Posts By: Brendan
I use the analogy of the map and the compass regularly with my clients, so it’s not surprise that Seth’s Blog inspired me today.
It’s the essence of understanding how the program ‘Return To Fertility’ is successful.
A constant theme in the program is that of bring your inner guidance system back online or fixing the ‘offset’ in your compass. This literally means getting your thoughts and goals straight, getting your hormone system balanced and functioning normally and being able to read your gut instincts more effectively.
But what about the Map? What about the terrain you are attempting to navigate?
This comes in two forms: 1 is your body and its internal terrain, and 2 is the field of infertility and how you need to navigate your way through it to find the best options so that you achieve your dream of having children.
You literally have to steer your body through unknown or incompletely understood situations before it arrives at a place where it is aligned and ready to become pregnant.
There are lots of elements to line up for this to work.
The terrain you are crossing needs to be figured out as you go, and your course corrected as you get feedback that you are going in the wrong direction. But the key to this is to get your inner compass working well so that you can realise when you are going in the wrong direction and when you are going in the right one.
The confusing part for many people is realising that your right direction is not the same as someone else’s right direction. Another way to say that is the map is not the same for everyone!
Thus, the key to is all is the compass.
As Seth says…
“Happy endings come from an understanding of the compass, not the presence of a useful map.
If you’ve got the wrong map, the right compass will get you home if you know how to use it.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Being infertile is a tough place to be.
You might need to get several different aspects of yourself working better before your fertility comes ‘back online’, but you may not know what those things are.
It’s pretty much a universally true phenomena with my clients that something about their world view is part of the mix of ‘stuff’ that needs to be fixed before they can restore fertility.
That’s a weird thought though, isn’t it!
Our worldviews hold such a powerful grip on us, they pretty much dictate our decisions, and our direction in life, they even create much of our personality – so much so that it’s often impossible to know where ‘we’ start, and our worldview ends. It seems like we are one and the same, but we are not.
An accurate though simplistic way to conceptualise a worldview is as a frame of mind and emotions that colour how we carry on in the world, meaning how we interpret and react to everything that happens to us. Our worldview is like a lens through which we see life.
Grow up in crime-alley and you will be more likely to tense up whenever a stranger walks up to you – but grow up in the Hamptons and your interpretation of strangers is much different.
If you think of worldviews as something that gets created in our minds by virtue of the experiences we have which get loaded on to one side of a scales or the other such that positive experiences tip the scales one way and negative experiences tip it the other way, then how your internal scales are leaning at any given moment in your life, is based on the overall weight of the combined negative and positive experiences you’ve had in life.
Simplistically put, some people are predominantly negative in outlook due to a list of negatively interpreted experiences that get place on one side of the scales, whereas others are predominantly positive in outlook due to a list of positively interpreted experiences that load the other side of the scales.
A negative outlook makes it more likely you will shy away from challenges in favour of creating a predictable life, whereas a positive outlook allows you to have the juice to take on new challenges, thus you will more likely create a life of variety.
The key though is to realise that it is our interpretation of what happens that matters – not the event itself, but there is unfortunately, circular issues afoot here – a negative worldview makes it more likely we will interpret new events negatively, so it becomes self-reinforcing.
This is a huge problem, and if you are facing infertility the last thing you want is a negative worldview because this is wired directly to your hormonal system. If you see the world negatively your hormones will have no choice but to take on a defensive posture (as does your physical body often), and this posture is anti-fertility in nature.
I would go so far as to say that you cannot fix a fertility problem if your mind is coloured by a negative worldview.
To solve the problem, you must first identify what your worldview is by asking yourself if it is defensive, on alert, or in some way causing you to generally see things negatively or stress-fully. Then you must create a new picture in your mind, or a new feeling in your heart of the future you want, then you must conjure up that picture or feeling so regularly that it becomes familiar to your nervous system.
After you ‘familiarise’ your system with this new future idea of yourself, you do it again with a new picture or feeling that you desire to make real. This could be you playing with a new baby on the carpet and loving it, or it might be imagining yourself with a pregnant bump, but it could be whatever you want. Doing this will eventually familiarise your nervous system with the good life you want and allow you to melt away barriers that prevent you from achieving it. If you are following what I am saying here, you will realise that many of the barriers preventing you from getting pregnant are internal. They are related to your beliefs and to unexamined assumptions you hold that are related to your worldview and which cause you to veer off the path of truth – so to speak!
I’ve just summarised an incredibly powerful book for you that has nothing to do with getting pregnant but could just carry the day for you if you have the courage to put it into action!
Life provokes people to continually take on more.
