On Reflection, Time, and Decisions

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Giovanni Paolo Cimerlini’s etching “The Aviary of Death

I have made myself what I am.

-Tecumseh, Shawnee 1768-1813

Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not let others make your path for you. It is your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. Accept yourself and your actions. Own your thoughts. Speak up when wrong, and apologize. Know your path at all times. To do this you must know yourself inside and out, accept your gifts as well as your shortcomings, and grow each day with honesty, integrity, compassion, faith, and brotherhood.

-Terri Jean

Each morning I reflect on the passing of time. Not in a nostalgic manner, but one of acknowledgment. What actions were pointless, frivolous, or simply self-indulgent? What choices did I make that I’m proud of? The second question is harder to answer as those choices, for the most part, have become automatic. Habitual, if you may. Nevertheless, my goal is to quantify the positives and negatives, assess the behaviors that led to the decisions I made, and move forward, progressively as well as correctively. The analysis is not judgment.

Categories of Decisions (choices):

  1. Mental / Psychological / Emotional / Spiritual. This is broad for good reason. Each of these areas come together to quantify the self.
  2. Nutrition / Health. How much self-respect do you have? As human beings, we are physical clones of one another. We differ, mainly, because of the decisions we make in this category. Simple. Re-read the quote above from Tecumseh. 80% of the time think about food as it relates to health, wellness, and respect. 20% of the time associate food with an enjoyable, flavorful, entertaining activity. Would you attempt an extended endurance activity after eating “that” meal? Choose wisely.
  3. Physical / Fitness. Here you choose whether to seek the feeling and participate in change or not. Simple. Movement practice. Repeatable actions that accumulate and force adaptation. Improvement is felt and seen. The strength of your character. Prioritization of your time. How accessible is my chosen form of exercise? Do you know enough about, or have you mastered the movement to obtain full effectiveness from it?

Prioritize. Repeat. Learn.

It’s cliche, but true. Your most valuable resource is time. We can only hope to waste as little as possible. The expiration date is usually too distant to fully comprehend it’s magnitude. But you must. Your life is a gift. Your health is a choice.

  1. Create and assign values to every aspect of your life: physical / social / mental / spiritual / work / family
  2. Make sure your decisions align with your values.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Reflect, but don’t judge.
  5. Learn.

Onward and Upward.

 

Mindset: Practice in Pursuit of Excellence

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“Rote, mindless repetition is not practice… it is purpose that focuses the practice, and it is the intensity and specificity of that focus that governs the efficacy of the practice.”

Michael Livingstone

“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms … this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

Albert Einstein

In my personal training practice I teach from the point that the body is a function of the mind. To make physical changes the mind must be able to manifest a vision for what leads to those changes. To simply want the endpoint, or reach the summit is a fleeting desire. Preparing to climb the mountain may lead to a successful summit, but we must start the process of preparation and mental transformation.

Learn to think of change or transformation not from your current condition, but from that of the teacher, coach, or prominent figure that has given you a image of success. What often stands in the way is this feeling of immense physical distance between the present and the future. The body is far from where it needs to be to stand on the summit and without a strong, patient, willing mind, we will never touch our physical potential.

Preparing for transformation will not leave you with a culminating completion. The path becomes the way. The journey of preparation, undertaking of challenges, completion or failure in competition can and may fill your lifetime. True devotion to the process will lead to a new mind and body, one that you can’t envision now, nor will you know where it leads you.

Understand that by seeking knowledge through purposeful practice you may never reach the summit and that will be okay. Success becomes a commitment to the self. You will never arrive or graduate to a state of completion. Know this and pursue your personal excellence anyway. Be comfortable in this knowledge and realize that possessing this level of awareness is not common in Western culture. We are taught from a young age to focus on completion and to endure the valley’s in life to, hopefully, experience its peaks: graduation, marriage, children, promotion, retirement, relaxation, and finally heaven.

“Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.”

George Bernard Shaw

“The Way is To Train.”

