Moment # 18 Selfish Courage

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the sassy moments podcast.  Moment #18 Selfish Courage. 

You know what ladies?  This is hard.  It’s really hard to go against the tidal wave of societal accepted norms.  Right?  You know what’s even harder.  Going against the accepted norm of your inner circle.  I did that when I chose to leave medicine.  Don’t get me wrong, leaving medicine was the absolute right decision for me.  

Improving a bad thing is easy, but messing with a good thing?  That is terrifying.  I don’t know who first captured this sentiment but it’s how I felt when I chose to leave medicine against the advice of just about everyone I knew at the time.  Messing with a good thing – that’s terrifying.

I’m not sure if my colleagues were baffled, dismayed or envious.  

Significant change is like that, and takes courage because it involves risk and potential failure.  

Yep.  Improving a bad thing is easy, but messing with a good thing – that’s terrifying.  Isn’t that why we hold our dreams quiet in our heart?  Afraid to dare? Embarrassed to fail? Especially when approaching retirement, you can’t make a career change – such is the accepted societal norm.  But to quote Brene Brown – “Failure can be our most powerful path to learning if we are willing to choose courage over comfort.”   Choose courage.  Choose to prioritize yourself.   

I once argued with a coach that I can’t leave medicine, I don’t have time to fail.  Her answer – you don’t have time not to follow your dreams.   Another doctor-turned-coach gave me some brilliant advice – “There are a lot of reasons – both good and bad – to make a change.  You don’t have to justify your decision, this is your life.  But he cautioned, be prepared for your ‘what have I done moment?’ because it will come, probably more than once.”  After a lot of self reflection and planning, about 2 years later, I mustered up the courage to make a change and closed my pediatric practice.

Both coaches were right.  I am following my dreams, though they remain shrouded in mist and I have had several ‘what have I done moments?’  

What have I done?  As selfish as it might seem – with courage I chose me – I prioritized myself.  There are many ways to share my unique gifts, whatever they may be.  To assume it lies only within the confines of the medical system is short sighted and simply not true.  I am following an uncharted path that energizes me, challenges me and makes me happy.  I’m uncertain where this path ultimately leads and that is okay.  Truthfully all paths are uncharted and the future is uncharted, despite how much I love to converse with my future self. 

As I’ve said before, this doesn’t mean you have to sell your house, ask for a divorce and move to New Zealand to live with the yellow eyed penguins.  Not at all.  Leaving medicine was the right choice for me.  Only you can make the right choice for you.  It might be as simple as committing to a daily exercise program.  It might be to keep doing what you are doing, with a shift in mindset.  It might be a career change.  

It’s not selfish to prioritize yourself.  How would your perspective of your future change, if you believed that, even a little bit?  Truthfully – it’s not selfish to prioritize yourself.  Believe it.

Talk again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment 17 – Sleepy Messes

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the sassy moments podcast.  Moment #17 Messy sleep. 

How’s your sleep ladies?  Mine ranges from not dreadful to really dreadful.  Naps are impossible for me – it takes me 2 hours to fall asleep for a 20 minute nap.  I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember and medical training with its sleepless nights didn’t improve the situation.  The more I read about the importance of sleep and it’s far reaching impact on our brain health I shudder.  “What have I done?”  So many years of sleep deprivation.  My sleep is a mess.

To be fair, our need for sleep, as dictated by our circadian rhythm, changes as we age.  This is most apparent with kids.  Babies sleep most of the day.  Toddlers are more wakeful but still need a midmorning and often a mid-afternoon nap or there might be hell to pay.  As teens, sleep is completely wonky and they are awake until the middle of the night and asleep until noon or later.  

As adults we ignore our circadian rhythms, we skimp on our sleep as the pressures and stresses of life squeeze sleep to a minimum.  As I experienced through my medical training and practice, sleep is the first casualty of career and family demands.  

In his book Why We Sleep, Mathew Walker explores the notion that in the latter decades of life we need less sleep.  While it may be true that older individuals get less sleep, it’s a myth that they ‘need’ less sleep.  

As with toddlers and teens, our circadian rhythm continues to change as we age, and is regulated by the hormone melatonin – our sleep hormone, which is influenced by natural light, and thanks to Thomas Edison, artificial light.  Unfortunately, artificial evening light interferes with the release of melatonin and messes with our sleep patterns.

In contrast to teens who stay up late and sleep in late, with advancing age, we prefer to go to bed early and get up early.  That’s because our melatonin levels peak earlier in the evening as we age.  But not wanting to miss out on evening activities, we ignore the sleepy-time signal and end up dozing off in our chair, which in turn messes with our night time sleep and we mistakenly conclude we have insomnia, which messes with our sleep pattern the following day. 

In addition, as we age our sleep is more fragmented – mostly because we have weak ‘old lady’ bladders.  We need to get up and pee, which breaks up our sleep.  To make matters even worse, because of our old lady bladder sleep interruptions, our sleep is inefficient.  Sleep efficiency is defined by the amount of sleep you actually get versus the amount of sleep you are trying to get.  If you spend 8 hours in bed and sleep for 8 hours your sleep efficiency is 100%.  If you are awake for 90 minutes over the course of the night your sleep efficiency drops to 70%.  

