How in the World Did This Chocolate End Up in My Mouth?

You are fired up!  You’ve got this!  You have been talking about eating a healthier diet and reaching a healthier body weight for years.  Oh, yea; today’s the day!  You have planned it out; the kitchen is full of organic, healthy food choices.  Your salad is packed for lunch today.  This is the grand moment that you will turn over a new leaf.  Doesn’t it feel awesome?  I mean, really, don’t you almost feel healthier already?  This is going to be easy.  You are prepared and motivated.  You feel so strong and hopeful about your future success.  You can envision the finish line, and you look and feel amazing standing there as your future self.  Nothing is gonna stop you this time. No way.  No how.

After eating some oatmeal and fruit.  You drive to work, patting yourself on the back.  Great start!  So far, so good.  Walking tall and feeling like a million bucks, you stroll into the office confident that you can take on the world today.  When you arrive, you realize that you have an unplanned meeting with leadership, and they want you to present the results of your current project.  No problem, you remember…you got this today!

Wow, the meeting was brutal and took three hours. A huge chunk of time has been devoured.  Suddenly you realize how much energy was zapped out of you. Feeling hungry, you smile and grab the protein bar you packed.  Haha, see, this is easy.  Why haven’t you done this sooner?

Sitting down at your desk, you are suddenly overwhelmed by how many emails you have received.  By the time you have answered all of your emails, it has been two hours.  What?!?!?  And lunchtime is now almost over.  No worries, you packed that salad.  Whew!  Scarfing down the salad, you realize that you feel a little unsatisfied and wish you had more time to actually enjoy it.  But who has time? Now that it is already 1:30 pm, you must get to your actual work for the day.  There is so much pressure on you to hit the next deadline, get that order out, network with 8 clients, answer more emails, and go to two more unplanned meetings. You are racing the clock, giving 200%. Later in the afternoon, you are sitting in… OK, let’s just say it… boring meetings that are keeping you from getting your “actual workload” done.  With a big sigh and a rub of your forehead, you leave the last meeting of the day at 5:30 pm. Wow, you should be driving home at this time, but you just received information from this last meeting that has to be acted upon today.  As you walk by a coworker’s desk, without thinking, you casually pick up a shiny piece of chocolate from the dish.  You deserve a little sweetness after this crazy busy day. You open it up, pop it in your mouth, and giggle as you read the saying within, “Nothing Can Stop You Today!”

WHAT JUST HAPPENED!!!  How in the world did this chocolate get into my mouth!!  Oh, no!!  What am I doing?!?!? What a goober I am; what a failure.  How could I have let a little piece of candy get the best of me today? Really?!?!? And you thought you were so strong. Yea, right. The phone in your office rings and distracts you. Oh, yea, your boss said he would call you after the meeting and get you those figures you need. Running to your office, you put your “self-bashing” on the back burner.  You will deal with this failure and your weakness later.

Driving home at 6:30 pm, you are exhausted, mind a whirl, stomach growling. You had really planned to get home early and grill that chicken breast. Traffic just has to be horrible today, right? And this wanker in front of you is driving 20 miles under the speed limit blocking the fast lane.  At 7:30 pm you pull into the garage. Today definitely did not go as planned. Where was all of your drive, your confidence? When you left this morning, you were so sure that you were stronger than anything that life would throw at you. Wow, you really deceived yourself. What a lie you told yourself this morning. You should have known that you would fail at eating healthier. Who do you really think you are?

Sitting on the couch about 10 minutes later, you are shoveling ice-cream into your mouth as you watch another episode of your favorite Netflix show of that dysfunctional family. Yea, that’s you. You’ll never change. You, too, are stuck in the body of someone destined to fail in life.

How did this happen when I was so strong and motivated today? I am so ashamed and disappointed. I trick myself into thinking that I can change, but it is hopeless. I might as well fill my pantry with sweats and pasta and enjoy my short, unhealthy life.  I’ll never be able to do this.

