JustWind Mindset in the Face of COVID-19

Throughout the surreal developments of the last couple weeks, I have doubted that there is anything of value I can provide—through my writing, through my coaching, through my online presence. I have thought, “Why bother?” because I have felt so overwhelmed by the news on COVID-19, by the abrupt transition to working from home (which I would love, under the right circumstances and with time to prepare and organize), the shock of K-12 school closures, the end of track and other spring sport seasons and the uncertainty and fear of the future. I made a significant investment in a business course just days before everything fell apart, but working on my business in any public way seems both insensitive and futile at this time. Still, I have to believe that we will get through this, that, collectively, we will be okay.

More than any other event that I can recall in my lifetime, it seems that we are all in the same boat. Certainly, some of us have more robust resources to cope. But we are all living this previously unimaginable reality that has so suddenly become ours.

Health and compassion are my themes. My goal is to dwell at the intersection of those two themes and to contribute to their growth in the world. So, how can I best do that in this interrupted life?

For my answer, I return to the roots of my blog that evolved to include my coaching practice and the book I am (still, despite this dramatic change of life) writing: the JustWind mindset. For those who are unfamiliar with the story behind the JustWind name, you can read my original blog post here. To give a brief recap, the concept originated in June 2002, on the last night of Biking Across Kansas, a cross-state bike ride that I love and in which I have participated since 1999. Kansas is windy. That is an undisputed fact. Every BAK has wind, but 2002 was particularly windy (even featuring a severe thunderstorm with 95-mph straight winds that shredded tents). The wind had beaten us up all week, and I was starting to get a cold. On the last evening, as I looked for our bags among those that had been unloaded from the luggage truck, I complained grumpily to my friend David about the wind. He shrugged and gently said, “It’s just wind.”

I had a moment of profound insight: I could choose to be miserable (even doing something I loved—cycling), or I could choose to recognize the challenge for what it was and keep turning the pedals to move forward and stay upright. I realized that I could do this, not just on the bike, but in every aspect of life. It was truly an awakening for me and one that has led to a great deal of (long and protracted and always-evolving) growth for me. Essentially, I realized that we have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives.

I decided that sharing this reminder is the primary value that I can add to the coping strategies for managing the disruption created by this pandemic. I am endeavoring to remember to engage the JustWind mindset as I make my way through these strange days. My effort is imperfect. I have had moments of crisis and extreme agitation. I panicked last week when I had to make a rushed 50-mile round trip to my office, when I heard that I may lose access entirely in this incredibly busy advising season that has suddenly transitioned to phone advising. I yelled at Logan later that evening when he kept throwing a plastic tumbler into the stainless-steel sink, noisily and unsuccessfully trying to land it inside another one (a version of the highly irritating bottle-flipping craze of a few years ago). He persisted when I asked him to stop, and I lost it. But, when I can remember, it helps.

We all have to find our own best ways of handling this, and I suspect that the issues are different for introverts and extroverts, but I will share some of my strategies and hope they help. Please share your own in the comments. We can learn from each other.

My husband Kenny reads COVID-19 news out loud what seems like approximately 23 hours a day. While I agree that it is important to stay informed, this wears on me. I am working primarily at home, Logan’s school is closed, and Kenny is on an indefinite hiatus from his work as a bus driver and groundskeeper for the school district. We are all suddenly together in what feels like a very small house for many hours a day. Logan would be on Xbox nonstop if we would let him. Kenny reads the news out loud to me. While I am working at home, while I am studying my business course, while I am writing (He is sleeping now.), he reads. While I am dialing the phone for my next student appointment, while I am tracking appointments, while I am responding to email, he reads.

These are the things I am doing to cope, to escape, to strive to thrive:

  • Empowered movement: For me, this consists of cycling about three evenings a week (Thank you, daylight savings time!) for 15-20 miles and building mileage on the weekend days. I rode 30 miles each day this weekend, despite cold, dreary conditions. A couple mornings a week, I do yoga (Yoga with Kassandra is my favorite.), strength training or Foundation Training. Training my body helps me to feel better physically and mentally and to feel stronger and be more resilient. It prepares me to face more effectively whatever comes my way.
  • Reading: My life is too full (even in this strange new world) to allow time for simply sitting and reading, but using skills I honed years ago as an undergraduate who worked full time and went to school at night, I read while I am getting dressed, washing dishes, folding laundry, brushing my teeth—every spare moment. I read over 60 books a year this way, and they help me stay sane and continue growing and evolving. They help a lot now. I just finished reading Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip & Dan Heath. It was very good, and I gleaned from it some useful decision-making strategies. After finishing it this morning, I started Deep Listening: A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind and Open Your Heart, by Jillian Pransky. Reading, like cycling, is a tremendous escape for me.
  • Meditation: My morning meditation practice, as well as some moving meditation on the bike, helps me stay grounded and centered. I incorporate breathing exercises and Kundalini yoga, and it starts my day from a place of peace and grace.
  • Plant-powered nourishment: Of course, I eat plants, not animals all the time, but it is even more important to be mindful that the food is nourishing and supporting my mental and physical health at this time. It is easy to want to eat just comfort food in this crazy situation, but I try to keep in mind the bigger picture. As I wrote this yesterday, I had just finished my breakfast smoothie. I included hemp seed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate for extra nutritional support. This morning, I had Kashi and dry oatmeal with frozen berries and cherries, cocoa (full of antioxidants!), walnuts, vegan yogurt, ground flaxseed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate. Breakfast is important, but so is everything we put into our mouths throughout the day.
  • Hope: As I said above, I have to believe that we will get through this. I do believe we will be changed. I hope the changes are for the better. Some of them may not be or may not feel like they are, but we can choose to grow through the changes. So, I am not relinquishing my goals, although I am giving myself some grace and adjusting the pace of my pursuit. I am still writing my book, writing blog posts, working my business course (but holding off on public-facing activities because pushing forward with those seems insensitive) and pursuing certification as a running coach. I am choosing to trust that everything will happen in the right time, in the way that it should.
  • Structure: All too suddenly, our days look different. Even if I have an ultimate goal of being able to work from home, I want it to be in circumstances I choose, not a situation thrust upon me, in my busiest time of semester, with no time to prepare thoughtfully and comfortably. So, I am creating a new structure for myself. I took time yesterday to establish a structure for Logan’s days because this cannot be perpetual spring break. He needs athletic (He has continued to run.), academic and household responsibilities each day. There will still be time for Xbox (although I have to admit that I absolutely hate that thing). Structure helps us to make sense of our days and make use of our time for productive activities.
  • JustWind Mindset: We don’t know how long this will last or how brutal it may get. On my bike, I literally have been blown off the road by the Kansas wind. I have felt many times like I am being pushed backward by headwind or could be knocked over by crosswind. I just keep turning the pedals (and, after some deep breaths, get back on the road after having been blown off). I am remembering all this and trying to apply it to COVID-19. It will change our days, our plans and our ways of life, but we can handle it. We just have to choose the empowered perspective that allows us to believe we can and then take action to do so.

