How I Plan My Life

I get a lot done in a day – I workout, I practice language, I read, I write, I do a full work day, I spend time catching up with friends and family,, I drink three liters of water, I have a religious skincare routine, and usually am still getting about 7 hours of sleep per night. 

Over the course of a week, I fit in even more – work on my blog, working on my new business, progress on my long term goals, social events, running errands, meal prepping/cooking, cleaning, and laundry. 

I don’t list out all of these things to brag, I list them out to provide context as to what the texture of my day to day and week to week end up looking like. Because there would be no way for me to get all of this done if my real talent weren’t time management. 

First of all, I’ve never been a procrastinator – I was always that kid who did homework as soon as it was assigned. I have been an obsessive planner and organizer all my life.

So to be fair, although I’ve never had to fight an uphill battle against my nature to get things done, there are a few extra things I’ve learned along the way that almost anyone can apply to try and get more done in a day. 

  1. The Lists – I keep many different lists because it allows me to get all my tasks and thoughts out of my head and then I’m never in danger of forgetting anything. The most common lists I keep are as follows – 
    1. The Daily To-Do List – I make this every night before bed and doing it every night at that time allows my mind freedom to sleep without worrying I will forget something by morning. This list includes mundane things, work things, as well as don’t-forget-this things. 
    2. The Planner – I keep a planner to allow me to look ahead on a monthly and weekly basis. The Daily List is always built from the planner. 
    3. Miscellaneous – I also keep other lists on my phone for wish list items, books I want to read, and recommendations I receive. It allows me to keep it all in one place, refer to them when I need it and once again – not forget anything!I
  2. Productive Distraction – If I’m feeling a bit distracted at work, or my mind needs a break from a task. I will switch to working on one of my personal projects for 15 or twenty minutes. Rather than scrolling through social media or distracting my coworkers by chatting them up, I will work on my blog, work on some writing, or follow up on things for my external projects during this mini-break. When I return to my day job tasks, I am more efficient, but I also fit in some of my own goals in the process.  Even this post was written during a couple of those little spurts. 
  3. Prioritize your Time – This is a more advanced build off of the to do list item. Usually there are things that are more important to get done in a day. You have deadlines, meetings or other commitments that are more fixed as opposed to other work. I tend to block off specific times to get these done. Meetings are easy – block off the meeting time, plus whatever time you need to prep. If you have a deliverable due, block off a relative time block for the five days preceding to work on it and make sure it’s good to go. You get the idea. Certain things in life deserve more attention and that’s important to know and plan for. USE YOUR CALENDAR to your advantage!
  4. Habits – The reason I’m able to work out, read, write, drink water, study language, and take care of my skin every single day is because those things are all habits for me at this point. If you make the things that are super important to you a habit, then you start breaking down barriers to doing them all the time. Your body will want to work out, your mind will want to spend some time on writing, etc because, without it, your day will feel strange. 
  5. Get Up Early – I know, I know, I’m obnoxious. The reason I add this in though is because usually mornings are the only guaranteed uninterrupted time we can get in a day. I’m up by about 5:15 every morning during the week and usually by 8am on weekends. A vast majority of the things I listed above are done between this time and when I go to work because I don’t have to answer to anyone else at this hour. Evenings may be easier on your sleep schedule but for me they are harder to stick to. Evenings get consumed with social events or reacting to things that happened throughout the day, and the things we wanted to do before fall by the wayside. 

At the end of the day though, you do YOU.  I cannot stress this enough. I have a different brain and predisposition that you do. So what works for me may not work for you. Maybe you already think you’re getting everything you need done. Maybe you’re more productive at nights or on weekends, or your goals are way different. Do some of your own research, there are tons of productivity tips out there, and try some out. Maybe blocking social media on timers helps you. Maybe working out after 10pm is easier for you rather than working out at 5:15am like me. As long as you’re getting done what YOU want to get done, then you’re on the right track and you don’t need my tips or anyone else’s.

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My typical weekday breakfast.

 

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Something New

A couple months ago I realized I hadn’t updated my blog in over two years. Two years! Two years ago I was still living in LA, just about to move to Calgary. I had barely been at my very first job for a year, I was still in the beginnings of my past relationship doing long distance. My life looked entirely different. The pictures and layout of the site reflected what I was doing then but it stopped feeling like me a while ago. I had all these categories that didn’t even have any content for because I didn’t actually like to write about them that much. Back then, I genuinely thought that this blog didn’t have a direction, but I was wrong.

