What spot would you pick? A choose your own adventure mini-tale...

How many times have you been faced with a decision where you could stay where you were - even though you were kind of miserable - or you could do something different, but there was no guarantee it'd be better? This type of decision happened recently in a session with a client.

I do some coaching on the phone, but I will also meet with people in-person. I think it's valuable because so many things are virtual that I think it's important to continue to cultivate face-to-face connection.

So at this particular in-person session, a client and I were sitting outside in the shade. We were feeling cold, because, well, it was a little cold that day. I asked my client if he would like to move to a different spot because it was more in the sun and it might help keep us warmer.

He turned to look over at the spot, turned back around, gave a look that said to me "eh", and said "It probably wouldn't make a difference." (I may be paraphrasing, but that was the overall message I got.)

So I asked him: "Do you notice what you did there?" He thought for a second, and gave a bit of a knowing albeit quizzical look, but didn't say anything.

So I said something like "You chose to stay where you were instead of seeing if something else was better. You assumed the situation would turn out negatively so you chose not to try. Do you notice you do that with other things?"

At that point the metaphorical light bulb turned on over his head and he admitted that tended to be the case. He said "you're right, we're not any worse off if we try it."

We either went over there and were still cold, or we went over there and we got a little warmer. We could also still move back to the other spot. Either way, it was unlikely we'd be EVEN colder.

In the end, we moved to the other spot. I don't even remember if we ended up being warmer or not, because that wasn't the important part.

What was important was in that moment, he chose to give something that had potential to be better a chance, rather than staying somewhere that was mediocre at best.

This led to talking about things like feeling stuck, feeling unmotivated, being afraid of change, and complacency.

The situation was a great example of how small choices can illustrate a larger pattern; in this case how we might deal with decisions. Some people take unnecessary risks, and some people don't take any risks at all. Which person do you want to be? What spot would you have picked?

If you had one moment, would you capture it?

Can you tell the title is a paraphrase of an Eminem song? I just heard it so I couldn't help myself. But anyway, would you? Capture it, that is...

Did I ever tell you about the time I got on stage in front of 6,000 people?

Wait, what? 6,000 people? You? I. Know.

At my first real out of college job we had three Erin's and they called me "the quiet Erin" because I was nice but I didn't talk much. (But hey, you know, I was getting stuff done...)

And around then you couldn't have paid me to dance in public. Not because I can't dance. But because I don't always like the attention that usually comes with it.

Well, one weekend, Better Than Ezra, a favorite band of mine, came to town. So of course I went to see them.

Somewhere toward the end of their set, they asked for some of the local ladies to come up on stage to dance and represent Nashville. My first thought was "no way, I don't want to look like a groupie".

Then my friend looked at me like "go". So I told her if she would hold my bag I would do it. 

She essentially ripped the bag out of my hands. 

So true to my word I headed down through the lawn section, past the seats and the barricades where the guards were letting some women through. Basically past about 6,000 people in the outdoor amphitheater.

I walked onto the stage and was like "holy... I can't believe I'm doing this".

I sang on stage for a bit a few years after I first landed in Nashville. Mostly in smaller clubs. I love singing but I don't have to be singing in front of people when I do it.

So it was so interesting and crazy to hear what it sounds like up on a big stage. I now completely understand what in-ear monitors are for.

I couldn't hear the lead singer at all. Halfway through the song I forgot what the song even was. I couldn't hear anything except the drums and the crowd cheering.

There were probably about 20 or so women up on stage and way more where that came from down in the audience. I wondered how many other women initially thought like me and didn't end up going on stage.

And you know what? If I had to sing in front of 6,000 people, I think I could do it now.

If this had happened at any other time in life I could almost guarantee you I would not have been up there.

But hey, I'd already made it through tripping (which I almost never do) going down the concrete steps from the lawn. Luckily I caught myself before I face planted into the concrete.

I didn't think to take my phone on stage and capture the moment. Which I think turned out even better because I was totally in the moment. Inwardly freaking out in the moment, but in the moment nonetheless.

I can remember the lead singer's guitar strap, when he said "we should hip bump", the guy staring at me from the audience, the girls taking pictures of themselves on the stage, the drummer's serious face, and the little bit of gray hair on the guitar player's head.

If there is one thing I want people to get out of this story, and when working with me, it's that even though you may not have done something before, you can still take action and do something different now.

And be as much in the moment as you can be. No phones necessary.

You don't have to get up on stage, but when an opportunity presents itself I hope you take it, instead of letting it pass you by. As a very popular country song says, I hope you dance.

It's not all in your head...

"Your grandma's not doing so well..."

I was talking to my mom on the phone when she said those words. My mom's mom was 102 years old at the time so it wasn't exactly surprising to hear that, but it wasn't comforting either.

