Mojo Monday 6: The Dance of Procrastination

The dance of procrastination

You’ve got that thing that you want to do; that project you want to start, class you want to take, conversation you need to have, or idea to bring to life. You set the time and space aside to do it and … you don’t do it. It’s not that you’re sitting around doing nothing. It’s that you’re doing everything except what you most want (or need) to do.

I can relate.

Here’s my dance of procrastination. It’s not very pretty, but it’s all mine.

Have you got a dance of procrastination?

Something to try

Next time you’ve got something you want to start, but you find yourself stalling, witness without judgement what you do instead. Seeing yourself in the moment can be a useful start to changing behavior.

Mojo Monday 3: Multitask w/Movement

Multitasking, Seizing the Opportunity or something else altogether?

If you live in this world of technology, constant information and full schedules, you probably multitask from time to time. But did you know that there is a great deal of research supporting the fact that multitasking seems more productive than it actually is. This video makes fun of our tendency to believe that we can (and should) squeeze the most out of each minute…even before we get to work. No wonder we’re exhausted!

At the same time, it makes good sense to move when you can, especially if your day is spent at a desk. To that point, this video is a fun way to experiment exercising in moments before and after your daily tasks (like doing bicep curls while on the phone or taking the stairs instead of the escalator etc.) And something great movement and certain exercises in particular (like pushups!) it’s hard to do anything else while you do it. So is it multitasking or seizing the opportunity?

Beyond experimenting with exercise in the moments in between, there is another idea behind this video. And that is that what we take as ordinary, routine – like walking from the bedroom to the kitchen – can, with just a bit of imagination (in this case, a lunge) be transformed into a micro-adventure. In moving through space in a different way, you experience the world in a different way. Try it and see – I’d love to hear what you discover.

Resources

This video is dedicated to my trainer, Eric Nelson, whose expertise and committment helped me get back to the weight room. If you live in the Bay Area and are looking for great trainer, here’s how to reach him.

Eric Nelson staysinmotionfitness@gmail.com

 

 

 

Inner Courage Instead of Thick Skin

I have a client working with someone who is making his job very difficult. My client’s team is located around the world, so he has to manage them remotely. Not easy.

As he’s talking about this particular individual he says, “I just have to get tougher-skin to handle this person and focus on getting past this deadline.”

His use of the words “tougher-skin” caught my attention because they were out of character for him. His management style and strength as a leader draw as much from his ability to be direct, strong and clear as they do from his compassion, understanding and self-awareness. This is not a guy who looks for short cuts.

I suspected that the term tough-skin was not going to be helpful for my client as a way to manage his employee because it didn’t really fit with who he is as a person. But I didn’t know what to suggest as an alternative. Tough-skin, thick-skinned…etc – most expressions that convey strength are associated with hardness. In other words, extremely limited. What could he focus on to help him deal with this person the way he wanted to, from his best self? I thought about individuals who exemplified strength without hardness or harshness, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Thich Nhat Hanh. What wInner Wisdomas their metaphor?

And it clicked – focus on what you know about your highest self, that essential quality you understand through mind and heart. That quality that you sometimes feel is both your weakness and your strength. That thing that is a part of your essence.

In my client’s case, a core value for him is compassion. So I said to him, “The world is full of leaders with tough-skin…but a lot of them are a**holes. Then there are others who may not be jerks, but who shrink before real challenges that call for a deeper kind of strength. You don’t strike me as either type. So, how can you draw even more from your compassion to be stronger?”

After a long pause he said, “You’re right, that’s what I want. To lead from who I am.”

“Exactly,” I said, “If you do that, it won’t matter whether or not your skin is tough.”

Mojo Monday 1: Stretch Like a Dog

 

The Underutilized Stretch

We read daily the importance of stretching before and after exercise. We watch animals, our pets in particular, stretch throughout the day that seems also to be code for everything from scratch my belly to I want to play. But we humans make minimal use of this super satisfying movement. Why is that?

Why do we not do more of those things that are really good for us and that feel good – like stretching. But we instead forget or even avoid it? As an experiment, respond to the question in a journal. Next, try a week of indulging in the art of stretching and then re-visit the question and see if your response has changed.

Dare to Dream

Modeling for Fit Magazine

It’s 1983 and aerobics is the hot new fitness craze. Flash Dance star Jennifer Beals has transformed sweatshirts into a sexy fashion statement with strategically placed rips and tears. Women have an alternative to the male dominated gym scene with Jane Fonda’s Workout Video. Leg warmers, shiny leotards and matching headbands are the new chic. And the place to show this off is Move-It Fitness, a large exercise studio at the heart of downtown Los Gatos, just South of the burgeoning Silicon Valley.

