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Change Your Environment… Change Your Life.

in Do What You Love, Money Basics, Sell Your 'Stuff', Videos

Today, I’m sharing a video post about an important topic that applies to finances, lifestyle, and business.  Actually, I believe it to be the most important element of making any change.

This may just be a personality thing, but I’m starting to hear from others that it’s universal (not just me).  :-)

  • [2:08] – How “changing your environment” can be applied in your finances.
  • [3:25] – Why the same principle helped us sell 95% of our clutter (and why it’s fighting against us now).  :-)
  • [4:38] – My fitness advice…  ironic, yes I know.  (Actually it’s environment-based fitness advice I recently read!)
  • [6:37] – Conclusion and questions for you guys!
  • [7:00] – I show off my cool new office swag (pictures of media mentions that Courtney framed).

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this issue.  Specifically, whether you feel the benefit in the same way I do and how you take steps to accomplish “environment change”.  It’s been a very interesting concept for me lately.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherri Kruger June 1, 2010 at 10:50 AM

Hey Adam,

I totally agree with everything you’ve said. In my own experience simply changing rooms, heading outside or using a different computer has done wonders for inspiration and productivity. Working in a coffee shop or a library helps with that too. I like the idea of applying this to finances as well. Cutting up credit cards and closing accounts removes all temptation and really gets you a lot further ahead especially if you are out of control.

Great video and well done Courtney for getting those things framed! The little things make a big difference.
All the best,
Sherri

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Yeah, I owe her big time! :-)

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Erica Douglass June 1, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Yep! I’ve experienced this before, too:
http://www.erica.biz/2009/what-is-not-working-for-you/

We’ve since moved to a bigger house and I’m back to working from home again.

In 2009, I went through months of being unproductive and feeling exhausted. As entrepreneurs we tend to think it’s all in our head or that we can “power through it”, but sometimes we need to ask for help. In my case it was getting a team of doctors together and getting tests until we figured out what was wrong. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and had to make a major lifestyle change. This was hard for me to deal with…having a problem that I had to ask for help with.

If there is a lack of motivation on your part, it may be something deeper.

-Erica

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Erica, this is actually a really good point. Sometimes Courtney gets low iron. She’s always been a “power through it” person (and is good at that), but I’m always telling her to check it out.

Sometimes it’s hard to consider other options, but I probably need to! :-)

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Melange the Travel Hugger June 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM

I totally agree with you. I remember when I was in university the only place I could study was in the dining room. I felt like that was my space for me to focus and study hard. It was also the tidiest room in our house too. My mom always said, that if you have clutter in your space (room, house, desk, etc) you will have clutter in your life.

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Oh definitely! Whenever my desk gets clutter I can kiss productive work bye-bye…

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Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things June 1, 2010 at 11:24 AM

“Running in the morning, which is a habit I would like to do but have never done in my life” -I love your honesty =)

Getting out the door is the hardest part. Once you decide to do something just do it.

I call it the “Screw It & Do It” Mindset =)

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Works in so many areas! Why then, is running so hard… ;-)

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Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things June 1, 2010 at 3:40 PM

That’s what I want to know!

I find signing up for races makes it a little easier and gives me a boost of motivation. (i.e. I need to suffer now where I’m the only watching what I’m doing, or I’ll suffer in front of lots of people during race time that all can see me gasping for air) :)

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Emme June 2, 2010 at 4:48 PM

Hey guys, sorry to butt in, but have you heard of the couch to 5K program? I’m new to Man Vs. Debt so you may have mentioned it before. It got me off my non-running arse and running 3 miles in no time. Then my knees quit on me, and I quit too. But I digress. Its a great program, its got podcasts to download and listen to while you’re running, which helps a lot. Anyhoo, here it is: http://www.c25k.com/

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Betsy Talbot June 1, 2010 at 11:34 AM

Hey, Baker. Call me and we’ll talk running – I went from a couch potato last fall to training for a half-marathon (coming up in just a few weeks!). When you talk about changing environment, I think that includes habits/people as well. Once I got a regular running partner it made a huge change for me. I found that running by myself was great, but I need the motivation of another person to get there. So I run with someone who is faster than me so that we start out together and then each get solo running time.