As I said, I would love to see your comments about how you are striving to thrive during this pandemic. Please let us know.

I wish all my readers (and all the world) health, safety, happiness and peace in this scary and uncertain time. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Let’s follow the CDC and WHO, as well as local, recommendations, guidelines and orders. Let’s try to stop this thing as soon as we can, take what we learn and move forward powerfully. Blessings to all!

“The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.” –Hal Elrod

Change & Possibility

I am starting to write this post from the overlook to the pool at Heskett Center, while Logan is starting his lifeguard training. This feels like a moment of possibility and change. He hopes to get a job as lifeguard this summer. It is hard to believe that he is old enough! Where have 15 years gone? He was excited as we drove here this morning, and I love that. I want him to be excited about the possibilities for his future.

I feel on the brink of possibility, too. For the past year, I have struggled with clarity over my goals for my coaching practice. Some circumstances lately have reenergized me with a stronger sense of purpose for my practice. It has become clearer to me that what I want to accomplish is to help people who are motivated by health and/or ethics to eat, move and think in healthier, more compassionate ways, improving the quality of their lives, while making a positive difference in the world.

Toward that end, I have invested in some coaching and guidance of my own, and I am doing some work to further clarify next steps. I have a sense of what is next, but I am also open to inspiration and possibility. There are three components that I know I want to emphasize.

Plant-powered nourishment. The most compassionate way of feeding our bodies is also the most healthful. I don’t believe this is coincidental. Eating foods that don’t require someone to suffer or die undoubtedly creates more positive energy in our world than consuming the products of fear and violence. This is good for all of us. I want to help others discover how wonderful it is to eat delicious plant foods that are filled with fiber (only found in plants, not animals) and antioxidants.

Empowered movement. It feels good to move our bodies, and it serves our minds and spirits when we engage in physical activity that we enjoy. One important goal of my coaching practice is to help people find joy and enhance their lives through movement. Cycling (and previously running) has been an enormous part of my life and has contributed to the development of my character and to so much personal growth. I see what physical activity does for Logan and for others of all ages, and I want to help people realize how much empowered movement can enrich their lives.

JustWind mindset. I started this blog in 2015 with a post about the JustWind story. We have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives. I want to help people understand this, through both my coaching practice and my in-progress book. Realizing this has made such a difference in my peace of mind, my happiness and my stress management. Taking responsibility for our own lives creates possibility. When we decide that we are not victims of the winds of fate but can push forward despite resistance and challenge and disappointment, a whole world of opportunity opens. Meditation is one method for cultivating the JustWind mindset that I personally use and can share with people who aspire to live from this happier, more empowered position.

So, as Logan starts lifeguard training today and track practice tomorrow, and I begin the program in which I have invested, possibility looms large. It feels like an adventure. Really, that’s what life should be. It has not always been (and is still not always) easy for me to view it this way. Doing so requires an intentional effort to release anxiety and make room for inspiration.

It is an ongoing work in progress for me, but it makes life so much more fun and so much less stressful when I can remember to live this way. I look forward to helping others recognize and incorporate these principles, too, through my writing and through my coaching practice.

Let’s see what we can make of these next several months of 2020!

Discovering Courage & Community in the Written Word

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

–James Baldwin

While I certainly don’t think my pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, a couple of recent books have awakened the realization that I’m not alone in certain experiences that, admittedly, I had previously believed were unique quirks. This has caused me to think about the many ways that we can find both courage and community through the written word.

The biggest a-ha moments occurred while I was reading Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, by Melissa Dahl. I was drawn to this book because I hoped it would help me to understand and release certain experiences of embarrassment and shame that have continued to haunt me. Initially, I was disappointed, and, I have to say, I struggled to stay focused reading it. I even skimmed some parts. Then, I encountered Chapter 8.

“Cringe attacks” That’s what she called them. As soon as I read the words, I had the thought, “So, it’s not just me? Other people do this, too?”

Cringe attacks are the name that Dahl gave the experience of suddenly, out of the blue, being blindsided by a memory of an embarrassing or shame-filled experience. It is something that I have never discussed with anyone, but it has nagged me for as long as I can remember. Certain memories have been perennial pests, popping up time and again, year after year. The time in 2001 when I made a poor choice about what to wear to work. The time when I was about 15 that I still can’t bring myself to state publicly. The cringe attacks come in vivid flashes, utterly unbidden, usually causing silent or out-loud exclamations and shaking of my head, in an effort to quickly usher the thoughts away.  

