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Sometimes we need to make a BIG change … (my personal reflection)

Your health is important. Your goals are important. And your life is important.

While all we know this to be true on some level, it really hit home for me in the year of COVID craziness …

Allow me to share some of my personal story, as I’ve been doing a lot of psychology on myself, and I think it may benefit you …

They say that life throws little pebbles at you to warn you if you’re going in the wrong direction. If you ignore the pebbles, it starts throwing rocks. And when you ignore the rocks, it throws a boulder.

And my boulder came in the form of headaches. Bad headaches.

They started one Thursday evening about 5 months ago … and they never stopped.

The funny thing is that health professionals always asked me if I got headaches, to which I’d proudly (and smugly) reply ‘never!’ Invincible people didn’t get headaches …

But this headache hadn’t got the memo that I was indestructible, and it wouldn’t. go. away. Aspirin wouldn’t cure it. Drinking more water wouldn’t cure it. Even a good night’s sleep wouldn’t cure it.

After 3 weeks (sometimes the boulder needs to stay on top of you for a while) and a painful realization that I wasn’t superman (I know, I know, it had to come some time!), I finally decided to take a dose of my own medicine, and see if I could psychologize myself through this change.

In psychology, we have a saying ‘the presenting issue is never the issue’. This means that the problem that shows up to us is almost always a symptom of another underlying problem. So if these headaches were a symptom, what was their underlying cause?

When I looked at this – and talked it through with my local doctor – I saw that I was someone who should have headaches.*

‘Do you wear glasses?’
‘I need them, but I don’t have them.’

‘Do you ever get neck pain?’
’Every minute of every day.’

‘Are you stressed?’
‘Well, I have worked 6 days a week for over 5 years. I’ve just published a book on a tight deadline, then travelled multiple times during COVID to record its audiobook. Oh, and my practice has grown threefold in the last couple of years. I don’t feel stressed, but …’

Now I could see the boulder, and it was scary. A few pills and a day off weren’t going to fix this. Sometimes we need to make a BIG change …

One of my favourite psychological mindsets is to see problems as opportunities. This means that we use the difficulties life throws at us as chances to grow and change – opportunities not only to fix the problem, but to become better than we were before. I do this all the time with clients in therapy, and now it was time to do it to myself.

Viewed through this lens, these headaches were an opportunity to make some long overdue changes in my life.

They were an opportunity to allow myself to see clearly – literally – rather than spending half the day squinting. So I went to the optometrist, spent an exorbitant amount of time choosing the right glasses, and started wearing them!

They were an opportunity to sort out my body once and for all, instead of putting up with (largely unnecessary) physical pain daily. So I decided to stop flirting with my physio, and finally get into a committed relationship with him (even when it meant spending hours every week doing weird exercises that looked like this!).

Glenn Mackintosh physiotherapy exercises drawn by his physiotherapy on a whiteboard

They were an opportunity to check up on my overall health, something I had been overlooking, well, forever … partly due to fear of finding something nasty, but moreso due to a crippling phobia of needles (here’s an image of me after one of the needles, I needed some hypnotherapy – which really helped – and a unicorn-shaped stress ball to get through it, although I still broke the poor unicorn’s ear off 😉 ).

And, of course, they were an opportunity to look at the way I lived my life. I began putting in plans for more time with friends, more time at the gym, more time for me. And I must say (as I write this email on a Saturday morning, planning to finish by lunchtime rather than 4pm), that I’m slowly getting there.

Even our decisions around our new offering, the Transformation Support Community, which I’m more than excited about, reflect the change in my mindset. In the past, I know exactly what I would have done – aimed to have the program perfect with all the bells and whistles and a massive group of people in it when we started. We as a team would have done it, but ignored ourselves (and our loved ones) during the holiday period. But we didn’t. Instead, we called for 100 Foundation Members to help us co-create the program, and set ourselves up to deliver an awesome program (rather than a perfect one!) and it’s going to be absolutely wonderful (and probably better than starting off with a bigger group that we weren’t quite ready for or were too stressed to support exactly as we wanted to). And we get to have happy, healthy, holidays too.

Decision by decision – just like change happens with my clients – I’m reminding myself that, while my calling in life is important, my actual life is more important. That seems obvious, but I know it’s going to be a hard one for me to get my head around and will be my Mt Everest challenge in 2021. But I’m on the way.

I, like you, have had a hard year. But I am happy as I know I will grow from the experience – in fact, I’m already doing it. I want you to grow through your challenges too, so – as you reflect on the year that has passed, and look forward to the one ahead, I want you to ask yourself:

  • Are there any pebbles I should pay attention to, before they become rocks (or boulders!)?
  • Are any of my problems symptoms of other/deeper/bigger problems that I need to address?
  • Are some of my problems opportunities to grow and change in important ways?
  • What mindsets and/or support do I need to successfully overcome my challenges?

Your health is important. Your life is important. You are important. And I want you to grow and change through your problems just as I want to for myself. So let’s tackle things head on in 2021! We’ve got this 🙂 🙂 🙂

As you contemplate what you may be able to accomplish, change, and overcome in the new year, I wanted to offer one final reflection. While I have had to acknowledge the changes that needed to be made in my life, and get in the right mindset to begin to make them, I couldn’t have done any of it without support – I needed help!

Firstly, I needed support from my family, friends, and colleagues, who have been more than understanding and helpful. So if you need support from those around you, please reach out for it**.

But I also needed lots of professional help – from the doctor, optometrist, physio, massage therapist, radiologist, hypnotherapist, phlebotomist, bed and mattress retailers, and more! It brought home to me the importance of getting support for the changes you want to make in life. So if you need a professional to help you, go and get them! And if you’re worried about the money, the time, or what other people will think, remember …

Your health is important, your life is importantyou are important.

So if seeing a health professional, reading a book, or doing a particular program can help you in 2021, you’re worth it.

And if you would like support specifically with transforming your eating, physical activity, weight, and body image (the area I am a professional in!), I’d love you to join our new-and-improved program, the Transformation Support Community, which starts on January 25th. But, in line with my new mindset, our call for Foundation Members has closed, we’ve gone on holidays until the 18th***, and we’ll be taking public registrations for the program (with a few more bells and whistles!) just before it starts. We’ll both be right until then, and if you want to be kept in the loop about the program, please just sign up to my newsletter and I’ll email you about it in a couple of weeks!

Whether or not you join the program, and however you do it, my wish for you is the same that it is for me in 2021. That we can shake off the struggles of 2020, taking only the lessons with us, and use the problems life presents us with as opportunities to transform in a way that is right for us.

Our health is important. Our lives are important. We are important.

… and therefore, that we change, in a way that is right for us, is important.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my reflection, and any self-reflections that have come up as a result, and as always, I’m yours in transformation,


*It’s funny how you can ‘realise’ something that’s staring you in the face, isn’t it?!

**I personally don’t do this very often, but I have found that opening up and talking through things with trusted friends and family has pretty much been wholly positive, and shown me that it’s probably easier to do than I thought. As a result, I think I’ll be more likely to do it next time I have something on my mind.

***I scheduled this email a few days ago!