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Episode 113: The Benefits of Boundaries

Today we’ll discuss how setting boundaries around your habits, and meet your own needs first, can lead to integrity, feeling happier with life, and finding greater meaning and purpose.

Do you have one of those friends who seems to be ‘disciplined’ and ‘motivated’ to do their exercise, not work weekends, prepare their meals and spend time supporting their community – and wondered just how they manage to do it?

Do you wish you could be more like that yourself?

In this episode, I am going to unpack this with you, and talk about how learning to set healthy boundaries can create a more fulfilling, authentic and purposeful life.

Values, beliefs, standards come first

Let’s set the scene by recapping the last episode.

When you know who you are and what you want, and what’s important to you – that is, when you are clear on your identity, values and opinions – then it’s easy to define your own related standards of behaviour and living.

For example your values around health and community might mean you’re committed to walking every day no matter what, exercising 3-4 days per week at the gym no matter what, and being active in networks and groups for causes that matter to you.

With those standards clearly in your mind, you can more easily identify what you want to say no to, and how to set boundaries with other people.

It’s clear that if you want to walk daily no matter what, you’ll say no to things that get in the way. You’ll feel motivated to do it and will set yourself up for success. It’s unlikely that you’d go into work early and miss your walk, or that you’d sleep in and not be bothered.

Or if you want to spend quality time with your kids on the weekend no matter what, you’ll more easily say no to social events, switch off from work and complete chores during the week so that you have the time available for the kids.

These are just a couple of examples of what standards and related boundaries might look like.

Notice how strongly held values and beliefs set you up for consistent behaviour in the areas that matter most to you.

What does this tell you about becoming that disciplined, motivated person?

What I see in these examples – and in the thousands of hours of coaching I’ve done – is that if you want to become a certain way, you can get there by digging into your values, purpose, meaning and beliefs.

When you understand and change your mind, it’s a catalyst for massive changes in your life. 

If you’re on the fence with this – wanting to make change but unsure about whether it’s worth it, or too hard, or that you might fail, let’s examine what it takes to get there.

The ‘Do Nothing’ Approach

Firstly, let’s talk about the do nothing approach. 

We know that the human brain is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. 

That is, our brains tend to believe something is impossible if we lack proof – that is, if you’ve never tried or if you have failed in the past.

In those circumstances, you let your brain’s natural response take over, then you get to stay where you are in the safe, comfortable and familiar – even if it’s unsatisfying and unfulfilling.

But what happens if you choose the ‘do something’ approach?

What if you decide to do the work on your mind, to understand your values, examine and shift your beliefs and change your standards of behaviour, and start setting healthy boundaries around your new behaviours?

What You Might Say No To

Setting boundaries around new behaviours, so that they can become entrenched, automatic habits, probably means you’ll have to say no to some things.

For starters, you might have to say no to yourself. Let’s look at how this might play out in three different areas – health, work and relationships.

If it’s health behaviours that you’re working on, then you might have to set boundaries by saying no to sleeping in, that extra drink, the second serving of dessert, the block of rocky road chocolate, staying up late to watch Netflix, or that big boozy party the night before a big presentation at work.

What would you be missing out on if you said no? 

Well, you’d be missing out on stress, excess weight, insomnia, food cravings, tiredness, indifference and sluggishness.

If it’s work-related behaviours that you’re working on, then you might have to set boundaries by saying no to working after hours and on weekends, your big to-do list, and messaging clients at all hours of the day, night and weekend. Maybe you’ll have to say no to those coaching clients who want you to do sessions with them at 9pm Wednesday, or 7am Sunday  morning. You might have to accept that you’re not superhuman after all. 

What would you be missing out on if you said no, and set boundaries around your work behaviours?

Strongly held values and beliefs set you up for consistent behaviour in the areas that matter most to you.

You would probably miss out on competing priorities, disorganisation, overwhelm, stress, resentment, frustration, impatience, procrastination, self-doubt, anxiety, insomnia and feelings of helplessness.

