Sunday, January 31, 2010

Big Decisions: Making Them Without Regret

Every day we have decisions to make -- what to wear, what to eat, how to spend our time. Some decisions are no-brainers. You make your choice, and even if it's not the best decision, the potential consequences are rarely worth breaking a sweat. Then there are the BIG decisions. Should I move? Which job offer will be best? Am I in the right relationship? Sometimes the elements of a big decision are so complicated that your brain gets muddled, and confusion and indecision grip you like a vice. You're languishing in Limbo Land, frozen like a deer in headlights.

You just want a voice from the heavens to shout down instructions and tell you what path to take. "Hey you, take that job in Miami. You'll be much happier!" So far, that's never happened for me, although there are many voices on terra firma offering input and suggestions.

When I've had to make big life decisions, I've learned to take several practical steps infused with a big dose of emotional guidance. In other words, I start with my head but also listen to my heart. Here are some steps to help you make a big decision and hopefully not look back with regret.

1. Have a Life Vision
A life vision should be the foundation and reference point for every decision you make. In my next blog, I will write more about creating a life vision. For now, realize that you need to know yourself and your values, the lifestyle you want, your life purpose or goals, and what really brings you joy and fulfillment. If you deviate from this vision, it will cause you eventual pain and regret. Evaluate your choices based on your vision. Which one is in closest alignment with your vision?

2. Write Down the Pros and the Cons
Consider the possible positive and negative aspects or consequences of your decision. Write down a list of pros and cons for each possible alternative. Then prioritize these points with the most important considerations at the top of the list.

3. Phone a Friend
Carefully select two or three trusted friends whose opinion and judgment you value. Tell them about your life vision, show them your list of pros and cons and ask for their input about your decision. Someone who is removed from the turmoil of the decision and who has a different perspective can help you see things in a clearer light.

4. Invoke a Higher Power
Go to a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Go within. Pray or meditate (or whatever feels right to you) and ask for guidance. Your own inner wisdom and intuition will often rise to your conscious mind when you calm the mental chaos of over thinking your decision. Give it a few days. You may be surprised that the answer presents itself unexpectedly.

5. Try the Coin Trick
I love this idea, because it puts you in touch with you real desires. Grab a quarter and assign one decision choice to heads and the other to tails. Flip the coin, and before it lands, pay attention to side you hope it lands on. More than likely, this is what you truly want to do. Something in your heart is pulling you in that direction. Examine this result carefully, because even if the choice conflicts with all of the practical considerations, you may be dishonoring your deepest desires.

6. Don't Look Back
If you have done the work, honored your vision, examined the pros and cons, sought guidance, and connected with your intuition, then make your choice and don't look back. There are millions of paths that we can take in a lifetime, all leading to different opportunities and problems. Once you are on this new adventure, have confidence that you have made the best decision with the information available, and move forward with a spring in your step. There is something good to be learned on every path we follow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Motivation and How to Live Without It

Motivation is such an ephemeral quality. Sometimes you have it. Sometimes you don't. It comes and goes like an uncommitted suitor. You're thrilled when it shows up, but left sad and confused when it disappears again. It seems that every accomplishment in life hinges on that unpredictable suitor. You plan to get up early in the morning to run. Morning comes and you're just not motivated. "Oh dear," you think. "Motivation is not here this morning. I guess I can't run." And so you don't. Then you feel bad about yourself and once again define yourself as "SOMEONE WITH NO MOTIVATION". And you repeat this mantra with every task before you that isn't glossy with excitement and fun. No motivation, can't do it. Your brain is now operating in the No Motivation, No Can Do mode.

Well here's a startling concept. Motivation is for sissies! I proclaim it to be unnecessary and sometimes downright counterproductive. Are you going to wait for some floaty feeling to take over before you accomplish anything? No way! Some might argue that if you just don't feel like doing something, it can't be done. If the glove don't fit, you must quit! If you wait on motivation, you will never, ever break out of your comfort zone and seize the day. So here are some thoughts on living boldly without motivation:

1. Whatever It Is, Chop It Up
If you have to start a big project or tackle a goal, chop it up into many smaller pieces. Even the act of chopping will make you feel more relaxed and in control. And for heaven's sake, write it all down. If it's on paper, it will feel official. Type it even.