This is bad news because sleep experts recommend a sleep efficiency of 90% or higher to support optimal health.  Poor sleep efficiency has been linked to higher rates of depression, fatigue and forgetfulness and ultimately mortality!  

So sleep is utterly crucial to aging well.  What a sleepy mess!  What can be done?  

Just knowing that these changes are coming can be helpful.  Fortunately many are most notable in the 7th and 8th decades, so there is time to intervene.  Here are some ideas.

Tune in to your sleep patterns, listen to your body.  Pay attention to your sleep wake cycles.  Increase natural light early in the day – just 10 – 15 minutes outside (cloudy or not) turns down melatonin and limit artificial light late in the evening, turning up melatonin.   Don’t drink a lot of water before bed… might as well try to limit the need to pee in the middle of the night.  And for that matter, careful with that wind down glass of wine – alcohol makes you need to pee. 

Sleep efficiency?  It’s not so easy to manipulate.  For me – no naps – not that they ever worked in the past.  I get up when I wake up for the first time after 5am.  This means I am waking up in accordance with my sleep wake – cycle.   Nowadays, I wake around 530 – 600am.  Since my nightly sleep goal is 8 hours, I calculate backward and settle into bed ~ 930 – 10pm.  

When I am able to do these things – 10 – 15 minutes of morning sunlight, no naps, limit evening artificial light and limit evening water intake my sleep is much less fragmented, I fall asleep with less difficulty, and I wake up rested, ready to go.  

By no means perfect and a work in progress, this works for me now, at 60 something, it might not at 80 something.  Time will tell, but I will be paying attention and adjusting accordingly.    

Talk again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment BONUS – Introduction to intermittent fasting

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up and chair and listen in, this is the sassy moments podcast, BONUS MOMENT – Fast, a four letter word to boost your energy.  

Boost my energy by not eating?  What nonsense is this?  I know, it’s totally counterintuitive.  But, I believe the single most powerful thing you can do to boost your energy and increase your health span, is to fast nightly for a minimum of 12 – 14 hours.   I know, I know.  Fast is the other four letter F-word in some social circles.   Fasting is a concept that is in complete contrast to the currently accepted societal dogma that we must eat multiple, small, low-fat meals all day long or risk hunger or overindulging when we do decide to eat. I would like to suggest you set that aside and consider this:  we all fast every night for however long we sleep, about 7 – 8 hours. 

To fast as a concept is simple and easy to understand – don’t eat.  In practice, it’s not so easy – mostly because of that societal dogma.  Since the early 1980s, with the introduction of the ‘food guide’ we have been taught high fat is bad, and that we must eat multiple small, low fat meals throughout the day to avoid hunger and to avoid overeating.  But our body is not designed to eat that way.  

I am not talking about multi-day fasts; I am not talking about starving yourself;  Not at all. 

I am talking about completely changing the way you think about eating.  Completely.  

Our body, like our brain, was designed many centuries ago when vicious predators were everywhere and food was scarce.  Back in the day when we were hunter – gatherers, we certainly didn’t eat three meals a day plus snacks neatly dispersed throughout the day.  Our ancestors fasted most of the time.  Sometimes for weeks.  They feasted occasionally after a successful hunt and grazed if berries or tubers happened to be in season – protein with fat and limited carbs.  They didn’t eat every day, all day.  And guess what?  They survived to tell the tale!

Now we eat mostly refined carbs, in the form of sugar and flour, with processed protein and if you follow the food guide, low fat alternatives.  It’s backwards and it shows up on our butt and/or belly as fat and it’s killing us!   Since the introduction of the food guide, obesity, type two diabetes and dementia have skyrocketed.  Frightening! 

So what is intermittent fasting?  As the name suggests, you choose to fast intermittently – kinda vague huh?  It actually makes more sense if you think of it’s flipside – time restricted eating.   Time restricted eating is when we voluntarily limit the hours of the day during which we eat.  The eating window defines the hours during which we eat.  A 14/10 fast has an eating window of 10 hours, say between 8am and 6pm and a fast of 14 hours from 6pm to 8 am the following morning.   

Research has shown that the most effective health promoting intermittent fasting regimen is to delay breaking your nightly fast by 1 – 2 hour after waking, and to finish eating 3 hours before bed.  It’s really not a huge difference from what you currently do with two added rules – no snacking after dinner and delay breakfast for an hour or so.  

Okay I heard the collective groan and argument… “I’m not even home from work until after 6pm… I don’t sit down to dinner until 7pm on a good day.”  That’s fine, shift the window to fit your schedule but keep it consistent, even on weekends.  

That is the ideal, which may not work best for you.  In which case, it’s not ideal for you.  Having said that, consider this: you cannot reap the massive benefits of fasting without fasting.  

To get started, aim for a 10 – 12 hour nightly fast.  Determine dinner time – say between 6 – 7pm.  Do not eat after 7pm – no evening snacks.  Break your night-time fast 1 – 2 hours after you wake, say between 7 – 8am.  Eat 2 – 3 meals, over the course of the day – no snacking between meals.