In recent months, my biggest tormentor has been an experience of mistaken identity at the beginning of fall 2019 semester. At a University social event, I saw someone from the back and thought it was someone else who I knew had fairly recently started working at the University. She’s someone I like and was happy to see. I think I called her name (well, the name of the person I thought she was) and touched her on the back. She turned, and I continued to talk to her, as I looked at her face. I knew this other person, too, but, for some reason that I still don’t understand (and, believe me, I have analyzed it ad nauseam to try to figure this out), it didn’t register until she said something, clearly trying to signal politely that she was not who I thought she was, about the location of her office. This woke me, and I made a hasty and ungraceful exit. Immediately, I wondered, “What is wrong with my brain? Is this early-onset dementia?” Was I spaced out from the stress of being in a social, mingling setting, which I hate? Whatever it was, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t immediately realize, when she turned, that I was talking to the wrong person. If I hadn’t known the woman in front of me, it would have been embarrassing and awkward, but not as mortifying as this was, since I knew her (and, worse, she knew me), too. For months it has popped randomly into my head. There does not have to be a trigger. Seemingly out of nowhere, the memory will barrel back into my consciousness, and I will feel a visceral clench of shame in my stomach, in my face. A cringe attack!

Reading about this phenomenon, I felt a sense of community with the unknown others (Does everyone do this? Even if it is just some of us, knowing that it is not just me helps.) who are tormented by cringe attacks. Until reading this, I thought I was the only person who suffered such attacks. More than anything else I have done to try to dampen the shame and embarrassment I felt around the mistaken identity, knowing that others have cringe attacks and witnessing their courage in sharing them, has helped me find both community and courage. I have had more healing and release since learning this and since starting to think about sharing my story in my blog than in the preceding months of trying to banish my negative feelings through Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping), meditation (not just for that reason, of course) or any other strategy, like hard intervals on my bike. Although finding out that I was not alone in the cringe attacks did not change the original experience, it seemed to normalize the whole thing for me—at least enough that I could write about it, further diluting some of the poison. It may seem silly, but the anguish has been real.

“Mind pops” are cringe attacks’ benign cousins. These aren’t particularly bothersome, but, again, I thought this regular occurrence was just part of my weirdness. A mind pop describes the sudden, apparently random, appearance in our conscious thoughts of less painful recollections. They aren’t upsetting, but they have often left me wondering, “Where did that come from?” A common form of mind pop for me occurs in the middle of something entirely unrelated. For instance, during my yoga practice on Thursday morning, I suddenly found myself mentally at the intersection of 151st W and 109th N, north of Bentley, Kansas, on my bike. Why? I don’t really mind, especially when it is a cycling mind pop. It’s just puzzling. There is nothing particularly unusual about the locations that show up as cycling mind pops. Why there? Why at this particular moment? I could understand if I had experienced something emotionally significant, but they usually just represent routine bike rides. Odd. But maybe normal?

My mind pops don’t only happen around cycling. That is just one of the more common forms for me. While reading about mind pops in Cringeworthy didn’t provide the same emotional release that learning that others have cringe attacks did, but I felt a little less alone, a little less weird. Others have mind pops. Interesting.

Listening on Audible, Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun, gave me a different type of feeling of community. As a Gen X (roughly those born between 1961—or 1965, depending on the source—and 1981) woman, I have never really thought about myself as part of a generational community. You hear a lot more about Baby Boomers and Millennials, and I never really gave that much thought, which was part of Calhoun’s point. I have always thought that the angst I have felt over my path in life and over some of my choices were uniquely mine, unrelated to my position in history. And they are, in the specifics. But Calhoun pointed out that a lot of women my age experience this existential angst to a greater degree than some other generations, and that this suffering has often gone without recognition. While hearing many stories from other Gen X women who grew up with similar messaging, in a particular, shared historical context was a bit depressing, it also helped me recognize that my generation is one form of community for me, beyond just having grown up listening to the same music or, on a micro-level, gone to school together.

That’s the power of the written word—recognizing that we are not alone in experiences that we may have believed were exclusively ours and because of which we may have felt lonely.

Our own writing can be a place for us to find and express courage and, by sharing our stories bravely, to help others find courage. I have a dear friend who is writing a memoir. Sharing our stories in full honesty requires forging through pain and shame and guilt and many difficult feelings. I have been privileged to read some of her early chapters, and she is taking on all the pain courageously, baring her feelings and her memories because she believes (and I do, too) that her story can make a difference in the world.

That is also the power of the written word.

There are so many ways, these days, that we can read and benefit from learning others’ stories and realizing that we are not alone. We can heal and gain courage and feel a kinship with others who have gone through similar experiences. We learn that other people have gone through the trials and torments and embarrassments that we have. We feel a sense of community. That gives us strength.

We learn so much from books. Books (albeit mostly Kindle, for convenience) are still my favorite form of the written word. There are other ways, too, that we can find courage and community in reading and writing. Blogs and social media have opened up whole new avenues of expression and connection through the written word. I think this is a particular benefit to introverts, like me, but we can all grow through our interaction with these forms of writing.

I’m so thankful for my literacy, my vision, my drive to read, my call to write, the countless authors and writers I have read—and will read 😊–in my lifetime.

Courage and community. Compassion is my highest core value. Courage and community help us grow in compassion—for self, others, the animals, our planet.

What are some of the books that have made the biggest difference for you? How have you discovered courage and community through any form of the written word? How can you use the written word to make a difference?

I sincerely hope that my writing—whether in this blog, my in-progress book, my social media sharing, my soon(ish)-to-be-published essay or any other writing I do—will speak to others, at least occasionally inspiring courage and growing community.

Writing really is a superpower. Reading really is an amazing gift. I am grateful for both in my life.

