Category Archives: Wellness – Life Balance

6 Empowering Steps to Build Self-Discipline, Part 2

photo: Julia Manzerova


In the first article of this three-part series, we covered why self-discipline is important and what you can gain from building that skill in Self-Discipline: The Link Between Goals And Accomplishment. The second article, 6 Empowering Steps To Build Self-Discipline, Part 1, covered the first three steps: awareness, self-analysis, and progressive training, and now we’re ready to move on to the last three steps, which are (1) removing temptation, (2) finding inspiration, and (3) resisting the initial urge to overdo it.

Remove Temptation

Now that you have an idea how to identify the areas where you need more self-discipline, you have done some work to identify why you might sabotage yourself, and you have a grasp of how to build your self-discipline skills by progressively training yourself with increasingly tougher challenges, your next step in order to ensure success is removing temptation.

  • If you tend to procrastinate when you should be taking on projects, try to eliminate the distractions. Unplug the TV for a set amount of time on the days you plan to work on more meaningful tasks. Stash your gaming system under the bed, hide your books or magazines out of sight – you get the idea. Regardless of how you usually occupy your time when you are procrastinating, take one or two extra steps to remove that temptation rather than just telling yourself again that you won’t watch television or flip through the new magazines.


  • If you want to build self-discipline when it comes to your spending habits, start by limiting the amount of cash in your wallet. Don’t go window shopping or surf shopping sites online – even just for entertainment. You might also try some of my new ideas for resisting the urge to spend that you’ll find in 4 New Tips For Spending Less Money. If you’re one of those people who will spend money if you have it (regardless of whether you need to save or invest), you need to think about all the different things that tempt you to spend money and then design ways to remove that temptation.


  • If you want to get better at self-discipline so you can turn away junk food and eat more nutritionally, clean out your cupboards and fridge, and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit the bill. It’s easy to say with your new devotion to self-discipline, you just won’t succumb, but the best plan is to set yourself up to succeed, and you do that by removing any temptation that might cause you to fail.


  • Now you get the idea, right? This is an important step, regardless of which area in your life you need to be more self-disciplined. Whatever it is, remove any temptation that could hinder your progress.

Find Inspiration

Remember those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets? If you think about it, that saying could be a great self-discipline builder. When you want to get better in an area where someone else has already succeeded, you think about what that person would do, and you act accordingly.

Find an inspirational figure in the area that you are working on, and think of that person when you are tempted to let your self-discipline slide. Some examples might be:

  • If you’re trying to get better about exercising, but you’re on the verge of slacking off one day, think about what Olympian Michael Phelps or NFL star Tom Brady would do.
  • If you want to get out of debt and learn to live frugally, think about how Warren Buffett handles his finances, or read some advice from financial journalist Jean Chatzky.

When you feel like your self-discipline is wavering, think about what your idols would do, and count on their judgment to steer you in the right direction. And you don’t even have to depend on celebrities or people in the news to give you a lift. If you have friends who have accomplished goals that are similar to yours, count on them to inspire you and ask for their help along the way if needed.

Don’t Overdo It

Sometimes people get so motivated about overhauling their lives that they try to change everything at once. Before long, it just feels like too much change, and then everything’s a struggle. Don’t make that mistake.

When I suggested training progressively, keep in mind that you should start small and probably only try to change one area of your life at a time. Regardless of how motivated you are, it would be really difficult to give up junk food, start exercising regularly, stop smoking, and start getting enough sleep every night all at once. So do one thing at a time.

And don’t worry that you have to change everything NOW because now is when you are motivated. You will find that as you change one area and get better at self-discipline, your motivation will grow, and you will get better at making lasting changes. The motivation will stick with you!

Think of your lifestyle changes and the gradual building of your self-discipline skill as a marathon, and not a sprint. If you try to change too much at once, you will have a hard time sustaining your momentum for the long term, and you will burn out much quicker.

I hope you are inspired to identify areas in your life where you could use more self-discipline, and then use this six-step plan to help you work on that skill. Once you have mastered self-discipline, you will be well-equipped to make long-lasting changes in any area of your life that needs work. I’d love to hear from you as you follow the plan to get better at self-discipline. Let me know how it goes for you!

Self-Discipline: The Link Between Goals And Accomplishment


I was thinking about the above quote today and realized how important that one piece – discipline – is, if you want to reach your goals. You may remember how much of an advocate I am of bucket lists, and I’m a huge believer in setting goals and creating a process to achieve those goals. But the link between all those things you want to do and actually getting them done is self-discipline (and maybe a little motivation).

Self-discipline helps you to do the things you think you should do, and it helps you overcome any feelings to the contrary you might be having in the moment. For instance, if you know you should pay your bills, but you feel like watching television instead, it is self-discipline that spurs you to get moving on those bills.

