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I'm a professional coach and former practicing lawyer, here to help you explore how to become more effective, intentional, and fulfilled in your personal and professional life. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me!
Most of us have ideas or goals related to our “ideal” lifestyle. Whether they are about being more mindful, increasing fitness, eating healthier, or simply enhancing our overall wellbeing. Yet, we often don’t do the things that we know would get us there, at least not consistently.
I’ve been thinking lately how this relates to an all-or-nothing mindset. As a big picture, visionary person, I tend to see the BIG goal — the ideal — and want to jump to that right away. My coaching clients sometimes do this as well!
For example, back when I was just getting started with exercising more, I had a vision of ideally working out 5-6 days a week. To me, that seemed like what fit people would do! Rather than gradually building up to that, I’d aim for 5-6 days a week right away.
Honestly… I’m not sure it would have even occurred to me back then to build up gradually. In my mind, I was either working out 5-6 days a week or I wasn’t reaching my goal. All or nothing.
The problem is, that’s a huge lifestyle change to expect of myself all at once. I’d work out a few times here and there, but nowhere near 5 days a week. Frustrated with myself, I’d give up before I hit any sort of consistency. Eventually, motivation returned and I’d shoot for 5-6 days a week again. And the cycle would repeat…
In the end, I was working out sparsely, here and there, with very little results. That’s what the all-or-nothing mindset got me!!
Eventually, I realized that it’s not what we do every once in a while, it’s the small actions we do consistently.
When you start small and build up to your ideal, you lay a more solid foundation. Over time, those small actions become just something you do. You can build on that foundation much easier.
When I aimed for exercising 5-6 days a week, I had no foundation for it. My expectation was unrealistic and while I certainly could have achieved that goal, it would’ve required more self-discipline and effort. The chances of me sticking with it would’ve been greater if I had started small and worked up to that (which is eventually what I did).
Especially when it comes to lifestyle changes, it’s almost always better to start small, stay consistent with that small action until it becomes a habit, and then build on it. That sets you up for more sustainable success. This is true not just for working out but for other things as well, like meditation, healthy eating, cooking, journaling, reading, and any other lifestyle change.
If I’m honest though… to someone like me with my eye on the ideal, end vision, it doesn’t come naturally to think of the smaller, incremental changes. My mind goes straight to the bigger vision!
And sticking to smaller changes for a longer period of time? Well… it feels like SLOW progress.
I know I’m not alone in this!
Knowing this, it’s something I’m especially mindful to challenge as I’m coaching clients who are tempted to set goals that seem like a jump straight from zero to their ideal without any incremental steps.
The way I shift my mindset around this is to remember that slow and steady is better than NOTHING, which is where the all-or-nothing mindset tends to lead!
After all, what good is going all out on a new lifestyle change for a few days or a week and then dropping it? Isn’t it better to stick with things you’ll actually do?
As a result, I’ve developed some simple, daily practices that lay a foundation for sustainable wellbeing and that I ACTUALLY do consistently with relative ease. At various times, I may have other/bigger goals and activities I play and experiment with, but these are the consistent ones always return to as a foundation.
And if you’re like me and you crave some freedom and flexibility in your day, these are all things that can be done any time throughout the day–it doesn’t have to be rigid. Make these your own!
(By the way, I’m not a medical professional, therapist, nutritionist or anything like that… these are just some of the things that have worked really well for me personally. In other words, take full responsibility for your own wellbeing!)
I keep a yoga mat in my living room and every day for at least a few minutes I stretch and/or do yoga. It’s so simple to unroll my mat on the floor and hit play on a free online yoga video. My go-to favorite is Yoga with Adriene. She has a range of videos, including for complete beginners, and focuses on mindful movement. Plus, she doesn’t take herself too seriously! (Nope, I’m not a sponsor but I should be because I love her videos and tell everyone I can about them!)
Whether it’s a 5-minute gentle yoga video, a 45-minute strength video, or simply doing my own stretching, getting on the mat daily helps me connect with my body, mind, and spirit. I love that it’s deep breathing, mindfulness, stretching, strengthening, and calming all in one. And it just feels really, really good! This is also a great way to build up a basic yoga practice before going to a class if you are apprehensive about that.
This practice is fairly new for me and I’m loving it! After years of strength training with a personal trainer, I’ve seen how incredible results come more so from consistency than the amount of time put in during any one workout session. Now, even if I don’t get to the gym for a traditional workout session,I keep a set of weights, a few exercise bands, and a yoga mat nearby at home and do short bursts of exercise throughout the day. Say goodbye to the all-or-nothing approach!!
So, while my coffee is brewing in the morning, maybe I’ll do some lunges in the kitchen. I might take a 10 minute break in the afternoon and do a short circuit with pushups, planks, and whatever else I feel like doing. In the evening while I’m catching up on a show, I’ll do another 5 minutes of abs.
You get the idea!
