Perfectionism Is Not Required -The Ninth Tenet

Constantly striving for perfection, in any endeavor, is a set-up for failure. First, perfection in anything you do is nearly impossible to obtain. So, when you attempt something and you don’t get ‘perfect’ results or do it “100 percent,” you have no choice but to see those results as a failure, no matter the outcome.

There are good sides and bad sides to perfectionism.  All of us want our work and most other things we do to be the best it can be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having high standards. In some professions such as pro sports, medicine and science, perfectionism is encouraged.  No one wants their surgeon to perform a “just ok” appendectomy.

But here’s the downside.  Holding yourself to an impossibly high standard, always demanding perfection and never allowing for mistakes, doesn’t serve you and is going to practically guarantee your unhappiness. This is nowhere more evident than when you begin a wellness program.

Many people are tempted to adopt an all or nothing attitude when they begin a wellness program. That is often a recipe for disaster, as the first time they succumb to a tempting treat, they throw up their hands and their nutritional plan is out the window. Or maybe they don’t exercise one day, so they just give up and stop exercising altogether. They didn’t “do it perfectly,” so now it’s totally out the window.  Maybe this has even happened to you in the past.  As a somewhat “recovering perfectionist,” I know it’s happened to me!

If you recognize this perfectionistic trait in yourself, how do you overcome it?

The first thing to do is recognize that this trait was instilled in you at an early age by what Transactional Analysis (TA) recognizes as a Parental authority figure. This figure is often your actual parent or parents, but could also have been another significant authority figure in your life – a teacher, Scout leader, religious figure or other important adult. As children, we want so badly to please these authority figures that this Parental voice is instilled into our heads.  Even if your parents or other authority figures are long gone or are no longer a major influence, their ‘parental voice’ can still speak to you.  So, if you can’t always be perfect (no one can!) you end up feeling like a failure, fall into all or nothing thinking, and are haunted by a sense of never being “good enough.”

In coaching, we call this voice the “inner critic.”

If this sounds familiar, do you need full-fledged therapy to get you on the right track and out of your perfectionist trap? Probably not. Working with a good coach, especially one trained in positive psychology coaching with a good understanding of the inner critic, can help you set realistic goals and a plan to reach them, imperfections, detours and mistakes included.  And we all have them!

Change your mindset when it comes to so-called “failure” or mistakes.  Some of our best opportunities and learning come from what we might first view as a failure.  If you look it as an opportunity to learn and grow, it only becomes a detour on your road to success.  It’s a result of what you have done at this time. It’s not who you are!  Maybe you will decide to do it differently next time and that will be the key.

I like this quote from Dr. Brene Brown which is good advice for all of us:

“You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.”  

You are good enough.

Solo Time Is Essential – Tenet 8 – and Thanksgiving Wishes!

In several of the Ten Tenets, Michael Arloski mentions the importance of reconnecting to the natural world. In number eight, he talks about how spending time alone is important.  He also says that being alone with yourself, especially in nature, is essential for really getting to know who you are and where you are going.

Let’s take a closer look at why that would be true.  In the hyper-connected world we live in, alone time has, for some, become not only un-obtainable, but nearly unthinkable. A 2014 study at the University of Virginia published in Science found that when participants were given the choice of being alone with their thoughts or subjecting themselves to electric shocks, a full two-thirds of the men and a quarter of the women chose to shock themselves instead!

Times of solitude aren’t for everyone. Dr. Kenneth Rubin, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland, explains that for solitude to be useful, certain preconditions have to be satisfied. The period of solitude has to be voluntary, you have to be able to regulate your own emotions, you have to be free to break the solitude and rejoin a social group whenever you want, and you have to be able to maintain positive relationships in a general sense.  Basically, you must be a stable, mature person who already has solid social connections.

It’s likely you are a stable, mature person and can see the benefits an occasional period of solitude might offer.  What is it specifically about solitude in nature that allows us look more deeply into ourselves than alone time spent indoors or in a city environment?

There is ample evidence that being in nature is good for us, both physically and mentally. The Japanese people have a delightful term they use for spending time in the woods. They call it shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ and a 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine backs up the benefits of this practice – lowered blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people who walked in the forest contrasted to those who walked in a city environment.

Richard Louv, a journalist and author of nine books who coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ is on a personal quest to bring the power of nature back into our daily lives and the lives of our children. As he puts it, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Native Americans over the centuries embarked on a journey of solitude in nature called a Vision Quest in order to reveal the nature of their life’s purpose.  Most of us aren’t going to be doing that any time soon, but we can still reap the benefits of quiet time in nature.  A morning walk in a quiet park, a hike on a nearby trail, even a solitary tour through your local botanical gardens can be restorative.   When I lived in south Florida, one of my favorite places to spend time was Fairchild Tropical Gardens, a dazzling collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants, trees, tropical fruit, orchids and other flowers.  Living in Colorado, I’m fortunate to have access to many beautiful forest trails.  There’s always a way to spend time in nature and I find it increasingly important as the pace of life seems to continue to pick up speed.

Ask yourself how can you add some alone time in nature to your routine. You will be repaid many times over.