So I’ve decided to switch things up. If you view the new site on a computer the header is video which I think is pretty damn snazzy. The aesthetic is a little darker, and a bit simpler because I’ve realized over the past few years that there are a few topics that I trend towards – travel, goals, relationships, and my own personal writings that I’ve begun to publish more of. Feel free to read through the categories, or you can click here for a complete archive of all my posts in the past few years.

I’d also like to say a quick thanks to the people that are regulars here. I don’t do this to make money or to promote myself, it’s just a creative outlet for me, but I appreciate all the feedback I get so much, so if you’ve ever liked a post, written a comment, or even just read one article, thank you.

PC: Kiki Moussetis

Summer Favorites 2019

This summer has been a weird one for me. I quit my prior job and moved out of Calgary in the spring, spent some time in Japan and then finally moved to Chicago and started a new job during the summer and it’s just been crazy getting used to everything since then. In any case, there are a few things that I have grown rather attached to throughout this new season of life, so if you’re looking for new recommendations on anything and everything – check out the below list!

Beauty/Skincare

Shiseido Sunscreen – started using this right before Japan since I spend way more time outdoors when I’m on vacation and I think I finally am able to stick to the whole sunscreen everyday thing. This goes on super thin and smooth and it has SPF 50 as well as being sweat and water-resistant. Perfect for summer, and perfect for me all year round. 

Son & Park Beauty Water – a recommendation from my lovely friend Clara. She let me use this along with my next favorite when I was visiting her back in May and I woke up with my skin glowing. It’s a toner/essence that’s super light, but whisks away impurities without stripping my skin at all like toners usually do for me. 

CosRx Snail Mucin Essence – paired with above, my skin looks amazing. This stuff does feel slimy at first, but a little goes a long way, it goes on thin, and locks in moisture like none other. 

Atelier California Clementine – my favorite perfume at the moment. Smells like someone bottled summer oranges and I can’t get enough. 

Sweat Block – these little wipes do the impossible. You apply them before bed one night a week and they severely reduce sweating. I am a person that sweats, and using them on my armpits has been amazing for summer
Food/Snacks

Peet’s Coffee French Roast – Those of you close to me know that I worked as a consultant for Peet’s coffee for over a year and turns out I really miss it because I started buying their coffee in stores. Their Dark Roast French Roast is just amazing. One of the few coffees I’ve ever made at home that leaves no bitter taste on the finish at all.

Goat Cheese on everything – Creamy goat cheese of any type has been amazing to use in my summer cooking. Goes well with summer fruit, baked onto stuffed peppers, on my avocado toast, everywhere.

Shows

It’s been hard for me to focus on books for the last few months, but I have still been consuming shows at the same rate. Below are some of my recent favorites. 

Fleabag (Amazon Prime) – only 12 episodes total, this is maybe the sharpest, wittiest show I’ve ever watched.

Good Omens (Amazon Prime) – A six episode mini series based on the book of the same name – this show is just well executed fun.

Patriot Act (Netflix) – political comedy shows never get old, and Hasan Minaj is my new favorite commentator on our current plights. 

The Chef Show (Netflix) – a sort of behind the scenes look at the recipes in the movie Chef. Very lowkey, but fun to watch and introduced me to my new favorite pasta recipe. Pasta aglio e olio. 

Miscellaneous

Tim Ferriss Podcast – This podcast has been around for a while but I am just now getting into it. The thing that separates Tim’s podcast from other interview podcasts I’ve listened to is how specific it gets. If someone says they eat a protein bar each day, he asks them which exact one they eat. He interviews a huge variety of insanely successful people and really gets to the nitty-gritty of how their journey progressed and how they live their lives today. The episodes are long, often more than two hours, but I listen to them while I run and just pick up where I left off each time. 

Candles – I found this article earlier in the summer, and have been slowly working my way through some of the scents it recommends. So far I’ve tried the Brooklyn Santorini Candle, and the Jenni Kayne Basil Candle. The Jenni Kayne one might be my favorite candle I’ve ever owned, it smells incredible. 

Google Drive – Not a new invention but now that I have two laptops instead of one, google drive has become invaluable to me to work on my personal writing and projects when I don’t want to carry both devices with me. 