Does this sound all too familiar?  You can get so very motivated with great plans, and then life somehow quickly unravels your best intentions.  How did that chocolate get into your mouth anyway?  Did your coworker plan out a huge conspiracy to place a bowl of candy directly along the path to the boss’ office?  Did your leadership know that you were trying your hardest today and devise a wicked plan to keep you tied up in meetings? It might be easy to feel like life purposefully worked against you today. I usually blame the devil. He is always laughing at me as he throws out another curveball. Perhaps the universe is trying to “keep you down.” Likely not.  Likely it was something much more powerful than these.  It was a few long-trained habits.

Habits are like a stalking lion. They are usually quiet and unnoticeable until they pounce, and before long you are sitting with a spoon in a quart of Haagen Dazs.  Habits lead you blindly to repeat a behavior that is ingrained in your psyche. They are extremely powerful and effortless. Did you hear that? Wait a minute. What if we could bend the will of those habits to work “for” us instead of “against” us.  If we could harness our habits, we could accomplish so many of our goals without much effort or thought. Sounds great, but you’ve tried to stop them before. This isn’t the first time you binged on ice cream.  I hear ya.  Those bad habits have been conditioned over many years; they won’t relinquish their hold easily.

How will we retrain them? It took many hours of focus and conditioning to bring you the wonderful skill of blindly listening to your subconscious when it comes to snacks and treats. Listen to me. This is the part where I tell you it is not easy, but it is so very effective and worth all of the time you spend on improving them. You absolutely CAN retrain your habits to be healthier and work for you instead of against you.

Habits are like children. They listen well to your plans for them but quickly get distracted by the shininess of a candy wrapper. You will have to constantly tell them “no, this isn’t good for you” and lead them back to the path of your will. Believe me when I tell you this as well: It gets so much easier. If you commit yourself to change your unhealthy habits to healthy habits, you WILL succeed. “Yea, right.” I hear you whispering to yourself. You’ve tried that before, and yet here you are again. That is the best news I’ve heard because that means you have already accomplished the first phase of harnessing your habits. Step 2, try again. Step 3, try again. This is called conditioning. And conditioning is exactly what it takes to harness those habits. It will become easier as long as you continue to try and change them.

Your children frustrate you, yet you continuously forgive them because you know they need your help and will eventually see your grand plan for them. Habits, like children, need your forgiveness and love. When the bad habits happen again, accept them for what they are. You are not a failure. You are working towards creating a healthier life, and this is part of the journey. Take a deep breath, forgive yourself for succumbing so easily again, and remind yourself of your goal. You are blessed with the opportunity to try again. Believe it or not, next time it will be easier.

The great news is that you can harness the power of your habits and achieve a healthier and happier life. Once your habits are trained, they become a roaring lion that works for you effortlessly and subconsciously; they are your most powerful tool for reaching your goals. Before long, you will walk past that candy dish (and every candy dish) wistfully and without hesitation. And you might just be 10 pounds lighter in your step.  Forgive yourself, keep trying, and celebrate every small win.  You CAN do this. Believe in yourself and the power of your spirit. I believe in you. Now forgive yourself, put that ice cream back in the freezer, get out there again, and harness those habits.

Choices and Chickens

Your journey is a result of a zillion choices. Some choices are big, like where you decide to go to college, or who you choose to marry. Obviously, those choices have major impacts on the course of your experiences. Yet even small, subconscious choices shape your own distinct path of life. I can think back to many small choices that I have made that have shaped my life and created who I am today.

When I graduated from pharmacy school and began working, my time off was extremely valuable. Between spending time with my husband and two small children, doing chores, and shopping for shoes (a pretty big priority), my time was limited. Even though I was fully focused on these responsibilities, I had a little tickle of an idea. Because I had enjoyed my time as a student at the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy, I made a choice to sacrifice a few hours each week to return to the college and sit in the back of the pharmacotherapy classroom. I had every intention of merely sitting there re-absorbing the plethora of clinical information without that ominous concern for “what is going to be on the exam.” It felt good to be there in that learning environment again. It felt right … Hold that thought. We’ll get back to this in a sec.

