Tag Archives: Success

Writing boldly Toward the Stars

It’s a long, dark road

As I drive along the dirt road home, thoughts settle over me like a high cloud cover. Right now, those thoughts center on how to reach more people with my writing. It’s a New Year, so my mind, like many other peoples’, has turned toward improvement. I’ve been putting in the time, but for years now, whenever I post, all I hear are crickets.

I don’t always post enough, and that’s one of my resolutions–to write more blogs and poems. Nevertheless, I’ve ridden this creative road for a long time, and I feel like a kid who’s driving his parents crazy with questions like,  “Where are we going?” and “When are we gonna get there?” The problem is, I’m the kid, plus the driver, and I don’t have any answers.

With each passing year, it seems to grow less possible to penetrate the time-consuming barriers of school sports, televised entertainment, and social media. Even friends and family report back to me that they can’t spare the five-minutes it would take to read a blog post. They’re caught up in a whirlwind of activity gluttony, filling the belly of their day with so much to do that a wafer thin five minutes would cause it to explode.

Maybe, I’m just whining, but sometimes I think when people say they don’t have time to read my blog, it’s the equivalent of those times when a woman would tell me, “I can’t go out with you. You’re too good a friend.” Yeah. Uh Huh. Sure.

Maybe I’m talking to the wrong audience or not speaking the cultural dialect. Perhaps I’m missing something crucial about where to set up my soap box. Or maybe I’m just not good enough of a writer to hold anyone’s interest. That one scares me the most.

In response to those fears, I have signed up for a four-week course on blogging, plus a couple of short video courses on writing non-fiction and memoir. So, rather than just sitting on my hands and wishing for solutions, I am making attempts toward learning more and gaining some experience. However, what I still fear is that it’s not a skill issue, but more of being one tiny voice in a sea of voices. I sometime’s feel like  a low-magnitude star over the bright lights of a city. Even if the residents look up, they aren’t going to see me.

Boldly going–Nowhere

Above me as I drive, a break in the clouds appears and a few stars shine through. Here in the country, they are bright and clear. An achy feeling, like the pang that rises to meet the lonesome sound of a train whistle, stabs me. Any time I see the stars so clear that I feel like I could touch them, that same ache expands in my chest. I’ve always wanted to be like the crew of the Starship Enterprise and “boldly go where no one has gone before.” So far, no luck. I haven’t gone anywhere.

Even though I’ve been sending emails, hitting the social media, and posting more, my blog and poetry remain in dry dock, where I sIave for hours making repairs and modifications. Hoping I can get out among the stars. I haven’t made it yet, but the ache to write is still strong enough, or to be totally honest, my need for being read keeps me behind the keyboard.

Keeping on

The break in the clouds still lies overhead, and I keep an eye on the stars framed there. While random, they stir stronger emotions than any painting or teenage ballad. The stars and writing call me like  sirens. I can’t stop. And while I may be only destined to  keep going in order to be crushed on the rocks–it doesn’t matter. I’ll keep dreaming of when my personal USS Enterprise of creativity will settle on the teeming public shores and be welcomed at last.

So, I’ll keep boldly going–until I reach the stars or I run out of warp drive, whichever comes first.

GRIT

When I was younger, Grit was something  people around me talked about more than they do now. There were men and women in my small South-Texas town who were known to have “grit.” My grandfather and my Dad, really all my male relatives, would exhort me to “quit yer whinin’ and grow some grit.” We watched the John Wayne movie, “True Grit” and idolized his depiction of tough, Western sticktoitiveness.

Whatever the current word or term is today, Grit is a good thing to have. To get anything big or intimidating done, you gotta have some Grit.

As a personal trainer who is in the gym five days a week, over twelve hours a day, I run up against the lack of grit all the time. Outside of sports, mainstream and urban society has swung away from the ideas of sacrifice, especially when the alternative is the pleasure and ease of sitting on a couch streaming Netflix and eating Doritos.

I see people come in month after month, making little to no progress toward their fitness goals because they lack grit and will not stand up to the nagging in the back of their head for more Doritos, a quart of ice-cream, or a quick trip to Pizza Hut.

Exercise isn’t the best answer to their problem, but they do need to have the drive to intensify their workouts. They say, “I don’t want to work that hard,” and tool lazily along on an elliptical machine, thumbing through pages of People Magazine, which might burn through the calories in a Big Mac before it rusts away from under them, but it’s not likely.

Working hard is the clearest path to success–even more than talent. Michael Jordan says, “I’ve always believed, that if you put in the work, the results will come.” Even in a field outside the fitness realm, Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, says, ” A dream doesn’t become reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” These are the components of grit.

What Powell says about dreams not coming about by magic, is an important statement. In there is the secret to improving your life in general and your Grit.

Talent and genius are seen as something one is “magically” born with. You either have it or you don’t. And to an extent–that’s true, but both talent and genius can be improved upon, no matter where you’re at on the scale now. You may not be the smartest person, but with work and practice, you can get smarter.

Grit scholar, Angela Duckworth is a MacArthur “genius” grant winner and author of the book, Grit.  In her book she outlines how to build grit, and one of the most important elements is a growth mindset, which basically means a person believes she can build and strengthen traits like intelligence, talent, and grit that traditionally have been seen as static. Without that belief–no one tries to get better.

So, with a growth mindset, a woman can build her determination and perseverance to get gritty and as tough as a gymnasts’s hands–regardless of how much she possesses them now. By getting to work, she builds a better self.

woman on rings
A woman can build her determination and perseverance to get gritty and as tough as a gymnasts’s hands–

So when you’re faced with troubles, a new, long-term project, a new career, twenty pounds to lose, or the birth of a child, remember that it is by the resilient power of grit that you wear down the obstacles in your way. Without it–the obstacles wear you down. The barriers you face can be physical or mental, but either way you need more grit than the opposition.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.