Tag Archives: Change

Talk is Cheap

For a long time now, today’s multifaceted media has been howling like a guy wire in a gale of hot air. Technology has provided platforms for every angry citizen, so they can emulate Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh and point out what has riled them to everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against getting angry. It’s normal for people to get mad, protest, and vent. However, when that is all people do or believe that is all they need to do, there’s a problem.

There was a time when I used to hear the people around me say, “Talk is cheap,” but I don’t hear that so much anymore. When people lived in an era of three television channels, no internet, and no computer on their phone, their world view was smaller and more immediate. They couldn’t spend time or place much emphasis on sounding their “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” They were more focused on action in their immediate sphere of influence. As far as they were concerned, most everything else wasn’t even their business. And they were right to a degree.

The American public does need to turn its attention to the business of our closest trees instead of the entire forest. Seeing our own dying trees in a worldwide wilderness is hard. Nevertheless, that is what we must do. If we want to restore value to our talk, we must take visible action. Martin Luther King Jr. was an eloquent and powerful speaker, but his words would have had little value had he not lent his abilities to local organizations that were putting people on the ground at marches, in food pantries, and classrooms. Those actions were the wellspring of hope—not just the words.

Putting people on the ground at marches, in food pantries, and classrooms. Those actions are the true wellsprings of hope—not words.

I’m glad that today’s society has the ability to broaden its awareness with technology, but awareness cannot bridge the need for immediacy in activism.  One can make donations from afar, but that in itself will never fill the need for bodies to do the work. Plus, a physical presence has greater value to any movement because it arises from deep commitment and courage to be a hands on part of change. Inhabitants of cyberspace and the twitterverse must remember that communication never changes anything by itself, angry or otherwise, and when the target is distant, this is even more true. Without some kind of reasoned execution of action behind it, talk just grows irritating.

Even though there are corruptions eating at the world that warrant public fury, take a break from the cheap talk of all caps tweets and Facebook posts. Instead of your keyboards, turn to your community service organizations and local governments. Move toward local achievements rather than depending on easy words that are not likely to incite distant action in others.

Motivation: Getting beyond, “If Only”

 

 

A Lack of motivation can seem like a blank, insurmountable wall
A Lack of motivation can seem like a blank, insurmountable wall

What stands between many people and their goals, dreams, or hopes is a lack of motivation, a seemingly insurmountable, blank wall that they must climb in order to reach the top.  As a personal trainer, I see people clawing against their lack of motivation every day.  They constantly search for a way to achieve their goals. They look on-line, read books,  try all manner of diets and supplements. Time and time again they try but never seem to succeed.

Why can’t they find what they’re looking for? What are they missing? I believe their main error is in thinking that motivation exists outside themselves. Looking for motivation outside yourself is as misplaced a hope as looking for an external source of happiness. It doesn’t exist.

You see, another word for motivation is desire, and when it comes to reaching goals, there’s great truth in the simple phrase, “You gotta want it.” And if the outcome you’re seeking is difficult or requires life-long effort–you gotta want it bad. There is no program or supplement that can fuel that hungry inner fire of need. The food for that flame comes from your own heart.

So now what? What can I or anyone say to a client, friend, or family member who struggles with finding their deepest, elusive drive? First, one needs to carefully feel out their reasons for wanting to change in the first place. The one who wants to change needs to peel away the onion skins of “why” in order to discover her deepest reasons.

It goes like this:

Why do you want to lose 20 pounds? To look and feel better. Why do you want to look and feel better? So I can feel more attractive for my wife and can play more with my children. Why do you want to feel more attractive for your wife and play with your children? I want a better relationship with them.  Ah. Now, there’s a solid reason.

The thing is, if you’re trying to be healthier and lose body fat, are you really motivated by, “I want to weigh one-hundred and eighty pounds and have fifteen percent body-fat?” Who cares! What you need is to know what that’s going to do for you. Are you lonely and want more friends? Do you feel that playing ultimate Frisbee with your office mates will help, but you can’t because you’re fifty pounds overweight and your knees constantly hurt? Then let that need for friendship be your drive to losing weight and making the necessary changes to your behavior.