3 Keys to Increasing Consistency in Life and the Benefits of Doing So

Continuing to work on my book, I have been thinking and writing about consistency recently. It is a trait that is important to accomplishing most things in life. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my book-writing strategy centers around Anne Lamott’s guidance, “A page a day is a book a year.” Adhering to that basic pace is working. I have written nearly 29,000 words. If life gets in the way of my daily page, I catch up the next time I am able to write. With a hectic first week of classes at the University and a completely occupied Saturday yesterday, I will be catching up today. With consistent practice, I am making steady progress.

What we do—or don’t do—on a regular basis sets the stage for what we are able to accomplish in life. This is true for our health, our relationships, our academic and professional endeavors, even our spiritual growth. Our patterns create our lives.

Why is this true?

Consistency allows us to plan. Whether it’s a cross country training program or a regular meditation practice, we can plan when we are consistent. When a coach has a consistent, coherent, structured program and openly communicates that plan with his or her athletes, they know what to expect, how to eat before practice and how to supplement practices with outside training. Absence of consistency—randomness—leaves us floundering. Performance suffers. Mental sharpness deteriorates. When we are consistent in our practice, or when we are provided with consistent structure to our days, we know what to expect and can plan effectively.

Consistency fosters trust. When people in our lives are consistent, we can trust them. We feel safe. Inconsistency leads to unpredictability, which is not comforting in a work, home or school environment. When we are consistent in our habits, we can trust ourselves to do what needs to be done.

Consistency simplifies decision making. Because I have a consistent daily habit of exercise, I don’t have to debate with myself whether or not I will exercise. The type, duration and intensity of physical activity varies from day to day, but I plan it into my schedule each day. I don’t have to decide. My consistency is my commitment to myself.

Consistency creates excellence. Consistent effort is how we get good. No matter how much innate talent someone has, dedicated work on a consistent basis is still necessary to become highly skilled and to perform reliably. Practicing any habit or skill in an arbitrary fashion will limit the progress that can be made. Consistency facilitates a solid foundation on which to build stronger skills and from which to reap benefits.

“Consistent” does not mean “boring” or even “the same.” Some people place a high value on spontaneity and shrink away from the idea of being “tied down” to consistency. They fear that life will become dull and monotonous if they develop and maintain consistent habits. I disagree. I believe consistency frees us to have bigger wins and more fun. We are better able to direct our energy and effort into productive activities when we are consistent. Rather than internally battling over whether or not we will eat in a certain way or move in a certain way, we just do it. We can trust ourselves, and we can plan our lives.

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign” ― Victor Hugo

How do we build consistency into our lives?

  1. Schedule: In my experience, the best way to ensure that something we say matters is accomplished is to schedule it. Either put it physically into the calendar or at least know when it will be (definitely) done. It is difficult to achieve consistency—whether in a training program or in taking daily steps toward a goal, like writing a book—unless we schedule when the activity is going to happen. Scheduling automatically elevates the priority level of the activity. It becomes non-negotiable when we equalize it with other important appointments in our lives.
  2. Commitment: Schedule it; then, follow through and do it. Keep the promises you make to yourself. Believe that you are worth it. Truly believe that it is a non-negotiable part of your day.
  3. Purpose: Know why you want to become consistent. Why does it matter if you follow through with what you said you wanted to do? What does consistency achieve for you? What do you have to lose if you are not consistent? By taking the time to consider these questions and answer them for yourself, you have something on which to draw back when life throws challenges your way. When we are clear why something matters and frequently remind ourselves of the reasons consistency is important, it becomes so much easier to maintain.

No matter what it is you want to achieve, I encourage you to ditch erratic efforts and decide if a habit, a practice, a training program, a nutritional strategy really matters to you. If it doesn’t, maybe that is what you need to ditch. Stop pretending it is important. Admit it is not. Move on. If it truly does matter, then schedule it, commit to it and do it. Consistently.

My Favorite Books of 2019

I am thankful to have enjoyed many great reads in 2019. This is my annual post highlighting those books I gave four or five stars on Goodreads during the year. Goodreads shows my entire year in books here. As always, nonfiction is my preference.

It is always fun to reminisce about my literary year as I write and refine this post. As I read the brief reviews I wrote about each book that earned a spot on this list, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I was reading each book. In some cases, I recognize evidence of my evolution from who I was when I read a book to who I have become with exposure to additional books and new life experiences. It is nostalgic, enlightening and exciting.

I am almost finished with a book right now that I know will go on next year’s list. I also plan to give it as a gift. (Tune in next January to find out what it is. 😊) That is the wonderful thing about reading—there is always another terrific book waiting to be read and more to learn and discover.

I am making good progress on my own book, and I look forward to completing the writing and learning the publishing process in 2020. I have submitted final revisions for my essay to a forthcoming vegan cycling anthology, edited by Carol J. Adams and Mike Wise. I am not sure of the publication date, but I am hoping it will be during 2020. Writing, editing and revising my essay has been a tremendous learning process. As I work on my own book, I am grateful for the experience.

These are the best books, alphabetical by category, that I read in 2019. This year, maybe more than most, some defied straightforward categorization. In those cases, I went with my gut instinct on where to place them. Please excuse any funky formatting in this post. I’m trying to correct it, but I want to get on my bike, so I don’t plan to spend too much more time dealing with it.

Here’s to another great year of reading! I’m so grateful for my literacy, my vision and my access to wonderful books.

I hope you find some of your next reads in my list below.

Business/Career

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau—This book was encouraging and helped me believe that I could really make my coaching business thrive. It offers practical business advice as well as many case studies from successful entrepreneurs. If they can do it, I can do it! I was at a different place with my coaching practice when I read this than I am now. I have determined in the last month that I will be evolving to a different model and taking an approach that more fully resonates with me. Still, this was a very good book, and I like the author.

