Laura’s Blog to Healthy (er) Living

A BHAG revisited-Guest Post

Posted by Laura on January 4th, 2017

Happy 2017!   Please welcome my first guest writer, Miss Sherry Paden.

Sherry and I worked together at Ballston Sport and Health for several years.  I always admired Sherry’s intelligence and tenaciousness. When Sherry was inspired by people around her, she took action to achieve for herself the things she wanted, usually with spectacular results.

In January 2016, I challenged Sherry to set a BHAG, a big hairy audacious goal.  A goal that would both terrify her and excite her. Sherry’s post is an excellent example of how setting a BHAG can change your life, regardless of whether you achieve it or not.

Here is her story:

Happy New Year!

I will ask you the same thing a dear friend of mine, Laura Dow, asked me around this time last year.

Ready for it?

What is your BHAG? That’s right, BHAG.

If you are anything like me, you are probably sitting there thinking “A B- what??”

Before my conversation with Laura, every new year brought with it a plethora of new goals. I wanted to work out, I wanted to eat better, or there was always something I wanted to achieve or work on that had somehow fallen to the bottom of my priorities the year prior.

This cycle of creating goals and “falling off the wagon” a couple months later was finally broken for me last year, when Laura shared with me what I am now going to share with you

What is this so called BHAG?? It means Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—a goal that’s just a little bit too far out of reach. There are a couple important things to note before you go running off trying to figure out what yours is, so hold your horses!!

A BHAG is a challenge. You WANT goals that just out of reach. That sounds crazy though, right? Why in the world would you want to set a goal that you can’t reach?

Well, let me tell you, a goal that is just beyond your fingertips will inspire you to work harder and more creatively. Secondly, even if you don’t reach it, your BHAG will do amazing things! BHAGs are meant to push you and get you to try just a little bit harder!

So now, if you are thinking to yourself, “Oh, I’ve got this in the bag!” and you are able to sit down immediately after reading this and write out your BHAG for 2017, I would encourage you to give it some more time and effort.

Honestly, I didn’t have a good grasp on the concept of a BHAG until mine found me. Yep. My BHAG found me. I will share my experience with you.

I am a 26 year graduate student, destined for the field of Psychology. I met Laura a couple years back as I was about to start my Master’s program (2014)— we were personal trainers at the same gym.

Fast forward to the new year of 2016, I remember Laura approaching me while I was on the stair stepper. She asks me this question about a BHAG, and I was quick to respond.

I told her my BHAG would be to graduate in the spring and do another body building competition….perhaps, I would be ambitious and try a half marathon or something, since I had not yet tried to run one.

I remember her saying something along the lines of these things being goals.. that I knew I would achieve them, and that a BHAG was something bigger.

I thought to myself….what could be bigger than graduating with a masters degree?  Don’t body building competitions and half marathons take a lot of dedication???

Come on Laura, cut me some slack! (haha)

I told her I would apply to a doctorate program.

There! Take that, Laura!

Nope….still NOT good enough!

What the heck is this BHAG business??

I racked my brain for several weeks, and if I’m being honest again, I stopped trying to figure it out for a while.

I spent my spring applying to and interviewing for doctorate programs in Northern Virginia and in the New England area. Let me preface this by telling you I am NOT a northern girl!

I had visited the state of Massachusetts maybe one or two times and never thought it was anything to write home about. I heard back from the program in Northern Virginia first.

Without waiting to hear back from the program in Boston, I had pretty much decided on that program. Easy decision, right? I get to pursue my lifelong dream AND stay close to friends and family!

The night I sat down to fill out the acceptance forms, I got an email that changed my life. I had also gotten accepted to the program in Boston.

I felt excited and absolutely terrified! It wasn’t until that moment, in the late spring, that I realized what my BHAG was. It was time for me to make a drastic change.

My BHAG wasn’t just about starting a Clinical Psychology program, it was about self-discovery. It was about pushing my own limits and stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I’m not getting younger, so what was I waiting for? I put my notice in at the gym, and a couple months later I packed what I could fit into a small trailer and had my things shipped to an apartment in Boston that I found on Craigslist.

