Today I went to Pilates. My teacher was particularly cruel in asking me to isolate a muscle in my core that I was unaware existed.From a standing position, she wanted me to forward fold and place my hands on a table about waist height, then use my core muscles to lift my legs up to a handstand. No jumping. No flailing my legs upwards. Simply use these lower core muscles to lift my legs off the ground.Does it sound impossible to you too?Thankfully, she has this cool contraption with springs that I stand on to help spring me upward… sadly, even with the springs, I hardly lifted up at all.She wanted me to flex muscles that I could not find. After about 10 failed attempts, I found myself silently and slightly audibly hating on my teacher. Let’s face it, struggling with something new is really frustrating.I think I found the muscle she was hoping to activate. The repetition eventually triggered something that felt like a new muscle. I will let you know if I ever get strong enough to lift up to a handstand.

How emotional exercise creates the same resistance as physical exercise.

When I work with my coaching clients, I notice they have the same experience. I am asking them to flex a muscle that they are not sure they have. As I push to isolate the muscle, they get more and more annoyed until they find it. Once they do, they are off and running.The muscle is in their mind. For example, a client can quickly activate the blaming muscle. You know the one that likes to say everything in my life is happening because of my husband or kids or work. But I want them to activate a new muscle. The muscle that understands that life is all about choices.Or, I want them to activate the muscle that could say one small, tiny nice thing to them. Perhaps, a single comment about how they are actually not an epic failure, a terrible friend, a complete fraud, or a worthless person.Why did I get annoyed when I was asked to find a new muscle? What was it that was so frustrating? Why did I start hating on my poor, well-intentioned teacher?Simple. I was creating a new habit. My brain-muscle relationship is weak in that area of my body. By repeating the exercise over and over, I could create a new habit. Once the muscle becomes stronger, the brain-muscle relationship will become an unconscious habit. At that point, I will hopefully be able to use this muscle pattern without effort.  I have created a new muscle memory.

Chose your emotional workout

Just as we do not all need the same physical exercises, we do not all need the same emotional exercises.Are you hard on yourself at work? Do you need to strengthen your willingness to trust in your capability?Do you want to make a change? Do you need to strengthen your belief in your vision for your future?Are you hard on yourself as a person? Do you need to practice some self-love?What emotional muscle needs to be worked out? When you tell yourself that you are lovable, do you resist it? What about capable? What about worthy?You are creating a new emotional muscle memory. Just because it feels annoying or foreign at first does not make it wrong. Keep practicing and it will become an unconscious pattern. Imagine – maybe you will wake up in a month and the first thought arising from your unconscious mind might be one of compassion.Wouldn’t that be a refreshing way to start the day?