If it’s behaviours in relationships that you’re working on, then you might have to say no to requests for help, the demands of others, tantrums, engaging in pointless arguments, and giving all your time and energy to others.

What would you be missing out on if you said no, and set boundaries within your relationships?

You’d miss out on a range of things including fear of judgement, being affected by criticism, toxic situations, eroded self-confidence, diminished self-worth. 

In addition, no matter which area you’re working on, by making change, you will probably lose overwhelm, fear, self-doubt and anxiety.

All of those things are borne in your mind, after all, and by working on your mind you will reduce the spring of negative thinking patterns that currently hold you back and start standing up for yourself, meeting your own needs and feeling better about yourself.

What You Stand to Gain

If you do this work, what do you stand to gain?

Let’s look at those three areas – health, work and relationships.

In terms of health, by setting boundaries around your new habits, you’d create the space to be consistent with those new healthy habits so you’d become more self-confident in the first instance because you’d be winning and improving. 

You’d start losing weight. Your skin would look better. You’d be energised, feeling alive and vital. Your eyes would be sparkling. 

You’d feel lighter, freer. You’d be happier within yourself because of the investment in yourself. 

You’d gain a sense of self respect, hope and optimism. You’d feel more in control of yourself, more assertive, and your confidence would build. You’d gain a sense of gratitude, and an abundance of energy and love that you could then give back to others.

In terms of work, by setting boundaries around your working hours and other work-related behaviours, you’d create the space to be more efficient, saving lots of time and probably money, too.

You’d feel more relaxed and in control as a result. That means you’d probably perform better at work, finding more creative headspace and presence to bring to your clients. You’d serve them better, and they’d feel better around you, and likely get better outcomes.

You’d get more done in less time, attract more business, and be able to grow your business for greater impact and income.

In terms of relationships, by setting boundaries you’d gain more respect from others. You’d be less affected by the opinions of others, and feel more confident about who you are and your value. 

You’d feel calmer and better able to respond to other people rather than reacting, and you’d be able to disengage from toxic situations, and handle conflict in a more balanced way. You’d be sleeping better at night. 

In all of these cases, there might be some break-ups as the differences in your values become clear. The people who are not your people may rebel against your changes, like the ‘old you’ better, or be upset that you’re no longer investing so much in their demands.

But trust me – you’d feel ok about that – because you’ve probably had enough of feeling worn down by the demands of people that you may not like, agree with or want to spend time with.

And no matter which area you’re working on, by making change, you will probably gain clarity, certainty, confidence, a sense of identity, meaning, purpose, inspiration and motivation. You will feel challenged, accomplished, satisfied and content.

Summary

There’s a lot to think about here. 

The question to ask yourself is this – if you were to start setting clear boundaries, how would your life be different?

What could be possible for your own health?

What might happen at work?

How might your relationships change?

When you understand and change your mind, it’s a catalyst for massive changes in your life. 

A couple of things are clear – when you start setting boundaries around your new habits, and meet your own needs first, then you are better equipped to act with integrity, to feel happier with life, and to find more meaning and purpose.

If you need help with your identity, values or boundaries, then hit up my contact page and waitlist for a short course I’m developing, called ‘Get To Know Yourself and Build Integrity.’ It’s a 21 day program for people who need some guidance to do this important work.

Ready to work on your boundaries?

Setting boundaries can give you more time to do what feels good and meaningful to you. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 41: Making the Most of Your Time

The things you say to yourself about time – and your expectations of time – totally shape your experiences of it. 

So if you want to make the most of your time, listen up. This is for you.

Do you find yourself saying “I’m so busy! I wish I had more time!” or “I need to start making the most of my time!”

Or perhaps you simply feel rushed, like life is passing you buy, or that time is flying.

We often talk about wanting more time, wasting time, or spending time – or even having the time of our life!

And it’s true; time is a resource that, much like money, we can spend or save.

Before we launch into it, consider three important facts about time.

Fact #1 – Time is a mental construct.