Move-It exploded in popularity a few months after opening its doors. With packed classes and a reputation for providing the most challenging workouts in the area, it fast became the place to be. It didn’t hurt business that it also had a reputation for having good-looking instructors.

I was working in a bakery and going to school at West Valley, the local Community College, when I found out about it. I’d make a point to drive by on my way back from my early-morning bakery job just so I could get a look at the shiny-clad women as they filed into class. I envied their glamour and at the same time judged them – thinking to myself,

I’m better than that, I don’t need to follow a fad to feel OK. 

But in fact, I felt crappy about myself. I was gaining weight with every cheesecake I “accidently” smashed, my boyfriend criticized me if I gained weight, and my paycheck was barely enough to cover rent let alone tuition and books. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I was anxious to do something. Anything! Fresh out of high school, I was full of energy and passion but I was also full of tons of self-doubt.

Then one morning, while lying beside my boyfriend, Sven – a gorgeous semi-pro tennis player – we had a conversation that changed everything.

“I took the hardest class last night at that new studio Move-It” he says, rolling over while pulling his arm from under where my head is resting.

“Really?” I asked, trying to sound unimpressed, “Where was this?”

“In Los Gatos, right there on Main Street,” he snaps, “Haven’t you heard of it?”

“Oh, ya, I’ve seen it…what’s the big deal, it’s just a work-out place?” I roll over and go into the bathroom before he has a chance to see my jealousy. I’m English and fair skinned and when I get upset my chest gets red blotches – and there were plenty on my chest. I splash my face with cold water, put on my robe and wrap a towel around my neck to conceal evidence that my feelings are hurt before crawling back into bed.

“You ok?” Sven asks.

“Yup,” holding in an avalanche of interrogatory questions. “So, what’s so great about this new studio anyway?”

Sven scoffs and says in his strong Swedish accent, “You have to be the best to teach there – our tennis team has been going there all summer to build endurance.”

Throwing off my robe and towel I proclaim: “I can do that job!”

With a confused look on his face, Sven says, “What job, what are you talking about?” I say nothing. He pauses for a minute then says, “Are you joking? You work at a bakery…you’re not aerobics instructor material, Robin.” he says while getting out of bed to get dressed.

Taking his response as a challenge, I proclaim, “I’ll prove to you – I can get a job there. And I can do it in one month.”

“You’re on,” he says, giving me a peck on the cheek before leaving.

The Indefatigable Nancy

The next day I take my usual detour to drive by Move-It, only this time, I park and go in.

The studio is buzzing with energy; the advanced 2-hour class is about to begin. It was packed as usual with clusters of women chatting amongst themselves, others sat adjusting their legwarmers or shoes. Then there were the serious athletic types in the front row, some focused on their own pre-class warm-up, others staring at themselves in the mirror with a Ninja Warrior intensity. The music started and with the instructor’s command to reach up with both arms, the class began. Those who were sitting stood up immediately, the athletes in the front row, now focused on the teacher, the woman at the front counter looked up and even passers by outside the studio made there way to the window from the Ferrari Dealership across the street to check out the class. Everyone wide-eyed and admiring at the instructor, who in a single motion, demonstrated her choreographed exercise, encouraged the slower students, pushed the more advanced students and did all this with the charisma of a lead singer of a rock band. Her name was Nancy, and watching her I felt equal parts inspiration and terror.

I slipped out the door, headed for my car and left without looking back.

What had I gotten myself into? Its much more than doing an exercise in front of a class – I have to be star! I’m not a star, I can barely walk into a room full of people without turning red, let alone remember a list of exercises, set to the right music, and inspire a room of people in just the right way at just the right moment.  – I’m not Nancy. I’ll never be Nancy. And I’m definitely not a star…

But a promise is a promise. Especially when pride is on the line. But more than that, a voice inside came alive when I was watching Nancy. What if I could do that?

So the next day, armed only with that what if, I returned to Move-It. I went an hour earlier to avoid the pre-class chaos and in the hopes the owner would be there. Two women were at the front desk, neither of whom I saw the day before.

“Hi, I’m Robin,” I say nervously.

“Hi Robin, is this your first time here?” one of the two asks graciously.

“No, I was here yesterday,” thinking she won’t know that I didn’t actually take the class since she wasn’t here.

“Oh really, which class?” she asks…”by the way, my name is Karen.

Nice to meet you Karen, “Um..the advanced class in the afternoon,” I say, heart pounding.

Hesitating a minute, Karen says, “That’s funny, I didn’t see you. I was in that class yesterday.”

Gulp…I collect my thoughts and before I have time to get nervous blurt, “Well actually I’m here to ask about a teaching position.”

The second women looks up from what she’s doing and interjects, “You, want to work here?” She’s broad-shouldered with penetrating blue eyes that look right through me. She adds, “Did I understand you correctly?”