Jobs, relationships, families, hobbies, sports, community activities, social engagements, overtime, church work, extra study, following the news, social media, back to college, moving up the ladder, home building, political activism, environmental concerns, fitness regimes…and on and on it goes.
We start out with some idea of what we want in mind, but eventually Mission Creep sets in and we find ourselves over-committed, not where we really want to be in life and unclear what our path should be, but worst of all we don’t even know it’s happened.
This describes a lot of my clients. Good people, with a strong work ethic and a can-do attitude – doing too much of something and not enough of another.
Sometimes you have to hit a wall before you realise you were not looking where you were going.
Sometimes cancer is that wall, sometimes it’s a broken relationship, and sometimes it’s infertility.
How hard you hit it depends on your level of self-awareness, and the actions you take on a regular basis.
We only have so much energy and we don’t know how much time we have.
Tune into your body, focus on your mission, resist the forces that cause it to creep off track, save your energy for what really matters to you.
The Wall is coming.
I learned a lot from “The Road Less Travelled”, by M. Scott Peck.
I learned that no matter what path you take it will be hard, and that once you come to terms with this life gets a lot better – despite being hard. Coming to terms with this reality is one of the best things I ever did, though it took me a long time. I’m a slow learner!
Once you realise that every action you take is the result of a decision, you come to accept that there is no neutral position to take in life.
If you ‘go’ there will be consequences. If you ‘don’t go’ there will be consequences.
If you hold off deciding because you are afraid to ‘go’ – that’s a decision, you have decided and there will be consequences.
If you decide to ‘go’ because you are afraid to not go, that’s also a decision, albeit a clearer one.
I like the way Jordan Peterson put it – it’s less about being courageous and more about choosing to be afraid of the right things.
If you do nothing different to what you have been doing, what do you think the chances are of solving your fertility problem?
Are you afraid of never having a baby, or are you afraid that you might realise too late that you could have been doing something more to solve the problem?
Are you afraid of the right things?
It’s so frustrating to watch a woman do a whole lot of hard work to prepare her body to have a baby, only to see the guy not step up to the plate and try to solve his own problems, or at the very least do what he can to improve his own health in advance of conception.
I accept that men generally don’t really understand how important the health of their sperm is not only for conception to happen, but to the long-term health of their kids. They are hardly told about it by doctors, who are not told about it in medical school.
To use just one example of published science, it is known that a fathers age at the time of his child’s conception has an influence on longer term outcomes like autism and schizophrenia in the child. To understand this, you have to appreciate that the age is simply a marker for sperm health, or sperm damage, and that ANY sperm damage or ageing that occurs will likely produce similar effects.
Some men’s lack of willingness to play their part in promoting optimal fertility used to bother me no end until I came to understand better why it happens. This really allowed me to help my male clients much better.
This is what I see as being the issue:
It’s a biological fact that men are not as tuned into fertility as much as women are.
One of the most common reasons men give for not being able to complete the work on my fertility program is that they are too busy with their work.
This makes total sense, but it makes better sense to call it as it is and to acknowledge the truth, which is – “Right now I prioritise my work over having a family”.
Every guy has a total right to do this, no question, no judgment. If that’s the truth that’s the truth.
With rights come responsibilities though, exercising ones right to not pursue a family just yet may mean reneging on a previous promise, even if that promise was unspoken. Being in a committed relationship with a women IMPLIES the intent to have kids, unless otherwise agreed.
Also, one may have to read between the lines sometimes. For a guy – not being ready may mean that something has changed in the relationship, but they haven’t said it. If this is the case then so be it, but it needs to come to the surface. It can’t just be that the guy frustrates all efforts to have a baby by not taking positive action hoping the issue will just go away or the clock will run down.
Men know intellectually that a woman can’t wait forever, but they don’t seem to know this intuitively. I didn’t, I thought we could wait until things were more aligned, till we were better prepared, till we had more money or till our minds were in the right place to think about kids. Lucky for me my wife was having none of that.
Serious straight communication is needed here. Couples need to say out straight what their intentions are, what their dreams are, what their fears are. The first two are easy for guys, but the last one is hard. The irony of it is that for most guys (or at least the ones who live with decent women) the very act of sharing your fears will promote a bond of trust and deepen your friendship, it can lift the tide of any relationship and even in itself can free you from false assumptions. Just doing this alone can sometimes resolve infertility issues.
Beating infertility is a team sport. Your job as a man is to have your woman’s back, to make her feel safe and secure – part of this involves being open and honest about your intentions, first to yourself, then to herself.
