August 02, 2013

Train Your Brain, Cranky Style: Monthly Goal Support Post

Yep it's time to check in and see what everyone's been up to, as well as to find out who won the Airbac Backpack and the Extreme Makeover DVD's.

I also have a few thoughts on strengthening the most important body part you own to ensure maximum healthiness and happiness: your brain.

But this being Cranky Fitness, you can be sure my training suggestions are not going to include the typical crossword puzzles,  foreign language lessons, socializing when you'd rather stay home and sulk, or focusing on your freakin' breath for endless, endless, endless, endless, endless, endless minutes until your ass goes numb and you want to shoot yourself. (Um... speaking of which, anyone wanna know how that whole mediation thing is going? Drop down in the comments).

There are tons of ordinary practical lists on brain strengthening out there already.  This is more a Cranky Fitness style list that is so "meta" as to be virtually useless.

Sound like fun?

Oh and hey, did I mention there's no giveaway this month?  Nothing all that appealing offered itself up, unless something did and I forgot; always a possibility.  My brain training regimen is not, apparently, all that effective on the memory front.

This means we will have a nice refreshing break from sponsored product pimping! At least until the next new fun gadget or apparel item or tasty-sounding comestible comes down the pike that Crabby is too greedy to say no to.

First Up, Who Won the Backpack and the DVD's? 

Kick-Ass Extreme MakeOver DVD's:

Bdaiss and Jody!

The Awesome Airbac Backpack:

Tree Peters!

Congrats you guys, and please email me your mailing addresses so we can get the stuff to you.

Now Back to Your Brains...

So, what is the most important thing you can do to build an awesome brain, according to Crabby McSlacker, who does not quite have one yet but is working on it?

Screw Objective Reality and Create Your Own Happy Universe!

This is a tough one for us over-thinker analytic types.  We like data and logic and strategizing and plotting and scheming.

But you can still do all that!  You just have to switch from an external to an internal focus.

One of the most powerful brain enhancement tools I've discovered is to consistently work on improving my subjective reality rather than worrying so much about what is going on in the actual real world.

Sound nutty? Is it just a road to hell paved with clueless mistakes, selfishness, sloth, and regrets? Maybe, but so far it's just made me twice as happy and half as neurotic. If I end up on a street corner high on something happily babbling away convinced I'm the queen of the universe and the cockroaches are my loyal subjects and the moldy piece of bread I'm eating is the most delicious cupcake ever, is that a bad thing if I'm deliriously happy?  If you asked me that two years ago, I'd have said, of course that's a bad thing, what a dumb-ass question! Now... I'm not so sure at all.

My ultimate goals? They are not really about Things I think I want to have or the Accomplishments I want credit for. I'm actually aiming for the feelings that these Things and Accomplishments would bring: happiness, comfort, satisfaction, love, peace, fulfillment, excitement. Yeah, you've heard all that before, but do you actually believe it? And if so, do you do anything about it?

I finally getting it that I can have all the happiness I want if I create my own reality. Not that I'm always capable of doing that, but I'm getting a lot better.

And whether my subjective reality  is "right" or "wrong" in some larger sense is (a) hard to figure out, and (b) not all that important.

(Plus, the more you read about quantum physics and philosophy, the less convinced you'll become that "objective" reality is anything we have any freakin clue about).

This is not exactly a novel observation. But if you take it to heart, the implications are huge. If we can just control our thoughts and feelings and beliefs, we do not have to look so hard to the outside world to get our needs met. Because we can control what happens inside our heads much more easily than what happens outside of them. (Unless you actually are Queen or President of something and can command the outside world to do your bidding. In that case, whoopeee! Order up a gourmet feast and a personal concert performed by the London Philharmonic and your favorite popstar and have George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, and/or Rachel Maddow fix you a cocktail and give you a backrub. The hell with all this tedious personal growth stuff).

But, as an ordinary person without millions or minions or any influence whatsoever, I try to keep a few things in mind:

It doesn't matter what I actually get done in a day as long as if I feel like I've made a contribution.

It doesn't matter how much of an ass I make of myself if I don't think I've done anything all that dumb.

It doesn't matter if the task I'm working on gets interrupted with an unexpected obstacle because the particular task doesn't matter as long as I feel happy and useful doing it.

It doesn't matter how many people like, love, or admire me if I believe I am cared for.

It doesn't matter if I spill a cup of coffee all over myself just as I am heading out to meet people and have to change to an uglier outfit and apologize for being late if I think it's no big deal and don't feel frustrated or stressed.