Sometimes that means sacrificing the immediate pleasure of what you’d rather do, but it’s for the greater cause of accomplishing larger goals.

Self discipline also gives you the power to follow through on plans or decisions you have made, without changing your mind and taking the easier route. When you have self-discipline, you decide (and act) on your actions that are most likely to lead to your own self-improvement and success. You also have the inner strength to overcome procrastination, laziness, and the temptation of instant gratification when you choose to take a stand against those things and follow through on the things you decided are important to you.

If you think about it, it’s very easy to say you will tackle a home-improvement project or that you want to write a novel or that you will get your finances in order. But what good are goals and plans and ideas if you won’t discipline yourself to accomplish those things? Without the self-discipline to work on the goals that matter to you, all you end up with is emotional clutter that feels like extra weight when you constantly have those projects in the back of your mind, always undone.

What Will Self-Discipline Help You Do?

When you develop the skill of self-discipline, it helps you to:

  • Overcome habits that aren’t beneficial to you, like overeating, smoking, not getting enough sleep, etc.
  • Resist temptations like gossiping, drinking more than you should, or spending too much money.
  • Tackle big projects by disciplining yourself to regularly take on the small steps needed to accomplish the goal.
  • Overcome procrastination.
  • Continue working toward a goal long after the initial rush of enthusiasm has gone.
  • Say “no” when you need to and follow through on the things to which you have said “yes.”
  • Be punctual, dependable, honest, patient, and diligent.
  • Realize dreams!

I know that sounds like an awful lot of benefits from learning one skill, and you might think I’m over-promising, but I’m not! Self-discipline will take you far, and it really is the key to achieving all your personal and professional goals.

So now that you recognize how important self-discipline is, I hope that means you are ready to build yours! Tomorrow’s blog post will feature all sorts of ideas to grow your self-discipline skill. Don’t worry – you can start small and then keep building as you get better. Before you know it, you’ll be making decisions every day that move you toward all the things that you value the most! And, for the record, I can really use some bolstering in this department too, so I’ll be growing with you. It’ll be fun (and rewarding) – I promise! 🙂


Personalized Guide To Setting Goals And Staying Motivated


We all have ideas about things we want to achieve. Maybe you have small goals like eating healthier or spending more time with your kids. Or perhaps you created a bucket list, and now you want to figure out how to achieve all your dreams. Regardless of all your ideas, you need to have a plan to achieve them. Different people are motivated in different ways, so it’s important to find a way to set goals and stay motivated in a way that fits your personality.

Define your goals in a way that work for you

SMART goals

Some people are very specific and detail-oriented. They often prefer very concise directions when learning to do something new. They are more mathematical, analytical, and logical. If that’s you, try setting your goals by utilizing the SMART acronym. The letters stand for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely

Specific – Set your goals with very clear parameters. Instead of setting a goal of exercising to lose weight, make your goal “I will do a cardio workout for 30 minutes three days per week and do 45 minutes of strength training twice each week.”

Measurable – Create goals that have a numbers element to them – something that you can literally measure to see your progress. Instead of planning to save money by eating out less, plan to cook dinner at home six days per week. Or if you have a weight loss goal, set it in terms of calorie intake or body measurements or percent body fat – whatever is most important to you.

Attainable – Your ultimate goal should be something that is attainable. In other words, something you can work toward and ultimately achieve. Of course, there is very little you can’t accomplish if you put your mind to it, but just make sure it is indeed something you can ultimately see come to fruition.

Realistic – Make sure your goals are realistic in terms of the amount of time you have to spend reaching your goal and also the amount of work you are able to put into it. Don’t plan to wake at 5:00 every morning to workout if you are not a morning person and most likely will just keep hitting the snooze button. Don’t set yourself up for failure!

Timely – Set a time frame as part of your goal, such as “I will read five new books by the end of the summer” or “I will clean out two closets by the end of the weekend.” Adding a time factor to your goal creates a sense of urgency and helps you avoid procrastination.

Fluid goals

If you’re not the analytical, logical type and you’re already feeling overwhelmed by all the requirements of setting a simple goal, don’t worry! I have a plan for you too. If you would describe yourself as intuitive and more a feeler than a thinker, you’ll set your goals differently. The steps are simple:

Choose a goal – Think about something you want to achieve and write it down. It might be “I want to get more exercise” or “I want to spend more time with my girlfriends.”

Lay out the steps – On a sheet of paper write your current status at the top (“I occasionally go for a walk, but that’s it for exercise”) and your goal at the bottom (“I want to exercise more”). Then in the space in between, write all the steps it would take to get you from top to bottom. You might need to buy workout clothes, load music on your iPod, recruit friends to join you, and set time in your schedule to go for a walk.

