Guest Pep Talk (Amie Lamontagne): Giving Up Coffee– the Groundhog Day of Bad Habits

quit you
“People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” 

I’ve always been complimented on my positive attitude and cheerfulness, at times even called perky (which always makes me feel like Elle Woods). This character trait is 50% nature and 50% nurture, given that nurture actually means coffee. My mother loves to tell the story of how I was basically born to drink it. Apparently she spent a good chunk of my toddler years keeping me away from her morning mug, until she found Postum, a caffeine-free, coffee-flavored alternative. Thus, my addiction was born.

Coffee suits my Type-A, multi-tasking, ambitious personality quite well and allows me to access the kind of energy needed to deal with 22 small children daily. Life with coffee was grand, until the summer of 2008 when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. (It’s a long story and the short version is: I have chronic ulcers on the walls of my colon.) Since the diagnosis, doctors have insisted it would be best to cut coffee out of my diet, and I’ve tried many times. Without fail, though, I end up back in line at Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks… Of all the forms of caffeine available there, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (now “PSL”) is absolutely, without a doubt, my hands-down favorite. It’s one of the reasons I adore Fall (along with the start of school, baseball’s postseason, and leggings with boots). I am certain that given the choice between an evening with Michael B. Jordan and a grande PSL, you would find me happily sipping the latte. Unclear as to why this should be a difficult decision? I submit this as evidence. There is a slight chance I would choose the coffee over the amazingly talented and beautiful actor because I imagine I would end up behaving like Emma Stone on a date and never be able to leave my house again.

I digress. Each time I’ve attempted to quit daily coffee consumption, I find — or create — an excuse to fall off the wagon. It is always the same: wake up one morning with the urge to stop drinking coffee every day because I know it really would be the most beneficial life choice, look at the calendar and choose a break from school I think I would be most likely to be spending at home curled up on the couch anyway, and then tell all of my friends that I am quitting coffee. Encouraged by rounds of “You’re so brave!” “I absolutely support you,” and “Good luck with that!” (Perhaps not so encouraged by the last one…) I stock up on green tea and Tylenol. After a week or so of getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night (did you know that going without coffee will make you realize how much you need 8 hours of sleep? I was surprised, too.) I wake up one morning — usually after a tough day or a night of less than 8 hours sleep — and say to myself: “Oh, I really need a coffee today. One won’t hurt me. I’ll go back to No Coffee again tomorrow!” Famous last words. Three months and goodness knows how many lattes later, I am looking at the calendar to find the next ideal break, during which I will definitely quit drinking coffee. The vicious caffeine-laden cycle is my own personal Groundhog Day. (Groundhog Life?)

If you have some version of this playing out in your own life, then you understand the frustration and confusion I feel: I know what I want, I know it’s the best thing, and yet… I’ve lost count of how many times I have tried and failed. There are so many other areas in which I can exert the kind of willpower needed to quit coffee: why is this so hard? Perfectly capable of saying “No” to people and situations, I find myself unable to turn down this hot liquid. What?! In the past few months, I have pushed myself to accomplish things I never thought possible. Every day with my students I repeat the phrase “We grow our minds, we push ourselves, we take the lead!” Suddenly (and inspired by this post), I feel more ready than ever before to push myself and come out on top: only drinking coffee when I want, instead of needing it. And, maybe, by sending this confession out into the vast sea of the Internet to be seen, read, and possibly chuckled at by anyone, I’ll find a new network of support and accountability to reach my goal.

This year, I am participating in No Excuses November, and I will stop drinking coffee. No More Excuses (NoMoEx): “There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” 
 

Join me, won’t you?
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Guest Pep Talk (Devora Zauderer): The Importance of Self-Care

When we’re young, our parents take care of us. That’s the deal – we are adorable and precocious and loving, and our parents wipe our tears and bandage our boo-boos and generally tell us that we’re the best thing to happen to the world since sliced bread.

