My Top 5 Tips for Building a Spirit-Nourishing Meditation Practice

Continuing my series of “Top 5” posts, I share here my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. If you want to catch up on past posts, you can read my energy tips here,  my mindset tips here, my well-being tips here and my plant-based nourishment tips here.

I want to be clear that I do not consider myself a meditation expert. However, I am proud to have practiced meditation on a consistent, daily basis for the past year and a half. I realize that is nothing compared to many practitioners, who have meditated for decades, but it feels like an achievement to me because I believed for many years that I was incapable of meditating. I realize now that part of the reason for this was my narrow view of what constitutes meditation. Mostly, I have referred to what I am doing as a mindfulness practice, as opposed to a meditation practice. Lately, though, I have come to view mindfulness as a broader state of being, of which my daily meditation practice is a part. I feel like I have developed my own, evolving practice that serves my needs and feeds my spirit. My goal in this post is to share the most helpful strategies I have used for cultivating this practice.

  1. Approach your practice with self-compassion. The single most helpful idea I have come across regarding meditation is contained in these words by Sharon Salzberg: “Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to overcome so that one day we can come to the ‘real meditation.’” That idea is so freeing and makes so much sense. Much like what I have learned about living in the present moment, rather than waiting for my “real life” to begin at some future point, when everything is in place, Sharon Salzberg’s words encourage me to recognize the value of compassionately beginning again, when my thoughts distract me. The discipline of doing so is the practice. It validates that, as long as I continually release the thoughts when I recognize that they have highjacked my mindfulness and return to my breath, I am meditating exactly as I “should.” There is nothing to correct, and I am experiencing all the benefits of a meditation practice built on commitment and resilience.
  2. Develop a ritual. Make your meditation practice a non-negotiable part of your day. It has become as crucial to my well-being as exercise. I find that it works best for me to practice in the morning, either immediately upon waking or directly following my morning workout, if it is in my downstairs gym. My mindfulness extends to my time on the bike and, to a lesser extent, walking, but this does not replace my daily dedicated practice time. It is bonus time that is often extremely fruitful, yet my day would be incomplete without my meditation ritual. Look at your schedule, decide what works best for you and implement a ritual for getting into the right mental space. Part of my ritual involves solitude, at least mentally. I am pleased to report that I successfully maintained my daily practice while Biking Across Kansas by meditating in my sleeping bag immediately upon waking each morning. Although I was in a room full of people, I found solitude in the darkness. By establishing a clear ritual that includes a time and place, as well as a beginning routine, you will set yourself up to practice consistently.
  3. Open your mind to what meditation can look like, and allow your practice to evolve.  For a long time, I thought meditation was only sitting cross-legged on the floor and releasing all thought. I can’t remember what changed my mind and allowed me to consider a more expansive definition. My health coach training? Maybe. Whatever it was that opened my mind to crafting my own practice, I am grateful. I believe in finding what resonates with you and allowing it to evolve when your instinct leads you in a different or additional direction. My current practice looks like this: I begin with square breathing. Then, I mentally recite my Sankalpa (which I updated after reflection on my 50th birthday). I express gratitude for guidance, wisdom, direction and protection and release what no longer serves me. Affirmations and visualizations help deepen the meaning of m practice. I include a couple Kundalini yoga poses that I find calming. Depending on what I feel I need, I may include Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). I also always choose a quote for reflection before I begin and spend time simply focusing on my breath. This assortment of components really works for me. Experiment and trust your instincts to develop a practice that is uniquely yours. Be open to allowing it to evolve. This has made all the difference for me.
  4. Use a meditation app. I use Insight Timer (free version) and love it. There are others out there, as well as a premium version of Insight Timer. Find what works best for you. The functions I find most useful are the timer, ambient sound and the tracker. I set the time My life is full, and, at this point, I generally set the timer for five to 15 minutes, although I sometimes choose to continue meditating after I hear my ending tone. I like the variety of ambient sounds offered by Insight Timer and vary them day by day. Finally, I feel motivated by the “streak” I have built up on the tracking log (318 days consistently using Insight Timer). Although it is not the reason I meditate, I want to keep my streak going!
  5. Feel and express gratitude for your practice. Recognizing the benefits meditation has bestowed on me, I am deeply grateful for the freedom and dedication to meditate. I feel like a whole world has opened to me. Part of my practice reflects this gratitude. I truly look forward to my daily meditation and feel a burst of excitement in my body when I prepare to practice. I am so thankful that meditation has become part of my life. Remembering this adds depth and richness to, and enhances the benefits of, my practice.

I have been amazed at the benefits I can attribute to my consistent practice. I feel healthier than I have ever been. There are other factors contributing to my well-being, but I believe that my meditation practice has put me over the top, apparently enhancing my immunity and certainly improving my stress-management ability. I am happier and more peaceful. My gratitude for the many blessings in my life is deeper. I still have plenty of room for growth, but I have become a true believer in the power of meditation. I would love to assist you in your journey toward living with no regrets. Connect with me at sheri@justwindcoach.com. You can also click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching call. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.

My Top 5 Tips for Plant-Based Nourishment

This post is the fourth in a series of “Top 5” posts, in which I share my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. If you missed the others, you can catch my energy tips here,  my mindset tips here and my well-being tips here.

As I have mentioned in some of my other posts, one of the most basic ways I take care of myself is through plant-based nourishment, wich contributes significantly to my energy, mindset and well-being. Here is a very brief overview of the many health benefits of plant-based nutrition.

I hear a lot of questions, concerns and objections to eating plants exclusively. I won’t address all of those here, but I hope these tips will help you understand that it is easy to eat nourishing, delicious plant-based food.

