Charlotte’s New Year New What

This is the text version of the YouTube video here.

With 2019 now firmly in the review mirror, it’s time to look forward to the future starting right now. I’ve been telling everyone that as I go into my 49th season, this is promising to be the best season yet. So is it true? Well let’s find out as I get into my first broadcast of 2020 called Charlotte’s New Year, new WHAT?

Hi all you Charmers! I’m so glad you joined me today. This is Pure Charm by me, Charlotte Millington. My one and only goal is to help you improve your charm so you can increase your influence. Thanks again for joining me on today’s live broadcast from Victoria, British Columbia at a little after 5 in the morning.

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It’s 2020 and everywhere I look I see posts from everyone and every company promising new year, new you tips and tricks. Thirty seconds in the gym and you know that everyone is on a kick to lose weight, get healthy, find balance, and unlock their true potential. 

What if I told you: 2020 is the same you as in 2019? What would that change for you? I decided to look into some of the beliefs surrounding wellness, balance, and habits and I learned some good things that I’m going to share with you now. Why? Well, I’m getting to that.

Let’s talk about wellness because without it, balance and habits live in a vacuum. The pundits can’t agree on how many components of wellness there are. Some day eight. Some say four. After reading a few dozen highly educated articles, I came up with a list of six. Now these aren’t original by any means, but these are the six that I liked and you are welcome to disagree with me or tell me about the ones that are critical and you can’t believe I forgot them.

What I see is six areas of wellness: social, emotional, mental, physical, occupational, and intellectual. And here is Charlotte’s interpretation of each of these areas.

Social: everyone has different social needs. Some people need to be around people to feel truly alive. Some people need to be alone to be truly alive. But as a species, humans are social creatures. We need love. We need communication. We need touch. However you assemble your pack, or what size your pack is, make sure it meets your needs. For me, for example, my interpretation of the word friend is very fluid and I visualize my own social needs in increasing circles of influence.

Circle number one is for people I haven’t met yet. These are usually friendly strangers. You know, the ones you see over and over in conferences and monthly meetings or pass in the hall several times each day. We aren’t friends… yet. We may or may not know each other’s names. We are probably on smile and nod levels of communication, unless we are forced into proximity, like in a coffee line, in which case we make social talk. So there’s a connection with no friendship. If we are ever introduced, we’ll be friends. We just aren’t there yet.

My friends category is massive and is the next circle of my social needs. If we have ever met and had a conversation, whether it was real life or online, then we are friends. BAM. Just like that. Pretty much most of humanity is in my friends group. My literal and only actual criteria is some sort of common experience, preferably with an in-joke. This is like an everyone welcome club. Once you have made it to my friend list, I will love you until we die. The only thing that makes me happier is when I can get some of my friends to also be friends. I feel like my calling in life is to introduce people to other people. So, yes, my friends category is huge.

Then there is the group I call “the vault.” It’s the outer ring of my friends category. This is for people with whom I am so incompatible, having them in my friend category would be detrimental to my well-being. I know them, we attempted a friendship, and then they turned out to be a whole lot of scary. An example of this can be seen by anyone who watched my interactions with Jessica Yaniv last summer. She got into my friend circle with no problem, but as soon as I realized she was a stalker with a mountain of allegations and court cases following her, she went into my vault category. Danger, Danger, Will Robinson. The vault is tiny, however, and it’s really only got a few people in it. You truly have to be a menace to humanity in my estimation before you end up in there.

I don’t know how other people categorize their social needs and I would love to know so please share how that looks for you. It is helpful to understand your social needs though. Since one of the six components of wellness is social, you will benefit from knowing yourself so you can make sure that part of your life is taken care of. Whatever it takes to make sure your social cup is filled is important. See friends. Grab coffee. Sit together in class. Text. Just make sure your social needs are met.

Emotional needs are the next piece of the wellness pie. Everything I have read on emotional wellness says that we should aspire to be even in our temperament, calm in the face of waves, cool in the line of fire, and collected when others around us are not. I am none of those things. I rage when things don’t go the way I think they should. I cry during movies when literally no one else in the audience is crying. I laugh really loudly when it is totally inappropriate. So I can’t say that I agree that our emotional life goal should be serenity.