Miyamoto Musashi

The Hobby of Health

Fitness is not unlike other personal hobbies in life. To keep it up you have to enjoy both the process and the product. An artist or musician must enjoy the process to reap the satisfaction and accolades of the product. When a hobby or activity is approached without enjoyment, excitement, and enthusiasm you can be rest assured it won’t remain a hobby for very long.

Movement is about positivity. Doing what you can, when you can, for as long as you’d like. I enjoy reading, drawing, fishing, and archery because they are relaxing hobbies. This is pretty universally agreeable. I enjoy fitness for the same reasons. It is a relaxing, therapeutic, and beneficial part of my life.

Hiring somebody to keep you accountable and force you to exercise is a serious waste of money and time. No one can be the sole possessor of the success or failure of your health and fitness. You’ve got to own the responsibility. A good coach will motivate and inspire you. He will nudge you and challenge you when it’s needed, as well as back off and give you space when it’s needed. If you find no enjoyment in the prescription, you will find no attachment to the process. We may hang on to see it through, as so many people training for a vacation, wedding or pageant/show often do, but when the cameras turn their focus off of you so will your attention to the details of that which brought the success and subsequent attention and admiration from your peers.

Today’s fitness or workout is portrayed and defined by numbers, calendars, reps, sets, and intensity… how to do more, in less time, with less equipment, and for less money. This is a product, and sad reality of a society that sees only what they don’t have, and clings tightly to their excuses, which have gotten them to the unhappy and unfulfilled place they are currently in.

Remember, the marketing plays on the mindset of the consumer. The message takes the path of least resistance, reaching “you” through your perceived limitations on your life.

My takeaway:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Never stop learning.
  • Always have a direction.
  • Find true enjoyment in everything you choose to do in your life.
  • Seek coaching to help enhance the experience and promote positive growth and change.

One final thought. If you find yourself agreeing to someone’s message, whether they are a politician, teacher, family member, or who ever. Stop and think about if the message is positive or negative. Is it self-limiting, or is it self-expanding? Are you a victim, or a victor? Is it building you up as an individual, or is it unifying you with a group of victims?

A Little Caution…

A little caution avoids great regrets. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Keep fully insured physically and materially and keep hedged emotionally. Insurance is not for sale when you need it.

Your health is personal. The old adage, “find an hour a day to exercise, or get ready for 24 hours a day of death,” is blunt, but mostly true. In its truest form exercise is meant to keep us healthy, both mentally and physically, providing us with a release from our daily tasks and commitments. The idea of changing your appearance, or modifying your image to compete in or complete a complex task is a whole other aspect of fitness training. When comparing the two we are confronted much more with the latter image of “fitness training.” The intense, extreme, and transformational are obviously more dramatic to sell. As consumers we want to believe the message, but doing so can set us up for frustration and failure. How you might ask? In short, to achieve phenomenal, mind blowing transformation in an unrealistically short period of time, requires an extreme time and energy commitment, drastically changing your lifestyle, effecting not just you, but everyone around you: family, friends, and coworkers included. You can only pull this energy from other areas of your life.

Maturity, confidence and self-control are the biggest factors in staying consistent with your health and fitness. They are the behaviors that keep you insured. Through your chosen activity you hopefully begin to build a solid fitness foundation. Basic examples are squatting, pushing, and pulling. Including these movements with a consistent aerobic activity is your solution. Being patient with health is essential. Good habits take some time to develop and bad habits take even more time to get rid of. A little movement goes a long way. Forget about high intensity until you have a firm grasp of your fitness. The consequences of too much, too soon are very great and very real.

Now take a long deep breath. Stand up, reach high above your head, bring your hands down in front of you and squat. Hips back, chest open, and bend your knees, breathe in as you go down, and breathe out as you come up. Listen to your body. Perform 10-20 repetitions. Three sets. Rest about a minute between sets. As you finish move around a little. Drink some water. See how easy that was? You took initiative and you started. No one can take that away from you. If you sit all day, this is how you break free from that monotony. Don’t forget… maturity, confidence, and self-control… these are your tools. Keep them sharp and carry with them everywhere you go.

Someday you will be happy you took these steps to arm yourself for what lies ahead. Remember, insurance is not for sale when you need it.