During your eating window, eat mindfully.  Notice, notice, notice.  Utterly enjoy your meal.  Do not multitask at your desk as you mindlessly inhale your food.  Limit distractions, do not watch television or scroll Facebook.  Have a conversation about more than the weather with your partner or colleague.  If nothing else, get lost in your thoughts with yourself – how can it help but be interesting?  Eating can be, and absolutely should be, very pleasurable – even more so when you have been fasting. 

Truthfully, it has been my experience that many women find it easier to simply skip a meal creating a 16 – 18 hours fast with 6 – 8 hour eating window.  Which one?  Your choice, though most women skip breakfast and enjoy lunch with a colleague and then share dinner with the family – a highly recommended family bonding activity.  Eat between 12 – 1pm, then again between 6 – 8pm. It’s your call.  Try it, see how it works, then tweak as necessary.  

If you’d like to learn more about intermittent fasting and how to introduce it into your life so that you can reap the many benefits of fasting, check out my mini course – Fast, a four letter word to boost your energy.

Talk again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment #16 Life’s Imbalances

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the sassy moments podcast.  Moment # 16 –  Life Balance

Life balance.  It’s a tricky business right. I wonder if it’s a 21st century luxury?  Or curse.  Hmm.  We have so much more choice now than our grandmother.  And that is a very good thing.  Women are incredible – we are leaders with great compassion.  

However, we are in the messy middle of this transformation from doting grandmother baking cookies to entrepreneurial CEO.  We expect ourselves to do it all – have the babies, raise the children, support our partner and their dreams, all while building a career of our own.  While the balance in career life is leveling out, the brunt of family life remains on women, who historically have been the caregivers.  This bears out in medicine.  In 2019, 50% of medical students were women as compared to 4% in 1914.  And though 50% of medical graduates are women, only 36% of practicing physicians are women.  This work force attrition is largely attributed to the family-work conflict facing women physicians, according to a 2020 American Association of Medical Colleges survey.  I somehow doubt this work-family attrition is unique to medicine.  So many women are caught in this “do everything trap.”  So luxury or plague?

What if work – life balance in life is just not a thing?   Balance in life is not a thing.  Stop striving for it.  Accept it.  Actually when you think about it, a truly balanced life would be boring and mundane, mediocre at best. 

A vibrant life is full of imbalance. 

Imagine if everything in life were to receive equal attention.  If every relationship was treated the same – partner, child, colleague, friend, or neighbour, you would never develop deep and meaningful relationships.  What if there was no range of emotions?  NO anger? NO frustration – seems good right?  But there would also be no success overcoming challenges, no sense of pride – it’s all just fine.  What if all the  activities in your day were kept in a neat tidy balance?  Is dusting as important as reading to your child before bed?  Of course not.  I can go months without dusting, but if I get behind on the dishes by a day or two the kitchen is a disaster zone.  I can pass on the laundry for a week, but daily dog walks are a must.  

But sometimes tasks are not so easily ranked.  Reading to your child versus preparing for a work related presentation versus a solid night’s sleep.  All are important right?  True.  Usually it’s the sleep that is factored out.  And that might be the best decision depending on the season of your life.  

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes – to every thing there is a season… a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to plant, a time to harvest, a time to mourn, a time to heal.

Well, ladies, if you are listening to this, it’s likely your season of life has changed or is about to change.  Chances are your kids are grown, figuring out their own road to success.  Chances are your career and partner’s career are established, maybe even winding down.  You could  be considering a career shift or contemplating what you are going to retire to.  The latter – what to retire to – is worth considering extensively.  Gone are the days when retirement is the final chapter.  We are living longer – much longer, and the quality of that time is highly dependent on our mindset.  

Daniel Levitin author of the book Successful Aging identifies retiring as a risk factor for a premature death.  In fact, Don’t retire is #1 on his top 10 activities to rejuvenate your brain.  Others on his list include regular moderate exercise, connection with others, experiential learning and traveling.  Not a bad list huh?

Enrich your life, let yourself be out of balance.  But choose your imbalances wisely.  Choose them with intention and let the imbalance tip in your favour.  Tip the imbalance toward your interests and desires and your priorities.

Remember your undivided attention is the most valuable gift you can give to anyone.  Give it to yourself – I’ve no doubt you’ve earned it.

Willingly take a three week trip to Italy with your best friend, knowing you will have to manage piles of paperwork when you return.  Enjoy the trip. Buy yourself that Italian Black leather Jacket you fell in love with while traveling.  Sign up for that pottery course.  Give yourself a weekend ‘self reflection retreat.’  

Forget about life-work balance, it’s just not a thing.  Imbalance makes our lives rich and fulfilling.  Embrace it.

Chat again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment #15 The Power of No

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the Sassy Moments Podcast.  Moment # 15 – The power of saying no.  

So many of the women I coach have a really hard time saying ‘No,’ even when they are fully aware they are overwhelmed and sleep deprived. 

The power of saying ‘No,’ is not a new concept.  Nor is the idea that when you say ‘yes’ to an activity you are also saying ‘no’ to another activity.