I took a gamble and threw a few applications out so I could afford rent over the summer and now work at one of the top psychiatric hospitals in the country!

Setting a BHAG has taught me to let go of the reigns a bit. I tend to be a bit of a control freak and have tried to plan out every minute of every day. While it is still good to set goals for yourself along the way, accomplishing my BHAG has showed me that if I put in the hard work and effort, good things will result from it.

These good things might not have been EXACTLY what I could have anticipated, and that’s okay! I’ve learned to let loose a bit, be more spontaneous, and welcome new possibilities that I would have shut down before because they weren’t in my original plans.

I still haven’t completely found out who I am yet, but I just finished my first semester at my program, and I reconnected with a friend who I now anticipate spending the rest of my life with, so things aren’t looking too bad for me!

As you think about your own BHAG, remember that success isn’t about reaching a goal. Whether you reach your BHAG right away, or if it takes you a little longer than you expected, the pursuit of your goal—the steps you take toward it—are success!


original artwork (BHAG) by Jamie McMahon


Hello My Name is Laura……..*

Posted by Laura on September 21st, 2016

and I’m a control freak.  Honestly, I’d like to say recovering control freak.

andrea-lawent-quoteWhile I am much better about letting go, I still exhibit this behavior especially during periods of little sleep and/or stressful times.

Do you relate?  Perhaps substituting the word “perfectionist” works better for you.  How about anxious personality?  Insert the word or phrase of your choice.  The point is that most of us are not “go with the flow/chill out” type of folks, particularly me and other people living in the metro DC area.

I am privileged to work with very intelligent, successful, well educated clients.  They show up for their training sessions, do what I ask with mostly unfailing good humor and they laugh at my stupid jokes.  What more could I want?

I want them to stop shooting themselves in the foot.

From my perspective (and this includes me looking at myself), my clients have limiting beliefs, habits and attitudes preventing them from achieving some or all of their health and fitness goals.   Sometimes my clients are aware of these mental constructs but more generally they are not.  I think this is true for many of us.

Picture an iceberg.

iceberg floating on clear water

Usually we can see the part above the water because it shows up in our lives in some obvious ways like being overweight, making poor food choices, drinking excessively, not exercising, not sleeping, feeling exhausted all the time, cranky, out of sorts, etc.

Because our lives are so full, we don’t have the mental space to explore the part of the iceberg below the surface in any kind of consistent, meaningful fashion.  This results in the root of our limiting beliefs staying hidden and therefore unexamined.

Coming back to perfectionism, a common theme among my clients is going “all out” otherwise known as “balls to the wall”, “hustling”,  “giving 150%”, “always on the go” “busy, busy, busy”, “thinking of everyone else but themselves”.

We all know the phrase “perfect is the enemy of good” but intellectually understanding the words and then being able to circumvent deeply held beliefs in order to make different choices is often viewed as a leap across the Grand Canyon.  To quote Ralph Wiggum “That’s unpossible”.  How to bridge the gap?

Consider the following strategy:  what about doing 1% better/more/different?  Instead of going all out (which is sometimes appropriate but not on a day to day basis for weeks and months on end), what would be 1% better than what you’re currently doing?

Returning to my subject line, I recently had the opportunity to practice this idea in my professional life.  People who know me know I value excellence.  I have high expectations for myself and for others.  We can debate the wisdom of this position another time.  Work with me for now.

My professional life is extremely full at the moment with several major projects all of which I am passionate about and interested in.  My usual MO would be to either:  1. go completely insane attempting to meet my standard of excellence on each project  OR 2. eliminate a project to lighten my load.

In thinking about my control freak nature and my perfectionist tendencies, I decided to do an experiment.   What about doing “good enough”? Instead of my giving 150% effort/time/energy, how about giving 70 or 80%?  Even now, it’s hard for me to type those words.

Counterintuitively, my 1% better/more/different in this situation is letting go of my need to achieve my standard of excellence, i.e. either giving 150% or giving nothing.

If I want to stay sane and I want to stay involved with these projects, I need to change my perspective.  Doing 1% better (good enough) feels manageable to me and still satisfies my value of excellence.  I’ll be completely honest, my value of excellence is being partly satisfied but not totally.  Change and comfortable are not yet included in the same sentence in my life.