It doesn't matter how I choose to be kind and generous if I feel inspired and motivated by my choices and actually do something rather than feel too overwhelmed by all the options.

It doesn't matter how unfairly I am treated in a particular situation if I don't think that unfairness should never happen to me and I still believe I am an incredibly fortunate person.

There are a whole bunch more implications and a lot of practical barriers; I really do intend to write a book on this sometime. Because, seriously, there really aren't enough self-improvement books with foul language and pointless digressions and silly pictures available.

But here are a few things I've learned about how to do this:

1. I take every opportunity to consciously choose how I'd like to feel about whatever situation is at hand. And then I work on changing my thoughts and beliefs to make those emotions more likely. It's kind of amazing how effective this can be if you practice it a lot.

2. I treat my mind like any other body part that needs constant training in order to perform the way I'd like it to.  Reading more about neuroplasticity, and the ways we can actually change the structure of our brains so that they behave more optimally, is a huge motivator in this. (And my BFF Rick Hanson was hugely helpful here).

3. I choose not to worry about things I can't control anymore. I though it was impossible NOT to worry about things, but again, it is something that practice can accomplish. There are many tricks to this. More later, perhaps.

4. I try to practice mindfulness in ways that do not make me want to saw my head off. One of the ways to build up the ability to direct our attention and focus is to... practice it!

While my official meditation experiment is new, it follows a whole bunch of other mini-practices that have been very helpful.  The whole "sit down for an extended period of time and focus on something boring" style of mindfulness is just one of many varieties.

There are other methods that are much more fun and easy. Again, another long-ass post some day.

I have a monkey-mind and a lot more to learn. But my growing ability to know when my thoughts are going in stupid directions and redirect my awareness to more positive places has been hugely helpful.

5. I visualize positive outcomes.  As I lifelong cranky-pants skeptic, this sounded silly. But it's amazingly powerful.  I don't believe in "the Secret" sort of hocus pocus, but there is much to be said for the power of imagination in influencing how we think and feel and behave.

6. I manipulate my brain's "happy" chemicals.  I have found certain practices that make me blissful and I've actually learned to "anchor" them (a weird-ass NLP technique).  If I pump my right arm 3 times, I get a little rush.  Not enough to experience nirvana, but enough to assist when I'm trying to manipulate my mood to a more positive, joyful one.  And yes, it does probably make me look like an ass in some objective reality... but remember, I'm learning to be happily oblivious to that in my own weird little world.

7.  I allow myself hope for the future.  Again, I'm a lifelong pessimist, but I finally figured out that I can still be prepared for disastrous outcomes without constantly expecting them.  I can hope for the best, and not be any more upset if something crappy happens than if I were totally expecting it would. My whole cautious "better set expectations low" approach to the future turned out not to be protecting me from anything at all. Most things DO turn out fine, and even when they don't, I don't sulk about it, I just rally and do what I can to return to a state of happiness.

I have always been incredibly, existentially, fearful of death. So now I even allow myself to be more open to the possibility of a conscious universe, mysterious forms of interconnectedness beyond current understanding, and even the chance that my own puny consciousness may not cease to exist when my body does but might somehow be preserved to become melded with a bigger whole.  Who knows? As it turns out, consciousness has a weird place in the universe, even the smarty pants scientists and philosphers aren't exactly sure what it means and how it all fits in.  I decided that a meaningless random universe is no more a certainty than a meaningful one. And again, why not choose the belief that leads to peace and happiness? There's no downside I can see.  (It also makes it way easier to be on an airplane when turbulence hits).

8. I attend to the outside world in ways that are more consistent with my true goals, not the illusory ones.  Again, this means taking actions that make me subjectively comfortable and happy, not necessarily admirable in the eyes of others.  And I'm discovering my true goals are less and less about ego boosting or shame-avoidance and more about appreciation, nourishment, satisfaction, contribution, and connection.  (And hedonism, there's that!).

What about you guys, do you incorporate an internal focus as well as an external one in setting your sights on the future? And how the heck are things going with your goals and/or lives?

[And, note for any newbies who may have wandered in: the monthly "goal post" encourages Cranketeers to share their quests and accomplishments, and also to reply to other people's comments in a supportive fashion. This sometimes results in prizes but more importantly makes other people feel really good.  Try it!]


  1. So, my meditation experiment... went pretty well! I was not 100% every day; I missed 4 or 5 days. But when that happened I made myself do 2 sessions the next day.

    I'm mainly doing body awareness while listening to trippy brainwave music--it's not guided with a voice, so I'm exercising my own self-directed focus.