When we grow up, go to college, move out, our parents still take care of us – when we are hurt or need to get our wisdom teeth out, they make us chicken soup and always say yes when we need someone to drive us home from the doctor. When we come home for the holidays, they cook and make a fuss about our ever-changing lives and hug us. And if we’re very lucky, they take care of us in a myriad of big and small ways every day – spending time with us, helping us out financially when we’re in a tight spot, and always encouraging us to be ourselves no matter what that looks like.

We all have varying degrees of comfort with asking for help and care from our parents. Some of us expect it and take it for granted, some of us are awkward and shy. But one thing is always certain: that this is normal, to ask for love and receive it unconditionally from one’s parents.

If we are able to accept that love and that help from an outside source, what happens when we extend that love to ourselves from somewhere inside us?

Here’s what happens: we become someone overflowing with love and energy. We can then channel that energy into positive growth.

I have always been the kind of person who pushes against my own limits. More accurately, I’ve always been stubborn and angry that I have to have limits, that sometimes I just hit a wall, that I can’t keep going forever or always always always do better. Sometimes I am guilty of being that person who is so busy or angry or tired that I forget to eat (which of course only makes it worse). Sometimes I used to even deprive myself of good things intentionally if I felt like I hadn’t “earned” them.

But there’s one thing I’ve learned that tracks with me along pretty much everything I do now – that we need to reward ourselves just for existing every day! I can’t stress enough how much self-care is an essential part of reaching any goal. When you are feeling down on yourself, do something nice that makes you feel more positive and more courageous. When you are feeling discouraged, do something that reminds you of everything you’re capable of. And when you are just down in the dumps, do something that makes you smile.

Here are some of my favorite self-care methods for when you’re at home and need some comfort or some reassurance:

  • Make and drink a steaming cup of good-smelling tea! Pick tea you love the smell of. My current favorites are Numi Moroccan Mint, Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea and Yogi Egyptian Licorice.
  • Take a nap. We don’t always have the opportunity to do this, but on weekends or days off take the opportunity to allow yourself to sleep as much as you need. Try to wake up early and take a short nap in the early afternoon, around 1 or 2. I’ve noticed that my optimal nap time is 1.5 hours – something about REM cycles or whatnot. Test it out – see what nap length makes you feel the least groggy and the most energized.
  • Call a lifeline. Call someone who makes you feel so good about yourself, who loves you unconditionally. This might be a parent, a sibling, another family member, or a friend. I’d recommend calling as opposed to anything else, even if you’re not much of a phone person, just because the connection is so immediate – you call and they pick up. Hearing my sister’s voice after a long day tends to make me feel like I can conquer the world.
  • Take a moment to scan your body. Do you have any pressing needs? Are you hungry or thirsty? Does anything hurt? Do you need to shower or pee? Take care of those needs as soon as you can and I promise you will feel some relief. Revel in taking care of your body so it can take care of you!
  • Don’t push. This is a little more of an abstract self-care tool, but – notice when you are resistant to something. If you can probe that feeling and move past it, awesome. But don’t push! If your resistance is there and it’s real, accept it. It’s probably there for a reason.
  • Put on something that makes you feel SPARKLY! Wear your favorite dress or a jazzy suit for when you go out to run those errands. Put on sparkly eye makeup and sit down to your computer with some pizzazz. Put on your favorite, most brightly-colored workout clothes and maybe that’ll help get your booty in motion.
  • Crank up the tunes.Sometimes when stress is all around, the best way to care for and nurture yourself is just to LET IT GO! I love to dance it out – pump up whatever gets you going and move yo’ body. Here are some of my faves:
  • Crank DOWN the tunes! Sometimes silence can be such a gift to yourself. Pop in those earplugs, sit back and relax.
  • Laugh at something. Laughter is PROVEN to be good for you. Plus, don’t your abs hurt after laughing too much? That means it’s working. 😉 Take a break from being 100% “serious business” and let yourself relax. It’ll energize you for diving back in later on.
  • Spend some time with a cute animal.
  • Make a list of things that were good about that day. I always get a little annoyed when someone tells me to write a “gratitude list.” Like, “this is a list of all the things that I should be grateful for or else I am an ungrateful hussy.” No, I write lists of things that make me happy, even if it’s something fleeting. Like if someone smiles at me on the subway – that makes it onto the list. Or if I make a really awesome collage that I love, that goes on the list. Or I eat some fresh-baked bread – yup, that’s on there. It’s a way to tally all the good things that happen to you during any given day, and know that they’re there even if you’re demoralized about something else. That, my friends, is real gratitude.
  • ABOVE ALL ELSE: TELL YOURSELF THAT YOU LOVE YOU! We don’t compliment ourselves nearly enough. Take a moment, tell yourself how much you rock, and do your best to believe it.