I’ve decided that 1% better is better than 0% better. That’s what I’m trying and now, some time later, I still feel at peace with my decision.

It works for me.

Will it work for you?  Try it out and let me know.  What would doing or thinking or being 1% better in your life look like?

In Health,


*While my tone for this piece is playful, please understand that I am not disrespecting the seriousness of addictions and/or making light of any 12 step program.  I grew up in a family with significant addiction issues and substantial dysfunctional behavior.  12 step programs can help.  There are also 12 step groups which support those family members, friends, partners who love people who are struggling with addictions.

With Laughing Song and Merry Dance*

Posted by Laura on September 5th, 2016

heart and KBI love planning.  Give me a complicated, seemingly insurmountable goal and I’ll reverse engineer that sucker down into its 2500 component parts without breaking a sweat.  I’ll create attainable action items in a jiffy, lay out a timeline, consider potential obstacles, strategize, plot, pivot, dodge, you name it and that insurmountable goal will become reality.  My planning ability is one of my superpowers.  Like being a royal pain in the ass.  More on that superpower another time.  Dear reader are you surprised?

I’m quite attached to my plans.  And therein lies the problem.  Sigh.  The Buddha says attachment is one of the root causes of suffering.  He also said that pain is inevitable but suffering is an option.  That Buddha was a smart dude.

In my previous post, I wrote about bunny bumps and lessons learned.  In the post before that, I talked about how that ultimate trickster life loves to throw us curve balls and see how we react.  I wrote that not everything appearing negative at the moment stays negative with some time elapsed.

I wrote that with a healthy dose of resiliency, you can choose to laugh the next time life zings a curve ball at your head, knocking you off your feet.  I also said that when the timing looks completely wrong, trust, that framed with another perspective, it’s completely right.  And silly me, I wrote that there was plenty of time for more bunny bumps to appear on my road to RKC, my September kettlebell certification.

You know where this is going right?

My RKC was cancelled.

A quick recap: RKC is a 3 day kettlebell test/certification. RKC carries enormous meaning for me stretching back to 2008 when I was first introduced to that funny looking weight back in California.

We have a tumultuous relationship, RKC and me.  After moving to DC in 2009, I prepared for the event only to get significantly injured.  I thought my dream was shelved permanently.  The path back was slow.  I’ll spare you the details.  Fast forward.

In the summer of 2014, I hired a personal trainer. Yes, we do that!  It was a very wise investment. One of my objectives was to restart my training with KB’s which happened.

Then I started having ideas.  Could I get my RKC?   At that point in my life, I viewed the requirements as daunting physically and mentally.  My training would have to be kicked up quite a bit and I would need at least a year of prep.

Planning ensued.  I had a wonderful plan (RIP).  The plan was working beautifully for over a year.  Yay me!

In June 2016, bunny bumps appeared and then life decided to get serious with its curve balls.  Two weeks before the event, my RKC was cancelled.

Last week was a bit of blur, I think I went catatonic for a couple of days.  I know that while I wanted to rant and rave like a lunatic, that wouldn’t help so I sent my 3 year old self to the beach to chill out.  Really.  That’s part of my process for how I deal with setbacks.

Ah, process!  Another attachment.  However, in this case, I view it as a survival mechanism.  While paying attention to my emotions is good self-care, making sure that the adult Laura is driving the bus (i.e. evaluating the situation with wisdom and perspective) is vital to keeping the bus from crashing.

And let’s be real here:  no one died, I still have 10 fingers and 10 toes and while this situation is personally very important to me, it’s not a crisis to anyone else.

With the help of friends (you know who you are and many thanks for being there!), I have a path forward to still attaining my RKC albeit later this year.

I am in the process of regrouping, looking at what I need right now and knowing that with some time elapsed, I will view the situation a little differently.

I share my story with you because I write about failure, resiliency, process, goals, left turns, etc.  For my readers, I think sharing is helpful because it lets you know that all isn’t cupcakes and rainbows on my side of the page.  And perhaps my story, in some small way, helps you deal with your bunny bumps and curve balls.

So, with laughing song and merry dance (*apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan), it’s time to swing dem ‘bells.

