In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.

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Learning New Behaviors

I have a problem.

Well, I have many problems. But most of all, I recently realized I am afflicted by a compulsive need to buy stuff. And buying stuff, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily “bad.” It comes down to what you are purchasing, and why. Every single tool and all the supplies and a bunch of books for a brand new hobby I became infatuated with? Yeah, that’s been the story of my life. Luckily at my age there aren’t many “new” hobbies left for me to repeat that mistake.

No, my real challenge (or “opportunity” if you prefer to think positive) is buying solutions for every little difficulty I encounter.  Maybe you can relate. I have a long history of doodads and gadgets and whatnots for every little hiccup I might encounter. The majority of them promised to make cooking easier and faster. Cooking and I enjoy a love-hate relationship, so anything that helps make mealtime less of a chore was a worthy investment in my book. Similarly for health. (The easy spending part, not the love-hate part!) Exercise equipment, videos, yoga props, more videos, nutritional supplements – you name it.

If I could buy my way out of a problem, why shouldn’t I?

Ummmm, because all these “solutions” clutter my home and very few ever made good on their promises of improving my life.

Because however cheap they may be, these consumer goods still cost money that might be better used elsewhere. And as they accumulate, you suddenly need more storage, more room, a bigger house, a store room, a new organization system, and maybe even a whole kitchen remodel. Just to accommodate all this great stuff … that … stops … being … so … great … when I can no longer find it because its buried under even more stuff.

(I won’t even go into how manufacturing and global shipping of cheap consumer goods impacts developing economies, the environment, and the rapid depletion of our planet’s natural resources. That’s already been covered quite thoroughly in other print and online sources!)

Basically, what it all boils down to, is that most of these purchases have actually been waste in terms of my life. Waste of money, waste of time, waste of the planet’s resources. In other words, this kind of spending is not in line with my values, and needs to stop.

But I’ve built this habit up over a lifetime, and modern society makes it so very easy to just keep spending.

…which means I have plenty of opportunities to practice new behaviors!

For example: I need a spiky massage ball.

I mean, REALLY need one.

See, everyone has some part of their body where they carry tension when they are stressed, often in the lower back, shoulders, neck, etc. Well in my case, I apparently clench my legs. Don’t laugh, this is a real thing! It may be related to the “flight or fight” syndrome. My leg muscles – particularly my hamstrings – tighten as they prepare for my mad dash away from danger. You know, lions, tigers and bears, or more often, bad traffic, poor customer service and telemarketers that call during dinner. True life and death stuff, there. But my lizard brain doesn’t know the difference, and lately my hamstrings have been seizing up to the point of cramping.

A spiky massage ball would solve my problem. I could sit on the floor with it under my thigh, and allow gravity and the weight of my leg to apply pressure to ease my cramped muscles.

You know what happens next, right? A quick internet search reveals that sells them for a great price for TWO of them, complete with Prime shipping. They would get here literally in less time than it would take to drive to every possible local store to see if they had the spiky massage balls I so desperately need. (No, calling the stores to ask a real live human being is not a viable option in my life… maybe if I could buy a product that lets me text the store…) All these thoughts skitter through my mind in a flash, and my finger reaches for the bright yellow “buy it now” option on my phone screen.

And because this is the exact habit I aim to break, my finger drifts past “buy it now” and taps “add to cart” instead.

Adding the item to my cart creates space between my compulsion to accumulate and the actual act of purchasing yet another product.

Instead of buying the spiky massage balls, I am buying time.

I put down my phone, and go back to my day, confident I can complete my transaction at some future point if needed.

Luckily, later that day, a solution presented itself.

I had recently found a(nother) golf ball while doing yardwork. While it is smaller than the massage balls, and missing those tantalizing spikes, it turns out to do the job just fine. After a few tries I found the perfect pressure point on the back of my leg for the deepest impact, and then I held the yoga head-to-knee pose (janusirsasana) for five minutes per leg.

