work, so these two little projects were set to put a huge dent in the remainder of my savings.  The Irish woman me wanted to get to work catastrophizing and wringing my hands.  However, as I sat in my very cold house yesterday, a bigger part of me began to think of all the ways in which I am truly fortunate.

For one thing, the cold for me, was a temporary inconvenience.  I could be fairly certain that in a day or two I would again be warm.  In fact, as I write this, I am already beginning to thaw.  For many people this is not the case.  For the homeless in our society, and for those who literally cannot afford to heat their homes, the long winter will be cold and cruel.

Secondly, although the outlay to get this leak fixed has drained my savings, at least I could actually afford to pay for it.  Three weeks before Christmas a lot of people might not have been so lucky.  We don’t have children to worry about and we had already decided to make Christmas modest, so it won’t have too much of an impact overall.

I am starting back to work next week too, so at least I can look forward to getting paid some time in the not so distant future.  This would have stressed me out far more if I had no idea where my next pay cheque was coming from.  On the flip side, I am lucky that I was still off this week to deal with the plumbing debacle.

One more thing I am grateful for is that the leak was discovered.  The boiler in my kitchen was the source of the leak and I shudder to think how much worse it could have been.  I really do believe that we take an awful lot for granted.  Sometimes it takes being without certain comforts, for even a short while, to make us realize good we have it.

There have been a couple of stories in the news this week that make me feel like we are losing some of the warmth from the world.  I titled this article after the first of these stories.  Here in Ireland, our dedicated Christmas radio station has said it will no longer be playing Dean Martin’s classic “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”  The reasoning behind this is because they feel that the female in the song is being held against her will.  That she clearly wants to leave, but is being forced to stay.

When I read this headline for the first time, I was sure it must be some sort of prank.  I was fully expecting The Onion or Waterford Whispers to be in the by-line.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  I am at a loss to try to explain this move by Christmas FM, other than to say outrage culture strikes again.

Yes, the lady in the song does repeatedly say she should be going, but can anyone not relate to that?  The feeling of being so completely captivated (not captive) that you damn the consequences for a few more moments in the company of your love.  I know I have certainly missed my fair share of curfews and last buses, lingering over a goodnight kiss.  The song, for me, is a throw back to a safer and more innocent time, and the equivalent of “you hang up, no you hang up.”  I find nothing threatening in any of the lyrics, and I feel the world a colder, harder place without the nostalgia it conjures.

In another sad development, the HSE’s staff are no longer allowed to call patients “love, dear or lads.”  They must instead use gender neutral language, like patient 597, or something!  These terms of endearment are a part of our culture.  I have been called love by everyone from bus drivers to bosses over the years and not one jot of harm was ever meant by it.

In fact, I think I would struggle to follow that protocol myself as those “offensive” words spring forth so naturally.  The healthcare providers are so overstretched, they cannot be expected to learn each patient’s name.  These terms allow them to impart a caring, warm word to people on what could be the worst day of their lives.

Personally, should I find myself in hospital, I would like to be cared for by a human being.  Not a sterile automaton terrified of reprisal or litigation should they dare to utter a loving word.

As my home continues to warm up, I wish I could feel that the world is following the same trend.  Sadly, however, it appears that with each move towards political correctness it just gets a little colder.  As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, take a little time to think about what you are grateful for.  Hug your loved ones close.  Fill you homes are and your hearts with warmth.  Have half a drink more.  Be well xxx

 

 

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Starting Over…Again!

It’s not us, it’s you!

In two weeks time I will be starting a new job.  Yes, that’s right folks, another one.  In fact, this will be the fourth job I have had this year.  When I look back on 2018, I am sure the archives will be full of memories of being interviewed.

The last few weeks have been strange and strained.  I have felt unable to get into it here on the blog.  Without knowing what was next, it seemed like self-indulgent whining.  Since the summer, I have started, and finished, two new roles.  For the record, neither of these positions were supposed to be temporary.

I have tried to reassure myself that these things happen.  Everyone is allowed to have a run of bad luck sometimes.  However, I couldn’t prevent my confidence from being severely dented.  The last job ended after only 8 week.  My boss told me he didn’t think I was the right person for the job.  He wasn’t firing me, as such, but there was a clear invitation to resign.

As I sat across from him at that board room table, I tried to remain composed.  All I could think was “he is right.”  All these years I have been playing a part.  Now, finally, I am being exposed as the fraud I always knew I was.  At least that is what I thought on that fateful Wednesday.