Cue up the theme to “Rocky”.

In Health,


Bunny Bumps and Lessons Learned

Posted by Laura on August 13th, 2016

photo (3)Earlier in the summer, I hoped to write a number of posts about my training and prep for my upcoming RKC (kettlebell certification).  My intent was that by sharing my process, you might see what challenges I faced and how I dealt with them.  Maybe some of what worked for me might work for you.  Or you may think of how to adapt how I worked with myself to help you in your life. Or if I went up in flames, you could see what NOT to do.

I hit a couple of bunny bumps in June including a major life change that got in the way of writing those posts. The bunny bumps weren’t the challenges I expected. Honestly we cannot anticipate all the curve balls life has up its sleeve.  I’d like to share my challenges with you and the learnings I gained. Let’s do a quick recap.

Due to my landlord’s physical health, I moved in June.

iStock_000012504262XSmallDuring this time, I got off track with my KB practice/work out routine.  I still exercised but not with my previous frequency or level of concentration.  I asked myself not to panic or beat myself up.  I reminded myself (rather constantly) that I have been seriously preparing for my RKC since last November.  I was back to my normal work out schedule by early July.

Lesson one:  Life happens.  Be grateful for what I have.  Take a breath (or two or a thousand).  Everything works out.  Life goes on.

Around the same time, another unexpected situation occurred: I was given the opportunity to become more involved both personally and professionally with a nutrition company, Precision Nutrition (PN).

I received my Pn1 coaching certification in April, 2016 and was planning on obtaining my Pn2 cert after I got through my RKC.  In June, Precision Nutrition decided, for the first time, to allow all their PN1 certified professionals to offer PN’s on line nutrition education/coaching course to our individual clients.

This was a fantastic development and I jumped at the opportunity.

In addition to having access to their online coaching platform, PN also allowed us to participate as a client.  I’m going through the same program I’m offering my clients.  I’m obtaining excellent results and I am beyond pleased.

Also, an unexpected consequence of PN’s decision is my meeting like-minded professionals around the world and becoming more active in this community.

In a few short weeks, I created a new company, SolFull Nutrition and  a new webpage.  In early September I am offering PN’s on line course to a select group of clients.

Even though I was quite excited, I was and still am apprehensive about adding more to an already packed summer.  Would the PN opportunities distract me from my RKC prep?  Would I be able to successfully do both?

The answer to that question is still open.  I’ll let you know in September.

Lesson 2:  Take advantage of opportunities which align with basic values and professional passions even when the timing doesn’t seem “right”.  Trust that the timing is always right.

Another challenge has been to get to a certain weight for my RKC.  Part of my test is a timed event where depending on my age and weight, I execute a KB skill with a particular weight bell.  Not much I can do about my age.  However, my weight I can control to a degree.  The challenge is to lose weight (a few pounds) and NOT lose strength.

Since May, I’ve lost 8 lbs and have increased total body strength.  I am well below the weight I need to be for the KB I’ve been training with.  Losing this weight has required daily energy and attention.  Using a food tracking app (My Fitness Pal) and being a client of PN have helped me as well as having this important goal (RKC) which is a very strong motivating factor!

536212_387430834609609_311752525510774_1455514_264270811_nLesson 3:  Having a “team” behind me whether that’s a company or individuals is vital.  Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.  Be open to help from unexpected places.

I’m 5 weeks out from my RKC.  There’s still time for more bunny bumps. And that’s ok.  I’ll deal.

In Health,



Posted by Laura on August 9th, 2016

Cracked sidewalk with pothole in need of repairRobert Burns was one smart dude.  Remember him?  He’s the Scots poet who wrote:  “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley” otherwise known as:  “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray”.

At one point or another, usually when we think we’ve come up with a great plan and FINALLY we’ve got it together (whatever it is), we fall in a hole and can’t seem to climb out.  We haven’t a clue as to where this bloody hole came from and why we didn’t see it before we fell in.  And then life, which created the hole in the first place, that trickster, starts laughing.

How do you respond when you fall in a hole?  Do you crumble in a heap and cry “Poor me, poor me?”  Do you waste energy swearing at the hole?  Or do you ask the question: now what?