  1. Keep it simple. Use this simple formula for preparing plant-based meals that are tasty and nourishing: Beans + Greens + Grains. You can choose from any number of combinations of these three types of foods to create quick meals that satisfy. One of my favorite examples is black bean burritos. Rinse and drain some black beans (or any bean really). Combine them with spinach and frozen corn in a saucepan. Sprinkle some cilantro and any other seasoning you like into the mixture. Serve as a burrito, on whole-grain tortillas, or as a bowl. It is quick, delicious and full of nutrients.
  2. Find a go-to resource or two for recipes and meal-planning. Two of my favorite are The Engine 2 Diet, which contains a meal-planning matrix for every day of the week, and lighter.world, which allows you to set up a profile of preferences and will then give you three recipe choices each for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week. Whether or not you follow these resources precisely, they are great guides for getting started, as well as for ongoing inspiration. A good plant-based-eating resource (There are countless others. These are just two that I use regularly.) will help you avoid ruts and keep you motivated to stick with your commitment to healthful, compassionate eating.
  3. Be prepared. It is easier than ever to eat a plant-based diet in the mainstream world. However, it still requires some planning and flexibility to do it well. I just finished my 21st trip across Kansas on a bicycle (www.bak.org). Over the years, I have had more and more options to eat, largely because the Board of Directors (of which I am a part) does a terrific job of communicating with the host cities to raise awareness that there will be people with a range of dietary needs and to suggest to them what they can serve vegans and vegetarians in their fundraiser meals. Still, on BAK and in my everyday life, I carry back-up snacks. I don’t function well wen I get hungry, so I make sure I have something to eat if a catered function or restaurant dinner is disappointing or inadequate. Fruit, nuts, nut butter packets and bars (like Macro Bar or ProBar, among many possibilities) are easy to carry and will hold up in a bag or purse. If you are going to be traveling, use an app, like Happy Cow, to find restaurants that are friendly to plant-based eaters.
  4. Ask questions. Just as you need to read labels to make sure there are not sneaky animal-based products in food that you purchase, it is important to ask questions in restaurants or at catered functions and potlucks. It can be done in a friendly, courteous way, such as, “Do your rice and beans contain any animal products, like lard or animal broth?” If you are committed to taking excellent care of your body and/or to living your ethics through plant-based nourishment, it is important to take the initiative to find out if a certain food will meet your needs or not. Your health and ethics are too important to acquiesce to the mainstream, out of fear of offending someone.
  5. Be adventurous. There was a time when I was frequently asked, “So, all you eat is salad?” That was never the case (although a good salad is wonderful), but it is definitely not true now, when there is so much more awareness of, and interest in, plant-based eating. As long as it is made from plants and serves your nutritional needs (minimal added oil, sugar, salt, processed items), be open to trying new food. Just this past weekend, in Holton, KS, a sweet, grandma-looking woman told me that she had “researched diligently” to learn how to make vegan breakfast burritos with tofu, potatoes, onions and a delicious combination of spices. She was adventurous and willing to try a new way of cooking. Those of us eating plant-based should be open to trying new things. Pick a vegetable you have not tried and Google a recipe or preparation instructions. Try tofu and tempeh, if you have not. Experiment with different plant milks (almond, flax, coconut, rice, soy, oat, cashew—endless possibilities!).

There are so many delicious ways to nourish yourself with plants. Commit to the lifestyle, own it proudly and take responsibility for making it work for yourself. Let me know how I can help. Although my primary motivation for being vegan is ethics, health is close behind. I am grateful for my good health and am convinced that the way I eat is a major contributing factor. I would love to assist you in your journey toward living with no regrets. Connect with me at sheri@justwindcoach.com. You can also click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching call. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.

50 Life-Shaping Quotes to Celebrate 50 Years

“Three things tell a man: His eyes, his friends and his favorite quotes.”—Quote Daddy

As unbelievable as it is, I am celebrating 50 years on this planet. Several months ago, I decided that I wanted to commemorate the occasion with a special blog post. As I have mentioned in multiple previous posts, words serve as powerful inspiration in my life. I have collected quotes in a series of blank books for 18 years. I am currently working through my sixth volume. I refer to these books every single day for inspiration, reflection, encouragement, growth, strength and so much more. When I considered what kind of 50th-birthday blog post I wanted to share, I landed on the idea of gifting my readers with 50 of the quotes that have been instrumental in shaping my life. I know that there are others who cherish words as much as I do. Whether or not that is true for you, I hope you will enjoy these quotes and my reflections on them. I consider my life and my work in this life to be constantly evolving. I want it that way! The learning I glean through reflection on my quotes is part of what continually transforms me. Although it can sometimes feel like plodding baby steps, I hope that I am making consistent, persistent progress in the direction of living my highest good, greatest self and grandest life. I sincerely hope that these words may serve as fodder for your journey toward those rewards in your own life.

1. “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” –Michelangelo

These words challenge me to elevate my standards in order to approach my potential for making a difference in the world. I believe that my purpose in life is to optimize my strengths, talents, passions, resources and experience in the service of living and promoting my core values: compassion, excellence, integrity and fitness. Optimization requires elevated standards, and I aspire to reach these high targets.

2. “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things. You have to make sure that the blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want—that you’ve thought everything through. Then you put it into brick and mortar. Each day you go to the construction shed and pull out the blueprint to get marching orders for the day. You begin with the end in mind.” –Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey reminds me of the importance of having a plan in place. Without a clear plan, life is haphazard, and the important things are easily neglected. Exercise serves as an example. There is a world of difference between saying, “I’ll work out tomorrow,” and taking steps to get up at 5 a.m. to go for a 50-mile bike ride or scheduling a 6 p.m. walk and being prepared to take it. This is beginning with the end in mind.

3. “Was I better today than yesterday?” –Daniel H. Pink

I have journaled about various version of this question, but the main point is to reflect on my progress each day. Am I making progress? Am I doing what I said I would do? How will I plan to be even better tomorrow?

4. We breathe in faith
  And exhale hopelessness

We breathe in gratitude
        And exhale indifference

We breathe in Beauty
        And exhale insensitivity

We breathe in joy
        And exhale sadness

We breathe in kindness
        And exhale harshness

We breathe in forgiveness
        And exhale resentment

We breathe in love
 And exhale isolation.

—Edwin C. Lynn

For over 10 years, I regularly attended the Unitarian Universalist church. While my spiritual intuition has led me in a more personal direction in recent years, there are aspects of what I learned as a UU that still resonate deeply. This beautiful meditation, with a focus on inhaling the positive and exhaling the negative, is one that I use both personally and with my coaching clients. Sometimes, I shorten it to simply, “I inhale the positive and exhale the negative,” while I focus on my breath. It is a version of releasing what no longer serves me and being open to receive the best the Universe has to offer.

5. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine . . . We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson

This wonderful quote came into my life through the amazing Northern Lights Alternatives AIDS Mastery Workshop, with which I have the deep privilege of being connected. I memorized this quote in the 1990s, when I was working for ConnectCare, an AIDS service organization. Another memory connected with it is meeting three young men in a café in Garnett, Kansas, while we were Biking Across Kansas in the late 1990s or early 2000s. They were cycling across the country, unsupported. We struck up a conversation and actually stayed in communication for a few years. Something inspired me to mention this quote while we were talking. Coincidentally, one of the boys pulled a sheet of paper with these words on it out of his handlebar bag. It was the inspiration for their journey. The most important message for me is that by allowing myself to shine, I am making a contribution to the world by the example I set.

