How about a year of YOU in the equation?
What it means to put yourself in the equation & why it’s so important
Not only has it become my life-mantra and framework for healthy living, but it is quickly becoming my life’s work. I aim to inspire, motivate and coach people to live from the center of the equation of their own lives, taking care of their health and wellness first. I’m that passionate about it, and that certain that it’s the key to unlocking your personal potential.
This blog is about the WHAT and the WHY behind putting yourself in the equation. It includes tips about where to start if indeed you want to make YOU the priority.
I wholeheartedly agree with this quote from Audre Lorde: “I have come to believe that caring for myself is NOT self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” I now view taking care of my needs — my health and happiness — as an act of survival. What’s more, I’m living proof that when you do so, you not only make your life better, you also positively impact your family, your business or workplace, and your community.
In fact, my vision is that this is how we change the world. One happy, healthy and in-their-equation person, family, business, and community at a time. Just think what’s possible if each of us is truly living as our best, healthiest, “well” self?!
It all starts with YOU…taking care of YOU.
I coined the phrase: “Put Yourself In the Equation” from my own personal transformation story. It came to me in an ah-ha moment that was the key to unlocking my potential. To me, it means making yourself a priority amidst all of the priorities that compete for time, attention, energy and focus in your life. It is about self-love and self-acceptance, starting with self-care. And, it’s understanding that you are the only one that can provide that self-care and focus for you.
This is my truth and I live it now, but…
The Tipping Point
For so many years, I lived as an obese girl/woman giving everything I had to everyone else. That left little time, energy, or focus for me. And if I did have anything left in the tank, I usually gave that away too — by doing more, giving more, and trying to achieve more — all at the expense of myself. All to find love, acceptance and approval outside of myself.
At my tipping point, my weight ballooned to 381 lbs (yes, more than an NFL Defensive Lineman!). I was working 12-18 hours, every day, from an office chair in my start-up marketing business. I was living on a diet of fast- and processed food. And as an emotional eater, I ate to hide the pain and stress of it all. Of course, I didn’t exercise — or even move. I didn’t go to the doctor. I slept very little. In fact, I did virtually nothing to take care of my basic health needs.
My life was full and busy — too busy. But in the ways that really mattered, it was empty. Yet, from the outside looking in this was not apparent. Most people who knew me would say I was relatively happy and certainly talented, driven and successful. That’s because I worked hard, fought to keep my outward optimism, and put on a big smile to show people the passion I had for my business, for my clients, and for making a difference in the world.
But deep inside I was slowly dying. My spark was gone. I was physically unhealthy, and living an unhealthy lifestyle while being at high risk for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Perhaps the saddest part, I had shrunk my life to fit this framework. I was living small and had convinced myself it was okay. Deep down I was unfulfilled, unhealthy and unhappy. And for the most part, I had given up hope for a better or different life.
Once I allowed myself a personal break to attend a series of Women’s Leadership Retreats, I quieted myself and my mind long enough to become aware of what was really going on. That’s when I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t in the equation of my own life. That’s when it hit me. If you were to draw a picture or a life wheel with all the things that matter, I wasn’t even on or in the picture of my own life. And it’s my life! I am the only one that can change it.
That’s when I fully realized consciously that I wasn’t doing anything to take care of my health and happiness or to create the life I wanted, the one I had dreamt about. I had given up that life and that dream somewhere along the way. It struck me like a ton of bricks that if I didn’t personally change something, I was most certainly destined to live a small, unhappy life. Or, worse, not be around very long to “live” it.
How do you embrace and embark on this kind of change?
The self-awareness and the revelation that I wasn’t in the equation of my own life was huge. It was a start. The visual picture of my life wheel without me on or in it was compelling. Yet given all that, I wasn’t sure HOW to go about changing it. And I was afraid. Really afraid.
I knew putting myself back in the equation meant that I needed to make my health — more specifically, losing weight, getting sleep — the top priority. But over my lifetime I had racked up a lot of false starts and failures at weight loss that made me question: How and why it would be different this time? I not only questioned my ability to succeed, but frankly, the evidence of potential failure was overwhelming.
I had been obese my whole life up to the age of 47 and had failed on more diets than I can count, some multiple times. Sure I had some short-term successes, but the weight always came back and then some. I had purchased expensive gym memberships and not used them, many times. I hired a personal trainer and failed to show up, because I was too busy. Heck, at one point — in my search for the magic solution — I even tried hypnosis. It didn’t work. Nothing worked longer-term. In all those early years, I had found myself in a constant cycle of wanting change, looking for change (the magic pill, solution or diet), but mostly making excuses –namely, that I was too busy. Or it was just too hard. So how it was going to be different this time was not immediately clear to me.
Here’s what I did this time that made all the difference…
First, I got really clear and intentional about what I WANTED and WHY it was so important. Then, I had to do something even harder. I CHANGED MY MINDSET — my mental game — and began to believe that indeed I COULD DO IT. Most importantly, I began to believe that I DESERVED IT.
It was only after I admitted to myself that there was only one person who could change my situation — ME — and honestly, there was no magic solution that didn’t include me doing something differently. I told myself that I really had no choice if I didn’t want to die pre-maturely of an obesity related disease or be sick and a burden on those around me. I absolutely didn’t want to be unhappy anymore. I didn’t want to be single my entire life. I didn’t want to work all the time….or eat emotionally to hide my pain… No!
What I WANTED more than anything was to be the best me — to reach my full and greatest potential and to make a difference in the world. I wanted to be strong, fit, and active; happy and healthy; in love and partnered; and rockin’ the world by giving back from my very best place — all at the same time. This was my WHY.
