Author: Dr. Jim Claussen
Cross Crawl Technique
The Illusion of Perfect Health
We've all heard stories about people who were "never sick a day in their entire life" or "never missed a day of work". More often than not, those stories ended with the person facing a serious illness or worse, having died unexpectedly despite being in "perfect health".
As a health care professional, one of the lessons I teach my patients is that perfect health is a myth. Many of my patients come to me in the midst of a health crisis and I tell them I'm delighted to see their body responding with unpleasant symptoms because that means it's doing its job.
Symptoms are Not a Sign of Sickness
Although uncomfortable, runny noses, fevers, aches and pains are signs that the body is doing the job of handling a crisis. If the body did not show these symptoms in the presence of a virus or bacteria, I would be concerned. Symptoms are a sign of wellness, they're signals that the biological machine that is your body is in good working condition.
I know that's hard to fathom, but think about the fuel gauge on your car. When the light goes on, it's a signal that you're almost out of gas and need to fill up. When your body aches or your head is congested, it's a signal that you need to do something to take care of yourself.
Why We Ignore the Body's Signals
Did your grade school award certificates for perfect attendance? How does your employer perceive sick days taken? There is an unspoken social expectation to be active and engaged all of the time. That sounds a lot like perfect to me.
Somewhere along the line, we have learned to interpret the symptoms of illness with being un-well and as an impediment to achieving this perfection. The message seems to be "Can't do what you need to do? Take this pill to feel better so you can keep performing."
Big pharma suggests that many of the signs of body working are actually signs of it being broken and they have solutions ready to sell us to to fix the problem. I'm not suggesting that Western medicine should be shunned, but I do call into question the idea of ignoring the body's wisdom and of preventing it from doing the work it was designed to do.
A New Picture of Health
Health and wellness is not feeling good all of the time. Instead, there is an ebb and flow that's characterized by periods of optimal performance and necessary down time. The key is to listen to your body when it speaks to you. When it signals for a period of rest by showing symptoms, honor that.
Discard the myth that you don't have time to feel bad and replace it with the awareness that your body knows what it needs. When you're feeling bad or less than optimal, give yourself permission to make time for your body to heal itself. Give yourself space to rest and let your body take care of you.
The Power of One, The Power of YOU
One might seem an insignificant quantity, but consider the following:
- At 211˚, water is really, really hot— one degree more and it's boiling!
- Save $1 a day for one year and you'll have $365
- The Chicago Cubs won the world series by one run
- If a flight path from LA to NYC is altered by 1 degree, you'll land in New Jersey
The quantity of one can yield substantial outcomes!
What if you granted yourself the freedom to pursue change one thing at a time?
Wanting it All Right Now
When we dream of creating the life we've always wanted, the picture is full, vibrant, and complete. We fool ourselves into thinking that the new healthy lifestyle, the new career, the new relationship can manifest in the blink of an eye. We're sorely disappointed when one day of effort doesn't show us enough progress to motivate us to keep going. We give up and nothing changes.
There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting it all. The challenge is re-calibrating our expectations and constructing action plans that are achievable and sustainable. Winning takes persistent effort and it's important to set ourselves up for the win in every pursuit.
Right Sizing Expectations
Setting our sights on achieving an epic reality is useful in conjuring the motivation and reconnecting to our why. However, when it comes to taking meaningful steps in that direction, we need to zoom in and contemplate the small actions required to manifest our desires.
That means chunking it down into increments of one. That powerful quantity that turns really hot water into boiling water. That unit of measurement we often dismiss as having little to no value is what we need to hold on to in order to make seismic shifts.
It All Adds Up
A single crochet stitch, one cut of a piece of wood.
The artisan knows that a single stitch when combined with thousands of others will become a finished afghan, a family heirloom. The woodcutter knows that a single carve when combined with countless others will become a child's toy.
The artisan doesn't give up after one stitch because the afghan hasn't magically appeared. The woodcutter doesn't give up after one carve because the toy hasn't yet become real. Instead, they understand that with dedication and persistence, the single stitch or carve will add up to something special.
The same goes for those of us striving for optimum health. One balanced meal, on its own, doesn't do much to create long-term fitness. However, one such meal three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year adds up to something remarkable.
Stay in the Present
I felt it even as I was writing it. The idea of eating balanced meals everyday for year feels impossible! That's why it's important to focus on the meal in front of you, the one happening now (or in the next few hours). Don't worry about the meals that come after that.
The artisan doesn't let the thought of a thousand stitches dissuade her from her work. Instead, she focuses on the stitch in front of her, then the next, and the next. She stays present to what is happening right now and lets the rest unfold as it may.
If your plans for health and wellness include exercise, avoid thinking about all of the effort required to maintain the activity for the next year, next month or even next week. Pay attention to only what needs to happen today. Be present to the 20 minute walk around your neighborhood. Be aware of the 60 minute run on the treadmill. Focus only on the 45 minute yoga routine.
In time, you'll find that work on the concept of one will create your desired outcome.