2. Create Some Energy
Pick one of those teeny, tiny chopped up pieces of a project and start doing it. Even if you are hating every minute of it. Just give yourself permission to do that one little piece and nothing else. See, not so hard. Didn't take any motivation. So now you've started. What? Are you starting to fell a little energy around this project?

3. Keep the Momentum
So you feel a little bit of movement. You aren't really jazzed about doing this thing, but now you've started. That's the hardest part, right? So pick another teeny, tiny piece -- or maybe two or three pieces. Just do them. Don't think about it. Things are getting a bit easier.

4. Make a Pronouncement
Tell some folks what you are doing. Let them know that you have this thing you are working on and planning to finish. Ask them to check in with you about it. Put yourself out there and be accountable to someone. If you want to make some big, bold movement with your goal, tell ten people that you will pay them $100 each if you don't reach your goal within a certain time. Money talks and money creates momentum.

5. Give Yourself a Sticker
Acknowledge every little accomplishment along the way. "Hurray, I put my running shoes on. Now I can eat a chocolate doughnut!" Not really, but you get the idea. Create a reward system for yourself that reinforces every step forward.

6. Redefine Yourself
You may no longer use the excuse of no motivation to slack off. Sorry. It isn't necessary, so don't wait around for it. Just take action, even if it's just a little bit of action. Once the ball is rolling, odds are you will get the job done. Take away motivation as a necessary factor in achievement, and the sky's the limit for you. Don't think, just do.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Was So Much Older Then, I'm Younger Than That Now

That's me, above left, with two of my best friends in the world on a recent girl's weekend away. The three of us went to high school together. Class of '77. Yep, this year was the big 5-0 for each of us. Ugh! I choke when I write that. I have similar pictures of us sitting around a table laughing from about 35 years ago. We had us some really good times in high school. But somewhere around my late twenties and especially into my thirties and forties, I really started to get old. I'm not talking about physically (although I'm fighting that tooth and nail), but I mean in the way I approach life. Remember that line, "Youth is wasted on the young"? I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

I wish so much that my fifty-year-old self could time-travel back to my twenty-five-year-old self and give me some advice. I don't know if I would have listened to me, but here are the lessons I'd want to share:

- Whatever adventure you dream about, do it now, next week, this year, before you have the responsibility of a family. Don't put it off, because it's a whole lot harder when you have kids who'd rather go to Chuck E Cheese than spend a week skiing in Colorado.

- Before you get married, learn to be totally, completely self-sufficient and financially independent. Live on your own, pay your own bills (on time), know how to cook, and wash your own clothes.

- Pay less attention to how you look, what you wear, who you impress, how much money you or others make, or what kind of car you drive. Pay more attention to who you can serve, what you can learn, how you can grow, and how grateful you are.

- Tend to your relationships like they are part of a prize garden. Treat them as the most important aspect of your life. Work on them daily and diligently, and sow the seeds of love, kindness, respect, and laughter every single day. Nothing else matters if we can't share it with the people important to us.

- Make your marriage the center of your family, not the children or your work. Make your spouse the centerpiece of the above-mentioned garden.

- Outside of work or childcare, do something every day that feeds your soul and your creative spirit. Don't lose that spirit under heaps of mindless tasks or television.

- Love your work, love your work, love your work. If you don't, you are giving away precious time to something that is less than you are worth.

- Don't micromanage your children. Don't give them endless stuff. Let them fail and learn natural consequences. It's okay if they aren't child prodigies. Relax about them. They will be fine.

- Relax about everything. Life is to live. Go have fun. Find joy. Laugh a lot.

- Picture yourself at fifty. Now look back and ask yourself if you've done what you wanted to do, been the person you wanted to be, lived the life you wanted to live. If not, go get started.

- Know that you will probably ignore every piece of advice I've given you. But don't worry. When you're fifty, you'll get it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are You Doing What You Love?

Do you love your job? Do you even like it? I used to think that people who jumped out of bed in the morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to take on the day, were either grossly exaggerating or were on some very lovely medication. I always liked my work, and there were some parts about it that I really liked. But I rarely woke up overjoyed to begin the day. Now I do -- every single day.

So you want to know what changed for me? I got to know myself a little better, and I stepped outside of my comfort zone. After more than twenty years as a public relations professional, I finally admitted to myself that it wasn't the best fit for me. Parts of it were, but not enough. If this resonates with you, take a look at the steps I took to change the course of my life.