Fast forward about nine years. Though it wasn’t my favorite topic, I took on the responsibility of teaching a lecture on Behavioral Barriers for Diabetic Patients. I had to stretch my thinking outside of the medication treatment itself; an area in which I had little expertise. It was not something I would have chosen to teach about, but I was thankful for the opportunity, so I pushed ahead and set a goal to teach myself about the struggles of diabetic patients beyond drug treatment. The lecture ultimately contained more global holistic issues that hinder a patient from reaching improved health outcomes. These included feelings of social stigma that may occur when having to give themselves insulin injections in public, and a lack of self-efficacy (which is basically self-confidence that “you can do this”) … Again, hold that thought, this will all make sense soon.

Another path-defining choice I made was to raise chickens. Yep, I am a crazy chicken lady. I love those little hens. They are great listeners when I need to practice any presentation. They just cluck and cluck, and tell me how awesome I am. I digress … Oh, yeah, I became a crazy chicken lady. You may not know this, but there is an actual attraction between chicken people (not romantically, but socially—come on; stay with me). Once we find out that the other person has chickens, we can sit and discuss chickens for hours; what color eggs they are laying, how they are molting during this hot weather, how those foxes are so annoying. You get it. We connect with each other on a chicken level … Again, wait for it, the wrap up is coming.

I could go on and on, but I at least wanted to give you a few examples. These small, sometimes subtle, choices helped me find the most rewarding and exciting journey in life.

Because I made a choice to spend that one hour of my off time to go back to learn more at my alma mater, I eventually was asked to not just sit in the back, but to assist in teaching a few topics. A few months later, I got a phone call I’ll never forget. I was invited by the College of Pharmacy to join their team as a faculty member in developing and growing what is now the very successful Center for Quality Medication Management at UF. I became a UF Professor!! What?!?!?!? I would never have dreamed it; what an honor to be able to be in that stellar learning environment with those amazing students, and they were going to pay me! I was humbled beyond comprehension (and still am).

As I evolved in my teaching career, I later took on the lecture section about behavioral barriers to address improved health outcomes. Because of this experience, I have grown to become a clinical expert who is now creating a concierge life enhancement business that not only helps patients with safe and effective medication usage, but truly guides them holistically to great success in achieving positive health outcomes. I gained the knowledge that if we, as pharmacists, truly want to help our clients/patients effectively manage their conditions and become healthier, we cannot merely counsel them on medications. If we truly want to help our patients, we must take the time to address all of the other influences in their life that are barriers to health success. These include providing coaching in nutrition and fitness, identifying social and economic hurdles, and addressing psychological factors that prohibit them from feeling that they can achieve great health outcomes (and deserve to). Because of that one lecture experience, I am blessed to be creating a business helping my clients in a personal, holistic fashion as a concierge pharmacist.

Now, what about those chickens? Well, because I made the choice to own chickens and become a crazy chicken lady, I have connected with many people that I might not have met otherwise. One of my connections has been instrumental in donating his time to help me create my website for my new business. What a blessing! Who knows how well my business would have kicked off if I had not met my amazing friend; if I had not chosen to become a crazy chicken lady.

In every moment of your life, you are making choices; choices that affect your next minute and your next. Sometimes we regret the choices we have made. Sometimes we don’t even choose, we just “move.” Buying coffee at Starbucks versus the local coffee shop may just lead to a personal connection that opens up a new opportunity. Choosing to be a nerd and stay home to read a book your friend recommended may just lead you to try out that idea that has been bouncing around in your head.

It is important to realize how your journey is influenced by every choice you make and to realize that YOU make the choices in your life (at least the choices that you control). How and what you choose will lead you to your next step in YOUR journey. You are creating your path of life that is uniquely YOURS. Avoid basing your choices on what your friends do, or what you think you “should” do to be accepted. I mean look at me. Owning chickens is not always what most people would choose. And if you try to choose like someone else, you won’t end up where YOU need to be. One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Be conscious of the decisions you make; be purposeful. Listen to your intuition; follow your heart. You will be glad you did when you arrive where you are truly headed.