6. “Success is measured by the quality of effort you put forth to do your best. And only you know if you have accomplished that . . . The score cannot make you a loser when you have given it your best effort.” –John Wooden

I am always interested in different ways to define success. John Wooden gave me one of the first alternative ways of viewing it. Rather than being strictly defined by an “A” or being the best at something, I realized true success was doing my very best. That is all I can control. I have used this as a guiding principle in raising my son. I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect him to do his best.

7. “I looked up the road I was going and back the way I came, and since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path.” –Annie Johnson, Maya Angelou’s grandma

When I read this several years ago, it gave me permission to consider a different path. For a few years, I used it in workshops (not related to NLA) I facilitated in the HIV community to help give participants that same permission to step off roads that weren’t working for them.

8. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Viktor Frankl

It is so simple, yet so profound—I have the power to choose how I respond. Recognizing, remembering and acting on this principle can be life changing. We are not victims of our circumstances. We can always choose how we respond.

9. “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” –Jim Collins

This is an important reminder that it is very easy to become complacent. I wonder if I am under this spell right now. It is question I am pondering and struggling to fully discern and resolve. I wrote about this basic idea in this blog post, The Comfort Conundrum.

10. “Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by your promotion.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recognizing that I am in charge of what dwells in my mind was powerful for me. Regardless of what happens, I choose where I place my focus. It can be easier said than done to reject negativity, but just knowing that it is in my power to make the choice to do so gives me hope.

11. “Scientists who study human motivation have lately learned that after basic survival needs have been met, the combination of autonomy (the desire to direct your own life), mastery (the desire to learn, explore and be creative), and purpose (the desire to matter, to contribute to the world) are our most powerful intrinsic drivers—the three things that motivate us most.” –Steven Kotler

I recognize the truth of this statement in my own experience. I even created an acronym for it—AMP. I frequently examine my life to determine the level of autonomy, mastery and purpose it affords me. I recognize that there is a tipping point where not having enough of any one of these things makes life unbearable. That is when motivation to change kicks in. Until it does, we may be subject to the good being the enemy of the great, like Jim Collins says above and of the comfort conundrum I described my blog post last December.

12. “For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that those obstacles were my life.” –Fr. Alfred D’Souza

These words hit me several years ago like a ton of bricks. I realized that I had been living this way—for so many years, thinking that life was just up ahead, after something had been overcome. Suddenly, I became aware of how many years I had believed this and how it put me at risk for missing my entire life, in the pursuit of something better. Now, as a No Regrets coach, I am committed, not only to living my own life every day, right now, but to helping my clients do that as well. Life is short. Time passes quickly. If we put off living, feeling like we are not yet in our “real” life, we just may miss the opportunity to live it.

13. “I heard someone say once that all our life experiences are either lessons or gifts—that we either learn from our daily experiences or they are simply blessings to be treasured and appreciated. I like that. It means that every moment is an opportunity to grow or to be grateful (or both!).” –Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

What a helpful way to view the experiences in our daily lives! Even when we experience something we would rather not, by recognizing that we can choose to learn from it, we gain power and release any feeling of victimization. Recognizing the gifts we receive every day nurtures a spirit of gratitude, which enriches life in so many ways.

14. “If you say you want this, and you don’t have it, it’s because, at some level, deep down, you’re committed to something else.”—Rich Litvin

This is a profound statement that causes me to get honest with myself. If I have not achieved a goal that I claim I want, to what else am I committed? Is it comfort, history, loyalty, security or something more sinister that I allow to perpetuate in my life? The cause is not out “there” somewhere; it is my own doing or “not doing.” Being clear about this forces me to make a choice. Do I really want this, or do I want something else more right now? The choice and the responsibility are mine.

15. “. . . taking no chances and feeling stuck feels just as bad as taking a chance and making a mistake.” –Mary-Ellen Jacobs

This is another important truth. I have been in this place a couple times in my life. I am at least partly here right now. It is uncomfortable. It is worth remembering that sometimes taking action and risking a mistake is no more painful or unsettling than taking no action and remaining stuck for years. This is a message to myself, as much as anyone. I am still a work in progress.

16. “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” –Mohandas K. Gandhi

Much like Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us in #10, this reinforces that what we allow into our mindset is a choice. Other people can’t force it on us, no matter what they do or say to us. We have a choice where we focus.

17. “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This was my mantra for several years. It is still a statement of value that I hold dear. Life can easily take control and cause us to assume that we have no time for things that are very important. Some of the “things that matter most” to me are living a life of compassion; continually striving for excellence and growth and taking the very best care I can of my body, mind and spirit. I must consciously prioritize opportunities for tending to these. Otherwise, something will always get in the way.

18. “Complacency is not okay. Contentment is. They are different.” –Kristin Armstrong

This takes me back to the comfort conundrum. I must ask myself honestly whether I am in a place of true contentment or just settling in complacency. Living my highest good, greatest self and grandest life has no room for complacency.

19. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”—John Wooden

Another piece of wisdom from John Wooden reminds me that I must prioritize what matters and act on it, regardless of what happens in life. There is always some action I can take. I must commit to taking action, even if it cannot be as complete or as perfect as I might prefer.

20. “What’s more frightening: the uncertainty of exploring uncharted territory, or the certainty that if you stay put, you’re imprisoned in mediocrity?”—Iris Krasnow

This is a theme in my life. Some of these other quotes have addressed it. Exploring uncharted territory is scary, but the idea of living with regrets, because I stay stuck in mediocrity, is even scarier. I wrote about it last September.

21. “I hope my achievements in life will be these—that I will have fought for what is right and fair, that I will have risked for that which matters, that I will have helped those in need . . . that the earth will be better place for who I’ve been and what I’ve done.”—C. Hoppe

I framed a card given to me upon graduation with my Bachelor’s degree by a co-worker, Joan, with this quote on the front of it. It hangs in my home today, half a lifetime later, because the words still mean so much to me. They speak to the ideals I held in my 20s and which still mean a lot to me, although they have taken shape in different ways in my life than I originally expected. It is still important to me to make a positive difference in the world.

22. “Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what you needed it to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is not short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” –Asha Tyson

This message comforts me because I have often felt that I have wasted time or that my journey has been too winding and wishy-washy, that I haven’t stuck with things that I should have or that I have stuck with things I shouldn’t have. Believing that each step of the journey has been necessary and has helped to shape who I am today helps me to feel like my time has not been wasted. It goes back to #12 and the idea that I am living my life right now.

