This year I decided to make my physical health a priority. This has been the same goal that I have had for myself for the last 17 years. This is also the age of my oldest child. I put on a considerable amount of weight when I was pregnant with her that I haven’t been able to shift. So, in reality, I have spent 17 years trying to lose the “baby weight”.
Now I have had many cracks at this. I have been on many diets, joined gyms, read countless books… In fact, I could speak to you for hours on end debating the pros and cons of each weight-loss plan.
You can clearly see that my problem is not knowledge. I also don’t see motivation as my problem. If you have ever met me you would know that I am extremely self-motivated in many areas of my life.
But yet I remain “pleasantly plump”.
“WHY” instead of “WHAT”
Maybe you could relate to my story above.
It could be that there is an area of your life that have been struggling with for quite some time.
That you too are an “expert” in the knowledge on how to make the change.
Perhaps you have asked yourself the same questions that I have of myself.
Maybe, you are a depleted mother, teacher or leader reading this. It is likely that you know WHAT you should be doing to make yourself less depleted. However, you could have like me (in my story above) made your self-maintenance a priority for a while but given up at the first hurdle…
Well, here is what I discovered that has made a HUGE difference in my life… It is not a question of “WHAT” or even “HOW” that is the issue.
It is more a series of questions beginning with “WHY”
Start with “WHY”
The first “WHY” question you need to get really clear with is:
WHY do I want to do this?
This is something that I had to really dig deep to find for myself. Sometimes the answer goes a lot deeper that you first thought.
For me, my obvious answer is :
I want to weigh less or to fit into smaller clothes.
But once I dug a bit deeper I discovered that I wanted to lose weight because:
- I have spent so much time around family members and friends with avoidable weight-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, joint problems mobility issues and strokes. These illnesses really hamper them from doing certain things that they love as well as the overall enjoyment of life. I don’t want the same thing to happen to me.
- I have a legacy that I would like to leave and I need to take good care of myself in order to achieve this.
- I would like to set a good example for my children so that they don’t repeat my behaviours
- I want the energy to enjoy my work and to be present and available for my children instead of being tired all the time.
Once you move past the obvious there will probably be several deeper reasons “WHY” for you too.
In order for you, to do this for yourself I invite you to complete this sentence:
I want to ……………. so that ……………..
Keep this somewhere handy so that you can refer back to this when things get a bit wobbly.
Any type of transformational change is challenging. When we focus on “WHY” we want to change instead of “WHAT” we want to achieve, this inspires something deeper inside of us and keeps us going when the going get tough.
WHY do I continue to do WHAT I do even though I know WHAT I know?
Now, this is a much bigger “WHY” question.
I eat cake because I like cake
or I can’t exercise because I don’t have time
or I’m too tired might be obvious reasons why a person might be overweight.
You might have some pretty obvious and reasonable reasons why you are struggling to make changes in your life too.
Remember, you are stronger than your excuses. When we value something we make time for it, when don’t make something a priority we make excuses.
However, it goes a bit deeper than this. In order to make real and long-lasting changes to our behaviours and habits, we need to examine our habits our behaviours as well as how we view ourselves but we also need to examine how we would like others to view us.
Examining ourselves through a new lens
We all have received programming in our “downloadable years” about who we are, what our culture values or the behaviours that we need to exhibit in order to “fit in” or to be successful in life. Who we are and what we value is shaped by the environment and the culture that we grew up in.
The human brain is designed to be moulded by the environment it encounters.Nathan Wallis
Think back to your childhood. What might have been some of your programmings around taking time for yourself or taking care of yourself? It could be that you received repeated messaging about the importance of hard work and the perils of being lazy.
You might have taken that to mean that: if you are not working really hard all the time – giving less than 110% – or if you take a sick day or time to meet your mental health needs, this is laziness.
What are your labels?
We all have labels that we attach to ourselves (and strive for). These labels might be kind, friendly, a good person, generous, fun-loving, a good teacher, a good parent, a good leader. What these labels mean to us depends on our experiences with people, places and things as we were growing up.
Depending on our experiences we develop a description for some of these labels. Some of these descriptions are helpful and some of them damaging.
Let me illustrate this point to you in the following example:
You might have had a mother who made you feel loved and safe as a child. Every morning she got up at 5am to make the school lunches and breakfast for everybody in the family. She worked really hard (often doing 2 jobs) to make sure that you got to do the ballet lessons or the swimming lessons rarely taking time for herself. She might have done everything for everyone and not accepted anyone’s offer of help…
If this was your upbringing you might have developed the perception that “a good mother” does everything for everyone and never prioritises her own happiness or asks for help. This could then become your description of “a good mother”. Which could be why, when you want to take some time for yourself you might feel guilty because this goes against your description of what “a good mother” does.
A leadership context
Or perhaps as a beginning teacher you might have had an amazing leader who seemed to have it all together. She was smart, funny, she always knew just what to say. Your leader never took a day off, she was the first one at the centre in the morning and worked till well after closing time every day – she was there even when she was sick. The whole team loved her and she never set a foot wrong or made a mistake…
This leader might have really connected with you and inspired you along your leadership journey. You might aspire to be “a great leader” and hold your perception of this person up as the leadership ideal. Your experience with this person has shaped your definition of what it means to be “a great leader” as unrealistic as it may be.
However, this unrealistic ideal is what we strive for. When we do something that deviates from this ideal, fearful of our perceived loss of approval from others, we criticise ourselves, put ourselves down and perpetuate a pattern of negative self-talk. This causes us immense amounts of stress and stops us from doing the things that we know that we should be doing for ourselves.
In my blog Leading From the Heart – The Principles, Strands and Goals of Te Whāriki for Teachers, as well as my new book Weaving Your Leadership Whāriki I outline ways that leaders can take steps to keep their light burning bright as well as creating an environment where the Wellbeing, Belonging, Contribution, Communication and Exploration of everyone in our centres can thrive.
Flipping the paradigm
Unfortunately, our culture perpetuates the “toughen up” attitude. That asking for help, making mistakes or not having all the answers is a sign of weakness.
Fighting against our programming is challenging. We have had many years of repeating these behaviours and there is security in them. Often these ways of being have become coping mechanisms that have kept us safe. Change can be scary and painful and fill us with self-doubt.
Awareness is the first step. Recognising your “whys” as well as your “why nots”. But also an awareness of the label descriptions that are harming you and the ability that you have to change these at any time. Remember, you are powerful – YOU are the master of your thoughts and YOU get to determine your own self-worth.
Try thinking of ways to flip your disempowering or limiting beliefs of yourself and create new more empowering statements that you can use to upgrade your programming with. I have included a limiting beliefs worksheet in the freebies section of my website for you to work through to determine some of this thinking for yourself.
I would love to hear from you! What are some of the labels or descriptions that continuously come up for you? Reach out if you would like to chat.