Boost Your Mood By Doing A Small Thing For Yourself

Over the last 18 months I have been experiencing increasingly severe and spreading eczema outbreaks. What started as a small patch under my left eye moved and began to take hold above the eye and all around my neck. The outbreaks cycled and became worse overtime. It was itchy, red and flaky and the stuff around my neck became painful when I rode my bike and the sweat and wind felt like they were splitting the skin.

A couple of friends commented that oftentimes skin ailments are the result of stress or feelings of decreased worthiness. This made sense given that my diet is fairly good and fairly consistent and that my life is fairly consistent with activity, rest and sleep patterns being well established. There didn’t appear to be a direct environmental cause for the eczema so I was willing to accept that it was a reflection of how I was feeling about myself.

It was suggested that I buy some witch hazel and some cotton pads and use these instead of water to wash my face. After this I was to apply a good quality moisturizer to my face, particularly the affected patches. This was to be done twice a day each morning and before bed. I needed to make it a ritual and focus completely on what I was doing for the 5 minutes a day it would take. It was easy to do and I set out to do it to see what would happen.

My skin started to look better almost immediately. The flaking vanished and the redness started to fade. The itching stopped and riding became a lot less painful on my neck. Some of the wrinkles below my eyes started to disappear as well which was a nice bonus. After the first week my skin began to look healthier than I ever recall seeing it.

I also started feeling a lot better. My mood lifted dramatically and I found myself smiling and laughing more. No doubt this had something to do with my improved appearance but I also think it has a lot to do with the twice a day ritual. By taking the action to cleanse my face and use a good moisturizer I was putting effort into myself. This was valuing for me because I tend to only spend time on things that I believe have worth.

It was a small action that really only takes 3 minutes from beginning to end but it has made a tremendous difference in how I feel about myself. The effort I put in seems disproportionately less than the benefit I get from doing it. I do begin to look and feel worse when I miss a day so the positive effects are sustained so long as the behavior is sustained.

I’ve been told that there is very little chance that I will ever be completely free from the eczema and that I’ll probably always need to use some sort of moisturizer and right now I’m okay with that. If the small action of looking after my skin translates into the big outcome of feeling better about myself I’ll gladly keep putting the time in. It’s a small thing to do for myself and the benefits are far greater than the time it takes to perform!

Quitters High

I laughed my ass off at work yesterday when Adam mentioned to me that I was on a quitters high. I had no idea what he was talking about so when I asked him he said “this is your last week and you’re just kind of floating through the gym, happy, like there are no consequences” and he was right. I’m riding a wave of positive energy, much like how things were when I started working there.

Which is too bad because it would be cool if I had felt this way all along as opposed to just the beginning and end. And I have a feeling that the only reason why it wasn’t like that is because I made the decision to not let it be like that. Which is kinda annoying because it’s a clear indication that I still have a ways to travel on my journey towards enlightenment.

In truth, there were only 1 or 2 issues with work that made it too much for me to continue doing but they are things that are not going away. I liked the members, staff and facility – the physical things in the place. I didn’t agree with their business model and the behavior required to work within this model – abstract things. It would be safe to say that I’m glad to be getting away from a place that doesn’t afford me that autonomy I need to find satisfaction in a job. If I was allowed to run the business the way I want to run it, I would still be working there next week.

I’m on a quitters high because I now have the autonomy to be myself again and this just happens to be happy and carefree.

Everyone Has Their Own Journey

I’m male, not that this fact should explain anything, but I’ve noticed that guys seem hell bent on solving problems just so we can get back to watching or talking about the sports. When someone begins to tell me about the things that are bothering them I almost always have to fight the urge to tell them what they should do. My first inclination is to assume that they are unhappy about the situation and haven’t been able to see the way through it. This is, at least when dealing with most situations, a really bad way to move forward because people tend to know how to solve their own problems when they have identified them. The journey of their life is their own and only they are in a position to actually address their problems.