It’s something that was invented by a human mind. It is simply a unit of measure of the progress of our civilization. Humans came up with the concept of time thousands of years ago and used it to measure the natural cycles of day, night and the seasons. Wikipedia says that time was probably first measured around 6000 years ago using the moon.

These days we have even created ‘daylight savings’ – a seasonal change in the clocks so that we can adjust our access to winter and summer daylight.

Fact #2  -Time is a precious resource because it is finite.

There’s a saying below the London Court Clock in Perth, Western Australia, that has stuck with me since I was a teenager.And that saying is “No minute past comes ever back again. Take heed and see ye nothing do in vain.”

Fact #3 – Time is something we can’t control.

So if time is a mental construct, and a finite resource that is outside of our control, how does that affect the way we experience time?

How Thoughts Affect Experiences

The first thing that comes to my mind when reflecting on those facts is that they might create a scarcity mentality around time.

What we say to ourselves affects the actions we take and the results we get.

So if you feel like time is flying, that time is going too slowly, or that you need more time, it’s going to totally affect your experience of time and your happiness around that experience.

Here’s an experiment to illustrate that. 

Fill a glass with water and hold it at arms’ length. Hold it there for a minute.

Notice that as your arms tire, the glass feels heavier.

Try for another minute.

What is your brain telling you right now, as you do this?

Chances are that while you are standing there just focusing on the glass of water, you are thinking about how tired your arm is getting, wondering how long it is to go, or asking yourself when this is going to be over.

In that simple example, you just created a perception that time slowed down, and that it was a difficult experience.

With that example in mind, let’s look more deeply at how we experience time so you can start saying to yourself – “I’m making the most of my time.”

Simply noticing the detail of something in the moment – mindfulness – is the simplest way to slow down time and feel like you are making the most of it.

How to Slow Down Time (and Feel Good About It)

How often have you said to yourself something like:

“Why is this taking so long?”

“What’s the hold up?”

“Can we speed things up a little?”

“Are we there yet?”

In this case your experience of time is that it’s slow – AND – that you are frustrated by that. 

Slow and frustrated is NOT such a great combination.

Perhaps in this case, your expectation might be that things should move faster, you should be able to get more done, or you should be finished by now.

Notice the shoulds that come into your inner dialogue here, and how these expectations affect your experience of time.

But if you enjoyed the slow pace of activities, you might have a totally different type of thought:

“I LOVE the feeling of the sun on my skin.”

“This is so good, I wish it would go on forever.” 

“I am really savouring this moment.”

“Look at the amazing detail in that….”

In this case your experience of time is slow – AND wonderous. Enjoyable. Awe-inspiring.

As you can see, the experience of ‘slowing down time’ happens when we do one thing at a time with intention. 

Like holding the glass of water.

That’s not such a fun task though, so think about other ways to slow down time that ARE enjoyable.

You can slow down time enjoyably like spending time doing yoga, or meditating…or simply by breathing deeply. 

Or spending time walking in nature, listening to music, or playing with your kids, or on a date night with your partner.

Simply noticing the detail of something in the moment – mindfulness – is the simplest way to slow down time and feel like you are making the most of it.

Notice how the feeling that time is going slow is based on the thoughts that might come up around the activity you are doing.

Time feels slow when you pay notice every second that ticks by. And you can only do that when you do one small thing at a time with great attention.

Often, time is slowest when we’re alone.

Consider how the positive thoughts about your experiences cause you to have a better experience of time.

When Time Flies (and How to Feel Good About It)

In contrast to this, we experience a speeding up of time when we are multi-tasking or juggling lots of things in life.

Think about how the day flies by when you are working intensively on a project, or juggling work and kids and family duties.

In these situations, you might be thinking things like:

“Wow I’m SO busy.”

“Hurry, we’re going to be late!”

“Quick! We have to be there in 10 minutes.”

The Concept of Flow

This is positive psychology in action – it’s called being in flow.

When we are in flow, we have a balance between skill and challenge, we lose track of time, we become totally absorbed in what we are doing, and what we are doing feels good; rewarding.

Being in flow can bring a rich experience of time.

