Making Changes, Big and Small, Begins with a Lesson Plan

It is September, back to school season, and it always reminds me of sharpening pencils, buying new school shoes, and new beginnings. There is a feeling of getting a clean slate…the ability to start over…as the leaves begin to change, and we wake to a crispness in the air.


When you are a kid, this all happens automatically. You are assigned to the new teacher, get your new desk, receive your new books, and learn new routines and material. As adults, we have this same ability to start anew. We actually have the ability to start anew at any time in any place…freedom that most children do not possess. Yet, it seems more challenging somehow for us to begin again, to make the changes that we long to make. Sometimes we just have to learn to get out of our own way.


When I work with my life coaching clients, we go through different aspects of life to see where there is room for improvement and to make those daydreams come to life. See where you have room for more fun, more health, and more enthusiasm in your own life!!


The Home: This might seem the easiest. Do you like where you live? Can you afford it? Is it meeting your needs? Are you happy when you are home? Do you feel creative and loved and calm? If yes, terrific! Move on. If not, go through each space and make a list of what you would like to change. Paint a wall? Clean out a closet? Fix a drawer? Recover a chair? The list doesn’t have to be completed all at once, of course. Put each task/dream on your calendar so that by this time next year, your house will be like mine…the house of Zen and happiness.


The Finances: Often a source of stress but they don’t need to be! Do you have a budget? No? Start there: spending, savings, long term goals.  If expenses exceed income, you need to edit that budget so that it works. This can take some time. Make sure to keep breathing!! You can do it! Once you have a budget that is accurate and honest, it is so much easier to see your financial dreams come true. Stress reduces, happiness increases. With that stress/happiness ratio changing, your health may also improve!!


The Family: This can be whomever you designate as your family…your birth family, the family you have created, your extended family.  If there is anything weighing on your mind, see if you can find a loving and productive manner to deal with it. Someone you need to forgive? Someone you need to reconnect with? Again, baby steps. Not everything has to happen at once.


The Work: Some people love their life’s work. Others dread it. At a minimum, I would hope that contentment is your goal. Do you feel that your skills are being well-utilized? Are you making enough money? Is there something else that you had always dreamed about pursuing? Now, I’m not recommending that you quit your job and live in a yurt (unless of course that is the dream), but sometimes there are ways to have it all. Perhaps, you can try having a small, creative side business or doing volunteer work on the weekends to fulfill that dream. Maybe it is time to start investigating whether your idea is viable. Reach out to mentors and your network to discuss making changes within the industry, if that is something that you are interested in. Or maybe, you already have your dream job and you just need to keep showing up every day and doing your best. Just know that you are not stuck. Whether you keep everything the same or you take baby steps to make long-term changes, these are your choices. Even staying the same is a choice. Once you realize that, you may not feel so resentful or stuck. Attitude is everything!


Social Life!: Yes, even as adults and even as parents, we are entitled to a social life. (See also, choices above). If you have multiple children under the age of 5, you may not be going to nightclubs every night. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that. Sleep is sacred. But within the framework of where you are right now in life, know that you can still have fun. Children laugh an average of 340 times a day, while adults laugh 15 times daily. That is horrible!! Find ways to increase your laughter. Playgroups count. A pottery class counts. Having dinner at 5 pm in a kid-friendly restaurant with other parents with children counts. Just make certain that you have at least one social plan on your calendar each week. Coffee with a friend? Hiking in the park? Quick glass of wine? All of these help you to feel connected and heard and happy. If you are super busy, make sure you make your plans with people that make you feel really good about yourself (and vice versa). Don’t waste your precious time on happiness-suckers.


Health/Fitness: You knew I couldn’t leave this part out!! Your body is your vessel through which you live this amazing life. Those thighs that you complain about dance, carrying you up the stairs, bring you to work. Have you scheduled your annual exams? Dentist, internist, ob/gyn for the gals, mammogram, etc.? Don’t be afraid!!! Getting screened each year is the responsible thing to do. You wouldn’t buy an expensive car and then never change the oil or bring it in for a checkup, right? Don’t skimp on the maintenance for your body!! And if there is something that the exams reveal, you can make changes to have more energy, better health,  happier longevity. All good things!!  Breast cancer awareness month is next month…make sure that you and/or the women you love are getting screened!  And exercise!!! Of course!! Starting is the hardest part. Lacing up your sneakers can derail you altogether if you don’t get through that part! Walking, running, lifting, stretching…start with the things that you love to do and then add the other things as you get into the habit of regular exercise. (Here’s my public service announcement: If you live in Pelham, NY, we have a women’s strength class on Tuesday mornings at 9:15 am ).And for everyone, there is the DVD (Strong Mamas/Fit Families on which will get you and your kids up and moving. You’ll be sore, I promise!


Nutrition: If you are doing great and you went to the doctor and all your blood work is spectacular, keep doing exactly what you are doing. If there is room for improvement, take baby steps in the right direction. See if you can make one change a week. If that is too fast, do one change a month. You’ll get there eventually. Try this:

Week 1: No sugar

Week 2: No artificial sweeteners

Week 3: No white flour

Week 4: No processed food (nothing that comes in a crinkly wrapper).

See how you feel at the end of the month! My guess is that you will have more energy, less aches and pains, and a flatter belly. Keep going! And what? It’s your birthday (or some celebration) coming up? You can choose to indulge for that day. Just make it a mindful choice, without guilt. Enjoy every bite. And then go back to clean eating the next day.


And lastly in my advice for healthy and happy living: make a daily gratitude list. I do mine every morning after I meditate and while I drink my black coffee. I write the date, “I am grateful for:” and then I list the first 5 things that come to mind. Other people do it at night before going to sleep. It is really what works for you.  This cumulative gratitude can change your attitude, your energy, and your life. Try it!!


What changes have you made that have improved your life? What changes do you want to make before New Year’s Resolution season is upon us? If you start now, you will not only have the blue print ready for the best life ever designed, you will already have started construction by the time the ball drops. I know you can do it!! And I’m right here next to you, cheering you on.

Happy September (Almost October!)

Colleen Walsh


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