Yoga w/Adrienne – Working on my flexibility has been an irregular part of my fitness routine but I’ve been trying to amp it up. This YouTube channel has a huge range of videos for all abilities and activity types and Adrienne has a self-effacing style that doesn’t feel too hippy-dippy for someone as cynical as me. 

I literally cannot believe summer is pretty much over. I don’t know about you guys but it FLEW by for me. Fall is my second favorite season though so I’m not too sad about it. If any of you have any products, books, movies, anything that you’ve been loving lately, I’d love to hear about them, I’m always looking for recommendations.

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At the Chicago Art Institute Garden Party PC: Kirin Upadhyay

 

My Perfect Morning

The alarm only gets to blare for a second before my hand reflexively reaches out to shut it off. Even in my half-asleep state I know I only have a minute to decide if I’m going to set the snooze or blink the sleep out of my eyes before slipping back into sweet sleep.

I decide on the blinking. It’s Monday and I’m refreshed from the weekend. The world is still dark, but my eyes adjust quickly and I work up the gumption to pull back the covers so I can change. My limbs have that jelly feeling from not having moved in a full eight hours so it’s time to get the blood flowing through them again.

I pull on my gym gear with sleepy fingers, grab my headphones and head out. It’s a full body circuit today. Sprints, weights, jumps, repeat. Before I know it, I’m flushed, sweaty, fully awake, and in the shower. A cold shower. My body hasn’t had the time to cool off from it’s early activity so I force the issue. 

Upon exiting, it’s all creams, lotions, sunscreen, and makeup until I feel silky and glamorous enough to take on another day. My body has moved, now time to make my mind move for a few minutes. I open my notebook to practice a few minutes of Greek and a few of Mandarin. If I don’t practice my languages I’ll lose them. But now I’ve worked up an appetite. 

I set the kettle on for french press coffee, and prep the rest of my meal. Avocado, egg, and goat cheese on sourdough toast with some salt, pepper, and spice to taste. My coffee is cool enough to drink now so I pick up the book I’m in the middle of at the moment and read for a little while. If an idea strikes me, I may do some writing as well. 

I set everything down and give myself a few moments of complete peace while I only focus on finishing my coffee. I watch other people get their commute started outside my window. Breathe in the smell of dark roast a few more times, and steel myself to face the world. 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This is what an ideal weekday morning looks like for me right now. I keep a pretty strict routine, usually waking up around 5 and heading straight to the gym to get started and then finding time to get in a few self-improvement hobbies (reading, language) while I’m preparing and eating my breakfast. I hit this routine usually four out of five weekday mornings, so I’ve been pretty consistent. Sometimes I adjust to do an early call or to do a workout later in the day, but for the most part, this is my morning routine.

It may seem strict, but that’s only because I’m prioritizing the activities that are important for me. I know I need to workout, practice language, read, and write to get to who I want to be so I make sure I have time to do those things, and the only uninterrupted time I can guarantee in a day is the time before anyone else is awake. So if I get all this done in the morning, I can go to work with a clear head, and I can leave my evenings free for things that come up throughout the day or for social plans. This arrangement means I rarely have days where I don’t get to check everything off my to-do list and that feeling is worth the early wake-up calls. 

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Lake Michigan at 5:30am – courtesy of one of my early morning runs

Define Your Own Experiences

I’m a huge food person and one of my favorite things to do is try new restaurants and new types of food. I’m up for anything, and I mean ANYTHING. Strange animal parts, flavor combinations, texture foods, you name it, and I’ll try it at least once.

Every so often, a friend will take me to a place I haven’t been to but they have. I’ll find something that sounds interesting on the menu and they might say something like “Oh that’s not very good, it’s overhyped.”

A simple response might be to just change what I was going to order or ask what they recommend, but whenever I find myself in a situation like this I treat it like a crucial juncture – am I going to let this person define my experience for me?

 

I haven’t tried this dish, maybe I read online that it is really good and I’m super interested. Should I just defer to my friend because they offered their opinion?

My answer? No, I shouldn’t. It was something I’ve been wanting to try and I don’t care if they didn’t like it, I still want to try it so I can form my OWN opinions.

This is a simple restaurant example, but the idea can be extrapolated to much larger and more formative experiences. If you travel to another country with someone and you’re excited to visit museums and cultural sites but all they want to do is go out all night and sleep away the day, one of you is going to end up defining the experience in a negative way for the other and that’s not fair to either of you.

