My Life-Improvement Experiment
by Mackenzie Thomas
“I decided who I wanted to be, and that is who I am.” - Gabrielle “Coco" Chanel
On July 29th, I decided to embark on a life-improvement experiment. Nothing in particular made this change occur on that specific date, but for a couple weeks leading up to that point, I just remember feeling low energy, tired, out-of-shape, unattractive, unmotivated, & unhealthy. I kept feeling a lot of anxiety and pressure; that I was getting SO much older and that life was passing me by, and nothing that I wanted to accomplish was getting done fast enough. I remember pushing my toddler in his stroller one day and feeling so “yuck.” I had a thought: I think I’m ready to become my best self.
I went to a friend’s birthday party in Brooklyn on the Thursday before July 29th, and while strolling the streets with a friend well after 2am, I came across a gigantic painted brick wall that had a Gabrielle “Coco" Chanel quote: “I decided who I wanted to be, and that is who I am.” I thought, wow, that’s a sign (literally) and, that is so true… you are what you think. I had a flashback to a 2012 late-night conversation with my touring colleague back in Japan- we were talking about choosing how you want to be perceived, and how you want to be in life. But, this experiment of mine isn’t about changing how others see me-- this is about changing how I see myself.
The next week, I had an important audition coming up for a Broadway show that I’ve been trying to book for over a decade. To get motivated & increase my hope and confidence leading up to it, I started watching positive, inspirational documentaries and YouTube videos on anything from The Secret, to motivational TED videos. What stuck with me from these videos was that I needed to change my mindset if I wanted to change my life.
In ways, this seems like a “duh” thing, but I suddenly realized how important self-talk was. The way you talk to YOURSELF really does become what happens to you in real life. So, in terms of my diet/health, for example, I would always say to myself, “Oh, Mackenzie, you never drink water, you are more of a coffee and wine kind of person.” Or, “You don’t DO exercise, girl.” Or, “You love your Oreos and milk!!!” If someone offered me an apple, I’d laugh and say, “I’m more of a cake and donuts kind of girl.” And, thus, I remained a cake-and-donuts kind of girl AND dehydrated, low-energy, out-of-shape and unhealthy.
I don’t think at any point in my life, so far, I’ve ever strived to become my “best” self. And I think the main reason for this is because it requires discipline and intention. And those words to me mean WORK. And WORK is usually not fun! #AMIRIGHT? (side note: that’s why people go into performing arts… when you ARE working, it doesn’t feel like work, it’s fun and fills you with joy).
To me, my "best self" means being more mindful and achieving more balance in ALL aspects of my life. I thought of 20 personal ways to achieve my best self:
1. Choosing food and drink wisely (eating and drinking healthy on a full-time basis & not just while dieting)
2. Making my bed everyday
3. Exercising or moving every day
4. Having an active social life and making time for myself & my friendships outside of my family
5. Being a better mom & wife by being more “present” and in the now
6. Listening more & trying to see other perspectives without getting frustrated
7. Practicing patience more and living “in the now” instead of stressing about the future
8. Being more selfless and giving to all people, including strangers
9. Practicing and actively doing things everyday to advance my career goals (for me personally, that includes singing every day)
10. Pushing myself to fight through laziness
11. Letting go of things that no longer serve me or my life
12. Staying on top of things and not waiting till the last minute to get things done
13. Pushing myself to grow and be fearless by placing myself in uncomfortable situations
14. Reading more BOOKS
15. Doing social media less and staying off my phone more
16. Marketing myself more as a performer and “putting myself out there” even if it makes me feel awkward
17. Getting more quality sleep
18. Taking multivitamins everyday
19. Being thankful and/or praying everyday
And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, 20. Choosing positive thoughts over negative ones.
So far, since July 29th, I’ve managed to:
-Eat mostly veggies, fruit and meat… “real food” as opposed to processed/sweets/bad carbs
-Not have any alcohol; only water & green tea and, rarely, coffee/diet coke
-Actively drink more water
-Put coconut oil on my clean face every morning and night
-Sing almost everyday
-Have an active social life without engaging in alcohol or unhealthy foods
-Move almost everyday… (NYC is great 'cause you do all this walking and don’t realize you walk 4 miles without trying!)
-Practice positive, hopeful thoughts
-Do something helpful for my career everyday including reading about what’s going on in the business
-Be fearless / Push myself into uncomfortable situations in order to grow and get something important done
-Accept defeat/rejection with grace and then turn that rejection into motivation to work even HARDER instead of letting it bring me down
I’ve got a LOT more work to do (like... I need to go make my bed, for starters…) BUT, as a result of these changes, I feel:
a LOT more hydrated
-my skin is looking better (and a friend told me so, too!), I sleep better (actually starting to sleep through the night!), and my mood is more balanced.
Do I think I’ll fall off the wagon going forward? Yep! I’m sure, a bunch!! But, as they say, you just have to get back on.
Just because I have one bad day doesn’t mean that it has to turn into 30 bad days. Just because I ate a burger/fries/milkshake for dinner doesn’t mean “it’s hopeless,” so I then wake up and eat pancakes, bacon, toast, and home fries for breakfast. Just because that one person was rude to me doesn’t mean I have to take it personally or let it affect my happiness for the rest of the day. Just because I have stress over auditions doesn’t mean I need to bring that stress home to my family. Just because I didn’t book that last gig doesn’t mean I won’t book the next one. Just because I made a mistake today doesn’t mean I have to make the same mistake again and again.
Life is all about choices. We have the CHOICE to do, say, and react any way we want. In terms of self-improvement, we just have to be MINDFUL and make that choice because we WANT to do it--for no one but ourselves. We need to stop trying to fix everyone else around us and start with OURSELVES. Live by example. No one else is responsible for our happiness. No one else can decide to make these changes for us. It’s all up to US, and we can do it if we put our minds to it (like the cheer, y’all!)
"Um, DUH!," you say, "It’s harder to do than you think."
I KNOW. I KNOW! I’m saying "duh" to MYSELF even, but so often, we just need the reminder because we are all flawed human beings, and we don’t listen to that little voice that says, “knock it off, you are making your life worse instead of better—why are you doing this!?”
Self-Sabotage, that’s your answer. I’m no psychologist, but it’s easier to say, "We never really tried our best, so that’s why we failed" instead of saying, "We tried our hardest and did our best, and we still failed."
But, the reality is, if we never try, we’ll never know. We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take. We’ll never experience what it’s like to be healthy inside and out until we put down the Oreos and TRY. And that’s just ONE “we’ll never know..."
And, I know, as well as anybody, that GETTING STARTED is the hardest part. It really is. Procrastination is one of the worst self-sabotaging moves that we make. We overthink things constantly. We say, “Well, what if it doesn’t work?,” and we talk ourselves out of it before we can even get started. I do it, you do it, we all do it. We FEAR the future….
But, I’m here to tell you, if you can get started on a “positive choices” mission in your life by simply STARTING with small changes, it can lead to BIG results. And then you'll make another good choice... and another...and another. And before you know it, you'll feel like a new person. And then realize, you ARE a new person. And you are a mindful, awesome human being who is at least trying to improve yourself which, actually, makes YOU happier and the world a better place.
So, thank you, Coco Chanel... thank you, Ted Talks… Thank you to the strong, positive people out there who are trying to make a difference. Thank you for the inspiration. I just got started, but I’m excited to continue growing, learning, and improving (and I hope I’ve inspired you to do the same).
“I decided who I wanted to be, and that is who I am.” - Coco Chanel