7 Things I Learned This Month

Many personal development books contain the same strategies. The usual — eat well, sleep, and exercise. It begins to feel like you’re reading the same book over and over. Especially, when the same stories and studies are being used.

Every month, I share one takeaway from every book I’ve read that month. Each insight reveals a new perspective or serves as an inspiration for improving your life.

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Our weight loss plateaus when we diet and we generally return to a set weight.

How diets work:

  1. You lose some weight — usually your water weight. When you diet, and exercise intensely, your glycogen and water associated with it are burned up to keep your blood sugars from falling too low.
  2. You burn more than you eat, resulting in more weight loss —your body starts to break down protein from the muscles and fat so that your body can still function. Note that your calorie needs have not changed, but now you’re eating less.
  3. You go on a crazy eating spree and weight loss plateaus— your body isn’t getting enough food so it will slow down your metabolic processes. You need less food to maintain your new weight. But, all of a sudden everything starts to look ultra-tasty (your body’s evolutionary mechanisms have turned on). This is generally where people quit their diets.

“You could have the ‘healthiest’ diet ever, but if you don’t have a healthy relationship to food, then it’s not really that healthy is it?” Thomas explains that our diet culture feels normal but actually is not.

So many people diet. It’s common to hear a co-worker decline a cupcake, not for health reasons, but because they “don’t want the extra weight”.

Thomas’ perspective is that dieting is disordered eating because you’re ignoring your hunger cues and/or restricting foods (unless it’s for medical purposes). “If you have to engage in restriction and disordered eating to maintain your weight, then it’s not the weight your body is naturally comfortable at.” We each have a set-point weight which is around 10–15 lbs that our bodies always return to.

It’s ok to take a moment, feel what you have to feel, and then move on.

No one is saying you can’t take a minute to think, Dammit, this sucks. By all means, vent. Exhale. Take stock. Just don’t take too long. Because you have to get back to work. Because each obstacle we overcome makes us stronger for the next one.

Stoicism gets a bad rep for being an “emotionless” philosophy. If something happens to us we should have no reaction. As if somehow we’re superhuman.

This view of Stoicism makes it seem unattainable. I am learning to implement Stoicism in my life and this passage reassured me that it is okay to feel. We don’t need to be emotionless, per se. But that we can take a moment to pause and feel the feelings, and move on.

It’s a skill that takes time to learn, we don’t just learn to pause on the first try. While we don’t want to suppress any emotions when our minds go into emotional loops, we can acknowledge our thoughts.

We don’t need to succeed in traditional ways to be successful.

It’s admirable to want to be better businessmen or businesswomen, better athletes, better conquerors. We should want to be informed, better off financially…We should want, as I’ve said a few times in this book, to do great things. I know I do.

But no less impressive an accomplishment being better people, being happier people, being balanced people, being content people, being humble and selfless people. Or better yet, all these traits together.

Few books, especially in the personal development realm, highlight that being content is enough. We don’t always have to strive for traditional goals.

This year rather than traditional goal setting, I decided to work on more personal goals, like learning how to control my temper and how to enjoy where I am at right now.

While it feels unnatural to work towards non-traditional goals, there’s nothing to lose by becoming a content person and learning to regulate my reactions.

If you were to put aside your traditional goals, what traits would you work on?

When a situation is overwhelming, look at it in its most basic form.

When anything presents itself to you, particularly if it seems in some way overwhelming, stop and define it at its most basic. Do not add value judgements*. Clear away its mystique so that you can move forward with a clear head.

Most of us have a favourite cup. The cup that our coffee or tea just tastes so much better in. If it breaks, we’d be a little heartbroken. Stoicism teaches us to simplify things when something happens. Our favourite cup is a piece of ceramic that holds drinks. It’s not worth ruining our whole day because of it.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by other life situations. Maybe you have to meet your partner’s parents for the first time. It can be overwhelming because it’s important to you, and you want to make a good impression. But if you look at the situation at its most basic, you’re going to eat food with three people.

*Value Judgements = our perspective on situation

Make a list of everything you do, and cut out everything you don’t need to do.

I asked her to tell me everything she dreads about her job — all the stuff with little to no value — that was throwing her off. She made a long list. Then I asked her why she doesn’t just stop doing everything on the list. Some of her resistance was habitual lies, this is how I’ve always done things. We could work to cut that stuff out immediately.

When I did my own list, a couple of things came to my attention: I put a lot of stuff away and I check my phone every time I walk by the counter (not with a purpose but out of habit). This helped me realize that I need to put things away immediately. I also need to hide my phone so I can still hear it in case of emergencies but I don’t feel triggered to check it.

We can begin to release self-oppression through intention setting

That is ultimate what Personal Freedom is: liberty from restrictions of social oppression and the tragic self-oppression that is fear.

Social oppression isn’t a simple fix. It’s a big problem in society and one that many of us feel daily. While social oppression will take time (if ever in some cases), we can begin to work on releasing self-oppression.

Freedom is one of my values. It’s the freedom to think, do and feel what is true to myself. It can be hard. But you can begin by identifying who think you are, and how much of that is from society’s influence as opposed to who you actually want to be. Burchard calls us to ask ourselves,

“Are my ambitions, attentions, affections and actions truly of my own choosing? Am I being my genuine self in the world and pursuing things that deeply matter to me? Am I opening myself to changes and challenges so that I can stretch and grow into my full potential?”

From there we can begin to set intentions based on our true feelings. We can set an intention for the day when we’re on the bus to work, or set an intention when we walk through the door into a meeting or when we come home.

I set an intention when I walk into my sons’ rooms to be a present mom, and I use this to guide my actions throughout the day. I’m also learning to set morning intentions for the day, I have a reminder on my laptop that says, “What is your intention for the day?” because it isn’t a habit yet.

We can tell if we’re making progress when we start to feel a little lighter, a little happier and a little freer. We’ll start to grow and be genuine in our actions.

We can make ourselves laugh by saying, “Ha Ha!”

I actually wrote this on my chalkboard so that I remember to do it. I’ll admit I thought this was very cheesy when I read it. I thought, “there’s no way this works.” So of course, I had to try it.

While you might not belly laugh, you likely will get a big smile on your face like I did. This works better than doing the forced smile technique. Sometimes we just need a light-hearted moment.

We can improve our lives by developing a healthy relationship with food, feeling our feelings, not always striving for the next big thing, simplifying situations, cutting out the unnecessary, setting intentions, and having a good laugh.

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