But… How can you say no gracefully?  Learning how to say no is a really crucial skill to develop if you want to have a joyful and meaningful life.  Back to one of my fav quotes from Socrates – “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”  How can you say no to so many good things?  Only by knowing yourself and your unique gift and your own priorities.   

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that it takes courage to say no.  It takes courage to go against our survive-in-a-tribe mentality.  We want to fit in, and we do that by saying yes, even when we know we would rather not.  When was the last time you declined an invitation by simply saying no with no additional explanation.  It takes a lot of nerve – to just say “no, but thanks for asking.”  We feel compelled to offer up an explanation.  

Here are a few say no strategies…

Buy yourself some time – pause before you answer reflexively… “Let me check my calendar and get back to you…” 

Figure out how to say no without using the word no – “Hey thanks for thinking of me, but I am over committed right now.”  Or “That’s a really great idea, I am unable to help out but wish you success.”  Or “My schedule is already packed. I already have plans but thanks for asking.”

Let go of FOMO – fear of missing out.  It is really hard to say no to good things.   The best way to avoid this trap is to recognize the trade off – When you say yes to something you are saying no to something else.  This brings me to the brilliant idea of a no journal – a game-changer idea for women who struggle to prioritize themselves.   

Keep a No Journal for 30 – 60 days and track all the asks you say ‘no’ to, then see how much time it opens up in the future for the activities that truly matter the most to you.

Keeping a journal, specific for when you say ‘no,’ is such a great idea.  It helps you track reclaimed time in your future, time that would otherwise have been spent on the activity you said ‘no’ to.  Brilliant. 

That reclaimed no-time, is in a way, free-time.  It has been prioritized, based on your values and goals. So instead of finding yourself at a charity dinner to help save the whales – something your best friends’ wifes’ first cousin is passionate about – you are sharing some quality time with your daughter.

Here’s what to do.  Start tracking when you say ‘no.’  Whenever someone asks you to do something and you gracefully say ‘no,’ write that request down – give it a date and include a simple one liner of the request, perhaps who made it, or what it was about.  Just start a list – perhaps on your phone or a page in your calendar. For example – January 10th, declined request to attend save the whales charity dinner for 31 January 7 – 10pm.

Then on your calendar, ‘ghost’ out the time you would have taken to keep that commitment if you had said ‘yes.’  In this example that is January 31 from 7 – 10 pm.  This is the time you have reclaimed for your future self.  When you schedule that ghosted time with some other activity, in this example dinner with your daughter, this is the activity you would have been saying ‘no’ to, if you had said ‘yes’ to the original request. 

Get it?  Keep track of the activities you say no to, reclaiming that future time for higher priority activities.   

With time you may find that people are making fewer requests, as your priorities become clear to everyone as well as to yourself.   

A No journal – what a great tool for uncovering the power of ‘No.’  Give it a try. Reclaim time for your future self.

Don’t say no to this game changer idea.

Talk again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment #14 Time Bandits

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the Sassy Moments podcast, Moment # 14 – time bandits.

Back in moment #12, busy badges, I mentioned in passing the concept of time bandits.  I want to talk about these little critters more today.  I first encountered the concept of time bandits during my nutrition coach training through Precision Nutrition.  They have a lot of really creative thinkers in that organization.  One of the chief coaches refers to herself as the Chief of headspace rearrangement.  I’m still in touch with my coach from that training program, which was – well, long enough ago that his then toddler is well into elementary school.  He was instrumental in helping me wrap my brain around the idea of leaving medicine.  I digress again this time down memory lane – sorry – back to time bandits. 

I love this concept and the visualization it conjures up.  There are endless virtually invisible time sucks in our day and if we don’t consciously hunt for them we won’t find them.  Time bandits have evolved with society and they have deeply and imperceptibly infiltrated our psyche.  Our most common excuse for not prioritizing our health – “I don’t have time!”  These sneaky thieves sell busyness and hustle camouflaged as dedication and determination.   But they are bandits – they steal our time.  

Time is the great equalizer.  We all have the exact same 24 hours in a day.  And there is nothing we can do about it.  The sun will rise and the sun will set, no matter how much you shake your fist at it.  Time does not discriminate, it shows no favorites…  it just keeps on ticking – mercilessly or lovingly depending on your mindset.  The only control you have over time is your perception of it.  Love it or hate it, the choice is yours… and as I’ve said before – choice is a beautiful thing.

Want to feel younger?  Get a grip on your perception of time.   Chances are, you believe time is scarce.  There is never enough of it.  Right?  What if that is not true?  What if you always have exactly enough time?  

Yes, yes, yes – I heard the collective groan.  What planet am I from? How can I be so out of touch with reality?  After all, you have a full time career that is very important to you, helps feed the kids, and pay the bills.  You have elderly parents that you want to visit and absolutely should visit. The kids have soccer practice, piano and karate lessons.  Add to that the laundry, the cooking and a dishwasher that does not empty itself.  And then I dare suggest you sleep 8 hours a night? and find 30 minutes of ‘me time’ every day.  Dream on right?