Even when there are other sources of nurturing and love in our lives, it’s our job to also take care of ourselves. And the more we can love and cherish and pamper ourselves, the more amazing things we will be able to go out there and create.

How do YOU take care of yourself? Please share!

Guest Pep Talk (Autumn Jernigan): Keep Moving Forward

I like to collect quotes. I actually have 9 journals full of them. I have quotes for all occasions and I really can carry on an entire conversation composed of quotes.

My favorite quotes come from my favorite person: Walt Disney.

Did you know that Walt Disney never graduated from High School? And yet he created the second most recognized symbol in the world (after Coca-Cola)? As well as the first cartoon with sound. The first cartoon movie with color. The first full length animated movie. The first theme park (not to be confused with an amusement park). The first steel roller coaster. The first audio animatronic.

He said such great things like “If you can dream it, you can do it.” And “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

My favorite quote is this: “Around here however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

My favorite part about this quote is that it was Walt Disney’s truth.

If I’m honest, I have a tendency to look back. To dwell on what was or what might have been. To base my present with what’s happened in the past. To not believe that things will get better because of what’s happened before.

It’s hard, because your life may not be what you expected, or it can totally suck, or there’s something you want to change and that’s why you’re participating in NoExNo. But you’re not alone. We’re here with you, fighting alongside you. And someday, you can look back and see that you were strong enough to endure this.

Walt Disney had his share of hard knocks too. He lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars. All the money he made he put back into his company, and for most of his life was flat broke. And yet, through it all, he really lived by what he said, he kept moving forward.

Did you know that before he created Mickey Mouse, he was making cartoons with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? But because he didn’t have the know-how he needed, he signed a contract with a loophole. A loophole that allowed the manager to take it away, even though Walt himself had written, created and drawn all of the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts. But, he didn’t give up. It was on the train from his New York meeting that he lost Oswald that he drew Mickey Mouse.

Did you know that the bank wouldn’t give Disney a loan for Disneyland? They thought it was going to fail. And on opening day it did. The toilets didn’t flush, there was no running water, ALL of the rides broke down and it was so hot that the asphalt melted and women got their high heels stuck in it. But today, it’s the second tourist destination in the world. Second only to Walt Disney World.

And I think about what one man accomplished, without a college degree, with all of the trouble that he met up with, and I think to myself that if he can do it, I can do. He had lots of reasons to give up, lots of excuses he could make, but he didn’t. And if he didn’t, then I won’t, because my excuses aren’t near as good as his would have been.

As this new week dawns, I will remember this. I will not make excuses and I will not give up, no matter how much I would like to. I will Keep Moving Forward. What about you?

Guest Pep Talk (Hilary Frasier): We Are Worth It

Hi y’all, my name is Hilary and I have something to share. I’ve REALLY been struggling with this whole NoExNo thing. My goal has been to successfully complete this quarter of graduate school, ending the first week of December. And it has proven to be quite a challenge.

Some of you know this, but due to a lot of life circumstances, I am basically doing the work of three quarters this one quarter in order to get back on track for graduating. And so far, it has not been going well. I have not been successful with this goal. In fact, instead of catching up, I’ve been falling terribly behind in my work. To the point that I’m concerned that I might be done with my attempt to attain my Masters Degree.

