I’m not going to wax poetic about food or weight loss this week.
Nope! Instead I’m going to share with you some essential lessons that I have found invaluable! Some of these you will have heard before (you may have learned them yourself) and others I frankly just made up and incorporated into my belief system (#10 is one of those) from personal experiences but I hope you’ll read on to see if some of these are things you need to learn too.
One of the many things that directed me towards a career in coaching was that life lessons kept hitting me in the square in the face and once I got over my initial resistance to accepting those lessons, I became interested in how I could use them to my lifelong benefit. Like most people “growing up” in their 20’s and early 30’s, things I thought I believed strongly would be called in to question, again and again by challenges and disasters I would find myself up against. I was certainly opposed to accepting some of these lessons for a long time, but once I did, their effect on me has been immeasurable. Life frequently forces us to learn lessons, through conflicts, tragedies, obstacles, and we can choose to ignore them (only to have them show up again and again until we learn what is needed) or we can choose to see what it is trying to teach us.
A lot of my coaching practice has nothing to do with food, nutrition or the physical side of our health. My favorite part of health coaching is the “life” coaching part because physical transformation cannot happen without some emotional and spiritual transformation. A truly well person, especially one who hopes to have an improved relationship with food, needs to learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions in a responsible way. To do that, we have to learn to separate out what is actual truth, from the old stories and beliefs we keep telling ourselves, from what is actually in our personal control vs. what is out of our reach, and what actions, behaviors and beliefs are keeping us down, vs. lifting us up. The most important life lessons are the ones that help us do this and in doing so, allow us to live more peacefully, both with ourselves and with others.
I sometimes wish someone had given me a primer of some of the lessons that were coming my way. I would have still struggled, that’s an unavoidable part of growth but maybe it would have been less stressful? Easier in some way? Probably not, haha! Today’s post is my attempt to give that to you!
Below are 15 of the life lessons I’ve learned so far (some serious and some silly!) that have brought me more peace, happiness and confidence in living my life. Knowing (and living by) some of these “truths” makes it a lot easier to make decisions, more accepting of when things don’t go the way I want them to and makes my relationships less tumultuous.
15 Life Lessons to Learn for More Peace in Your Life
1. Stop trying to change other people’s opinions, actions or feelings. The only person you can control is you. It will save you years of frustration, pain and strained relationships if you can accept this. Really. You can’t change how someone else thinks, feels or what actions they take. You can’t control what they say. You can’t do anything about how they live their life. You can’t change their opinion of you (and it’s none of your business anyhow). But you can control how much you allow someone to affect you. You can control how much you allow them in your life. You can control your thoughts about the person and how much energy and time you give to them. You are in charge of you (no one else). And no one has a right to try to change you. If someone tries to control what you wear, who you talk to or what you can do, they’re stepping out of line. You are not obligated to follow someone else’s expectations of you. You manage you and they manage them. To read more about this, I blogged about this last year.
2. Forgive and “let go” of past hurts/wrongs done to you or by you. For some reason we think that holding on to the pain and the story of our past pains is the only safe thing to do. We think that if we let go of it or forgive someone that it means they’re off the hook or that we’re invalidating our painful experience. You don’t have to be “over” it, but it only hurts you further to direct negative energy towards the other person or yourself over the long term. Forgiving and letting go is for YOU. No one has to know that you’ve forgiven them. You are welcome to keep it all to yourself! You don’t have to wait for an apology from someone to feel forgiveness for the past. There is healing (for you!) in deciding to no longer allow that pain to color every aspect of your life – and only you have the power to do that.
3. We all have an inner critic who tells us (to varying degrees) that we’re not good enough, we look fat, we’re awkward (or whatever). You don’t have to listen to it. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s true. Ultimately, that inner critic is trying to protect you from getting hurt in some way, but they go about it the wrong way. For example, when that inner voice tells you that “you’re not good enough to sing on stage” or “you’re going to embarrass yourself by signing up for a 5k”, it’s the part of you that wants you to play small so that you don’t get hurt. If we go after what our hearts truly want (maybe a singing career or winning a race), we do risk failure. We risk embarrassment. We risk falling flat on our faces. But the inner mean critic doesn’t have any more information than you do. She can’t predict the future. She isn’t automatically speaking the truth. The key to not letting her get to you is to acknowledge that this critic is trying to help and that we don’t have to listen to her.