An even bigger example from my own life was when I moved to Calgary. Because I immediately moved in with a boyfriend who was actually from that city, nearly all of my experiences were defined by him. He showed me how to navigate the city. He drove us to the mountains. He taught me how to ski and how to mountain bike. He showed me his favorite restaurants and bars and his friend’s favorite spots.

At first, this was great! A built-in tour guide. A person I can ask questions to and who will gladly take me to spots they already know are good.

Unfortunately, I realized too late that this is not a sustainable way of moving to a new place. I had failed to define my own experience of Calgary. I spent almost a year there before I really started pushing for trying things that were new to the both of us and by then it was too late. I felt that I had no agency over the city. I didn’t have anything that I had discovered and defined for myself and it really messed with my perception of that city and how successful I could be there.

Maybe some of you already know this, but for me, it was a huge lesson in self-ownership. Partners, friends, family, co-workers will hand you their unsolicited opinions and advice all the time, sometimes to your benefit. But I’ve discovered it’s important to realize when your entire experience is being defined by thoughts from another rather than your own exploration and decision.

Own yourself, and own your experiences, because if you don’t, other people will do it for you.

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Miyajima Island, Japan. A trip I took alone and although I met people along the way, was defined by my own experience.

Invisible Success

We’ve all seen the rise of the presence of ‘success’ social media accounts posting pictures with quotes like “I woke up in beast mode” or “Want it? Work harder”. They go on and on about how they’re grinding all day and living this super successful life. They post pictures of flashy cars and clothes and many times, they’re also selling a guide for how to achieve an amazing (read: wealthy) lifestyle.

I think these accounts are complete bullshit. I believe the vast majority of people behind those accounts aren’t doing half the things they’re preaching, and their business model is to sell ‘success guides’ when they really have never built anything. They are literally trying to make it selling a mere idea, not actual success.

Because unfortunately, the idea of success isn’t enough. Maybe its enough to get you started, maybe even keep you motivated as I’m sure those accounts will claim is their purpose, but it’s not enough to truly achieve anything. Because building something successful takes work. And what these accounts are trying to do is glamorize the ease of that work. They’re trying to make you believe that by buying a guide and selling a couple things, you’ll be on your way to seven figures a month in no time. They’re selling ‘fast success’ like supplements companies sell ‘fast weight loss’. It’s not real.

Real success, in any arena, is slow, unglamorous, and does not follow a straight line. Sure it’s cool to say you started a company, but it’s not really cool to say that you had to spend last Friday night working late on itemizing expense reports since you’re the only employee at your new venture.

It’s frustrating.

It’s cool to say you qualified for the Olympics, but it’s not cool to give up every single weekend to training and competitions.

It’s tiring.

It’s cool to say that you’re a venture capital backed start-up, but it’s not cool to spend weeks agonizing about whether you’re going to get your next round of funding or not.

It’s stressful.

These are the parts of the journey that are way more prevalent than fancy cars. And this journey just isn’t appealing on social media.

Do me (and yourself) a favor. Look up actual successful people. Look up Bill Gates. Oprah. Richard Branson. Sarah Blakely. The Rock. Serena Williams.

These people have active social media, but they’re not posting ‘motivational quotes’ every day. They’re not posting e-guides to their success. They’re posting things that social media was intended for – snippets from their lives, thanking their fans, promoting new initiatives they’ve spearheaded, shining the spotlight on things they enjoyed, etc.

They’re not shoving how much money they make, how fancy their car is, or their expensive vacation down your throat. They worked hard to get where they are there’s no doubt about that, and from time to time they may promote a book they wrote or offer a piece of contextual advice, but their whole presence to the world isn’t defined by pushing ‘the grind’ at people. These people each have their own empires that are based in real concrete accomplishments – entertainment, software, air travel, athletics, philanthropy. They’ve become super successful by actually producing something tangible, not just by trying to sell the idea of creating something.

So the next time you’re scrolling through your feed and you come across one of those accounts, just remind yourself what the presence of an actual successful person looks like. Remember that those ‘motivational’ accounts are trying to prey on those who crave the idea of success. Remember that success does come from hard work, but it’s ok if it’s not glamorous, and remember that as long as you focus on yourself and bettering your ideas, you really can’t be doing it wrong.

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A dreamy night in Crete, Greece. Greece always makes me remember to not get caught up in my own ambition – there are more important things in life than being rich.