Some people find this method works best if they start writing their steps from the bottom and work their way to the top. Using that method might help you visualize your goal and can keep you motivated to stay on track.

Staying motivated to achieve your goals

Just like goal-setting, different people are motivated in different ways. Find the one you think would work best for you.

Track your progress

This might be another one for the numbers people! Whenever I’m working toward a goal, I find it really helpful to keep a list of what I’ve done toward reaching the goal, and I also like to track my progress in some other way. If you’re like that too, and if you have exercise, healthy eating or weight-loss related goals, there are some great journals you can pick up that provide you with a system to track every metric imaginable.

One is called I Will Get Fit This Time! Workout Journal. It divides all your exercise into categories, so you can track each one and each type. The food log has a space for everything you might want to record, such as calories, fat, portion sizes, etc. It also comes with a pocket journal, so you can keep one with you all the time, and it includes additional information about assessing your fitness level and creating plans to meet your goals.

Another great one is 90-Day Fitness Journal: Your Complete Fitness Companion. If you like LOTS of details, this one’s for you! You can record all your different goals, and then for each day you have spaces to record your daily goals, amount of food, calories, type and time of exercise, calories burned, and much more.

I reviewed both of these books pretty carefully, and I can recommend them both, depending on your needs and personality. Choose the one you think would work best for you and your lifestyle.


If you are someone who gets motivated by having a formal reward system, I suggest you read my article on 5 Simple Steps To Making Life Changes That Last. It contains detailed ideas and suggestions for setting small goals and rewarding your progress along the way. If you know you respond well to mini-rewards along the way, that’s a great way to stay motivated!

Get inspired

Can you already visualize what you might look or feel like when you accomplish your goal? If you’re someone who gets inspired by dreams, I bet you can find motivation by reading other people’s success stories. If you want to start your own business, do a google search on others who have done the same, and read their stories. If one of your goals is to travel the world, look for people who have done that and read about their experiences and how they made it happen.

Sometimes finding your motivation is as simple as reading about others who have already accomplished similar goals. Suddenly you find yourself renewed and recharged to keep moving forward!

What are your goals? What would you like to accomplish this month? What about this year, or in the next five years? Let me know in the comments, or connect with me on twitter at @onemoveforward. I look forward to hearing from you!

You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there. – Yogi Berra

Related Articles:
Bucket Lists: How To Create The Guide To Your Own Life
4 Life-Changing Steps To Find Your Passion & Create Your Dream Job

Bucket Lists: How To Create The Guide To Your Own Life


I feel like it’s time to take a break from some of the more serious posts, and have some fun! So…let’s talk about bucket lists! Have you ever created one? Have you ever thought about making one? There are probably a lot of things you would like to do in your life. If you spend some time brainstorming, you can use the list as a guide to make sure life doesn’t pass you by before you get it all done. 🙂

Why make a bucket list?

Do you ever feel like life is flying by really quickly? It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day tasks that you have to complete – getting the kids to school, handling your assignments at work, making dinner, helping the kids with homework – you know the drill. And even weekends can get jam-packed pretty quickly, especially if you’ve got one kid in basketball and another in volleyball, and you’re just trying to get everyone where they need to be and still time find to pick up groceries and hopefully get through a couple loads of laundry. Sound familiar?

Even if you don’t have that kind of tight schedule, it doesn’t take much to get into a routine that gradually turns into being stuck in a rut. Commute, work, commute, dinner, TV, sleep. And weekends go by with sleeping in, catching up with friends, and running errands.

Regardless of your lifestyle, if you don’t also take care of your life, you may find that time flies by so quickly that before you know it, you’re 100 years old, you’re wondering where time went, and you’re thinking about all the things you never got around to doing.

So that’s why you should start a bucket list. It give you a way to put your dreams down on paper. You can review it periodically to make sure you’re making progress, and you always have a reminder of the things you want to do – not just the things you need to do.

What should you put on your bucket list?

Well, the sky’s the limit, of course. Some people list small things that they want to start doing on a regular basis. Cook healthier meals, do volunteer work, keep a cleaner house. Some people have their biggest, wildest dreams on theirs, like write the Great American Novel or win an Academy Award (I have “Win the lottery” on mine – why not?).

In reading other people’s bucket lists, I’ve found that one of my favorite types of entries are the ones that are just plain fun – or funny. I think much of my list tends to be serious goals and plans and ideas I want to pursue. But on other people’s lists I read online, I saw “buy and paint a hippie van,” “catch a fish with my bare hands,” and “ride a mattress down a staircase”.

You might have travel-related entries too. Mine include visiting Vietnam and seeing different parts of India. Some others I saw were “eat sushi in Japan,” “ride a gondola in Venice,” and “ride a zipline through a jungle”.