1. Know Thyself
If your work doesn't reflect and support who you are and your values, you are always going to feel off-kilter. I started by taking a bunch of online assessments -- personality tests, career tests, and motivation tests. There are plenty of free assessments online and many other in-depth tests for a fee. You also can work with a career coach to administer and explain them as well. These test results are like the outline for a book or project. They give you a rough idea of who you are and what makes you tick. Some people think assessments give you a label, but I think they are great. They give you a starting point and set you off in the right direction.

2. Value Your Values
If you want your work to have meaning, substance and purpose, it needs to reflect your strongest values. For me those values were serving, creating, interacting, uplifting, and communicating. Now I'm a life and career coach rather than a publicist. I found some of those values in my past career, but now I have all of them. Hence, the happy pill mornings! Some people have a hard time defining their values, so go on the internet and look up a values word list. Pick the values that are most important to you in life and in your career. Narrow it down to your top five, and be brutal about ensuring that your work supports these values.

3. Don't Freak Out
You might start feeling all dark and twisty about changing careers. Don't get sucked in by fear and limiting beliefs. Keep your day job while you make it your mission to find something that makes your head spin with happiness. Yes, that's possible. Suspend beliefs that will sabotage you, like "I can't afford to start over" or "There's nothing better out there that I'm qualified for". Open yourself to all possibilities. Assume, better yet know, that something great is out there for you, and you are just working your way toward it. It sounds mystical and magical, but really it will help keep you focused and positive.

4. Joy and Dreams
These two can be clues to show you the way. Get yourself a nice piece of paper and your favorite pen. Write down everything (legal) that brings you joy. This can be a hobby, a relationship, an environment, or anything that really makes you happy or adds meaning. Below that, write down anything from age 15 and older that you dreamed of doing, but for whatever reason you haven't. Travel, skydiving, taking a cooking class. Now, take your lists and circle anything that might have application to your career. From those, circle any that you really want as part of your career.

5. You Know Who, Now Go Do
At this point you should have a pretty good idea of who you are, what you value, and what you really feel excited or passionate about. Use all of this information to start researching some potential career applications. I have a client who went through this exercise and discovered her passion through a personal tragedy (the loss of a child). She combined her creative talents, her interpersonal skills, and her compassion to create a beautiful business of presenting group rituals to help people with their major life transitions. She is amazing and so energized about her new career. Think creatively. This process might move you from one department to another at the same company, or it might be the beginning of a brand new business venture.

6. Write A Vision
Once you have an idea about what you want to do, write a vision statement about it. Writing things down always makes them more real. So write a story about how you see yourself in your career, the specific work you are doing, your income, your surroundings, the location of the job, and the type of people with whom you work. Post it where you will see it every day. Read it over and over.

7. Make a Plan
Now it's time for strategy. How are you going to get there? Will it involve interviewing, updating a resume, making calls, financial planning or saving money, getting a business license? Again, make a list of what you need to do to get the ball rolling. Taking action will make you feel safer about the change and more enthusiastic about your vision materializing.

8. Depend on the Kindness of Strangers
Ask for help and support. This is a big change, and it takes courage and accountability. Hire a career coach, go to a counselor, find a mentor or friend to bounce things around with. It's so easy to stay stuck in the same place because it's safe and secure. Once you have the momentum to do the work to find what you love, don't let fear or inertia undermine that. Stay the course. It is so worth it!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ten Books To A Better You

Books have come to my rescue my entire life. Growing up in an appropriately dysfunctional Southern family, books were an escape and my introduction into life outside of my youthful inexperience and weirdo family life. Books were little packages of entertainment, both cheap and easily available, that lasted for weeks. They were friends when real friends weren't available. They curled up with you at night like a lovable cat, purring for your attention.

As I got older, books came to my rescue in more profound ways. They became therapists, spiritual advisors, historians, professors, and coaches. Some books have made such an impact on me that I would be remiss not to share them with you. So here are ten books that I hope will come to your rescue:

1. Shift Your Mind, Shift The World, by Steve Chandler
Steve Chandler probably thinks I'm some kind of creepy stalker given the number of times I've expressed my undying love for his writing and wisdom. I'm not usually a groupie, but I'd hang around backstage for his autograph if he did a book reading. Steve's a regular guy who's had regular problems like the rest of us, but he figured out what's important and how to live it. He shares that in his books in the pithiest, most humorous, and practical ways. He writes in little blips, so you can read a page or two, digest his wonderment, and pick it up later. All of his books are great, but I particularly like Shift Your Mind.

