Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is… nothing!
Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.
Po: Wait, wait… it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?
Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.
[Po looks at the scroll again, and sees his reflection in it]
Po: There is no secret ingredient…
These are things I’ve talked about a lot before, but as the semester winds down, these words and phrases keep creeping in. I know there are a lot of other students getting ready to graduate – all different ages that are feeling this way. I know there are people out there looking to change jobs that also feel this way.
New is scary, but new is necessary.
I started looking for jobs in February and started applying at the beginning of March, but this past week as I’ve been looking through descriptions, reading through organizational missions and sending applications and emails into cyberspace, I find myself questioning myself all over again.
While I have no issues blogging or talking on Facebook live, it’s a different ballgame writing cover letters and interviewing.
I fear that I’m not doing enough.
I fear that what I am capable of isn’t enough.
I fear that I’m in a gray area with my professional experience as a manager, a fundraiser, a strategic planner and my education. I am qualified for many jobs I’m looking at, but that doesn’t make cross-referencing my experience with descriptions less nerve-racking.
Can other job seekers raise their hands?
It’s when these phrases get into my head that I get worked up and frustrated. It’s here when I have to force myself to step back and think of everything that has happened the past decade – fieldwork, jobs, volunteering and conference presentations… relationships, scholarships created, programs designed and implemented and then evaluated. There’s a lot and I forget it all the time.
Undergrad seems so far away, my master’s seems like yesterday and I’m excited to be here, but I’m in awe of how I arrived here and how fast.
There’s no magic pill or special directions to follow.We create opportunities each day. We do what we can with what we have.
We are the magic. We just need to believe it. If we believe then others will too.
So for the next few weeks, along side my physical health goals, I’m planning time to sit down and journal at the end of the week to reflect on everything that I’ve accomplished and how I feel about progress.
I ask my clients to reflect about the good and the bad and everything in between, but I need to take my own advice and get it down on paper. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the feeling of incapability, but I’m working on it.
Acknowledging it and talking it out helps even if it’s just with myself. I have a few pages left in my journal before I need to find a new one so I might as well fill those pages before starting a new part of my life.
Then the hunt for a fresh journal will start.
So for today, I’m doing what I can with what I have with the time given. Things will fall into place when the timing is right.
I write when I feel that I need to, so as you can tell it’s been a solid month since I’ve written, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. I’ve been finding outlets in running more, unpacking my apartment, hanging out by the pool and busting my ass with class. Side note – 8 more classes and the summer sessions are done. That by a lot faster than I imagined it would!
Anyway. I write when I feel inspired. I write when I feel like I need to brain dump. So let’s just jump in. I’m going to preface this post with I’ve made excuses for myself in the past, I’ve heard JP make excuses for himself as well. I have clients who make excuses too. EVERYONE builds walls and barriers that prevent them from being as great as possible in whatever it is they are seeking to accomplish. But, progress and the journey is about backing away from those excuses, tearing them down and pushing yourself to see what you can accomplish because it doesn’t matter what others tell you – if you don’t stop making excuses you’re never going to be successful.
At the beginning of the month, I got an email from Panera saying that as a reward member I was eligible for free bagels for the whole month. One bagel per day, no purchase necessary. Well, as you can imagine, goals have shifted since the spring and bagels fit into my plan pretty well, so, challenge accepted.
How many bagels can I eat in a month from Panera? Let’s find out.
I set some rules – I had to try them all once before I could go back for the same one again.
First up – Chocolate Chip. Not bad, but not my favorite.
Favorite bagel? Cinnamon Crunch. It’s covered in in cinnamon-y and sugar goodness, do I need to say more? Also, it’s perfect toasted and plain no need to add anything, which is perfect because it’s 82g of carbohydrates.
Anyway, here’s what I learned by eating as many free bagels as I could this month.
- I will willing eat 7 bagels in a month.
- Bagel sandwiches are most definitely in my top three for breakfast carbs, pancakes and waffles in first and second place, respectively.
- Free tastes better.
- Plain bagels are a waste of carbohydrates – so I didn’t even have one of those.
- If you want something bad enough, you make it work.
Let’s talk about #5.
I wanted a bagel, so I made it work into my day. I planned my other meals around my bagel and focused on lean protein, high volume fruits and vegetables. This allowed me the joy of consuming anywhere between 50 to 90g of carbohydrates in the bagel of my choice, while still eating enough volume to stay full and enough calories to be energized for the day.
I’ve had clients tell me that they don’t want to track their nutritional intake. Whether it’s specific grams of macro nutrients or calories (specific or broad tracking), they didn’t want to have to monitor it. Well, how do people think they got to where they are to begin with? How do you think I became over 240 pounds in college? It doesn’t just happen overnight. The only way to have fat loss is to be in a caloric deficit and the best way to do that is through daily diet. Abs are truly made in the kitchen and you can’t out work a poor diet.
