A paradigm shift is a new way of looking at things that makes everything easier, such as shifting out of the people-pleasing paradigm. People-pleasers (erroneously) believe that if they make choices for themselves, others will suffer. This idea is fundamentally a lie, and getting out from under it requires a paradigm shift that will change everything for you. Listen to this episode to learn more.
Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk.
Today’s episode, the 7th in our series on living your dream in 2019, is for every listener who’ enjoying the revelry of the holidays but who is also gearing up for a tough January, and you wants to know how to make the transition into January and achieving your dream a little easier. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and if this is you I’m glad you’re here, because this week it’s me, too. Things feel a little too difficult this week. So this advice today, about making things easy, is as much for me as it is for you.
The irony of telling you how to make things easy when I’m spinning in perfectionism and people-pleasing and thinking my work is not going to be good enough and that it has to be better is just a little too much. I’ve been doing too much holiday stuff, and working too little, and now all the work has piled up and I’m late getting the podcast out this week.
So the best I can do this week, with this episode, is to tell you about my sister. She’s a math teacher and a mom who spent decades putting everyone else first. She thought her students would suffer if she didn’t come early and stay late and work all weekend on amazing lesson plans. She thought her kids would suffer if she didn’t make dinner from scratch every night and cook and clean and do for them in every spare moment when she wasn’t working.
And who suffered? She did. Her paradigm was that everyone else came first, and she came last, and the result was obesity. When she thought this thought that they come first, she felt obligated to completely ignore herself, and she ate to feel better and to combat fatigue and alleviate stress and because food was her only pleasure in life.
Eventually she just got to the point that she had gained so much weight and was so unhappy that something had to give. She decided, “It’s time for me to come first. If not now, when?” She said that she had to begin putting herself first and she decided that whatever was left, whatever she had left over for her students and her own children, that would just have to do.
So she shifted her paradigm. What’s a paradigm shift? It’s a new way of looking at things, that makes things easier or more difficult depending on which way you shift. Her paradigm shift made everything easier. She started putting herself first and she began losing weight because the decision to put herself first generated different feelings and actions for her. So far I think she’s down around 50 pounds. If she was at work, confronted with a choice between preparing a crazy-cool lesson or going with the same lesson she’d used the year before, completely adequate but maybe not crazy-cool, she saved herself hours of unpaid overtime and used the old lesson, and she invested the time in things like healthy meals for herself. If it was a choice between cooking for her teenaged kids, who could easily cook for themselves, or going to the gym, she went to the gym. Like I said earlier, now she’s lost almost 50 pounds. And now she says, “I can see that I should have put myself first all along, because the idea, the notion, that if I am first, these people will suffer is fundamentally a lie. I can see now that I should have always put myself first, because no one suffers if I’m first. They actually do just fine.”
When she shifted her thinking into a me-first model, she eventually realized she’d been worrying about what people thought of her. Was she a good teacher? Was she a good mom? And by “good” she meant perfect. Beyond reproach. And when she stopped attaching so much importance to perfection, when she stopped caring about what “they” thought, she started feeling and acting very differently, and getting completely different results with her weight, and in other important areas of her life.
A co-worker told her, “You should feel so good about what you’ve achieved, because you’ve had to make the hard decision thousands of times to lose this weight.” And she said, “No. I made a single decision—to put myself first. And that informed everything I did from then on. Multiple decisions weren’t necessary. Just the single decision, and it wasn’t hard, but it did change everything.”
So this, my friends, is an example of a paradigm shift, and frankly, it’s one that makes a lot of people angry. When people, especially women, but increasingly, men, talk about “me first,” others might get angry. My sister and I had some discussions about this a few years before she made this shift, and she remembers telling me, “I had no concept of what you were talking about.” You were asking, “What would it mean if you left work earlier? What would it mean if you didn’t run and fetch and carry for your kids? and when you were asking me that, I wasn’t even at the stage where I could see that these actions were options that available to me. I was completely blind to the fact that there was any other way to be in the world.”
I remember thinking, during these discussions with my sister, that she was angry at me, for even suggesting that there was another way to live.
