February 3, 2016

7 Questions to Propel Lasting Change.

Transformative poetry

The difficulty of change is directly proportionate to the size of the difference we want in our life.

I have been a personal trainer for many years, and have come up with a consistent list of questions I ask people that want to change their physicality.

I ask these things of clients on a routine basis not only to figure out what they want but how bad they want it and the size of the obstacles in their way. Because of my holistic approach, numerous clients have told me that our time together was transformative to their body, mind and spirit. (Obviously, I am undercharging them.)

The lesson for me was to learn that in order to help stimulate change in myself and others, the best questions apply not only to what we want to change physically but also, on a more macro level. Whether we want to change jobs, quit smoking, get fitter or have better relationships, we must ask ourselves these questions:

1. What is the philosophy of our life? What are the strengths or characteristics that we value? We must write or often re-write our personal Constitution? These are global values or priorities that form the skeleton for the muscle of our goals. I value compassion, resilience and authenticity, which means I strive to apply these values in all that I do.

Do I struggle? Yes. Do I persevere? Yes.

2. What are our goals? Be specific. In order to make changes, we have to know what our endgame is, and these should line up with our life philosophy.

Please notice that I did not say “be realistic.” The old acronym about goals is S.M.A.R.T with “A” being achievable.  F*ck realism. We can give ourselves permission to dream about all the things we want for our life if money, time and support were no object. When we stop placing limits on what we can achieve, our abilities can be near limitless.

Learn how to pitch it to yourself too! I use the word protocol with everything. It is not a diet; it is a nutritional protocol. Protocols are flexible. Not pass or fail.

What would we look like/perform like/lead like if we believed nothing stood in our way?

3. Why now?  We have wanted to be more fit, more wealthy, more giving and more successful for years. What makes this moment different? I wish I could say that I always make changes so that I become a more enlightened, complete being. Since I mentioned authenticity above, I need to be on the level. Like most people, I often change not because of what I want but more to avoid what I do not want. When I ask personal training clients what has brought them to me today, I inevitably get the following:

I just want to be healthier.

         I want to be a better example to my family.

         I know it is good for me.

These are all logical answers, but usually the reality is much more emotional:

My “fat jeans” don’t fit.

         I saw a picture taken last weekend and hardly recognized myself.

         My spouse looks at other men/women.

         I am afraid I will not see my children grow to adulthood.

When we can find the passion fueling our goals, we feed off of it when the struggles/challenges inevitably come.

4. What is our timeline? When we want to change, there needs to be some immediacy and a time table to get tasks done. Otherwise our goals stay a “should” instead of a “must.” We may toss realism aside to some degree on goals, but timelines are realistic. I would not expect to lose 15 pounds in two weeks, nor would I require myself to read a book on personal growth in two days.

Once we have a time period in mind, we can be compassionate with ourselves when life gets in the way and reset the timeline.

5. What are we willing to give up?  In order to promote lasting and dramatic change, there are almost always sacrifices to be made. Some short term. Some indefinitely. If we need more time to pursue a dream partner, job, or growth of any kind, are we willing to watch less TV? Scroll less through Facebook? Spend less time with friends at Happy Hour?

We can’t expect monumental change when we continue to do the same things that have us stuck. If we want to perform or look better, we might give up eating Oreos every night. If we want to have more sex, then we should be naked more often and skip that last episode of The Walking Dead. These kinds of strategies make sense, but others are not as obvious.

When I wanted to become a more significant person able to touch more lives in a positive manner, I had to give up activities that ate my time, but also behaviors that ate my soul. I had to give up constant self-judgment to make way for self-affirmation. I still have standards for myself, but I have chosen a different perspective. Self judgment was my default, so I still have to be vigilant to stay out of “beat up mode.”

We can look for victories instead of failures.

6. How have we tried to reach our goals in the past?  What worked?  What didn’t?  I can’t tell you how often in my training business I hear, “I have tried everything to get in shape/lose weight.”  With some gentle prodding, I usually find out that they have done much the same thing over and over expecting different results.

This part of the equation requires us to be honest with ourselves about our strength and weaknesses.  This can be incredibly painful, and fear of failing once again can keep us from even trying. Choose to set fear aside, because sometimes the “fix” is simple.

         Don’t like to cook? Co-op efforts with someone that does.

Don’t like or have time to read? Check out audio books from your library to listen to during your commute.

Need more time for your own growth? Stop saying yes to everyone else’s priorities.

The past need not dictate the present and future, so we make different choices. 

7. Does our tribe support our goals?  I want to make sure that everyone understands that the people who love us the most may give us the most resistance when we are trying to make changes in our lives. Whether they are afraid of losing us if we make improvements or our change puts pressure on them to follow suit, friends and family may unconsciously or consciously sabotage us. It is not realistic or advisable for us to disassociate from everyone that hinders our progress, so be ready to lead.

Until you are stronger in your passion to reach your goals, find one or two key individuals that offer you support and let them provide you with encouragement. Ask for help when you need it. These are the people that “raise your average” and motivate you.

I visualize myself pulling a sled slowly forward with people dragging their heels behind me.  I am so steady and consistent that they will grow weary of pulling against and choose to run with me, especially when my support system starts pulling with me.

Think of the reward of leading people to a better life.

Everything we do can be part of our process of growth and change. This moment I am doing my best to resist adding an eighth innocuous question, just so there will be an even number. So far I have convinced myself that seven is a lucky number and am moving forward with only a small amount of anxiety.

Many of us are looking for a magic pill or formula that will rocket us forward to the life of our dreams. Between Lipitor, Ab loungers, Bow Flex and Jenny Craig, we should all look perfect. I promise that if there was a magic pill, I would sell it to you. I would own a dispensary instead of a gym. I have discovered the victory in achieving things that took strategy, perseverance and courage feeds my soul.

And the ones where I am able to benefit someone else with my journey?

The magic in these expands my ability to feel joy making them worth whatever cost I paid.


Author: Lisa Foreman

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Timothy Lucas/Pixoto

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