I coached a client this week that was trying to outrun herself.
Like many of us, she believed if she could just change and “finally get her act together” then she could find peace. And she was using thought work to try to fix—as quickly as possible—all the things that were wrong with her.
The trouble was, her humanness kept getting in the way. She still made mistakes. She sometimes chose unhelpful thoughts. She didn’t always act the way she wanted to.
“It’s not working,” she said. “I’m still a mess.”
I knew exactly what she meant. I remember being right where she is when I first found this work. I was so excited to think I was finally going to be able to clean up all the awful parts of me and be “better” in every way.
“What I learned,” I told her, “is that the power of this work is not in being able fix the mess. The power of this work is that it allows you to love the mess. Maybe for the...
I recently heard Dr. Kelly McGonigal talking about something called “the Joy Gap.”
She said that, as humans, we dramatically underestimate how good it will feel to move our bodies. If you ask people to predict how they will feel after they exercise, they usually predict:
It’ll make me tired.
It’ll be exhausting.
It’ll be boring.
It’ll be uncomfortable and unpleasant.
But in reality, after exercise, most people report:
I feel better.
I feel optimistic.
I feel like I can take on the world.
I have more energy not less.
This is the “Joy Gap”—when we think the work will be hard or painful or exhausting, and the result is actually the opposite.
The “Joy Gap” occurs because of the brain’s built-in, survival instinct to conserve energy. It’s a part of being human. We vastly underestimate the pleasure we will get from doing hard things.
I think this “Joy Gap” exists when we pursue any goal, not just exercise....
Chances are, here on the third Monday of the year, you might be tired.
You might have set some goals at the beginning of the year and then got busy, doing lots of new action and work. And now you are tired. And chances are, that even with all your hard work and energy, you aren't seeing any signs of progress yet.
This is the way of it.
Physical progress towards our goals is never as fast as our brains want it to be.
And so we give up, citing a lack of evidence. We start thinking, "We're not getting anywhere. It's not working. I must be doing it wrong. Why do I even try?" or something similar.
I started a new exercise program two weeks ago. It's something I've never done before. It is different than any other workout I've ever tried. And so my brain is desperately looking for evidence that it is working. My brain wants to know my effort isn't futile. My brain guards my effort and energy like it's its job. (Thanks, brain.)
What I have decided is that I'm doing it anyway. I'm committed...
On New Year's Eve, I went to urgent care.
I was sitting next to two older women who were filling out paperwork. One of the women asked the other, "What's your birthdate?" The other woman replied, "11/14/23."
I was stunned for a moment. We were about to ring in 2020, and I was sitting next to a woman who was around the last time we had a decade in the 20's. She was back to the 20's!
And I just sat there in awe of the miracle of the life we each get to live.
Think about it for a minute. All the years, all the days, all the hours and minutes and sunrises and sunsets—given to each one of us.
To spend how we want.
It's easy to take it for granted. It's easy to get in a hurry and think we don't have enough time. It's easy to think we don't have a choice and just keep making the same choices out of habit instead of deliberate consciousness.
But the truth is, you have been given a gift.
The woman I sat next to has been given over 35,000 days—35,000 chances to love and...
Today I want to tell you something that is super exciting.
The future is just thoughts.
The future is just thoughts!
Meaning that none of it exists right now. None of it has been created. It all just exists as a thought in your mind!
Which means, you can put anything you want into your future.
If it's all just T's, then it's all up for grabs! Absolutely anything you want is available! There are no circumstances in the future. Not one. It all just exists as a collection of thoughts.
I love the question I heard Brooke Castillo ask a group of coaches recently: What five things are for sure in your future?
Like you could just pick!
You could just decide today, what five things you for sure want in your future. And because they only exist as thoughts, you can pick anything you want.
Think about the power of that! You have a whole blank year ahead of you. What five things do you for sure want to appear in your future...
As you look back on 2019, what was the best feeling you felt?
Think of all the days, all the experiences, all the things that happened over the course of 365 days. Which moments felt the best? Which feelings would you like to feel again?
This is a powerful question.
So many times we think about our life in terms of what we have done or what we have accomplished or what we want to do in the future. Right now, in fact, you might be thinking about making some new goals. All of these goals are likely to be things you want to do in the coming year.
But instead of thinking about your new year in terms of what you want to do, I love the idea of thinking about what you want to feel. 2020 is a blank slate. What feelings you do want to be sure to feel during the next 365 days?
And what will you need to think in order to create those feelings?
Remember it's never what we do that creates our feelings. Every feeling is preceded by a thought not an action.
Do you want to feel excited? Do you want...
Every year I write a letter to our friends and family about what I have learned throughout the year. This year it was all about what I learned about fear and self-doubt. I thought it might be helpful to some of you as well.
Dear Loved Ones,
This fall, Olivia was traveling in China from Nantong to Wuxi, a ten-hour trip through a country she knew nothing about. She couldn’t speak Chinese so she couldn’t even buy her own bus ticket. A stranger helped her get a ticket, but when he handed it to her, she couldn’t read the characters to see if had been issued for the right destination. When she went to board the “bus” to Wuxi, disconcertingly, it turned out to be a non-descript, 12-passenger van. She had no idea if it was the right bus, going to the right place, or even, if it was a bus at all. She couldn’t read the highway signs along the way and her phone couldn’t access the internet to verify her route. Was she going...
It's no secret that I am a Christian. This week my family and I will celebrate the birth of our Savior which occurred over 2000 years ago.
For over four millennia before his birth, Christ's coming was just a thought. God told his children that he had provided a way back—that there was a way to escape all the pain, and heartache, and mistakes, and grief of earth life.
He said there was a way to try again. And again. There was a way to be together again. Even after death.
This was only a thought, of course. Jesus had not come yet. The Messiah was only a promise of something wonderful to come.
But this thought sustained the people that believed it and allowed them to endure and overcome the sorrows and sins of their earth life experience and look forward to his arrival.
And then he came. He lived and he died and he made an infinite sacrifice for all mankind.
And now, again, the miracle...
I told my husband this morning that our to-do list is winning. No matter how much we do, it just gets longer.
Which means I'm losing to an inanimate object—that I created.
Can you relate?
But then, I remembered something that helped me and maybe it will help you too.
Whenever we feel overwhelmed it is because of our thoughts—our thoughts that we have too much to handle, that we can't possibly do it all, and that consequently, we are all going to die. (Our brains throw that last part in there every time.)
But the truth is that, even though I always feel overwhelmed during December, to date, no horrible, catastrophic thing has ever happened because I didn't get something done. I haven't died yet.
I've just had a lot of painful, anxious, irritated Decembers.
Which means, maybe my brain is wrong about all of it.
Maybe whatever I choose to handle will be enough. Maybe I don't have to do it all—at all. Maybe I'm not...
Last night I went to a concert at my son's school.
His band teacher did something unusual. Instead of having a concert that featured the bands from each grade—5th, then 6th, then 7th, then 8th, then the high school band—she chose to hold the concert with only the 5th grade band and the high school band.
The other grades had their concert on a separate night.
She said she wanted parents to be able to see the remarkable difference between these two bands, one at the very beginning of their band experience and one at the end for many of the students.
Most of the 5th graders have only been playing their instruments for three months. Many of them have never read music. When they played, they struggled to play in tune. There were lots of squeaks from the clarinet section. They plodded slowly and painfully through "Jingle Bells."
And then the high school band took the stage. They sounded like the London Philharmonic in comparison, with...