My Take on a Book Review #7 – The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes

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This book was recommended to me by a few people, and it was also referenced in a few other books I’ve read.  So it was definitely high on my list…and it didn’t disappoint!

He’s also got a great podcast where he interviews some amazing people, and a website where you can learn more about his story, see his books, and obtain other information.

There are 8 chapters each devoted to help you become your greatest self.  At the end of each chapter he provides practical exercises to do based on that chapter.  He shares stories about some amazing people he’s met over the years from Olympians to people who’ve overcome major obstacles to be successful in life.

Here’s a couple of my quick takeaways from each chapter:

  1. Create a vision – this is about clearly defining what you want (your goals) & who you want to be (your dreams).  “You become what you envision yourself being”.
  2. Turn adversity into an advantage – This is my favourite quote from this chapter “To be good at something requires talent, vision, & action.  Greatness is what remains when that talent & vision meet adversity…& persist in the face of it”.  Adversity gives you opportunities to figure out what is not working and how to make it work.
  3. Cultivate a champion’s mindset – “Our inner voice – our belief in ourselves – is what determines our mindset.  And our way of thinking sets us up for failure or success”.   Gratitude journals are discussed, knowing your strengths and weaknesses (so you can work on your weaknesses), and having honest people around you that will help you foster your champion’s mindset.
  4. Develop hustle – “If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do”.  Some things that hold people back from hustling are the fear of looking bad, the fear of failure, the fear of success.  You need to genuinely put yourself out there.
  5. Master your body – Sleep!  If you want to make a change, then something has to be different than you’re doing now in order to get better/different results.  For the acronym lovers out there here’s a good one to find out what’s MISSING in your life:
    • Minerals
    • Inflammation
    • Stress
    • Sleep
    • Inhalation (deep breathing)
    • Nutrient density
    • Gut health
  6. Practice positive habits – the obvious ones (smoking, drinking, poor eating habits), the non-obvious ones (jealousy, anger, ego, smart financial decisions, respect).  When you meet successful people observe which positive habits have made them successful (he describes some of the positive habits the wealthiest people in the world have)
  7. Build a winning team – “You’ll never outperform your inner circle.  If you want to achieve outer success, improve your inner circle”.  All people on the team need to work towards the same direction/goal.
  8. Live a life of service – Get involved in giving back.  Find something that you can really support, something that you genuinely care about and find ways to support it.  Monetary, with your time, your resources, your expertise…anything!  You will feel so great!

This was really a great book!  Easy to read, not that long (240 pages), and LOTS of practical tips/exercises in each chapter to help you live your best life and be GREAT!

 

 

 

 

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My Take on a Book Review #4 – The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

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I was interested to read this book because I’ve heard 80/20 beat to death in almost every aspect of life (80/20 clean eating, 80/20 exercise, 80/20 at work, on and on) and was curious what I else I could take away from reading a book about it.

The author claims that 80% of our success stems from 20% of our efforts.  Interesting!

80/20 rule is not time management, it is time revolution.  Time management is how to organize your time more effectively.  Time revolution is about our use of time being the enemy.  We only make good use of 20% of our time.  For the procrastinators in the crowd…you really only use the last 20% of your time to complete a project, right?…so why not cut deadlines in half (or more) since you’re not using 80% of the time for completion anyway?

Find the 20% of your time that gives you 80% of your results, happiness, achievements, etc.  Do the same for the 80% that causes unhappiness, doesn’t give results or achievements.  Act on the 20% and find ways to get rid of the 80%.  He elaborates on this a bit more in the book.

The author’s research showed that for most people 80% of our happiness occurs during 20% of our time.  That’s brutal!  This was by far my favourite part of the book.  He proposes these 7 habits of happiness:
1. Exercise.  MAKE TIME FOR IT!
2. Mental stimulation.  Crossword puzzles, talking with a friend, journalling, anything that requires active thought.
3. Spiritual/artistic stimulation/meditation.  At least ½ hour food for the imagination or spirit.  Yoga, a concert, art gallery, watching the sunrise/sunset, meditation.
4. Doing a good deed.  A random act of kindness.
5. Talking a pleasure break with a friend.  Cup of coffee or a walk with a friend.
6. Giving yourself a treat.  Write a list of pleasures that you could indulge yourself and try to cross off one a day.
7. Congratulate yourself.  Try to accomplish 5 of these a day and congratulate yourself!