    It's sort of like progressive relaxation, but I sort of "light up" various body parts with energy and enjoy the sort of tingly feeling. My mind still narrates as I go along, but at least for milliseconds at a time I THINK my focus is on the progressively lit up body parts. The more I do it, the more I'm able to isolate particular muscles, even deeply internal things that I wouldn't be aware of otherwise.

    I'm hoping to keep going!

    Next month: we're heading to Toronto and I want to have time to explore, so will be cutting back even further on blogging. But I would really like increase my feelings of motivation and accomplishment around the Health Coach Certification training program, which I've been less than diligent about.

    Can't wait to hear what everyone is up to!

    1. i like the body awareness thing. That makes more sense to me. I can understand the true Zen thing, but have no real desire to try it. What you're doing though... that sounds very cool. I bet you'll start discovering more and more as you progress. I do believe it's like building an "awareness" muscle.
      Oh, while reading your paragraph about death and fear of, etc... I wondered if you've seen or have read a book called, "Dying to Be Me" by Anita Moorjani. I can't recommend it enough. She's a great writer and it's quite beautiful and inspiring. I think you'd like her a lot.
      Oh again, the health coach thing.... are you still training or are you training others? I love your coaching site by the way.

    2. Thanks for the book recommendation Tree!

      And while I'm pretty well trained for the Life Coaching (former psychotherapist plus life coaching training and certification) I don't have any specific fitness or nutritional training. Not that it doesn't make me opinionated on the blog!

      And I still believe that even with more "official" health and fitness credentials, the most important part of creating a healthy lifestyle program is the CLIENT'S agenda, preferences, comfort level, etc. So I ain't gonna be terribly bossy even with more official training. But it might add a bit more structure for those clients who have primarily a health coaching need and not just a health/fitness concern along with more general life coaching issues.

      Thanks for asking!!!

    3. Love that you doubled up on the days you missed!

  2. Yay, hedonism! Go straight for the fun stuff! Hee hee.

    This post resonated with me on several levels, especially the part about worrying over things you can't control. After fighting with that for most of my life, I've finally got a handle on it and can reroute the brain processes when I catch it happening. It took two years of solid effort, but in my experience a lot of what you said above is really, really useful for making that kind of change in your brain.

    You're right about happiness through creating our own reality, and I don't just say that because I'm a writer with a freaky imagination. How we perceive our own state is the key to happiness in the day-to-day shlep.

    I do miss my huge-ass soda, though.

    1. Funny about the two year thing Heather... I think that's when I started to see the most benefit too. Not that I hadn't been trying this stuff in a haphazard way all my life, but the more concentrated effort and enthusiasm has really paid off.

      And part of the reason I don't approach this from a Zen prospective is the whole hedonism thing. Not ready to get "detached" from my "cravings." I'd rather dive in and wallow!

    2. You're so funny. That soda cartoon cracked me up too. I think we might start an entire thread offshoot just for writers... creating realities is so easy in a way... it's implanting my actual self in them that can be difficult. Where *am* I anyway? Just in my head I think....
      I think you're brilliant for taking the time and being able to catch your brain process and re-route it. Quite a fancy talent!

    3. Really the most progress has been over the past year. I hit 40 and was like, "Okay, enough of this. You need to LIVE." And it worked! A little hedonism is a nice part of that, though. :-D

      Thank you, Tree! It's mostly pattern recognition for me. If I start getting fuzzed up about something, I try to verify its Poop Factor™ (scale of 1-5) before having a museum-quality meltdown. It doesn't always work, but I can usually stop myself before blowing a gasket these days. Usually. A good vacation in my brain (braincation?) helps maintain the peace.

    4. now you must enlighten me about the trademarked "poop factor". I googled it before asking to make sure it wasn't something I ought to know.... and it led me scary places. well, interesting too.
      Also, I had to reply again because I love a good new word and "Braincation" is a good one.
      It's fun talking to writers.

    5. Oops, sorry, I tend to use the trademark symbol sarcastically for crap I make up on the fly. I cannot even imagine where such a Google search would lead. :-D

      Making up new words is one of my favorite activities for sure. A good friend of mine who also used to work as a technical writer came up with the term "verbivore" for us, because she's the same way. We should start a club. With jackets! Join the Verbivores today! Hee hee.

    6. Totally joining the Verbivores! Adopting Braincation at once!

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

  3. Excellent list of "doesn't matter" stuff. Good feelings about a situation are key, I think. Keep lighting up those parts.