What I do think we should have as emotional goals is consistency and situational appropriateness of our emotional volumes. If you walk through life weeping, you’re not well. Yes, you have achieved consistency, but non-stop weeping is a sign that you need help. The same goes, however, for non-stop laughing. If you walk through life laughing at everything, you probably came unglued a while ago and you need help. There is a time and a place to experience joy, sadness or anger, but there is also a measure of how much of those is situationally appropriate. Being angry because someone cut in front of you in a line is understandable. But if you treat the line budger like they have impugned your family’s good name and now they must pay, well, you’re not in a good place.

So how do you get yourself into a good place? You need a little self-care. Maybe read a book. Maybe have a bath. Go for a walk. But do whatever it takes to put yourself onto a predictable path of behaviour.

Mental wellness is the next piece and thanks to recent pushes in social media, our society is finally starting to understand that mental wellness is critical to our survival. Everyone reaches adulthood with baggage. That’s just a fact and there’s nothing unusual about that because that baggage is what shaped us. What is problematic is when that baggage saps our mental energy and makes us, as a society, vulnerable to depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideations. Anyone who has experienced poor mental health knows you can’t just shake it off or jolly yourself back into a good place, not even when someone with good intentions tells you it’s all just a mindset choice. You need help, sometimes professional help, to be on an even keel. But assuming you are neurotypical and all is well, then paying attention to the small stuff will keep your mental wellness on track. Evidence is showing us that eating well and getting fresh air isn’t just good for your physical health, it’s good for your mental health.

Speaking of physical health, the new year is a time for resolutions. The gym right now is packed and the produce aisle of the grocery store is booming with sales. And as we all know, by mid-February, the gym will be empty and the centre aisles of the grocery store will once again be the lure for hungry shoppers. Don’t be a new year’s resolution physical health proponent. For your life to be seriously improved, you need to commit to a twelve-month goal of eating less and moving more. There’s a lot of fad diets that everyone loves to try and they all work to some degree, but the problem is that cutting out carbs when you’re not sure what a carb is? Well that’s just problematic.

Let’s have a macronutrient lesson here. There are three macronutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates, or what most people call carbs. Butter is clearly a fat. Lean chicken is clearly a protein. Lettuce is clearly a carb. So when people say they are not eating carbs, I’m curious about what they are actually doing. Deep-fried cheese dipped in sour cream is a carb-free diet. My advice before you jump onto a carb-free band wagon? Decide what you want the rest of your life to look like and go for a sustainable life. And maybe consider eating vegetables.

Humans are not houseplants. To live we need fresh air, sunshine, good food, and movement. Get outside. Have some fruit. Take a dance class. Or whatever, because if your physical needs aren’t taken care of, your ability to remain alive is going to be cut short.

Occupational needs are very often overlooked, but because of the nature of the work I do, I see occupational health as an important part of wellness. Everyone has to work in this society. The problem is that some jobs are soul-sucking energy vampires. For people who are in these jobs, every single day feels like a battle just to get out of bed. There is no specific classification that makes a job wearying. Some jobs just grind you down.

According to Malcom Gladwell, there are three characteristics that make a job meaningful: autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward. What that means is that every job has the potential to be satisfying or unsatisfying because it’s not the job itself that gives satisfaction, but the characteristics of the job.

Let’s say you are a worker in a widget factory. I have no idea what a widget is, but I do know everyone is always buying and selling them in my commerce and marketing textbooks, so let’s go make them. All day you stand at the assembly line making widgets. Let’s even call it your dream job and you trained for it. So off you go to the widget factory and your boss gives you total autonomy over your job and you are trusted to do it well because you always have. But then one day, your boss is replaced by a micromanager who removes your autonomy. You no longer feel trusted. Where is your satisfaction level? Nothing in the job has changed, just your autonomy, but your satisfaction has gone down.

It is often said that people don’t leave the job, they leave the manager. This certainly seems to be true because we can see industries where people training leave one organization or department to go do exactly the same job elsewhere and are seemingly happier for it. Your occupational wellness impacts your life enormously.

So how do you cope with a job you can’t change? Well my theory is that this is where network marking companies have their toehold. Network marketing companies allow people who feel hopeless in their occupations to find hope. As humans, we thrive on hope. Do network marketing companies work? Absolutely. They are a respected business model that allows people to jump in for a very low investment. The problem is that this low investment also allows people to jump back out after they have ceased to become wealthy. I’m not saying it’s the only solution to occupational dissatisfaction. I am saying it’s a solution and it’s very creative.

