Peak Experiences At Work

Had the most wonderful experience watching someone who was really good at their job working last week. It was at a fabric shop and she was selling 2 women fabric that they needed for a wedding. What was remarkable about how she worked was that she seemed to anticipate the women’s questions and offer up a solution before they had a chance to ask. She seemed to know how their event should flow, what was formal enough and what would look over-done. As sales processes go, it wasn’t sales-like and it was refreshingly efficient. It didn’t look like she was working at all. In fact, it seems like a peak experience.

A Peak Experiences is an experience that seems to flow out of us as we focus so completely on a task or a challenge that we forget about everything else. You lose a sense of self and your surroundings and exist shamelessly without any social point of reference. They don’t happen easily for most but they are a skill so you can get better at having them.

I’ve found physical activity and playing guitar to be the easiest ways to facilitate them, but more recently I’ve found that I am having them with teaching cycling classes and occasionally while coaching movement.

They are possible only when we have enough competency at a task that we do not need to think about doing it while we are doing it. And then, the task must be challenging enough to force your attention away from everything else.

What does it feel like to have a peak experience? It feels like nothing, literally. You don’t really know you are having one while you are in the flow state. Thoughts of it will bring you out of it and if you are doing something really intense, thoughts about thinking will cause you to screw-up something – I’ve fallen really hard snow boarding because I started thinking about what I was doing and how I seemed to just know when to carve.

You know you have them when you come out of it. Instructors have told me about teaching classes were they remember starting and remember stopping, but don’t really remember anything in between other than some images and a really satisfied feeling

This girl was excellent at what she was doing and she seemed to emanate joy as she worked with the women to find the perfect fabric to their event. Rare and amazing to observe someone that good at their craft!

5 Traits For Successful Body Composition Change

Having worked with hundreds of people over the last decade, I have had the opportunity to observe their progress and to get an idea what qualities are needed in order from someone to make a dramatic change to their body composition. Below are the 5 characteristics shared by those who make the most positive changes.

1) They are independently motivated. Being self reliant is more important than anything else when it comes to body composition changes. If you are able to train, cook and shop on your own, you are going to be much more successful in the long run because you are actually creating new and sustainable behavioral patterns. When you lean on another person to be your training partner, chief or to hold you accountable to YOUR goal, you are shifting some of the responsibility onto the other person. This can work, but you run the risk of creating conditional success or dependency.

2) They give-up their notions of what they know and follow instructions. Given their independence, if they knew how to do it they would be doing it. The sooner people shut their mouths, listen and act, the sooner their bodies change. Body composition changes are not complicated 98% of the time but people tend to make them more complicated (possible to ensure their failure). It’s about eating real food, exercising intelligently and doing both consistently for an extended period of time.

3) They see themselves as the cause of their problems and do not blame others for the state of their life. If it’s someone else’s problem get them to fix it. But you control your body so if you are an adult and you don’t like the way it looks that’s your fault. Blame other people if you like, but they aren’t going to make you lean and muscular. If you want to change your body change your body. Crappy or toxic friends are one thing, but you are the one who gives in to their negative influence and makes their problem your problem.

4) They are able to focus their attention onto the experience of change in order to improve their body awareness. Food makes you feel something, so does exercise. Changing your thoughts about food feels like something. Change feels different and it’s important to gain awareness into what that is. You can feel your blood sugar level changing, you can identify the difference between actual hunger and psychological hunger, you can get feel and contract almost every muscle on your body. You can feel all of this once you identify what each thing feels like and then practice feeling.

5) They accept suffering as a part of the change process. If you have body fat to drop there is a very good chance it didn’t get there through exercise and sound eating. Accepting that you now have to pay for the party is critical in embracing the suffering that going without is. It can be hard and that sucks, but being lazy and eating too much was easy, so the pendulum swings.

Possess these qualities and there’s a good chance that you have already taken control of your life and your body. If these characteristics don’t sound like you, start changing the way you act to embody them. You only have your extra body fat to lose!

Training With A Partner – Who’s Helping Who?

The term “averaging” is used a lot in performance coaching because, as social beings, we tend to spend a lot of time with other people and we being to take on some of their characteristics. Averaging is when two people shift an aspect of their behavior so as to become more like the other person. For example, if someone is a 4 in passion and the other person is a 6 in passion, chances are that they will average each other to a 5 or if a non-cursing person hangs out with people who curse all the time, there is a very good chance that they will end up cursing.

“You are the average of your 5 closest friends” is something that I will say to people who are trying to make positive behavioral changes people tend to mimic the people they are close to.