Now when I have a conversation with someone I consider the following things before saying anything: do they know what the problem is or is there even a problem? Have they identified their role in the creation of the situation, do they view themselves as a critical part of the situation and therefore the solution. Finally I wonder what they want from me, is my role to listen to them, is my role to think for them, is my role to guide them towards a solution that they uncover for themselves?

When I find myself in a conversation with someone who has an issue that is troubling them and I get the sense that I have the solution, I try to ask them “what do you need me to do right now, listen or give you advice?” More often than not, people will say “listen” and I keep my mouth shut and listen to them talk. This has the effect of lowering their resistance and keeping them open because it eliminates any feelings of judgment. Knowing that the other person is listening to what you have to say and not just waiting for their turn to tell you what they think affords you the opportunity to actually say WHATEVER is on your mind. Most importantly, remaining open keeps the creative energy flowing and this is going to be the best way for a person to identify and find a solution to their problem.

When listening to another person always try to keep in mind that they are on their own journey and should feel free to navigate life as they deem appropriate. If you approach their life from your perspective, unless you have lived their life, you are likely giving them advice that applies to your journey, which isn’t as helpful as you could be.

Tell Me Your trauma Until It Gets Boring

I ask my friends lots of questions. I try to get them talking as much as they can. Sometimes I’ll deflect questions about me and try to get them talking again. It’s fun to do because I enjoy listening to people tell their stories. Most people like talking too, and about themselves even more. It’s a win win and I believe that people appreciate talking to me and being heard dramatically improves ones understanding about what they are talking about.

However, every now and then I try to engage someone who is fairly unwilling to talk. I keep asking questions and they keep deflecting them over and over. I can be persistent and think I can come off as kind of pushy. There have been times when I felt the need to apologize for probing. Friends are good about saying it doesn’t matter and I do back off so there isn’t much harm done.

But if they were to ask me why I’m asking them, what value there is in talking about the big issue I would tell them that they need to make their story boring and the only way to make it boring is to tell it over and over and over again. I need you talk about the feelings, the consequences of all the actions, what was said, and by who. What other stuff was going on at the time and how was it impacted by the traumatic event. If it’s a forward looking thing, how will life be different as a result of whatever happens, what do you think you will feel like, what do you think you will say, how will people respond, etc…. Take a 50000 foot view and zoom in to make everything as granular as possible talking about each detail as it being the most important thing in your life.

It will likely take a few conversations and a lot of talking before the story becomes boring, but it’s very important that you stick with it and keep talking it out. It will become boring for you to tell eventually and when it does, you will begin to break free.

This is effective at helping people get past issues because it gives them the chance to make their thoughts real by speaking and having another person hear what they are saying. Being heard is the best way to turn your thoughts into something real. By allowing the complete emptying about a subject, you are clearing your unconscious brain of the things that were actively simmering below the surface. This clearing helps to close mental loops which consume mental processing capacity and the end result is improved mental functioning and energy, and a sense of liberation / happiness.

I have used this technique on myself and with other people and it tends to make people feel significantly better. You can feel things leaving you and your mood improves as the story becomes more and more boring. Eventually you just stop telling it and break free.

If you are the type of person who doesn’t talk about their problems or the things that bother you yet seem to always have them on your mind consider talking about them with someone who has the patience to hear what you are saying and who can help you talk the thing to death. If done completely it’s going to present your problem in a whole new light, one free from emotional arousal and based on logic and clear thinking.

When Mediocre Is Great And Great Is Just Alright

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I love that saying. It makes a lot of sense, particularly in the health, wellness and fitness industry. Very few trainers have enough tools in their inventory to adequately address the needs of every client they get. There is a tendency for unqualified trainers to approach all of their clients in the same way, using basically the same program for all of them – the worst example of this was the trainer who would pay a different trainer to train them early in the morning and then use that workout on all of their clients for the day. It’s a shameless move until you realize that 60 minutes of working out, even if on a program that doesn’t really apply to you, is 60 minutes more movement than you were going to get had you not come in and trained. It doesn’t represent the ideal or a great value, but it is an acceptable level of service.