Sure, it may not be as intense as a heavy conditioning workout, but bit-by-bit I build more strength over the long-run because I’m able to be consistent with it and it’s something I can do every day no matter where I am. Finding something you can stick with consistently is better than a plan that’s more “ideal” but that you won’t do consistently.
I also find that if I’m going through a season where I’m just not feeling as into working out for whatever reason, it’s easier mentally to get myself to do this than go to the gym. If I know it’s only a few minutes, I just don’t feel that same resistance to it. And sometimes I end up doing more than a few minutes because it feels so good once I start!
Most days, I spend at least a few minutes writing in a journal as a way of connecting with myself. I feel calmer and less overwhelmed when I have a place to dump whats floating around in my head onto paper.
Journaling is not something I’ve always done! I’m the girl who started and stopped writing a “diary” as a kid about 27 times before giving up fully because I never got past one page.
Here’s the thing, I don’t journal as a keepsake or to document my life. It’s not a diary, it’s about connecting with my inner wisdom and processing my thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.
I write whatever comes out to be processed. I write my beliefs down and challenge them too, in a sense coaching myself. Sometimes I use prompts and other times I just free write.
Some days it’s 3 sentences before bed where I write what I’m grateful for that day. Other days, it’s pages and pages of visionary plans and dreams.
There are no rules!
For those of you who are hesitant about journaling but want to process your stuff and release it, consider release writing. This is a practice where you write, write, write as fast as you can whatever whatever stream of consciousness comes up. It doesn’t matter how your handwriting looks like and you don’t have to hold anything back for fear it could be read because you’re not keeping it. Put your energy and emotion into it and release it through writing, then tear up the paper, and throw it out!
For me, meditation is again about slowing down and carving out space. We get so wrapped up in doing all the things and over-cramming our schedules that for many of us, sitting quietly for a few moments just isn’t a part of life anymore!
Daily meditation helps me to feel calmer, grounded, and more connected with myself and my spirituality. Beyond relaxation, I have noticed that when I consistently meditate — even a few minutes a day — I am more patient, little annoyances or frustrations roll off me easier, and I also feel more focused when I sit down to work.
I started very small and simple with meditation. Using Headspace really helped me establish this habit. It also teaches basic principles of meditation, which in my experience a lot of people have misconceptions about that turn them away from even trying meditation
I also suspect that part of what I like about meditation is the self-discipline it takes to just “be.” While the goal of meditation is NOT having no thoughts at all (despite what many people think), sitting still and having the patience to be quiet with yourself — maybe even a little bored — is something we seem to have become really unaccustomed to and even a little uncomfortable with.
As soon as we have a quiet moment, we reach for our phone or otherwise fill it with noise (TV, podcasts, news, reading, music, conversations, social media, etc.). Even though those things aren’t “bad” things, we end up with virtually no quiet reflective time. I know I’ve been one to listen to podcasts while in the shower… arguably one of the last quiet places even the busiest person still has to themselves.
Beyond meditation, having quiet reflective time is essential for being connected with ourselves, problem-solving, creativity, and feeling grounded. At the very least, sitting quietly, doing nothing except deep breathing for a few minutes a day brings more calm to my day. Even if it doesn’t feel productive in the moment, it is essential to my overall wellbeing and truly thriving.
We all intuitively know the benefits of walking… I’m pretty sure I don’t need to site the studies for you! Beyond the physical benefits, I find that mindful walking helps me reduce stress and clear my mind. It also helps me return to my work more focused and rejuvenated.
Whether it’s 5 minutes, 30 minutes or more, mindful walking can be a great practice to incorporate into daily life. I love going for mindful walks as breaks in the workday or after meals. If walking isn’t available to you, the same can be done sitting outside in the fresh air.
Living in a city without a car, I walk almost everywhere. To get groceries, I have to walk 10 minutes each way. Mindful walking is more intentional though. I leave my phone at home or tucked away in my purse. Scrolling or phone calls while walking can wait for another time!
Before I begin, I set the intention to be fully present during my walk. As I’m walking, I bring my awareness to what’s going on within me and around me — noticing the breath gently going in and out of my body, the way my arms sway and my feet feel as they touch the earth, the chirping birds, the colors of the flowers, the breeze ruffling leaves on the trees.
I also notice any thoughts or emotions that come up as well, aware of them but not judging or dwelling on them. Noticing them rise up and float away like waves.
While I’m at it, I sometimes incorporate gratitude into this experience. It’s easy, once you start noticing the simple beauty around you, to bring your awareness to your appreciation for even the simplest things. And to bring a sense of childlike wonder and awe to the beauty of nature.
These simple practices enhance my wellbeing and satisfaction in every day life. They set a sustainable foundation for everything else I want to build on top to enhance my life further. These aren’t things that I do because I feel like I “should” and they aren’t meant to be more to pile on the to-do list. They’re daily habits that I choose to do because I want to! Because they feel so nourishing and good.
My hope in sharing these with you is that you feel inspired to develop your own set of daily practices of things you truly want to do. Things that feel really nourishing and supportive to you! Start there first.