Then I had to change my mindset and embrace the idea of success before I could truly open myself up to the opportunities that would eventually present themselves and as my path to action. Had I not grabbed hold of the idea that I really wanted something different, that I could do it and I deserved it, I don’t think I would be living in my equation and writing this blog today. (I have tools to help with this one and there are so many excellent books like Brene Brown’s work – The Gifts of Imperfection, contact me if you’re reading this and wondering how to change that mindset.)
Once I pushed past my fear and self-doubt, the opportunities started to present themselves and the action plan revealed itself. If you don’t know my full story, you can read more about it here.
But it’s selfish to focus on you first
Yep, I thought that too. I remember telling my closest girlfriends that I was afraid of becoming a selfish bitch — really my worst nightmare. It’s easy to go here because in many ways society sets us up for it and we fall in the trap. If we stay late at work or are the first one to the office in the morning, we get kudos from the boss or client and feel like a better employee. If we give everything we have to our kids all the time, we often feel like a better parent. And on the flip side, when/if we take care of ourselves first and take an hour of time away from our precious time with them, we feel guilty or like we’ve failed. If we’re always there for our friends and family, we somehow feel like a better friend/person. Is any of this resonating?
I used to buy into all of it and then sprinkled my need for perfectionism on top and it was the exact recipe for Lori NOT to be in the equation of her life — at all! Add to that, that the more I gave others, the more worthy I felt (stemming from my own worthiness issues). Now, in hindsight, I can see how I drew myself right out of my life picture/life wheel.
So I totally get the skeptics who think/feel/say it’s selfish to focus on yourself first. But I say, you’re wrong! Know differently and if you don’t believe me, try it! I am living proof that self-care is an act of survival. It took me quite awhile to get comfortable with the idea and frankly to get better at it. Now, when I fall off the wagon and slip in my self-care, I notice the negatives that pop up in my life and how I feel physically and mentally. Try it and tell me what happens for you.
Of course, it is a constant balancing act and for a long time, it’s not easy or second nature — for many of us. But the absolute truth is that when you flip the balance so your self-care comes first an amazing thing happens: Not only are you better (physically and emotionally) but you are also better for everyone and everything else in your life. Your change most often benefits them as much as you!
Here’s why self-care is survival and NOT selfish!
When I take care of myself first, I am more present, more focused, more creative, more fun, more strategic, more productive, more alive, more engaged … and that makes everything else better! Not only that, it sets a strong example for the little people in our lives (our kids, nieces and nephews, those we mentor…) about the importance of self-care and having dreams and goals.
There is a good reason the airlines tell you when you fly to “Put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting others.” If you don’t, the chances are great that you won’t be able to assist others…or even possibly yourself. I haven’t tested that theory in mid air, but I have in real life.
That’s what was happening to me in my life. I was burning out and on a slow path of self-destruction. Where would my clients, my family and my friends be if I wasn’t around at all? Or worse, if I became someone they then needed to worry about and care for 24-7 because I couldn’t take care of myself? By taking care of myself first, I am also helping them by ensuring that I’ll be around and as my better/best self.
In a nutshell, here’s a quick list of WHY I personally believe it makes sense to put yourself in the equation of your own life. You will…
- Improve your physical health and happiness — and have the best shot at being your very best self
- Improve your relationships with others — even and especially with your spouse/partner, your kids…
- Develop resiliency, strength and self-reliance (not to mention self-love and acceptance if you’re lacking here)
- Become a better business owner, manager, employee, leader — and/or you may even find NEW life’s work
- Be a role model — an example — to others around you, best of all, your kids
- Make better decisions for yourself and your family — and you’ll go for it more
- It gets easier, the more you practice being in your equation the more it becomes your norm!
This is what I mean by how we change the world. Imagine if we were each our very best self. What would be possible?!
Why putting yourself in the equation is so hard to do (at first)
Partly because of society and our norms, but mostly because deep down we’re afraid to. We’re either afraid of appearing selfish or too self-focused. We’re afraid of what others will think. We’re afraid of change itself. Or, we’re afraid of wild success and transformation. Too often we let that fear stop us, stall us, keep us small and living in excuse mode. I know. I did it for much of my adult life.
Tips for putting yourself in the equation in 2016
There is so much more to delve into on this topic, but I want to leave you with a few practical places to start.
- Take an honest inventory of where you are in the picture or equation of your own life. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being fully in the center of your life and 1 being not at all) — where are you? (I have an awesome In the Equation Life Wheel exercise that I offer in my wellness coaching that helps access this, but you can do a basic mental inventory, too.)
- Make space in your day/week to just think about the idea of putting yourself in the equation in 2016. What would it look like if you were to put yourself in the equation of your own life? What would you do differently? Start doing? Stop doing? Plan for?
- What one, positive thing could you START start doing today, that if you did it consistently would make a difference? Do that.
- What one thing could you STOP doing, that if you did it consistently would make a difference? Do that.
- Note, how it feels as you do ONE thing. Try to notice if you see a difference in your mental, emotional or physical game? in how people react to you, or relate to you. It takes some time and practice but just become aware.
Let me know if these tips are helpful. And feel free to post your tips or successes here. Finally, if you really don’t know how to begin, message me here for help.
Cheers to a 2016 with YOU in the equation! I promise you, it will be good.
Here are some other blogs on this topic you may find useful:
Grateful to be in the equation (Nov. 2013)
Our In the Equation community is growing (June 2014)
My In the Equation morning ritual (Aug. 2014)
Opening yourself up (June 2015)
It’s Monday, are you in your equation? (Aug. 2015)