You can find tons of ideas in this Abundance Blog article, which has over 525 ideas in 36 categories. You can also google “bucket list ideas,” but ideally you should try to use them as inspiration, and then take some time to come up with some that are truly your own.

Try to create a list of both small and big ideas. As you work on your list, think about all the things you ever wanted to do, all the places you want to visit, all the things you want to learn, and everything you want to experience – even if it’s just once. Remember to Dream Big!

Okay, I made a bucket list. Now what?

I made my first bucket list in 2006. In 2009, I revisited the the first list and then made a new one. What I found when I was reviewing the ’06 list is that I had accomplished some things, I still wanted to accomplish others, and some actually didn’t seem important to me anymore. That last part kind of surprised me, but then I think we change and grow over time, and likewise so do our interests and priorities.

Once you make your list, review it and see which ones are small or require little planning. Those might be the ones you tackle first. You can also divide your list into things you want to do now, and things you maybe aren’t quite ready to do. Even for your “now” things, that doesn’t mean you have to start planning for them all today. It might be good just to have them in the back of your mind, so when the opportunity arises, you can grab it.

Try to periodically review your bucket list. See what you’ve accomplished, and see what’s left. Like me, you might have some that aren’t as important to you, and you might want to add new ones. When you can, start making plans to see the big dreams come to fruition too. Putting them on your bucket list is a great starting point, but then you have to remember to make it happen too!

I can see from my 2009 list, it is time for me to make another. Some things I have accomplished (start a blog, run a 5K), some things are no longer on my radar (visit Australia, try ice fishing), and some are still on my “Someday” list, like observing oral arguments at the US Supreme Court and spending a weekend at a silent retreat.

I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list! How long is it? What are your favorite ideas? And which one are you going to do first? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me at @onemoveforward. I would love to hear from you!

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. – John Lennon

Related Articles:
Learn, Change, Grow: What’s Your Uncharted Territory?
Defining Personal Values: Get In Touch With The Real You

Gardening is Green! How To Know What To Grow


Spring is here! Actually, here in Kansas City it feels like we skipped straight to summer. But that just means it’s the perfect time to start planning a garden.

In our continuing quest to make our lives more balanced, it’s important to think of the environment and make sure we are reducing our impact on key  resources (using them conservatively) and also making positive choices that contribute to everyone’s quality of life – people, animals and plants included.

Growing your own vegetables and herbs – if you do it in an environmentally sound way – is a great place to start, since it’s beneficial to the planet and to you. Plants help prevent global warming by using carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that traps heat) to make energy for themselves. Not only do plants use carbon dioxide, but they put out oxygen, which is what people and animals need. So more healthy oxygen and less carbon dioxide is good for us and the planet.

Another consideration is the small impact you can make as part of the bigger whole. More people planting food in their own gardens means fewer trucks on the road transporting fruits and vegetables, less pesticides being used, and overall energy and fuel conservation. Everybody who plants a garden makes a difference, just as everyone who recycles or uses energy efficient bulbs or carries home groceries in reusable bags makes a difference.

If you haven’t planted a garden before (as with anything new), you can start small.  There are just a few things to consider when deciding what to grow, and then you’ll be on your way to fresher, healthier, greener food.

Location – For the most part, in many areas of the US, you can plant just about any vegetables or herbs. You’ll have more success with certain fruits in southern states where it stays warmer longer. has a terrific tool that will show you all the best flowers, trees, vegetables, fruits, and herbs based on your zip code. It’s a great place to start!

Space – There is no space too small or too large to grow a garden. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can grow plants! Here are some ideas that will work in different size spaces:

Large outdoor garden There are some vegetable plants that really spread when they grow, and they’re fun to watch because they grow so fast. If you’ve got the space, consider cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes.

Small outdoor garden If you don’t have a lot of space, consider vegetable plants that won’t spread out too much or vegetables that grow in the ground. Some ideas would be carrots, cherry tomatoes, beets, or scallions. There’s a great book called, Fast, Fresh Garden Edibles: Quick Crops for Small Spaces that has a lot of suggestions on what to grow in small spaces, and also includes details about caring for your garden, which might be a bit different, depending on how small your space is.

Along a fence This is a great area for bushes with berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Others that are less common are gooseberries, rhubarb, and (my favorite!) red currants. Depending on the type of fence you have, it can even serve as support for the growing bushes.

Front yard Yes, you can have garden space in your front yard and still maintain your home’s curb appeal! Sunflowers work great in the front, and you can also landscape with strawberries or herbs.

Indoor planting Even if you don’t have a yard for a garden, you can still grow a variety of edibles, especially if you have a balcony. Start with herbs on a windowsill. If you want your plants to double as decor, try combining them in bigger pots. There’s a great book, Grow Your Own Herbs in Pots that has all sorts of suggestions on which herbs go well together based on height, color, leaf shape, and even fragrance. You can also grow vegetables in containers such as five gallon pails, planters, or even plastic bags, as this lady suggests for potatoes.