    1. Thanks Leah! Will keep the light on as often as I can remember to!

  4. I think the biggest turning point in my life/happiness was when I quit worrying so much about what others thought of me. I finally realized that they weren't spending as much time thinking about me as I was obsessing about it and now I'm to the point where I don't really care that much about what other people think of me! I'm OK with being a dork/nerd and looking like a total goof most of the time. Getting to that point has made me much happier overall!!! I still have some days where I worry about pointless crap that I can't do anything about but those days are much less often than they were about 10-15 years ago!!!
    Now, if I added in meditation, who knows? It is really hard for me to force myself to stop everything for long enough to really get serious about meditating - maybe one day?!

    I hope you are going to share plenty of pictures when you are in Toronto!!!

    1. Right on, Kim! That is a liberating moment.

      I've never tried meditation either (my brain never slows down long enough), but the benefits sound pretty compelling.

    2. Kim, I think embracing dorkitude is one of the most liberating things I've done as well.

      And the meditation thing... can be as simple as going for a walk and taking 3 minutes to absorb all the beauty you can. Or mindfully savoring a good meal. The challenging thing is letting go of judgment when you find your brain a million miles away... ever half second or so. Still workin' on that one...

      thanks kim and heather!

    3. you just made me realize something that I hope I can remember when a situation arises... that is that even if someone does think something about me... it's going to be fleeting for them. So why should I hold on to it for longer? I like that.
      And isn't it nice that being a nerd/dork is now not only cool but often profitable? I do believe the dorks are very near to ruling the world.

  5. Don't want to give the cliché comment here, but... what an awesome post! :-)

    Studying psychology has made me way too objective. I had to work hard to regain my naive innocence; being delusional sometimes is the best protection against depression! LOL

    Like you, I choose to be happy: with my thoughts and with my actions.

    I am a lifelong optimist who has had to deal with depression. Paradoxal for sure, but it's given me a very wide perspective.

    And you know what, I'm not even convinced this would make everyone happy:

    "(Unless you actually are Queen or President of something and can command the outside world to do your bidding. In that case, whoopeee! Order up a gourmet feast and a personal concert performed by the London Philharmonic and your favorite popstar and have George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, and/or Rachel Maddow fix you a cocktail and give you a backrub. The hell with all this tedious personal growth stuff)."

    1. If "what an awesome post" is a cliche on some blogs, no worries here! It sounds quite fresh and lovely to me HSH. :)

      Interesting, that we've ended up in such similar places sort of starting out as opposites: I'm a pessimist who nonetheless has never struggled with depression. Also, like, you, paradoxical. My gloomy outlook was more an intellectual paradigm than an emotional funk. But still, it was getting in the way of more excitement and joy, which as it turns out, is not as difficult to achieve as I once thought it was. And stress---WAY less now that I've changed my attitude.

      Oh, and if you can arrange to send Rachel over to my house with the cocktail shaker and some massage oil, I'll be happy to test out your theory!

    2. you had me at "lifelong optimist who has had to deal with depression" ... I think I can relate to that in many ways.
      I checked out your blog and the post you have up now is amazing. I have to go back and read it again.
      oh also, I love "being delusional sometimes best protection against depression"

  6. What was my goal for July again? Better look it up. EAT MY VEGETABLES? Aim high! That explains why I ate all that broccoli for a while.
    Actually I have been losing 2 lbs each week but I have not eaten as healthy as I want. Being prepared with snacks has been a problem. I am really good at letting my vegetables go bad 'cause I forgot them.

    This invent my own reality idea could really work for me. The nature of my work has me always needing to anticipate problems before they happen and plan alternatives. That talent causes me all sorts of problems with anxiety in the rest of my life as I take every situation and run it forward into every possible difficulty that could happen. If I could change my reality and say I've been in this situation before and I already have this solved and besides I'm so amazing the world revolves around me, well ... that could work.

    Anyway my August goal is basically the same as my July goal. Eat those vegetables, shut that brain up by doing my breathing exercises and now I will start imagining that I am Hot Stuff. I'm imagining John Travolta strutting down the street in Saturday Night Fever! That's Me!

    1. now I wish I knew what you looked like to better get that Saturday Night Fever visual going!
      I have vowed not to waste veggies in the fridge anymore. I really try not to overthink them. Just cook them and have 'em ready.
      I love taking whatever I have, putting it in a roasting pan, toss with a bit of olive oil and salt and then just put them in a 400 degree oven. Most things taste great that way. I used to spend so much at whole foods when I wanted already cooked, no hassle veggies and then I realized that's basically all they do.
      So good luck with veggies this month!!
      And losing 2 pounds a week is completely awesome. Congratulations!