Dragging your heels is not an expression of male energy, it’s an expression of confused energy. Being clear and decisive and straight up is an expression of male energy because it requires having the guts to deal with things properly, and even with the fallout.
If you don’t want kids just yet – fine – but at least come out straight and say it.
I have never encountered a couple with infertility who had made a decision to try nothing to fix the problem until they got more clarity on the situation.
I’m sure they exist, but every client that uses my program has already gone far down a road of trying things before they find me.
The thing is it would be better on balance to do nothing until you knew more about what the issues were, because good intentions don’t always translate to good outcomes. There are hundreds of possible interventions a couple could try in an effort to solve their problem and get pregnant…and some of them will help, some will be neutral but lots of them will actually make things worse.
Even a safe bet like cutting out ‘bad food’ can backfire because people classify bad food differently.
Saturated fat is one such case.
Sugar and processed sweet foods you would imagine should be universally good to cut out right? On balance I’d say yes, but some women are underweight and even dropping bad food means dropping calories that help maintain their current weight. Being underweight is a bad idea for fertility, as is being overweight, but the complications are different. Underweight is more associated with infertility than overweight, which in turn is more associated with pregnancy complications!
But what about simple vitamins? Surely a decent multi is a safe bet, right? More often than not I would say yes, but still there are some people who have genetic or metabolic differences that can create problems if they take the wrong form of a vitamin or too much of it.
People can take niacin (vitamin B3) and feel better but soon run into issues with neurotransmitter imbalances that bring on depression.
People can take bog standard folic acid only to end up jittery due to an over production of some compound in the blood.
Why is it all so complicated? To answer this, you must recognise that if you already have infertility it means you are more likely to possess metabolic characteristics different from the norm, therefore you are part of a – let’s say special – cohort of people. You could be statistically ‘normal’ (meaning your key body functions operate within the standard distribution norms), but you are more likely to fall outside this or be on the fringe, and therefore issues like I mention above (plus a dozen others) are more likely to be relevant to you.
To put that in simple terms, a regular person is probably fine doing any of the above things to help fertility, but a person who is infertile is more likely to set themselves back by doing the same things.
You might see this as being dealt a bad hand of cards, but I see it as an invitation to learn and to grow.
I’ve been told by some clients over the years, when they were going through a very difficult dark time and full of fears and doubts that they’d prefer to have a disease like cancer because at least they’d know what is wrong.
But I see it differently. From where I stand, I see people with infertility being more willing to confront it than are people with cancer. The motivation seems different. Many cancer sufferers lie down and die…or give their power over to the medical system (which is a symbolic version of lying down to die), and ultimately, they don’t embrace change and thrive as a result of their experiences. Many do, but most don’t.
It’s different for people with infertility…most of them fight, but more of them are willing to look introspectively and change.
The flip side of this is that more of them will end up making bad decisions based on the endless peddling of simple solutions for infertility.
Are there safe things one can do to help?
Yes, totally. Yoga, walking regularly, relaxing, becoming aware of your breathing, honestly assessing your career to see if it suits you or not. These really do help.
The mirror image of having the right to make your own choices is the acceptance of the consequences of making them, and even more poignantly the consequences of not making choices.
“The Endless” now there’s a whacked-out film!
Good though…full of sub stories and thought-provoking metaphors.
It opens with the statement “The oldest and strongest emotion of all is fear of the unknown”.
This is the fear that keeps us from changing – not from wanting to change – but from actually going on a journey that will change us.
Simple as it sounds the thing that keeps us from changing is familiarity – our attachment to the old familiar feelings of everyday life.
The challenge is deceptively huge. We can’t solve our problems by doing the same thing over and over (the insanity argument!!) so if we are to succeed, we must do things differently, ie we must change.
And here’s the conundrum we all face – we want to change, there’s an impulse inside us all urging us to do it – but we fear the unknown, yet even when we muster up the courage and actually venture into the unknown, we find it near impossible to unshackle ourselves from the loops of our lives with which we’ve become so familiar. Fear & Familiarity – it’s a double whammy!
I wonder if this is what makes it easier for an emigrant to make a better go if it in a foreign country? They are forced to break out of their old patterns, to think new thoughts and do new things!
On the other hand, “wherever you go, there you are”, the same head, with the same habits.
Sometimes it takes catastrophe (or the threat of it) to shake us out of our old familiar habits and into a new way of looking at life.
Funny thing is we now have so many stories from people who have faced the unknown, who have been changed by it, and who are totally grateful for the experience, I wonder why we still fear it?
1 in 3 couples will face some kind of fertility challenge on their way to becoming parents.
