Rachel’s Challenge

Rachel is a super smart writer, editor, mother of four who, after reading my last blog post, gave me a challenge:

I’m going to be *really* obnoxious and ask, so, if you could go back and “start over”, what would you make your COEfor this nine week yoga class? Since as you admit in your post, 45 minutes 6 days a week was NOT possible, I’m very curious- would you commit to less time per day? If you did that, are you sure you would still go to class, or no, since you still knew you weren’t “living up” to the standard you or the teacher set? (I’m asking because I really want to hear from you what you think, not to torture you.)

Rachel, thank you – this was not torture. Okay, it was. But I got a lot of out of it!

Your question showed me I had seen my weak promise to myself but I had not renegotiated a new one. That was kind of a weany of me and everybody  seeing you are making impossible commitments is one thing, but the next step? Make a promise you can keep!

Next, I saw that I didn’t want to deal with this. Avoidance!  Squirming!

I finally peeked at the Satisfaction Finder and I went through the four elements of setting COE’s (Conditions of Enoughness):

  1. Name what is enough in simple facts. What you will actually do next. Measurable. Doable.
  2. Include a time element. By when, for how long, whatever.
  3. Ensure they’re dependent on ONLY YOU on an AVERAGE day. Not a superhuman day.
  4. Declare you are satisfied when your conditions are met—even if you don’t feel satisfied.

and then I still didn’t set any COE’s. Still didn’t make a new commitment to myself.

Jen, what’s the big deal?

It came to me last night.

Setting COE’s that I can actually keep is not sexy.

High lofty unclear goals are sexy. And safe. No actual action can be taken so I don’t have to actually live the messy process and experience the imperfect results.

I blush as I write this but it’s true. There is a part of me that likes to remain childlike and keep her dreams in the lofty, big, unclear realm.

Where someday I will “play a bigger game.”

And do yoga 45 minutes a day for six days a week no matter what my schedule looks like.

Rachel, we both know, given our conversations that real change – and real life – happens in the most prosaic ways, and places. Imperfectly, messily, beautifully.

I like big and sexy and unlimited – who doesn’t? – but my life happens here.

I like here more.

That’s one reason why my sweetheart Bob is such a great match for me. He loves the prosaic. Me, I’m more in love with potential.

Lucky they both start with P.

So my COE’s for this yoga series is:

Download all the classes

Rename them in order

Put them in one playlist

By 5 pm tomorrow.

That’s it. After I do that, I will declare myself satisfied even if I don’t feel satisfied, which I probably won’t. But teaching myself to see where I slink away from enoughness and into idealized possibility is key for me.

Do you keep some dreams – maybe exercise or losing weight or launching your blog – in the realm of weak, unclear but ever so sexy – promises?

Or maybe you are great at declaring enoughness and precious prosaic action? Do tell how you do that!

P.S. Here’s an older post about COE’s you might find useful.

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Tweets that mention Rachel’s Challenge: Rachel is a super smart writer, editor, mother of four who, after reading… -- Topsy.com - May 18, 2010

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jennifer Louden and Jennifer Louden, Mark Silver. Mark Silver said: HIgh, lofty, unclear goals are sexy. Not very useful, but sexy. I love my friend @jenlouden – http://bit.ly/aC2iiL […]

Mark Silver - May 18, 2010

Ahh… my friend. Thank you for this. I’m really inspired by the COE- I totally want to start implementing it.

What would be my COE for implementing the Satisfaction Finder? … Hmmm…

Hiro Boga - May 18, 2010

Oh, Jen, I love this!

The truth is, I need both.

I need to know my limitless self, with all its soaring potentials. Not as a distant, fuzzy someday star, but as my essential soul, the wholeness of my inner being.

And I need to anchor into the COEs of my everyday life in the world of time and space. I need to know and love my incarnate self, with its necessary structure of skin and bone and breath. The limits that define it.

Thank you for this. I’m off to explore The Satisfaction Finder! 🙂

Lynne Tolk - May 19, 2010

This really hits home. I’ve always kept my grand and glorious goals so far in the future, they’ve been no problem to me at all. I’m now trying to keep in mind what I really want to accomplish with my life, while realizing that this really translates into how I want to be living each day.

I can’t wait to try the Satisfaction Finder!

Hilary - May 19, 2010

Thank you for this! I like here, too – and I also love the things I could do, someday (which, just so long as they stay in that airy state of potential, can never be diminished or taken away – I always could…). Perhaps you’re building a bridge between ‘coulds’ and Here?

Natalie Christie - May 19, 2010

Ooh, this is great, thanks Jen. I catch myself making weak promises too, but the next step – the renegotiating of a new promise that you can keep – is so valuable. Successful change for me has always been a process of accepting how and why I do what I do and then gently moulding my new behaviour around that familiar, more habitual shape. Does this make sense?

It’s like making a sculpture, where you add a little bit of clay (or in my case, play doh 🙂 ) bit by bit to make an intricate arm or a swaying branch, so that the whole thing doesn’t collapse and fold in on itself. And each little bit is small enough to make a difference.

Here’s to getting clear on beautiful and sexy goals that actually get done. 😉

Thekla Richter - May 19, 2010

I love the COE concept; a great twist on setting SMART goals. That feeling of wanting a sexy lofty big goal can hide a lot of fears and certainly hold you back. Sometimes a lack of willingness to get specific and prosaic can point to unadddressed inner conflict about truly committing to the goal or the work needed to get there.

I tend to think in terms of goals and visions. The vision can and should be beautiful, enormous and make you catch your breath but probably is both vague and sexy 🙂 The goal should be concrete, realistic, time-based and under your control.

As a mere mortal, my success with this does vary but I try to be very honest with myself and notice when I’m not really working to make a dream real.

Rachel - May 19, 2010


Thank you for stepping up to my challenge, and I have to say, you are SO brave!! So very brave. (And wonderful, and insightful, and always growing, and so many other things.)

And your post inspired me with some COE that I’ve been struggling with. So thank you for that! May post more on my personal COE in the cafe, but later… a baby just started crying.

Thank you SO much for this post!


living savvy - May 19, 2010

The ordinary “stuff” is unsexy but I find that by focusing on the ordinary things brings extraordinary results. It is the hard (unseen) work behind the razzle dazzle. Keep us posted on how your yoga COE moves you towards your high lofty goals – I am very interested ….

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Elana - July 28, 2010

In answer to your question about keeping dreams in an unclear, sexy realm…Yes, I have done this. Alot! In the past year I’ve worked hard at being aware of this nebulous form of ‘goal-setting’ because it traps me btwn the world of Doing Nothing and Trying to Do Too Much (which usually results in Nothing or, a Mess). With the new awareness I can consciously choose when Enough is Enough by identifying smaller or more realistic steps. Things that will actually *work* and are actionable based on how my life *really* is not what I *wish* it really was. You may call this my form of prosaic action. Prime example to parallel your yoga -45 min-6 days a wk would’ve been my 45 min-5 days a week- high intensity interval training. Simply not doable in my life. Not because I’m incapable but because of what putting that kind of pressure on myself does to me and my son. NOT FUN. So, now I run 4 times a week during lunch – sometimes 5 and make sure I’m active on weekends (eg playing outside, walking, bike riding). I still struggle with SEXY GOALS though! LOL. What an amazing post, site and purpose you have Jen…So nice to be here.

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