23. “. . . you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”—Steve Jobs

My good friend Dianne sent me this quote during a very painful time in my life about eight years ago. It helped me to gain perspective on my situation and to believe that what I was experiencing would make sense someday. I think it is really what is mentioned above—that each step of my journey shapes who I am and that, as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says in #13, each experience is either a lesson or a gift or both.

24. “Obstacles are detours in the right direction.”—Gabrielle Bernstein

This was very powerful when I heard Gabby Bernstein say it in an audiobook. The things that get in our way can help us to end up on the right road, either by rerouting us, turning us around or stopping us. The key, of course, is being able to discern right action when faced with obstacles and then taking that action.

25. My thoughts shape my perception, determine my actions and behaviors and create the world I envision. —My longtime mantra to remind me of the power of my thoughts and the critical importance of choosing them wisely

I recently realized that I paraphrased this years ago from another Colleen Patrick-Goudreau quote. It has helped me through SO MANY scary situations and daily reminds me how significant my thoughts are to shaping the kind of day and, truly, the kind of life I live.

26. “Time wasted rationalizing the mediocre could be time spent creating the magnificent.”—Jen Sincero

This is huge. It is harder for me to implement than to acknowledge, but it is so true. Rather than rationalize why I should stay in a certain situation, I can take the plunge and create something amazing. The time will pass regardless. What am I going to do about it?

27. “The truth you are pursuing is as important as the evolution of the universe itself, for it enables evolution to continue.” –Fr. Carl in James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy

I rarely read fiction, but I read The Celestine Prophecy when I was in my 20s, upon the recommendation of someone I admired. I actually ended up reading it twice, which I also rarely do. This quote validated for me the importance of living with integrity and making the changes in my life necessary to do that. I realized that I had, not only the privilege of doing so, but a responsibility to do so, in order to help the Universe progress in a positive direction.

28. “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world . . . It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance . . . The moment she takes her seat, she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” –Susan B. Anthony

I LOVE this quote! That is how I feel on my bike—the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. It is where I feel most liberated and most alive. It is my most important mental health strategy and a vital source of inner peace.

29. “A meaningful life is a stressful life.”—Kelly McGonigal

This was a real eye-opener for me. I had long believed that stress was something to avoid. Kelly McGonigal’s life-changing (for me) book The Upside of Stress helped me understand that the things that cause me the most stress in life—work (and all that means) and family—are also the things that make life most meaningful. Eliminating the stress would eliminate the meaning. The goal, then, is a mindset shift to view stress as a challenge, not a negative, health-damaging condition. Again, this can be easier said than done, but the concept is a powerful one.

30. “I love the wind in my face, the burning in my legs and lungs, the smell of sweat mixed with sunscreen. I love the knowledge that I would rather brave the elements—rain, heat, cold—than stay home and miss my liberty.”—Kristin Armstrong

Although she was talking about running, I totally relate to this sentiment in regard to cycling (and there was a day when it applied to running for me, too). There are limits to what I am willing to endure, but they are fairly broad. Cycling is truly my liberty. I know that I will feel better if I ride than if I don’t, even if it comes with a large dose of Kansas wind or other challenging elements.

31. “. . . be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves . . . Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

I first came across this quote shortly after 9/11, and it helped me to make some level of peace with not understanding why the tragedy happened. Since then, it has helped me to have patience when I have not been able to quickly or easily resolve an issue or a question with which I am struggling. I like resolution. Uncertainty is hard and uncomfortable for me. Thinking of Rilke’s words, I can relax just a bit and start to trust that there may be a reason that I have not yet found an answer.

32. “Confidence is a result, not a requirement.”—Rich Litvin

This is a powerful statement. I don’t have to have confidence to take on a challenge; I will acquire it by facing my challenges boldly. Confidence is born in the action.

33. “I am grateful that my life is full of rich, rewarding, interesting, exciting and meaningful activities and opportunities.” –my personal mindset intervention mantra to move from a mindset of overwhelm and busyness to one of gratitude

Mindset is key to so much of how we experience the world. If I hold the mindset that life is a burden, it will be a burden. On the other hand, I can choose to be grateful for the fullness of my life. This changes my experience of it significantly. I use a similar mindset intervention when I buy groceries, one of my least favorite tasks. When I focus on how much I dislike the activity, it feels heavy and burdensome. When I repeat the mantra, “I am grateful that I have money to buy nourishing food,” it feels more like a privilege than a chore.

34. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”—Jack Canfield

This struck me as so profound when I first heard it. Choosing to step over fear and try is what is required in order to achieve my most important goals. Until I take that step, my desires and goals and dreams may as well be behind the steepest, most inhospitable mountain range.

35. “You do what you can do, as competently as possible within a reasonable time frame, and then you let it go.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

Reading these words at the right time practically saved my sanity, if not my life, or at least my health. I have them on a sticky note above my computer at work. I say them to myself during the several months each year that I have appointments with students all day, every day and get depressingly far behind on email. These beautiful words reminded me that all I could do was my best. Now, there is a bigger issue of how long I choose to remain in this situation, but, while I do, Gilbert’s words soothe and settle me.

36. “Take your life off pause.”—seen on an Urban League Kansas sign several years ago

I need to check in regularly to ask myself if my life is on pause. Am I waiting for something to happen to really start living? Am I stalled? If so, which button will take me off pause?

37. “Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore, Now I will you to be a bold swimmer . . .”–Walt Whitman

This is another version of taking my life off pause. No more timid waiting! It is time to be bold and live life fully.

38. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”—Annie Dillard

Yes! But, this was hard for me to see until Dillard pointed it out. What I do every day matters because those days add up to create my life.

39. “Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” –John Wooden

This is another version of John Wooden’s view of success. Recognizing it as self-satisfaction, rather than some external measure or grade or status is freeing and empowering for me. I decide if I am successful, nothing nor no one else.

40. “Pushing your body, mind, and heart to their limits creates a cathartic ‘clearing,’ a ‘centering’ effect in your being, in your soul. If you can find something that brings you there, use it. It will bring to your day a richness of experience and a fullness of self . . . That raw feeling doesn’t last for long; it’s not supposed to, but its remnant angels provide guidance, focus and energy for future adventures.” -Bruce Springsteen

While Springsteen was referring to performing, I relate to this primarily in cycling. The energy I gain from working hard and challenging myself on the bike makes me a better, more effective human in every other aspect of my life.

41. “In this life there are scary things and there are beautiful things and they are not always different.” –Zack Grey

This is so important to remember. Sometimes the most beautiful things are also the scariest to pursue. (Everything I want is on the other side of fear, remember?)