2. The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D.
If you've been reading any of my blog posts, you will see that this book really blew me away. It's a book about brain science, which probably sounds about as exciting as warmed-over toast, but it's crazy amazing stuff. This breakthrough science called neuroplasticity reveals that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age. The impact on physical, mental, and emotional healing, learning, and growth is staggering. It puts science behind the power of positive thinking and the impact of repetitive learning. It's easy to read.

3. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I know, this is not a self-help book, but it touched me so deeply because of the man Abraham Lincoln. Yes, he was a political genius and a President perfectly suited to his time in history. But this book laid out with clarity and beauty who this man was -- his suffering, his remarkable humor, his integrity, his patience, and his almost supernatural insights into human nature. You will learn so much about being a decent person and a strong leader from this book.

4. How To Know God, by Deepak Chopra
This is a fascinating book that blends science and spiritual mystery. Chopra suggests that the brain is hardwired to know God, and that the human nervous system has biological responses that correspond to levels of divine experience. He explains these levels and how to reach them in beautifully, weaving religion, quantum physics and neuroscience into his new spiritual paradigm.

5. Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
I read Younger Next Year for Women, but there's a book for men too. If you are truly serious about staying healthy and fit as you get older, then this book will light a fire under you. Our bodies are programmed to grow or decay. The authors spell out very simply how to grow more and decay less with seven specific rules related to exercise and lifestyle. Nothing new here, but it's written with humor, great stories, and solid information. It will motivate you to get moving.

6. The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Dr. Lyubomirsky has spent her career researching what makes people happy. She's discovered that 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% comes from outside circumstances, and that the remaining 40% is completely in our control. She has learned that there are some very specific activities that can optimize that 40% and significantly raise the level of your happiness. I don't want to give it away if you want to read the book. If you don't, go to my past blog post about it for an overview.

7. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron
I have to mention this book because it led me to discover a gift I didn't know I had until I was forty. I could draw. The author asks you to pick a creative pursuit and stick to it without any preconceived notions about your own ability. You work through limiting beliefs and fear of failure and discover that everyone has creative ability. It turned me from a stick figure artist to a portrait drawer. There are lots of great exercises and activities that get the creative juices flowing.

8. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, by Eckart Tolle
There are probably only three of you out there who haven't read this book since Oprah gave it her stamp of approval. So for you three, go read it! Tolle calls our ego the "pain-body", and he suggests that our attachment to the ego is the source of all suffering. Awakening, personal happiness and peace are possible when we transcend our ego-based consciousness. Tolle shows us how to follow this path, but it's up to the reader to live it.

9. The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
"Intention is a force in the universe, and everything and everyone is connected to this invisible force." So sayeth Dr. Dyer. This is pretty much an attraction principle story told in Wayne Dyer's straightforward and readable style. By intending something, we are beginning the act of creating it. He sees intention as a force that allows for creation, and by tapping into it, you can propel your desires and dreams into reality. Intend to read it, and it might appear on your bookshelf!

10. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
This is just a great story with some of the most beautiful prose I've read in a long time. It's a coming-of-age story about a mute boy and his dogs. I know, that sounds depressingly sentimental. But this is stunning debut novel, with remarkable characters, mystery, and emotion. You don't want it to end. How did it make me better? It touched my soul.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ten Practical Steps to Inner Peace

Unflappable. That is such a wonderfully descriptive word. I have known some truly unflappable people. They exude an inner calmness even in the most trying circumstances. They are fully present with everyone, gentle, and accepting of themselves and others. Then there are the flappers. Flappers have chaos and angst in their midst. They are busy, busy, busy. Frantic and preoccupied. A flapper can't relax or fully enjoy life because they are so easily disturbed by events, people, and problems. In fact, they are prone to create problems and crises. We all flap around on occasion, but some folks are perpetual flappers.