Let’s start with catching a few time bandits. Quick, what were you doing last Thursday evening after dinner?  Or how about the Monday morning before that?  Were you using your time effectively and efficiently? 

There are so many time wasters, the little bandits, stealing our most valuable commodity, wreaking havoc with our day.  What can be done to get these thieves under control?  First, increase awareness that they are even there.  How many time bandits do you encounter daily? Facebook, Instagram, TV, you tube, podcasts.  The sneaky little buggers are everywhere.

Try a time journal.  Track how you are actually spending your time over the course of one ‘typical’ day.  Set a timer for every 15 minutes.  From the time you wake, to the time you go to bed, every time the timer chirps, simply write down what you were doing – eating breakfast, commuting to work, board meeting, answering email, scrolling Facebook, walking to cafeteria, kid’s soccer game etc.  Don’t judge.  Just observe and document.  Be an impartial observer of yourself as you go through your day.  

When you get a few minutes (preferably when you are not exhausted), review and reflect on how you spent your 16 hours that day. 

What were the time wasters?

Notice any patterns?

Are your activities helping you move toward your goals and become the woman you want to become?

You might be surprised how you actually spend your time compared to how you think you spend your time.  You might be sitting in traffic considerably longer than you estimate.   The drive through for that cup of coffee is backed up more often than you want to admit.  It takes your 7 year old ‘forever’ to put on her boots and winter jacket, to get to gymnastics practice.  And you wonder how she tumbles around without breaking her neck when she can barely thread a zipper.

Our attention is the most precious gift we can give.  Honestly tracking how we spend our time sheds light on our true priorities.  A time journal keeps us honest, if we are courageous enough to explore.  How we spend our time is a reflection of our values and priorities.  Whether we like it or not, our schedules do not lie.  

Look for and catch a few time bandits.  Rather than letting time slip away, you can take that time, reframe it and move toward your health and wellness goals.  

At the risk of sounding harsh, you have time.  You DO.  You have just as much time as every other living soul on this planet.  We all have 24 hours a day 365 days a year – that is 8,760 hours. Assuming you sleep 8 hours a day, 30 minutes a day approximately 3% of your waking day and adds up to ~ 182.5 hours per year.  It adds up to quite a bit – certainly enough to make a significant, sustainable change.  

Dare to make your health and wellness a priority in your life.

Our attention is the most precious gift we can give to ourselves and to others.  Believe you have more than enough time – change your perspective from one of scarcity to abundance.   

Chat again soon!

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment #13 Homework For Life

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the Sassy Moments Podcast, Moment #13 – Homework for life.  

True to my past self, I am an academic and I am giving you homework.  The best kind of homework.  This is an idea I stumbled across and fell in love with in the book, Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks.  I highly recommend the book if you have any interest whatsoever in creating a life full of joy, meaningful relationships and purpose.  I picked up this book because I am keen to figure out how to tell better stories to illustrate the academic points I want my readers/listeners to remember.  

I had to face the truth that women over 50 are not that interested in the neuroscience of neurogenesis and the related neural growth hormones and peptides that offer up protection against mood disorders and cognitive decline.  I’ve learned to recognize the blank stare when I drift into medspeak.  So instead of talking about the impact of exercise on neurogenesis and quality of life in the latter decades of life, I share the story of Olga the 90-something track star and the secret to her longevity – break a sweat with friends.   So much more helpful right?

Stories.  Humans evolved and survived as a species by telling stories.  “Don’t eat the red berries with the pointy green leaves, they will kill you.”  “The blue ones that grow near the rocks by the creek are really tasty though.”

As I chatted in moments 2 and 3, you are the author and leading lady of the story of your life.  Such a powerful stance to approach your future.  Write yourself in as the hero too.  If you want to change the direction of your life, you can write it in.  As with my cycling adventure, I can imagine it and become a woman who cycles across Canada.  Even if it never happens, the strategic byproducts of ‘going for it’ are worth the effort.    More on that another sassy moment.

Homework for life is not about the future, it is about the present.  Homework for life teaches you to pay attention to your day as you progress through it, noticing and collecting the precious moments and gems that build a brilliant life.  

The problem is we miss these moments – we don’t see them.  We miss their importance.  At the end of every day, take 5 minutes – FIVE minutes, that is all and write down the most memorable moment of that day.  More than one if you want, but start with one memorable moment.  Memorable – not necessarily mushy or life altering.  Just memorable.  It could be about grooming your sheepdog, something she absolutely despises as she attempts to sink into the ground.  Or burning pecans with your best friend.  Or the pair of skunks who explored the bushes under your office window.  

When you start to gather your memories, the more you will notice your moments the more meaningful your moments become, and as a result the more joyful and meaningful your life will become.  

Be forewarned however… when you first start to collect your daily moments you might think you have nothing worthy of scribbling on a napkin, let alone story-worthy.  That was my experience.  My days are spent sitting and writing, pondering, thinking and reading.  Dog walks.  Cycling on a stationary bike.  Snore right?  Nope.  It is often the mundane that makes for the best stories since the mundane bits of life are the most relatable, and forge connection with others.  I could tell a story about running to deliveries in the middle of the night intubating premature babies, or staying up all night trying to arrange emergency transport for a teen with an ovarian cyst the size of a basketball obstructing her bladder to get her timely surgical intervention.  But very few people can relate to these type of events.  