Intellectual wellness is the final piece of the wellness pie and it’s also overlooked. A huge amount of our population has little to no intellectual stimulation in their worlds and the result is a population whose mental, physical, emotional, social, and occupational health is impacted. Many people get up, go to work, come home, watch TV until bedtime, go to bed, and then repeat the cycle again. That’s not living. That’s existing.

So what is intellectual wellness? Once again, this can be divided into three components that are dependent on each other: academic, cultural, and community stimulation. You can read the best book in the world, stimulating your academic mind, but if you can’t discuss it with anyone because it’s culturally divergent (like every book on feminism I ever read when I still lived in small town Nova Scotia) from what is accepted, then your intellectual stimulation is impacted. 

This need for the intellectual trifecta of academics, culture, and community is what has given rise to online communities. Living in a large population centre does not mean you have easy access to the trifecta. But in online communities, you can often find like-minded people who will allow your mind to be challenged. Bored people are not satisfied people. People who feel stuck in a rut are rarely productive. Intellectual stimulation varies from person to person. What is deeply satisfying to one person is a snoozefest to another. But that’s just fine. That diversity in our intellectual needs is what gives space for our diversity of talents. We need those. So accept and encourage each other to find ways to have our brains working and we will have a more productive society for it.

This brings me back to the question of balance. I see a constant desire to have balance in our lives. In fact, there are millions of articles and books dedicated to finding and achieving balance. But what if I told you there is no such thing?

Our lives are already time bound to schedules that include work, commuting, showering, grocery shopping, being with our families, and a myriad of other things that simply chew up our schedules. So forget balance. It’s a holy grail that can consume you for no purpose. But what you can do, instead, is learn how to overlay the components of wellness so you hit more than one point at a time.

Working out doesn’t need to be a solitary gym experience. Go for a walk with your significant other instead. Making healthy food is a great time to listen to a mind-stimulating podcast, and while you’re at it, choose foods that nourish your brain so that your mental health can be optimized with nutrition. You may not achieve balance, and frankly, I don’t know why that’s desirable since it’s largely unachievable, but if you can make a point to hit each of the components of wellness each day, you will be much healthier.

Let’s get into the last section, which is habits. I swear I see more articles about “new year, new you” that discuss how easy it is to build a new habit than is humanly necessary. Let’s talk about how habits are formed.

A few key books will tell you a new habit takes 21 days to form. Others say 30 days. But while the numbers have some range, all the really popular books will tell you it doesn’t take long and just to persevere. So is it true?

The answer is no. It’s not chronology that builds a habit. Yes, chronology can create a predictable time map, but it doesn’t build the habit. Other factors do that in a cycle called the trigger, the behaviour, and the reward. When one of those factors is missing, you don’t get a new habit. What does this mean?

Humans like the easy route. We have cars so we can avoid walking even short distances. We have pizza delivery guys who help us skip making dinner. We even invented remote controls because having all the movies in the world delivered to our living rooms wasn’t enough. As a species, we love efficiency and ease. More impressive is that we acclimate so quickly to improved efficiencies, we actually get a little miffed when a webpage loads slowly or we can’t find parking close to the doors. Compare that to when we were children and the internet looked like a thirty minute walk in the snow to go to the library’s reference section.

Knowing how much we love the easy approach to everything, this belief that we can doggedly grit our teeth for 30 days and we will magically love kale and the elliptical trainer at the end of the month is what leads so many people to fail in their annual resolutions. Which brings us back to the trigger-behaviour-reward cycle and how that plays a role.

Before you start any resolution, ask yourself if it contains the word should. Should is a habit killer. I should lose weight. I should eat better. I should read more. Enough shoulds and pretty soon you’re should-ing all over yourself and you don’t have one good new habit to show for it. In fact, if you made yourself a challenge that was hard enough, you’ll be reverting to your more established habits in greater quantities than if you had done nothing. Ever notice swing weight in people who have successfully taken off ten pounds and then put on fifteen? It’s because their old habits were so comforting, they turned to them in distress and leaned on those poor habits until their happy feelings returned… along with the comforting feeling of pants that are too tight. 

And no, I’m not kidding. Not all habits that provide comfort are good for us.