Everyone desires to be less flappable and have more inner peace. We all know the restorative power of meditating, prayer, staying in the moment, deep breathing, and exercise. However, sometimes we need to make some profound and practical shifts in the perceptions of ourselves and how we live to lay the foundation for inner peace. Here are ten ideas to integrate into your life to begin the peace process:

1. Have nothing unresolved as opposed to just having things finished. Don't create "to do" lists for the thrill of checking things off. Clear up the larger unresolved issues personally and professionally that sap your energy and create other problems. You will feel a weight come off your shoulders.

2. Surrender and accept what is so instead of resisting and fighting. Stop struggling. Resistance blocks energy and creativity. How can you find a solution when you are flailing about? Unhook yourself from the situation or person and view it from a detached perspective.

3. Take full responsibility for how you react to others. Other people don't make you behave in a certain way. You choose your behavior. Decide who you want to be in all circumstances. Mentally prepare yourself and plan for a calm, unflappable response even during trying times.

4. Become aware of and sensitive to feelings rather than ignoring them. This means your own feelings as well as others. Don't shove away feelings because they are uncomfortable. They are sending you a message. Take time to poke around those feelings to discover what is behind them. If you don't, the feelings will come back in more unpleasant ways and really disrupt your peace.

5. Tell the entire truth versus editing, lying, or translating. Be real. Lay it on the table in a gentle and authentic way. Hiding the truth doesn't serve you in the long run. Staying true to your integrity brings peace of mind.

6. Distinguish between your self versus your mind, ego, needs or past experience. Take the time to understand who you really are. What are your values, your goals, your joys and passions, your integrity? Those are what define you and make your authentic.

7. Immediately catch yourself when triggered by adrenaline. Adrenaline is the drug of choice in a stressed out society. It gives us a jolt of superhuman energy when faced with a threat. But we mostly use it to get that rush to blast through difficult times. An adrenaline lifestyle can do soul-damaging things: overworking, being greedy, insistence on getting ahead or winning even at the expense of relationships. Kick the adrenaline dependency. Slow down and let go or risk losing your health, your relationships, and your peace of mind.

8. Recognize and determine why your cage gets rattled. What makes you bristle or pushes your buttons? There's a reason this happens, and understanding what's behind these feelings is the first step in addressing the problem or letting it go. Keep asking yourself, "Why do I feel this way?" until you know the real answer.

9. Step over nothing, even the small stuff (but don't fix others!).
Don't ignore even the smallest tolerations or imbalance in your life. You may not be able to change everything, but awareness and the ability to manage tolerations in a healthy way can bring you peace.

10. Reprioritize peace ahead of performance. Make an estimated guess on the days you have left to live. Do you want to look back at your life and celebrate the rushing around, the completed "to do" lists, the stuff, or do you want to reflect on days of calm, connectedness, great relationships, wonderful experiences, and peace of mind?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You a Judger or a Learner?

How often do you have difficulties with other people in your life? As a life coach, I see this issue come up all the time for clients. Whether it's a problem with a family member, friend or business colleague, relationship problems are just like death and taxes -- inevitable.

When conflict happens, most of us look at the other person and quickly sum up the situation in one thought: "What a jerk." Usually we see the problem as the other person's fault because we are so confident in the rightness of our feelings and perspective. Well I'm here to tell you, the responsibility is all yours. If you want to relate well with others, then take a step up on the emotional maturity ladder and begin to see conflict in a different light. Are you a judger or a learner? Look at these behaviors and see where you find yourself:

Judging Behaviors
o Reacts to thoughts,feelings and situations
o Automatic responses and actions
o Knows-it-already mindset
o Judgmental, biased evaluator (standard is your own belief or opinion)
o Win-lose relating
o Rigid, inflexible
o Thinks in terms of either/or, right vs. wrong, good vs. bad
o Looks from multiple perspectives
o Often only problem focused
o Oriented toward rejection, defense, and/or attack
o Rarely takes responsibility for own thoughts, feelings and actions
o Assumes resources are scarce
o Assumes possibilities are limited
o Change considered dangerous and is resisted (even when wanting it)
o Unaccepting and intolerant of self and others
o Operates in "attack or defend" mode

