Pressure is one of nature’s weird forces. It’s an enigma. With just the right amount of pressure, and time, you can turn a black, worthless hunk of coal into a diamond. But apply too much pressure, and the glistening mineral will turn to dust, and you end up with nothing.
I’m accustomed to working under pressure when it comes to my job. I work in asset management, in an operations division that supports portfolio managers and traders. If you’ve had similar experiences in this field, or if you can imagine how rowdy it can get on a trading floor when the market is on one of its roller coaster trips, up 500 points one hour, down 500 the next — then you know pressure like I know pressure.
Just yesterday I assisted one of our advisors with a Children’s Holiday Party in our New York office. Imagine 30 little kiddies all under 6 or 7 years old, lots of sugar, a magician, games, activities…..whew. All the mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, teachers, day care people, nurses, any body who works with kids for their occupation or gives the gift of parenting everyday — I bow down to you. YOU KNOW the real meaning of PRESSURE!
What makes pressure so puzzling and mysterious is that it can be both a motivating AND a debilitating force. For pressure to be a motivator, you have to ensure you use it wisely, with just the right amount of force, so as to push, strain, just enough to allow the object (or person) you are applying pressure to, to receive the impact of the strain, and grow a small incremental bit from it. Repetitive bursts of this kind of pressure, with rest and recovery periods built-in to avoid mental burnout, is a healthy motivating pattern of building strength and progress through pressure. I think about my exercising efforts and this pattern is exactly what my running program calls for. Each day brings the pressure of fulfilling some objective that is deliberately just outside of my comfort zone, just outside of my current abilities. But not too much. No no, the genius in the schedule is that you never “grow” more than 10% from one run to the next, one week to the next. But you can’t stay the same either. You have to press to grow your speed, gradually. You have to push to grow your endurance (your ability to suffer patiently, remember) and you have to do that gradually. If you follow a path like this, for whatever athletic or physical endeavor you attempt (walking, swimming, cycling, etc) you will reach your goal. You will get DIAMONDS!!
These past two weeks, I have also experienced how pressure can be debilitating. Not realizing what I was doing, I set myself up to fail weeks ago. Huh? What? How? Remember when I set that goal of losing 11 pounds and getting below 200 by Jan 1. 2012? Yeah, well, it felt REALLY motivating for the first two weeks. I lost 6 pounds and was only 5.2 pounds away from my goal. But then 3 weeks ago I gained .8 pounds. Yeah, just point 8. Not 8 pounds. Just point 8, less than one pound. Well, when I went home and had to increase my post it notes on my fridge and pantry from 5.2 pounds to 6 pounds…..looking back — that’s when the pressure of my self-challenge did me in. I was dead in the water. WHY, you ask? Because in my head, doing math quickly, I KNEW I was never going to lose 2 pounds each week for the next three weeks. Nope. It was never going to happen. I already knew I had failed. Failed. Failure. God, just writing that word right now makes me want to eat something. But I’m not going to. I’ve done enough of that the past two weeks.
So, why did it matter that I was going to miss my mini goal? Well, the right answer is — IT DOESN’T! It doesn’t really matter at all if it happened on Jan 1, or Feb 1, or any other day. But I made it SUUUUCH a big deal, and I placed ALLL this pressure on myself, and once I realized I had failed, well — then the real self sabotage began, and I started eating like NOTHING mattered. I fell Off the Wagon and it Ran Me Over! The next week, I gained 2.2 pounds. O -K! Now we’re at 8.2 pounds on the sticky notes. That was last Saturday. This pattern continued into this week, so I am already settled on another gain tomorrow when I weigh in. BUT. BUT. The important end of this story is that I HAVE regained control.
It wasn’t easy. And it took retrying every single day this week to accomplish it. Every, single, bloody day. I started the day with the goal of tracking. with the goal of good food choices. The first day I made it to 10am before I ate a barrel of almonds. The next day I made it to lunch time before I ate half a dozen christmas cookies. The next day I made it to 3pm before I ate 3 brownies. Oh, yeah, it was bad. Every night I went to bed feeling stuffed, full like I was going to be sick full. I was hating myself. Crying. My jeans were feeling tighter. I felt awful. I felt sad. That was the absolutely worst. I DO NOT WANT to go back to feeling SAD about myself.
What I was also doing each day was running. Every day. I got up early and did my run as per the schedule. And ever day I did my run — it was making me mentally stronger. I didn’t know what I was doing when I was doing it — but the running was counterbalancing the eating. the running was working its way back into my mind and reminding me of how GOOD I feel with some of the weight gone, with my new ability to run.
So yesterday, I ended the day having eaten my daily points worth of food. And only my daily points worth. I went to bed feeling good. Then I got up today, ate a banana, had my coffee, drank some water — and went for a 2 mile run. And here I sit, back on my couch, sharing my story with you, friend. Because even when you have the best intentions for yourself, it’s easy to end up on a path you didn’t intend. But there is a way back, even if it takes 3 weeks, even if you have to crawl your way back.
So, my New Year’s goal of being under 200 pounds will not be my DIAMOND this year. It has been pounded to DUST. But I know I will make it under 200 pounds, one day, some day. This time I think I will let time take care of itself and not try to control it. Instead I will just focus on the positive feelings that I have everyday from running and being healthier.
But don’t be sad for me this New Years Eve. This year, instead of wearing my Diamonds, I’m going to be happily covered in Dust. Hey, every girl should be covered in Glitter on New Years Eve!
Ciao for now…..Diane