Diagram source: https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-flow/

In Summary

It could be said that the way you experience time is strongly linked to your expectations.

If you think you have too much to do and not enough time, then you will expect that to be the case, and that will be your experience.

The reverse will also be true.

I have created a new equation to define our experience of time: Optimal Time = Thoughts + Experiences + Connections

So considering how our thoughts and actions affect our results, what will you choose to think from now onward?

What will you expectations of the time that you have available?

And how will that affect your experiences of that time?

Ready to make the most of your time?

Write something here that ties in with the topic for the podcast! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 7: How To Live and Work Like an Athlete

Episode 7: How To Live and Work Like an Athlete

This podcast will help you create balance and endurance in your life. 

I would like to introduce you to a confounding problem and a life-changing solution.

As a Health and Wellness Coach, I have learned so much from my clients.

I’ve learned that a problem we all face is how to be consistent with our habits.

A lot of my clients want to eat salad every day, go to the gym four times per week, and cut out all junk food, chocolate or alcohol.

They try so hard to be consistent, yet they all struggle to manage their time, energy, money and/or calories – anything else that requires that repetitive, continuous effort.

Through my work as a Biologist, I have learned that we are wired to run on autopilot.  Our brains LOVE the consistent, repetitive, predictable routine because it’s energy efficient.

So how can it be that we are creatures of habit, yet we struggle with consistency?

On the surface, it seems like a confounding problem. But what’s really going on?

When we say we want to be consistent, we think that means ‘continuous repetition.’ I’d like to offer a more realistic definition of consistency and show you how you can achieve it.

First, let’s consider the fact that nearly everything we do in our lives involves cycles. Nature provides daily, weekly, monthly and yearly triggers that every living thing responds to.

Instead of responding to that natural rhythm, we fight it.

We are convinced that we must do exactly the same thing every day.

When I work with clients who think like this, I find they struggle to form new habits, or even just cope with sudden changes in their home life, relationships and work. They’re too inflexible.

On the flipside, I’ve had several coaching clients who like to be totally flexible and live in the moment – but this has its own set of pitfalls. These clients often find it hard to stick to routines, set boundaries or commit to things. Consequently, they may struggle to build relationships, lose weight, save money, get new clients, build a business or feel a sense of purpose.

The facts are this: we are wired to live on autopilot, yet our environment demands us to be agile. Many people swing to either extreme, but what we really need is a middle ground. Let’s redefine consistency in that context. I propose that consistency means ‘cyclic repetition.’ That is, we are agile enough to adapt our regular habits to fit with the cycles of nature.

As Charles Darwin famously said:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

I’d like to offer a compelling rationale for this definition of mine and then explain how you can get it. The rationale is simply this – all living things naturally respond to the sun, moon and seasonal cycles. It’s called a circadian rhythm and there are daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual cycles that make up this circadian rhythm.

Each day, the intensity of the sun and day length affect our sleep, temperature, blood pressure, hormones and energy levels. Each month the moon influences our hormonal and sleep cycles. Even at the seasonal level, we have shifts in mood (such as seasonal affective disorder in winter) and changes in food preferences and cravings (in winter we tend to want heavier, starchier meals – and this happens to coincide with the types of foods that grow best at that time of year).

The trouble is our brains love running on autopilot, we love this ‘set and forget’ way of being.

What we need is a plan for our year – our season – broken into work and rest phases.

Athletes have a pretty good formula for operating at peak performance.

We can learn a thing or two from this. We can learn to live and work like athletes.

Depending on the sport, the pre-season to competition season is around 6 – 9 months. 

Take AFL football as an example, where the season runs from late February to early October.

  •         They spend 2 – 3 months building general endurance and training at low intensity.
  •         The next 2 – 3 months are sport-specific training and maximal strength.
  •         Then they ramp up to competition by alternating hard training with easy training sessions.

They are at peak fitness then, ready to bring their very best to the final games. 

Then they have an off season where they go on holiday, and for 4 – 12 weeks to allow for the body to recover both physically and psychologically.