Learning Behaviors
o Responds to thoughts, feelings, situations, and other people
o Thoughtful
o Beginner's mindset
o Unbiased observer, researcher and reporter (standard is truth, usefulness)
o Win-win relating
o Flexible
o Thinks in terms of both/and
o Looks only from own point of view
o Solution-focused
o Oriented toward acceptance, negotiation, teaming, and growth
o Takes responsibility for own thoughts, feelings and actions
o Assumes resources are sufficient
o Assumes possibilities are unlimited
o Accepts change as constant, embraces it, and focuses on managing it
o Accepting and tolerant of self and others (including Judger aspects of both)
o Operates in open, resolution and innovation seeking mode

If you want to improve your relationship with others, begin by taking a good, hard look at yourself. You can't change that other person or their behaviors, but you can change your own. Begin by putting yourself in a learning mode. Be open to new ways of relating and resolving conflict. Your new behavior might just be the model for turning a judger in your life into more of a learner.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fleshy Friends and the Ten Steps to Exercise Commitment

Okay boys and girls, it's that time of year again. The time when that nagging little voice in our heads pronounces, "I can no longer shovel another piece of pecan pie down my throat and contemplate the fleshy friends that hang over each side of my jeans." It's the start of a new year, and as cliché as it might seem, a new year inevitably feels like a fresh start with renewed hope that this will be the year those fleshy friends pack their bags and disappear. Ah, but experience tells you you've been here before. You've been here and the best laid plans always have ended with a whimper instead of a bang. Those friends are still hanging around you. So what to do?

Here's the plan:

1. Create a Goal and a Strategy. This is the easy part. You know what you want. You want to lose weight and get in shape. There's so much information out there on the internet and in books about exercise and weight loss. You could lose weight just reading them all. Decide your personal goals, and then find a plan that suits your needs and schedule. There a million ways to leave your love handles. Pick one.

2. Make Yourself An Offer You Can't Refuse. Would you jump into a pool of freezing cold water on a winter day even if you knew it was good for you? Probably not. Would you do it if someone threw your puppy into the water? Of course. You have to throw something in the water to create serious motivation. Start day one of your exercise plan by sending an e-mail to 10 people stating your specific intentions and goals for exercise. Offer each of them $5.00 for every day you don't follow through on your plan. That's $50 a day if you slack off. Or create something for yourself that is really painful if you break your promise. You must do this to get the commitment ball rolling.

3. Start Slow and Small. Odds are you will have regrets after throwing your puppy in the water. You're going to be PO'd that you told everyone you'd do this thing, and now you have to do it. So go easy on yourself the first week or so. Start with ten or fifteen minutes of exercise a day. Cut back on just 100 calories. You will find that action begets action. Just start moving and your commitment and intensity will follow.

4. Create More Accountability. What? More than telling the whole world that you'll give them money if you screw up? Yep. Find a friend, a trainer, or a coach, who can provide you daily accountability. E-mail them at the end of each day to tell them how you've done with your exercise plan for the day. Find someone to whom you can report your successes and failures. Ask from them what you need to hear-- an "attaboy" or a wrist slapping

5. Visualize.
This sounds woo woo to some, but there's science behind it. Visualize yourself at your goal weight with a fit body. Visualize yourself exercising and weight lifting. Do this every day in the morning and evening. You will rewire neural pathways in your brain that will support and enhance your exercise program.

6. Make An Unbreakable Appointment. If you had an appointment to meet the Queen, have gallbladder surgery, or fly to Europe, you'd keep those appointments. Make exercise an unbreakable appointment. Find the best times for you and put them on your calendar. Decide three urgent events that could break your exercise appointments and allow no others. Be sure to let your ten friends know your exercise days and times.

7. Redefine Who You Are.
Don't allow yourself to think that you are lazy, non-committal, weak, or dishonest. Even if you backslide. Every day, out loud, tell yourself that you are fit and healthy, that you will do what it takes to stay fit and healthy, and that's who you are. Even if you don't believe it. Again, you are rewiring neural pathways. Give it time. Eventually you will believe it and be it.

8. If You Backslide, Let It Go. Enough said.

9. Acknowledge Yourself. For every little, teeny tiny positive thing you do in the direction of your goal, say "Hallelujah"! Tell someone, give yourself a reward, do a little dance. You are moving forward just by putting on a running shoe.

10. Couldn't Think of One.
So there are only nine steps, but ten sounded better. Maybe the last step is saying goodbye to your fleshy friends forever. I hope you do!

Go get started right now. The year is slipping away!