I also believe if someone has never tracked, but wants to lose weight, it’ll do them some good to track for at least a short period of time and understand the difference between a portion they serve themselves and a serving size. How can they complain about no progress if they don’t know how their own behavior impacts them? It’s also heartbreaking when you realize how much peanut butter is in a serving versus what you believe should be the serving. Aside from being specific with consumption, I’ve had talks with people who don’t want plan the week’s meals in advanced because don’t want to eat the same thing every day. Trust me, I don’t blame them. But planning or prepping doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing – that may be the easiest thing to do, but it’s not the only way. The real world isn’t a bubble. There are parties and holidays and you can’t always say no to a glass of wine or a burger at the BBQ, so why should a bubble be created to be successful?
The “right” path encompasses finding balance and having more good days than bad. It’s about a specific balance that is unique to an individual’s lifestyle. Planning ahead allows for the ability to make a change when something comes up last minute. It allows you to learn how to create a balance of food that fuels you and a cold beer with dinner. If they can’t learn that balance when seeking to live a healthier life, the struggle will continue even after the goals are met.
Creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about nutrition though, it’s also about being active and creating a plan that allows you to accomplish your goals while not shutting out other areas of your life. Everyone has a busy schedule – busy is relative. Maybe there’s some financial constraints. As a millennial, my time and money are precious and as someone who recently went back to school I understand the importance of both of these things, but if you want something bad enough – you figure it out. Planning ahead allows me to be more careful with my time and prevent burn out. Looking at my calendar for this upcoming week tells me that Monday is too busy and I will be exhausted by the time I can make it to the gym, so that day I should focus on better meal creation, but Tuesday is more flexible and I have time to be active.
Everyone has walls that prevent them from success, whether they are self-created or not. But if you want something bad enough out start to break those walls down or go around them. You stop making excuses and you make small changes. All goals are about finding something that fits the individual’s lifestyle, something that they can believe in, but at the same time, be a little uncomfortable and break out of their bubble to see change. If you want the bagel bad enough you will find a way to make it fit.
Let’s define success.
We define our perfect world all the time, but is that what success actually looks like? Is that what success would feel like? Perfection?
For some, success means working out five days a week and eating on track every day. For others, it means being on time or early to everything they have scheduled. For most, it means never allowing or embracing the moments they fall short. Never allowing something to be misplaced. If a mistake is made they consider starting over and over and over until they just don’t start again.
We confuse success with perfection and we have every right to confuse the two. When we think about our goals, we see them in a perfect world scenario and we don’t want to think anything less. Society also tells us to not dream of anything less. When I speak to potential clients about their goals we talk in a perfect world scenario and as they become clients, I dive deeper. We talk about the perfect world, but I ask them what would make this week successful – is it really about checking everything off the list or is it about the attempts made? Is it about just getting out of bed on Tuesday or acknowledging when something isn’t working for them instead of just assuming they’re the failing piece of the puzzle?
I’ve worked really hard to allow myself to fall short or fail when seeking to accomplish my goals because I don’t believe it’s true failure when I can’t reach out further after exhausting myself. Failure is not when you have to find a new route or seek a secondary solution. Failure is giving up completely. Failure is say I can’t when in reality there’s nothing stopping you, but yourself. I do think everyone has greatness in them, somewhere. I also think everyone’s greatness is different and is defined by some limitations whether physical or mental or pure lack of interest, but there’s something inside brewing. Remember greatness and limitless are two different things.
Most people I’ve talked to don’t talk about failure in this way, just like they don’t redefine success weekly or reevaluate their goals midweek when it seems a wrench has been thrown in. Many I’ve spoken with believe if they can’t accomplish the immediate task before them then they have failed. But the way I see it, they just didn’t find the right solution for them.
I define success by defining failure. I’m starting to define both by defining my fears.
I’ve been listening to a lot of TedTalks and podcasts from leadership to investigative journalism. It really depends on my mood. The TedTalks are more towards leadership and thought process. I want to watch a video and see the person’s body language; how they engage with an audience and the gestures they provide to the language they speak. Podcasts are more for running errands and hanging out around the apartment. Something to listen to casually, but not have to be glued to my television.
A recent TedTalk I watched was from Tim Ferriss called Why you should define your fears instead of your goals. We goal set to develop strategy to work towards growth, but rarely do we talk about our fears and how to overcome them in order to achieve new things, work towards the eventual goals that are being prevented from being a thought to begin with.
Ferriss shows the audience a model to evaluating and understanding your fears. After listening and then rereading the transcript it made sense. You need to start by listing your fears, so here are two of mine that I’ve been working on recently
- School – not being smart enough for the sciences in my program
- Utilizing medication over holistic approaches – the past few months have left me with chronic stress and hormonal imbalances related to anxiety
After listing them, you need to think about them long and hard, then define them. Ferriss says “you’re writing down all of the worst things you can imagine happening if you take that step”. He suggests that you should have 10 to 20 bullet points.