    2. I second Tree's suggestion on the olive oil coated roast veggies, Cindy! Red Bell peppers, especially, can almost taste like candy. Well, not GOOD candy, but if they're sweet to start with they get all roasty-carmelized tasting. And brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and asparagus are all good roasted too. I have no idea if high heat cooks the hell out of the nutrients, but if it does, don't tell me, ok?

      And love the Saturday Night Fever imagery. Go you!

  7. Wow, well done!! Pretty deep for Crabby McSlacker, but very appropriate for Jan!

    When I was a kid, my dad told me a story about his pathologist friend who was stopped for speeding and during the stop, the officer looked into a cooler he had in the car which had a human head in it that he was taking home to study!!

    I'm sure that headed off his getting a ticket, lol!

    1. Thanks Dr. J, and you're always one a "head" of me on the puns!

  8. SO well put (ESPECIALLY The List) that I felt like jumping up, throwing a fist into the air and shouting "Yeah, baby!!!!!!!!!!!" It all made me feel even more hopeful and optimistic than my usually annoying glass 3/4 full proclivity :).

    Existential fear of death - ah, yes... I know it well and despite considering myself an atheist, I also now fundamentally believe that we don't know nuthin' including whether any/all of any of this is "reality". So, why worry about it? That's the oh-so-not-sophisticated conclusion I've come to that works for me and has the added bonus of allowing me to be very humanly inconsistent and perhaps even benignly hypocritical (without too much emphasis on the 'critical' part).
    Your post today is worthy of the "best hits" list, for sure!

    1. I just love a well turned phrase, and I think "benignly hypocritical" might just be one of my new favorites!

    2. Aw thanks anon, and I gotta agree (again!) with Tree: "benignly hypocritical" works both as a great phrase as well as a clever mindset. Logical consistency is way overrated!

  9. this is one of the greatest posts ever!! and I can't believe I won the backpack. thank you so much.
    You really do need to write another book. I nice 3-d one this time maybe. I actually started reading Cranky Fitness again a few weeks ago (when I ran out of my escapist reading on my kindle) and I laughed so hard, again. It's useful and great, but your way of writing and your use of the english language cracks me up. It's impossible to get bored.
    I agree with what you're saying here. I've found that much of this ability to create reality or to not let things bother me so much... has come with age. And my ability to be myself totally no matter how silly that self is was greatly facilitated by having a child. It's certainly a license to be silly at any time.
    I love the idea of manipulating the brain's happy chemicals. Very useful skill.
    I want to add though... that I used to think that we all got to choose how to feel in a situation or how we experienced it. That was always my way. Optimistic.... But then I had an experience of being on Lexapro for just a week and stopped it. And that's when I finally understood how it might feel not to be able to choose to be happy or to feel better. It gave me a much deeper understanding of people who suffer with brain chemistry issues like depression. (my husband being one of them). I really didn't have a choice and couldn't make myself feel better and it was terrifying.
    So.. just saying... that's a hard road.
    And now... my last month was a disaster in terms of my health goals. I'm half sick about it and yet... it's the beginning of August and I must begin again.
    I realized for about the thousandth time that I can not start by restricting my food. There is so much going on around this issue that it sinks me every time. I have to start by moving my body. and now I'm adding in actually acknowledging my body and maybe even trying to be nice to it. Even just lotion!
    and that's where I'm at. Trying to focus on the positive.

    1. Sorry Tree to hear it was a struggle last month, but don't despair! You'll get there. It sounds like you're on to something with the not restricting food as a first step. In fact, concentrating more on healthy foods you can ADD rather than subtract, and embracing more physical activity you enjoy and appreciating the body you have for all it does may feel more positive than starting with the "don'ts and shouldn'ts." And love the lotion and being nice to your body idea!

      There is a free web class coming up on eating psychology which has, from what I understand, a non-punitive stance. You might want to check out if you aren't already signed up:

      Thank you so much for the kind words about by rather quirky writing style!

      And also thank you for your excellent point about the difficulties of "thinking" your way through depression if something chemical is out of whack. While cognitive/behavioral interventions can be helpful, there are some levels of depression that may need medical/chemical intervention, and so people should not feel embarrassed or stigmatized if "brain training" can't get traction until brain chemistry is a bit more favorable. When I get a few minutes I may go back and edit the post.