Your answer is an indication of your level of resiliency, your ability to bounce back after unexpected, usually negatively perceived life challenges.  In the area of study known as positive psychology, resilience is an important component of mental health.

If you have health and fitness goals, resiliency is a vital strength since there will be many times you take 2 steps forwards and 1 step backwards-sometimes into a hole.  If you are unsure of yourself i.e. lack the ability to regroup, you may not be able to easily climb out and get back on track towards your goals.

Confidence in this trait is critical because most assuredly, when you’ve come up with the perfect plan (HA!) and everything is going just right, life will throw you a whopper of a curve ball.  Can you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to business?  The answer will be yes if you’ve done it before.  And therefore you know you can do it now.

This is the notion of self-efficacy I wrote about in my last post.  Self-efficacy is the knowledge that you have faced challenges in the past, dealt with them in a way that moved you forward and that you are now stronger and have more better tools to deal with whatever life throws at you next.

Through dealing with previous life obstacles, you’ve developed a higher level of self-awareness, particularly an increased awareness of your character strengths including resilience.  You also have learned to shift perspective, understanding that not all “negative” experiences, while perhaps perceived as negative in the moment in time, are negative in the long run.

So the next time your plans go “poof!” because you fell in a hole you didn’t see and life starts laughing, you can laugh too.  Because you know you’ve got an ace in the hole-YOU!

In Health,


Process, Goals and Maps-Oh My!

Posted by Laura on May 30th, 2016

Toy car on a road mapI’m a process person.  I like understanding the “how of things” i.e. how people think and figuring out how to get from A to B.  Which way is best?  Super highway or scenic route?   That depends.

I also love puzzles and mysteries.  Friends know I read the end of a new book first.  Of course the last chapter makes no sense to me whatsoever.  Then starting at the beginning, I challenge myself to see how long it will take me to understand the characters and the plot. Kind of like “I can name that tune in how many  notes?”.

I love the “AHA” moment when I get the twists or the big reveal.  For those of you who are more visually inclined, perhaps this is similar to a fuzzy image coming into focus.  At what point can you discern a coherent picture?

I like goals too. Arriving is fun.  Reaching a personal goal can be quite meaningful and satisfying. There are many benefits to setting and achieving goals.  Achieving a goal can change the way we perceive ourselves, perhaps feeling more confident or better able to overcome a future obstacle.  That’s definitely happened in my life.  Goals also provide measurable data. You can clearly see you’ve journeyed from A to B.  Additionally, goals can help you create a process.  If you’ve reached a goal and tracked your progress, you now have a basic method for achieving future goals.  How awesome is that?

Most people know what health and fitness goals they want whether it’s losing weight, building muscle, eating better, etc.  What most people don’t know is the how of that process.   How to pull all the overwhelming and often contradictory information together to form an effective map?  How to manage change in a way that is supportive of the goal rather than self-sabotaging?

A concept called “self-efficacy” may be helpful here.  Basically self-efficacy states past success predicts future success.  If you had achieved a goal once, you have a better chance of achieving the same or a similar goal now than if you had tried and failed at a goal or never attempted that particular goal.

Self-efficacy is money in the bank.  The experience of successfully achieving an outcome is still inside you, like a map is always available to guide you if you still want to drive to a familiar destination. If you want to go to a new destination, you need a different map.  You can’t get to Florida if all you have is a map of New Mexico. This is a problem.

Note that the process of change and your experience of the process of change are different.  Wait, what?  Alfred Korzybski, an eminent semantics scholar, famously said “The map is not the territory” meaning that the process which guides you to a destination or goal is not the actual journey you experience.  Maps are a tool: general, applicable and useful to all (if you know how to read a map) yet your experience of following the map and the roads it depicts is personal and unique.

Do you have the map you need to reach the goals you want?  Or are you trying to get to Tampa via Albuquerque?  Contact me when you’re on the road and let me know how that is working for you (hands free please, no texting and driving).

In Health,



Left Turns, Failing Up, Starting from the End and The Big Reveal

Posted by Laura on May 27th, 2016

Laura TGU pic smallerWell hello there!  It’s been awhile and I want to catch up with you. Where did we left off? Oh, yes, that’s right- Hyper-Intelligent Space Dolphins, I remember now.