And there are behavioral changes that will need to be made. Most people are in their current state due to behaviors,  and the way out of that current state are new behaviors. Once you’ve found an inspiring reason to move toward your goal and have lit that internal fire, then you start the work of breaking down the steps that will continue to feed that flame.

The thing is that we can’t feel our way into behaving differently. We have to behave our way into feeling differently. It’s a mistake to think of our emotional state as the cause of, rather than the effect of, our actions and environment. Emotional states can drive behaviors, but for control of your life–turn that around.

For me, evidence of the relationship between behavior and emotions appears whenever I’m about to do a workout and I’m feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and like maybe I should put it off until I feel better. Those feelings come from outside influences and are transient. Dozens of times I’ve felt like that and when I pushed past them and did the workout, about five or ten minutes into the session, I started to feel more energized, more awake, happier. And I always left the gym in a new state of mind. This pushing past emotional blocks is a necessary skill to reaching any goal in many domains of  life.

Need to feel differently? First, you must act differently. It almost never works the other way around.

 

 

I’ve Lost So Much

 

Over the course of my life’s half-century, I have lost many things. Some were dropped unnoticed, others were wrenched away from me, and some I laid aside gently, like one might bury a dear friend.  And each time I thought I might lose my heart, or my identity, or even my will, but I never did—not totally. I would be changed, but not so much that there was a loss of self-recognition. And sometimes, after I put something aside, I discovered that who I had been was the lie—not who I became.

In my blog about “Letting Go,” I wrote about how quitting smoking became easier once I discovered how the habit had been incorporated as a part of my identity. It wasn’t until I quit that, unclouded by addiction, I clearly saw how false the habit was to the core of myself and who I wanted to be. As I became more connected with my new choice of livelihood, Personal Training, other things that ended the sentence, “I am a person who likes…” disappeared and different ones took their place. I continued losing things because they didn’t tell my story any more, and I set them aside.

The deepest heartaches followed having to part with friends who no longer belonged in my life. Friends are especially difficult since a true friend enjoys an intimacy that goes deep, deeper than a lover at times. Some friends grew up with me and remained loyal throughout every stage of life. We shared youthful memories of favorite teachers, first kisses, and riding bikes on long summer days lit with freedom. Unfortunately, or fortunately, everyone changes, molded by time, circumstance, and will. The time to sever ties with a friend always came late—dawning on me in surprise, but there it was, chronicled in arguments, silences, and hurt.

Falling out of love has caused me to set aside the old, but falling in love with my wife was also one of those times. The person I referred to whenever I said, “me,” underwent a transformation, a metamorphosis, as I swam deeper into the enveloping waters of Love. I am reminded of the biblical passage, “two will become one flesh,” when I recall the experience. And in the beginning, love is supremely concerned with the flesh. Oh, the savory, subtle, stormy, sweetness of love’s physical expression filled time and my memory to the brim. With this came a breaking open, a willing loss of control, a sharing of my animalness, my reason, and my spirituality. As with any metamorphosis, there is a molting; in order to be born anew, the old must be shed.

Fear made a showing then. Remember when “I swam deeper in the enveloping waters of love?” There was a shocking moment when I realized that an easy return to the surface was impossible. That meant drowning and death. And the truth is that Love is similar to death, in that—part, or even most, of you must wholly surrender before love can truly blossom. The seed you were must die before it can realize its new purpose, and as I fell in love, my heart held back in fear, but eventually it had to break open. There is a death, a burying in love, but there is also a resurrection, and oh, what a rising.

I have lost many things in my life; some of them I regret—others I should have let go sooner. Even though losing things will continue, I am more comfortable with the process now. So many things have come and gone, and I have always come through. It’s not as scary now. My identity is a kaleidoscope of people, places, ideas, activities and things and each image is lovely, even as it morphs into the next.

Letting Go

Letting Go

 

I love to smoke.