Some of this will be impossible to overcome, at least with the current state of technology, but most of it is solvable with the right approach.
Medical science tells us that most of the infertility in the modern world is driven by that bland phrase of “lifestyle choices”.
We could say that anything from marriage problems to unemployment is also driven ultimately by lifestyle choices but what does it mean?
There’s a way to work this out, but it takes stepping back and having an honest look at your life and where it is going.
We have to begin with the question…what kind of life do we really want?
Most people can’t answer this because they get tripped up on their own internal thoughts. Many will instead answer the question “what kind of life do I deserve?”, or “what kind of life am I ok with?” or “what kind of life should I want?”.
None of these are the right question. The question is what do you want?
Once you answer that you can then temper it with the other questions if you wish and impose reality on it, but it needs to be answered honestly first.
A teenager might say they want the jet set life of a billionaire. (Because being a mere millionaire seems too small to todays kids! Inflation I guess!!)
The teenager in us that never grew up will make us think that we want an idyllic life of carefree bliss, but the adult in us knows better. But it’s still a difficult question to answer and requires some thought.
Our lives are big wide things with many aspects, including family, health, career, social, significance, contribution, financial, emotional and more.
If we are to answer the big question, we need to consider all the important stakeholder aspects of our lives, not just one…not just I want Money so I can do what I want.
If you carefully think out what you want on all those fronts you come to a pretty profound conclusion – given the limitation of time and inner energy – we simply can’t have it all.
But we can have a lot, and for this we need to compromise and aim for what really matters to us.
If you want a 100% roaringly successful career then you will need to put most of your energy and time into that pursuit. This means something else has gotta give.
You can choose what else gives – if you are prepared to do that, and to design your life the way you really want, but there will be a cost. Every lifestyle choice we make has consequences.
I find it best to define the life you want based on the feelings you want, then reverse engineer it to get you those feelings. This forces you to let go of whatever needs to be let go of in order to pursue those feelings, but the upside is that once you clearly define what you want you are in a much better position to choose what you don’t want, and what you need to cut loose.
Anything that doesn’t get you your goal has to go.
Roughly speaking I believe it is possible to aim for 80% success across all your major life aspects…family…finances…career…contribution etc etc. That of course means you have to cut loose the notion of being a 100% successful athlete, or career person…or whatever it is you may have wanted.
If you honestly can’t bring yourself to pursue this sort of balance across more life aspects – then fine, just accept the reality of your choice, but be prepared to reap what you sow. I would add that you need to be prepared to reap what you sow without moaning or blaming anyone else for it.
If you put all your efforts into your career and in doing so you feck-up your relationship with your child…well don’t be too surprised if we meet one day and I call you a jerk! That’s the price you pay…suck it up.
What can be more difficult to see is when you have already made this choice, but not consciously. In other words’ you may have been focusing on your career for decades so it’s second nature to you, but now you realise it is getting in the way of your health, or your ability to even have a family.
If so, this is a moment of truth for you.
Imbalance is necessary to achieve greatness in any one area, but harmony and meaning in life are connected to balance. It’s better to choose consciously.
What future do you REALLY want?
I’ve always found it difficult to get clear in my mind what I wanted in life. I kinda sorta knew. I could write an essay about it, I could talk about it at length, but I always end up drifting away from the point and could never seem to distil it down to a clear and elegant statement. It always seemed to be…well…all over the place, in my mind!
Since I am basically an optimist, I always turned away from the idea of dwelling on my fears and on the stuff that I didn’t want to happen – I guess due to a subconscious fear that I might inadvertently manifest them.
But when I came across Tim Ferris talking about Fear-Setting in a podcast one day it just clicked with me. He went on to do a Ted Talk about it later.
I’ve since come to understand that acknowledging our inner fears is a very practical and successful way to integrate them properly into our psyche. It’s not the same thing as facing our fears, it’s different. It’s a process of defining what it is that we don’t want in life, or how we don’t want our life to turn out – you could say – what we don’t want to be remembered for after we die.
This helps to focus the mind on what we do want, it helps us clarify our vision and once we do this the chase begins in earnest as we set about building the life we really want.
It’s a powerful idea.
I’ve come to recognise that many of the people who become my clients – ie people who are working hard to restore their fertility so they can have a baby – do not in fact have a clear vision of what they really want, and I now believe this is often a significant part of their fertility problem.
It can be a mix of not being clear about their future in general or it might be about the idea of having a baby specifically. To help with this I take them through a process designed to empower them with a compelling vision of their future selves.
Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is to help them face the darkness, which is inside us all, but which for them is most often related to a future without kids. Fear setting helps people name what they don’t want, which in turn helps to clarify what they really do want and once they get clarity, they have a much easier time of it on the program. They have their Why, you could say, and once you have your Why you can bear any How!
I’ve had some very moving moments with clients who go through this process.
Two that stick out in memory are:
A guy who used fear setting to see himself in the future as a person just working in an office and coming home to an empty and tidy house, then his wife would come home, they would eat dinner, go for a walk and then watch tv.
To one person this sounds like an idyllic life, but to him it felt empty and it scared him.
He used this random image to help him see what he didn’t want. From there he created an idea of what he did want – which was a beautiful image of him, his wife their son and daughter out camping in the Grand Canyon, watching wildlife with binoculars and roasting marshmallows on an open fire having a laugh in a most relaxed and connected way.
The other moment was a woman who imagined herself going to her sisters houses and bringing birthday presents to their kids, but never having kids of her own to get presents for. Again, not a bad image, even a very desirable image for a lot of people, but not for her. To her it was frightening, and doing the exercise helped her acknowledge this with honesty.
What was her preferred image?? I loved this one…It was holding her new born baby up above her head playing with her, when all of a sudden baby pukes milk straight into moms’ mouth!!
Whatever does it for you!
Given how much coverage there is on the interweb about the dangers of taking too much Vitamin A in the early stages of pregnancy I always figured this would be one topic many of my clients would raise with me – but It almost never happens. It’s a funny one.
Here’s what you need to know:
Having too much OR too little vitamin A in your blood when you become pregnant can result in your baby having birth defects. There are different effects for having too much than there are to having too little. I won’t go into the details as they are scary enough.
World wide more children are born with Vitamin A deficiency than vitamin A toxicity, but if you parse the online literature, you’d be forgiven for thinking that toxicity is a huge problem for would be moms.
The reality, however, is that the evidence for this is not that strong – but neither can it be dismissed out of hand.
Currently the general advice is to not take in more than 10,000 units a day of vitamin A.
I’m ok with this because I’m of the opinion that this is plenty – that is, in the context of an otherwise very good nutrient intake.
The problem with the modern world is that people generally do not have a very good nutrient intake, and on top of that we live in a world that is nearly terrified by the idea of eating fat in case -God forbid – it clogs up our arteries (it doesn’t!). The problem is that Vitamin A comes to us inside the fat…so if we cut the fat we also cut the vitamin A.
Most of my clients are not consuming enough Vitamin A when they initially come to see me, and this does worry me a lot. I’m not worried for my clients, because I always correct the problem…I’m worried for the many moms-to-be out there that are consuming too little vitamin A.
Let’s be straight and honest here even though it may not be nice to hear – the number of kids with food intolerances is on the increase – this is related to low vitamin A status, the number of kids needing glasses is on the rise – this is related to low vitamin A, the number of kids with asthma and allergies is on the rise – this is related to low vitamin A status, the number of SNA teachers in on the rise because the number of kids with learning difficulties is on the rise – this is related to low vitamin A status. There are more too.
They are not all caused exclusively by low vitamin A status…but there is good evidence for all of them being related in some way. It worries me. I hate seeing kids suffer and having their capabilities reduced by physical or mental impairment.
On the flip side many medical advice sites worry that moms-to-be might be getting too much Vitamin A and cite the easy availability of high dose vitamin A supplements. This is a possible concern, though not as big an issue as it is made out to be.
My take on why the Toxicity argument seems to be the dominant one is that it’s far harder to deal with a birth defect than it is to deal with a gradual loss of function or let’s say a minor defect that occurs later on, if a kid needs glasses for example. I totally get this of course, it’s an emotionally difficult thing to deal with any birth defect, and so it is fear that gets our attention.
How do you know how much vitamin A you are eating on any given day? It’s tedious to work out but nutrient databases and software programs would be needed to get a decent average.
In the absence of this knowledge, it’s useful to know that Vitamin A is one of 4 vitamins that are called fat-soluble vitamins, the other 3 are D, E and K. Once you are getting enough of all of these vitamins together in your diet it nearly eliminates the risk of toxicity and of your child suffering from the effects of too much vitamin A in the womb. They offset each-others toxicity by helping the body use them all more effectively.
So in all reality the only way one can get Vitamin A toxicity is to take lots of it in a supplement, and not eat the other vitamins from the same family.
If you are worried that this might be happening you I recommend you get Cronometer, the free version, and input your total nutrient intake for a week, supplements included, and see how much Vitamin A you are consuming on average. Adjust to keep it below 10,000 IU’s per day.