So the first thing is to get rid of the word “should” from your potential new habit. If you don’t want to do it, you won’t. If willpower were all it took to be successful, we would all be thin and rich.

This brings me to the trigger point in the habit cycle. Everyone needs a trigger to start a new habit. A lot of people use January 1 as their trigger and really, it’s as good a trigger as any. But a better trigger is one that connects to your heart. In my case, my trigger was quite literally connected to my heart. My recent bloodwork showed my high fat diet had caught up with me, which wouldn’t be the end of the world, except a few weeks later I learned my biological father had his first heart attack when he was fifty. Now my trigger is my motivation to be healthy enough to keep living a good life. The other choice is a heart attack and all the life changes that happen with that. Some triggers will be less life threatening, but all connect your heart to your brain so you can make the change willingly.

Next comes the behaviour. To support a new habit, you need some new behaviours. For example, if you want to walk for thirty minutes each day as your new habit, you not only need to actually walk, you also need to make sure that walk fits into your schedule in a meaningful way. You might decide that you want to get up an extra hour early to fit that walk into your schedule. That is what I did because I figure if I just get out of bed and go do it, I’ll be too tired to argue with myself. For me, I’m very goal-oriented, so getting out of bed and just doing it means I can tick the box of things I accomplished today. That works for me. But I am not even remotely interested in leaving the house when it’s cold and rainy, so I make the first walk of the day very easy. I do it with bedhead and pjs on a treadmill in my house. I don’t need perfection. I need the walk. And this explains why you will never see a picture of me on social media doing my morning workout. Because behaviours are such a critical part of the new habit, make it as easy on yourself as possible. There is no rule that says your healthy new diet needs to be plated like you’re a foodie blogger and you don’t need to drive ten minutes out of the way to make sure the produce you add to your diet comes from the trendy food market. Just keep going on your same routine but make the change minor and achievable. 

The last step is the reward. This is a big one to interpret because some rewards are intrinsic and some are extrinsic. Let’s take weight loss as an example. You could take the decrease in clothing size as a reward, and it would be a really good reward because it is intrinsic, meaning that the reward automatically happens just for eating less and moving more. Some people need a different reward. For example, when you have gone down ten pounds, you get a non-food treat. When I lost ten pounds, I bought a heart monitor. OK – it’s not a sexy reward, but I wanted one and I figured if I could commit to a ten-pound weight loss, I had earned a tool to make my workouts more effective. 

Everybody has a different reward. You may decide that for eating well all week, Sunday is treat day. Or new purse day. Or whatever. I have a massive weight goal that is tied to pageantry. There is a dress I absolutely love, but it’s a size 8. I am currently a size twelve. I can’t crash diet my way into this dress. I very literally have to exercise into this dress. It’s an achievable goal to accomplish by June.

And I just realized that by saying it on a YouTube Live, I just created an accountability network. Oh boy.

So why did I do a video today on wellness, balance, and habits? Because here’s the thing. I see two components to being a new you that must co-exist. Part one is to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, or at least accept yourself, then you can’t make a new anything out of the materials you currently have. 

You have decades of experience, living, coping, and celebrating behind you. Probably most of it was good. Accepting yourself doesn’t mean accepting your flaws and stopping there. It means looking at yourself and also seeing how beautiful, strong, and intelligent you are. There’s no purpose to improving your eating habits if all you’ll get is a sad version of yourself only with less Doritos. 

Part two of that is to work on improving areas you are interested in working on. So what does that mean? Yes. Maybe you should lose weight. But if you think of the last time you did anything you should, you either find a memory of you gritting your teeth and doing it just to get it over with, OR you find you didn’t do it at all. Instead of what you should do, ask yourself what you want to do.

Maybe you want to take more photos outside or play Pokemon Go. Good news. Both happen to increase the amount of walking you do. Maybe you want to read more. Find books that interest you and read those. Comic books are reading. Maybe they aren’t considered classic literature, but War and Peace is a heavy first choice. Make small choices and do things you want to do. I’m not saying you don’t have to prioritize your health from time to time. I’m saying it’s a lot easy to make small fun changes than massive boring ones.

Let me know what you thought of today’s video in the comments below and be sure to hit the like and subscribe buttons! If you also hit the little bell, you’ll always get notified when I upload a new video.

My question of the day is this: what are you going to focus on in 2020?

I am off to go workout! Until next time! Thanks everyone! Stay charming!