When it comes to training partners, I notice the same thing a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to training partners of the opposite sex. Undoubtedly, after some period of time, the stronger of the two will begin to get weaker, perform less efficiently and, in general, begin to slide backwards. The less advanced trainee will average-up, almost like they are robbing the strength / talent of their training partner. In almost every case, the relationship is parasitic and the weaker will stifle the progress of the stronger. It will seem like win:win, but it tends to be win:lose.

So if you are training with someone else, take a long hard look at what is happening and make sure that your progress isn’t being hampered by your well intentioned efforts to help someone else and if you are advancing quickly, make sure you aren’t burning the potential of your partner. If your gains are coming at the cost of someone else, you are just borrowing them and they aren’t really your gains; they’ll disappear when the other person figures out how the interaction is actually hurting them and makes the decision to work independently or with someone who will average them up.

Again, there is nothing wrong with any of this and it doesn’t always happen, just make sure you know the direction of the positive influence and that both parties are aware and agree to it. You can waste a lot of time if you are the stronger or if you are the weaker you can end up injured because you pushed past any reasonable limit.

In Her Eyes You See Nothing – Facing Old Partners

At the end of my relationships – and I mean the very end, the time AFTER you break-up and make the decision to stop swinging back and forth between being out of it and being in it – I’m always hit by some of the profound changes that didn’t seem to take any effort at all to facilitate. In what seems like a moment, you can flip the switch from believing that you will get married, have children and grow old together to not even talking and to be filled with excitement at the thoughts of starting again with a stranger. You can just wake-up one day and be done.

Then the stuff begins to change. The excitement that used to fill your belly when you see them is replaced with an angered arousal that spikes rage and not lust. What used to be a soothing presence is replaced with anxiety. The once welcoming stare has been wiped of off both faces and is replaced with a flat emptiness, a void that seems to say “I know you less than someone I’ve never meet.” You sense an unwelcome-ness in each others eyes, a suspicion further confirmed by the dark energy emanating from false smiles and fabricated body language. You stiffen and lean against the flow of the world, choosing to fight the once natural bending and going with it.

What was your bright and exciting future becomes a stained memory tinted with bitterness, disappointment and all the other stuff that was manufactured during the break-up process to get you to change your mind.

It’s all made up though, it’s all a choice that we engage in to move us past the relationship and into the mind set of a single person. Intuitively we know that we cannot restart with someone else when we are in our mind still going with the old partner, so we create the break-up experience to allow us to start again, with a few new lessons and a clean slate, free from dueling thoughts of how good it could be with the new and the old. You may very well hate your ex, but they haven’t impacted you in a long time so the magnitude of the contempt is disproportionate to the actual physical impact they have on your life.

In her eyes you see nothing, and you shouldn’t. You need to obliterate your outdated understanding of the world that has them being a part of yours. And there’s a good chance that it needs to be this way. When someone is in our life for a long period of time, we normalize them being in our life. They become our habit. Unless you take drastic action to break the habit, you will allow yourself to see some reason to stay when you look into their eyes, unless you see nothing.

Toxic People – Let Them Hear Themselves – Possible Solution

The premise of the post Toxic People – Controlling Communication = Control was that toxic / controlling people are able to keep the upper hand because they are able to control the communication behaviors of their victim. By preventing the victim from getting external opinions, the abuser is able to maintain their high level of influence. This is very effective for maintaining control of the tone and to heavily shape the thoughts of the victim. However, it only works IF the abuser is able to prevent new information from entering or their abusive behavior leaving the confines of the relationship. Once an external opinion is thrust into the mix, their influence is diminished and the victim begins to regain power, control and perspective.

However, in many cases you can stop the verbal abuse very quickly letting the abuser hear what they are saying by recording their words and playing them back for them.

A recent example of this left me laughing out loud at just how quickly the abuse stopped. A female friend has been making some very positive situational changes in her life to which her soon-to-be-ex is opposed. He has a tendency to lose control when he’s talking and end’s up shouting, making false accusations and generally acting like a delusional person.

She just got sick of listening to his insentient crap and began to record the conversations. It has been going on for some time and he didn’t notice that she was doing it until this week. When he asked her what she was doing and found out that she has recording his abusive rant, he got angry and played the victim card “I can’t believe you would do that to me” to which she replied “I just want you to stop being mean to me in front of our children”. Then it hit him, she had been doing this for some time and he hadn’t noticed, he says “how long have you been doing this?” Her reply “long enough,” he’s been acting inappropriately for a very long time and she got a number of his abusive rants on record. He knows that his voice, his abuse is on tape so the rest of the world is now aware of the situation and of who he really is. What was once his word against her’s is simply now just his words on tape. And his words are actually kind of sad when you embrace the fact that this is a grown man acting younger than their 6 year old.

