Paula Levin

#coached7 To dream the impossible dream

Becoming a morning person

#coached Sterna and Paula – supplied

I’m not a morning person. I actually hate mornings. I wake up feeling exhausted and I spend my first few minutes of consciousness trying to work out a legitimate reason why I don’t have to get up. (I never come up with anything, but that doesn’t stop me from pointlessly engaging in a desperate battle with myself to stay horizontal). In December, while away on holiday, I realised that if my day started at 9 or 10am, I would be a million times happier. Well it doesn’t. And the snooze button trips me up on a daily basis. Making my mornings rushed and unpleasant. I’ve been tired of this daily battle for a really long time. Years. But not quite tired of it enough to come up with a plan. And I guess that’s been true of many, many things about my life. Until I started coaching. 

I didn’t have much hope of Sterna turning me into a morning person, but I thought this would be the ultimate test of her abilities as a personal and executive coach! Give her an unfixable problem – and finally be at peace with awful mornings, knowing it’s beyond help. Well, Sterna was having none of that. For an hour we worked through ideas to make my mornings amazing enough to get up for (more on this in the next blog) but I put a spanner in the works. WHAT IF? What if I fail at this, and then I feel depressed and ashamed, and go back to awful mornings?

And that’s when Sterna gave this concept a name that resonated so much – the UNKNOWN. I often feel worried about a possible outcome when actually the future is unknown. What a waste of time! It’s called anxiety and I’m sure many of you are familiar with it but Sterna helped me see for myself that when an ACTUAL negative event happens, I’m actually really good at dealing with it. When it’s something real, I rally with faith, resilience and solutions. (As so many of us do!) It’s in that space of the UNKNOWN that I am frozen, trying to deal with imaginary outcomes, feeling overwhelmed, afraid and helpless. What I loooove about coaching is that it’s not important where these destructive patterns of thinking come from – only awareness that they are happening and a real plan to move forward differently than before.

If only I could catch myself at that moment I am contemplating the UNKNOWN and stop! Turns out, I can. With awareness and practice. Sterna reassured me of the plasticity of the brain and my ability to think new thoughts and do new things. She even showed me a really awesome video* (see the link below) depicting the pathways we create with our thoughts and how we can choose new thoughts to light up other paths within the brain. 

Author Loren Samowitz quotes American neuroscientist Dr Michael Merzenich in her upcoming book Brain Pop saying that 90% of our thoughts are repetitive! “If you repeat something often enough, it creates a neural pathway in the brain. So if your negative thoughts get repeated enough, they become habitual. Thoughts can release brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and electrical impulses that can also create pathways in your brain. These pathways will influence your feelings and behaviour.”

But the power was in my hands to create new pathways, and ‘rewrite the stars’. In the week that followed our last session, I realised that wasting time and emotional energy over the unknown are totally toxic for me. I think this habit is exactly why I often get stuck and feel stuck.

Coaching has helped me set deadlines for myself so I throw myself into action. But it’s not only about deadlines. Or even taking action. If that’s all it took, most people wouldn’t quit their new year’s resolutions within days or weeks! If “just do it” was that simple, gyms wouldn’t make so much money in January with sign ups that peter out after a month. Making change sustainable is the tricky part. And becoming a morning person is a lifetime goal where deadlines don’t really apply. Maybe I had Sterna stumped? Or maybe she had some coaching magic up her sleeve? 


About the Author
Paula is a wife, mother and writer - based in Johannesburg, South Africa, dreaming of Israel. She is a full-time thinker, part-time copywriter at her husband's advertising agency, journalist and published author. The former editor of Jewish Life magazine, she is now a regular contributor with a passion for contributing goodness, kindness and wisdom to this world.