Overpromising & Underdelivering

A while ago I was working on a project with a client and I was getting great feedback from them but I couldn’t figure out why. Quite frankly, I hadn’t done anything extraordinary or above and beyond recently, yet the client seemed especially impressed and appreciative of my work. So I went and asked someone else close to the project why they thought I was getting such positive feedback and her answer was almost embarrassingly simple, she said – you do what you say you’re going to do.

At first, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why there was such a positive reaction to simply doing what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it. That sounds pretty basic to me. However, she explained to me that that is actually a pretty rare quality, and the reason I was getting so much positive feedback from the other person was because he wasn’t used to working with people like that on his team.

Now, this sounds pretty ridiculous. I got positive feedback for just doing my job? Maintaining the status quo? But then I thought about it a little harder, and you know what? Actually doing what you say you’re going to do IS a rare quality.

Think about your average day for a moment. How many commitments do you make? Sure, I’ll have that report to you in an hour; I’ll call you right back; I’ll meet you at 6 for dinner; Of course, I’ll try that new recipe you sent me; etc. But we’re selfish creatures, if something else comes up, or if we get distracted, sometimes things fall off of our radar, or we’re late, or we completely forget about them.

But I almost never do that. From a professional perspective, I’m painstakingly organized, so it’s never like I’ll forget to do something. Additionally, I have a level of work ethic that I simply expect of myself. I don’t make unrealistic promises so if I say I will have something done by this day or this hour, it will be done by then no questions asked. From a personal perspective, I view it as an insult to waste someone’s time so I don’t like to be late or to cancel or reschedule things last minute. Furthermore, if I say I will take someone up on an invite or a recommendation, I will actually do it. I will actually come to see you, read the book, watch the show, or try the food you recommend because I view it as a perfect opportunity to try new things and strengthen relationships.

Maybe most of us don’t realize how many promises or committments we make in a day. We use words like ‘for sure’, ‘definitely’, ‘absolutely’, so that we technically can’t be told we promised to do something, but they still create an aura of accountability. When we don’t hold up our end of these proto-promises, it still creates these little micro disappointments. You can see them on your bosses face when you tell him you couldn’t get to something but you’ll do it now, or when your friend asks if you read that book she was raving about to you and you say you totally forgot about it.

I do what I say I will do. It’s done when I say it will be done. If I set a goal for myself, it gets done. I show up when I say I’ll show up. These things sound simple, but maybe they’re not. Maybe we’re all in the habit of overpromising and underdelivering and we’re afraid to face our actual productivity capabilities in a day? Or maybe it’s the socially acceptable thing to do – take on more than you can deliver? Or maybe none of us think hard enough about the little things we commit to others?

I can’t say how I developed the skill of doing what I say I’ll do. In my mind, if I say I’ll do it, there’s just no other option. Turns out, that earns me a lot more respect than I thought.

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AMAZING hot chocolate at Dandelion Cafe in SF – courtesy of Ashley Chung who never underdelivers as a friend 🙂 
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Your Fitness Goals Are Working Against You

Recently I’ve been having a lot of conversations about fitness with a bunch of people (hence last week’s post), and they have been telling me their goals and asking for tips on how to achieve them.

The thing is, fitness is not rocket science. You want to lose weight? Eat fewer calories than you burn. You want to be skinny-fat? Eat less. You want to be bulky? Eat more and lift heavy. I know I’m oversimplifying here, but so often I find that these are not the actual hard parts of fitness. It’s not that difficult to work out or to plan a food regime. The hard part is all mental.

However, most people’s fitness goals, have little to do with fitness. They’re usually exclusively aesthetic. People want to be thinner, more muscular looking, or have certain measurements. Obviously, there are ways to accomplish any of these, but the problem that I have with them is that they are exclusively focused on outcome. As in, if this person doesn’t achieve that certain ‘look’ or size, they will have failed. Furthermore, this type of goal setting implies that there is an ‘end’ and fitness never ends. It is a lifestyle. Of course, if you’re trying to achieve something for a specific competition or event then those can act as an endpoints, but most people consider a body type their endpoint.

However, achieving this body can leave a hollow feeling because work to maintain it would have to continue, you can’t just stop when you reach your goal weight and go back to old habits or you won’t keep your supposed ‘goal body’.

I bring this up because I believe this is one of the major reasons people become frustrated and disillusioned with working out or eating healthier. It becomes only about the outcome, and they view everything in between as necessary suffering to achieve said end result. This is particularly difficult because an aesthetic outcome can often be a hollow pursuit and the journey there can have many false starts. Changing your measurements doesn’t occur in a straight line so when people don’t see immediate results, they don’t view the ‘suffering’ as worth it anymore and they stop. Furthermore, it creates no relationship with the journey of becoming healthier so then even if people do reach their ideal body, they aren’t sure how to proceed in keeping it because their entire relationship with fitness has been with that specific outcome this whole time, not with fitness itself.