Burning pecans, grooming dogs or unwanted neighborhood critters are more relatable and memorable.  

So here’s what to do for your homework for life as explained by the author – “If I had to tell a story from today, what would it be?  As benign and boring and inconsequential as it might seem, what was the most story worthy moment from my day?”  You do not have to write it out with wit and beautiful prose.  Just a sentence or two to trigger recall of the moment at a later date.  

Like – burning pecans.  My lifelong friend, an amazing cook and I were making homemade butter pecan ice cream… and while standing right in front of the stove top, catching up chatting and laughing – presumably monitoring the pecans… in an instant – the smoke billowing and ugh!  The pecans… completely unsalvageable. True to our past, we laughed until we cried over that blunder.  And yes we had more pecans and the ice cream was unforgettable.  

A great story between us anyway.  

The point is, by asking yourself to recall a story worthy moment that occurred during your day, you start to pay closer attention to your day and in doing so, you draw attention to the moments full of meaning that you currently don’t notice.  They are happening, they just float right on by.  Catch them.  Write out a sentence or two.  Then wait.  Wait for the magic to happen.  Your day starts to fill up with meaningful moments.  Then you start to notice patterns.  And other memories are uncovered.  

Not only have we burnt pecans together, my friend and I have used clam shells for utensils while on a multi-day kayaking trip.  Another inattentive moment – oops forgot to pack the spoons and related paraphrenalia.  The burning pecans incident was this past summer, the clam shell utensils – over 20 years ago.  It seems distraction is not only because we are over 60 now.  We have shared a lot of laugh until we cry moments over the decades.  Many of which are long forgotten – but now I capture them.

So your mission should you choose to accept it, is to capture mundane moments daily.  Then brace yourself – the magic will happen.  

Chat again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment # 12 Busy Badges

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the Sassy Moments Podcast, Moment #12 – BUSY BADGES. 

I absolutely believe that no matter where you are in your career or family life, you must make yourself a priority.  As is stated so obviously by commercial airlines, put on your oxygen mask first, then assist others.  As outlined in Moment # 1 A bit about me, I learned that the hard way.  Doctor heal thyself is one of the most ridiculous statements in the English vocabulary.  No time for that can’t you see, I’m busy.

Busy badges.  Have you earned one?  

Early in my coaching practice I briefly coached one woman who could account for every single minute of her day from 5am – 12am.  Her hope for coaching – was to get more sleep.  When asked how much more she would like to get she identified 60 minutes.  Which from a health perspective may be an improvement, but her tally was still chronic sleep deprivation.  Six or less hours of sleep nightly is medically defined as sleep deprivation and as bad for your brain’s daily function as a blood alcohol level above the legal drinking limit.   Yep, 6 or less hours of sleep leaves your brain legally impaired.  Not a great place from which to approach your day.  Even worse, with only 3 days of 6 or less hours of sleep, you have the metabolic profile of an individual with diabetes.  Not good.  

I tried to get her to look at how she spent her time and consider her priorities and to consider what she might eliminate to carve out some space for additional sleep.   I asked if she would consider keeping a time diary to identify her time bandits – the activities we conveniently forget and can rob us of precious minutes in a fully packed day.  She was having none of it – she believed she could account for everything.  She was unwilling to eliminate anything – not even 15 minutes, let alone a full hour.  Everything was a priority.  Everything was important.   

I suggested she read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown and not surprisingly,  she was not giving up 15 minutes of her 5 hours of sleep for reading.  Even listening to an audio book was out of the question.  She had to focus on her daily activities.  In her mind she had already eliminated the unessential.  I would have refunded her money if she weren’t one of my first few ‘free’ coaching clients.  She didn’t want to change – and probably didn’t.   

I know one family doctor who no longer tries to convince his patients to change when they are so adamantly opposed to his recommendations.  His approach?  You can find time to adopt a healthier lifestyle now or after your heart attack.  You will have time then, if you survive.  The choice is yours. 

Sometimes the change that is required is hard.  Sometimes it’s made for you.  I believe it’s always preferable to make a change by choice, rather than because your health tanked.  But then I am a longevity life coach who recovered from unrecognized burnout and tanked health.  

I survived my ‘wake up call.’  Not everyone does.  

 It doesn’t help that our society glorifies busyness and burnout.  Nope.  My decision to leave medicine was met with disbelief if not dismay.  Many professionals proudly display their ‘busy’ badges.  I am most familiar with medicine busy badges though I have no doubt the profession doesn’t matter.  Busy badges are a mindset thing.  

I once enrolled in a mindset training program and the instructor lived his life with his busy badge as his most prized possession.  He didn’t read books – he listened to them at 3 times speed, during what he defined as his transition times.  He found 7 – 9 hours a week doing this. Walking to the bathroom.  During his daily commute from the kitchen to his in home office.  While working out.   While driving.  Have you ever tried to listen to a podcast at twice speed?  Can you imagine three times speed?  Heaven forbid that you sit down with a good read, let the ideas seep into the crevices of your mind and contemplate how they might apply to you, so that you improve your current circumstances.  Or just read, cause you enjoy reading.  Personally I would find listening to an audiobook at three times speed in 1 – 3 minute intervals unacceptably tortuous.  