My grandma had apparently been asking to see her mother (who had been gone for almost 60 years) and talking about things that didn't make a lot of sense. She seemed agitated, confused, and tired.

You may be thinking "well she is 102..." and dismiss this as just a fact of getting older, dementia, or maybe Alzheimer's. But in fact, something else was the culprit.

My grandma has always had a bit of a sweet tooth, which more often than not she tended to satisfy with lots of fruit. But over the previous few days, she had taken to eating sugar packets for a quick fix.

The doctor mentioned that her mental confusion could be an infection, as sometimes infections can affect the brain, so they made sure to run some tests. From previous experience with my grandma - knowing she doesn't always drink a lot of water or eat a lot of food - we wondered if her blood sugar or being dehydrated was instead the issue.

So my parents and the nurses made sure my grandma became well hydrated and ate some balanced food.

I checked with my mom the next few days to see how my grandma was doing. The tests came back negative for infection. And what do you know? My mom said "She looks even better than she has the last few years". Mentally, she was much more alert and coherent.

I can't prove to you the ONLY thing that healed her was better nutrition and hydration. At least not for 100% fact. But because this tends to be a pattern of my grandma's, it's a pretty sound theory.

Which brings me to what this wasn't...

Being in and around the coaching world, I hear all the time how "it's all about your mindset". 

My definition of mindset is the same as the dictionary's: A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations. An inclination or a habit.

But sometimes it's not entirely "fixed".

You can alter your body's (we sometimes overlook that our brain is a part of our body, not something outside of it) chemistry, composition and compulsions by changing other things. Such as increasing movement/exercise, getting enough sleep, having supportive relationships, and like my grandma, eating a more well balanced diet and drinking enough water.

How can you apply this to your mind and body? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

How much am I moving throughout the day? 

You don't have to do anything crazy. If you don't like Crossfit, for example, no problem. Find something you do like. Jump on a mini-trampoline or walk some place instead of driving. Moving around increases certain chemicals in your brain, in addition to strengthening muscles and helping you breathe more efficiently. It can also help with posture, and body position can also increase mood.

How much am I sleeping? Is it quality sleep? 

If 8 hours a day isn't what you need, no problem. Do 7 hours or 9 hours. Just pay attention to what you need and make sure you get it. Your body uses sleep time to rest and restore certain functions so if you're not getting that time, things don't run as smoothly. And your mental game suffers. How many times have you said something you didn't want to say because you were so tired? Not to mention if you're tired your body can crave quick burning food (read: sugars), which starts you down a poor nutritional path.

Do I feel supported in my home and work life? 

Whether that's your co-workers, a spouse, friends, or family, it's helpful to have people that support you and you them. If my grandma hadn't had me, my mom, and some medical professionals to help her she may not have gotten what she needed. Or been easily dismissed as old. We noticed a pattern and helped her figure out what to do about it. You can help others do the same, and vice versa.

How is the quality of the food I'm eating? Am I eating too much? Not enough? 

Paying attention to your body's signals can do a lot in helping you figure out what you need nutritionally. It's so hard to know what the "right diet" is. Partially because, in my humble opinion, there isn't one. For example, some people do really well eating a lot of complex, and sometimes simple, carbohydrates. Others need more protein. Others more fat. There are even times during the week or month you may need more than others. Blindly following a diet without taking into account all of your needs, can sometimes throw you off more than paying attention to how your body reacts to what you're eating.

Am I drinking enough water (for me)?

I don't totally believe in the 8 glasses of water a day suggestion. As a suggestion it's fine. You can drink 8 glasses of water a day and see how you feel. Is that enough for you? Too much? If you're eating a lot of fruit or drinking tea you may not need more water. If you exercised a lot that day, you may need more. I'm not afraid to get a little thirsty because it tells me something. You just don't want to get as far along as my grandma did because dehydration (or over hydration) can affect your mind for sure. You can feel dizzy, lethargic or angry.

So if you hear people say "just change your mindset" and it's been hard for you to "snap out of it" and do that, you're not a failure. There may be some other things you need to look at that could help you improve your overall (and that includes your brain) health.

Life and health is not just one thing. There are many things that interact and come together to create either an imbalanced or well balanced version of whoever you are. Hormones can affect what foods you want to eat, and consequently, if you eat healthier foods, it can affect your hormones in a positive way.

And whoever you are can change, once you figure out a way to look at the big picture and see the cause and effect of your actions.

My grandma is now 103 and spent her birthday basking in the sun (with a wide-brimmed hat on of course) at one of her favorite places. I hope, like her, you live your life to the fullest and look into what you could change to make your mental (and physical) state a more healthy one.