He’s stopped talking to her because he’s well aware that the world knows who he really is and that he is unable to control himself when he talks to her because abuse is such a big part of who he is. What was once a nicely controlled situation is now being controlled by the facts – he will act abusively towards her in front of their children because that is who he is choosing to be. I think this was a great solution for her because it stopped the abuse immediately once he realized everyone knew who he real was.

Wooden Success

One of the most successful coaches in US college history John Wooden gives a very interesting talk at TED about success – this man knows more about success than most people know about being average.

He had the ability to see the talents of his players and came to recognize that many moderately talented players were actually a lot more successful than highly talented players in that they often came much closer to actualizing their potential.

To this end he created his own definition of success:

Peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing
you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

This definition has very little to do with the outcome and everything to do with the process. And when we get right down to it, the process is what we have control over. There are going to be days when we are beaten by people who have more skill, talent or luck, but, if we are successful, we will never be beaten by ourselves. We will deliver 100% of what we are capable of so win or lose we will be successful.

Watch the video to get some insight into why he eliminated winning from his definition of success – hint, as the winningest coach in UCLA history, with a streak of 88 games, he was often consider unsuccessful because his team didn’t win by enough.

Toxic People – The Suicide Card

In abusive relationships, when the victim is beginning to see and mentions that something is isn’t working for them, the stakes of the game are often raised dramatically. The threats of the abuser may increase in severity. One of the greatest threats is that of taking ones own life. The suicide Card.

The suicide card is effective in abusive relationships because the victim cares so much about the abuser that they do not like the thought of them ending their own life. The abuser is so good at manipulating the victim that they are able to engineer the situation by which the victim believes that their actions WOULD be the cause of the death of the abuser. While obviously not the case, as the abuser would be taking their own life, the thoughts of this action are so bad that the victim is not able to think logically and consider what is really going on. This makes sense, given that logical thought and emotional responses cannot exist at the same time, with emotional responses taking precedence over logic.

How to respond when someone you care about plays the suicide card and blames it on your actions:

Step one – calmly deal with the immediate situation. Their statement is emotional and based on a sense of a loss of control. Given this, you need to make sure that nothing bad happens while the emotion is there. Assume that they are telling the truth and do what you need to make sure no drastic action occurs. Basically, say anything. You have NO control over their emotional state and you should not engage them on the same terms as you engage people who aren’t toxic or abusive. Your goal is to put out the fire, make sure no one gets physically hurt and lower the emotional arousal as quickly as possible. This phase in the cycle of abuse will end fairly quickly if you focus on letting go of whatever was the trigger for the abuser to play the suicide card.

Step two – once the threat has subsided, take stock of your situation. The threat of suicide is a threat of violence. Unless you want to be in a violent relationship, you need to quickly accept that the partnership is unworkable and that failure to terminate it at this point will result in an escalation of violence. I have spoken to a number of people who have left abusive relationships and almost all of them said that the suicide card was played more than once. Repeated threats are so common that it is safe to conclude that unless the situation changes (the abuser gets therapy or the victim ends all contact with the abuser) the suicide card will be played again. While I believe that therapy can definitely help an abuser identify the cause of their actions, they need to seek the help spontaneously and NOT as a condition of reconciliation.

Step three – tell someone you respect about what has happened. This will give you a chance to say it out loud which will often shed a new objective light on what has happened – saying it out loud to a parent, sibling or close friend makes the thing real and moves it away from seeming like some mental movie scene that we tend experience traumatic things as. Telling someone else about it will make returning to the abusive situation more challenging because you may end up feeling kind of dumb for even considering it. It is also a way for you to ask for help from them. People who love you want the best for you, and they’ll be able to remain more objective about the whole situation as they are not emotionally involved in it. Just make sure that you confide in someone who isn’t themselves a toxic or abusive person.