Healthy variety – There’s a new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicating strong evidence that a variety of berries can protect the aging brain from memory loss and other degenerative changes. Leafy green vegetables like leaf lettuce and spinach are rich in vitamins and minerals and can decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease. Carrots also help you fight disease and of course help improve your vision. Even sunflower seeds are packed with vitamins, especially Vitamin E.

Depending on what your health priorities are, you can plan your garden accordingly. The agriculture department of North Dakota State University put together this easy list of foods and their benefits that makes it easy to pick and choose. Or check out this fun chart if you are hoping to help a certain ailment (but see your doctor if it’s warranted).

Truly going green – Keeping in mind our goal of benefiting the planet, I have to tell you – it’s time to give up all your pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemicals. I know, they’re easy and cheap and they get the job done, right? But they’re also defeating your purpose.

By adding chemicals to your garden, you are potentially serving cancer-causing agents to your family. They also pollute the soil and water, and in general are harmful to the environment.

I’ll cover the hows and whys of natural gardening in a future post. For now, though, you might be interested in a helpful guide called The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way. It has tons of tips  and information about how to naturally avoid pests and diseases, how to maintain your healthy garden all season, and even new ideas on what to do if you still encounter problems. It’s a much healthier approach, with less impact on the environment.

Are you ready to start gardening? What are you thinking about growing this year? I’m definitely thinking about corn, but still deciding on other veggies. Maybe green beans? Let me know your gardening thoughts. I’ll see you in the comments, and you can also like One Move Forward on facebook!




Defining Personal Values To Get In Touch With The Real You


When you think about your own health, probably the first things that jump to mind are your diet and how much you exercise, right? Interestingly, even scientists will tell you that spiritual health is also an important component in your overall well-being.

But how do you get in touch with your spiritual self? And what does that even mean? Is being a member of organized religion enough, or is there more to it? My reading and understanding tells me there are many components to your spiritual health. Yes, organized religion (or any belief in a higher being) might be a part of that for you. But I think there are other parts to your spirituality as well, including making an ongoing effort to find your meaning and purpose, defining your values and living your life by them, figuring out what feeds your soul and acting on that, and also engaging in practices that reach into your spiritual realm (not strictly physical or mental) such as prayer, meditation, and yoga – just to name a few.

Today I want to focus on defining your personal values and then behaving in ways that are reflective of those values. The reason it’s important to clearly identify your values is because it helps you further define and understand yourself. In yesterday’s post about self-esteem, I talked about the importance of gaining confidence in yourself, thus being able to better make decisions that are true to the real you. And you want to clearly identify your values for the same reason – the more in touch you are with the true you, the closer you move to peace.

In an effort to continually define the true you, think about your values. Make a list of them (choose around 10), and then try to rank them in terms of your biggest priorities. Below is a list of some values, but it’s not exhaustive, so be sure to include your own in your list:

Being the best
Financial independence

And just like that, you’ve already done most of the hard work! You’ve created your own bible to live by. When you know your most important priorities, you use them to make informed decisions in your life, both big and small. If, for instance, one of your top priorities is nurturing your child, and he is asking you to stop watching TV and instead play trucks with him, your decision is easy. The action itself (turning off the TV and missing the end of your show) might not be easy, but the decision to do so is. And if your high priority value really is time spent with your kids, when you make the decision to do so, ultimately that will be the most gratifying decision because that is what feeds the real you.

The biggest benefit in knowing and understanding your values is that it will lead you to clarity and focus. When you use your new prioritized values list when making decisions, it will inspire you to do the things that really matter to you. In other words, the whole point of discovering your values is to improve the results you get in those areas that are truly most important to you.

Make sense? I hope so. It really all is a process. I would recommend that you try the entire exercise a few times and see how you feel in the end. Make your list of 10 values and prioritize them. Review your list a few times and really think about whether that is what you want or if that is what you think you should want. Revise your list if needed. Once you are sure you have a list of prioritized values that reflect the true you, commit them to memory if you can.

Then start using your values to make informed decisions – how you treat others, how you spend your time, your attitude, how you handle adversity, where you spend your money – everything! And, over a period of time, see how you end up feeling. If your values list is reflective of the real you, and if you’re making decisions and acting in ways that reflect those values, I’d bet your core self will start to move toward inner peace – and a little more spiritual wellness.

I’d love to know how this works for you! Let me know in the comments, or you can also reach me on Twitter at @onemoveforward. I look forward to hearing from you!

Building Self-Esteem: What Are You Saying to Yourself?