“Yes, I want to work here.”

Without hesitation the second woman says, “I’m sorry but we don’t need any instructors.”

I don’t remember what I said, only that I felt completely dejected. Walking out the door, Karen said, “But we’d love to have you come back for a class sometime.”

On the way home I had one hand on the steering wheel and the other pinching a roll of fat that had accumulated from sampling one too many cheesecakes at the bakery. It’s true what Sven said – I’ll never get a job there. I’m just not star material.

But a couple of days later, driving by the studio, I see the same two women through the window and in flash of blind optimism, park my car to try again. We have a similar conversation, except that this time when they say that they don’t have a need for instructors, I counter with the question, “But what if one of your star instructors gets sick?”

“We’ve already got instructors who can substitute…but thank you anyway,” was the response.

This time when I returned to my car, I felt a little less dejected. That night I resolved to go back every day until something changed.

Many days later, something did change. Martha, the one with penetrating blue eyes, who by this time I’d learned was one of the two owners, was getting used to me coming by the studio. On this particular day before I said anything, she initiated the conversation. “You seem pretty determined to work here,” she says.

“What gave you that I idea?” I laughed. By this time, my dejection was gone and I felt comfortable and even happy to be there.

“We don’t have a need for an instructor, but we do have an early morning class that is hard to find a substitute for when we need one. Come here this Friday at 10:00am for an audition. Bring your own music and moves and we’ll let you show us what you got,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

“Thank you so much Martha!” I’ll be here!!

I’m so excited on the drive home and can’t wait to dig into my albums and create a class that will show them how good I am. Later, faced with a tall stack of albums I’ve selected with my mission on Friday, I’m filled with anxiety. I go by the studio to get inspired and see what kinds of moves I should do, but instead leave feeling overwhelmed with self-doubt and dread for Friday’s audition. Who am I to think I can be as good as them?

A couple of days pass and the albums I gathered for my audition remain unopened. Instead, I compensate with cheesecake samples brought from work. I even crack open some truffles to drink the liqueur, then refilled them with Grand Marnier.

I’m a mess and dreading Friday’s audition.

Thursday night arrives fast and I have no choice but to choreograph something – anything! I play a few songs, get inspired and come up with some moves. I do this without checking myself in the mirror because to do so would remind me of how stupid I’ve been all week to procrastinate until now.

The next morning I pull out a powder-pink leotard and navy blue tights that are so old they have pilings. I completely forgot about what I’d wear – these are from when I took my last ballet class years ago. No time to go shopping at this point. It’s now or never. I get dressed, go through my music and choreography one more time and head to Move-It. Pulling into the parking lot it occurs to me that I can leave and never come back.

Nancy & I Win the Fit Aerobics Championship

But then the words, what if enter my mind. I park and go in. Martha, her business partner, Karen, and Nancy – the star instructor, are there waiting. I make a beeline for the turntable; pull out my stack of albums. My hands were trembling so hard that it took me several tries to get the needle on the right song – White Wedding, by Billy Idol. I start my choreography focusing on the lyrics,

Hey little sister what have you done
Hey little sister who’s the only one
Hey little sister who’s your superman
Hey little sister who’s the one you want
Hey little sister shot gun!

Billy Idols voice blaring with rebel energy boosts my confidence. I look at myself – pink and navy blue as I am – and, helped by the lyrics, I own it.

It’s a nice day to start again
It’s a nice day for a white wedding
It’s a nice day to start again…

I get to the last song and look up at my audience of three – who, to my shock, are beaming and nodding with approval.

“Good work, Robin. You’ve got the job! Can you start next Tuesday?” Martha asks. “We need a substitute for the 6:30 am class?”

I take the job and drop the boyfriend.

Move-It Instructors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Does Faith Begin?

Faith

i awoke scared today

of thoughts and what-if’s.

that list of things

that keeps us lonely

even amongst friends.

 

i pondered faith today,

wondering

where and how it begins,

each time in life

in each of us

in me.

 

it’s been said that faith begins where philosophy ends.

if this is true, then faith has nothing to do with knowing,

or rather, nothing to do with the kind of knowing rampant in the world today –

head knowing. i’m-right-because-you’re-wrong knowing.

head knowing. i’m-right-because-this is how i do it knowing.

it’s not that at all.

and it’s not all that.

 

to be with the wish

what would that be like?

the kind of wish that goes beyond what you know, what society knows, or what i know

the kind of wish that resists crystallizing into rigid certainty out of the pure urge for authenticity, reality. honesty.

the kind of wish that grows instead into something different,

something generative and beyond limits.

 

there’s a kind of hope that the idea of faith offers and it has to do with letting go of the very human habit and need for certainty

 

this kind of faith without certainty, ironically, requires immense faith

 

can i do this?