The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life, by John Assaraf & Murray Smith—This book inspired me in several ways, including a modification to my daily mindfulness practice, which was meaningful to me. In some ways, it is two books in one—the first part devoted to putting Universal Laws (Attraction, Gestation, Action, Compensation) into action in our lives and the second part spent detailing business practices. I found value in both parts and have implemented actions from both.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do, by Chris Guillibeau—As I mentioned above, I really like Chris Gullibeau’s writing. This book may be even better than The $100 Startup. Guillebeau provides both advice and inspiration for finding and/or creating work that is the right mix of joy, money and flow, the combination he believes creates the work we were born to do.


Wellpreneur: The Ultimate Guide for Wellness Entrepreneurs to Nail Your Niche and Find Clients Online
, by Amanda Cook—The more I read, the more I realized how well-organized and information-packed (in a manageable way) this book is. I used her suggestions to create a more regular schedule for my blog. I utilized some of her other recommendations and still find them to be very good. I think they would have worked more effectively for me, if the model I was pursuing for my coaching practice had been right for me. I have since figured out that it is not, but I do recommend this book.

Health/Nutrition

The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People, by Dan Buettner—I am a fan of the Buettner’s Blue Zones work. This book examines happiness, which, of course, is an aspect of health. Buettner gives information and practical tips from what he has learned from the happiest places on the planet.


The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People
, by Dan Buettner—Here, Buettner elaborates on the dietary aspect of health in the Blue Zones. The book has recipes, as well as information about these locations.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey–I listened to this on audiobook and really liked it, but it was so loaded with information that I think I would have preferred a hard copy. This is a comprehensive resource for using exercise to enhance so many aspects of brain health across the lifespan.


What the Health
, by Eunice Wong—I watched the documentary a couple years ago and really liked it. This book provides greater depth, detail and context. It covers the range of health, social, political and economic issues associated with our country’s obsessive consumption of animal products. Experts in the field of nutrition and medicine are consulted, and compelling case studies are presented. If people will watch a movie, but won’t read a book, show them the film. If they want more detail, this book should convince uninformed consumers of animal products of the harm they are doing to themselves, the animals and the planet.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris—This is an interesting discussion by a skeptical news correspondent and anchorperson of his journey to becoming a meditator.


14-Minute Metabolic Workouts: The Fastest, Most Effective Way to Lose Weight and Get Fit
, by Jason Karp—Karp presents a large menu of several different types of high-intensity, efficient workouts, covering all aspects of fitness. The menu can serve as a mix-and-match strategy for increasing fitness, while minimizing boredom. I have incorporated some of his workouts into my off-season training program.

Inspiration

The Awakened Woman: Remembering & Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams, by Tererai Trent—More than a memoir, this book is so full of inspiration and encouragement. Tererai bravely tells her story of courage and perseverance. The odds she has overcome to accomplish what she has accomplished are truly unbelievable. When I doubt my ability to accomplish something in the future, I will remember Tererai.


A Survivor’s Journey: From Victim to Advocate
, by Natasha Alexenko—This is Natasha’s courageous account of being victimized by a rapist in 1993 and struggling with PTSD ever since. She also shares the startling news that there are many thousands of untested rape kits in the US. Her own rape kit sat untouched for over nine years, while she believed the rapist hadn’t been caught because of her incompetence. When she learned the truth about the rape kits, she founded a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the backlog.

Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up, by Elizabeth Smart—I read My Story, by Elizabeth Smart, several years ago. In this book, she weaves aspects of her own harrowing kidnapping and rescue into a series of interviews with a wide range of people who have experienced trying (and sometimes tragic) times in their own lives. Her own healing is evident, and she brings out the lessons others have to share from their own stories. While some of the stories are horrific, the overall tone of the book is uplifting.

Language

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, by Gretchen McCulloch—The volume of research that must have gone into this book is incredible. Honestly, I debated about whether to award three or four stars in Goodreads, because the detail was so minute at times that it became a bit tedious. Still, I was so impressed with McCulloch’s broad scope of coverage and her obvious enthusiasm (I listened to the audiobook.) for all things language, especially informal language, the category to which she assigns internet language, that I decided the book deserved four stars. She presented a great deal of fascinating data on the many ways that the online world is changing language worldwide.

Memoir/Biography

Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense, by Krista Schyler—This memoir is one of my favorite styles—a journey of personal introspection, written from the perspective of a physical journey. In this case Schyler travels for nearly a year in a car with her dog Maggie and her best friend Bill, trying to make sense of life after her boyfriend succumbs to metastatic testicular cancer at the age of 28. She tries to figure out what her future will look like, while traveling, hiking, appreciating natured and discerning the nature of her relationship with Bill.

 

Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist, by Daniel Munoz—I learned a lot about the world of cardiology by reading this book. I did not realize that the field contains so many subspecialties. Munoz tells multiple stories of patient encounters during his first year as a Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins. Within these interesting case studies, Munoz shares what he likes and dislikes about each type (interventional, preventative, echo, etc.) His descriptions helped me to understand more about what each one meant.


A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal
, by Jen Waite This was an interesting story. More than anything, I liked it because it encouraged me that an average person still had a message to share that would sell books. Waite determined that her ex-husband was a sociopath, and that very well may be true. I’m not sure the evidence was always clearly laid out to support this, but she had an interesting story to tell of shock, survival and post-traumatic growth.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt—This is a very well-written biography of a transgender girl and her family. Nutt documents the family’s journey from Nicole’s birth as Wyatt, an identical twin to Jonas. The family was supportive of Nicole throughout her many challenges and heartaches. The story is both fascinating and touching. I learned a lot.