Self-esteem is our sense of how we feel about ourselves, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what other people think about us. It’s about your overall sense of self-worth or personal value, and it can be the foundation for making decisions for yourself that are true to the real you. People with high self esteem don’t concern themselves with what others think they should do. Instead, they are able to make their decisions based on what is true to them. Imagine being able to make your own life decisions, both big and small, without ever thinking  about what others think? With a good self-esteem, you can do exactly that.

If you want to start making some changes to build your self-esteem, one of the best places to start is with your self-talk.

What is self-talk? One of the simplest ways to both assess and improve your own self-esteem is through self-talk. When you are faced with any type of stressor in your life, what do you say to yourself? That is your self-talk. For instance, somebody trying to establish an exercise habit in an effort to lose weight might say, “Why should I bother? I’m fat, and I never stick to a program anyway.” Or, she might say, “I’m ready to do this! I’m going to keep at it and take off these pounds!” The self-talk in that situation can make all the difference in whether she succeeds.

Self-talk is both learned and self-created. Learned self-talk may have come from messages you received from other people, especially while you were growing up. Think about the dominant adults in your life when you were a child. Did you hear more messages that encouraged you and had confidence in you, or did you hear more that had little faith in you or maybe even insulted you?

Self-talk that you created yourself could be from your own negative thoughts, unreasonably high expectations, or by comparing yourself to others.

Regardless of where it came from, though, if your self-talk is negative, it’s time to let it go.

Recognize and replace your self-talk. What type of self-talk do you typically use? If you want to speak up at a business meeting, are you more likely to say to yourself, “They might think this is dumb,” or would you say, “They’ll be so glad I shared this idea!” If you are meeting your boyfriend’s friends for the first time, do you think, “They’re not going to think I’m good enough for him,” or do you think, “They’ll think we’re the perfect match!”

If you are more likely to use negative self-talk (even mildly negative, such as “I’m not sure if this is good enough” or “This is too much pressure for me”), think about ways to replace your thoughts with more positive ones.

Instead of “This is stressing me out,” use “If I’m calm, it will be easier.”

Instead of “This probably won’t work,” use “This is the answer, and I’ve got other ideas I can try too.”

Instead of “I can’t deal with this one minute longer,” use “I can bear anything for a while.”

You get the idea!

More positive self-talk statements If you’re having trouble coming up with positive self-talk statements to substitute for your old messages, here’s a list of more generic ones that can be used in a variety of situations:

No problem, I thrive on challenge.
This is an opportunity, not a threat.
I come through under pressure.
I can do almost anything I set my mind to.
I have confidence.
I’m getting better all the time!
I make things happen.
I have more talents and skills than I have yet discovered.
I am calm and confident.
I am doing the best I can.
I will be true to myself.
One step at a time.
I can remain calm with this difficult person.
I know I will be okay no matter what happens.
In the long run, does this really matter?
Is this really worth getting upset about?
I’m not going to overreact.

Now try this exercise! Which positive self-talk statements in the list above would work best for you? What other ones can you think of that would work even better for you? Write them down on a 3×5 card or small piece of paper, and think about when you might be able to use them. For the next several days, when you find yourself using negative self-talk, think about the messages on your card and see if you can change it to positive self-talk. Later, take a moment to reflect back. Can you see how the positive messages you gave yourself in a stressful setting automatically improved that situation?

Improving your self-talk is the first step to improving your self-esteem. By being your own cheerleader, you will gain confidence in yourself. And when you do that, you will get to know yourself better, and you will be able to make choices in your life that are true to the real you, being easily able to disregard what others might think you should do.

Keep working on changing your self-talk with your new positive messages. Take note of how much better it works, and then let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

5 Simple Steps to Making Life Changes That Last

How many times have you tried to make changes in your life, only to have it end just as quickly as it started? We can too easily lose our motivation or get discouraged or simply give up. I’ve talked a lot this week about making changes to your diet to make it a bit healthier, how to change how you communicate to make it more effective, and even changes to how you spend your family time. It’s easy to think about making changes and even to implement them in the beginning when your motivation is strong. But how do you make those changes stick? Here are five easy steps to get you started:

1. Focus on just one change – If you have a big goal (for instance, to get healthy), that can mean you need to make a lot of changes. But too much change at once can be overwhelming, and when it all feels unfamiliar, you may feel like you’re losing yourself in the process. It takes a few weeks to make a change into a habit. It takes even more time if the old habit has been around for a while.

If you want to create a healthier you, start with just one change you can implement right away. You might decide to take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, you might eliminate fried foods from your diet, or you might try to start exercising three days per week. But just one! More changes can always be incorporated after you master the first.

2. Prepare for the change in advance – Rather than just jumping in, really think about what it will take to implement that change. If your one change is that you want to start walking for exercise three days per week, that’s a great place to start. Go out and get some new workout clothes! Buy some new shoes if you don’t have a suitable pair. Load up your iPod with music you’d like to take with you. Preparing for the change allows you to get excited about your new goal and also builds excitement for the upcoming habit – both of which will be beneficial when you are trying to make your change permanent.

