Every week I listen to lovely and clever people who tell me how disappointed they are because they have not lived up to their own expectations. They have not worked out as often as they planned to, they have not eaten what they should have eaten, they have not done well enough at work, they have not been the girlfriend/boyfriend, friend, parent, son/daughter they ought to be.
They expect me to be angry at them and tell them to improve. The expectation arises from the assumption that others condemn them as hard as they condemn themselves.
My job is to help people to reach their goals in life in a manageable way. And I know that the greatest threat and obstacle preventing us from reaching our goals are not the ”mistakes” we make, but the way we deal with our mistakes. Of course it is important to have an inner compass that tells us when we are off course with regard to the goals we set for ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to adjust and to find a more suitable passage on our way towards our goals.
To give oneself a ruthless and condemning scolding for highly humane ”mistakes” is however unnecessary and an exaggerated reaction. If we believed this to be a motivating and good strategy, it would have been present on any pedagogical curriculum and a recognised way to treat ones children and friends. But it is not. On the contrary.
I maintain that the greatest threat to the goals we set for ourselves are disappointments, and:
Disappointments caused by to great expectations!
Patience as strategy
I have myself reached some of my small and great goals in life. In retrospect, when I consider which strategies have worked best, it is obvious that I have always been successful when I have been patient with myself.
As a young grown up I drank 1.5 litres of Coca Cola every day and ate chocolate and other sweets most days of the week. When I decided to change this habit, it was not sufficient just to reduce the intake of soft drinks and chocolate. I also needed to learn to want to live with my new habits. This meant that I needed to find other ways to handle unrest and stress, and actually diminish such emotions. I also needed something else that could cover the tasty joys soft drinks and chocolate represented. We also needed as a family to make a turnaround with regard to our habits, not just regarding sweets, but towards nutrition in general and to how we as a family would relate to family joy, coping with stress, health and a lot of other issues.
Today, 20 years later, I may drink 3 litres of soft drinks a year and eat a few bits of sweets 1 – 2 times a month. I like sweets just as much as I did before, and eat it happily when I am offered. The reason that I now almost do not eat sweets is not because I regularly think that I have to avoid it, or put myself together and not be tempted. I just do not think about sweets any more, I think of other things. My new habit has gradually occupied its place in my mind.
There is a great distance between the habit I used to have and the habit I have now. Therefore it is as expected when it has taken time to get there. On my way I have had tremendous many setbacks, or experiences as I prefer to call them. I have accepted, learnt and moved on towards my goal.
I had some strategies in my mind that I was conscious about, while other strategies were not quite as conscious. I was very aware that bad conscience would be destructive for my motivation. I knew that bad conscience was just like a virus in my computer´s software. It would destroy and distort reality and put my operating programs out of work. In order to delete any kind of bad conscience, I focused on my calmness, trust and acceptance. These became my protection against virus and showed me my way around the obstacles I encountered on my way.
To change this habit of nutrition, and later on many others, has not been the hardest part for me. My greatest victory has been to be fond of my own body, and that it has become healthy, strong and free.
As a young girl I looked upon myself as a loser in gym lessons at school, and I desperately looked forward to finish upper secondary school so I would never again experience the humiliation of gym lessons. When Kjell Petter and I a few years later got our two little girls, my physical health severly deteriorated from SPD (symphysis pubis disfunction) Or to put it simply: Pelvic pain caused by pregnancy. Years with little physical activity combined with my skewness of my skeleton from birth resulted in a growing pain in my muscles. I could barely walk for more than 10 minutes before I had to have a break. To wait in a line, carry a sack, suitcase or shopping bags were very difficult tasks to perform and consequently I avoided them. To be able to walk to the store and back, a 20 minutes walk, was something I would like to manage. Therefore, this became my first goal.
I started to walk. First 10 minutes in the neighbourhood, then to the store, one way. Later both ways, to and from. After a couple of months I also managed to carry a few groceries in a back sack. Slowly but surely I progressed, step by step, year by year.
Today, more than 20 years later, I can easily run for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, walk in the mountains for many hours carrying a heavy backsack, move and carry heavy objects and stand in line a long time. I have not only become healthy, my body has become so strong and free as it has never been before in my grown up life. As an unexpected bonus I have got an overwhelmingly great joy from the awareness of all the things my body can do, and an infinite trust to what more it can achieve… if I only am patient with myself.
The picture above is a good illustration of the road I have travelled. On the left you can see me as a 24 year old in a well known position lying on the sofa together with my oldest girl Stine. On the picture to the right I am 44 years old, preparing to go for a run.
Good health and well being are great gifts in life. Such great gifts do not come without patience when we strive for them. And I believe that patience is an acceptable price to pay.
To achieve something which is easy, is easy. To achieve something which is difficult, is obviously more demanding and challenging. What is easily gained, or what represents more of a challenge, depends on each individual.
If we are to reach our individual goals, small or big, we need first of all to accept that we are where we are. It is impossible to be somewhere else. If we spend time on thoughts like yes, but. I should rather… we are wasting our time and energy on phantasies and dreaming that has nothing to do with reality. We cannot start our lifestyle journey from a place we ”should” be. We have to start from where we actually are.
Where others are on their lifestyle journeys is insignificant. We have all our own way to take. Just think that if I had as a young adult compared my physical achievements with others, the comparison would have been devestating. It would have deprived me of my motivation, my ability to act and my dreams.
Follow your own way!
The next step is to focus on your goal, and then patiently make one step forward at a time.
My experience from my own and from my beautiful clients´ lives is that when we are most busy, we do not come very far. Patience paired with focus on the goal is what brings us fastest towards the goals we set for ourselves.
I wish you good luck on your way.
Enjoy the journey!
Big hug from
Trine Dahlmo – Healthinspirer– NLP Coach Team AS