A dozen times a year I find myself thinking about sitting on my patio on Crete looking out at the sea, holding a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in another. Sometimes when I’m on my porch with a cup of coffee and it’s raining, I think, “Man.  A cigarette would be really good about now.” I can still feel the satisfying fullness of a deep inhale and the relaxed release of every exhale.  Even though I quit smoking, these temptations hang onto me, and to some degree, probably will for the rest of my life.  But I have done something that has weakened the power smokes have over me–I have let go.

I don’t mean I have let go of cigarettes, but I have let go of their place in my identity. It turns out that removing them from my sense of self was more important than putting the physical pack aside. I noticed that in every attempt at quitting, I found it impossible to imagine never having a cigarette again.  To think about never being able to drive and smoke or have a glass of wine with a cigarette made me squirm with anxiety. This was my clue that they had a place within me that went deeper than my cells’ addiction–I saw myself as a smoker.

The last time I quit, with the help of nicotine gum to relieve the physical addiction, I was able to focus more on changing my inner attitude toward my bad habit. I centered my attention on how I identified who I was and  who I wanted to be. Having always been adventurous and physical, it was an easy step to more deeply identify with those traits and to point out how smoking ran counter to them.  In particular, the deeper I identified with my fitness self, the less attractive smoking became.

This letting go was a gentle process. For the first time, quitting actually made me happier. In the past, trying to quit was a knock down-drag out and that fight kept happiness at bay. Happiness is generated from within, and when there’s a struggle going on–happiness will not enter. Our ego thinks we can drive out bad habits and addictions through a force of will. We have been conditioned to berate and blame, but those leave us exhausted and demoralized. It’s actually better to quietly usher the unwanted out of our lives.  By calmly ordering the way we see ourselves, we make the habit seem out of place.

Quitting a habit, be it smoking, eating unhealthy food, or drinking too much, has more in common with surrender than fighting. What do I mean by that? Think about what you do when you’re at a restaurant and there’s a lovely cheesecake or craft beer on the menu and you know you do not need those empty calories. Do you order it, eat it, and then spend the rest of the evening hating your weak, loser self? Or, do you insist you don’t want it? That’s a lie though, isn’t it? Rather than hate yourself or lie, why not accept your craving and quietly set it aside in favor of your personal vision–your desired identity. You may have to do this several times and you may even have to compromise–have a small piece of cake–but remain at peace, treat yourself with mercy and soon or eventually, you will emerge with a new identity–free of your habit.

This letting go is gentle, but it isn’t characterized by passivity. Let go with specific intention and patience. Let go with a willingness to challenge habits of doing and ways of seeing yourself. Let go of what you have known, no matter how comfortable, in favor of your dream that promises a new life, different pleasures, and unknown adventures. Peace be with you.

 

Orbits

outer-space
Am I in the “Goldilocks Zone” where life is best sustained, or am I orbiting in futility?

 

It’s a new year, and for me at least, it seems that here at the beginning of our solar merry-go-round, I find myself looking back along the arc of our planet’s past orbit. What am I hoping to see? To be metaphorical, I’m looking for what I myself have been orbiting. What I’ve done with my resources, how have those actions improved my life and the lives of my loved ones, and has my life’s work continued to nurture what I value?  Am I in the “Goldilocks Zone” where life is best sustained, or am I orbiting in futility?

This is very important to me.

Just like you, I only have a limited amount of time, energy, and attentiveness. Those are the foundational resources of my life, of everyone’s life, and I want to invest them well and wisely.  I strive to make sure I use those resources in places that advance my dreams and keep my spirit lifted. I want to use them in places where I feel like I’m respected and valued, and where the accomplishments I achieve advance not only me, but others as well. Instead of being, as Meghan Trainor sings, “all about that bass,” I’m all about that service and that is my primary orbit.

Every segment of my life, as delineated by my occupations, has been in some way about service: twenty years in the military, going to college and becoming a teacher, guiding people in the outdoors, being a trainer. All of these are service occupations. That’s what I love to do.