3. Get support – With anything you go through in life, it’s helpful to have a good support system. This is especially true during times when you might falter. So prepare in advance by rounding up the troops. For instance, you could let your family know which three days each week they can expect you to leave for a walk after dinner. Then it won’t come as a surprise, and they know to expect it. Invite them along if you think they might be inclined!

You can also ask a friend to go with you on your walks. Having a buddy system is invaluable when you are trying to make a change. Two people trying to make that change can support each other, and invariably on the day you are thinking of blowing off your walk, she will be at your door and ready to go.

4. Celebrate milestones – Rewarding yourself for a job well done probably isn’t something you do too often, right? Sometimes having your reward in the back of your head, though, can make all the difference when you are tempted to let your new habit slide. Working toward your milestones is a great way to keep on track.

Have a plan for how you are going to celebrate your success. Maybe your spouse will promise you a foot rub after you complete your first week of walking. After a month, treat yourself to a pedicure. After another month, maybe the seasons will have changed and you can reward yourself with warmer or cooler workout clothes.

You know best what will motivate you, so don’t forget to outline your rewards in advance. Making changes is hard enough – take care of yourself along the way, and it will be that much easier.

5. Savor success – You will reach your goal of making your change permanent if you keep at it. Even if you falter, don’t beat yourself up. If you miss a day of walking, go the next day. If you miss two days, think about how many days you did walk, pat yourself on the back, and hit the trails again in the morning. Always try to keep in mind where you started and where you are now. Take pride in your accomplishments!

People who are most successful at turning a change into a habit usually stumble a few times along the way. What’s most important is that you keep at it. Go back to what you know works for you. Turn to your support system, and go back to Step 1 if you need to. Be persistent in your positive change, and you will soon have a habit of which you can be proud. And then – go on to the next one.

What changes do you want to make? Where do you think you might start? Share your ideas with me in the comments, and we’ll talk more. Good luck!

Learn, grow, change: What’s your uncharted territory?

Absolutely everyone has the capacity to change, learn, evolve, and grow. And there are so many reasons you should nurture your intellectual development – to make new connections with other people and ideas, get a better understanding of yourself (what you believe and why), renew your mind and spirit, and even escape conformity – just to name a few. Getting to know yourself and others better can then help you to redefine your own creativity, passions, and purpose.

Committing to lifetime growth by creating and satisfying your curiosity about life means you won’t get stagnated in the status quo, you will never be on the downward trajectory of your life, and you just might fulfill your destiny. When you are open to learning, are receptive to new ideas and change, and you allow your mind and heart to grow, you will keep you and your journey relevant, interesting, challenging and forever young. So where do you start? Here are five areas to explore that can help you continue to evolve:

1. Grow Do you have a skill you learned earlier in your life that you would like to build on? Maybe something you started learning, but you stopped earlier than you wanted to because other things took up your time? Building on previously-learned skills are a good starting point to help you grow more now. I studied piano when I was in grade school, and I always loved it, but now I haven’t played in years. About 10 years ago, a friend taught me to crochet, and I still have an unfinished scarf in the back of my closet. And I’d really like to finish it, if I could just remember how to do it! If you think back (even far back) over the course of your life, what are some things you have learned that you would like to pick up again? Something you already know gives you pleasure is a great starting point for your foray into intellectual growth.

2. Learn – What is something you have always been curious about but never had time to explore? Building websites? Learning Spanish? Brewing your own beer? When you want to learn something completely new to you, it is easy to put it on the back burner in your already busy life. So start small. Look into a class you can take, dig around on the internet for online classes, or just go to a bookstore and look at the books on your topic. My guess is that once you take the first small step in something you have always wanted to learn, it won’t be long until you get excited and energized by the possibility of exploring your interest even further.

3. Pursue – What’s your big dream that seems so crazy that you wouldn’t even know where to start? Opening your own restaurant? Traveling around the world? Moving to a new city? Pursuing a dream is a great way to experience intellectual growth. I have a friend who is an educator and is now getting very close to taking a bold step to leave her job and go into business for herself (you can read her blog here). I have another friend who is pursuing her dream to make a film. Although she didn’t know a tremendous amount about filmmaking at the start, she is learning a lot along the way! If you don’t think you can drop everything to pursue your dream, that’s okay – just start small. Begin with the research, planning, or budgeting of your dream. Talk to others who have pursued similar dreams. Outline the steps that would get you from where you are today to actually seeing that dream realized. Your small steps can take you far, and with the momentum that builds, your ultimate dream might not be as far away as you thought!