The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
, by Jonathan M Katz—This one was hard to categorize. It is a memoir because Katz lived through the Haiti earthquake and relates his personal experience, but it is also a meticulously-reported account of the earthquake and its aftermath. I found the detailed explanation of Haiti’s political more in depth than I wanted at times, but it is a legitimate part of the story, and the whole picture would be incomplete without this background. Among other things, this book is a reminder of how very fortunate I am.


Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected
, by Nnedi Okorafor—Okorafor shares her inspiring story of going from a college athlete to someone who had to overcome paralysis to learn to walk again, after the scoliosis surgery that was supposed to ward off future serious health problems went wrong. In her suffering, she found a way to make meaning and, as she says, become more than she would have been without it.


Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action; A Memoir
, by David Fajgenbaum—In a similar vein to Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Fajgenbaum’s story is one of suddenly becoming deathly ill to finding meaning in his suffering. His story is different than Okorafor’s, though. I learned about Castleman disease, which has an incidence similar to ALS, but of which I had never heard. Fajgenbaum became afflicted while he was a medical school student, and the journey he shares of recovery and hope and perseverance is truly inspirational.

Climbing With Mollie, by William Finnegan—This Audible Original audiobook struck me with Finnegan’s obvious devotion to, and awe of, his daughter. They started rock climbing together when she was a teenager. She developed a high level of skill. His was not comparable, but they have enjoyed many years of climbing and travelling together. His discussion of their shared language reminds me of the language I share with fellow cyclists.


Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
, by Hannah Howard—I really liked this book. Howard honestly and courageously shares her story of recovery from disordered eating and a series of unhealthy relationships. It was so enjoyable that I was sad to finish it because I will miss it.


Find Another Dream
, by Maysoon Zayid—This audiobook was wonderful. Maysoon’s story is inspirational, and her delivery was entertaining. I loved listening to this courageous memoir, sprinkled with Zayid’s comedic comments. I did not know who she was, although she has had a long career in stand-up and TV. She is a terrific advocate inclusion of all people, regardless of ability, health status, religion, gender, etc.

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, by Amanda Knox—Although I was aware of who Amanda Knox is, and I knew that she had been accused of murdering her British roommate in Italy, I really didn’t know much more. This is Amanda’s side of the story, and it is fascinating. She describes her decision to study abroad in Italy, her early days there and how she became entangled in the murder investigation and trial. She was imprisoned there for four years before being exonerated, but the mess didn’t end there. I really enjoyed this book.

Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, by Ken Ilgunas— Besides being a fascinating and entertaining story, there are many lessons in this book. Ilgunas has chosen an unconventional path, and while it is not one I would follow precisely, his ideas about freedom, the value of higher education, debt, adventure and purpose gave me a lot to ponder. His adventures cover a wide range and vast geography—from lodge cleaner to AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer to tour guide to Arctic ranger to grad student living in a van to writer. I hope to read more of his work in the future. I am eager to see where his very interesting and unusual path takes him.

Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way, by Jimmy Wayne—This book contains an important message about the difference loving support can make in the life of a young person. Jimmy Wayne tells his poignant story of an unpredictable and dangerous childhood, abandonment by his mother and the critical intervention of a loving older couple who inspired him to walk halfway across the US to raise awareness for foster children, after becoming a country music star.


The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and A Life-Changing Journey Around the World
, by Kim Dinnan—I really enjoyed this book, although I felt like the story was more about the introspective journey than about the Yellow Envelope. I found myself impatient at times with the author because of her unsettledness and indecisiveness. I realized this was probably because it triggered anxiety about my own feelings of unsettledness. The story was very interesting, however, and it felt like a great escape to read.

Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace, by Kathryn E. Livingston—I found the first half of this book to be rather slow, and I wondered how I could be only 50% finished, according to my Kindle tracking. However, it became more interesting at that point, and I felt like I drew quite a bit of inspiration, including adding some Kundalini yoga to my own practice. Ultimately, I did enjoy the book, and I also felt like I grew through reading it.

Nature

Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz & Kathryn Bowers—I listened to this on audiobook, and it was fascinating! As the mother of a teenager, it was very interesting to understand that the adolescents of all species share common tasks and behave similarly as they strive to accomplish them. The authors explore how humans and other species approach status, safety, self-reliance and sex as they work toward becoming adults. It was enlightening.

Personal Development

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear—This book begins with a powerful, attention-getting story that sets the stage for James’ interest in habits. He has many good suggestions and explains the habit cycle (Cue-Craving-Response-Reward) a bit differently than several other authors.

The Best of the Happiness Project Blog: Ten Years of Happiness, Good Habits, and More, by Gretchen Rubin—I have read several of Gretchen Rubin’s books, plus an occasional blog post over the years, so much of the material in this quick read was not new. Still, it was enjoyable, and I found new tidbits of inspiration.


Everything is Figureoutable
, by Marie Forleo—I am a big Marie Forleo fan and had been looking forward to this book. At first, I was a little disappointed because it felt like I had already heard a lot of it. However, the ideas are so good, and Marie presents them so simply that I really did find value in the book. Essentially, the book is a collection of many of her lessons all gathered in on place, which is useful. I have a lot of respect for Marie and look forward to learning more from her.

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Find Success in Work, Hobby, and Life, by Chase Jarvis—I first learned about Chase Jarvis when I heard him on Lewis Howes’ podcast. I was fascinated by his story and bought his audiobook. During the time I was listening to the book, I heard Jarvis on Marie Forleo’s podcast. His message is encouraging, inspirational and heartfelt. Probably the idea I most liked in his book was toward the very end, when he said, “The best antidote to negative feeling is creative doing.” I can relate to this, and I agree with it. In my own life, I feel most alive when I am taking some form of creative action. Starting my book and making it public enhanced my well-being. Jarvis provides both practical ideas and motivational stories to encourage creativity in every person.