Eventually she did get there, she did make this shift, and we all support her decision. My mom, our other sister, and me, but here’s something to notice. Yesterday when we were talking about my sister’s experiences and the shift she made in her life, my mom said, “Well, the truth is that being first is a problem, because if you get what you want, then it’s a problem for other people.”
This was so fascinating, because we had all just agreed that my sister needed to put herself first. All of us, including my mom, were happy that my sister had made this shift and we all agreed that it was the 100% appropriate thing to do and we applauded her when she did it. But then when my mom was thinking about herself, what she was allowed in her own life, or just in general terms and not as they specifically applied specifically to my sister and what’s allowed, that same old paradigm came tumbling out of her mouth: If other people and their priorities don’t go ahead of yours, they will suffer. And that’s a problem.
Fundamentally, as my sister noted, this is a lie. My mom completely saw it in terms of my sister, but she couldn’t see it in herself, even though we’d just been talking about it.
So what’s going on here? The implicit message is that someone is going to suffer when a choice is made, and it had better be you. Better you suffer than anyone else.
All of this is fundamentally a lie, because no one has to suffer. You going to the gym doesn’t hurt other people. You taking the time to prep meals for yourself doesn’t hurt other people. You taking a rest or saying no doesn’t hurt them. Everyone is going to be just fine.
Where does this lie come from? Why is it so pervasive? It comes from the dual beliefs that we can control the experiences of others—prevent their suffering—and that we should prevent their suffering. When in reality everyone is in charge of their own suffering because everyone is in charge of their thoughts, which govern their emotional experience of the world. It’s just as easy for a kid to feel guilty about a mother who never rests as it is for him to feel cared for and supported. I certainly remember feeling guilty about my mom who never rested.
Last night I read a book called “When the body says no” by Gabor Mate MD. It discusses the largely-ignored relationship between our physical health and our emotional health. Why is this relationship largely ignored? Because it’s subjective. It’s soft science. Emotional health can’t be measured in precise terms like blood pressure or cholesterol.
But it can be observed. The book contains a lengthy discussion of patients suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in which the muscles of the body waste away, rendering the patient immobile, but the mind remains intact and fully functioning. Stephen Hawking was perhaps the most famous person afflicted with this disease. And what this book describes is rampant people-pleasing among ALS patients. During the diagnosis phase, some doctors even joke, “This person can’t have ALS.
He or she isn’t nice enough to have ALS.” And this joke bears out in practice—the patients who aren’t nice enough to have ALS don’t have ALS.
When the Body Says No describes a chilling anecdote of a woman so firmly entrenched in the people-pleasing paradigm that as a child she had visions of being buried alive. She wanted things in her life and for herself, but she was paralyzed by the desire to please others instead of herself. Dr. Mate doesn’t see this as preternaturally prescient or coincidental. He believes that the body that is emotionally paralyzed from taking action due to the people-pleasing paradigm can become physically paralyzed by ALS. This is the type of person who gets ALS—the person who’s paralyzed by people-pleasing.
What’s happening in our minds and in our emotions shows up on our bodies. I used to overeat a lot, and then I’d over exercise to try to keep pounds at bay. I was basically an exercise bulimic. My paradigm was, “Eat to be polite. Eat to please others. Your body isn’t really your own. And never say no. Work all the time, on whatever anyone wants you to do.” And then, to mitigate the consequences of this paradigm, of feeling bad and eating too much and feeling worse, then work out all the time, because it’s not acceptable to get fat, either.
So that’s what I did, work and eat and run, work and eat and walk, work and eat and lift weights, and this may have continued for a lifetime, but then I got hurt. There was no moment of impact. It was just like a complete capitulation of my body. I was hiking on the pacific crest trail, and at about mile 20 one day, I knew something was really wrong. I thought they were going to have to helicopter me out of there. And when I got off the trail, things got worse. Within weeks, I couldn’t sit, stand, or walk. At that point, with crazy exercise no longer an option–working wasn’t even an option– I knew something had to change with the way I was eating or I would quickly become obese. So I had to develop a new relationship with food. I needed a paradigm shift, and the one I went to was, food is the fuel that will help me heal.