A lot has happen since that September, 2015 post:  left turns, failing up, starting from the end and maybe soon “The Big Reveal”.  If you recall, in January, 2015, I set a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal).  At the time, I didn’t have a bloody clue as to what my BHAG was or when it would happen.

Looking back now, my BHAG did not occur in 2015, at least nothing that scared the pants off me AND thrilled me at the same time. 2016, however, is another story. I do believe that multiple BHAG’s are happening this year. Let’s review and then we’ll get to the meat and potatoes.

One of my 2015 goals was to become a certified kettlebell instructor.  This happened in November.  My certification (called HKC) was a one day event covering 3 kettlebell skills.  These skills are tested at the end of the day and must be demonstrated with strict standards in order to pass.  I was properly prepared and passed the exit exam.  I had a fabulous instructor, Master RKC Michael Krivka and learned so much about kettlebells.

HKC is an entry level certification, an excellent beginning but not the gold standard in the kettlebell world.  The gold standard is a 3 day marathon of learning, doing and testing covering 6 kettlebell skills, called RKC. I first eyed the RKC back in 2008 when I started swinging bells in San Francisco but I never thought I would be able to physically survive the event.

Getting through 3 days is arduous enough but if you want to pass and remain injury-free, you must properly train. Up to 30% of folks attending the RKC fail the exit skills tests.

Any number of my kettlebell peeps told me that an intelligent training program for RKC should include kettlebell work 4-6 times a week, starting 6 months to a year before the certification date.

Bell weight is prescribed for parts of the test, meaning that based on my age and weight, I am expected to demonstrate some of the tested skills with a certain weight bell.  A section of the test is timed with a number of repetitions expected within that time frame (i.e. 100 snatches in 5 minutes).

Very demanding on a lot of levels, not just physically.

After I completed my HKC, it dawned on me that I now possessed half the skills I needed for RKC.  Because of my experience with Mike, my HKC instructor, I wanted to register for the 2016 RKC he would be hosting and teaching.  Plus I needed a generous amount of training time.  And I wasn’t sure what the date would be.

In April, 2016, his RKC was announced for September.  Could I train properly to get through the 3 day event and pass?  Well I’m going to find out. I am registered for this RKC.


With an excellent foundation from many months of training for my HKC, I’ve been focused on improving my KB skills and daily practicing since November.  I now have a little less than 4 months left before my test.  I have a goal weight to hit in order to use the bell I want for my timed skills test.  While my goal weight is not far from my current weight, I can’t afford to lose any strength.

In part due to Artemis Scantalides’ (a senior kettlebell instructor and Iron Maiden) writing about her recent experience losing weight while retaining/increasing strength for her lifting events and to Malik Stevens’ (a S&H colleague of mine) willingness to publicly declare his nutrition goals, I will be sharing how I am preparing for my RKC, my weight loss struggles and my other BHAG’s.

It’s my hope that from reading my experiences, you will find a nugget or two which works for you as you contemplate what changes you wish for your life.  Perhaps you’ll laugh as well.  That’s fine, I laugh at myself all the time. We all could stand to laugh more.

Next post-how I work with myself, training and weight loss struggles.

In Health (and swingin’ dem bells!)~



Hyper-Intelligent Space Dolphins

Posted by Laura on September 28th, 2015

EX 2Wait, What?

Before your brain explodes, hang on one second.  Reading this post about hyper-intelligent space dolphins may help you deal with your more pressing questions of  how to lose 5lbs, eat healthier or feel less stressed.

Wait, What? is actually the name of  a future technology forum sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s blue-sky wing.

At this year’s forum in St. Louis, a panel of eminent scientists tackled the question of “Are We Alone and Have We Been?” (see entire talk here:

Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago as well as an artist, explained the limitations of exclusively looking for carbon based life on other planets.  What if, she asked, intelligent life on other planets is water based, i.e. hyper-intelligent space dolphins.  Because most stars are red dwarves, emitting infra-red radiation (as compared to our yellow dwarf sun which does not emit infra-red radiation) hyper-intelligent space dolphins would need to stay underwater to survive.