    2. I'm definitely checking out that web class, thank you so much!!!

  10. Thank you for this inspiring post. I hope to be able to adopt these methods to feel happier and less stressed as well. :-)

  11. What's that quote? Things are not as they are, but as we are -- something like that. Anais Nin, i believe.

    And people who notice and are grateful for their luck seem to have more of it, so there's that.

    You have a lot of great points, thanks.

    1. Love that Anais Nin quote messymimi, very apt and gracefully put! Thank you!

  12. A really great post, Crabby. Lots of food for thought. I actually did the fist pump with you. I need to find a way to get more happiness in my life. I am quite CONTENT and not unhappy but not all smiley and really joyful. I could use more of that.

    Love all the great comments shared too!

    1. Thanks MK-- Content and not unhappy is a great place to start! But I'm with you, it's become a priority in my life to sneak in more joy as well. Laughter, great music, people I care about, dancing, running or walking or ellipticalling, beaches, woods, or other natural surroundings, a great meal, a glass of wine or two, and caffeine intoxication all turn out to be buzz-inducing for me. What was surprising though was that I could start "recording" and amplifying these feelings by paying attention to them when they occurred. I'm constantly trying to arrange situations that combine as many triggers as possible to create that "whee!" sensation and I get a little goofy sometimes in how I go about it. (i.e., cranking up my tunes and sneaking into playgrounds to use the swingset; singing out loud when running on trails; bursting into guffaws while down in my basement gym rockin' out to my favorite playlist, etc).

      Good luck on your joy quest! Will be curious to hear what gets you going.

  13. Death Ride GrandmaAugust 3, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    Yes, this is a great post! It brought back a memory of my entirely unintentional discovery of how much control I had over my feelings about day-to-day life. I was probably about 10, sitting in class doodling, writing, "I hate school," basically because that's what all the kids said, so it had to be true. Right? Then one day, for reasons I cannot remember, I wrote, "I like school," and from that day on, I realized I actually could like school. I totally changed my attitude by saying something to myself. A couple of years later, there was a teacher I rather liked who became, for no clear reason, very unpopular. It made me uneasy, so after a while, I began to say I liked her, and point out a couple of nice things about her. The tide turned, and the kids started to approve of her. In case you were wondering, I was decidedly not one of the popular kids. Not fashionable. Not on student council. Not asked to dance much. Painfully shy. It really struck me that even my little words could be so influential.

    We really can control a lot in our lives simply by making choices about how we deal with the stuff that happens around us. Over the years, I have (eventually) gotten past all sorts of things that bugged me or scared me when I managed to remember that.

    On the goals front, I am mostly enjoying having no major goals for a bit. We plan to do a 6-day organized ride later this month, which should be mostly just fun. Oh, and some day I would love to be able to do pull-ups/chin-ups. They seemed so easy when I was young! Maybe if I put that out here, I will remember to keep working on it!

    1. DRG, wow, I love this!!!! What a great story about the clever way you manipulated your own thoughts and feelings to create greater happiness for yourself and to help out a teacher, even as a young person!

      Wish I had figured out this stuff way sooner. Though I guess it would be old hat by now and wouldn't be so taken with the novelty of fashioning my own reality.

      But wouldn't it be great if kids were actually taught these sorts of strategies? Comes in WAY more handy than state capitols or long division.

      I think it's great that you're taking it easy for a bit. And pull-ups/chin ups is a tough one but very satisfying! (Took me several YEARS of working on it and I still can only do 1 pull up or 2 chin ups. 3 chinups on a really good day. But I suspect you would work at it harder than I did!)

    2. That is indeed a great story. (And I'm looking forward to having a time-out from goals myself.)

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    3. you were obviously already that awesome as a child! i always loove to read from you! :)

  14. I had to go look up what my goal for July was. To get an estimate from my chimney guy--done!--and figure out how much of my mortgage I could afford to pay off--done!--and talk to the bank about what the numbers would be for different amounts--done! Next week I go pay a rather large chunk of my mortgage off with the money from the sale of the old house, and find out exactly how much less my mortgage payment will be, since they're being kind enough to let me renegotiate it without actually refinancing and losing my low last-year's rate. Bonus: I can now afford health insurance! after being without for three years.

    After all that, I'm rather at a loss how to pick a goal for this month. There are so many things I need to get done, and so little spare time. So I think I'll make it a goal to start talking about cutting down to six days a week. The problem is, that as soon as I even think about this, someone else at Job Two quits. My two days a week don't make that big a difference, but asking to go to one day a week just as we're short-handed again is not good psychology.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. Great job on getting your July goals completed. Good luck with August and I hope you do get some more time to yourself!