In the new year, I am also looking ahead for what new orbit can I place my service in or what can I do to improve what I am currently doing.  The finger I keep on the pulse of the fitness industry is feeling out new ways for people to reach deeper within themselves and discover the pathways for reaching their dreams. And those dreams are not really about looking good. They are about being healthy, more energetic, happier, and more adventurous. These are all things I want I want my solar system of self and loved ones to revolve around, and I find that living a healthy life is a way to gain them.

Which brings up an unusual point. People see me as a personal trainer and often think that exercise is the central orbit of my life, but that isn’t true. Exercise is not one of my orbits, nor does it fulfill my life—it is a means to living fully. The way I want to live and the achievements I want to leave behind as a memorial, are not direct results of my exercise, eating and sleep habits. Those are tools that create a body more capable of achieving my dreams.

Something wonderful
What’s going to happen? Something wonderful.

During this Year’s infancy, I urge everyone to move beyond their habits, and turn their attention to the values they have chosen to orbit. The why’s behind their hopes and dreams. Take the poet, Rainer Rilke’s, famous advice about “living the questions,” and carry into the New Year a pilgrim’s spirit:

• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of fluidity? To be comfortable with uncertainty is to gain a great peace.
• What is my next challenge in daring to grow as a human?
• How can I open myself to the beauty of nature?
• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
• What new creation waits to be born in and through me?

Once your eye turns inward, you can begin to discover the values behind your orbits. “How do I spend my time? Why do I value spending it in that way? When did I give so much meaning to food? Why? When did I give so much value to watching TV? Sporting events?” Seriously ask, “Is it really necessary? Is the way I spend my time good for me and my family? Does it keep me from my dreams?  Answering these questions are as important, if not more important, than a gym membership or changing your diet. Discover what you’re orbiting and why. The answers are what will keep your diet, exercise, and health, permanent.

Advance Confidently

I posted this to my Facebook page a few days ago as a reminder to my friends and personal training clients that success is more often experienced by the bold.

“When you’re standing on the edge of change, about to take the leap into a new world devoid of the creature comforts that habit has provided, remember what Henry David Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.””

One friend asked, “Is that true?”

Well, I think it is and here’s my reasoning.

Living confidently means there’s a strong faith in the “rightness” of your actions. This isn’t necessarily a moral rightness, but rather a rightness for who you are and who you desire to be. You must embrace the hope of things unseen, that the imagined future will surpass your current state. This means the life of yesterday is not held on to, nor do you regret its receding into the past. In my experience, the fear of loss is a major impediment to change. Even when what is being lost is harmful.

The Edge of Change

Trying to change your future life does not mean to abandon living in the present. The present is where the work is done. The Past and Future are beyond your influence and only exist within yourself. The past is expressed in the way you have been formed, but it is irretrievably gone and part of it isn’t even that welcome in your life since you’re on a path of change. So, remember the past, learn from it, but don’t mourn it. The future only plays a role in the present as an influence for behavior, but it has not played out yet; it is a mystery and should remain so. Hold fast to your vision; work to see it come to fruition, but withhold any exclusive expectations. Work in the garden of the present, your very toil and focus are the seeds. Then,  as unexpected blooms spontaneously appear among those you cultivated, see what beauty comes to pass.

Plus, the confidence I’m speaking of, is attractive to others–it’s contagious and attracts help. Would you rather invest in the timid or the confident? People who “advance confidently in the direction of their dreams” draw help from those around them, whether that be mere encouragement or physical investment of some kind. When people fail, it’s often to some extent due to their impoverished confidence and an absence of earnest and industrious effort. They undermine their own dream.

When I read Thoreau’s comment, I especially note the word, “unexpected.” The person who succeeds doesn’t expect to; he believes and toils regardless of the possible outcomes. Why? Because he believes in the “rightness” of what he’s doing. Not because he thinks he deserves success. Not because he thinks fate owes him success. Those two beliefs are reasons to slow down and wait for your due. And therefore are often why they set the stage for failure.

If you want to succeed, follow in the footsteps of those driven by what they confidently believe in and work for and you will likely find yourself unexpectedly successful.