Humans live on the surface of our planet.  We are able to see the stars and as a result we have developed concepts of astronomy and undertaken space travel.  Due to that nasty infra-red radiation, hyper-intelligent space dolphins cannot turn their gaze to the heavens. And they cannot develop astronomical concepts.  Walkowicz’ specific comments can be found at 25.50 into the panel discussion.  For more information on Walkowicz, see her website:

You may wonder: how does pondering hyper-intelligent space dolphins have any bearing on your health and fitness?

Let me ask you:  when was the last time you noticed your perspective?  Perspective means the structure you bring to your thinking, how you look at the world, your beliefs and attitudes that frame your perceptions.

I often tell my clients that angles matter in weight training.  Meaning that if you change your stance like sitting to standing or change the position of your weight training like high to low, you change the exercise (to a degree) and its effect on your body.

Let me ask you again: when was the last time you watched your thinking, noticed you held a particular viewpoint about some person, situation or topic and then discovered an alternative perspective which blew yours out of the water?

Considering hyper-intelligent space dolphins allows us to get outside ourselves and contemplate other possibilities.  It’s a paradigm shift, a game changer.  Once you are exposed to the concept, even if you don’t fully understand the thinking behind it, you can’t go back to your previous perspective.  You have moved your gaze 1 centimeter to the left.  And now your world looks different.

Einstein said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.  To lose those 5lbs or eat healthier, you must evolve.  You must transcend your current thinking.  The person you are right now is the person who gained those 5lbs and/or eats at McDonald’s.  How do you become the person who makes healthier food choices?  How do you get beyond your current framework of thinking?  How do you become your future self?

Here are some suggestions:

Cultivate a curiosity about yourself.

Talk to others who will actively challenge your thoughts and who can offer you provocative new ideas.  Read books outside those which you would normally choose.  Go to an art exhibit which doesn’t particularly interest you and try to understand the artist’s concepts and how she created her artwork.

Travel.  Look at the stars.  And consider hyper-intelligent space dolphins.

In Health,


Many thanks to Kristen Fuller for her enthusiastic conversation about the panel forum and this concept.

Original artwork by David Deakin

Failing up

Posted by Laura on September 14th, 2015

Man&Art Assblg web 2_edited-1 copy (1)In celebrated author and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s latest book, “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better”, she quotes Samuel Beckett:  “Ever try.  Ever fail.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again. Fail better.”  I love this quote. How many of us think about how to fail better?

Most people have a troubled relationship with the notion of failure.  Our culture is generally fixated on winning. Failure is usually viewed as a catastrophe, something to be avoided at all costs.   I disagree.

My take on failure is that every situation gives us information, regardless of the outcome.  In fact, the outcome is often the least interesting part.  If we “win”, we usually don’t learn a whole lot.  We celebrate, pat ourselves on the back and move on to attempt the next win.  If we fail, we often take the “failure” to heart and believe we’re a bad person, that we’ll never get what we want and then we spiral down the rabbit hole.  You’re not a good person BECAUSE you won.  The opposite is also true.  You are not a bad person BECAUSE you failed.

Remembering Beckett’s quote, how can we fail better?  Or from my perspective, how can we fail up?

Let’s redefine failure as setting an intention or goal which wasn’t achieved.  If that’s our definition, then all of us fail regularly:  we don’t get our entire “to-do” list done, we don’t email or text a friend back in a timely way, we procrastinate on a project at work, we don’t lose the weight we want to lose, we snap at our significant other, we didn’t attend religious services last week.  I’m confident that each of us could find multiple instances of failure every day.

So failing to achieve a result does not mean we are each failures as human beings.  It means that we set a goal or had a desire that wasn’t met.

What would failing better or failing up look like?   Well, let’s start with desire.  Desire is an attachment to outcome. Desire means we want something and when we don’t get what we want, we often feel emotional pain, sometimes very deep emotional pain. This is a  Buddhist thought, that desire/attachment to outcome causes suffering.

Failing better could mean letting go of what happens as the result of setting a goal.  This is the “it’s the journey that matters, not the destination” idea.  Instead of aiming for the finish line, you focus on process, the how of the moment rather than the outcome.