His original mindset was this: though he may not be the smartest guy in the room, he would be the hardest working.  No one would out work him, and he was extremely successful.  His favourite book recommendations – Relentless by Timothy Grover and Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.  I did sift my way through Relentless but I opted out of Can’t Hurt Me.  The idea that one must run ultramarathons on fractured foot bones or suffer through Navy Seal Training Hell week three consecutive times, borders on insanity.  

Fortunately it was a work at your own pace program and I was able to work through the program video materials quickly, and there were a lot of really helpful mindset related book video summaries.  He interviewed authors about their books, which presumably he ‘read’ at triple speed.  

Even so, as a 60-something retiree, who is not going to do anything at three times speed, I learned a lot.  I learned that mindset is a very powerful tool to master.  Mind mastery – tempered with sanity – is powerful.  

I no longer have a busy badge… you know the badge that almost killed me.  I now have luxurious flexible space in my day.  Trade in your busy badge for a flexible badge.  However you define flexible.  You won’t regret it.  I can almost guarantee it.

Talk again soon!

Life Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment #11 Design Your Ideal Day

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, it’s time for the Sassy Moments Podcast.  Moment #11 – Design your ideal day. 

Have you ever stopped and thought about your ideal day?  Knowing that there is truly no such thing and there certainly is no universally ideal day, if you could design your ideal day, what would it entail?  It’s a thought experiment – I love thought experiments.  How would you approach it… for you.  Design your ideal day.

You could start with your successful future self’s perfect day.  You could ask her how she starts her morning, and finishes strong at the end of the day.  I am working on the latter part, to finish my day strong.  I struggle with that concept since I am very much a morning person.  I get more done between 5am – 9am, than between 9am – 5pm, and well, after 5pm I am pretty much as useful as a pumpkin after halloween.  

All of this obviously depends on the state of your life today – because, if Sassy at Sixty has anything to do with it, you will be a better version of yourself in one year, and an even better version in 5 years.    My future self is not of pumpkin energy and mentality after 5pm.  In fact, in my future self’s ideal day, she is more energized and productive by 5pm, because her daily activities rev up her enthusiasm for life.  She has learned to channel that energy into new ideas for percolating before the next morning’s writing bursts.  Which I suspect is why she wakes up rarin’ to write.  

You could divvy up your week – work day versus non-workday – anyway you like.  There is no right answer – there are as many ideal days as there are individuals thinking about this metacognition stuff.  

I would suggest you start by identifying ‘lead domino habits’ that is, habits that have far reaching impact.  Lead domino habits are often the boring routine activities that get squeezed out of our day with busyness.  I love the quote by Socrates… beware the barrenness of a busy life.  That sounds like another Sassy moment in the making.

The longevity lead dominoes, from The Sassy at Sixty perspective are Love your body and Love your brain.  When you love your body and love your brain you end up loving your life and loving your future.  I believe this.  Truly.  

The love your body love your brain dominos overlap considerably.  Fortunately what is good for your body is good for your brain.  And if your brain is working well, you can manage it much easier.  A brain that is high on sugar is like a scared toddler with a knife, unaware she is destroying things.  Also another Sassy moment in the making… 

Back to the topic at hand – designing your ideal day.  In the absolutely brilliant book Essentialism by Greg McKeown he suggests we design our life intentionally.  However you design your ideal  day, you want to do your best to ensure that whatever it is you are doing daily is moving you closer to the person you want to become.   This ties in beautifully with the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, and his idea of Identity habits.  Ones that contribute to define who you are, not what you do. I am the type of person who… habits.   I identify as a cyclist. I cycle every day.  Who before what.  That is an identity habit.  You have identity – habits both good and bad.  I am a non-smoker.  I am a non-drinker.  I am a sugar addict.  I am disorganized.  

These habits are parts of my identity.  If I want to change my disorganization, I need to build a habit that takes tiny steps toward becoming a person who is organized.  

So as you design your ideal day, ask yourself the question – “Is what I am doing, helping me become more of who I want to become?”  Listen to your quiet whispers and nudges if you can.  Your day dreams may be percolating through.  Can you incorporate a tiny slice of that day dream into your ideal day?  

My ideal day? It’s divided into a morning routine, writing routine, flex time and evening routine.  I get up when I wake up first after 500am.  I greet Molly with a Good morning Molly, it’s going to be an amazing day.  I cycle.  I strength train – according to a cycling/strength training plan. I shower.  I grab a cup of coffee. And start my daily writing.  My morning routine generally ends by 10am.  My mornings are mine.  I rarely make a commitment before 10am. Daily writing often drifts into my flex time, depending on the day.  If I am on a writing roll, I keep on going.  Flex time can include breaky or lunch with a friend, reading or more writing, coaching calls, board meetings, dog walks, cello practice, tai chi…  Like the name suggests, I’m flexible.  My eating routine is easy and really boring – I fast daily from 6pm – noon the following day.  My evening routine starts around 7pm and includes a Molly walk, full body stretching routine, breathing/meditation, homework for life.  I’m ready to hit the sheets between 930 – 10pm.  