Change is Only as Hard as You Make It
Depending on your perspective, we live in complicated times. As a result we have become rather astute in the fine art of over complicating things. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our pursuit of change.
While some people are absolutely OK with the status quo (bless them), the rest of us are striving to make things different. We look to improve our health, our relationships, or our communities (to name but a few).
We have noble intentions for wanting to make things different. We want better health to live longer and extend the duration of our play in the game of life. We want better relationships so we can feel a sense of belonging and intimacy. We want to heal our communities to ensure that everyone feels safe to be who they are.
The starting point for change is you. So, let's take a closer look at the art of change.
Change is hard for three reasons
- we are creatures of habit
- we believe change is hard
- we are masters at making things complicated
Creatures of Habit
Habits are comfortable, familiar, and deeply engrained behaviors. They feel like your favorite sweater in the middle of January on a Sunday afternoon. Habits afford a degree of certainty about what to expect or how you’ll react to life as it happens around you. It gives you the ability to run on auto pilot.
Stepping outside the cozy confines of habit requires that you deliberately lean into discomfort. But, it only takes 20 seconds of courage to move there. And, once you’re there, congratulate yourself for your achievement. It seems small, but it is really monumental.
Beliefs are Not Facts
Next, let's question the belief that change is hard. What I'm about to say will challenge many of you.
Beliefs aren't FACT.
The first entry in the dictionary for the word belief is, "a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing." Hello, habit! Just like our behaviors become habitual, so do our thoughts and frames of mind.
Maybe you’ve tried countless times to create a specific change in your life and you never quite achieved your desired outcome. Those experiences taught you that change is hard, if not impossible. Each time you tried and apparently failed, the belief of “change is hard” was reinforced.
Over Complicated with a Side of "No"
Finally, let's examine our natural tendency to make things complicated. Say your goal is to get fit - maybe lose a few pounds, gain some strength, and be able to slip into an old pair of jeans.
Here's what making this change looks like for a lot of people: researching the best diet plan, throwing out all the unhealthy food in the house, buying a gym membership, buying some new workout gear, going to the natural grocery store, coordinating the "last meal" before staring the diet, and announcing to the world, "I'm on a diet!”.
Just the thought of all those requirements feels heavy and overwhelming. As a creature of habit, the idea of making all those changes in the span of 24 hours is going to freak you out - even if only subconsciously. We place extraordinarily high expectations on ourselves and that makes long lasting change difficult to achieve.
Change is Possible
If you're contemplating change in some area of your life, I have some suggestions.
Accept that Changing Habits is Uncomfortable
When you set out to make changes, remember that you're asking yourself to experience discomfort on purpose. It's helpful to remember why the discomfort is meaningful. Then, allow yourself to experience 20 seconds of courage while enduring the discomfort. Then 40 seconds, then a minute, then 5 minutes, and so on. Give yourself time to adjust and celebrate your progress!
Be Open to modifying Your Core Beliefs about Change
Gently remind yourself that change is only as hard as you make it. Begin to believe that change is very much possible and you have the ability to do what it takes. Look back over your life and identify all of the times you did achieve change.
“There’s no shame in starting small; in fact, if you don’t start small, you’ll probably never start at all.”
— John C. Maxwell
Planning and organizing are valuable, but at the level of personal change they can serve to sabotage or overwhelm you. Start small and with new beliefs and behaviors that are achievable. Instead of overhauling everything, pick one thing and stick with it until you've mastered it, then move on to the next.
Why are you Setting Goals?
One of my patients had retired early so that he could enjoy the rest of his life with his wife, children, and grandchildren. Shortly after he retired, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease which caused severe low back pain and significantly limited his ability to function. His goals for treatment were to reduce pain and restore mobility. Reasonable goals, for sure, but I needed to know why those specific goals were so important for him.
How We Set Goals
Let's take a look at how many of us set goals. Think about the last goal you set for yourself. Here are a few common goals:
- Lose 35 pounds
- Quit smoking
- Stop the pain
If we look closely at these goals (and, perhaps even your own), we notice two things.
First, they are written in such a way that they describe moving away from something. This may seem trivial, but it matters because it requires that we play the game in perpetual defense. It takes a lot of energy to maintain that position, and as they say, "what you resist, persists."
Second, they serve only to reach a zero point. Put another way, once they are achieved, nothing has been gained, only something has been lost.
Instead we need to state goals in such a way that you're moving toward something - not just away from something or a zero point. To do that, we need to know more about why you want what you're striving for.
Why Your Why is Important
In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”
— Dalai Lama
My early retiree patient set measurable goals - to reduce pain, and increase mobility. His treatment plan included regular visits for chiropractic adjustments, lifestyle changes, and physical exercise in between appointments.
His simple goals became a major undertaking and we discovered that achieving those goals such as they were didn't do much to inspire or motivate him to take the actions necessary. As the pain began to subside, it became really easy for him to stop moving forward.
Then, we added a powerful "why" to the equation. I asked him, "If you were to be pain free and have greater physical stamina, what would that give you?"