In the weeks since then, there has been a lot of soul searching and no small amount of tears.  I honestly did not know if I had what it would take to dust off the CV.  To try to sell myself again.  My shame and my sadness were so raw.  I felt sure that it would be obvious to anyone who met me.

Luckily, there’s no better decision making tool than not having a choice.  I wasn’t in immediate danger of ending up on the bread line.  However, I knew I needed to get back to work in short order.  A month or two of unemployment was realistically all I could afford.

Of course, I fantasized about walking away from corporate life.  Immersing myself instead in my writing, Zumba and the Podcast.  As appealing as that sounds, it isn’t a viable option right now.  I am not ruling it out completely.  It’s just more of a long term proposition.

Getting back on the horse

I realised that I needed to build myself back up again.  Hearing “no” is an inevitable part of job seeking.  I needed to restore my resilience and my energy to be able to withstand it.  I had given myself the deadline of the New Year to try to get something in place.  As many of you who know me will understand, I am not good as sitting still.  I am prone to depression.  Lounging around in a dressing gown will surely set me on that course.  It was important for me to stay busy.

I needed a new project.  Something exciting to take my mind off my current situation and keep my brain engaged.  Just then, something amazing happened.  A Facebook friend (to this day I am still unsure how we are even connected) put up a post looking for someone to help him.  He needed a writer for his MMA blog.  I answered his call.  I admitted knowing very little about MMA or any sport for that matter.  In spite of my lack of expertise, he decided to let me try out.

This project turned out to be exactly what I needed.  It is a challenge for sure.  I am learning a lot, which I always love and getting to meet so many interesting people.  Under my editor’s guidance I am producing work that I am incredibly proud of.  Doing things like driving 220km to attend MMA fights on my own, which I never would have imagined myself doing.

All of this started to have an affect on me.  My confidence began to return.  I started to feel less useless.  Furthermore, I figured out that as humans, our capability to reinvent ourselves is infinite.  If I can step into the role of MMA reporter, what else can I do?  We are only limited by our imagination.  It made me feel a lot better about having to sell myself in the job market, that’s for sure.

It is a cliché, but I do believe that sometimes when it feels like everything is falling apart, it is actually falling into place.  Had I not had such a bad run of employment luck this year, I never would have had these few weeks off to rest and reevaluate.  I experienced what was probably my greatest professional fear coming to pass, and I lived to tell the tale.  That fear won’t have as great a hold over me in the future.

I also would not have had the opportunity to try something new and the pick up some new skills.  I have interviewed some people for the site.  This has lead me to consider interviewing people for the Podcast.  I don’t know if I would have felt equipped to do before.  It has shown me that even at the ripe old age of 37, I can still learn.  Adventure is still out there for me.  I am still able to surprise myself.

I am proud of myself for walking away from a bad situation.  The Arwen of old would have gritted her teeth and tried to make it work.  I am no longer prepared to sacrifice my self-worth for a pay cheque.  That is huge.

I am going into this new role full of excitement and hopeful that it will be a good fit.  If it doesn’t work out I might have to try lion taming!  At the risk of sounding ambivalent, if it isn’t a good fit, it won’t be the end of the world.  I now know I am capable of dusting myself off and trying again.  I will keep you posted.  Be well xxx

 

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Mining for Motivation

Motivation – The force which compels us to take action.  So often, we know what we want to do, but we feel we lack the motivation to get it done.  My clients will routinely tell me they don’t feel motivated or wish they had more motivation.  Here’s the thing, while motivation can be crucial to get you started with a new habit or behaviour, it is extremely limited.

Every morning we wake up with a certain amount of motivation.  Imagine, for the sake of argument, that your motivation score when you wake up on Monday morning is 100.  You use a few points getting up on the first ring of the alarm clock, instead of allowing it to snooze.  A couple more go towards leaving the wonderfully warm shower, although you would love to linger.  A healthy breakfast might set you back another few.  You get to the office and click straight into you Excel spreadsheet instead of social media.  Your morning might be off to a great start, but that motivation bank will be dwindling!

As the day goes on, you are faced with more and more decisions.  These gradually erode your motivation.  So, you can see how sometimes making it to that after hours spin class can seem a bridge too far.  Or, how clicking into that Just Eat app can seem a more appealing prospect than the fresh meat and veggies in the fridge!

In order for action happen three things need to be in place.

Intention:

You have to make the decision “I am going to go to the gym in the morning.”  This is a crucial first step and often where what we think of as motivation comes in.  This intention usually comes about after a Eureka moment.  When you see things clearly for the first time.  It could be that you ran upstairs after you kids and spent 10 minutes on the landing panting afterwards.  These moments of clarity can be painful when they occur.

