*This is a portion of one of the chapters in my new book. As such, what is published here has not gone through final edits or design.*
If you want to make sustainable change in your body, your starting point is to look at the things you do frequently (and rarely) in your daily life. Remember, exercise and workouts hold value – and I’ll teach you how to make them work for you in later chapters – but they are just a small portion of your greater “ways you move and use your body” picture.
Think about your own typical day and ask yourself these questions – do I move through dozens of the nearly-infinite number of positions my body is built to be capable of, or do I move through just a few? What do I do every day?
Think about each part of your body, every joint that you have, even the things you may not think of very often when you think of your body – like your eyes and what you look at each day.
You get better at what you do repeatedly so even the things you do unintentionally – like leaning your arm on the center console of the car, or always tensing the muscles around your eye – you get better at.
Modern life is fairly limited in terms of potential for movement, which means limited opportunities to indicate to your body that “hey, we’re using this, send resources to maintain it and keep it functioning efficiently” – unless you orchestrate it otherwise. Even if you consider yourself an active individual, you’ll likely find that you only move in a few ways every day including in your workout, if you do one.
Everything you have ever done, not done, and will do is signal to your body about how it should respond. ‘Will do’ is an important part of the Signal/Response Principle to understand. We often tell kids at a certain age they are “done growing”. In fact, our cells are responding and turning over – and are capable of change – every day until our last. We are truly never done growing.
Pause and think about how you’re feeling right now. Notice your toes, move up through your legs. Notice your hips and your torso. Take note of your shoulders, your arms, your elbows, your hands, your fingers. Scan through your back and neck, up to the top of your head. How do you feel?
Do you feel absolutely amazing? Do you feel pretty good, except for one or two spots in your body, which has been feeling a little achy but you’ve been trying to power through them? Do you feel like your body is falling apart, with aches in random places and a growing list of movements and activities that create discomfort and pain?
Whatever you’re feeling, just notice for now. And if you can notice without doing that thing humans are so good at doing – judging ourselves – even better. But if any feelings of self-judgement or frustration at your body are coming up as you notice how your body is feeling, it’s ok. I’m going to show you how you can shift your focus and have a clear, self-judgement and frustration-free lens through which to look when making choices for your body.
The Explorer’s Mindset
Consider this: the way your body feels right now is simply a piece of data. Whether you feel amazing or achy, strong throughout or like a patchwork quilt of “good” parts, “bad” parts, and “weak” parts, it’s all information. And you can use that information to make choices for yourself, to understand yourself better, and to guide yourself forward.
Very much like how you likely had a first experience with touching a hot stove, and subsequently learned “be careful around a hot stove”, your current data informs your future choices.
But in order to make a more informed decision in the future, it’s important that you become aware of and work to remove judgement, emotion, guilt, or anything else you feel about your body. If you’re feeling like that sounds nearly impossible, I can relate. I carried a lot of judgement and emotion about my body for a long time. If someone asked me to just ‘turn off’ those feelings and thoughts, I’d have thought they were crazy. So try this instead…
In my coaching program, we call this method of judgement-free evaluation of our bodies, “The Explorer’s Mindset”. First you have the Collection Phase, here’s how it works: imagine you normally go walking in a particular hillside near your home, but this week, you’ve travelled somewhere new and are out for a walk on a new hillside. You’d notice what’s different about the hillside – how tall the grass is, what the air smells like, how wet or dry the dirt under your feet is.
You would not judge the grass for being different from the grass on your hillside at home. You would not feel angry at the air for smelling different or betrayed by the dirt for being drier than the dirt on your home hillside. You’d simply notice the facts of what makes up each hillside, you would take note of how the two are different, and while you might have a preference for your home hillside, your preference is not a fact about what the hillside is or is not.
Like the new hillside, the response your body sends to the signal it has received carries no blame, judgement, or anger. It’s just data! It’s just information. And that information is for you, explorer, to use to inform your decisions moving forward.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re not ‘allowed’ to feel emotion along with the data you collect. You most certainly are and you have permission to feel all the feelings about it. Emotions are excellent catalysts for change. They serve as good reminders of what you want to feel more of/less of. And they can be a rich thing through which to learn so much more about yourself. When you use your Explorer’s Mindset, you simply want to separate them out from the data you are collecting. When emotions mix with data, it clouds the interpretation of the data.
What are two pieces of data you could collect about your body right now? I’ll go first: my thumb is throbbing (thanks to a washing machine door that slammed on it), and my neck and shoulders feel at ease. Now you go – collect two pieces of data regarding how your body is feeling or moving right now. And remember, you’re just collecting data, not trying to understand why the data is what it is or what you should do to make it change…that comes next in the Experiment Phase of living the Explorer’s Mindset.