My toolbox is loaded with different methods and principles and my brain has well over a decade of experience to call upon to help determine and address the needs of my clients. Having more than just a hammer, I’m able to see what I need to use to help the client move forward. More importantly, I KNOW what tools I don’t have in my toolbox and know my limits. There is a right time to say “no” to a client and refer them to someone else and I know with almost certainty when a client has outgrown or shouldn’t train with me. This is part of the value that I add to training / coaching that goes unnoticed – when I can’t help someone, I don’t take them as clients and this saves them a lot of time and money. A less experienced trainer may take them as clients for 3-6 months before they concede that they don’t know how to help or, worse, decide that the client must be doing something wrong yet not have the skill to realizing they are the one asking the client to do the wrong things.

So what? Well, the problem arises for the expert when they make the assumption that others know what they know; in essence they believe that their knowledge common knowledge. As a consequence they undervalue or underestimate their skill level when comparing themselves to others. I have done this a lot. I simply take what I know for granted because I know it and I fail to hold onto what I had to go through to learn it. In fact, I developed illusory inferiority as I learned because the more I knew, the less I knew in that each lesson revealed a bunch of other things that I didn’t know existed, increasing the scope of what I needed to learn and creating a decrease in the percentage of what I know about what there is to know.

Dunning–Kruger effect is the name given to this occurrence and, sadly, the fitness industry is rampant with professionals who suffer illusory superiority on one hand and those who suffer from illusory inferiority on the other. What’s not surprising is that there is an abundance of people who honestly believe that they are better at their job than I am and, up until recently, I believed that they WERE better than me. Mine was a simple and very common mistake for an expert to make because of our tendency to believe that others know what we know and, more importantly, we erroneously assume that anyone who is as confident as they are MUST know what they are talking about; their confidence is not false, it is based on the fact that they know a lot about a subject that they don’t realize is so deep. They don’t realize that there are screws let alone a screwdriver.

To avoid getting burned by the Dunning-Kruger effect the consumer needs to asks a lot of questions of the professional they are considering working with. The questions should focused on uncovering the consumers unique circumstances (or at least the professionals view of the uniqueness), finding information about ALL types of customers they professional has worked with and generally finding out how deep the professionals knowledge goes. If you are viewed as a cookie cutter case, find out why. You could be but cookie cutter solutions work for cutting cookies, they don’t yield very good muffins. Treating a 30 year old female interested in fat loss the same way you would treat a 22 year old male interested in building muscle is an amateur approach as the body doesn’t necessarily work the same way in achieving the same goals. Ignoring one trainers advice on how to address weak VMO and hamstrings in favor of the more popular trainers’ boot camp approach will leave you with weak VMO and hamstrings and likely very sore knees. The skill comes not from knowing what you can do but in knowing when to do it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect ensures that the very people you should be seeking will act almost exactly the same as the very people you need to avoid and in some cases may present themselves as less qualified than their under-qualified peers.

90% Of Everything Is Crud – Sturgeon’s Revelation

Sturgeon’s Law is the name given to two different adages derived from quotes by American science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, one of which is also known as Sturgeon’s Revelation.

The first is: “Nothing is always absolutely so”.

The second, and more famous, of these adages is: “Ninety percent of everything is crud.”

Des hit me with this one a few weeks ago at lunch. We had been chatting about some new job opportunities and I mentioned that I was feeling better about my qualifications and then he unloaded Sturgeons Revelation on me.

From my experience it is true with everything. If you go into a restaurant there’s a 10% chance that your waiter or waitress will be good; this applies generally so that there is a 10% chance that you will get a good server is you go to a restaurant. It also applies to restaurants in that 90% of them will be crud. It applies to coffee, training programs, music, etc… Everything!

It also leads to something I call clustering. There will be a tendency for crud to stick together and for the 10% of the great stuff to stick together. Which can be very helpful if you don’t really know the difference between crud and quality. Given that crud sticks with crud, there is a very good chance that if you identify something as crud, it will also be surrounded by crud. This is why in the fitness industry, great trainers tend to stick with great trainers or if there aren’t a lot of trainers in the gym, why they’ll stick to themselves. There are clusters of greatness in a world of crud and your life gets better when you are able to identify and learn from them.