Step four – change your mind set. Given that most abusers do NOT seek therapy spontaneously, which is a condition for it to be effective, you need to accept that the abuser will not change; some do but the number is so low that to believe you are with one of the people who will isn’t realistic, particularly after they have threatened to commit suicide. You also need to accept that you give them the power because you care about them. Put these two conditions together and it should be evident that the situation is not workable EVER. You get the power back by taking it back. My opinion here is that the best way to take back the power when someone plays the suicide card is to consider, in your head, that they have been successful in their threat and that they are no longer alive. Action on this and stop talking to dead people. Ignore them, if you have to talk to them do not allow the conversations to last very long and do not answer their questions when they ask “why” because, again, these are not the types of questions you usually get from people who are dead. By engaging them again, you give them the power to hurt you and make no mistake about it, if you let them back into your life, THEY WILL HURT YOU AGAIN because that is how they interact with their world. It happens that someone will play the suicide card in their early 20’s and again in their early 30’s so do not fool yourself into believing that they will change.

Step five – take a long time to process EVERYTHING that has happened. There is a pattern to it and you must identify it. It isn’t enough to say “I’m not going to let that happen again” because you were powerless to stop it in the first place as you enabled the persons behavior by staying with them – playing the suicide card is not usually the first attempt at manipulation. You NEED to be able to observe this type of behavior very early on to prevent entering into an abusive relationship.

Step six – when you start to date again, or get into a relationship, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY if the manipulation starts. Controlling your partners actions is rarely appropriate and until an abuser sees their behavior as inappropriate, makes the decision to change it and follows through on making the changes permanent, they are useless to you and will drain you of your will to care about people. They have a major problem, don’t make it yours by allowing them to treat you like garbage.

If someone tells you that they are going to kill themselves because of something you have done, try to see the immediate crisis resolved. Once they have calmed down, get away from them and pretend they have died. They may never do it, but if they do, you need to make sure it doesn’t have a huge negative impact on you because murdering yourself has nothing to do with other people.

Toxic People – How Interactions SHOULD Leave You Feeling

My understanding of a toxic person is someone who is able to evoke a negative emotional response within another person. When it comes to a controlling person, they use these negative emotions to get other people to change their behavior.Almost everyone knows a toxic person but many people have not identified them because their behavior is unanticipated. Evoking negative emotional responses or guilt within other people is not a socially enhancing trait so most people do not possess or use their capacity to do it. As a consequence to its rarity, the victim doesn’t even know they are being manipulated. Very often your first awareness of their toxic nature is not you feeling like crap being around them, but comes out when someone asks the question “is there anyone in your life who seems to leave you feeling bad or different from how you view yourself?”

Very often the answer is “yes” and it is then followed with the question “what does that mean?” It means, simply, that you have someone in your life who is able to get you to feel bad things that you do not spontaneously feel. They are able to do this without changing anything about the physical environment so, in essence, they are able to control your internal environment in the form of your emotional state.

The real world implications of having a toxic person in your life is that you will need to be very diligent when engaging them as they are not entering the conversation with the same motives of purity as you are. They are after something, they are out for themselves, and you are just a tool or an object that will help them achieve their end goal. Make no mistake about it, you are not an individual to them. You are a means to an end and you will be used up as they move themselves toward their goal. The safe guard comes when you realize that they are not working with the world under the same assumptions you are and when you make the conscious and permanent decision to treat them as an enemy to an objective reality. They are only dangerous to you when you let your emotions be controlled by them.

My advice to EVERYONE when it comes to interacting with other people is that you should be left feeling one of three things after the interaction. At worst, you should feel no different from how you felt with you started the interaction; your mood and outlook should remain unchanged. At best you should feel either elation or challenged. Elation is very positive as it indicate an improvement in your mood. Challenged is fantastic too as it indicates a possible or pending change in your understanding of the world.

For example, when I visit my friend Tony, most of our interactions leave me feeling no different – this is because I am generally a happy person who enjoys laughing and when I hang out with Tony, we spend most of the time laughing and making jokes about everything. But since he has moving towards a career as an osteopath, a growing number of our conversations are about what he is learning, so I am left challenged to understand some new information he as given me or I leave the conversation with a changed understanding of my world – an understanding that is more complete and therefore elating to me. I NEVER leave my conversations with Tony feeling drained, emptied, guilty or bad. Tony isn’t a toxic person.

Toxic People – How They Do It

If someone was to tell you that they were going to get you to pay for their lunch, when you had no intention of paying for it, you would likely laugh at them and say “buy your own!” But a lot of people spend a lot of their time and money buying individuals lunch, or clothes, trips, groceries, rent, etc… basically paying for things that they don’t want to pay for, things that they don’t personally need or want, and parting with time and money for things that have no direct positive impact on their life.

Why do some good people give away so much time and money to people who only care about getting the time and money? Simply because they are being psychologically manipulated by someone who is skilled at getting people to feel particular things.