We just sold all our possessions, too. Now we rent 2 furnished rooms from a friend. The change in my work/eating/sleeping habits has been amazing. No more mindless snacking because the kitchen is right next to her home office and I would feel weird. I also work in a room adjacent to the living room, so in the evening I naturally stop because it is a social/relaxation time. And sleep is so much better now because I do stop working/surfing early and can wind down and get to bed at a decent hour. I would not have made these changes with my own willpower.

I’ve been a big proponent of change the last 10 years. My life keeps moving forward and growing because I keep putting myself in new situations and meeting new people. It isn’t always easy, but there is a great reward for doing this. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

One last thing (man, I should have made this a blog post), you have to get the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. It is all about changing environment to change your actions. You will love this book.

Good luck with your efforts, and feel free to Skype me if you want to chat about running.

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Betsy, I’ll be getting that book for sure!

When do you leave? Isn’t it really, really, really soon? I’ll give you a call for sure. E-mail me so we can set it up! ;-)

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Leigh June 1, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Yes! My former boss and mentor has to have a tidy office at all times. At first I thought it was a bit neurotic, but then I realized that eliminating all of the clutter from her environment helped her to focus on the tasks at hand. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck at work, I start to organize my desk or office. Throw things away. Put things away. Simplify. The act of controlling clutter helps me mentally function better. Environment is really important!

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:50 PM

I’ve made the exact 180 you have. I used to make fun of people like that, but now I almost can’t operate when clutter is around! Haha.

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James Schipper June 1, 2010 at 12:08 PM

I agree that changing your environment can be very helpful to productivity, creativity, or whatever other category you want to apply it. Working even from different positions other than sitting or standing at a desk works well for me.

Sometimes writing straight from my head onto the screen works, and other times I can go lie down and write with a pen on paper. I believe like I said on your travel post, that it can go too far, if you’re trying to escape some aspect of your life, it will eventually catch up. But used in a healthy way, it is a very useful technique I use to get things done. I had a “home office” set up, but I ended up so rarely sitting at the desk, I gave up the space. I mainly work at the dining room table, but I spend time on the floor, on the patio, down the street at the park, or occasionally the coffee shops, when the mood strikes.

I can’t bear the thought of staring at the same wall for 80% of my waking hours, even if it does have a nice view.

We may try that getting our shoes thing :-)

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Yeah, I’m fairly convinced I don’t need an “office” anymore. Well, not a home office. I’d be much more productive going away from my house into an office. Just a spare room isn’t enough any more.

I wouldn’t have known had I not tried though!

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Siddhartha June 1, 2010 at 12:41 PM

I think you bring up a great point early in the video about the connection between environment and attitude, especially with regard to willpower.

I think it’s the difference between what we’re able to do and what’s easy for us to do. This is all about doing thing that make it easier to do what you want to do.

I, like you, and I think most people, like to believe I am capable of exercising self-control. But that doesn’t mean we need to make it as difficult as possible. It’s like putting the cookies on the top shelf behind the paper plates instead of on the counter. You can still get to them if you want to, it just takes a little more effort to do it and sometimes it helps us make the right decision.

Thanks for this great idea. Not new, not brilliant, but actionable and effective.

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:52 PM

You nailed it, Sid.

So often people think that making environmental changes are only necessary if you are “weak” in some form. I don’t view it as a sign of weakness… I view it as a sign of strength!

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Cameron June 1, 2010 at 1:35 PM

Hey Baker, great post, man!

I’d have to agree with Siddhartha above me in regards to your willpower point. I’m the kind of person that tends to overestimate my will power when it comes time to buckle down and get things going, so to have the safety-net of an environment that will get you going is a tip I’ll definitely be employing.

- Cam

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Even if you can walk the tightrope 99% of the time, wouldn’t you still want a safety net? :-) That’s what I thought after I read your comment. That’s my philosophy!

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Micah June 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM

Good post. Everything related to success starts in the mind and any little trick we can do to reprogram our mind and focus is great. Our concious mind likes to pass of thinking to the subconcious. This means when we see the same thing over and over (think daily commute to work) we tend to go into autopilot with not much concious thinking going on. If we change environment our concious brain gets a jump start.

