Changing Habits

When I moved into my van and started working remotely, every habit that I had created for myself was completely dismantled. I used to go to the gym before heading into work. My job used to be physically exhausting, providing more mental and physical work for myself. I would do yoga every day after work. In summary, my life and habits revolved around my work schedule. I feel like this is fairly common for most on-site workers. 

Take away a commute and an 8-hour window where I’m physically required to be somewhere, and everything changes. All of my habits and productivity are entirely reliant on my self-motivation. I’ll write separately about motivation, but I want to focus on how I rebuilt my habits. 

Incorporating a new habit is incredibly difficult. Creating new habits means creating new neural pathways in our brains. Those pathways get stronger with repetition, and the more repetition that we provide, the more the neural pathway develops and the higher proficiency we have in the new action. This also means that we are essentially going against the neural pathways that already exist. 

If it’s this difficult, how can we successfully develop new skills or new habits? 

Step number 1 is understanding that this will take time. This can allow us to have grace with ourselves as we experience this change. When I moved into the van, it was hard for me to even wash my face, put on sunscreen, and brush my teeth as step 1 to starting my day. I’d always realize later in the morning that I missed all the steps that used to be inherent as my morning routine.

Step number 2 is staying positive. This can be incredibly difficult sometimes, especially if the new habit is vital to our physical or mental health. However, if we’re negative about the experience and think badly about ourselves when we mess up, we’re way less likely to try again and keep at it. I like to shed humor on my mistakes when it comes to things like this. As someone who brushed their teeth first thing every morning, I tried to laugh at the fact that I’d still have morning breath by 9:30AM. 

Step 3 is finding out how to set yourself up for success. When building a new habit, it’s important to look at existing habits and figure out how to prepare for your new habit. Two powerful tools include habit stacking and keystone habits. A keystone habit is the trigger that will prepare you for the new habit you will be incorporating. For changing my morning routine, I realized my keystone habit was laying out all of my items on my counter. That habit stacked with my gym morning routine set me up for success. All of my morning items laid on the counter meant I had to use them and put them away before driving to the gym. If I didn’t, I’d have to put them away so they didn’t fall onto the floor when I started driving. 

Let’s consider a habit you’ve been trying to change and consider the following. Feel free to journal your responses. 

What is the habit? 

What is important about this change?

How will incorporating this change change your life?

Step 1:

What roadblocks do you anticipate coming up?

How do you plan to overcome those roadblocks?

Step 2: 

How can you celebrate your wins when sticking to your new habit?

How will you deal with not following through with the new habit if that happens?

Step 3: 

What steps do you need to set yourself up for success?

What existing habits exist that you can stack with this habit?

How can you reassess your process if things aren’t working?

Let me know how these considerations help with your new habit in the comments!

Begin with Self-Awareness

The first step to growth is self-awareness. In order to change habits, perspectives, responses, you have to recognize them. 

For example, a learned behavior from my childhood was letting overwhelming situations result in an explosion of emotion. Sometimes that emotion would be directed at folks that were with me at the time. I recognized this as a behavior that I wanted to change, since it was bringing unnecessary energy into my own life and unfair to the people I loved who were sometimes on the receiving end. I had already addressed the root of this reaction in therapy; I had just not been able to commit to changing. 

I brought this up in a coaching session as an area to address. For myself personally, I noticed it can be really difficult to reframe my negative perspectives and thought patterns if I’m not held accountable. I quickly and easily slip back into my habitual actions even if I want to change them. Coaching provides that accountability and provides a safe space to explore what the client is actually interested in trying to change their habit or mindset. I’m not here to give advice – you as the client should feel fully empowered to try things and find what works for you or what is most aligned with who you are. 

I realized that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I tend to touch my chest. I was able to start to associate that with a reminder to take a deep breath to regulate my emotions and think more clearly through the overwhelming situation in front of me. 