This shift completely changed my relationship with food. I ate only the foods that would help me get better, and I didn’t gain weight, even though I could no longer run or walk miles and miles at a time. I was almost 100% sedentary for two and a half years, but I maintained the lowest weight of my adult life. 130 pounds, without crazy exercise.
This felt like a miracle to me, and this is when things really started to solidify in my mind, that not only could thought work help you get rich, something I’ve always known from my work with hedge fund manager clients, but it could also help you get thin. That’s when the idea for this podcast was born.
But then what happened? In every story, there’s a dark night of the soul, and the dark night of my soul was after five surgeries and all that time in recovery, my physical therapist busted up my rib cage. He and another man, his PT assistant, in tandem pushed so hard on my left side of my rib cage that I heard this sickening crunching sound, which was the sound of my ribs dislocating from the sternum. It hurt so bad I couldn’t breathe, and on top of all the other injuries, I still couldn’t sit, stand, or walk for any length of time, and I sort of lost my mind. My paradigm shifted again. I started operating in the paradigm of “my body is completely out of control and I’m never going to get better.”
Remember—we get what we think. We prove our thoughts to ourselves. And in this paradigm, what happened? I thought my body was completely out of control, and this thought generated emotions of rage, helplessness, and frustration in me, and from that emotional place, what did I do? I ate Ben & Jerry’s. And that’s when the muscle wasting from not moving for 2 ½ years completely caught up with me. No longer did my body burn off ice cream as it used to. I had no metabolism anymore. No muscles anymore, and my body hung on to every bite of that ice cream, and so I proved my thought. My body was completely out of control, and I wasn’t getting better, I was getting worse, because any extra weight on me now makes walking even more difficult.
So now I want to lose weight. I want to shift into a new paradigm that takes me to my dream weight of 105. This is the weight where I think my body will look best, and it’s low enough that I think it will be a lot easier for me to walk and move around. Any amount of extra weight right now is just not conducive to walking.
What am I going to have to do to achieve this? I’m going to have to notice that when I was struggling with my eating, there were no limits on my work. I worked all the time. When I wasn’t struggling, I set firm limits on the amount I was working. Because I had to, I was physically incapable of working more, and then in that paradigm, my work is limited, I actually take time to care for myself, I had little or no desire to overeat, and that felt amazing.
Now that I’m getting back to work, I’m going to have to integrate these two modes. I can be physically capable of working, and still set limits on the amount of work I do. I can still say no to more work, even if I’m physically capable of doing more work.
Doing this is going to mean going easier on myself. For 42 episodes of this podcast thus far, I’ve been complying with a strict deadline to publish the podcast by a certain time every week. This deadline is entirely self-imposed. Does it matter to anyone else if the podcast gets published by 6 a.m. on Wednesday or by noon on Wednesday or even 3 p.m.? Last night, when I didn’t have a podcast episode ready to go for today, I thought that it did, and I was overeating to mitigate the frustration and shame of thinking there was only one acceptable way, and I was not meeting the acceptable standard.
This was my perfectionist and people-pleasing paradigm going in overdrive, and the fact is, sometimes we all need a break. We’re human. Things happen. People die. There are funerals. Relatives come into town unexpectedly. Our self-imposed deadlines can inform our lives and keep us on schedule and working to serve and achieve our highest capacity, but they should not become our rigid standards of acceptability, nor should we allow them to become sources of shame of we can’t meet our rigid standards from time to time. Sometimes doing our best just doesn’t allow for meeting a self-imposed deadline. Sometimes, a few hours late is okay. Sometimes just showing up is okay, even if the work is C+.
Most of the time in life, you can get a few C pluses and still pull an A overall. Very few of us are filing last-minute death-penalty appeals where there’s absolutely no wiggle room. For most of us, everyone’s going to be 100% fine, and maybe even happier. if we let things slide a little bit once in a while. If you’re struggling with the people-pleasing paradigm, and it’s putting weight on your body and making your business feel heavy, recognizing this can mark the beginning of a paradigm shift for you, too, just as it did for my sister.
I want this for all of us in 2019, so let’s do it. Let your life go a little easier, and your body and your business will thank you. This is a paradigm shift that will help you, and me, get rich and thin in 2019, and that’s what I want for all of us. Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to talking with you next week for our eighth and final episode of living your dream in 2019.