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Great point, Micah. That’s the whole concept behind UNAUTOMATE your finances! I of all people should know that… ;-)

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poch June 1, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Very soon I’ll write a detailed piece about this topic because this is exactly what my priority problem is. And believe me changing environment is not an easy simple task. Being in a very negative environment is like being in hell some people just can’t seem to escape.

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:54 PM

It’s simple, but not easy. Sometimes it can be downright difficult (as you pointed out). Send me the post when you write it!

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Alison Doyle June 1, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Hey Baker,
Change your environment change your life – absolutely! The catch is you are your environment and you can’t not take you where ever it is you go.
At the end of the day (and at the start too) it’s all about energy. The energy that you generate in yourself and inside your space is ultimately what makes up your environment.
I could prattle on about this for hours I’m all about the space inside yourself and how that translates to the space outside of you. Your clutter whether it is physical, emotional, financial… it all has a piece of you in the energy worlds and that’s energy that you don’t have access too…to do you today.
I’d love to chat more but I gotta fly.
All the best Baker.
Ali
ps website should be live any day now…wish me luck!
ps Alter your stride and meet a stranger…

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:55 PM

I agree. You’ve gotten to get as much energy from the environments you can control to pull you through the ones you can’t!

Good luck with the site launch!

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Meg June 1, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Okay, seriously, I’ve planned on writing an article to whore out, er, try to get for a guest post somewhere, on capitalizing on changes… This is like the exact same wavelength I was thinking on! Creepy. For real.

My huge change catalyst was moving. We’re finally in Spokane, WA, been here for a week now. House was totally rearranged. I changed a few things around I always should have. I redid some things the way I’ve always wanted them to be. Biggest change is having my desk out in the living room for my computer. No more laying on the couch and surfing, I’m making myself be at my desk… Then I feel guilty for not being somewhat productive! :P (I still use the tv as background noise. Habit since I was a kid, too hard to break and it doesn’t really cause me a problem. Unless I’m not home alone and don’t get to pick what’s on…. Lol.)

But yes, I definitely need to get on to writing that article, and will probably point to this now. :) So glad I’m not the only one!

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:56 PM

Do it, Meg!

I didn’t see you had already left. Congrats! We’ll have to catch up sometime. Hope the new base is treating you and hubby awesome!

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Meg June 2, 2010 at 10:47 PM

I need to, but I’m letting the idea simmer a bit more until I have it all put together the way I want it.

Definitely! :) I need to get my butt messing with skype some, I’m missing out on these big things ha. Considering we’ve only been here for just over a week, it’s certainly much nicer! I feel bad that you had to see our trashy house and not this cozy one. :P

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Andy Hough June 1, 2010 at 2:44 PM

It would be nice if you would include a transcript when you do a video post. I haven’t been able to get this video to play all the way through. Even when the videos do work they take ten times longer to watch then reading a post would take. I know that video blogging is the hip new thing and I am probably in a minority but I don’t see that the post gained anything from being in a video format.

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Baker June 1, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Andy, sorry about the problems!

It’s weird you can’t get it to play all the way through. The reason I’ve done more videos isn’t to be hip (although I like hip), it’s just because I connect with them a lot more. It’s much more fluid for me, personally.

That said, I know some people don’t prefer them. If I could find a trusty program that creates transcripts (I know they exist out there), I’d love to provide it. I’ll make a note to look into it in the next few days!

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Dustin | Engaged Marriage June 1, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Great post, Baker. I totally agree about the power of environment. When I was training for my first Century bike ride last year, I did most of my training rides over lunch. My biggest challenge was always getting out of the office and getting home to my bike instead of getting pulled to go out to eat during that time. Right now, I’m doing P90X home workouts, and my biggest obstacle is always getting from my bed to the basement at 6:00 a.m. Once I’m there, I’m golden

This approach holds true in marriage, too, by the way. One great way to generate a spark in the intimacy department is to do some remodeling in the bedroom (or where ever you like to get intimate ;) ) to change the environment and facilitate it.