So when people ask me what they should do to lose weight or look a certain way, the first thing I ask them is why they want to look this way. This makes people stop and think because generally, the reason they want to look a certain way is because they feel they are supposed to look a certain way. Society or someone in their lives has made them feel as though their current appearance isn’t cutting it. Ok, fine, I understand. However, I then caution them that having an aesthetic as their goal can be really demoralizing, especially if they’ve already struggled with body issues in the past. Then I ask them to think not about what they’d like to look like, but what they’d like to be able to do.

Let me explain – Sometimes my shoulders make me insecure. They’re pretty broad and muscular, and there are lots of tops I feel I can’t wear because they’re too delicate or don’t stretch right across the muscle.  When I look at magazines, I see women with slim, sometimes even dainty shoulders and everything from necklaces to sweaters seems to just hang so perfectly on them. So sometimes, I think about trying to lose the muscle and making my shoulders and arms very slim. But then I think about what my shoulders can do. They were built on swimming for hours every day, and now I can lift heavy things, rock climb, do all sorts of exercises with my own body – including pullups, I can lift suitcases into overhead bins for old people on planes, I can move furniture around by myself, the list goes on and on.  They’re really strong muscles. In order to slim down my shoulders, I’d have to lose some of the muscle, and I wouldn’t be able to do the same things I can do now. And that’s not worth it to me. Once I come to that conclusion, I realize being insecure about my shoulders is fruitless because I wouldn’t be willing to compromise their abilities for looks anyways. I take pride in my strength and as a result, I also take pride in how I look.

Consequently, this approach to your body works for two reasons – one, it takes the pressure off what you look like. Your looks will fluctuate from day to day, as your mood changes, how much you ate on one day, as you age, and we all know logically that it makes no sense to compare ourselves to people who have been redone and retouched. Two – it forces you to think more about the journey of your body than the outcome. If you’re thinking about what you want your body to be able to accomplish, whether it’s dancing, being flexible, lifting heavy, or running far, you start to enjoy the journey so much more because that progress truly is trackable and more rewarding than dropping pounds or inches. And honestly, if your goal was aesthetic in nature, you’ll probably end up accomplishing it anyways based on your functional goals.

I have met people who have been successful in their fitness journey through aesthetic goals, but I would say they are in the minority. Of course it can work, but I think it takes a type of mental fortitude that most people don’t have when it comes to fitness and body image. But if that’s what gets you going, then you do you! But for myself, and for most other people I meet, it can be so discouraging to focus only on how your workouts are translating to your appearance. It is so much more satisfying to realize you’re able to run farther, do that crazy squat jump move, or have more energy in a day, because that’s what makes the journey fun too. It also forces you to think about the pride you have in your body, what it can do, and what it needs. Once you’re proud of what you’re body can do, it’s a lot easier to be proud of what it looks like as well.

 

 

 

The Hardest Part of Working Out Isn’t Working Out

The hardest part of working out is not when your muscles burn from that last rep, and it’s not when you feel like puking after sprints, it’s starting the workout in the first place. When asking someone how they feel after a workout, you might get adjectives like tired, sick, or dead, but if you ask someone if they regretted doing it, they almost never say no. Because no matter how winded you are after a hard workout, there is a sense of accomplishment and of self-satisfaction that you completed it. Once you’ve started a set, chances are, you’ll finish it.

So the hard part then, is starting. It’s overcoming the mental blocks to getting to that point. Once you’re in the swing of things, it’s almost like pure momentum can carry you the rest of the way – you want to keep going. But when you come home from work and you’re tired and grimy, in that moment, the last thing you want to do is put on your workout clothes, go to the gym and do a full-on workout. If you really think about it, it’s not the workout itself that is the dreadful part, it’s all the parts in between, the admin parts, the drudgery. No matter when in the day you work out, there is always a tiny voice that says, ugh, it would just be so much easier to not.

So here are a couple ideas if you’re having trouble getting through that chasm of minutiae before your workout.

Idea number one – make things as easy as possible for yourself. When I used to workout in the morning, I would sometimes sleep in my workout bottoms, and put the rest of the clothes right next to the bed so I could change without having to even get up. I have a friend with a long commute who works out in the evening so I recommended that she change before even leaving the office so when she’s home she’s already ready to go.

Number two – Don’t lose your momentum. On busy days, I almost feel more motivated to workout because I’ve just been running from one commitment to another and the workout would just be another thing I could check off. But if I stop moving, it’s like I lose all of that momentum and just crash. If you’re having a peppy day, don’t stop moving. Don’t come home and flop on the bed, just keep your momentum and push straight on through to your next plan, it’ll be so much easier than stopping and then trying to get the momentum back.

