Self-Leadership: your choices shape your life

This is the first in a series of six posts about the choices you make about your life, and how these take you to a specific future – are your choices leading you to the life you want?  

Choices, choices. Your daily choices bring consequences, some small, and some huge.  Is your breakfast an empty-calorie fancy coffee with syrup and whipped cream… or a quick fruit smoothie you made?  (Scroll down for facts about this comparison).  If the fancy-coffee happens once a month, it’s no big deal; but if it’s your regular go-to?  Big deal.   The difference is about 14 pounds over your frame in a year.  The low nutrient, high sugar, high fat and empty calories of a fancy coffee, repeated often enough, is a mindless way to pack on weight.  The rule is simple: make that choice often enough, and here are the consequences: extra calories means extra weight, caffeine/sugar makes you more tired.  And long term?  The extra pounds will change your appearance and how you feel about yourself.  This small habit changes you; it changes where you’ll be, a year from now.  Is this the life you want, in a year from now?  Such a small habit, and such an impact.  So, what can you do to give yourself the life you want?

Step One: Awareness.  Whether or not you’re aware that your choices affect you won’t change their impacts: the fancy coffee calories are still in that coffee.  Becoming aware  that you have real choices when you become aware of them gives you the power to change, to keep what works for you, to make better choices – to lead your life.

Step Two: Openness.  Start assessing what you’re doing on a daily and weekly basis.  Then take one habit a day and assess it, simply asking yourself if this habit works for you and leads you to the life you aspire to.  If it does, great; you’re on the right track. But if it doesn’t?  Be open to changing it, and realize that no one but you will make that change.  You choose and you lead your life in a specific direction, one choice, one day at a time.

Step Three: Plan.  If you’ve stopped for a fancy coffee every day on your way to work for years, planning goes first.  Stopping for coffee takes over 15 minutes waiting in line and paying.  To prepare a smoothie, you’ll need less than half that time.  Plan first by getting what you need: a mini-blender (such as a Magic Bullet), milk, frozen fruit and maybe Greek yogurt for extra protein. You’re done.  Ready to enjoy your new breakfast!

Step Four: Practice. Make your smoothie.  Pour it in your travel cup and sip while you get to work.  It’ll take a while to become natural.  That’s what practice does.  If you want to change something, wishing is never enough: you need to practice something to make it work.  Some days will be easy; some won’t.  It’s all part of learning and practicing.  And if you happen to revert back for a week?  No big deal.  Just get back to your new habit.  Even a little bit of a healthier habit is worth it.

The power of micro-changes.  Don’t change everything at once.  I’m using a very simple habit here with coffee vs. smoothie, yet it takes time to get used to something different.  If you make too much change at once, it’ll feel heavy and you’re likely to quit.  Making tiny micro-changes makes life easier, and delivers amazing results.  Imagine yourself 14 pounds lighter in a year with practically no effort!

You lead your life.  It’s that simple. Your tiny every-day choices hold power: they take you towards a very specific future.  Is this the one you want?  It can be to continue your daily fancy coffee, wishing for change; or it can be a future where, 14 lb. lighter,  you enjoy your morning smoothie and leave for work fuelled, with an occasional treat of fancy coffee enjoyed fully, just for fun and variety.  This new habit is working for you.  Congratulations.

Don’t aim for perfection.  Creating a life that fits you can be as simple as tweaking and making a micro-change that fits you better, with occasional slips and treats.  That’s life.  It’s good. It works. You’ll succeed.

Nutrient & calories comparison of fancy take-out coffee with home-made fruit smoothie

Typical large chain coffee shop fancy coffee, with syrup & whipped cream (such as café mocha), 20 oz: 400 empty calories (practically zero protein, vitamins or minerals – just sugar, fat and caffeine).  

Typical home-made fruit smoothie, 20 oz (1 cup each skim or 2% milk and frozen fruit, 2 spoonfuls Greek yogurt, 1 spoonful honey): 250-300 calories and lots of good-for-you nutrients: 14 grams of protein, 2 servings of fruit, calcium and other minerals, antioxidants, fruit fibre and vitamins A, B, C, D…  You’re on your way! 

Bottom line: 150 extra empty-calorie a day = 1,050 more calories a week, 4,200 a month (that’s over one pound gained already). Over a year = 14 pounds gained.

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