42. “You can have your excuses, or you can have success. You can’t have both. –Jen Sincero

I love Jen Sincero. She tells it like it is, no holding back. Sometimes that is what I need to help me get honest with myself. Which is more important—my excuses (and the safety they bring) or my success (as measured by myself)? Sincero forces me to choose, if I am to live with integrity.

43. “Fitness is advocacy.”—my vegan athlete mantra

We all have different ways of living our values in the world. I believe that one of the ways I am meant to live my value of compassion is to combine it with my value of fitness. When I live a healthy, vibrant, active life as a vegan, I show others who may be skeptical what is possible. They may choose to reject the message, but my fitness can speak for itself and help to save animals and humans at the same time. I am contributing a chapter to an upcoming book on cycling and veganism, and this is my primary theme. It is one of the major ways I make a difference in the world.

44. “I am. Two of the most powerful words—for what you put after them shapes your reality.”—Healing Light

How do I choose to self-identify? The identity I claim—and embody—creates my life.

45. “. . . I have an unshakable belief that each of us has not only the potential to live a rewarding and purposeful life, but also the responsibility to do so.” –Bill Strickland

Reading these words many years ago helped me to honor my belief that living a truly rewarding life matters. It is part of my obligation to excellence, part of how I express gratitude for the many gifts I have been given, rather than squandering them by failing to stretch myself.

46. “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.” –Anais Nin

I have loved this quote for ages because it speaks the truth to me. I think it often requires reaching a point where it is too painful not to change before we take the steps to do so. Some might call this hitting rock bottom. It can be that, but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be just reaching a point when the mediocrity becomes unbearable. Honestly, I sometimes wish for a catalyst that would push me to that point because it can be so hard to overcome the inertia and make significant changes without reaching that pain point.

47. “Kansas doesn’t have a lot of women like you . . . so you are such a leader here. And that you went biking after an accident is just an example of this tenacity and leadership.” — Kris Stiegler, 5/10/15

I hesitated to include this one because it feels like bragging, but I decided to include it because it meant so much to me, and I have not forgotten it. It was a comment by my friend Kris (briefly a Kansan) on a Facebook post I had made while hiding out in a lake bathroom after getting caught on my bike in a scary thunderstorm (on Mother’s Day!) that came out of nowhere. I mentioned that I had been trying to dry my cycling gloves with the bathroom hand dryer because they were soaked and causing the steri-strips I had gotten in the ER the previous night to come loose. It wasn’t a serious accident, just a nasty cut on my hand from my son’s drawing table. Kris’ words helped me to remember that what I do matters (Fitness is advocacy!). It would have been easy to skip my bike ride because I had a sore hand, but by choosing to ride, I honored my values and my liberty. Kris’ comment meant a lot to me. I know plenty of strong Kansas women, but I was deeply honored that she considered me one of them.

48. “Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies.”—Frank Gelett Burgess

It is powerful to recognize this, own it and decide what it means for us. Our bodies do tell the stories of our lives. Whether it is the C-section scar that is a physical sign of giving birth to my son or my level of fitness that indicates to what extent I have been putting in the work to allow my body to perform optimally or my bike tan that is evidence of miles in the saddle, my body is a physical indicator of what I have been doing with my life. This is true whether it is a choice I make or something that happens to me. When our bodies show signs of trauma or illness, we can choose to own that and wear it as a badge of honor in our strength to persevere. When our bodies show signs of our own neglect or ill treatment, we can make a powerful choice to recognize that and use it as a springboard for change. We must make peace with our bodies as they currently exist and decide what the next chapter in our unfolding autobiography will be and then start writing it through our choices and actions.

49. “For what it’s worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

These words led me in a new, determined direction. By asking myself if I am proud of how I am living in key aspects of my life, I have the power (and, I believe, obligation) to make a different choice, if I am not. This concept leads me to ask, “If not, what needs to change? What immediate action MUST I take in order to avoid living with regret?”

50. “As you look forward, try also to imagine what it will be like looking back at the end your life and what is it you will most wish you had done.”—Anne-Marie Slaughter

As a No Regrets Coach, this really speaks to me. I think asking ourselves this question can help us establish priorities. If there is something that we can see is likely to become a regret if we do not do it, I think it is important to find a way to do it, create it, make it happen in our lives. Regret scares me too much. Knowing this, I feel a responsibility for doing what I can to eliminate if from my life.

These are certainly not the only quotes that mean a lot to me. My extensive collection is constantly evolving. If I were to write an updated post 10 years down the road, I wonder how different it would look. I am deeply committed to lifelong learning, and introspection through meaningful quotes is part of that lifelong learning and growth. I hope these quotes speak to you in a powerful way and that they can be part of your learning and growth, as well. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you!

“The best quotes don’t speak to one particular truth, but rather to universal truths that resonate—across time, culture, gender, generation, and situation—in our own hearts and minds. They guide, motivate, validate, challenge and what us in our own lives. They reiterate what we’ve figured out and remind us how much there is yet to learn . . . Most of all, they tell us we’re not alone. Their existence is proof that others have questioned, grappled with, and come to know the same truths we question and grapple with, too.”—Cheryl Strayed

My Top 5 Tips for Creating True Well-Being

This post is the third in a series of “Top 5” posts, in which I share my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. If you missed the first two, you can catch my energy tips here and my mindset tips here.

What does “well-being” mean to you? For me, “well-being” means excellent physical and mental health, accompanied by a deep sense of inner peace and confidence that comes from living my purpose. It may mean something different to you, but my guess is that it encompasses some of the same elements.

Much like mindset, I find that well-being requires constant attention and maintenance. It is not a destination that I reach and remain, without additional effort. However, these are some of the habits and practices that I have found to be crucial components of my well-being:

Outdoor Vegetable Market
  1. Live a vegan lifestyle. Not only is eating plants the most health-promoting way of nourishing my body, but it also allows me to live my most important value—compassion. Living my values is part of well-being for me. Doing so promotes inner peace. I believe that all of us—human and non-human—are the subjects of our own lives. While we enhance our lives by choosing to serve others in a variety of ways, no one—human or non-human—is on this planet to be used by others. By eating plants, my conscience is free, and I feel good about what I am putting into my body. Not long ago, someone asked me if I would get sick if I ate meat. I answered that I might, since my body is accustomed to plants. I have been vegetarian since 1982 and vegan since 2008. But, even more than potential physical effects, I told her it would be very emotionally upsetting. Even the thought makes me feel queasy. Compassion is such an important value to me that violating it would seriously compromise my well-being. Cultivating well-being in our lives requires an honest examination of our conscience, as well as asking ourselves what choices truly support health and inner peace.
  2. Move my body daily. Physical activity plays a dual role in my life, too. Besides keeping me physically healthy, movement is one of the most important factors in my well-being. It makes an unbelievable difference in my mental health. Research has shown exercise to be at least as effective as pharmaceutical anti-depressants, in many situations. It is my biggest stress reliever. Finding a type of exercise that you enjoy is most important. It is valuable to incorporate a variety of types of exercise, including cardiorespiratory exercise, resistance training and flexibility work. It doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Finding something that you will do on a regular basis is more important than constructing a perfect training plan. (If you want more precision, hire a coach with experience in physical training or a personal trainer.) It is better to do something than to have a perfect plan that you don’t execute. A friend recently posted this quote on her Facebook page: “Cycling isn’t a hobby for me. It’s my inner peace.” I absolutely relate.
  3. Practice mindfulness and meditation. Consistently implementing a morning mindfulness practice that includes meditation has made a tremendous difference in my well-being. I have felt, and been, healthier in the past year than I probably ever have. My resistance to colds has been strong. While everything I mention in this post plays into my physical health, I think committing to my mindfulness practice has ratcheted it up another notch. Part of that is probably due to (presumably, based on how I feel emotionally) lower levels of stress hormones circulating in my body. High levels of stress hormones are associated with inflammation, which contributes in a wide array of health problems. Reducing inflammation by decreasing dietary stress on the body (See item #1.) and through increasing inner peace through mindfulness and meditation truly can keep us healthier.
  4. Honor my passions. Some people think that honoring our passions as adults is selfish. I disagree. I think our passions are critical aspects of who we are and are key avenues through which we grow and develop. If there is something that excites you, take time to learn about it and engage in it. Passions come in a lot of different forms. Mine include cycling, reading, writing and contributing to the creation of a healthier, more compassionate world through building my coaching business and living a vegan lifestyle. I grow through all these activities. Ignoring them would leave a void in my life. I believe that they excite me for a reason, and I have both the privilege of, and responsibility for, honoring them. I am a better person when I do. Your passions—those things that truly excite and ignite you, those things that won’t leave you alone—are also there for a reason. Honor them to become more of who you are meant to be and enhance your well-being.
  5. Engage in regular introspection. I am an introvert, which simply means that I energize by spending time and space alone. It is exhausting to be around people constantly, without some time alone. Introspection is one of the treats of my time alone. When my son was young, one of the most difficult aspects of parenting for me was feeling like I could never be alone in my head because of constant noise and company. My bike rides were my salvation (and they still are, even though life is different now). They were the only way I could get a little time on my own to be in my head. Whether or not you are an introvert, there is value in introspection. It is how we figure out who we are, what we think, what we believe, what is most important to us. Journaling is a great way to be introspective, and I do it at least nightly, but my time on my bike, where I can think freely is another terrific opportunity to be introspective. I love to think about a question as I ride. It could be anything that helps me understand more about what matters to me. For example, “What is clearly no longer serving me?” was a recent question I pondered on the bike. This helped me make some important decisions. Experiment with the best ways for you to ask yourself key questions and spend time examining them. It will be good for your well-being.

While your definition of “well-being” may be different than mine, I encourage you to try my tips and see how you feel. My guess is that you will feel better, even if you just incorporate one of my tips into your life. If you choose to include them all, I expect that you will feel exponentially better. These tips are not miracles or cure-alls. I do not live in a perfect state of well-being. However, my state of well-being is much more consistent and persistent than it was prior to prioritizing these things in my life.

Bicycle Shadow on the Road

I would love to help you improve your well-being. Contact me at sheri@justwindcoach.com or 316-259-9728, if you would like a complimentary coaching call. You can also click this link to schedule an appointment. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.

My Top 5 Tips for Cultivating a Mindset to Accomplish What You Want to Accomplish and Live with No Regrets

This post is the second in a series of “Top 5” posts, in which I share my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. We get one chance to live this life. Let’s make it the grandest life we are capable of living!

In the last couple years, I have become increasingly aware of the critical importance of mindset in helping me move through life with more power, clear purpose and grateful joy. Our mindset consists of the established beliefs and attitudes we have toward life. One of the mantras I have used for years acknowledges the strength of mindset in our lives, even though I don’t use that word in it:

“My thoughts shape my perception, determine my actions and behavior and create the life I envision.”

This is a mantra I developed, based on inspiration from writing and quotes that had resonated with me. This mantra has meant so much to me. It has helped calm and center me. It has brought me peace. It has strengthened me. Even before I recognized it as a statement of the power of mindset, the mantra served to shape mine.

In her terrific book The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It, Kelly McGonigal teaches the concept of “mindset interventions.” She says that the best mindset interventions involve being exposed to a new way of thinking, engaging in practice and application of the different way of thinking and teaching others the new perspective. Her whole book was a form of mindset intervention of this life-changing concept: “A meaningful life is a stressful life.” This idea and the mindset intervention her book produced helped me realize that most of the stress in life comes from things that have meaning to us, with work and family being top. To eliminate all stress would be to eliminate all meaning. The key is to look at stress differently and realize that we can choose to grow through it, as well as to observe it, without getting completely sucked in by it. While this is easier said than done, viewing stress this way is much more helpful and empowering than viewing myself as a helpless victim of it. This is an example of the power of mindset.

Here are my top five tips for cultivating a mindset that positions you to accomplish the things that matter, so that you can live free of regrets:

I have become increasingly clear that my mindset is critical to my success or failure, when it comes to bringing big dreams to life and achieving goals that matter to me—the things that I will regret if I don’t do. Big dreams and goals can be intimidating, and they require digging deep into the reserves of our determination, resolve and resilience. Getting to, or repeatedly returning to, the mental and emotional place necessary to accept the challenges to make these things happen won’t occur without a mindset of self-efficacy and trust—in ourselves, in the Universe, in the basic goodness of life.

