So you want to be awesome. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: Expressive of awe; inspiring awe; terrific; extraordinary. Sounds pretty good, right? The first step towards being awesome is wanting to be awesome, so if you already want it, congratulations, you’re on your way!
I have put together seven steps to being awesome and living a happy, healthy, fit, and balanced life; firework-in-progress style. Seven little steps, not too hard right? And seven is supposedly a lucky number, so, added bonus! These are the guidelines that I follow in my life that work for me. Maybe some of them can help you, and maybe you can start to develop your own plan of action for being awesome. Here’s mine:
1. Choose to be awesome. As I said before, and I’ll repeat for emphasis: the first step towards being awesome is wanting to be awesome. Yes, it’s true, you can decide to be awesome and then flip the switch. You’ve heard it a million times in a million ways: the law of attraction, visualization, “you can do anything you put your mind to,” insert more cheesy inspirations here. The point is, if you want to be awesome, there’s nothing stopping you except you. And when you really think about it, that’s just silly.
2. Create your identity. I believe that you develop an identity over time based on how you feel innately about yourself and the messages you receive from others. Before I started working out, I identified myself as the fat girl with the pretty face that people thought was kind of funny. Well guess what? That identity kind of sucks. When I started working out, I changed a perception about myself: I told myself, “I work out.” When I have a day that I don’t feel like working out, I remind myself “I am someone who works out. This is who I am. I work out because I’m an athlete.” Now, I run a lot. So, I am a runner. When I don’t feel like running, I remind myself, “You are a runner. This is what you do. Go out there and run!” This works for me, because doing actions that go against my perceived identity feel foreign. So if I am hungry and choosing what to eat, I make smart decisions because I remind myself, “I am a healthy eater.” Do I want to processed foods with little nutrients, or do I want to choose whole foods like fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains and lean protein and natural foods? Well, when I’m staring down a Snickers bar, I remind myself “I am a healthy eater” and the action of eating something unhealthy like that Snickers bar doesn’t coincide with my identity, so I think twice about it. Maybe I’ll still eat the Snickers bar- after all, we’re only human, and life is meant to be lived (I’ll get to that later), but most of the time, I’ll make the healthy choice. Because I’ve actively shaped my identity to fit with my lifestyle and I work to strengthen it through consistently making healthy choices. Do you want to be someone who works out? Do you want to be a runner? Do you want to be an athlete? Do you want to be fit? Decide that you are. Make it part of your identity, and you will begin to notice a difference.
3. Surround yourself with positivity. Does sad music make you sad? Stop listening to it so much. Do you hate your job? Look for a better one. We try to make things more difficult than they are, but the reality is, it’s not that hard. Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Like Will Ferrell movies? Watch one once a week. Do your coworkers spend their lunch hour complaining and it drags you down? Eat your lunch somewhere else. Make the necessary changes to weed out the negative and integrate the positive in your life. Certain things can’t be avoided, but find a way to make them as fun and enjoyable as possible. Personally, I hate monotony, so my daily commute can get me down. I will take different ways to and from work, explore new routes, make different stops along the way, make new playlists, bring a special flavor tea with me in the car for the drive- whatever it takes to make it enjoyable, I’ll do it. Because increasing the positivity throughout your life only makes it more awesome.
4. Move. The human body is designed for movement. It has an incredible ability to adapt and change depending on how you treat it. If you don’t move, it can’t operate properly. Moving around raises your heart rate, gets your blood pumping, and helps all of your body’s systems to function properly. Your muscles have the ability to grow and change; you can get faster, stronger, and fitter. But you can also get weaker, flabbier, and fatter by not moving. Being inactive is foreign to your body. It does not understand the concept of remaining stagnant. Check out Harvard Business Review’s blog by Nilofer Merchant who proclaims that sitting is the smoking of our generation. I encourage you to read this fascinating article. It has come to light how inactivity causes a variety of problems: weight gain, certain diseases and cancers, depression…the list goes on. And now that we know, there is no excuse to remain inactive. If you drive to work, park farther away. Make an extra lap around the perimeter aisles (where the healthier food choices are) of the supermarket when you’re shopping. Get up once every 30 to 45 minutes at work and walk for a few minutes. Studies show that being active throughout your day is just as important, if not more important, than sweating it out at the gym. Hate running? Try yoga. Pilates. Spinning. Kickboxing. Ballet. Rock climbing. Jump roping. Skipping down the halls at work. Ok, maybe don’t do that. But the point is, it doesn’t matter what you do, just do SOMETHING. Your body is made to move. Don’t keep it on lockdown. Let it show you what it can do. It doesn’t even need to be for weight loss- movement helps your mind, body, and soul.