As we come into this time of Thanksgiving, I always like to let you know how much I appreciate all of you – those of you who read my articles, comment on and share them, my clients, and those I have met throughout my coaching journey.   It means so much to me that you take time out of your busy lives to read my words and share your thoughts, and for that I am truly grateful.

Enjoy this time of Thanksgiving with family and friends!

International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching

Congratulations to the 1,000+ health & wellness coaches who are the first in our country to become National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches. You have followed a standard of excellence in this growing field!

From Self-Sufficiency Comes Confidence -The Seventh Tenet

This tenet is one of my favorites from Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness.  From an early age, we strive to become self-sufficient, first learning to walk, then run. As adolescents and young adults, we strive to forge our own identities and learn how to become independent.

So what does the Seventh Tenet – From Self-Sufficiency Comes Confidence, mean to you today, as an adult? By now, you have already likely mastered learning to support yourself, and are independent and out in the world, either working at a job or as an entrepreneur.

In our modern world, where we are dependent on our cars to get us where we want to go, on  smartphones to connect to the world, computers that allow us to work anywhere, climate controlled houses and offices that keep us comfortable, and on electricity itself to keep everything running, we may not be as self-sufficient as we like to think.  Just let the power go out for an hour or two!

Climbing one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks this summer with Matthew!

Even if we haven’t been directly affected by the any of the natural disasters that have plagued the planet lately, we’ve watched others who have had to cope with hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes and wildfires. What would you do if you suddenly found yourself without shelter or food or clean water?

The Seventh Tenet tells us that when we cultivate increased self-sufficiency, we gain confidence and power that will overshadow fear. He tells of the Australian Aboriginal people that believe that if you cannot just walk out onto the land and adequately feed, clothe and shelter yourself, a deep, primal fear will grip your soul.  Ok, must of us likely won’t find ourselves in that situation, but you get the idea.  It’s about the confidence that comes when we cultivate self-sufficiency and independence.  We know we can take care of business if we have to.

Consciously choosing to cultivate skills – learning to grow some of your own food, bake bread from scratch, going hiking in the wilderness, even learning to do some mechanical tasks like changing the oil in your car or fixing a flat tire on your bike – mastering skills such as these, will give you confidence and power that will carry over into other areas of your life.

I’m not recommending you go to survival school or a Navy Seal style boot camp to take advantage of the lessons this tenet offers. Choose something that’s learnable but out of your comfort zone, something that preferably reconnects you to the natural world. Perhaps it’s completing a ropes course high in the trees, starting a vegetable garden, or pitching a tent, even if it’s in your own backyard, and spending a night under the stars.

Try it out.  Challenge yourself. Pick something and commit to it. As Dr. Arloski says, “Recognizing our interconnectedness, we grow tremendously when we can care for ourselves on many different levels…We need to learn these skills and teach them to others, especially our children.” More self-confidence and self-respect will surely follow.

YOU Are Responsible -The Sixth Tenet

Dr. Michael Arloski, the originator of the Ten Tenets of Wellness was, in a way, ahead of his time with the Sixth Tenet: You Are Responsible.  It’s true that genetics and environment play a big role in our wellbeing but ultimately, for most of us, our health is under our control through the choices we make every day.

Taking responsibility for your life, including your health, is not a new idea. Everyone from the ancient Stoics, to the Dalai Lama to Tony Robbins, advocates the concept that everything in our lives is, in some way, the product of our own decisions. Your health and wellness is no exception. In 1994, when the Ten Tenets were first published, no one had an inkling that our daily choices, which play such a big part in our health, could actually be affecting our DNA!

Up until just a few years ago, everyone believed the genes you received from your parents at birth were  a done deal. In other words, you were stuck with what you’ve got. But now scientists are doing a double take. There’s even a whole new name to describe the study of how external factors can actually affect your genetic programming, the field of epigenetics. Turns out that your genes just don’t work blindly, but need instructions to carry out their programming. These instructions come, in part, from external factors such as your nutrition choices, the quality of your sleep, exercise and other factors which all affect your genes and can work to switch them on or off.

The knowledge that our lifestyle choices can influence and even override our genetics brings the concept of self-responsibility to a whole new level.

I’ve occasionally heard stories of individuals who decide someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer are somehow at fault because the person has been ‘stuffing their feelings’ or didn’t follow a vegan diet, etc. (This actually happened to my mother when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer – it was not helpful!)  That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m referring to is just wanting you to become highly aware that your daily choices, even though they may seem totally insignificant at the time, add up over time to profoundly affect your health and wellness.

That doesn’t you have to police yourself rigidly and never indulge in dessert or miss a day of exercise. It does mean understanding and accepting responsibility for those choices, and their effect on your overall wellbeing over time.

Many things in this complicated world are out of our control. We always, however, have control over ourselves – our thoughts and our actions. At the end of the day, adopting a wellness lifestyle is a choice  we can make that has immediate and long-term benefits!