And these 7 shortcuts to a happy life:
1. Maximize your control.
2. Set attainable goals.  Challenging but not too difficult.
3. Be flexible.  Accept what you cannot control
4. Have a close relationship with your partner.
5. Have a few happy friends that you have close relationships with.
6. Have a few close professional alliances.  People who you will go out of your way to support and vice versa.
7. Evolve your idea lifestyle.  A balance between work/home/social life.

There were some interesting parts to this book, but I honestly found myself skimming through it as I found it a bit repetitive and the studies he references kind of boring.  I still think it is worth a read….especially for decision makers in a company, anyone self-employed, people in marketing careers, or for anyone feeling like they can never get ahead in their work.  None of those really apply to me, so likely why this wasn’t my favourite book!

 

My Take on a Book Review #2 – Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

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First, if you’ve never heard of Brene Brown you need to watch her TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” and her TED talk on “Listening to Shame”.  She is just phenomenal!  She is a researcher on shame and vulnerability, which sounds awful!!  But she’s written about some pretty amazing and powerful things in her books.

I just finished reading this book for a second time…and will definitely be reading it a 3rd, 4th, 5th time too.  What a GREAT book!  You ALL need to read it.  I could write a million words about the awesomeness of this book, but you just need to read it!

Scarcity, vulnerability, and shame are the main themes of this book, something we all experience in every aspect of our lives…career, personal life, and social life.

She talks about scarcity – we’re never enough.    Think about it…your thoughts of “not enough” are always first in your mind (“I didn’t get enough sleep” or “I don’t have enough time” etc etc etc).
The opposite of scarcity isn’t abundance, it is “enough”.
Three questions to ask yourself to see if there’s scarcity in your life:
1. Shame.  Is there fear of ridicule?  Is your self worth tied to achievement?  Is blaming the norm?
2. Comparison.  Has creativity been suffocated?  Is there constant comparison?
3. Disengagement.  Are you afraid to take risks/try new things?  Is it easier to be quiet?  Is it a struggle to be heard?

Her definition of vulnerability is – uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure.  It sounds like the truth and feels like courage.  It’s where courage and fear meet.
Think about it….when someone else shows vulnerability we think they’re courageous.  When you think about being vulnerable yourself you are scared to death!  Our biggest critic is ourselves.

Shame – anytime you’ve been afraid to speak up or share an idea….that’s shame.  Being afraid of belittled or being wrong…that’s shame.   Shame is not the same at guilt… Shame = I am bad.  Guilt = I did something bad.
There’s a whole chapter on how we feel shame.  How men feel shame, how women feel shame, bullying, etc.  Read it twice.  Great chapter!

There’s a chapter on shame in the workplace…and important one for any leaders out there.  “Shame can only rise so far in a system before people disengage to protect themselves.  When we’re disengaged, we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring”.  NOT GOOD!

There’s also a great chapter on parenting and shame, perfectionism, belonging, modelling who we want our children to be.  READ IT!

Some of my favourite quotes from this book:
“Shame resilience is key to embracing our vulnerability.  We can’t let ourselves be seen if we’re terrified by what people might think.  Often not being good at vulnerability means that we’re damned good at shame”.

“A sense of worthiness inspires us to be vulnerable, share openly, and persevere.  Shame keeps us small, resentful, and afraid”.

“If you’re not in the arena with the rest of us fighting and getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback”….so if you’re not showing vulnerability but like to criticize me, I’m not interested in what you have to say.  Even more important in with all the social media critics out there!

There’s so much more in this book, but I promised myself that I’d keep these reviews short (so that you’d actually read them!).  Just go buy this book and read it.  Over and over and over!

The importance of self care

As follow-up to my last post, which you can read here, I thought I’d talk about some ideas to to help keep ourselves mentally well.  Again, this post isn’t just for First Responders…these are things anyone can (& should do).

