Dr Kenneth Cooper, an American medical doctor and former airforce colonel revolutionized our understanding of heart disease prevention. In his book Aerobics (1968) he outlined how people who are sedentary or have diseased hearts, have a limited amount a vascularization ( blood flowing in and out) of our hearts. When those limited pathways are blocked our hearts cannot receive necessary blood flow and oxygen which often results in heart attacks and death.
Dr Cooper discovered that short sessions (20 minutes) of aerobic activity a few times a week actually increased the number of pathways blood could take in and out of our hearts so if one pathway was blocked there were still options availability. This discovery spawned the craze of aerobic dance, Jazzercize, Richard Simmons, leg warmers, headbands and millions of people who did not die because they now felt empowered to be healthier.
I taught aerobic dance in the 80’s and not only was it a blast it also felt awesome to be encouraging all sorts of people who had never exercised to take fate into their hands and be healthy.
In a similar way our own personal thought process can default to a well trodden path of negativity. It can be such a familiar pathway that we often actually just believe that is the way things are. Have you ever been presented with an opportunity and instantly a thought pops into your mind…..I’m not capable of that….I’m not smart enough..not enough people will like me…that is not for people like me…and on and on.
The beliefs we think about ourselves can be like that blocked artery in our heart. With no new thinking we slowly are starved of self love, confidence, joy, appreciation and hold ourselves back from doing the things we so badly want to do.
The great news is that just like a 20 minute dance break can strengthen your heart, taking time to observe our thinking and grow new pathways in our brain can unblock our lives.
Challenging and exploring new outside the box thinking literally helps the Neurons in our brains brave uncharted trails forging multiple new pathways to default to.
The most exciting and rewarding work I do is to Coach clients in discovering alternative options for their thinking. It is such a rewarding experience watching in the beginning a bit of a puzzled look which morphs into a glowing smile and a total change of body posture as they relax into their new mindset of possibilities.
I was walking with two of my favourite women the other day. Both of these women are intelligent, creative and outwardly attractive people. It was an illuminating moment for me as we were walking and each randomly brought up a physical feature that they were hyper aware of. This feature about their appearance was really bothering them and I could tell that they had been very focused on finding a solution to their “problem”. The interesting part of this experience was that I had never been aware nor could see the actual physical problem bothering them.
It made me wonder how much of our time and energy we bypass from a positive focus in our life to a feature of our appearance that we believe is holding us back. Yet what if no one else can see it?
I have certainly met both women and men who were holding themselves back in life until they…lost the weight…got into shape…got healthy….fixed some other aspect of their physical appearance
Our thought limitations so powerfully create this belief that we can’t achieve the things that we want until….that elusive situation comes to be.
What if the beliefs holding us back are not actually true? What if somewhere in our mind we created this false belief that we have rehearsed so many times it feels like part of who we are?
If you notice you are constantly criticizing yourself, or having a silent conversation around waiting to begin what you really want – after …… is resolved, life could be on hold because of a limiting belief. Now imagine yourself in the same situation free of the belief that was holding you back. How is your life?
The idea of limiting beliefs is old school Cognitive Behavioral Therapy developed by Dr. Aaron Beck. Today there are new pioneers like Byron Katie who have managed to put a new spin on old work.
In my practice I have had an incredible amount of success helping people break through and dissolve beliefs holding them back from living a rich and satisfying life. Watching beliefs dissolve is amazing, it is almost as if people can finally and freely breathe deeply.
One of the principles of natural horsemanship is to work your horse in short bursts outside of his comfort zone. The idea is that the familiar no longer stimulates his learning, so moving from familiar to unfamiliar and right back to familiar sandwiches new learning between something he is comfortable with. Slowly his training zone encompasses what used to be scary, so that new experience becomes familiar.
Think about this principle in your life. Remember when that new job, new sport or new experience gave you an anxious or excited feeling and now it has become routine.
When was the last time you pushed yourself a little bit to venture into uncharted territory. We are not talking about something that will blow your mind, just something that when you imagine it is slightly uncomfortable.
Imagine that experience, something you really want to do. Now imagine deciding it is too….something, too risky, too scary, too new. Close your eyes and scan your body after deciding not to do it. Do you feel relieved or disappointed? If you feel disappointed this is something you are ready to lean into.
How do you begin?
- Make a concrete decision to engage in the experience, even if it feels scary.
- Create a simple plan to prepare for the experience. What are the skills necessary to complete the experience?
- Break those skills down into small manageable steps.
- Create a realistic timeline by enlisting the help of someone with experience in this area. For example if you have always wanted to go ballroom dancing, ask an instructor to outline the process and time involved for learning one or two dances. Does it involve weekly lessons? How many hours of practice generally to prepare?
- Set a timeline based on your simple steps for your first experience. Ask someone who has already lived the experience to give you an idea of a realistic timeline.
- Start small and work your way up. By beginning with smaller experiences you build up your skills and confidence to handle the bigger experiences.
Live your life! It feels invigorating to push a little outside your comfort zone.