So let’s look at my first. School.
- I could fail a class
- If I fail a class, I would have to retake a class
- I would have to spend more time study than desired
- I’ll waste money if I’m not able to do well
- What if it takes longer than I have planned?
- What if I don’t fit in with my other classmates because of my background and previous education?
- What if an interest isn’t enough?
- What if others don’t understand why my degree is important to me?
Ok so, there’s 8, but you start to get the point.
I decided to go back to school because I don’t believe that just a certification gives someone the full understanding to help people with whatever the certification is. I think you need personal experience and a little more textbook knowledge. I have personal experience with my own health and fitness journey. I’ve tried a number of different approaches to nutrition and fitness. In my professional career, I did goal setting, strategy development and implementation in a fundraising setting, but those skills are transferable. The only thing I felt I was lacking was a formal education. I choose public health because it was well rounded from looking at the physical implications of health to psychological and social implications.
Before going back to school I contemplated the list above, but I never wrote it out. I thought about it alone, in my head. I talked it out with friends. JP and I had a number of conversations. I still talk about this list with friends even though I’m going through courses and I’m doing well because part of me is waiting for something to happen. I don’t really know what, but that’s where self doubt comes into play.
The next step is to “prevent”. Ferriss asks the audience to consider what you can do to prevent anything on the list from occurring or if not prevent, what could you do to minimize the probability.
So, school. To prevent failing I can make sure I’m studying and asking questions when I don’t understand the material. To prevent over studying and making myself feel wiped out I can look at my study habits and determine what is the best method to learn the information at hand. Every course may take a different strategy and in some cases, I might not be able to prevent over studying. I can re-evalaute my timeline periodically and check in with the academic support team to make sure that I’m on track for the timeline I have planned. Somethings are just out of my control because I can tell you now that most people ask me why I went back to school and don’t understand why I wouldn’t be satisfied with just the certification to be a personal trainer.
I want to make sure that I have a better understanding than what’s provided through the organizations that offer these certifications. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I also know that I don’t want to just provide someone with a workout plan. I want them to understand why they are executing it and I want to be able to dig a little deeper if we find that some methods don’t work. I want to find a solution for the individual, and I believe that having a more formal education will help give me a baseline to do that.
The fourth step in fear-setting, as Ferriss calls it, is to list out what you can do to “repair” if any of these do come fruition. If school takes a little longer then I just need to redetermine my timeline and understand that another degree is a lot, but worth it anyway. If I fail or do poorly in a class, I can retake it and yes, that would suck spending more money, but my prevention plan should’ve been better and this would be an opportunity to reevaluate…again.
After these steps, he asks the audience to consider the benefits of attempting to act upon these fears. He lists things like confidence, emotional growth, financial growth, etc.
Going back to school pushed me out of my comfort zone. Taking these courses is making me think in a new way and relearning how to learn material and study. The first section of anatomy and physiology started to connect the dots of the interdependence our organ systems have on each other. It reinforced what I knew about mental health and the mind – total body connection. It reinforced what I knew to be true about my own mental health and how hormone function greatly impacts more things than we ever consider. My courses on public health have pushed me to think about all parties involved and how the actions of one person have an immediate impact on their own life and the direct connections they have, but also the indirect connections they have on the world around them and visa versa. So even if I don’t get an A in every class, even though I want to strive for perfection in this case, I know that I’m still learning and challenging myself.
Next, think about the cost of inaction. If you don’t do anything to chip away at these fears.
Honestly, if I hadn’t planned to go back to school, I wouldn’t be coaching right now. I wouldn’t be considering adding personal training to my resume and I wouldn’t be willing to connect with people in this way to support their journeys – whatever those may be.
I also wouldn’t have ever known if I can learn this way, understand this information and be able to assist people outside of sharing my journey. If I didn’t decide to go back to school and then act on that idea, I wouldn’t have been able to change career paths. Whether I go back to fundraising in a different area of the nonprofit sector or not, I’m no longer stuck on a path that was unfulfilling and causing me stress and anxiety. While there are new challenges, these challenges are less than those before.
So. moving on. Let’s think about our goals. Let’s define success and failure and be realistic with ourselves, but let’s also think about how our fears developed and what we can do to change them. We doubt ourselves a lot and when those around us place doubt on us, we continue to prevent ourselves from seeking our full potential.
Can you imagine what we could accomplish without doubt and fear?
When I started my weight loss I never thought there would be an end to it. I thought it would take a life time to lose weight and be healthy. Last year I talked about this before my surgery. Even days after my surgery I still couldn’t believe I had accomplished the weight loss aspect of getting healthy. I couldn’t believe the turns that my journey had taken and where I ended up. There are still days that I wake up and say, “yep, this is my life.”
