One of the most eye-opening things about my retreat this week has been seeing how there are a lot of people dealing with the same things. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy to spend so much time stressing about the food choices I make and working out on the road – I mean, thinking about these things that much has to be some kind of eating/exercise disorder, right? I’m very conscious of the fact that I read a lot of healthy living blogs, and that some of those blogs may either portray themselves unrealistically or flat-out be promoting unhealthy behavior. For my part, I am pretty honest about what I post, but I also know that I’m a lot less likely to post when I’m not in a good place (hello, six month break from blogging when I was dealing with depression). I know that if someone is writing a running blog, their blog is probably going to focus a lot more on their workouts instead of the other stuff that they do, so I try to remember that what I see isn’t all of their life, and they probably make poor choices at times just like I do. But it does get tough when you see people posting about double workouts every day like it’s no big deal (lately I do double workout days a lot, but it’s definitely not easy) – and of course, having seemingly no issues with their weight like I do. On the work front, I see most of my coworkers seeming to eat whatever they want and rarely going to the gym – and then it makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. How are they maintaining their weights with basically no effort, while I’m obsessing and still not completely happy?
Well, this week I found out that some of them are worried about it. Nearly everyone in my small coaching group talked about getting more exercise in as one of their potential daily rituals to start incorporating. I was also surprised to find out that I’m not alone in wondering what career is right for me – a quick show of hands revealed that 70% of my coaching group was considering leaving the firm (and discussions during breaks showed that other groups had about the same distribution). Whoa! I think a lot more of us are caught up in the “I’m stuck but don’t know where to turn” thoughts than I would have ever guessed (and this became even more evident when we did a songwriting workshop and someone suggested that the opening line be “I work 80 hours a week in a cube with no windows; I don’t know how much more I can take”). The question is… what do we do about it?
I think Jocelyn hit the nail on the head in her comments the other day – we can change the things we don’t like. Sometimes we get so caught up in the cycle (must get that next promotion!) and societal expectations (go make as much money as you can or you’ll never be able to afford a nice home / vacations / whatever!) that we don’t realize that all of these things are, in fact, choices. One of the big themes of this week has been learning to “act with intention” – and, in fact, when we were asked about the last time we “made an intentional decision” (aka didn’t just go with the flow but made a conscious decision to do something with a goal in mind that mattered to us), I was mortified to realize that I couldn’t think of any time in the last six months that I had done that. Going against the grain is hard!
And of course, there’s also the issue of what’s realistic. Today I ended up being a bit negative during the programming that we had, and I think it was in large part because it’s the last day and we now have to leave the bubble of our ideals and go back to real life. It’s all well and good to figure out that my perfect day would be waking up at 8am with no alarm and spending the day reading/working out/cooking/hanging out with friends… but if I quit real jobs in search of that, I’d probably be broke and still not getting what I want. You can’t get everything exactly the way you’d like it to be, and there are always going to be things you don’t want to do. I think the major takeaway for me this week is that a lot of things I’ve considered necessary evils might not be so necessary – that maybe it’s possible to get more of what I want and less of what I hate.
It all comes back to defining success. We were asked to write our personal definition of success on the very first day – I struggled with that assignment quite a bit. Today, my coach pointed out that coming up with a personal definition of success is kind of like defining the meaning of life – it’s not easy to do and we’ll probably never have all the answers. As much as I’d like to strive for perfection in every way, the real answer is to figure out which things are the most important to me and which I can let slide. And of course, the key to doing that is acting with intention/purpose.
My purpose for the next hour? To go meet up with my friends at the beach bar for a drink before we all fly home :)