I’ve been full of excuses as to why it’s impossible for me to reach this feat. I’ve been blaming my current situation on all kinds of things. But tonight, while writing all of my excuses & blaming in my journal, I got fed up. And as if a light bulb went off, I had this thought come to me:

 “I am worth living my life successfully.

 I am now committing to forgetting all that has happened before; all the people, places, and things I could blame my current situation on. And instead, for the next three weeks, I will be repeating this mantra incessantly:

 “I am worth living my life with no excuses. I am worth living my life successfully. I AM WORTH BELIEVING IN ME!”

Because at the end of the day, all of my excuses are really reasons that I’m using to tell myself I’m not worth the time, effort, or energy it takes to be successful. And that crap just is not true!! I can put in the work, I can lose some sleep, and I CAN finish this quarter successfully.

I don’t know if this will help any of you, but it has sure helped me so I wanted to share. Because if I am worth reaching my goals, then SO ARE YOU!!

Guest Pep Talk (Alison Kranz): Motivational techniques for the non-motivationally inclined.

I’ve been trolling the NoExNo spreadsheet and looking at everyone’s fabulously lofty, yet achievable, goals. Mine, by comparison is slightly less lofty: to watch only one hour of non-productive TV per day. So, you may be thinking to yourself, “Who is this poser that’s offering me motivational advice?” But, I assure you, I am (at times) capable of motivation and–most importantly for the case of this email–it doesn’t have to be much. For example, I’m running a marathon this December because I think it’s funny.

Believe me now? Without further adieu, I give you five surefire motivation techniques for when you’re feeling down-and-out. Or, hell, why not even when you’re feeling great and want to feel even better?

1. Obtain unsolicited flattery

Sometimes all you need for a pick-me-up is for someone to say something nice. Wondering how you can obtain those feel-good words without fishing them out of your friends and loved ones? Well, if the Internet is great for anything, it’s great for being praised when you want to be. Feeling down? Grab an emergency compliment. If you don’t like the one you get, take another. Wondering who’s the cutest? This site knows. Unsure if you’re awesome? Here’s the answer.

2. Take a break

Believe it or not, this motivational technique was born from my college drinking days (I promise there weren’t too many of them). My friends and I, traversing back home from wherever the latest shenanigans took place, would get tired of walking and yell out “break time!”, upon which we’d plop down on the sidewalk until we’d regain the strength to move again.

While this may not be the intention the proverbial inventors-of-break-time were going for, the concept is worthwhile to apply to more wholesome activities. As for me, I don’t think I would’ve gotten to the point I am in my marathon training if I didn’t let myself stop for five seconds every-now-and-then to take a picture on a run (for future blog use).

If you find yourself attached to your computer 24/7, try out an app that forces you to pull away. I bet your computer will be relieved. There’s Time Out for Mac and EyeLeo for PC. (I can’t attest to the veracity of either, but if you give them a try let me know what you think. Both are free.)

3. Make an “I forget but it’s awesome” playlist

I have a vast collection of music in my iTunes and a tendency to listen to one song endlessly on repeat. Eventually the song will fall by the wayside, left for a different tune or a different mood. What I started doing, however, is putting all these songs into a not-very-creatively-named “I forget but it’s awesome” playlist, which is now chock full of all the songs I at one time loved and never grow tired of hearing, but don’t always stumble across on my own volition. Now, anytime I need a little musical motivation, I turn to the tunes in this playlist. Start one of your own and get the beat going. Not enough time? You can feel free to take a listen to mine.

4. Tempt yourself

This idea was brought to me by the gods of the Internet eight years too late, but it’s a genius one nonetheless:

And can be applied to non-studying situations as well, although mine would look something more like this:

5. Resort to physical violence

It’s been reported that a fellow NoExNo-er is using fear as a motivational tool this month. If they don’t complete their daily goal, their friend gets to slap them straight across the face. No holds barred. Now if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.