4. Take responsibility for your feelings. No one can hurt your feelings but us. Really. It’s the meaning we take from someone’s actions or words that cause us pain. It’s the way we are thinking about it. This one took me a long time to learn because ultimately I wanted other people to not be jerks (right?!), but it’s empowering knowing I’m in charge of how I feeling. It’s not a blame game – just because you’re not blaming someone else for how you feel, doesn’t mean you’re to “blame”. It’s not about that. It’s about not giving your power away which is exactly what we do when we blame someone else for how we feel. When you recognize that you are responsible for your feelings, you have the power to feel better now.
5. Your past is just your past. It’s not a glimpse into your future. Just because you’ve always struggled with your weight, your body, with food etc doesn’t mean it will always be a struggle or it will stay a struggle. You can change it. Believing that something is impossible makes it so. You know that humans are adaptable and intelligent so why not believe that about yourself also? Same with events or actions that occurred in your past. They are not happening in the present and you don’t have to repeat it over and over just because it’s a part of your history.
6. Use physical hunger as a judge as to whether you should eat or not. Not the amount of calories you’ve computed, not whether the scale read the right number today or not because you think you shouldn’t eat. If you’re worried that your physical hunger will lead to weight gain, you probably aren’t in touch with it (it’s ok, most of us are rusty) and are eating driven by cravings, emotions or something else. Learning to listen to your body signals – what hunger feels like, what being satisfied feels like etc is an incredibly valuable skill to have. If you can get in touch with this, you’ll always know when to eat and when to stop. Weight issues solved.
7. If you’re not getting the results you want from whatever life changes you are trying to make, ask yourself, how committed am I to making the changes? How much effort am I truly putting in? If you’re only putting in 50% effort, expect your results to reflect that. We can think all we want about how we want something to change. We can say out loud that we want something so badly. We can read all the books and listen to all the podcasts hoping to learn all we can about something, but if we don’t actually apply what we’ve learned to the thing we’re trying to change, it’s not going to do anything. You want results? Then you’ve got to take action.
8. If you’re sensitive – own it, be proud of it, pay attention to it. I remember getting teased in elementary school for blushing when called on to give an answer (or really any time attention was on me). I got made fun of in my own household by family members growing up for crying in response to anger or frustration. For a long time, I saw my sensitivity as a burden and an obvious sign that there was something wrong with me. But being sensitive is what makes me an empathetic coach, wife and friend. It’s what makes my heart feel alive and what makes life feel so incredible. Being sensitive is actually a gift that doesn’t come naturally for most and if you have it, it’s not a burden. It’s a tool you can use to understand your world, your environment, other people and yourself in depth and it can serve you well.
9. Stop looking for the perfect diet that will solve all your weight or food issues. It does not exist. I promise. Almost any diet can work if you follow it closely and are willing to follow it for the rest of your life. Like, forever. If you’re not able to do that (who the hell is??), your best bet is to find a way you can eat for the rest of your life, that makes your body feel good, you feel satisfied and doesn’t make you want to eat your arm for 90% of the day. I am not selling the perfect diet and no one else is either, regardless of the marketing you see out there. You have to figure out what foods, quantities and qualities work for your particular needs. See #6.
10. Let friends and family take photos of you! This is one of my silly lessons. Someday you might not be here and it would be a damn shame if the people who loved you didn’t have pictures to remember you by, all because you were feeling self-conscious. Don’t say “Ug, I don’t want any photos today!” because you think you look fat, ugly or anything else. Your family and friends think you are amazing no matter what you think you look like and they want to remember the day with photos and that includes with YOU in them. Constantly telling others not to take photos of you (or making a big deal to hide behind others during photo ops) actually puts more focus on you – and that’s probably not what you’re after. Join in, as you are. No one is fixating on how you look in one particular photo as much as you are. Show your kids that you accept yourself as you are at this moment – whether that’s 75 lbs overweight or at your ideal weight. Can you imagine a child saying “don’t take a picture of me, I’m too fat right now!”? It would break your heart. You saying the same thing is breaking everyone’s heart who loves you – and one day it will break yours. Smile for those photos like you are feeling incredibly happy to be there (and don’t you dare hide yourself behind your kid or your cousin). You’re fucking fantastic the way you are at this moment. Yes, I’ve talked about this before.
11. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, figure out how you can enjoy both alone time and social time – because there are going to be times that even the most reluctant introvert needs to spend time with others and even the most gregarious extrovert will be all by themselves! Everyone has a specific balance that drains or energizes them and it’s important to know how you can best spend your energy. If you prefer to be with others, learn how to also enjoy your time alone – explore hobbies, learn new skills, travel to a new place etc. If you prefer to be alone, choose more social situations that involve something you really want to do – so that at least when you do need to be social, you’re able to enjoy yourself. People with strong social bonds tend to have better function and well being in old age – so there is good reason to foster those relationships! Though there is also evidence that being alone can help protect against loss of autonomy in old age. It’s important to find the balance that works for you – knowing that both have their benefits and finding ways to enjoy both (even if you prefer one over the other) can go a long way towards the happiness you feel in your life. I find I get depressed and irritable if I spend too much time alone or too much time with others. I am an extroverted introvert (or introverted extrovert – I can’t decide!) and really need to toe the line to feel and function my best.
12. People live the lives they want to have. My father used to say this and it drove me nuts – if someone is in a crappy relationship, how could they want that? If someone hates their job, how could they want that? But it finally dawned on me as an adult that it’s true. People stay in crappy relationships because they think it’s better than being alone or finding someone new – by staying where they are and not doing anything about it they are actively choosing this for their life. People stay in jobs they hate because they are fearful of trying something new or worry that a new job might be just as bad or because it might be hard to find a new job. As unhappy as they might be, their current misery seems safer than the alternatives. Everything new in life is a risk – and sometimes we choose not to take risks (and sometimes we do). It’s a choice.
13. Learn how to say no without apologies. No. No, thank you. No, I am not available. No, I am not interested. It is not impolite to be clear, direct and honest about your intentions. Don’t lead people on to believe that you are interested in doing things that you don’t want to do just because you are afraid to look rude. We’re all getting harassed on social media by former classmates and acquaintances who are selling plastic wrap they want you to believe will make you skinny or breakfast shakes that cost the same amount as your car payment. Just because you used to be buddies in 2nd grade doesn’t mean you owe someone your time, money or energy. I had a woman approach me in the grocery store not too long ago selling Mary Kay – she asked if I had ever tried it. I said “yes, years ago.” She pulled out her phone and asked if I wanted to book an appointment with her to try some samples, I said “No thank you.” She looked dumfounded and stumbled with various questions trying to get me to say yes. Women have a hard time saying no and sales people are trained to take advantage of that. (No offense to sales people – just using y’all as an example). The first couple of times you say no, you might feel a twinge of guilt or like you did something wrong. But I promise you it’s not rude. It’s way more rude to feign interest.
14. Other people’s priorities may not be the same as yours. This has been a tough one for me to learn too! I prioritize some things in my life that you might find silly. You may prioritize some things in your life that I think are silly. Neither of us are “right”. It’s all relative. I have a client who feels that she and her husband are growing apart. Because of their work schedules, the only time they’re both home is on the weekend, but she prefers to spend all day Saturday gardening and he prefers to spend all day Sunday cycling with friends. Neither is “wrong” but they are currently prioritizing their hobbies over their marriage. They might not see it that way, because gardening and cycling are a super important part of their limited free time but at the moment neither is willing to make a compromise with their hobbies for their marriage. They have different priorities and until they both shift to wanting to put their marriage first or one of them is willing to let their hobby take a backseat and join the other on theirs, she will continue to feel like they are growing apart. We’re all coming from different places, desires and needs and should be understanding that that means we place varying values on the same things. I can’t expect you to have the same priorities as me – but you also can’t expect me to have the same ones as you.
15. Your worth is not debatable or fluid. It’s not something that changes. You are worthy and valuable just as you are right now, just as you were 10 years ago, just as you will be 10 years from now. Your value is inherent – you are amazing and have the potential to do amazing things. Your situation and circumstances may change regularly but your core value as a human being never changes. It doesn’t matter if you are 75 lbs overweight. You are not less valuable than you were when you were thinner. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t finish college. That doesn’t make you less valuable than someone with their Master’s. Get it out of your head that you’re not worthy. Let go of the urge to criticize (yourself or others). It’s not cocky or conceited to know you are worthy deep down in your soul. A lot of people struggle with letting themselves feel loved or valuable because they think if they do it must mean that they are prideful or arrogant. That’s hogwash! We have nothing to do with our value or worth. We don’t deserve accolades or a pat on the back for being a valuable and worthy soul so there is nothing to be arrogant about. You’re valuable just because you ARE – not because of things you do or don’t do. Accept that you have this worth and let it fuel your choices in life. It’s a lot harder to make poor decisions when you know you are amazing and have the ability to do good stuff!
Phew! I didn’t mean for that to become such a long post! Do any of these speak to you? Have you found any of these to be important in your life? What lessons have you learned that help you live more peacefully? I’d love if you would share some of them with me.
Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldn‘t Be a Workout: Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).