Having a coach can help with self awareness. Coaches may call attention to behaviors or perspectives that we may not notice ourselves so that the coaching can focus on making changes. And if we are already self-aware of things we want and need to change, coaches will provide the space for us to start to reframe.  

If you are struggling with recognizing your own growth areas, my favorite place to start implementing increased self-awareness is by starting a gratitude practice. Not only does this require objectively looking at yourself and your life to find aspects to be grateful for, but it ultimately can result in recognizing negative thought patterns. Some of us might really struggle finding things to be grateful for, which will shed light on existing negative thought patterns. Once we start recognizing those thought patterns, we can begin finding ways to change them. Meditation or just spending a short amount of time each day totally alone without distractions also helps with increased self-awareness.

So let’s start! What are 3 things you are grateful for today? How easy or difficult was it to come up with 3 things? What made it easy or difficult? How would it feel to name 3 things every day? What would stop you from doing that consistently? 

Take some time to journal and reflect on these several questions, and reach out if you want to share your responses!

Setting Realistic Goals

I feel like we’re used to dreaming of these big, far away, hard to imagine goals. “What’s your 5 year plan? Your 10 year plan? What are you doing to get there?” 

I don’t know about you, but 5-10 years from now I have no idea what I’ll want or who I will be. Visualizing goals for a decade from today is hugely overwhelming for me. I can’t think that far in advance, or imagine a goal that could take 5-10 years to achieve. What area of my life would I even single out for a 5-10 year goal? 

The problem with massive goals is that it then can often lead to uncertainty of where to start. There could be 100 different ways to get to the end goal with various options for actions in each of those pathways. How do we even pick? 

Coaches have a variety of tools to help look at areas of your life in the present that need attention. This helps narrow the focus for creating goals and action plans. Let’s say you want to be healthier, but you also want to focus your time on your relationships. Which of those is more important to you right now? Are there any conflicting values between the two? Would it be beneficial to make one the primary focus? 

Once you narrow it down and decide on an area of improvement, your goal still may feel too big and overwhelming. Especially if you are hoping for improvement in an area of your life that you haven’t focused on before, it could be difficult knowing how to begin. 

Write down the areas of your life that you feel could use improvement. For me, it would be my physical health. Other options could be social life, romantic relationships, mental health, etc. Narrowing it down to one goal at a time is incredibly helpful for setting yourself up for success. 

Now within that area, there could be multiple options for achieving your goal. Take a minute to brainstorm 5-10 options for a starting point. For my physical health example, starting points would be:

  • Eating less sweets
  • Going for more walks throughout the day
  • Lifting weights 4 days a week
  • Cooking more meals at home
  • Consuming smaller portions when I eat at restaurants

Now we have very clear starting points for our goal. Choosing 1-2 of these to start tackling this week is an excellent way to begin moving toward our goal. The next step would be looking at our current habits and what needs to change to make the actions in our bullets above attainable. If I want to eat less sweets, my path could be to stop buying sweets. Choose one option that you wrote down, and list possible pathways to making that happen. Make 1 or 2 of those an action for you this week!

Overall, choosing 1-2 of these smaller goals feels way more achievable then a 5-10 year goal! The key here is making our goals realistic. The goal ‘I want to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 10 years’ feels way more overwhelming when starting as an entry-level employee than ‘I want to complete all of my work tasks this week ahead of schedule so that I can move towards a promotion this year’. 

We as coaches will help dive into how your goals align with your values to make sure you are pursuing goals that hold meaning for you. We also hold the space for you to brainstorm pathways to move towards your goals that actually fit into your lifestyle and who you are. We will help you break down your goals into smaller, more realistic pieces. I want you to feel confident as they create the life they want that is fully aligned with their being. I want to set you up for success when it comes to your goals. I want to provide a safe space for you to explore what matters to you and provide accountability as you move toward that. 

Let me know how your actions go this week in the comments or through email!