Number three – Take the pressure off. I got this idea from a book*, but basically, it’s to do everything in your power to set yourself up for success and then give yourself permission to stop. So for the gym that means if you’re not feeling it, you have to make yourself get dressed and get to the gym, but if you’re not feeling it once you get there, you give yourself permission to skip your workout. This may sound counterproductive, but you’ll find that if you do all the prep work and set yourself up right, you almost never will actually take yourself up on this imaginary offer. That’s because you already did the hard part, but you gave yourself permission to skip what your body perceives as the hard part. In the end, it almost feels like getting a reward for setting yourself up so well. This one works really well with idea number one as well.

So often, it’s overcoming the mental hurdle of doing something good for ourselves that prevents us from moving forward. I firmly believe that the mental game is what keeps people coming, as well as what keeps people away from developing a fitness habit. The steps above are just a start for when you’re not feeling particularly motivated but you still want to go. The real trick is to find positive reinforcement for yourself. Whatever it truly is that keeps you wanting to come back, harness it, focus on it, and use it to feed your motivation.

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Told myself I had to take this picture for this blog post to get myself to the gym. Once there, I actually did a longer workout than I had originally planned. Trick yourself. 

*the book is “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. I LOVE this book and highly recommend it to all

Skincare That’s Not Skincare

Isn’t it interesting that at the same time as the rise of the full face, highly contoured, structured eyebrow look, skincare and wearing as little makeup as possible is also having a moment? Companies like Glossier have built their whole brand on the no makeup, makeup look, and skincare companies are cropping up left and right.

Personally, I used to be obsessed with makeup. But that might’ve been in part because I used to struggle a lot with acne, skin discoloration, redness, and undereye bags. I never had anything extreme, like cystic acne, but it was just enough to make me insecure in my skin and enough for me to not only become obsessed with trying to cover it up or distract with dramatic eye makeup, but also to try any and every over the counter product I could get my hands on to make my skin better.

Over the years, I have cured just about all the above mentions (except the undereye bags, they will haunt me forever), using a variety of products, but the things that made the biggest impact on my skin actually weren’t skincare products at all, they were simple lifestyle changes. And no, I’m not talking about eating veggies and exercising, because I was doing those things even when my skin was bad, I’m talking about even SIMPLER things –

If you’ve ever suffered from acne, you’ve heard the tip to not touch your face with your hands. But have you ever thought about all the other things that touch your face? Pillowcases, towels, other people’s hands/faces can all have an impact.

  • Towels in public places like hotels or gyms are usually washed in huge machines with industrial cleaners to ensure their sterilization. However, these types of detergents can sometimes be too harsh on the skin and can cause irritation. Stopping my use of gym towels on my face made a huge difference in breakouts on my forehead and near my eyebrows.
  • When was the last time you washed your sheets? Even if you’re on top of this, I’m still betting you don’t wash your pillowcase often enough. Your face touches that thing for up to eight or nine hours every night and even if you wash your face right before you go to bed, it’s still collecting bacteria and germs every day. Once I started washing my pillowcase every three nights, my skin texture improved dramatically.
  • This is kind of a strange one, but other people’s oils can affect your skin as well. For example, if you have a significant other and you spend time kissing them, the contact with their skin and/or facial hair can also cause irritation. This was never something I actively tried to change, but it’s good to be aware of nonetheless.

Hormones are a real thing and they really do affect your skin. Hormones fluctuate up and down and those surges or dips can often wreak havoc on your skin. When you’re going through puberty, there’s not too much you can do about this, but I found that when I went on birth control, my skin got markedly better. The hormones in the birth control ended up regulating my skin and now the only thing I have to worry about is what will happen to my face when I finally stop taking it one day…

Last but not least, stress can be a major factor in irritating your skin. Every single time I go on vacation, I stop doing all the ‘healthy’ things. I don’t eat that healthy because I want to try all the new foods of a place, I don’t do any formal workouts, and I don’t sleep as much since I’m trying to cram everything into a few weeks at most. However, without fail, every time I go on vacation, even though I’m sometimes treating my body pretty badly, my skin clears up. One time, I was in France and basically lived off of wine, cappuccinos, and a few hours of sleep, for three days and I fucking glowed. I think vacations clear my skin because of the dual effect of letting go of my typical stress, and of being outside so much more than I am normally. When I go to new places, I love to explore and I think my skin reacts well to being outside, especially in arid climates.

It may seem trivial, but taking care of your skin can be a huge confidence booster for both men and women. You’ve heard it before, but your skin is your largest organ and just like the rest of your body, you’re pretty much stuck with the same skin for life – the least you can do is wash your freaking pillowcases.

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I tried not to talk about products in this article but sunscreen is a HUGE factor in improving skin evenness and preventing aging. PC: Kiki Moussetis