My collection of quotes
  1. Adopt a mantra. This can be a word, a phrase or a sentence that you devise, or it can be a quote that is meaningful for you. I use a combination, and I vary them regularly. There are some, like the one above, that are tried and true and that I use at some point (or at several points) just about every day. Others may be with me for a moment, a day or a season of life. Words are very meaningful and powerful for me. I have a collection of quotes that I have been growing for 18 years. I am on my sixth formerly blank book, with pages covered, front and back, in quotes I have collected from a wide range of sources. I find a lot of them in the books I read. I sometimes record them from webinars or podcasts. Sometimes an individual or a sign or a t-shirt strikes me, and I write down the quote. Some of my quotes are from well-known thought leaders. Others are from more obscure authors. Some are my own creations or words that come to me in a dream or upon awakening. I refer to my quotes several times, every single day. I travel with my current book, so that I have at least some of them with me, even when I am Biking Across Kansas. These quotes are my most sacred texts. You may find your mantras in more traditional sacred books or in prayers. You may have one, or you may rely on many, like I do, but I encourage you to adopt a mantra as a centering mechanism, something that can help you to return to the mindset you desire to embrace and embody. Personally, I like to focus on a mantra at transitions—upon awakening, before exercising, before getting in the shower, before driving, when I turn off my booklight to go to bed, etc. When I choose a mantra (usually at semi-random) before a bike ride or drive or shower—some time when I can think—I may ponder it deeply for several minutes or longer. Other times, it may just provide momentary focus that helps me remember what matters to me. Either way, reflecting on a mantra is one of the most valuable tools for cultivating a mindset that allows me to behave in the way I want to behave and stay focused on achieving my goals.
  2. Meditate. There are many ways to meditate, and I used to believe that I couldn’t do it. However, for well over a year a now, I have had a consistent morning mindfulness practice that includes meditation. My advice is to keep it manageable. Realize that anything is progress. Generally, my morning meditation is between five and 20 minutes, depending on the available time. At its most basic level, meditation is simply stilling your mind to be in the present moment. It is as simple as:
    • Sitting or lying comfortably with a fairly straight spine. You don’t need to be cross-legged, on a meditation cushion; you just need to be comfortable.
    • Closing your eyes or gazing gently at the floor in front of you.
    • Focusing on your breathing. I usually focus on the feeling of the air as it moves in and out of my nostrils.
    • If your mind wanders (and it will), simply notice and return your attention to your breath. I took a mindfulness course last fall, and one of the most helpful ideas I gleaned from it was to imagine sitting by a stream and to picture my thoughts as falling leaves. When I become aware of a thought, I watch it land on the water and simply float downstream. I use that technique to return to my breath.
  3. Implement rituals. Rituals are key for maintaining a beneficial mindset. These tips I am listing are not mutually exclusive. This is because, while each of these ideas is effective on its own, there is synergy when they are put together or used throughout the day. My rituals often reflect this. Rituals help me to feel that all is right with the world. They remind me of what matters, what I want to accomplish and how I want to behave. Here are some of the rituals I use daily:
    • Finding my mantras and/or quotes for reflection
    • Upon awakening, naming three things to which I am looking forward in the upcoming day
    • My morning mindfulness practice
    • Breathing exercises when stressed and before I eat
    • Journaling nightly, including my “3 Good Things” journaling (I also do this mentally throughout the day, if I am feeling stressed, asking myself, “What are three good things that have happened so far today?)
    • A bedtime series of fascial release movements
  4. Follow thinkers who inspire you. Read books by authors whose message supports your mission. Listen to podcasts. Listen to audiobooks. Watch videos. If possible, attend conferences, workshops or lectures. Any of these can serve as a booster shot for your resolve. Some of the current thought leaders whom I use to support my desired mindset are:
  5. Cultivate gratitude. My “3 Good Things” ritual is one of the ways I cultivate gratitude, but I have found that intentionally looking for the positive gives us so many more things for which to be grateful. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “I heard someone say once that all our life experiences are either lessons or gifts—that we either learn from our daily experiences or they are simply blessings to be treasured and appreciated. I like that. It means that every moment is an opportunity to grow or to be grateful (or both!).” This perspective is an excellent example of maintaining a winning mindset by using gratitude. I consciously notice and feel awe throughout the day for my countless blessings. Doing this instantly shifts my mindset back to a more helpful place, if it has started to stray.

Try these five suggestions for cultivating a mindset to set yourself up for living with no regrets. It is not a one-and-done endeavor. I find that it takes daily attention, but each dose of mindset intervention, using the things I list above, takes me farther down the road in the direction of my big dreams, even if the steps (or pedal strokes) are slow and plodding at times.

If you would like help cultivating the mindset you need to live the way you want to live and to help ensure that you are living with no regrets, schedule a complimentary call, using this link.

“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and do what really matters.” –Stephen R Covey

My Top 5 Tips for Increasing Energy

This post is the first in a series of “Top 5” posts, in which I will share my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. We get one chance to live this life. Let’s make it the grandest life we are capable of living!

One of the most frequent complaints and concerns I hear is that people don’t have the energy they need to do what they want and even need to do in life. In its scientific sense, “energy” means “calories” or “heat,” “the capacity to perform work.” In this post I use the word in its colloquial sense—pep, zip, well-being that leaves you feeling like moving and accomplishing things.  Here are my very best recommendations for creating more energy in life.

Nourishing Salad
  1. Whole-Food, Plant-Based Nourishment: The calories (energy) you consume matter. Make them count. Make them work for you, not against you. One of the most powerful choices you can make to enhance your energy is to eat plants that contain the nutrients that support your body’s health. By eating an array of health-giving foods (and cutting out the foods that fight against your good health), you supply your body with the building blocks and tools to be vibrant and energized. When I eat a light, plant-based meal (ALL my meals are plant-based.), especially one full of leafy greens, beans, fresh, minimally-processed vegetables and fresh fruit, I literally feel the energy bubbling in me. I feel lighter and more enthusiastic. I feel health circulating through my blood. The fresher the food, the more I can feel the energy from the sun that the plants are sharing with me. My favorite app for supporting whole-food, plant-based eating is Dr. Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen.
  2. Balanced Daily Movement: Schedule exercise daily and keep your appointment with yourself. It will energize you and revive you. I experience this on a regular basis. For example, I had an exhausting day at work at my full-time job on Monday. I had planned to ride my bike 15-20 miles after work. Although I left work about 40 minutes late and knew I would be pressed for daylight, I also knew cycling was critical to my well-being, including being able to accomplish my long-term (such as elevating my health and cycling) and short-term (such as finishing this blog post draft) goals. I was right. I rode 16 miles and made it home right as the sun was setting, but the ride gave me the energy I needed to feel better and do what I needed to do Monday evening. We will feel most energetic when we have more vigorous days, interspersed with less challenging days. A combination of cardiorespiratory exercise, strength work and flexibility training, spread throughout the week, will be most beneficial.
  3. Daily Mindfulness: Since committing to a daily mindfulness practice over a year ago, I have been amazed at how much better I feel. I am calmer, more peaceful, more confident and more energetic because feel less weighed down by life. Daily, I process and release what no longer serves me. My mindfulness practice includes breathing exercises, meditation, reflection and visualization, along with occasional Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to unblock energy. Every single morning, I spend at least five to 15 minutes intentionally connecting with my center. The peaceful power and gratitude I feel are incredible. This daily practice has added a new level of energy to my days.
  4. Healthy Hydration: If we become dehydrated, we are very likely to feel lethargic (in addition to a host of other problems this creates). It is easy to become somewhat dehydrated without even realizing it. Just being engrossed in work for hours at a time may mean that we are not drinking regularly. If we are talking and thinking a lot (I think of my months where I have appointment after appointment with students, all day, every day.), we can really feel depleted.  Dehydration is often a contributing factor. Our blood volume is decreased when we are dehydrated, and that can really drag us down, physically and mentally. We will not feel motivated to move, and thinking becomes foggy. Hydration needs vary, according to activity level, temperature and fitness, but we all need to drink fresh, clean water regularly—probably close to 8 cups per day for the average adult. Staying conscious of this need can boost our energy.
  5. Intentional Sleep: This is often the one that poses the greatest challenge for me, but I also recognize what a difference makes. Think about when you need to get up in the morning, count backwards eight hours and then set a stopping point for your projects about 30 minutes before that, so you can wind down. As with hydration, individual differences make it hard to say exactly how much sleep you need, but most people feel the greatest level of energy after 6-10 hours of sleep. In order to enhance the quality of sleep, establish a nighttime ritual. Personally, I use journaling, reading and a quote for reflection, right before I turn off my booklight. This signals my intention to energize my body through quality slumber.