A Massage Tool, Cleverly Disguised as a Golf Ball

A Massage Tool, Cleverly Disguised as a Golf Ball

And it worked. And it was free. And it was immediate, since I already had the golf ball and didn’t have to wait for even Amazon Prime shipping. It even fits easily in my purse, so I can take it on the road if needed. (And I have, in fact.)

Best of all, I had the proud feeling that comes from knowing I solved a problem on my own, rather than turning to the marketplace to solve it for me.

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Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018! Kicked off in typical “me” style with a random kitchen injury while making dinner. Seriously, I somehow cut myself with the knife without knowing. I’m getting used to the feeling of, huh, wonder when that happened? Oh, well.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, because I feel anything worth doing is worth starting now, not just because it’s a new year.

That said, I will try to write more in 2018. Maybe here, maybe on other blogs and forums, maybe I’ll write a book, who knows. I’m still figuring out if I have anything worth saying…. so stay tuned!


Meditations on Myths

Lately on my evening commute, I’ve been listening to a book called Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. Though not immediately clear from the title, this book covers marketing communications and advertising, and the role advertising has played in shaping our society – how, in the vacuum of relevant cultural myths to help us cope with our ever-changing world, advertising has stepped in to fill that gap by creating new myths.

I’m not done with the book yet, but it has already inspired a lot of navel gazing on my part.

As he explains the history of advertising in the US over the past century, the author, Jonas Sachs, breaks the “traditional” advertising model down into its most basic two components: cause anxiety in the consumer – aimed at our shortcomings in status, sex, and safety – and then show how all our fears are assuaged by buying the right product.

Oh, I’m smarter than that, says I. No silly magazine or TV ad is going to scare me into spending my hard-earned money!

And yet… and yet… in quiet moments, in alone moments, I am starting to realize the anxiety which advertisers count on has become part of the fabric of my very being.

I’m not smart enough. Not witty or funny enough.

The anxiety is everywhere

See, isn’t this scary? No, that’s not a real link!

I like to think of myself as a well-adjusted, high functioning, productive adult. But on any given day, the anxiety hums on in the back of my mind, like a soundtrack to my life played so softly in the background you can barely make out the tune.  Everything is great!  …but if I could just earn more …accomplish more … BE more…. all thoughts trickling from my subconscious like a persistent drip, drip, drip of self doubt.

Not talented enough.  Not successful enough. Not popular enough.

Even links to blogs follow the anxiety model!

Not “in the know” enough.

The anxiety is everywhere!

And how do we deal with the constant undercurrent of anxiety that’s not inspired by a single, specific ad?

Retail therapy, of course!

Although sometimes retail therapy opens our eyes in ways no one could have predicted.  We sometimes see just how bad the situation has deteriorated.

A year ago, I stood in a department store changing room, sobbing as I beheld my bikini-clad self in a full length mirror. I wasn’t overweight. Well, I was carrying a few extra pounds but isn’t everyone? But that day, I had to admit that I hated how I looked in that bikini. That I hated my body for failing my self image.

As much as I decry how the mass media has damaged women’s ability to love themselves and their bodies – resist the false image of the perfect figure on the magazine covers, cries I – I was just as much a victim as anyone else.

Not thin enough. Not pretty enough.

But I didn’t turn to retail therapy, an erstwhile gym membership and diet pills for a quick fix. (And I certainly didn’t buy the bikini hoping I’d “get there” someday!)

I did what I do best: I researched!  I uncovered a set of lifestyle changes that made sense to me, particularly in the context of human evolution, which I thought would work for me.  While there were a few purchases along the way – a few books, a blank calendar for tracking, and my ever present FitBit – those were driven by my own interest, not marketing. (Well, ok, except for the FitBit!)

And even if I can (allow myself to) wear a bikini in public now (without tears), I won’t. Because it’s not me that cares how I feel about myself in a bikini, it’s the advertisers who hope I feel inadequate doing so. It’s my itsy bitsy teensy weensy act of defiance!