The Wikipedia Psychological Manipulation page is fantastic! It reveals a number of techniques that can be used to create a feeling within someone that will help you to gain the upper hand in an interaction that will help you part them from their time, money and positive emotion. I do not condone behaving like this, but given the prevalence of emotionally impaired people in the world, one is wise to be aware of how they gain the upper hand in during interactions. NOTE – there are a number of people who can be lumped into category of toxic people including sociopaths, psychopaths, histrionic / narcissistic personality disorder and people who are insecure or suffer thoughts of being inferior to others so the chances of your not being exposed to someone who uses psychological manipulation to get you to do their work from them are pretty small. By learning their weapons, you’re going to go a long way in disarming them.

Below are a few of the techniques that I have seen used effectively on other people:

Lying and lying by omission – someone says something that isn’t true or they leave out a critical fact that prevents you from seeing things objectively. For example, a girl claiming that her body friend went out without her while not stating that she told him she was too busy to go out with him (lying by omission). A guy claiming that his girl friend went on a date with another guy when in fact she went to work. Neither is an objective account of the world.

Guilt tripping – a person suggests to the victim that they do not care, is selfish or has it very easy which creates bad feelings in the victim keeping them in a self-doubting and therefore submissive position. For example, a student telling someone they want to pay for their school that because they are able to work, they have money and don’t know who tough the life of a student is.

Projecting the blame – blaming another person for things that they had a clear hand in creating. For example, when someone puts off doing something until the last minute only to have something pop-up that prevents them from completing the task; the issue becomes what came-up and NOT putting the thing off until the last minute.

Playing the victim – by projecting the notion that they are actually the victim they are able to garner sympathy from others. For example, someone playing up their challenging upbringing as an excuse for behaving in a way that they know is inappropriate. While there are things about ones upbringing that will impact their future choices, adults reach a point when they are able to see their behavior as wrong as indicated by their citing a poor upbringing as the reason why they did the wrong thing.

So how do you use the above to get someone to buy you lunch? Let’s give it a shot! How to avoid buying lunch is in italics:

Lying – Can you please buy me lunch because I haven’t had anything to eat all day because my ex boy friend emptied my back account when he broke-up with me this weekend? You should talk to the police about that, sounds like a crime has been committed. Call them on their words. If what they are saying is true, a call to the police will take care of it very quickly.

Guilt tripping – I’m so hungry! How can you eat that sushi in front of me given me that I haven’t eaten all day? Strangely, you being hungry isn’t impacting the flavor one bit. This lets them know that their experience of the world does not impact you.

Projecting the blame – I had to pay for cab fare last night so that my friend wouldn’t drive home drunk and now I don’t have any money left for food. Sounds like you care more about your friends than you do yourself. Here’s my phone, call them up and get them to pay you for the cab fair. Presenting the solution objectively will let them know that you see the world very clearly.

Playing the victim – someone stole my jacket from coat check and it had my wallet in it. Now I’m not able to buy lunch because someone stole from me. You need to start taking care of your things. It’s pretty unwise to leave your wallet at coat check. By letting them know that they created the situation themselves your give them the information to prevent it from happening again.

The key is to not respond in the natural automatic emotional way. Take what they give you and run with it. They just want a free lunch, they don’t want wisdom, humor or anything enlightened so give them these things and they’ll move on to the next person who may have the money to buy them what they want.

Lifting In Front Of A Mirror

There are fewer mirrors in the gyms I go to than there used to be. Initially the trend bothered me because they are useful for checking form and it’s encouraging to see the changes in your body, the result of hard training.

The Mirror Hypothesis a T-Nation article by Tim Henriques explores this topic in more detail covering some of the possible causes for performance decreases caused by mirror use with lifting.

One of the comments to the article really resonated with me:

In Supertraining Mel Siff also talks about the proprioceptive benefits of lifting blindfolded. The brain is highly adaptive and will take advantage of every source of sensory imput it can when learning new motor skills. However, since it is also built for efficiency, often one sensory pathway becomes dominant and a reliance on that one system (the visual system in the case of those who habitually lift in front of the mirror) is formed.

That makes a lot of sense. It takes a lot of practice for us to learn how to find a particular position (setting the shoulder blades, aligning the spine, etc…) by going on feeling alone. Mirrors can be helpful but we can become dependent upon them, which is bad because improving function depends on being able to find a position without visual feedback. Training without mirrors is critical for developing body awareness once you have mastered form using external feedback mechanisms.