I recently ran my first half-marathon. I’m sort of a fitness buff, so the cardiovascular element of running is relatively easy for me. But oh, the aches and pains of using muscles differently than I do in my normal gym-rat/yoga-girl routine!

My lifelong pattern is that I can run six or seven miles just fine, but right around mile 7.125, I get a shooting, sciatic pain deep in my hip. Then, as if on cue, my genetically archless (sigh) feet share with me precisely how they feel about the impact I’ve subjected them to during the preceding hour.

And this time was like all the others. Until it wasn’t, that is. This go-round, when the hip pain came, I resolved to figure out what was causing it and to fix the problem.

I did the research and diagnosed myself with a textbook case of piriformis syndrome, a common runner’s malady in which the piriformis muscle in your hip tightens up around your sciatic nerve, creating intense pain.

I figured out that the cause of my piriformis syndrome was also classic: the muscles on the front of my legs (quads and hip flexors) were much, much stronger than the muscles that run down the back. So, when the front muscles got just the right amount of super-duper leg-propelling work during a longer run, they would recruit the back muscles for help and, since those were weak, over-rely on the piriformis, which would give it its all, strangling my sciatic nerve in the process.

Fortunately, because the cause and the result were so clear, I was able to achieve some relief in short order by strengthening those back-of-leg muscles and working on my gait. I engaged a Pilates instructor who put me to work doing some of the tiniest, most excruciating movements you could possibly imagine.

For someone who likes running and swinging kettlebells, it was amazing the near-instantaneous changes (and pain!) this Pilates master could generate by asking me to move this towel about 3 centimeters on the ground. I can’t even remember feeling that sore, even when lifting more than my body weight in the gym.

And so it is in our lives. Sometimes the changes we need are big ones. Other times, a mere energetic shift, or a tiny tweak to the way we think about something, is what the doctor truly ordered.

I submit that we can make these same sorts of tweaks to the way we think about real estate matters and experience a powerful shift in our experiences and decisions in this realm of our lives.

Here are a few of the mental power-tweaks I think we could all use:

1. Rethink our relationships with our real estate professional, from adversary to adviser. Some of the most vocal real estate consumers are those who feel they must approach every engagement with their real estate and mortgage pros from a highly skeptical, even distrustful point of view.

The problem with this approach is that (a) it deprives these consumers of the whole benefit of having experienced experts at their disposal, and (b) assuming that your advisers are competent and have your best interests at heart, it puts them in a position to feel like they have to fight you to do what’s best for you — and that is demotivating at best. When the market is good, thriving agents will even "fire" clients like this.

Fact is, the vast majority of real estate consumers are actually happy with the services they’re receiving from their agents, though these folks seem to be relatively quiet about it; the vast majority of buyers and sellers, when asked, say they would work with their former agent again.

I say the best practice is to get referrals to real estate and mortgage pros from people you trust. Meet with and work with them to build a relationship of trust. Then, do your research, ask your questions and make your own decisions. But don’t battle them on every piece of advice they give you. If you can’t or don’t trust your professionals, find other professionals.

2. Rethink our encounters with our home’s buyers, sellers, etc., from combative to collaborative. If you approach every negotiation or conversation as a battle, then a battle you will undoubtedly get. If you approach the people on the other side of the negotiating table as partners in this challenge of transferring the home from people who want to sell it to people who want to buy it, you might have a very different experience of your home sale or purchase transaction.

That’s not to say you should give into every single request or demand, or go beyond your personal and financial boundaries to do a deal — I’m just saying that I have been personally involved in dozens of transactions where both parties were very, very respectful and collaborative during the transaction — and very happy with its outcome for years to come.

3. Rethink your real estate decisions as an exercise in lifestyle design. Why not rethink them as an adventure in designing your life? So many buyers, sellers and homeowners today are facing very difficult decisions around their real estate. Should they buy? Sell? Walk away? Stay put? And when? No matter whether the real estate market is at its peak or at its trough, the truth remains that your decisions about your home are inextricably intertwined with …

  • your family relationships;
  • the nature, substance and volume of your work;
  • the activities you have the time, space and money to engage in during your downtime; and
  • nearly every other area of your life.

So, if you find yourself facing decisions about your home, no matter how grim or stressful they may seem, I want to encourage you to see any moves you make as a window of opportunity to re-evaluate other things that might not be working optimally in your life, or to further other dreams you’ve put on the back burner.

I know:

  • homeowners in good shape who have taken their ability to refinance at low interest rates as an opportunity to rent their homes out and move to a new city;
  • folks facing foreclosure who are turning what seems like a tragedy into an opportunity to rent for a while, get out of debt, re-examine how their family lives and take an entirely new approach to their finances, and
  • buyers who are viewing their next home as the likely site for families, hobbies and business ventures that do not yet exist.

What real estate rethinks do you think are due?

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