We all lead busy lives…and it’s easy to put taking care of ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list.  But there’s only so long that your body will allow this kind of abuse before your physical and mental health start to take a toll

Self care is one of the most important things we need to focus on for both our physical and mental health, and most self care activities have a positive impact on both at the same time.  I’m just going to provide a list of simple things you can do to take care of yourself.  Some require very little time or effort.

  1. Unplug for 5 min, 30 min, 60 min…whatever time you’re able to.  Turn off your phone, TV, computer, everything electronic and just enjoy the break from social media for awhile.
  2. Further to the social media discussion…take out any negative people you “follow” or are “friends” with.  You don’t have to delete them if that’s too harsh, but you can “unfollow” or “mute” them.  There’s enough negativity in our lives without these negative people on social media.
  3. Pause….and take a minute to deep breath.  Yes, a full minute (or more).  It’s amazing how relaxing this is.  I recommend you do this anytime you get that feeling of anxiousness or something overwhelming you.
  4. Walk or run.  I’m not a runner…but people tell me it relaxes them!  For me there’s nothing more relaxing for me than walking my dog at the dog park.  Something about watching the pure joy she has running free there!  The fresh air does me good too!
  5. Laugh!  At anything…a funny comic book, tv show, youtube video, etc.  It’s amazing how good laughter makes you feel.
  6. Perform a random act of kindness.  It doesn’t have to be something huge.  Help someone carry groceries to their car, hold the door for someone, buy someone coffee, the possibilities are endless.
  7. Exercise.  This one is pretty obvious, but much harder to schedule time for.  But it can be anything.  I already mentioned running/walking.  Other ideas…yoga, fitness classes, weightlifting, etc.
  8. Hobbies.  Read a book, play an instrument, knit, paint, etc.  These are great to relax you.

What are some of your go to self care tips?  Please share some of your favourites.

 

 

First Responder Mental Health

Along with 6 of my colleagues and numerous other First Responders from across Canada, I was fortunate to be able to attend a 5 day train-the-trainer workshop called “Road to Mental Readiness” a few weeks ago.  My employer has recognized the mental health of our employees is just as important as their physical health.  Now I am lucky enough to be able to assist my colleagues in both capacities…as a Peer Fitness Trainer and now as a trainer for the Road to Mental Readiness program.

This week of training was outstanding and our team of 7 trainers are so excited to bring this information to our leaders and our coworkers starting in November.

The course focused on recognition of symptoms and noticing changes in our peers.  For example, Jimmy got cut off in traffic on his way to work this morning.  This is something that angers everyone…but a normal response to this would be to be upset for a few minutes and then get over it and continue with your day.  If Jimmy were to respond to this with anger and rage that lasts all day, or longer, this is unusual and potentially a symptom of a larger concern for his mental health.  For us to recognize that this is not a normal response for Jimmy to have in this situation is one of the first steps in helping him!

There are a lot of stressors in a person’s life which results in the accumulation of stressors that puts us over the edge.  Some examples…financial, family issues (divorce, children, etc), organizational & operational (personality conflicts, high call volume, lack of resources, etc).  As much as we try to leave these stressors at the door when we show up for work, or go on a call, they stick with us and affect how we interact with our patients and respond to certain situations.

It is the responsibility of all of us to Shield – Sense – Support our colleagues.  There are some simple ways that we can accomplish this:
Shield – be available to talk, provide support, provide ideas for self-care (exercise, music, reading, etc),
Sense – know a person’s baseline so that you can notice the change, confidentiality is essential, stop the gossip, encourage early access to care, check up/follow up to see how they are coping.
Support – recognize the symptoms of declining mental health, stop gossip, maintain contact with the person, know your limits and who to go to to get help for the person.

I’m so excited to be on the team that will bring this training to my colleagues!  This information can be used for anyone in any setting (not just First Responders).

One last very important thing that I learned in this course…don’t be afraid to ask.  If you know, or can sense, that someone is struggling…please, please, please open the conversation with them before it is potentially too late.  If they will open up to you even a little bit…remember that this is the first stage of getting help!

Calling all Pop Drinkers!

Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar worldwide, and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. But, who doesn’t like soda pop? I don’t know of very many people who would say no to an ice-cold soda pop on a hot day (while at work, because I know you’d all rather drink something tastier on a hot day off!). There is no harm in the odd soda pop once in awhile. The harm comes when you drink many of them in a week, or worse, many of them in a day. I didn’t have to look very hard to find many, many sources discussing the harmful effects that soda pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages have on your body and your health. I’ve attempted to summarize these for you in this article.

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To start with, I like visuals and I found the following powerful ones online.  I think it is important that we all actually see how many calories and how much sugar is in some of the commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages.  Click on the photo to see a comparison of many sugar-sweetened drinks (Rockstar, Vitamin Water, Juices, etc).  And the table outlines calories and sugar in many common soda pops.

sugar and calories in pop

Now, to get into some of the effects on your body. I will start with diabetes as that is likely what most people associate sugary drinks with. People who consume 1-2 servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages have a 26% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over people who consume less than 1 serving a month of sugar-sweetened beverages (Malik et al., 2010). Read that again…if you drink 1-2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a day you have a 26% greater chance of developing diabetes than someone who rarely drinks them. That is pretty significant!

Next I’ll touch on weight gain. The consumption of sugar-added beverages has a significant link between amount of consumption and becoming overweight or obese. People who drink more than one soda per week have a greater probability of becoming overweight than in those who drink less than 1 soda per week (70% compared with 47% of women aged >50 years old and 77% compared with 58% of men aged >50 years old) (Malik, Schulze, & Hu, 2006).

Having a fatty liver isn’t a very sexy subject, nor would many people understand why this even matters. I will attempt to explain it as easily as I can, but for more in depth information read the very well written paper that I reference. During regular soft drink consumption, fat accumulates in the liver by the primary effect of fructose which increases lipogenesis (formation of fat), and in the case of diet soft drinks, by the additional contribution of aspartame sweetener and caramel colourant which are rich in products that potentially increase insulin resistance (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010). The metabolism of fructose is distinct from glucose. The ‘Coles Notes’ version of the paper explains that fructose consumption causes inflammation in the liver. It also promotes insulin resistance, issues with cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. These symptoms (high cholesterol, hypertension, and hyperglycaemia) are commonly known as metabolic syndrome and fructose contributes to them all. And fructose isn’t just found in soda pop. It is commonly named ‘high fructose corn syrup’ in many packaged foods.

Now a brief note on diet pop for those of you now scared of fructose in regular pop! Aspartame and caramel (colourant) are also used as sweeteners in diet pop. Aspartame can contribute to weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Aspartame is not as harmless as many people think it is. Consider this the next time you choose the diet version of your pop thinking it is the healthier choice (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010).

I hope you reconsider grabbing that pop today, or your second pop today after reading through this article. I still enjoy the occasional sugar-sweetened drink, but just like many other things we like to treat ourselves with, it is important to consume them in moderation.
References:

Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J.-P., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477 LP-2483. JOUR. Retrieved from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.abstract

Malik, V. S., Schulze, M. B., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 84(2), 274–288. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/long/84/2/274

Nseir, W., Nassar, F., & Nimer, A. (2010). Soft Drinks Consumption and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 16(21), 2579–2588.

Other articles of interest:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/sports-drinks-are-abomination-even-when-theyre-organic

 

Holy Zucchini!

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Giant zucchini from my family member’s garden (that is a large round picnic table to put the size of the zucchini to scale!)

I was fortunate enough to have a friend give me a zucchini last week (not quite as large as the one in the photo!).  I needed to find something to make with it, so I searched Pinterest to try and find some healthier baking recipes.  I found 3 and all 3 turned out delicious!

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-07-57-32Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with maple syrup.  In my opinion they have the perfect about of sweetness.

 

 

 

 

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Zucchini Cookies

I probably won’t eat these for breakfast (as the recipe suggests), but they are so delicious!
You can add nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit to these cookies as well.

 

 

 

 

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Banana Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

These are for my gluten free friends!  Lots of yummy ingredients in these muffins including peanut butter (any nut butter would work), banana, and maple syrup.
Next time I make them I would probably squeeze out some of the zucchini juices (this was the only recipe of the 3 that I think I need to do this).

 

I know there are thousands of zucchini recipes out there…please share some healthy zucchini recipes that you love!