Nothing here is likely to be an utter news flash, but these tips work. If you are not doing any of these things, pick one and implement it. Stick with it for two to three months, practicing consistently. Notice the changes in your energy level. Then, add the next one and build on them incrementally. Alone, any of these could make a big difference. Put them all together in regular practice, and you may find yourself feeling a level of energy you haven’t experienced in years.

If you would like some guidance and accountability in implementing these tips in your life, in order to develop the energy you need to accomplish the things that matter to you, use this link to schedule a complimentary coaching session, where we can talk about your goals and dreams and what is getting in your way. If we decide we are a fit, I’d love to help you create more energy for living with no regrets.

How a Nightly Journaling Practice Can Help You Increase Happiness and Achieve Goals

I have journaled for many years. For a long time, I did it frequently, but without any real structure or schedule. That changed in 2011, when I was looking for strategies to help me feel more positive about life, during a particularly painful time. I learned about Martin Seligman’s “Three Good Things” practice. I have written about this practice previously because it has been (and continues to be) so meaningful to me.

The simple “Three Good Things” practice became the foundation for the journaling that I faithfully began doing each night. Every single night—even when I am Biking Across Kansas—I write in my journal about three things that went well during the day. Sometimes they are big things. Often, they are small things. The point of the practice is to stop and notice that good things happen, even on the most mundane day. Sometimes it is more difficult than others to come up with my three things. On a particularly difficult day, it might be something as basic as, “My warm shower felt good.” This helps me recognize gifts and blessing in the midst of challenges and disappointments. In addition to naming my three things, I follow each with the question, “Why?” and then write about why this was a good thing. This reflection is brief, but it is key to noticing why I feel good about something. In a 2005 study by Seligman, et al., participants who used the Three Good Things” practice for a week experienced improved mood for six months. I recognized the benefits so quickly after starting it that I made it a permanent practice.

This practice is so helpful that I have added check-ins throughout the day, when I am feeling stressed or tired or anxious. Mentally, I will take a moment to name three good things that have happened up to that point in the day. A variant that helps me get out of bed in the morning is to identify three things to which I am looking forward in the coming day.

Over time, I have added other questions that have benefitted me. Currently, in addition to my Three Good Things practice. Here are the others I use:

  • What do I want for and from myself tomorrow? This helps me to begin to set an intention for the next day. When I think about how I want the day to look, I can approach it consciously, making decisions that support my intention.
  • Do I have any regrets about my choices today? As I wrote in this post, my theme for 2019 is “No Regrets.” By checking in with myself each night, I take an honest look at the choices I made during the day and assess whether they were aligned with my values, goals and priorities. This idea of living to avoid regrets has become so compelling that I have recently refocused my coaching practice to help people who have become aware of how quickly time passes develop the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what they want to accomplish and live with no regrets. I strive to do this in my daily life, as well.
  • How will I live with no regrets tomorrow? This is when I decide if and how I need to adjust my choices the next day. It is also when I consider my responsibilities for the day and plan proactively to remain in alignment with values, goals and priorities.

Within the last couple months, I have added to my nightly journaling practice with the “Three Question Journal,” developed by Angeles Arrien. This practice has been used with medical students to help them recognize meaning in their work. I find that it can help me identify and acknowledge meaning in my life, too. Rather than overlooking or taking for granted events that have taken place during the day, I acknowledge the meaning they help create in my life. Here are the three questions:

  1. What surprised me today?
  2. What touched my heart today?
  3. What inspired me today?

The key with these questions is to write the first thing that comes to mind and to briefly reflect on it. One of the profound insights that I obtained in reading Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It, is her assertion that “A meaningful life is a stressful life.” I realized, upon reading this, that the mundane things that are part of my daily life, like work and family, while being significant contributors to stress in my life, are also significant contributors to meaning in my life. Recognizing this was truly life changing for me. This three-question practice reinforces this recognition.

My nightly journaling does not take all that long, but it is time well spent. It enables me to finish the day feeling centered, having integrated my daily activities and my thoughts and feelings about them. I finish by reading until I am ready to go to sleep and then choosing a quote from my collection for reflection, as I go to sleep.

My nightly journaling practice is one component of my non-negotiable self-care practices. Other things, like my morning mindfulness practice, exercise, plant-based nourishment and my various check-ins throughout the day round out my practice. Any of these is important alone, but together they support each other and add a greater sense of meaning and contentment to my life.

I encourage you to begin a nightly journaling practice, if you don’t already have one. You may want to use some or all of the questions I include. While there are times that I simply free-write in my journal, these questions are always part of my nightly practice. If you are starting with just one part of what I do, I recommend starting with “Three Good Things,” since this has been shown scientifically to enhance happiness in people who did it. Anecdotally, I can attest to its effectiveness. Once you have that practice in place, trust your instincts to add others—either from the ones that are meaningful to me or some that you adapt.

I have tried and abandoned some strategies because they didn’t serve me as well as these do. Several months ago, I subbed, “Was I better today than yesterday?” for “What do I want for and from myself tomorrow?” I missed the latter question, so I added it back and included my “no regrets” questions. This feels like a better fit.

I find that the structure of the questions and the soothing ritual they provide increase the centeredness I feel from the journaling. The practice helps put everything in its place for the day.  I hope you will give structured nightly journaling a try and let me know how it affects your life.