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schismarch June 1, 2010 at 3:54 PM

About a month ago I did exactly what you describe about “getting out the door.” I needed to start walking to try and regain my endurance after a six-month-long illness, and it seemed so insurmountable. I couldn’t find the right time, or I couldn’t get the rhythm, or the challenge of it seemed too intense when I was still feeling poorly.

Eventually I decided I was going to try the one thing I never though I’d be able to sustain–going for a walk in the morning before I ran to catch the bus–just once, to see what it was like. A month later, I manage to get out the door at least five times a week for a good thirty-forty minutes in the morning.

For me it wasn’t just the getting out the door; I also needed an external actor. My roommate’s labrador was perfect for that. I take him with me on the walk, and making sure he’s okay and into it and is walking at pace with me takes my mind off the physical act of walking itself and lets me forget about what I’m doing and concentrate on what he’s doing. That helped a lot, because now it feels like a responsibility to take the dog with me so he gets a little extra time outside.

I’m a little surprised that I’ve managed to be so consistent over the last month. I ended up getting a pedometer to track my progress, and having data to play with is fun too.

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Brooke June 1, 2010 at 4:51 PM

I got through college on leaving the house everyday and seeking out cool places in libraries or cafes to do my studying. ‘ worked like a charm. Having a favorite desk lamp or pen works wonders too. Like you said, Baker, it is the baby steps, the little motivators that make the difference. Thanks for reminding me of a good practice as we head back to the States and re-start our careers. Brooke

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Maureen Thomson June 1, 2010 at 6:06 PM

Baker,

The strategy you discuss is one that has worked in the weight loss field for years. Hence the Spa! The regiment in which clients participate at these places is not new–it’s simply conducted in an environment that is different than the client’s home.

Same thing with marital counseling. Get the couple away from the place where they fight and into the neutral territory of the counselor’s office and Voila! They become able to communicate effectively (with assistance perhaps)

Remove the child throwing a tantrum from the environment and watch him calm down quicker than if you try to sooth him then and there.

And as far as we work-from-homers are concerned, productivity soars when we shake up our environment a bit. I think what you did in going to your friend’s office was genius. Nothing like a change of scenery to shake things up.

You’d enjoy the book Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter. Even if you’re not into feng shui (the main premise of the book) there are still tons of useful tips to reorganize one’s environment to maximize various attributes.

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Caroline June 1, 2010 at 8:23 PM

Hey – I really wanted to see your video, but it was not playable on my computer – very very very slow. We have dish, so I was surprised it did not play.

Thanks Caroline

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Financial Samurai June 2, 2010 at 12:06 AM

Nice insights Baker. I guess this is why so many people who work from home go out and rent a room or office to work. Cabin fever is tough.

I have to imagine living back in Indiana is kinda strange compared to being in Thailand and NZ yes?

Do you long to go on an adventure again?

Thanks for your honest assessment. I’m gonna go on a credit card cessation myself. Spending too much!

Cheers,

Sam

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Lou Mindar June 2, 2010 at 10:27 AM

Baker — Execellent post! And very timely too. I have struggled for quite some time with trying to be more productive. I work from home and I’ve often thought about getting a small office. Instinctively, I have felt that getting out of the house and going to a place designed for work would help me be more productive. However, I’ve never been able to justify it from a financial standpoint. Perrhaps I’ve been short-sighted.

Your post has made me reconsider the need for a new environment in which to work. Thanks for sharing. Your thoughts were helpful.

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Justin June 3, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Really like the video post! I use the same idea in school when I get the most stuff done at the library.

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Brecht June 4, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Sometimes “motivation” isn’t what’s holding you back or why you’re not doing what you “know” you should be doing. Sometimes what’s holding you back is your perception of you.

I have often seen in my career especially with salespeople (and independent business owners/professionals) that periods of success can be followed by periods of inaction, loss of motivation, and low activity.

If you perceive yourself as someone who makes a certain amount of money or as someone who has a certain lifestyle you will find it almost impossible to make any more or live any better. You will stop what you are doing that is good and productive and you will find reasons to waste time and do nothing as soon as you are close to your “limit”. Your subconscious will prevent you from succeeding because you have already decided what you’re worth and what you can do and the universe will not allow you to surpass those expectations.