Coaching from the Road

I have consistently been interested in lifestyles that are contradictory to the typical expectations created by society. I’ve always been somewhat transient, and have moved jobs and locations every 1-2 years. I think earlier in my life, this transience was appealing to avoid dealing with my own inner turmoil. It provided the ability to run away from my problems, masked by unhappiness with my surroundings. 

Tiny living and van-life videos provided an escape early in my career. My job left me with a significant amount of downtime while still having a required presence at my desk. I was totally encapsulated with this alternative lifestyle – by being nomadic, and freedom from materialism and capitalism. 

I continued pursuing other goals: new jobs, traveling the world, living abroad, getting a cat (Ivy is now a professional van kitty!). Then COVID hit, and social unrest peaked. The distant dream of nomadic life seemed more appealing than ever. My job after COVID burnt me out more than I’ve ever experienced before. 10+ hour days, early starts, late nights, and 2 hours commuting each day. My body was begging for a change; my mind needed a reset. 

I spent hours searching van-life websites for rigs for sale until I found one that was affordable and fit every need I had. A last-minute flight to Chicago resulted in me owning my tiny home on wheels. I got a remote job so that I could sustain my lifestyle.

Now I can be transient with intention. I can socialize with the beautiful souls I am meeting along my path when I feel called to my community. I can isolate when I need to turn my energy inward and focus more on my own growth. I can confidently say I’m not running anymore, but practicing mindfulness. 

But wait, where does coaching fit into this? 

I mentioned the unrest with my jobs and locations. A huge part of that was capitalism and the expectation to perform. I felt the expectation to put my work before my existence. I had confided in my therapist about these things. I was fed up with being required to go into an office and sit at a desk for a majority of my day. The only thing I wanted to do for work was to help people. All of my jobs had that as the common thread. However, when working in companies where you are just a cog in the corporate machine, you don’t get to see that impact often. If ever. My therapist suggested I look into becoming a life coach. 

So here I am. Trained as a life coach. Doing van life. And these things work so perfectly together. I get to help other folks figure out how to align their lives with their values. I can provide a space for people to deconstruct the societal expectations we are given and rebuild with goals and lifestyles that actually fulfill their soul’s desires. I believe I can only really do this effectively because I have done it, and now I live it. 

I’m so excited to provide a safe space for you to explore who you are and take action to become that person. Please feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about my coaching and the space I can provide for you! I’d love to set up a free info session to chat. You deserve fulfillment! 

Why Life Coaching?

It may be cliche, but coaching found me. 

I’ve always pursued a career that ultimately was helping folks directly in some way. However, I kept being met with frustration of the corporate agenda or extreme burnout. While expressing this to my therapist, she recommended I look into becoming a coach. 

As someone who can be fairly impulsive, I looked briefly until I found a coaching training program that was accredited and had been established for a while. I signed up to join the program the same week. 

Coaching is interesting because its whole premise is that every individual has what they need to make the changes that they want and deserve (also called Hope Theory). Coaching provides a safe place for clients to explore that. 

This was incredibly appealing for me, as someone who has actively pursued a path that negates societal norms. I’ve consistently said ‘no’ to the checklist our culture tells us we need to follow. 

  • I have had a therapist for years (which I recognize is a privilege)
  • I am childless by choice
  • I am queer
  • I live in a van and am nomadic (also by choice)
  • I spend my money going to music festivals and traveling the world 

I want to create a safe space for folks to explore what from society’s checklist doesn’t fit them as well. Maybe you don’t want a house – that’s okay! Maybe you can’t afford a house – that’s also okay! Maybe you don’t want to work your way up the corporate ladder, or have kids, or move your body by going to a gym every day. All of these things are okay, and there are other options.

I’m learning life is about staying curious about who we are. Embracing the fun in exploring ourselves and allowing the freedom to do so with an open and loving mind. 

Let’s create an experiment with life and play while we find out who we are. I would love to help you do that, or connect you with someone in my network that may be a better fit. Either way, you deserve a safe and caring space to question the standard lifestyle and figure out what might work better for you. 

Here’s to living outside society’s expectations. Here’s to living authentically.