Here are some of my favorite quotes about self-responsibility. I hope they inspire you to embrace the Sixth Tenet:

“In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are our own responsibility.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“You may believe you are responsible for what you do but not for what you think.The truth is you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself.” ~ Jim Rohn

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” ~ Joan Didion

“Whatever happens, take responsibility.” ~ Tony Robbins

Enjoy this beautiful autumn!

Connectedness Works – The Fifth Tenet

We’re halfway through our deep dive into Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness.  Last time, we looked at the Fourth Tenet, Wake Up! and today we’re going to look at the Fifth Tenet, Connectedness Works.

This is a really interesting principle, because it goes beyond supportive human relationships and emphasizes loving and grounding relationships with other species; animals, plants, and the earth itself. With everything that’s been happening on the planet lately – Category Five hurricanes in the Atlantic, earthquakes in Mexico and Japan, wildfires in the West – this tenet couldn’t be more timely.

Depending on where you live, it can be easy to become disconnected from the natural world, especially if you are in an urban area.  There’s increasing evidence that time spent in nature has a direct positive effect on our health, so finding ways to get more connected can benefit us both emotionally and physically.

Dr. Arloski writes that it’s not only our connectedness to other people, but to other species and the earth that truly ‘grounds’ us in our lives and lets us discover at a deep level that we truly are ‘all of one heart.’ Getting to a place where we can really identify with where we live, being able to know the local plants, animals, rock formations, the weather patterns of our region; all are important for reconnecting with the earth, our home.

Poet and author Gary Snyder wrote a beautiful Pulitzer Prize-winning book published in 1974, called Turtle Island, filled with a mythical, mystical, collection of poems and prose designed to call us to rediscover the land on which we live, and realize our place as natives of our place on earth.  (Turtle Island is the name given to North America according to some Indigenous groups.)

For All ~ Gary Snyder

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern Rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

Tenet Five invites you to reconnect with your place on this planet, wherever you find yourself. Get out in the natural world. Get to know the local plants, not just the ones in your flower garden. What might have been seen as a mere ‘weed’ now becomes a plant with a life story and history of its own. Maybe it’s a valuable medicinal herb!

Pick up a copy of Snyder’s Turtle Island and let his words speak to you. Or read the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, who was deeply connected to the land where he lived in Carmel, California. Or Pulitzer-prize winning poet Mary Oliver, who has touched so many with her words evocative of the natural world, especially with her well known poem, Wild Geese.

I will leave you with a couple of questions: What is special and precious about the area in which you live?  Do you have any favorite native animals, birds, flowers, trees?  When you allow yourself to re-establish your connection to the earth, you’ll likely find you’ve re-established a sense of profound beauty, peace and harmony that is to be found nowhere else.

Wake Up! – The Fourth Tenet

WDr. Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness. Last time we looked at Tenet Three – Supportive Relationships Are a Must. Today we’re going to look at a principle that may at first glance seem a bit unusual: Tenet Four – Wake Up!

What does Dr. Arloski mean when he encourages us to Wake Up? Don’t worry, he’s not asking us to try to reach sudden enlightenment, although if you take what he says to heart, you’ll start to live your life in a more enlightened way. What he’s talking about here is becoming more conscious…living a more conscious and aware life.  


How many of us go through our day on auto-pilot, never thinking about our choices, or their long-term effect on our sense of well-being? Making the choice to wake up and live a more conscious life can be one of the most important moments to start you on your journey to true wellness.

Having the ability to operate unconsciously is an essential part of who we are.  Having your autonomic nervous system, which operates for the most part outside of conscious awareness, in charge of the functions of your major organs is a good thing. I, for one, don’t want to have to remember to keep my heart pumping!

The ability to operate unconsciously is also good for those tasks that you have done so often you could almost do them with your eyes closed. For example, unlike when you were five or six and struggled with tangled laces to tie your shoes, as an adult you can likely carry on a conversation and tie your shoes at the same time.

It’s when we slip into living life unconsciously that we can end up not really living at all. As Dr. Arloski puts it, “Conscious living means becoming aware of all the choices we have and acting on them.” But like mindfulness meditation, living this way all the time is not easy.   An easy way to start? Pick just one thing at a time and practice being conscious of it for a few days.  

Some examples:  At mealtime, really notice how your food tastes.  Truly experience how good a hot shower feels after a long day. Take a few moments to really appreciate the turn of the leaves and riot of fall colors. Things like that.   Gradually, you’ll start to notice that you can act based on this noticing. Maybe you’ll slow down a little (or a lot!) when you are eating, taking time to really savor your food. Maybe you’ll not be so quick to jump out of the shower and just luxuriate in your clean skin with the soapy water running down for a few minutes longer than you normally would. I think you get the idea.

I’ve heard it said that life is really made up of moments.  That’s what we’re really talking about.  Experiencing the moments as we live them, being present for them.

It’s when you start to live consciously that you start to really live. And that means bringing conscious awareness to all your choices.  How fully present you are as you converse with a loved one, even when you’re feeling preoccupied or out of sorts.  One of my favorite parts of the day is waking up to my dogs, Charlie and Princeton, and their happy, expectant faces.

Try picking out that one thing this week to really notice, and experience, and start on the path to Waking Up!