For me, it was coming out of the shower and seeing my jeans laid out on the bed.  Until that moment I really didn’t realise how much weight I had put on.  It was like a slap and it jolted me into taking action.

Means:  

Okay great, you’re off to the gym in the morning.  But what gym?  Are you a member?  Do they take walk ins?  Do you need to be assessed by a trainer before they will let you workout?

In order for you to kick start your new habit the means have to be in place.  This will most likely mean ironing out the logistics and putting some systems in place.

Ability:  

I can be the most motivated person in the world, but if I don’t know how to swim, I won’t get across the English channel.  Don’t set yourself up to fail.  Nothing is more likely to drain your motivation than unrealistic expectations.  You know the “I’m going to lose 50lbs by next month” ones?

Once these three things are in place you are all set to start your new habit.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  Even when you have your new routine in place, there will still be little friction points, that will make you not want to do it.  Minor irritations, sometimes extremely minor, that can make your new activity seem like too much hard work.

Here is an example.  When I was getting ready to start teaching Zumba, I needed to practice a lot.  I still do.  I was in the habit of getting changed into comfy clothes, bra off, when I got home from work.  After dinner and housework, I would have a window of time when I should really be practicing.  But in order to start, I would have to go upstairs and put a sports bra on.

I knew I needed to work on my routines.   The deadline was fast approaching.  To be honest, I enjoyed it anyway.  However, the effort involved in getting undressed and dressed again, was a huge barrier, and some nights that barrier did not get crossed.  Eventually I figured this out and when I was changing after work, I just put the sports bra on!

If you find yourself in a situation where you are avoiding something that you actually want to be doing, try to figure out what it is about it that’s a pain in the ass.  I have a friend that I used to train with.  She loved the gym, but she absolutely hated packing her bag the night before.  To get around this she would pack a bag over the weekend with all the gym clothes she would need for the whole week.  Whatever that sticking point is for you, find it and destroy it.  Fighting against it is like walking around with a stone in your shoe.

Another way to save those motivation points is to automate as much as possible.  When I was arguably at my fittest, I trained every night after work.  I never had to think about whether I wanted to go or not, I just went.  It was my routine.  If you have decided to make Tuesday the morning you go swimming before work, don’t allow yourself to think about it!  There will always be a million reasons not to go, if you give yourself the opportunity to come up with them.

After a while your new habit becomes a part of how you identify yourself.  When I was training every evening, other people in the gym would say things like “wow, you’re here all the time.” I got a huge kick out of that.  I liked identifying as a fit person, as someone who never missed a session.  I found that in itself to be very motivational.

In fact, studies have shown that when people give up smoking those who say “I am not a smoker” when offered a cigarette, have a much higher success rate than those to say “I am trying to quit.”  This is because they no longer identify themselves as smokers.

Lastly, try to front load your rewards.  The trouble with adopting new health and fitness habits is that often it can take weeks or even months for the fruits of our hard work to show.  As well as this, these habits can often feel unpleasant at the start.  If you are watching what you eat, you might have cravings.  If you have started a new fitness regime, you could experience muscle soreness.  Try to come up with ways to reward yourself as early and as often as possible.

Personally, I love yoga.  Taking a bikram class used to be my reward after a tough week in the gym.  Maybe you might allow yourself a nice, long bubble bath or to binge watch your favourite show at the weekend.  Longer term goals and adherence deserve better rewards.  Maybe after a month of no missed workouts, you can treat yourself to those new bottoms you have had your eye on.  It doesn’t matter what the reward is, as long as you find it motivational.  One caveat, don’t reward yourself with food, you are not a dog.

Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Day No Added Sugar Challenge

I have never had a particularly sweet tooth, but I have noticed over the last while more and more sweet treats sneaking in to my diet. So I have decided my challenge for November will be to try to avoid all added sugar for three weeks, starting on Monday the 5th.

This is not because sugar is evil or inherently bad for us, but because our western diets have far too much of it. Each generation consuming more than the one before. Food companies sneak it in everywhere, even in to foods marketed to appear “healthy.”

So for 21 days, I will be going cold turkey. So cakes, biscuits or sweets obviously, but also getting back to label reading! Anything with added sugar or sweeteners will be getting left on the shelf.

There are plenty of different “detoxes” and “diets” out there, that’s not what this is. This is just about giving my body a little break from a substance it has been getting too much of. I think I will probably realise it has been getting even more than I think.

Wish me luck and as always feel free to join me. Be well xxx