In the last sales management role I had we set regular weekly activity goals for everybody, as a baseline, for what they should be doing (calls etc). Regardless of what the goal was almost everyone would do just a little bit less… with only one exception and she would always do just a little bit more…. bizarre.

Maybe I’m just talking out loud and I’m certainly not saying that this is why your May was what it was, but I know that I have been a victim of myself on occasion and I’ve seen it in many, many others.

The only cure for this is of course to raise your perception of self.

Do change your environment, I do it occasionally and its a great idea, but if you’re rearranging deck chairs….

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poch June 5, 2010 at 6:56 AM

Excellent comment. This reminds me of a book by Paolo Coelho where the main character travels the world searching for something only to find out that what he’s searching for is just in his own backyard.
But of course there are situations where we really need to change environment which is my predicament.

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Fred Schebesta June 9, 2010 at 12:19 AM

The part I struggle with the most is the distractions. Other things that I distract myself with that prevents me from maximising my productivity.

That is why I find the most productive work that I get done is at night when no one else is around. I guess that is sort of a change in environment?

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Kat June 25, 2010 at 1:49 AM

Nearly a year ago I made what I thought would be a fairly minor change — I swapped out grains and sugar in my diet with healthy fats (gotta get the fuel from somewhere!). I didn’t do anything fancy, I didn’t count anything (grams or calories or anything), I just decided to eat “real food, mostly meat and veggies”. This change in my environment (no more pasta/bread at home) has had a huge impact on me — I lost about 50 lbs, and feel way more energetic… but it also changed other things that I thought were completely unrelated. I’ve learned a lot more about cooking and cooking techniques. I sleep better. My hair and skin look better, and require less product to look healthy (even more money saved). I’ve gotten more interested in things like barefoot running. Even though I’m buying more meat I spend far less on food because I no longer buy snacks and candy and soda and a gazillion other things that I used to be hooked on. It sounds like a diet, but it wasn’t meant to be one, and hasn’t felt like it (I eat when hungry, and I cook delicious food). It’s been an experiment, not a regimented thing. I found a bunch of folks over at marksdailyapple.com that were experimenting with the same sort of thing, which helped with inspiration. Gawd. I sound like an infomercial! Anyway, I’ve mused a lot about how this change seemed like such a simple thing and has had such a profound impact on me in so many unexpected ways.

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ChristineWithRegence June 28, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Great tips! For ideas on how you can take charge of your own health care costs, check out Whatstherealcost.org.

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Moneyedup July 23, 2010 at 11:23 PM

Trying to work in a cluttered room can be just as distracting as trying to work in front of the tv. When I was in school, right around exam time, things would get messy because I would forget about cleaning up an only focus on studying. Then it got to a point that the mess was a distraction so I would avoid studying by cleaning up. I clean work space can make all the difference!

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heather October 10, 2010 at 11:53 AM

This is so helpful. My 13 year old just had a hideous experience with her gym teacher the other day. The teacher is one of those nightmare, out-of-shape, former jocks living through her students type teachers and I haven’t slept much all weekend trying to figure out how to help my duaghter face the thought of two years with this gorgon.

My initial thoughts were to get her out of the class, get the teacher fired etc. Not likely and not very positive.

This post made me think that I can try to change the “environment” for her. Maybe help her pick out shoes that would make the required running more comfortable, see if she can run with her ipod, maybe work out with her during these first few weeks of school to get her in shape faster (and get the negative comments from the teacher reduced)

Thanks so much!

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Kerry D. November 10, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Hi Heather,

Although getting your daughter out of the class is not likely, I’d request a meeting with the teacher, preferably with the principal or other administrator present. We have had a number of insensitive teachers for our kids, who are ignorant of student’s challenges, and P.E. teachers top the list. It IS reasonable for your daughter to improve her running skills, and that may require hard work. But, it is NEVER ok for a teacher to make demeaning or negative comments. (As a dance teacher at college/university level, I find it takes about 3 weeks to improve strength and endurance, so she should hang in there and challenge herself to improve, not because of negativity but for her own satisfaction.)

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change your life March 1, 2011 at 10:58 AM

I recently heard someone say, “focus on the donut, not the hole” and that statement really impacted me. Don’t get excited

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