    2. Wow, congrats on July!!!

      Sure sounds like cutting back hours would free up a lot more physical and mental energy for other things. Seven days a week does not seem sustainable! And ultimately, I'm thinking it would not be your responsibility to ensure staffing needs are met at Job 2 if you have no control over hiring or wages offered etc.

      But sounds like you are being careful of your relationship with the Job 2 folks in how you handle getting what you need, which sounds sensible. So wondering if it might be worth brainstorming ways that feel least uncomfortable to you in how to keep the good relationship while moving towards a schedule that allows you a few moments to attend to the rest of your life? I'm guessing it might call for diplomacy and problem-solving, but could yield great self-care benefits once you can cut back. Good luck!

    3. When I counted up all I got done in July I was pretty impressed with myself, Kimberly.
      Crabby, I do indeed want to remain friends with the people at Job 2, but also I didn't want to ask to cut back until I had all the finances lined up and knew whether I could afford to. So now I can start being diplomatic. (When I started this seven day a week stuff, I didn't believe I could keep it up for more than a year. I am amazed! Still healthy and not living in filth, although being unpacked would be really nice.)

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    4. And yay! My chimney guy is going to start work in two weeks! I will not be cold this winter. Now to find new sources of fire wood to supplement what I moved with me (about a cord) and didn't get to burn last winter.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

  15. Since it is rah rah time, I just wanted to pop by and say to all the Crabsters, you all GO fer it! I am lurking about and all is well. I am just a bit mentally challenged these a good way. :D

    1. Hey thanks Sherri, it's great to know you're lurking and wishing us well. We are rooting for you too in whatever you're wanting to have more of in your life. GO Sherri!

  16. Goal for July...meditate every day. Done and done! Wheeeee!

    This was a really great post Crabby...if you don't watch it, you will be turning into a Buddhist. ;)

    My August goal is to continue to meditate every day. So far, so good!

    Enjoy your vacation!

    1. I am in awe of your self-discipline Kimberley! I don't seem to have quite as much, but it really helps me keep from wandering too far off track to hear your check-ins. Some day I'd like to report back a 100% meditation month too!

      Thanks SO much for being so inspiring!

    2. wow, great job meditating every day. And also just following through on your goal. I wonder if you noticed anything in particular from the practice of daily mediation?

    3. Woohoo, Kimberly! Thanks for the inspiration.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    4. Thanks everyone!!!

      Crabby, I feel you will be reporting a 100% month before 2014. That is my prediction.

      Tree, I am definitely getting a feeling of satisfaction from sticking to something. No matter how the day is going, I am getting it done. Wheeeee!!!

      Mary Anne, I am happy to inspire!

  17. I knew I was officially "older" when this became far more a priority than buff biceps or firming the core :-)

    my parents ROCK at keeping their brains fit.
    I need to be my parents.

    1. Smart of you MIZ! Though I'd like the biceps AND the mindfulness.... greedy!

  18. I listen to positive self talk 4 times a day to retrain my brain. I choose to believe it works for me.

    1. Great idea to have a daily habit of positive self-talk Janine! I find brainwashing to be a hugely helpful tool.

  19. Now that I have a headache from reading this! ;) Pretty deep my friend!! I really need to do more of this!! Like Miz, my parents were so much better at this - I am not the best & need to put more effort into it.. I actually have to go back & read this a few more times!!!! Lots of info in here to digest - thank you for that & the giveaway!!!! HUGS!

    1. Thanks so much JOdy for taking the time to check in when I know you're so busy! Seems like you have so much determination when you set your sights on something, so if Happiness and Peace of Mind are your priorities I think you'll get lots more of both! Good luck!

  20. I totally can relate to that having all that wonderful ideas before going to sleep and then everything will be gone by morning. It is really upsetting to realize in the morning everything is totally gone in your mind.

  21. No point in worrying on things which you cannot control always makes you to accept the facts and the current situation. Thinking positive can really boost up your mind. Keeping a goal in mind and working towards it can always help you in achieving it and focus is very important here. Good points

  22. This is such a timely and awesome post, Crabby! I like the perspective, since it is reminiscent (to me, though perhaps not applicable to your approach) of Ellis (RET/REBT). I try to apply some of his theories and techniques when I slip into over thinking things, which is most of the time.
    This reminds me of a friend's ... "complicated" mom. She was telling us that she and her husband went to a movie that expected viewers to come up with their own ending. She announced, quite seriously, that she did not like the ending she picked.
    Clearly late to this party so my goal for July was the one I always hope to meet, though I rarely succeed: to be serene about things over which I have no control and to separate my own emotional baggage from that of others.
    I go to sleep nightly, listening to Rachel and smiling with a "you tell'em sister!" fist pump!

