Thursday, October 17, 2013

Time to Misbehave

My friends, it’s time to throw in the towel on being such goody two-shoes.  Let’s start misbehaving. When we set health goals, we tend to follow a routine, always trying to accomplish more.  We wake up early, eat a healthy breakfast, get to work on time, quickly respond to emails, work hard to meet the day’s deadlines, come home, work out, healthy dinner, rinse and repeat.

In our constant efforts to do and be our best, things get left out, and those things are often things we want to do, eat and be.  I’m not advocating that you ditch your best efforts, lounge on the couch and get fired from your job.  What I am saying is that you need to lighten up a bit.  In western culture, we praise the go-getter attitude and even try to cultivate that behavior in our children: “You’re such a good girl!"  From an early age, we are instilled with the attitude that the more you get done, the more successful you will be.  Keep your ears open, and you will hear it from co-workers, among friends and in the media.

I met a very old Italian man one day a few years ago, and his words have been with me ever since. “You know what the problem is with Americans? You act like you have to earn leisure time,” he said as he sipped his red wine mid-afternoon. This pressure to earn time for ourselves forces us to prioritize our lives such that leisure is a rare treat. Americans’ definition of self-improvement rarely includes leisure, yet we often feel our best during leisure activities.  So how, then, do we balance doing our best with feeling our best?  This question is so important to answer that I spend two weeks on it with each of my health coaching clients.  The answer is simple: You misbehave.  Start to rebel against the small things that bring you down.  Delete an email at work that you’d rather not deal with (If it’s important enough, they’ll email you again).  Call in sick once in a while on those perfect weather days.  Screen phone calls that you don’t feel like answering.  Eat a freakin’ cookie once in a while!  It’s not going to crush your weight loss goals.

Breaking out of our constant cycle to satisfy the many roles we play can free up time and mental energy, which will allow us to listen to ourselves and consider what it is that we truly want from life. For some of us, so many years have passed since we considered the why behind what we do on a daily basis.  We become so dedicated to our roles as employees or homeowners that often we’ve forgotten about our dreams completely.  I was struggling through a very difficult time a few years ago, and my eldest sister gave me some good advice: “Stop asking yourself,  'Where do I want to be in 5 years?'  What do you want right at this second?  If you usually turn right and you feel like turning left, do it.  You’ll train yourself to listen to your instinct, which will lead you in the right direction.” This advice has guided me ever since.  Once you master misbehaving in small ways, take it as far as you’d like.  If you’re in a job that you hate and that makes you miserable, jump ship, follow your heart, and chase down that muffled dream.

Apply this misbehavior to whatever area in your life that needs attention.  At Sweat and Butter, we focus on five primary areas: sleep, relationships, food, stress and movement.  We believe that you must create balance in each area to optimize your health and happiness.  If you’re sacrificing too much from one area to focus on another, you’re out of balance.  Sleeping less to work more for money that you don’t have time to enjoy doesn’t make sense.  Get things back in balance.  Sleep in, work out, listen to your body, follow your heart and cultivate your mind.  It feels good to be bad.

Maybe this simple strategy of breaking the rules will get you to where you wanted to go in the first place.  If you have any questions about any of this, email me.  I promise I won’t delete it.

Vanessa Alberts is a co-founder and health coach at Sweat and Butter. She received her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and holds a master's degree in Health Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She coaches clients to optimize their health and happiness through nutrition and personal evaluation. She can be reached at 

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