He described a vision of dancing with his wife, vacationing with his children, and playing in the yard with his grandchildren. He painted a picture of himself contributing to life, of living life to the fullest, and being completely present in deep and meaningful ways.
It was an emotional moment because at present, his diagnosis and symptoms were preventing that vision from happening.
Together, he and I reshaped his goal to be in alignment with his vision. His intention was no longer about fighting the present, but moving toward and creating his desired future.
A Framework for Setting Goals
Choose A Target
What do you want to achieve? How do you want your life to be different? Pick something that you can measure. Setting a goal "Be happier" is vague. If you have no firm target, you have nothing to measure your progress.
Figure Out Your Why
Your why is critical. It's what motivates you to keep moving forward. Having a meaningful why engages all of your being (physical, emotional, and spiritual). As you make progress, your why will serve to create momentum - it'll pull you forward.
Develop a Vision
Using your why as a foundation, write a mini movie of what your life will be like once you've achieved the goal. There are two keys to creating this vision. First, keep it compact and lightweight. If the vision is of epic proportions (think Star Wars), your mind will get distracted by the myriad of details. Second, write the script of your movie so that it invokes all of your senses - touch, sight, sound, smell, and feeling.
Any goal will have action steps and it's absolutely necessary to take them. As you design your actions, keep it simple. You don't need a 10-page project plan to achieve your goals. The details distract us from actually getting the work done. Take action and let the details handle themselves.
“Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.”
— George Lucas
Use Vision as Needed
Your mini movie is a powerful tool. There are two ways to use it. First, meditate on it for 2 minutes twice a day, and no more! When I say meditate, all I mean is close your eyes, then watch and feel the movie. Second, use your mini movie when things get tough and rough. When you don't feel like doing the exercise, watch and feel the movie, then do the work.
Knowing Yourself Begins with Intuition
Sitting at the stoplight, I had two options. I could wait for the light to turn green and proceed straight or I could turn right while the light was still red. My rational mind quickly calculated that making a right hand turn would be faster and I would arrive at my destination sooner.
Then, I felt a strong inner tug that suggested “Go straight.” Go straight? Straight meant waiting for the light to change and also taking a longer route. I decided turning right was the better decision because that meant I could move now and get to where I was going.
As the police officer was in his car writing the speeding citation, all I could do was laugh at myself. Something had told me to go straight and I ignored it. I trusted my rational mind more than my intuitive knowing and my reward was a ticket!
Ways of Knowing
I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.”
— Albert Einstein
There are two basic ways of knowing and understanding the world around us: intellect and intuition. Our intellect is the composite of knowledge we accumulate over years of education and experience. Intellect is a kind of tangible knowing – things like how to read, compute math problems, understanding scientific principles, and that touching a hot stove causes pain.
There is another, more powerful knowing called intuition. This knowing comes not from external sources and experiences. It comes from some place inside each of us. Intuition is the “gut feeling” or the “hunch” we feel as we navigate through life through life. It cannot be explained using conventional reason and often contradicts rational thinking.
A Metaphor for Intuitive Guidance
The human body is like a radio antennae. It’s designed to listen for messages and information that the rational mind can’t even comprehend. Every cell of our being is a receptor for data at the quantum level.
While the rational mind is responding to data that can be seen, smelled, heard, touched, and tasted, the intuitive mind is responding to the environment at a subtle level.
It’s the body receiving the energetic signals and the intuitive mind interpreting them. When the hunch or gut feeling arises, it’s a response minute quantum shifts in the frequencies around us.
Why Intuition Matters
The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.”
— Lao Tzu
Learning to let our intuition lead is about personal power. We become empowered when we make life choices that honor our internal compass. By inviting our intuition into our decision making process, we learn to trust ourselves.
In our society, we have grown accustomed to deferring the power of choice to some external source. In doing that, we are saying, “You know what’s best for me. I know only that which you have taught me.” And what we’ve been taught is to discount or dismiss our intuition when there is a conflict between inner knowing and an external source.
After years of living exclusively by external knowledge, our intuition has atrophied like an unused muscle. The good news is that we can begin exercising the intuitive muscle and learn how use it in our every day life.
Here are some simple steps you can take to start tuning into your inner wisdom.
You must train your intuition - you must trust the small voice inside you which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide.”
— Ingrid Bergman
The first step to tuning in is trusting. Trust that you have intuition. Everyone has it – including you. Even the most rational scientist has it. Trust that it’s there and it’s waiting for you.
At first, the volume of your intuition might be faint. It’s been on mute for a while, so we need to be patient and invite it to speak to us. Make the decision today that you want to live a life inspired by your inner wisdom and tell your higher self, “I’m here and I’m listening.”
Once you’ve begun listening, start noticing. How is your body feeling? What thoughts and ideas bubble up from seemingly nowhere?
Once your intuition provides guidance and direction, act on it. By taking action, you’re demonstrating trust, and the cycle begins again. Over time, you’ll find that the more you trust your intuition, the easier it will be to listen for it, hear it, and act on it.