4. Contribute – Another path to intellectual growth is contribution to society. If you’ve never volunteered in your community before, now is a great time to start! Think about your interests, concerns, and values to try to determine where you would like to volunteer. Aspiring actors can volunteer to be ushers at the theater, animal lovers can walk dogs at the local shelter, and political buffs can work for local campaigns. Or, use your volunteer work to learn about something completely new. If you are interested in home maintenance projects, you might be able to pick up some skills by volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. If you want to learn about the environment, look for volunteer opportunities at your local nature center. Not sure where to start? VolunteerMatch will help you find opportunities based on your location and the type of work you would like to do.

5. Enjoy – What activities give you pure pleasure, but also afford the opportunity to keep learning? Think about your favorite pastimes, and you might find some answers. Books, travel, documentaries, the internet, museums – each offer endless ways to learn, grow, and see new things. Activities that give you pure pleasure are hobbies that you absolutely must indulge. If time is your obstacle, try scheduling it into your calendar. If money is tight, you can visit a library for movies, swap books with a friend, or explore a free local museum. Be careful not to let day-to-day responsibilities keep you from your favorite sources of “self-evolution.”

Lifetime growth means you are always learning and evolving. It keeps you from getting stuck, and it helps you better understand your inner self and uncover your passions. Make the commitment to keep learning, and you’ll know fulfillment like never before.

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” – Goethe

What are your interests, and what are you excited to pursue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and please share this article if you know someone who might enjoy it!

The Wellness Burger – Tips to turn your favorite foods into healthy choices

We eat about 13% less beef today than we did 10 years ago. That decline can probably be explained by the following (approximate) equation: fat + cholesterol = increased risk of heart disease. And although the beef industry is aggressively marketing leaner beef products, the fat content is still widely variable, and it’s often hard to recognize a low-fat piece of beef despite the different labels and grades on the packages. Meanwhile, hamburgers may have earned a bad reputation among health-conscious people, but they are still a good source of protein, and there is also a fair amount of B vitamins, iron, and zinc in ground beef. So what can you do if you are trying to make positive changes to your diet, but you still love a good burger? The answer lies in the preparation.

You can enjoy a burger as part of a healthy diet by following these steps:

1. Choose your meat carefully Go to a store with a butcher, choose a very lean cut of round, then ask the butcher to trim all the fat and grind the meat for you. This will result in a burger with only 20% of its calories coming from fat.
2. Portion control – Use three ounces of meat for each patty.
3. Taste matters too – If you are concerned the lean beef will be too dry, mix in a little tomato juice, chopped onion, or Worcestershire sauce before cooking.
4. Cooking methods – Broil or panbroil your burger instead of frying it in oil or butter. If you like to have cooked mushrooms or onions on your burgers, simmer them in stock (or water) instead of sauteing in butter.
5. Finishing touches – Use a whole wheat bun or whole wheat bread instead of white. Add a slice of tomato and some lettuce. Beware that adding cheese and mayonnaise to a hamburger more than doubles the calories and significantly increases the fat content.

This hamburger will have 315 calories, 7 grams of fat, 34 grams of protein, 72 milligrams of cholesterol, and 415 milligrams of sodium.

The hamburger makeover above is just one example of how you can keep favorite foods in your diet, by simply revamping them to make them healthier. There are many, many small changes you can make to the foods you eat that will allow you to enjoy those foods in a healthier way. Here are 10 quick and easy ones:

1. Choosing whole wheat breads instead of white breads
2. Opting for brown rice instead of white (brown rice actually has a richer, nuttier flavor – it just takes longer to cook).
3.Changing from whole milk to a reduced fat milk
4. Choosing reduced fat cheeses to replace full fat cheeses
5. Eating air-popped popcorn with sodium-free seasoning instead of microwave buttered popcorn
6. Eating an orange instead of drinking a glass of orange juice (many fewer calories)
7. Substituting applesauce for the fat (butter or oil) in a recipe for baked goods (just use an equal amount of applesauce as the recipe calls for)
8. Breading fresh fish by dipping them in skim milk and then bread crumbs, rather than buying frozen breaded fish fillets
9. Using reduced fat mayonnaise, margarine (sparingly), and salad dressings instead of the full fat varieties
10. Trying dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate

Remember, making (and keeping!) any changes to well-ingrained habits is never easy. Start small, try a few easy changes in the list above, and see what works for you. Then try a few more, and see how you feel. You can usually bet that once you start to grow accustomed to the healthier changes, you will want to keep making more. And also keep in mind that eating healthfully is not all or nothing. Aim to make healthful choices most of the time, and then you will have a little room for small indulgences. If food is a pleasure to you, it should continue to be so. Try to make your day-to-day diet both healthy and appealing – it can be done!

What are your thoughts on revamping ingrained eating habits? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Let me know in the comments!