Do I succeed?  Nope.  That is not the point.  This is a thought experiment.  I have consolidated my morning routine.  Now I am working on my evening routine.  And for now flex time will remain flex time as I explore more activities I want to incorporate into my life or remove activities that no longer serve me.  

You may not have flex time – I am very fortunate with my coaching practice.  I didn’t have this luxury when still in medical practice – as I mentioned in Moment #1 – medicine dominates your life.  Perhaps you feel the same way about your career.  I get it, I willingly sacrificed much of my life to medicine.  Until I couldn’t any more.  Don’t let yourself get to that point.  Carve out some morning time and some evening time for you – even if it’s only 20 minutes.  Decide to make self-care a priority, before your health decides it for you.  

Talk again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…

Sassy Moment BONUS Celebrations

Good morning ladies, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and listen in, this is the Sassy Moments Podcast Bonus Moment, Celebrations!  

Woohoo celebrate 10 podcasts broadcast – statistically, I just broke through the first glass ceiling of podcasters… Many start – not so many reach 10 episodes…  Apparently there is a really high attrition rate for podcasts… So whoop whoop  I am celebrating.  So thrilled and I’m having a ton of fun at this.  I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am.  Even more importantly, I hope listening to my moments enhances your day and offers up something worth thinking about.

Maybe you could do me a favor and spread the word I’m here…  There is a lot of podcast chatter out in cyberspace – which is a great thing, but it means my message is one of several million and hard to find.  I cannot shout louder, but you my friends, can create a megaphone.  Please share an episode with all your friends.  Get them to share with their friends.    

Feel younger longer.  This is our legacy.  We can fundamentally change the societal dogma that we will end up lonely, frail and forgetful.  Rejuvenate your mind… Feel younger longer… Dare to dream.  Dare to become the best version of yourself. 

Celebrate.  How do you celebrate?  Maybe I should first ask, do you celebrate?  Most women are really good at celebrating other peoples achievements.  Think birthdays – they are a big deal for kids… but for women?  I think we give up celebrating birthdays cause it makes us feel old.  Eventually our kids start celebrating our birthday – because it might be our last.  Let’s not fall into the pattern.  Besides, celebrating is fun and fun, makes us feel younger.  

Let’s learn to celebrate?  What can you celebrate that will make you feel younger?  Perhaps it’s not your birthday at this time, but maybe next birthday you can celebrate the fact that you learned a new skill – or can now lift 20kg, or can now cycle 30 km… Those are big wins… Once a year wins.  And they should be celebrated accordingly.  Do not let these big deals go unrecognized!  And for goodness sake, do not move the goalposts because you are close.  I am so guilty of that – moving the goal just as I arrive.   I remember being stuck on a weight loss plateau for months – that is another long story – but when I finally broke through it… I didn’t celebrate, I just moved the goalposts. I believe my thought was, “it’s about time.” and I am pretty sure my thought included a 4 letter explicative or two!  No wonder weight loss is such a  miserable experience.  

How can you celebrate the big wins?  Share with friends.  Treat yourself to something you normally wouldn’t… a facial, manicure or pedicure or all three.  I often buy myself books, or a subscription to a podcast, sometimes coaching.  Reward yourself,  plan ahead for it.  Post a picture of your reward where you see it everyday.  It can serve as a motivator. Do not not celebrate.

Having said that – you will find the big wins accumulate faster if you celebrate the small wins.   And the small wins, are so much more fun!  And celebrating the small wins will form the habits that make the big wins possible.  So shift your focus to the small wins.  

As my cello teacher taught me – focus on the process, the rest will follow.  Focus on the process.  Celebrate the process.  As you may know, cello unlike guitars, do not have frets to mark the correct position to hit the right pitch.  And whenever I shifted position, I missed the pitch and I could hear how wrong it was.  The more I missed the more frustrated I got and the more I missed.  Ever so patient, he was calm… focus on the process not the result.  Focus on the process, the rest will follow.  And as I relaxed into the process – I stopped missing.  And cello got to be a lot more fun! 

Celebrate the small wins.  Consciously and fanatically reward yourself.  Exaggerate it.  Say it out loud.  Well done, Karen.  Or Whoop Whoop, fist bumps with myself.  Write it down – I count – day 20 of a new habit.  Day 21.  Day 22… Whoop whoop.  I use colored markers and write the number on the day…  Watching those numbers fill up the month… awesome.  Thirty day challenges work for me… Maybe 7 is all you need.  Explore – figure it out.   Counting is how I created my daily cycling habit… I stopped counting after day 120… It was an established habit – I was so very impressed with myself!  Whoop whoop… 

Focus on the small wins and celebrate ladies.  Celebrate.  Celebrate like no one is watching.  And if they are, ask them to join in.  

All this to say, hey help me celebrate – please share.  Whoop whoop. Tell all your friends.    

Talk again soon.

Live Life, Love Life, Always…