The Genius Habit: How One Habit Can Radically Change Your Work and Your Life, by Laura Garnett—This is another audiobook that I feel like I need to purchase in hard copy because there is so much I want to review. Garnett gave me a lot to consider in this book. One of her key points is that we each have a particular “genius” that allows us to excel in particular types of tasks. She challenges us to find that and then to apply it, along with our purpose, to our career paths. Her method for considering “purpose” is different than other approaches I have seen or taken. I need time and space to give her ideas deeper consideration.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals, by Rachel Hollis—I accidentally listened to this audiobook before I read or listened to Girl, Wash Your Face, because I got confused about which one came first. It didn’t hurt anything, although I wished I had done it the other way around. I still plan to read the other one. Rachel narrated this book and really made it come alive. Honestly, I was not familiar with her prior to listening. I feel like I know her now. She is very honest and very motivating. She speaks directly to women and gives us the pep talk and tough love to push us to pursue our dreams. I’m not sure I want to put in the hours she seems to have invested in her brand, and I don’t want to scale my business to the size of hers, but I did pick up a lot of good inspiration, as well as practical ideas for achieving certain goals. She talked a lot about her experience as an author, and I found that useful.


How to be Everything
, by Emily Wapnick—I learned so much from this audiobook! I listened to it at just the right time, when I was already in the midst of making some important changes.  This book emboldened me to own my power and my uniqueness in a deeper way. It helped me to honor my multipotentiality and to see it not as a source of wishy-washiness, but as a source of strength. I have a new definition of my professional self. I am grateful for finding this resource when I did.


The Leap of Your Life: How to Redefine Risk, Quit Waiting For ‘Someday,’ and Live Boldly
, by Tommy Baker—I listened to this on Audible and found good inspiration in it. I felt like the ending was a little weak, compared to the rest of the book, but I liked it. Essentially, the message is one I have come to believe is critical—We must live now. If we put off living or doing things that matter, we may miss our chance. Tommy Baker provides both inspiration and practical suggestions for making those things happen.

Someday Is Not a Day in the Week: 10 Hacks to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, by Sam Horn—Having recently refocused my coaching practice as a No Regrets practice when I listened to this audiobook, I found that Sam Horn’s book (to which I listened during my commute) resonated deeply with me. Her wisdom is apparent as she shares her personal stories and the lessons she has learned around living and being happy right now, rather than waiting for someday. She has an apparent affinity for quotes, like I do, and she shared so many in her book. I purchased a hard copy of this book, not just for quotes (although that, too), but because there are many terrific exercises that I want to remember. I was so moved by this book that I emailed Horn and ended up having a phone conversation with her. Although it was not specifically about my writing a book, her words provided some of the encouragement I needed to decide that this was the time to do so. She also helped me to own and honor my unique message.


You Are a Badass Every Day: How to Keep Your Motivation Strong, Your Vibe High, and Your Quest for Transformation Unstoppable
, by Jen Sincero—I really do love Jen Sincero’s style. This is the third one of her books I have read. This one is more quick bites of motivation, but she says that from the start. Rather than just read a chapter a day or turn to pages randomly, I chose to read it through. It was a very quick read, but there are lots of good reminders there.

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, by Michael Hyatt—I was surprised how inspiring and valuable I found this book. Besides gleaning many great quotes from it, I found quite a few strategies that will enhance both my personal life and my coaching practice. Really good stuff here.

Let me know if you have read any of these, and please share your favorite book or books of 2019.

2020 Vision

I have been planning this post in my head for a few weeks, since I did some year-end reflection on a bike ride. During that ride, I came to the realization that I need to take a different direction with my coaching practice. That insight planted the seeds for what I am calling my 2020 Vision. I’ll share more about that later in this post, but first, I’ll explain the review approach I took this year.

On that bike ride a few weeks ago, I considered what I believe are my biggest accomplishments in 2019 and the major lessons I have learned in 2019.

The most valuable insight that I gleaned from reflecting on my accomplishments and my lessons was a sudden understanding of why I have struggled to find traction with my coaching business. I have felt myself losing enthusiasm for the logistical and marketing aspects of the business, and my mission has often felt fuzzy. Suddenly, on this ride, reflecting on accomplishments and lessons, I understood why.

The model I was taught and the language out there in the online coaching community have never fully resonated with me. I have had a persistent sense of uneasiness about them. During this review, I was able to admit that to myself and, more importantly, to accept it, so that I could consider other options.

Energized by my new understanding, I felt inspired for the remainder of my year-end review, which I did in my journal. This year, I decided to use a version of my nightly journaling practice, scaled to an annual perspective. Here is what this process looked like:

  • 3 Things that went well in 2019. Just like I do every night to reflect on three things that went well for that day, I examined the course of the year and identified the three things that stood out to me has having gone particularly well, whether through my own efforts or life’s gifts. It is important to acknowledge our blessings and successes.
  • 3 Things I am looking forward to in 2020. Each morning before getting out of bed, I think about three things to anticipate during the day. It makes getting out of be easier and inspires hope and excitement. In this case I considered what I look forward to making happen in 2020, not just what I hope will happen. What actions am I taking to achieve these goals?
  • What is the boldest leap I took in 2019? Each night I determine the boldest leap I took during the day. Sometimes it is something big Sometimes it is littler. But I always figure out what it was. I thought back on the year and decided on the boldest leap I took in 2019. This felt good—acknowledging an accomplishment, even while it is still a work in progress.
  • What bold leap will I take in 2020? On a nightly basis, anticipating this leap establishes a plan and an intention for the next day. From an annual perspective, it does that for 2020. These are my most aspirational goals for 2020, the ones that will inspire and enthuse me to push through the challenges I will face.

That’s it. From the answers I found to these questions, I formed my 2020 Vision. I love the metaphor that that 2020 gives us—clear, perceptive vision that we can trust to guide us in the right direction.

