What Really Matters

I was going to send out a wrap-up email about what I learned from No Excuses November this month. I would have included my trials and tribulations peppered with funny anecdotes and Allison-style self-deprecation.

But last week, I read something that made me change my mind.

One of our NoExNos Ashley shared this via Facebook status update:

November 30th. Today marks the day that I have not had a single alcoholic beverage the whole month of November (I didn’t even give in on Thanksgiving when I really really wanted a glass of wine!). As of today, I am down 5 pounds! (I have a lot more to go to reach my goal…but I’m pretty happy with 5 for now) I am going to continue working out… and if I do drink, I will limit myself to only drinking on special occasions. 
 
I am so thankful for Mahdis G for introducing me to my new friend Allison Baker. Without her telling me and Jami about NoExNo that we participated in, I don’t know when I ever would have started this path to a new me! 
 

Today I am happy. I feel good and I am looking forward to continue pushing myself to be a better me. Raising my cup of coffee for a toast– To No Excuses November! 

 

As much as NoExNo started out as a way for me to force myself to write, I now understand that it had a much greater impact. For me, seeing this status update changed the way I viewed my NoExNo success. Yes, I was happy that I made my word count, but seeing how NoExNo encouraged Ashley to change the course of her life (she also quit smoking, which she didn’t include in her post) is incredibly humbling and moving.

It doesn’t matter if anyone or no one met their goals this month. Even if you simply signed up for the emails and did nothing after that, know that you were still a big piece of what happened this month. People were encouraged. People were motivated. People were changed.

What a beautiful journey this has been with all of you. And I mean ALL of you.

I hope you learned something about yourself this month. I hope you endeavored to do something you didn’t think you could do, even if you didn’t end up doing it. You are brave for even entertaining the idea of accomplishing something this November. I hope that you will continue to make and achieve your goals into the new year (and BEYOND).
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The one where I talk about running a marathon.

As many of you know, I am endeavoring to run a marathon this Sunday. This was never something I wanted to do. A few years ago, I thought a half marathon was crazy. And here I am, about to run farther than I ever have before.

I have never been an athlete. I played sports growing up (soccer, volleyball, tennis) but I did them very poorly. In fact, my freshman volleyball coach actually told me that she wished she had made cuts the year I played. I was genuinely terrible.

So running was something I always fell back on to keep in shape, largely because it took the least amount of coordination. But I never really liked it. Even two years ago, when I trained and finished my first half marathon, the only runner’s high I ever experienced was in being elated just to have stopped running.

More recently, there was a time in my life that I felt stalled, like I wasn’t moving forward. I lived with my parents, wasn’t pleased with my career, my relationship status and a multitude of other things. I was unhappy. But I started running in response to my dissatisfaction, because sometimes it was the only thing that made me feel better.

And that’s when I first understood the concept of a runner’s high.

After that, running became a metaphor in my life for moving forward. Even when I felt like my life wasn’t going anywhere, running helped me propel myself forward. Literally.

I’m not running 26.2 miles this weekend to lose weight or to beat the clock. I am running a marathon because it was something I never thought I would do. More specifically, something I never could do.

Through running, I found that it was possible for me to do things I previously thought were impossible. I could get faster. I could run farther. I could be stronger.

I was never an athlete, and won’t ever be. But I now have the mentality of an athlete.

For me, running is a constant reminder that I can always get better. At anything.

Running is just a quantitative reminder that success is possible.

How are you choosing to move forward?

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?

STOP IT.

This is one of my favorite comedy sketches of all time.  It’s amazing in its own right, but I also think it carries a relevant message for No Excuses November.

In the sketch, a woman goes to a therapist to address her fear of being buried alive in a box. The therapist listens to her for three minutes and then prescribes her a two-word mantra: STOP IT!

The woman goes on to tell him about all of her other issues, to which he offers the same solution: STOP IT!

While it is slightly naive to believe that all of our problems can be fixed that way, I think there is some value to the misguided therapist’s mantra.

A few years ago, I was complaining to a friend about the state of my life. I hated my job, I didn’t have much of a social life and I was feeling generally directionless and lost. Instead of telling me something like, “It’s okay, Allison. It will all happen when it happens,” she told me that the only person getting in the way of my own happiness was ME.

It was hard to hear but also made me wonder why no one had put it that way before. It wasn’t the economy. It wasn’t my job. It wasn’t my social or relationship status– it was ME.

It’s easy to shake your fist at the world and make yet another excuse for why you aren’t getting your work done on time. Or why you have an obscene amount of unread emails (guilty as charged). Or why you haven’t been able to lose the weight. The hard part is being honest with yourself about why you’re really stalling. And then doing something about it.

Granted, not everything in our lives is within our control, but think about how often we get in our own way. Sometimes WE are the obstacle.

You’re unhappy?

STOP IT.

You’re insecure about your body?

STOP IT.

You’re in a bad relationship?

STOP IT.

You’re making excuses for X, Y & Z?

STOP IT.

Are you letting yourself and your excuses get in the way of living a satisfied life?

Well, STOP IT (OR I’LL BURY YOU ALIVE IN A BOX)!

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!!