June 2011

30 Jun 2011

Your Health... Who is Really in Charge?

Personal health is priceless. Unfortunately most Americans do not see it that way until it is too late. Then all of a sudden it’s catch-up time. “I’ll lose weight, more sleep – absolutely, tomorrow morning I am starting my exercise program and I will not let work stress me out so much,” are some of the promises for prevention renewed with vigor.

How do you keep from becoming one of the millions who suffer from chronic disease as a result of living an unhealthy life? It’s not easy, and surprisingly requires a lot more taking than giving.

Step 1 – Take inventory. Discover what needs to change. Put these needs in priority. Start with the behaviors that are most important, that you have the most confidence in your ability to change, and that you are most ready to tackle.

Step 2 – Take measurements. Get a true sense of where you are today and where you need to be to show progress. Write down your goals and create some simple charts or graphs to give you a quick snapshot of progress as it happens.

Step 3 – Take out an advertisement. Not an ad in the local paper but one with the person you trust the most with your “new you” promise and ask them to support you on this journey. Ask for their brutal honesty.

Step 4 – Take Action. This is the most important step. You must act yourself into a new way of thinking, not think yourself into a new way of acting. Any pace will do and expect setbacks. When they arrive, do not despair. Like your GPS implores you to do when you go off course, “at the next available opportunity make a legal U-Turn.” No judgments, just sound, calm, logical advice.

Step 5 – Take responsibility. It is your body, your health, your life and no one else is responsible but you. Yes, sometimes the environment is toxic or distracting and works against you. Stay with it, stay focused, remember the long-term “why” for your mission and pack an umbrella.

The gift of health is yours alone to take and will fortunately be enjoyed as a precious gift to all those you care for the most.

24 Jun 2011

Can't Change Your Behavior? Try Changing Your Environment.

In 1986, Albert Bandura published Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. This playbook for the health coaching world and for understanding one’s self-efficacy claimed that human behavior change is determined by three factors. One of these factors is environmental. Although his theory describes environmental support in the social sense; your support networks and role models, I contend that other factors in the surrounding environment can also play a key role in how effective your tactics to change behaviors can be. If self-efficacy is defined as the conviction that you can initiate and sustain healthier behaviors, then creating the best surroundings to achieve this is critical. Nothing breeds success like success and placing yourself squarely in a physical place where you are more likely to be successful makes sense.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times bears witness to this approach. Yoga is over a thousand years old yet this article claims newfound benefits realized simply by taking the practice outdoors within a city environment.  Add some mood lighting and off you go to a calmer, healthier you.

There has been a lot of press lately about Zumba, the Latin dance/group fitness/late night infomercial craze to a healthier body. Not yet a decade old, some practitioners are already claiming that (like every exercise routine proclaimed as the new cure-all) their clients are getting tired of the same old Zumba. The people of Flora, IL had a solution. Put Zumba in the pool. New place, cool environment, and another tactic to sustain healthy behavior change.

So, maybe as you create your daily schedule of healthier meal plans, physical activity, meditation, and community service you should look around. Is the environment adding to your experience? Is the light bright, the air fresh, the temperature correct? Are you in a place that in itself makes you happier and more productive? If not, make the change. The bigger change will follow.

02 Jun 2011

Change - Practice Can Get You To Choose Perfection

We all probably agree with the common belief that if we can count on one thing it is that things will change. If change is so unreliably reliable, how can we use the opportunity to face inevitable changes at work and in life to our advantage? 

Management gurus tout life’s changes as the ultimate opportunity for a “better self.” “Humans are just incredibly resilient and adaptable, and we have a tremendous potential to change far more than most people would ever realize,” claims Alan Deutschman author of the book “Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life”. Are there limits to this capacity? Is it based on the number of times we face life-changing events, the severity of these events, our physical strength, our mental toughness or a combination of all of the above?

Some studies point to how many times a person has faced adversity as the key factor in their ability to survive and thrive after a major challenge in life. The results indicate that one is best trained to handle adversity after facing a moderate number of stressful events, say 2 to 6 of them. The process of improving one’s mental ability to handle these changes is compared to the physical self in that there is a threshold of stimulus required for improvement but there is also a risk of over-training if there are too many challenges that must be overcome, say more than a dozen.

The reality is that oftentimes the changes that we face are out of our control. Take September 11th, 2001 for example. As one who was displaced from my home, had my corporate offices destroyed, and witnessed the collapse of both Trade Center Towers from a few blocks away, the intensity and the frequency of the changes forced on me and my family from that day forward were very much out of  my control. I was allowed to create my own strategy for how I reacted to 9/11. I chose to respond and rebuild. I chose to join the Red Cross Disaster Relief Corps and worked at Ground Zero for weeks after the attacks serving food to the throngs of firefighters and construction workers who were dismantling the rubble and searching for survivors at the site. This was from midnight to 7 AM every day for weeks. The 9 to 5 shift was spent rebuilding my business and getting my family back on our feet with no home, no clothes, and no playbook for dealing with the events we endured.

The key was how we chose to respond. That is the key for anyone faced with change. How will you fill in the blank: I choose to _____________. When the number or severity of choices is too many or too much you have the option to filter; down or out. Dealing with each opportunity in a way that is positive and that you eventually feel good about on your road to change is a strategy in itself. Having the physical endurance, mental discipline, and emotional strength to execute this strategy is what you should be preparing for every day and part of a comprehensive, personal wellness plan.

You may not be able to count every response to change as a win but at least it will prove to be a productive practice session for what you can count on coming next; more change.