    1. Thanks dlamb!!

      And apologies to you and other commenters for my being offline so much during our Toronto road trip.

      "to be serene about things over which I have no control and to separate my own emotional baggage from that of others"---LOVE this goal! Awareness is the first step, and sounds like you are already very cognizant of your own process. So many people confuse their own emotional reactions with some sort of objective "reality;" knowing they are two different things leads to all sorts of potential for creating our own happier brainspace. Good luck!

  23. hi,
    loved the article and giggled about the pics. great combination!
    i also believe that you can be conciously happy during hard times. also had a depression years ago. it really sucks when your brain chemistry is messed up.
    during last week when things got f!cked up around here this quote kept me alive:

    when mists of emotions
    and negativity cloud your view
    true understanding emerges
    by reflecting inward and
    going foreward
    step by step
    wisdoms light
    walks us through
    when you really want to

    ( my buddhist teacher)

    this reminds me that i am a lover of the babysteps method also when it comes to my monthly goals. that way i finally managed my first real pushups and ran my first 5k in july also i managed to live through a weekly insanity bootcamp YAAAAAYYYYY! :). right now im reducing my cigarettes very slowly after failing to quit more than 4 times.
    im injured, so this month i will do yoga to keep myself happy.second goal is to write morning pages. ( im also someone who cant really sit still, and if i lie down to meditate i fall asleep...:) )
    rock on cranceteers!

    1. Puja, hello!!!

      So sorry you had a sucky week but love the quote! I can see how that would be immensely helpful in gaining perspective.

      Yep, I'm with you on babysteps. So great that even with all the transitions and stress you keep moving forward with healthy changes (pushups! 5k runs! Insanity!) And wow, tackling cigarettes is HUGE and incredibly hard but if you keep reducing and keep trying again when you slip eventually you will succeed. Quitting isn't for quitters and you have so much tenacity!

  24. Enjoy your yoga!!! Hope you are feeling better soon.

  25. Getting fit is like an affair with your mind. Make sure that you work harmoniously with your brain to get the support that you need to know. Great work!

  26. What an interesting post, Crabby !
    Really like the focus on "what you think, becomes your reality".

    As for goals, I've in the past given myself specific goals, per month, with a pretty spreadsheet to tick them off in. This didn't work so well and left me feeling blah. At this moment I don't have a defined Goal For August... but I am trying to feel consciously aware, when possible (as opposed to being stuck in old ruts).

    1. Hi Fliss, thanks so much for stopping by!!!

      Well, bummer about the pretty spreadsheet, isn't that frustrating? I know some of my most enthusiastic attempts to get "organized" around goals last about 2 days before I fall right off the wagon. Takes a lot of experimentation to find out what keeps my motivation going. (When I'm working on too many things, especially, I find NONE of them go so great).

      Conscious awareness is HUGE and I think it's a great place to start with any sort of self-improvement endeavor. Do you have any new routines or systems to trigger the awareness? That's one I struggle with sometimes--so easy to get sucked into normal default mode and I sometimes need tricks to pop me out of my usual autopilot into mindfulness.

      I'll be curious to hear how it goes!

    2. Hi Crabby - For the new routines that you mentioned, I have started a new habit in the last 2 -3 weeks. I travel to work by train and usually am on the train platform about 10 minutes before the train is due. I've chosen to take that time to "tune in", using conscious awareness. I know that the train will come and I'll have to then snap into my usual morning, but until the train turns up, I'm trying out simply being present. My hope is to extend this for longer periods, but just 10 mins is OK for now.

    3. What a great way to "train" your brain to be more aware Fliss! :) Love that your trigger is a natural part of your daily routine so that there's a built in reminder. Good luck!!

  27. Yeah-I would agree mental focus is huge for me in being content in life and in my own skin. July was a lot of off schedule holidays and unplanned things and it was very relieving to just roll with things and not get too stressed out about details. I did realize how much morning workouts matter to my mind and overall moods though once they were off the schedule on a lot of days. I may lose a bit of sleep when I get up to work out but I am so much happier and level :) My goal for august has been to get back to this schedule and to not get to uptight about not always having everything planned. Having free time is a good thing...I just have to figure out what to do with it all :)

    1. I'm like you geosomin, if I can't work out in the morning, it messes up my whole day. But then there are times where you just gotta be flexible! Hope august is going well and you're finding a good balance between planning and spontaneity!


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