 

How to Get a Promotion

When I first started out in my career, I came across a ton of articles about how women were consistently passed over for promotions for a startlingly simple reason – they didn’t ask for them. Whether these articles held much truth or not is another matter, but they affected me in the fact that I became hyper-aware of the promotion structure and my own abilities related to it. I wanted to make sure I was taking my career into my own hands and that I was being proactive instead of simply waiting for people to notice all my hard work. I’ve since asked for and received a promotion and I know this first step when you’re starting out can be hard so I wanted to share how I did it.

The first thing you should do is examine your work ethic. Inventory your recent endeavors and be critically honest with yourself. Have you been putting in the work? Have you been meeting your deadlines and quotas? Do customers and clients like working with you? Are you making the company money? Are you truly adding value? Ask yourself all these questions and examine your answers. You may find that you’ve just been skating by and that means you’re not ready. If not, you should still dig deeper and figure out why. Maybe you hate this job or the company or maybe you’re simply bored, but either way, your work isn’t reflecting what you’re capable of and it’s not deserving of moving up.

Next, try to get feedback from others. Performance reviews can be ideal for this but oftentimes they don’t occur frequently enough to be valuable. Ask people you work with frequently, ask your boss, ask the people you manage. Ask your clients. Whoever you feel comfortable asking – ask them! Tell them you’re always looking to improve and ask what you could be doing better. This will help add color to your self-assessment and help you see if you are giving yourself the same amount of credit others are.

Alright, so let’s say you have been working your butt off, adding value like crazy, clients and colleagues love you and you’re itching to take on more – now you’ve got to pitch yourself. You know you’ve been working hard, other people know you’re good at your job, so you’ve got a solid foundation to pitch. First thing I did once I got to this point was write down all the things I’ve been doing right lately, and I also wrote how they compared to how good I was at them when I started. Showing growth and improvement is a huge plus because it demonstrates that you are coachable and will most likely continue to improve. Have a good handle on all your positives, but also write down the things you can improve on and create high-level plans for getting better at those things. You want to focus on your positives, but you also don’t want to be taken by surprise if someone throws one of your lacking points back at you. You should be self-aware on all fronts before moving to the next step…

…which is is to schedule time with whoever the relevant party for a promotion is. Mine was my direct manager. Promotions and personnel changes ultimately go through C-suite management at my company, but my boss was the one I had to convince to fight for me at that level. I scheduled a specific time with him to talk about my progress thus far. My strategy was to approach this from a learning perspective. I knew I had been putting in good work, but I had to ask how he thought I had been doing, and what he thought was necessary for me to do to progress to the next level.

The thing is, I wasn’t comfortable yet just marching in and saying I deserve a raise and here’s why. Maybe someday I will be, but being so young in my career, I felt it was more advantageous for me to come from the perspective of wanting to improve and learn, rather than seeming entitled, no matter how much I really believed I deserved it. This approach took a little bit longer than maybe it would have otherwise, but it ultimately worked. I got proper feedback on my progress, my improvement points, and was able to prove that I deserved to move up.

Lastly, no matter how great you are or how deserving you may be of a promotion, it’s also important to realize that there might be external factors that could influence your progress. Your company may not have the budget to increase headcount or offer raises at the moment, there may be some management turmoil going on that you’re not privy to, they might be trying to restructure company hierarchy so promoting people doesn’t make sense at the moment. There are tons of things that could be happening so it’s important to be able to have those conversations as well.

If your manager declines your pitch, then you should ask why not. The answer to this question is important, because if it’s something as simple as title rearranging, then maybe you are ok to wait, but if they don’t give you a clear answer or vague feedback, then that could also be a sign that you’re in the wrong environment for your progress. Don’t be afraid to judge your managers and superiors just as critically as they may be judging you. You don’t ever have to offer that feedback, but it’s important to recognize it so you can change your situation if necessary.

Ultimately, if you’re only after a promotion for a title change or more money, then you probably shouldn’t be pursuing it. A promotion usually means those things, but it also usually means more responsibility and you should be ready to grow and change accordingly. This is why I felt it so important to learn about myself from this process so that I could truly be ready for that extra accountability when the time came. If they had given it to me when I hadn’t been ready, then I probably would have floundered under the pressure and that’s ultimately a loss for me and a loss for the company, and nobody wants that.