If you are great, you need to be even more diligent when identifying the crud because there is an unavoidable averaging when you connect with another person – you will become less when you connect with people who do not possess the same skills you have and they will become better when they connect with you. In order for quality to survive when connected to crud, the roles of each must be clearly understood by the 10% who hold the skill and ultimately act as mentors to the remainder.

Always keep in mind that the crud is very likely going to identify itself as the 10% that has something valuable to offer. As such, you need to identify it as quickly as possible so as to limit the amount of damage it can do.

Need To Be Heard

I recall my abnormal psychology professor saying that those who lose their hearing suffer more from isolation when compared to those who lose their vision. It seemed odd but it was based on years of studies so I accepted it as the way it was.

Recently I’m starting to get a feeling for why going completely deaf is so challenging from a psychological point of view. Hearing is social, more than any of our other sense. We KNOW we are not alone when we hear someones voice. When we cannot hear, we will feel isolated because we fail to receive the information we need to prove otherwise. We also fail to hear what we are saying so it’s tough to know if we are actually broadcasting our thoughts.

But, unfortunately, the psychological suffering of not having a sense of hearing is not limited to those who lose their hearing. The psychological symptoms of hearing lose can also be manifested in those who are not heard or do not feel like they are being heard. More significant here is that it can be relationship specific – the same individual can form and maintain a healthy psychological relationship with someone who listens to them, and at the same time, have a maladaptive relationship with someone who doesn’t listen. Human beings NEED to be heard by the people they are close to.

So what? Well, if you are feeling off around someone, observe how you interact with them. Do you listen to what they say, does the other people listen to what you say? Are their normal turn-taking behaviors in your conversations or is it you listening to what they are saying, engaging them, and having them talk again without acknowledging / being impacted by / reflecting on what you said? If you get the feeling that your words have no impact on what the other person is about to say there’s a very good chance that they aren’t hearing what you are saying.

Personally, I feel best around people who hear, engage and change based on the words I say. I am filled with a sense of elation when my words shape the direction of the conversation as observed by the words of the other people. I feel worst when I’m in a conversation with someone who simply waits for their turn to talk. I don’t like being around these people for very long and will eventually drift away from them if all of our interactions have them downloading / venting or leave me feeling like they are not hearing anything that I am saying.

Our best can only come-out when we feel valued and respected. If you are starting to become aware that you feel bad around someone else, observe your conversations and try to notice if your words shape their words in any way or if they are most concerned with saying what they have to say regardless of the words what come out of your mouth. If you are simply a conscious target for their words there is very little chance that you are going to be feeling very good around this person if you need to have a meaningful conversation.

Changing The Mindscape – Embracing Diversity

Over the last 12 months I have had a number of experiences that have changed the way I view the world. It started when I went to work at the commercial gym I’m working at because this was the first time in 3 years that I took a job that allowed me to become friends with the staff and I made the decision to become friends with them. The team is an eclectic group of individuals with experience loaded backgrounds. The consequence to introducing them into my life is that I have had to embrace diversity in a way that I haven’t been able to before and it has been mind changing.

Below are some of the lessons they and this experience have taught me:

Accept that your past will present itself as the present in the way you react and think about things. You cannot escape this. You can however observe yourself doing it and in fact, you NEED to be able to observe it happening in order for you to stop doing it. If you never see it happening, you’ll be living in the past through repeated patterns of action, emotion and thought.

Stop seeking approval from EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. When we search for other peoples approval, we are forfeiting control of our happiness and emotional state and are actually creating a dependency for another person; which is effectively a tax on our happiness given that we are no longer free to seek it out. Whatever good there is inside of your will not come out as freely and the person we are will never become actualized to the same extent. By seeking approval from other people, we are limiting ourselves to behaviors and actions that we know have worked in the past.

Stop being afraid of being wrong – if you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original. Judgment kills creativity, personality and happiness. When we fear being wrong, we close off and most likely repeat a previous action that was safe or didn’t have a negative impact on us (one that wasn’t viewed as wrong).

