Here in South Florida for the past several weeks, we’ve been experiencing afternoon storms. No, not afternoon rains. We’ve been experiencing afternoon STORMS.
Lately, I can almost count on seeing a few downed branches, flipped over buckets and blown over chairs on my morning walks. And, every afternoon around 2 p.m., Tabitha and the cats stop what they are doing and seek out their favorite areas of comfort. They find that cozy nap nook to hunker down inside and wait for the thunder and lightning show to pass by.
It got me thinking about the importance of finding peace in the storm when it comes to your health goals. Because, in the past, there were times in my life when I could be peaceful, (and thus stick to my eating plan), if everything was going my way. But since that seldom occurred, I rarely had peace. And every time my peace was interrupted with a storm of life, I would act just like Tabitha and the cats: seeking out a comfortable spot, (usually at the bottom of a bag of chips) and wait for it to stop raining. This cycle went on for so many years: 1. I need to be at peace to stay on track, 2. I need everything to stay calm and steady to maintain peace, 3. Stressors disrupt the calm, 4. I am no longer at peace, 5. I get off track, (eat an additional meal, binge on a bunch of snacks, abandon my exercise goals).
Those are 5 things. And, you know I’m a huge fan of the “high 5.” But, I am not high five-ing that. It was a horrible pattern of behavior which largely resembled a weed living underneath a gutter pipe: it had a constant source of watering. The abandonment of my health goals was dependent on me bumping into a daily stressor. Well, Rachel…EVERY DAY USUALLY HAS AT LEAST 1 DAILY STRESSOR! It was a miracle I wasn’t more than 1,000 pounds! No wonder I felt like a failure. My own plan for success actually set me up to fail.
We are probably all familiar with the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.” Serenity means, “calm, composure, tranquility, peacefulness, collectedness, poise.” Basically, the serenity prayer is a prayer asking God to grant you peace.
Well, spoiler alert: Jesus already answered that prayer.
One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples, (found in John 14:27), was “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” He knew we were going to need His peace to be successful in any and every area of our life.
But, just like an unwrapped present is useless to the recipient, peace that is not pursued and accessed is useless to us. The rest of the scripture says, “LET NOT your heart be troubled, neither LET IT be afraid.” God hasn’t given control of the peace spigot in my life to outside circumstances. He’s given it to me. But, I can’t just stand there next to the hose while my day starts to wither in the heat of life. The peace I need is available. I need to go ahead and move forward accepting the things I cannot change, changing the things I can, and discerning the difference between the two.
So, what are some things I can’t change? Well, I can’t change my past mistakes and I can’t change anybody else’s opinions or behavior. Ok, so what I need to develop is the stamina to pursue and the ability to access peace in these areas. Standing on my bathroom scale crying that I wouldn’t have so much weight to lose if I hadn’t been such a fool for so many years does not pursue peace in this area of things I cannot change. Comparing myself to other people is also counterproductive to my pursuit and access of peace in this area.
We want to believe comparison will lead to ambition and the development of a “healthy competitive spirit.” But a competition – whether it’s a sporting match or a cooking show – has clear objectives, distinct boundaries, and an awareness by all parties that they’re participating in this competition. The competitiveness generated by our normal, everyday comparisons usually only result in either guilt or self-righteousness, (neither of which will be of any long-term benefits to our health goal motivation).
Alright, so we’ve identified some things we cannot change. What are some things we can change? First and foremost, I can change my position from “my biggest critic” to “my head cheerleader.” If someone is your “biggest critic,” are they ever truly going to be rooting for your success? No way! So, if I maintain the position of chief criticizer in my own life, I’m so much more likely to self-sabotage. In fact, I’d be a lousy critic if I didn’t fixate and scrutinize every detailed failing. What I want is victory in the health goal arena. But, a critic isn’t going to cheer you on to victory. That’s a job for a cheerleader. So, let’s pick up those pom poms and keep cheering until we cross the finish line.
Once I feel confident that me, myself and I are all on the same team, I can be vulnerable enough to review my daily game footage and identify my weak areas. Feeling rushed, money woes, and draining relationships are all stressors to me. Your list may be different. But, once you sit down and make a list of things that tend to stress you out, you can make a plan for heading them off before they approach your peace. For instance, whenever I have an appointment, I block off the 2 hours before that appointment for showering and travel time – all because it stresses me out to feel rushed. I would rather get up at 4 am for a 6 am appointment than sleep in and feel rushed. Knowing I feel that way ahead of time helps me plan for success.
Finally, let’s discuss that last portion of the serenity prayer: the wisdom to know the difference between things I cannot change and things I can. It’s not as mystical as we have made it out to be. I’m a big proponent of talking to yourself. So, when a circumstance arises, I can call it out loud and decide what lane it’s in. Is it something happening in your lane, (maybe even in your vehicle), where you can alter the trajectory? If it is, right your course immediately to the best of your ability. If you see it is not in your lane and out of your control, stop rubbernecking. You’re only going to slow down your flow of success and/or cause an accident.
Will there be unforeseen stressors in the future which surprise me in such a way that I drop the ball and allow for my heart to be troubled and afraid? Absolutely! We’re all human. Sometimes the thunder frightens me. But, it’s empowering to remember a positive side of being human: I don’t have to lie down like Tabitha and my other fur babies when the afternoon storms start. I can put on my rain gear and keep going on with my day.
You can too! So zip up that raincoat and buckle your galoshes, you’re moving forward this week!