An empty road with grass on the side of the street

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So, as we head toward the new year, this is my 2020 Vision:

Rich Litvin says, “A goal is a place to come from.” My 2020 Vision is written from that perspective.

  • In 2020 I am grateful for my vibrant health and vitality, joyfully maintaining a weight that optimizes my health, my performance on the bike and my sense of self.
  • In 2020 I am thankful that my master work, centered around health and compassion, is supported through the rich rewards of the abundant Universe. Secure in this knowledge, I am peaceful and confident around money.
  • In 2020 I am fully present in my important relationships, including with myself.
  • In 2020 I am doing work that matters, integrated under a theme of health and compassion.
    • I am providing compassionate academic advising to future health and fitness professionals.
    • I am teaching an online course that I developed to share the concept of empowered movement.
    • I have written and obtained a publishing deal for, my book, which teaches that we have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives.
    • I am helping people who are motivated by health and and/or ethics to eat, move and think in healthier, more compassionate ways, improving the quality of their lives, while making a positive difference in the world. I have chosen the optimal model for my coaching practice and am grateful that it aligns with my values and my priorities.
  • In 2020 my daily meditation practice results in an even deeper, more meaningful connection with my Source.

I am grateful for the many blessings and lessons that 2019 has brought. I remember feeling discouraged and disappointed at the end of 2018. This year, I can reflect on several accomplishments and feel good about them. I also know I have learned so much about myself, and I have developed a greater trust in my ability to find solutions to the problems and challenges I encounter.

I am excited when I think about the possibilities and promise that 2020 holds.

I will keep my readers posted, as I decide exactly how my coaching practice and online presence will evolve. I am clear that my focus will center on plant-based nourishment, empowered movement and the JustWind mindset. In fact, my 2020 motto is:

Eat. Move. Think. Health & Compassion.

Happy New Year!

We Have Both the Right and the Responsibility to Set Boundaries

“The trick to staying out of resentment is maintaining better boundaries—blaming others less and holding myself more accountable for asking for what I need and want.” –Brene´ Brown

Life has reinforced the veracity of Brene´ Brown’s words. Today I wrote an article for The Advising Network (TAN) at Wichita State University. Boundaries were part of what I addressed, and I think there is value in examining the boundaries here. I have learned that they are crucial to effective functioning in any area of life, from work to family obligations. Brown really is right. Failure to set and maintain boundaries is the fastest way to end up resenting someone or a situation. And, it’s on us when we allow that to happen.

Setting boundaries is an acknowledgement of our responsibility for our lives. Realizing this is empowering. What I have learned is that setting clear boundaries and believing in them enough to stick to them is a gift not only to ourselves, but to others. Clearly stating a boundary establishes parameters for our own behavior and for others’ behavior—what we are willing to do and what we are willing to accept. It sets expectations and relieves pressure.

A close up of a lush green field

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These are my boundary-setting tips:

  • Clarify your values for yourself. Know what is most important to you and decide what aligns with those values. For me, this means knowing that my most important ethical values are compassion, excellence, integrity and fitness. It also means knowing that there are certain things in my life, like cycling, that are critical aspects of my mental and emotional, as well as my physical, health. And, it means knowing that watching my son run cross country and track and being fully present for my important relationships are non-negotiables for me.
  • Align your life, including work, with those values. Examine the fit and figure out what needs to change. When I first started my full-time advising position, I felt like it was necessary to answer every email before I went home. This quickly became unsustainable. I made a decision to follow Liz Gilbert’s advice. She said, “You do what you can do, as competently as possible, within a reasonable time frame, and then you let it go.” I made the decision that, with rare exceptions, I would not check my work email at home, and I don’t have it on my phone. That may seem unthinkable to some, but it is an important boundary for my self-care.
  • When necessary, respectfully and clearly state your values and the boundaries they create. Both for myself and for my students, I tell every one of them, “It sometimes may take me a few days to get back with you because my schedule can be really crazy at times. But I will ALWAYS get back with you. It just takes a little patience sometimes.” Almost everyone understands and appreciates knowing that. It makes me feel better, even though I wish I were always able to respond quickly.
  • Honor your boundaries by taking action to realign with them when necessary. This can be hard, but, ultimately, it will be better for everyone. For instance, I am very clear now what my priorities are, and I know where there is some wiggle room and where there is not. I have to be willing to honor my values and priorities and change what doesn’t align with them or to change my situation if I find myself slipping into resentment because I don’t want to live that way.  It is my responsibility to take care of myself.

When we recognize our right and responsibility to set, state and enforce our boundaries, it adds elements of power and peacefulness to our lives. It is a potent decision and declaration that we are not victims of our circumstances or of other people. This doesn’t mean that we will never find ourselves in situations we would prefer to avoid. The holiday season, with all of its gatherings and social obligations, is challenging for me as an introvert. I recognize the value in celebrating together, and I do take part in many of the get-togethers, sometimes joyfully, sometimes with less delight than I wish I could muster. However, I am responsible for decreasing the drama around them in my own mind and for not accepting additional social obligations, if they are only going to increase my stress, without adding meaning. I do no one any favors when I show up in resentment to a situation I could have avoided.

One valuable tool for setting boundaries is Amy Tiemann’s system of questions for determining if something should be added to her calendar or to-do list:

                1. Is it fun?

                2. Is it meaningful?

                3. Is it absolutely necessary?

Of course, social obligations are only one area where boundaries come in to play, but I think those are particularly timely in the holiday season.

I’m considering offering a future workshop or online course around boundaries. If that is something that would interest you, click here to sign up for email updates. As a bonus, I’ll send you an electronic copy of my plant-based recipe booklet.

I wish you a healthy, compassionate holiday season, with clear boundaries that serve you.