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The beautiful Calgary Library. I don’t live here anymore, but the library is still kickass

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 🙂 

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.

 

 

 

What to Sacrifice for Love?

Love is a funny thing. That’s probably my favorite adjective to describe love because even though it is so much more than that, the way that it affects us is truly funny. Falling in love is like going on the best vacation ever. The falling part is amazing, blissful, and extremely exciting. But if you decide to pursue a real relationship, it’s like going back to work afterward. Not that in the sense that it’s a letdown, but you realize that you both are separate people with separate personalities and desires and you have to work to reconcile those if you want to be happy together.

When I was younger, and romantic movies and books were my sole source of experience, I always thought people only broke up for dramatic reasons like cheating, or realizing their family hates you, but there are far more heartbreaking issues that can try and tear you apart.

There are big questions that inevitably have to be discussed in any long term relationship. Do we both want kids? Do we both know where we want to live? Is that the same place? How do our careers interact, does one of us have a lot of travel? Whose family do we live closer to? How do you treat money and deal with financial issues?

These are the heartbreaking issues because by the time you discuss them, you’re already attached and if you disagree it can be difficult to reconcile because these are topics of strong conviction. For example, if I was completely in love with my boyfriend but I find out three years in that he doesn’t want kids one day, we have a big problem. I know that I want them someday, so even though everything else in our relationship is going really smoothly, we would have to end it unless somebody changed their mind.

On the other hand though, I could think about it and say, you know, it’s fine if I don’t have kids. The caveat with these kinds of compromises is that you must be sure. Giving up your point of view on these issues is not to be done lightly. You may be able to fool yourself into thinking you don’t want certain things to agree with your partner so that you can be together, and this is a dangerous path. It may work for a while, your partner will surely be happy that you’ve changed your mind, but you may end up seriously unhappy and resentful that you had to give up something so completely important to you.

Why am I talking about such a heart-wrenching issue? Well, with respect to my own relationship’s privacy, our issue is the geography one. Where do we want to live in the end?

But wait Melina, I thought you already lived together, you made a whole series about moving to Canada!

Yes, you’re correct. Our current arrangement is that we live together in an apartment in Calgary, but it’s not the most ideal right now. I spend 3 out of every four weeks traveling for work and my boyfriend travels in spurts for work as well, sometimes for up to four weeks at a time. Furthermore, Calgary may not be sustainable for me at the moment since it lacks the number of career opportunities I’m currently interested in, and as an American, it’s extremely difficult to get hired anyway without already having residency status to work.

With my current job, we are just barely seeing the value of this arrangement. However, if I wanted to change jobs to something with far less travel, I’d have to move back to the U.S.. For the short term, this is fine. We have done long distance before and we’re confident we could do it again. The issue is the long term thinking. Where are we going to live? Where will we settle down and start a family? This is a question with no answer yet, in my mind because we are both so young and we can’t know what the next few years will bring, so I can’t commit to any place because I don’t want to close any doors as to where life could take me. On the other hand, my boyfriend really doesn’t have a huge reason to ever leave Calgary. His family and friends are all there, and his career trajectory fits perfectly with that city.

Part of me is desperately afraid that if I leave now, we won’t make it. He’ll realize how great his life is staying there and he’ll wish he had found someone else who didn’t present this problem. On the other hand, I also know I can’t stay. At least for now, I still feel the need to grow my career and my experience in other places. Part of me thinks that one day, Calgary could be my home, but I don’t want to make all my decisions with that end goal in mind since I want to be open to where my opportunities take me.

The only solution to this dilemma is time. We can’t know where we will be in five or ten years, and yet we’re still trying to plan for it, and we’re driving ourselves crazy with the possibilities.

Hence, my question of sacrifice. I love my boyfriend so completely, but would I be able to sacrifice everything else for Calgary? If I’m being honest with myself, right now it’s impossible, and later on, I just can’t know.  So how much is too much to sacrifice for love? I know the ‘right’ answer to my dilemma: I should go where it’s best for me. At least for now, I’ll be happier in almost every other area of my life and as for my relationship, if we both really want it to work, we’ll make it work. But knowing the ‘right’ answer doesn’t make this any easier. I don’t want to stop living close to him almost more than I want anything else, even if it’s not the best choice for me in the long run. And that’s the funny part of it all. The irrational part. The part that makes love so infuriating.

skiing (2)
I do like the skiing in Calgary…