What we can see is this: athletes recognise that their bodies can’t go full on all year round.

Yet when I see my coaching client Sue, she is extremely worried because she doesn’t feel like eating salad all year round. She is struggling to go to the gym 5 days per week for the whole year. She pushes herself at work every day and wonders why she is stressed and exhausted. She hasn’t had a holiday in 3 years. Sue is pushing the proverbial up hill.

The athletes have got it wired. What we need is a plan for our year – our season – broken into work and rest phases.

The reason we create a plan is that it’s a ‘set and forget’ approach that allows us to make the decisions all in one go, then simply run on autopilot. That is how we give our bodies the regularity and agility that they need. We create a plan for the year that involves times of peak effort and times of rest. We cycle our exercise and eating approach. We cycle our sleep and waking habits.

But we write it all down. That way, there’s no need to use brain power to make decisions every day when we’re busy. 

We just follow what’s on the plan – and perhaps review it every quarter to make sure we’re on track.

That way we can know we are on course to achieve everything we want. We’re never bored. We’re never expecting too much of ourselves. There’s no room for guilt.

We have a way of living and working that ticks all the boxes and creates that cyclic consistency that we need to thrive.

 

Ready to create balance and endurance in your life?

You too could live and work like an athlete! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Work-Life Balance – Slaying the Mythical Beast

Work Life Balance | Melanie White
With all the press about work life balance, including the fact that it’s a myth, I thought I’d chip in with my 2c worth.

Regardless of whether you believe in work-life balance or not, the insatiable quest to slay that mythical beast will probably remain.

So assuming that work-life balance is a tangible thing, I propose a definition, simply:

“spending what you feel is the right amount of time working, and the right amount of time on things that support your well-being.”

It’s up to you to define what ‘the right amount’ is and it’s fair to expect that there is some invariable overlap between the two (especially if you run your own business).

An idyllic work-life balance scenario might involve going to work, doing your job and then coming home to spend enjoyable time with family, friends, on hobbies or leisure/pleasure activities.

Well, there’s the real myth…..

Some of us have kids, some don’t.

Some of us work to live, and others live to work.

In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all life situation, therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all scenario for work-life balance.

In context of all that, the answer to work-life balance – the sweet spot – may lie in balancing two things:

  1. your personal drive to meet expectations/responsibilities (yours/others)
  2. allowing yourself to meet your personal well-being needs.

That comes down to your personal beliefs and values –what drives you, and why that’s important.

What Drives You?

You might be the kind of person who gets up and skips breakfast to be at work on the early bus so you can finish the report you’re working on, then you work late to get it finished, existing on take-out food, then get the last bus home and stumble into bed.

In this scenario, your drive to meet a deadline, please your client/boss, cope with workplace pressure, feel adequate or be productive may take priority over your immediate health needs (eating breakfast, staying calm, exercising, sleeping well, connecting with others).

Or, you might be the kind of person who gets the kids up and feeds them (and your partner), skipping your own breakfast so you can bustle around for them, making lunch, getting them off to school/work, cleaning the house, doing the shopping and washing, organising dinner and then visiting your sick mother who needs your help before picking the kids up, making them a snack, taking them to sport and getting their homework started before you finish off dinner for the family, so you can watch the news and then stumble into bed.

In this scenario, your focus is taking the responsibility for everyone else’s well-being, such that there’s no time left for you.

These are just two of many possible scenarios….but in any case, you’re appearing unlucky last on the priorities list.

Meeting Your Own Needs

The secret to slaying the mythical beast of work-life balance is simple and fairly un-sexy.

It’s simply allowing yourself some time to meet your own needs.

Maybe that’s an hour in the bathroom by yourself on a Wednesday night.

Maybe it’s reminding yourself each day that you achieved something good.

Maybe you need to have Friday nights out with your friends to simply laugh and have a relaxing dinner.

Regardless of WHAT it is, your solution lies in deciding how important your needs are, setting some realistic boundaries around them, and finding creative ways to slot them into your day/week/life.