Sunday, April 30, 2017

8 Tips for Starting Over

Getting comfortable with the starting line...
Ten months ago I uprooted my life of 18 years in the Washington, D.C. metro area, put my dog and some of my valuables in a massive rental Suburban, and drove across country to start my new life outside Denver, Colorado.  As someone who is notoriously adverse to change, this move represented an epic upheaval in my life and an obliteration of my comfort zone boundaries.  

Looking back, there's no doubt this was the best decision I could have made.  Growth really does come from doing what's most difficult.    

Making that move happen was a year and a half long process that required a job transfer, sorting through an 18-year accumulation of stuff, packing up, doing house projects to prepare the house to sell, putting the house on the market myself, and selling it without a realtor. Priorities had to shift and my usual athletic pursuits weren’t anywhere near the top of the list.  

Once I got to Colorado, I tried to ease back into triathlon and running; but life happens. Injuries. Sickness. Depression. Holidays. More injuries and sickness. I just couldn't get back into a rhythm.  

Then it hit me:  I brought my old way of life into a fresh new setting. It was like using old nutrient-deprived soil to plant new flowers. Nothing will flourish.     

So as springtime emerged, I decided to fully embrace the notion of “rebirth” and start everything from scratch - from my diet to my mental outlook to my workouts. 
   
In some ways, this has been more difficult than the move itself. That’s how I know it’s the right thing to do. When you’re used to a certain level and way of doing things, not being able to rise to that level can make you feel “less than.” So it’s critical to fully embrace the chance to start from scratch, with the hope of emerging better than you were before. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about starting over and how you can maximize the process:     

1.    Recognize "Setbacks" as Opportunities:  Perspective is the most important aspect of everything in life, but especially if you want to seize the power of a “setback.” If you allow yourself to wallow in your “setback” you will remain stuck. So shift your perspective. Viewing a “setback” as a glorious opportunity is the only way to emerge from the depths like Wesley pulling himself and the Princess Bride out of the death grip of the lightning sand. This “setback” is an opportunity to reevaluate, rebuild, reemerge. 

2.    Allow Time to Heal:  Whether it’s your body, mind, or spirit, now is not the time to push through whatever has been causing you pain. For Type-A people, that’s a difficult pill to swallow. But easing back on or eliminating whatever has been causing discomfort, does not mean you’re a failure. It just means you’re stepping back, giving some space, and coming back to it from a different angle. As part of my physical healing, I started a 10-series Rolfing session with the idea of realigning the structure of my body through fascia work. To maximize the benefits of that therapeutic bodywork, I drastically cut back on and even stopped my workouts for awhile. Respect your need to heal, otherwise you’re just building a foundation on the same weak, injured system as before.    
3.    Meditate:  There are countless studies, articles, and statistics to which I could point to persuade you that meditation isn’t just for a bunch of hippies sitting in the mountains. But you can Google those yourself. What I will say, however, is if the proof is in the pudding, then I’m the pudding. I’d been in and out of meditation for the last two years, but with this recent decision to start everything over, I committed to meditating every day, even if just for 5 minutes. I’ve been meditating for 78 days straight. My shift in perspective (there’s that word again) is noticeable. Meditation has allowed me to be more kind to myself and receptive to what I need. No one’s brain is “too busy” to meditate and meditation doesn’t “quiet your brain.” The point is to open your mind to possibilities, options, answers, and views that otherwise wouldn’t come to you.      
4.    Listen to Yourself:  For once in your life, don’t listen to your friends, your family, your coach, or your critics. Listen - deeply - to yourself. This is where meditation helps. What are your body, mind, and spirit deeply calling for by starting over?   
5.    Do Something Different:  Shake things up. Starting over is the perfect time to brainstorm ways to do something fresh and different. Our bodies and minds get used to routine activities and adapt accordingly, becoming stagnant. Athletes use “muscle confusion” to change up the pace, intensity, or routine of activities to stimulate a new level of adaptation. The same concept applies to your brain. So find new ways to stimulate your body, mind, and spirit to reach a new level. 
6.    Be Careful With Your “Goals” Right Now:  “Goal” can be a tricky four-letter word. Maybe you have a specific goal that has prompted you to start over, and that’s wonderful. If you don’t have a specific goal though, that’s okay! After years of specific goal-setting, I’m a little burnt out on long-term specific goals right now. Although my general goal is “to be stronger,” I’m not imposing any expectations beyond that. I realized setting specific goals kept me repeating old, unhealthy patterns. So right now, my goal is “to just BE.” Be here, now, with where I am. I trust that I’ll know when it’s time to start setting more specific goals again and with a new mindset, I’ll be able to set my goals more wisely.      
7.    Assemble An Entourage:  Although many of the keys to starting over are deeply solo pursuits, we never accomplish anything without support from others. Now, more than ever, starting over necessitates a core group of people who can provide support for this process:  friends, health professionals, coaches. Assemble a list of 5-10 people to be your entourage, identify how each person can help you, and specifically ask them to fill that role.   
8.    Ease Back In:  After deciding to start from scratch, the worst thing you can do is to dive back into whatever plagued you before. One thing Rolfing has taught me is that if the Rolfer too aggressively massages a fascial layer, it’s painful and the fascia can react negatively. So instead, she “eases into” the fascial layer to get the tissue gradually used to the new pressure. The fascia then relaxes and deeper layers can be reached without pain. The same holds true for whatever physical, mental, or spiritual growth you’re trying to achieve by starting over. Ease into your new levels. Allow yourself time to adapt, and then move to a deeper level. When you reach an area of pain, ease up a little until you can relax into a deeper level. That’s how true growth is achieved and new levels reached. And it will all be rooted in the fact that you were able to embrace the opportunity of starting over in the first place. 
 Please share your story below of how you’ve started over…

1 comment:

Sarah Throlson said...

If you're trying to start over, the most important thing is to actually start. I mean, obviously, but that means taking it easy on yourself and starting small. For instance if you're trying to start reading, start by reading 1 page per day or something. Better to start reading 1 page a day than to perpetually procrastinate and read 0 pages a day.

Sarah | Mass Gain Source