When I am doing what I love, my passion makes me feel alive. You need to make time for the things you love or need to do. Keep in mind that these things are going to be different for other people. To boost happiness as much as possible, surround yourself with like-minded or like-actioning people at allow you to do what you love. You’ll both get a boost from each other and the synergy you create will be wonderful!

Do what you love as much as possible because one day you won’t be able to do it. I am very fortunate to still be healthy and to be as active as I like. But I know this won’t last forever. Wear and tear on the body, injury, changing goals and values will eventually limit the amount of movement that I can do, as it does for all people. I take 4 hour rides, squat and dead lift loads far greater than I will ever need to lift, and bounce around turning food into movement because I can. I am all too aware that I am on the trailing end of an over-active lifestyle and the knowledge that what I do with it will not be possible in the future.

Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away“. That’s from a commencement speech Steve Job of Apple gave to the Stanford University graduating class of 2005. There are so many gems in the speech that everyone should read it a couple of times to gain some of his wisdom. But this comment is the one that I think is most fitting because it taps into the one thing that most of us know and fear, that one day in the future we will be obsolete and eventually we’ll be gone from the planet. Time really is running out for you, me and everyone. The species will continue, we’ll be replaced with other people who will achieve great things, waste their lives or some combination of the two. But time really is finite for us so you best better make the most of it because it will be gone very soon.

By embracing the diversity of human beings, by allowing their unique lessons in, we will find no surer way to happiness. Just make sure you do it now!

Seeing The Truth – Deviations From Normal

Seeing the truth or disillusionment can be difficult to manage sometimes because of its profound and reaching impact. We can feel dejected, hurt or experience a sense of loss. We can feel uneasy or anxious. And we can feel euphoric and be bursting with creativity and optimism.

One of the most remarkable things about the human brain is the ability to normalize almost any situation. People may wish for a better life, but they are able to function fairly effectively in most circumstances and environments. We are seeing new truths constantly and most are processed and interpreted unconsciously; they require very little on-going mental energy to assimilate. We can normalize deviance very effectively in most many instances.

Disillusionment is a little different because it occurs when a critical piece of our world view changes forcing a cascading wave of changes in other areas. Re-writing these changes will take time and it causes stress and mental arousal. The degree of stress is mitigated by support structure, health, available coping strategies and the size of the deviation from normal. Direct effort will also speed things along if you act according to the disillusionment vs. your previous world view. Direct effort forces experiences that are averaged into, and therefore change, what we hold as normal. Do this for long enough and your daily life will stop causing anxiety.

The direction of our conscious thoughts is important also. Think past, present, or future. By looking back on things, we are sustaining our old world view. We are ignoring the truth and choosing to pursue something that we know isn’t accurate. Doing this ENSURES suffering. Suffering is stopped by directing conscious thought onto the present and by accepting the truth. Disillusionment and enlightenment mean the same thing but what that is changes completely when you choose which word to use as each captures a different mindset and a different set of behaviors to embody.

When presented with a new truth that forces a change to your world view, you are best served by accepting and acting in accordance to it as quickly as you can. You are going to have to eventually anyway so why not front load the experiences so you move through the process most quickly?

Pushing Reset – Why You Need Time Between Relationships

When we are in long-term relationships our world view changes and we normalizing being in a relationship. We normalize behaviors, thought patterns, conversations, mental states, etc…. After a period of time we no longer question it and simply live our lives constantly receiving information that says that everything is normal because this is what has become normal. This is now the state that the brain will seek to achieve and you will begin to unconsciously put effort into maintaining it.

When a relationship ends we are faced with new information that is in stark contrast to our existing world view – that which we and our brain consider normal. This means that there are going to be a lot of unconscious automatic behaviors aimed at returning your mental and physical state to how it was when you were in the relationship. The body seeks homeostasis and it resists deviations from normal.

Given this, it makes a lot of sense to push reset at the end of a “normal changing” relationship and take the time to make “not in a relationship” the new normal. If you don’t, you are going to manufacture the same experience and likely engineer the same unsuccessful outcome for the next relationship.