Failing up could mean understanding yourself more by examining what happened, what prevented you from achieving your goal.  Please don’t go into victim mode here. You may have had very difficult external obstacles AND your internal perspective regarding those obstacles is critical.  Terrible things happen to people. Author Byron Katie states:  “Victims are violent people”.  Be aware of the story you’re telling yourself.

Failing up may also mean that the path has shifted. I’ve shared in previous posts that setting a goal, working towards that goal and then failing to achieve the goal has led me to new and more interesting places.  Maybe that’s failing up.

When I was a child, my father often said to me “if you’re going to make a mistake, make a big one”.  I think he meant if there’s a chance I might mess up, I might as well go for broke and fully commit to whatever I was attempting, regardless of the result.  I agree with his statement.  Decide, fully commit, learn from yourself and evolve.  Fail better.  Fail up.

In Health,


Artwork:  David Deakin                                                                                       




Starting From The End

Posted by Laura on August 26th, 2015

future and pastI recently read an excellent article by a colleague concerning the importance of an intelligently designed warm-up for athletes. Sports warm-ups are a starting point, a prelude to the main event, whether that main event is a practice, drill, scrimmage or game.   According to my colleague, an effective warm-up, by definition, helps athletes get into the most advantageous mental, emotional and physical state possible so they can execute at their highest level during the game.  I agree.  His article got me thinking about how often my clients “warm-up”, not as athletes participating in a sport, but as ordinary humans wanting to improve their health and fitness.  Is his concept transferable? Would an intelligently designed warm-up be effective for my clients?

In my opinion, an effective warm-up is a process: to move people from where they’re at to where they want to be.  Pema Chodron says in her book “The Places That Scare You”: “Right here is a good place to start.  Start where you are”.  While some clients want to wait for the perfect time to start, by and large most people are very good at starting.  How many times have my clients started an exercise program, started a new diet, taken a new yoga or Pilates class or started tracking their steps?

My clients usually have a clear end goal in mind: weight loss, shedding inches, eating better, feeling less stressed, stop watching TV, be more productive, etc.  While they can often articulate the goal they want to accomplish, they seem less successful describing the process of how they will reach their goal.  How do clients get from where they’re at to where they want to be?  How do they become the person who has lost 20lbs for example?Who is that person?

Thinking about the how of change often feels overwhelming.  So many ways to begin, so many choices. The choices are vast indeed. People hire me to help guide them through the process of change.

I wonder: do my clients ever think about how to finish? Do they consider who they will become when they’ve actually achieved their goal?  I guarantee my clients will change, in some predictable ways and also in some very unpredictable ways, during their journey.  Reaching for a goal, whether or not it’s achieved, means change.

What if we started from the end?  Instead of  the person who works towards the goal, what if instead we thought about who the person becomes by the end of the journey? Who is this new person who has already achieved the goal? Let’s take a closer look.

I’ll be the example. Working backwards, if I want to lose 20lbs, who is the Laura who has achieved this goal and how is she different than the Laura I am now? What choices does the future Laura make which are different than the choices the present Laura is making?  How are her feelings different?  How does she act differently?  Frame your questions from this future vantage point.

If I believe that I’m trying to lose weight I can easily get stuck.  That little word trying is a major stumbling block.  I want to be the person losing weight rather than the person TRYING to lose weight. This is an important mental distinction. Remember Yoda: do, not try.   Does the person who loses 20lbs eat 3 bags of potato chips while laying on the couch watching endless “Law and Order” reruns?  I think not.

Once I establish how the Laura who’s lost 20lbs acts, I can act that way now.  Note the operative word: now. That’s the gap, the key to pivoting from trying to doing.  With this attitude,  I am now in process, a very different place than the place of  “trying”. Einstein said:  “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.  The Laura who currently wants to lose 20lbs cannot lose this weight if she doesn’t transcend (change) her present level of consciousness.  Starting from the end is one way of transcending your present level.

Play with this concept for a bit.  In the next post, I will describe a specific coaching tool on how to work backwards by establishing a connection with your future self.

In health (and still reading the ending of my books first),