5. Eat cookies. I love cookies. In England, they are called biscuits! How precious. Whatever you call them, they are delicious, and you should eat them. Should you eat them every day? Probably not. Should you eat a whole box? That’s a big no. But can you still be healthy and happy and awesome and eat cookies? Yes. If you deprive yourself of the things that you love, you will wind up miserable and you will quit. No one wants to live a life without the simple pleasures of eating your favorite foods. So let’s say you love cookies too. Experiment with your own recipes. Try new ingredients like substituting oat flour or coconut flour or carob chips instead of chocolate. Make them with fruit, or chia seeds, or almond butter. Try weird combinations and have fun with it. Guess what, they might turn out gross, but you might have fun trying, and therefore you’ve increased the positivity in your life, hence more awesomeness. Or, if you don’t like to cook, there are many options for “healthy” snacks like cookies that are less processed and don’t contain the dreaded high fructose corn syrup or lard or unpronounceable chemical ingredients. You can have your cake and eat it too. And your cookies. And your pizza. And whatever other foods you love. You’ll learn how to make healthier choices and how to fit your favorite foods into your new lifestyle without derailing your plan. Because let me tell you, cookies are awesome. And you are what you eat, so let yourself eat cookies.
6. Realize how feeling time is. Don’t feel like spending 20 minutes working out? Let me tell you, I’ve been there. Can’t find the time to prepare healthy meals during your busy day? Yep, I’m busy too. Don’t want to start this process because you’re so far away from your goal it will take too long to get there? Been there, felt that. Guess what? Time passes anyway, and it moves way faster than you think. I remember the day I applied to graduate school, it felt like an eternity waiting to find out if I got in. And the next 2 months moved like 2 decades waiting to get on that airplane. I remember lying in bed the night before I left, and I told myself, remember how slowly time moved until now…because it is going to move very quickly from now on. And guess what? I could have sworn I woke up the next day in that very bed and my entire year abroad had passed before I opened my eyes in the morning. Time flies. It never stops. It never waits, and it certainly won’t wait for you to be ready to make a change. So show time who’s boss and make the decision now. Because it’s gonna keep moving whether you’re improving or staying the same.
7. Give it a rest. This may seem like the easiest of the steps, but it can be the hardest. You don’t have to be ON all the time. I like to follow the 90/10 rule- if I’m good 90% of the time, I don’t feel bad for the 10% that I may get off track. Happy hours, birthday parties, vacations…life is meant to be lived. You don’t have to follow the strictest diet and workout plan and miss out on the enjoyable things in life. Also remember: a watched pot never boils. Fixate too much on what you want to achieve, and you may sabotage yourself. The marshmallow test famously showed children’s ability to avoid or give in to the temptation of eating a marshmallow. They were each given one marshmallow and were told they could eat it now, but that they could have another one if they could wait 15 minutes before eating the first one. Many kids failed the test: a nice fluffy marshmallow was too much to resist. The children who succeeded had used a variety of strategies to distract themselves from the marshmallow, whereas the ones who gave in had fixated on the marshmallow and couldn’t resist it. Who knows if willpower is real, or if we just need to distract ourselves when tempted with things that will derail our progress. We may sometimes even need to distract ourselves from what we are trying to accomplish. The point is, everyone needs a break from the monotony of their daily routine. Allow yourself rest days, allow yourself to splurge, allow yourself to enjoy things that may not technically be on your plan. It’s not “cheating”…it’s LIVING. Go eat a marshmallow, or two, if you want. Remember that everyone needs to give it a rest every once in a while.
I hope these steps will help you on your path to being the best version of you. Feel free to change them and add your own. Create a set of steps that will work with your life. And always remember, you’re a firework in progress!!