I’ve battled, sometimes floated, with what life is like maintaining a healthy, normal (relative to me) weight and size. Maintenance is harder than losing. It’s 100% true. I haven’t been losing weight for health since last year and I know that seems confusing for people who have started following me within the past eight months. That’s also the difference between using your body for sport and just living life and focusing on overall health.
In previous posts you can see a shift in my mindset, in my mental health. Just like in the tone of someone’s voice, there are times you can see in my writing that things were bothering me, or just weren’t going in a direction I had been anticipating – which ultimately threw me off. While I’ve been stressed from classes, it’s normal stress, it’s not stress than gave me the urge to write, so I haven’t blogged, but I’ve journaled.
The past five weeks have been tough to say the least. The idea of balance has really taken a new life form. This past week was the first week in a month and a half that I felt I truly had routine with everything and felt some kind of peace with all aspects of my life.
I have four days left of classes, then 13 days off before starting the second summer session. I decided to take anatomy and physiology this summer because they’re foundation classes for my program. I need them to take other courses and by doing them in the summer it allows me to get ahead in my program. I also decided to take nutrition this summer because I have a big interest in it from my own experiences and I felt that it would be a good class to take at the same time as an intense lab course. In the long run taking these three classes actually saves me a year of school because of timing. I have busted my ass to think differently and learn how to study differently, learn how to memorize information. I have pushed myself to the point where I’ve said to JP “I don’t think my brain can hold anymore information.” His response – “Cristina that’s not how the brain works.” Thanks babe.
The past five weeks I have gone to class Monday to Thursday from 8 am to 12 pm. On Monday and Wednesday I go to work right after class and I’m there until about 6 pm. On Fridays I work from 6 am to 1 pm. I’ve been working with nine amazing clients this past month, a few new and a few re-occurring. Professional Cristina has been in full force with appropriate pockets to study. Days are packed! But I also made sure that I had the chance to have breakfast every morning with JP before we went our separate ways and that we had dinner together most nights too. Balancing professional Cristina with my relationship made it hard for me to figure out how to keep fitness Cristina in check so that personal Cristina felt that she had alone time away from professional development and relationships.
This isn’t being selfish, this is being realistic. You can’t give all of yourself to everyone else and then expect that you have energy left to give to yourself. I told JP this.
I told him that I missed my morning workouts. Yes, I was still going on Sunday morning’s while he’s still in bed, but I did miss the work week morning lifts. I like how they started my day. So we picked a day that he could do breakfast on his own and made sense for my class and work schedule – Wednesdays. In a perfect world, I’m working out five days a week because I like how it makes me feel. Monday’s and Saturday’s are rest days because that makes sense with my schedule. I have three back and leg combo days and my friend Alicia created two upper body days for me with the idea that one could be dropped if I getting to the gym wasn’t a priority one day – and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes focusing on my nutrition becomes the focus because doing homework and study is a priority.
I tell my clients on every check in that success looks different every week. I ask them do they believe the previous week was successful when they think about their goals that were initially set and what the outcomes were. I ask them what will make this upcoming week successful. If the goal is to get to the gym five days in the upcoming week, will four days still make them feel accomplished? If they reevaluated goals in the middle of the week after realizing they may have taken on too much, is that success – allowing yourself to reevaluate and not feel defeated? Is success partly looking at what you have accomplished and understanding why other things weren’t done and maybe continuing to work on them each week instead of setting a hard deadline?
A YouTuber I watch often made a video about this over the past week and it had me saying yes, over and over again. Success is different for everyone and it will even look different for you each week.
Finding a new routine took a lot of effort and is still taking a lot of effort to ensure that I feel like I’m doing everything I want to, everything I need to and that I still have time to breathe. But like I do with my clients, I ask myself what good still happened this week, what was I able to get done.
This week – I got four lifts done (skipping today as a rest day). I got a 98% on my quiz in A&P. I got a 94% on my exam in nutrition. I had date night with my boyfriend and ate the most ridiculous of ice cream sundaes. My lifts felt better than they have in weeks. I wore a crop top and wasn’t self-conscious about it. I gave myself a break from studying for two nights so I could relax and be strategically spontaneous.
Maintenance is hard, but to me it’s not necessarily about the scale or the tape meaure. Finding a new routine is hard. Shifting focus is hard. It’s through what challenges us that makes us better. The qualitative goals challenge us more than those that are quantifiable and they should. It’s like oxygen, we know it’s there because we’re breathing, but mostly we’re trusting that it doesn’t run out and leave us gasping. We have to gauge our progress in our qualitative goals based on feeling and we have to trust ourselves that we’re doing everything we can.
I am doing everything I can. I feel pretty good about the future.