“Thank You” Even If You Moved On

I think it is very important to remain grateful. It’s really hard not to be happy when you are feeling this way, so I do try to hold onto reasons for why I am grateful.

What’s startling is that there is a huge number of people who have positively impacted my life who are no longer in it. There are lots of teachers, professors, coworkers, strangers and old friends of varying degrees. The biggest old players tend to be ex girl friends given the abundance of time we spent together growing and cultivating a relationship. Yet, for all of their guidance, time and compassion, I hardly ever speak to any of them. Our paths do not cross often and when they do, other stuff bubbles-up that seems to be more important than looking them in the eye and saying “thank you” for the impact they played upon my life.

And it isn’t surprising that I get very little from seeing most of my ex girl friends. With my older ones, there isn’t much of anything other than a remarkably odd sense that to feel a little as I go is unnatural if not slightly cold. With the most recent ones, there is something, but it isn’t gratitude for the time they gave, but bitterness for the time I gave to them. Below that there is the knowledge that I am where I am in my life, the oldest, most self aware and content that I have been is in a large part due to their impact on my life; but this wisdom is only starting to break through the self-loathing that tends to accompany the eventual end of an expired relationship.

So, I forgive myself for investing in something that wasn’t what I thought it was, and I don’t hold Rachel to account for it. We were as aware of what was going on as we could have been and I moved onward because I believed that to be the best thing for her and for myself. I exited the relationship in a much better place than I entered it. I have started a career that Rachel helped me find and take the first steps in. I teach an all terrain cycling class, the training for which Rachel signed me up. I wear great looking Lululemon clothing because Rachel introduced me to it. I have a well developed sense of self and emotional intelligence that was created in response to how the relationship made me feel and think. I am healthier and look better physically now because, in a small part, the relationship never got comfortable that way. For these reasons, because it’s really nice out, because it’s a few months on and because I’d rather feel something happy than anything else I say “thank you Rachel!” I’m not sure where exactly I would be if you had not come into my life, but now that you are gone, I’m able to see that you helped to build me. It wasn’t what I was looking for from you, but, frankly, I’m better off for having received what you were capable of giving and NOT getting what I thought I wanted.

We have moved on and while you will never be on my sideline cheering for me, cleaning me up and sending me back onto the field, the person I have become tends to stay on the field playing life as hard as he can because you showed me that some dreams are worth giving everything up for, relationships, friendships, memories and the potential for something different. You showed me that you don’t dream hard to make dreams come true, you work hard to make them happen!

Men and women are built by other men and women through their actions, through their thoughts, and through the expression of their hearts. Even those who have moved on played their role and who I am today is dependent upon every person who has shaped me. Today, finally, my heart goes out all of them. Thank you for helping me find today!

The Saddest Truth – Never Seen It, Never Do It

Recently the world has lost a lot of its fog and I’ve been able to see some truths a lot more clearly than before. The saddest truth is that of why some people act like complete jerks, heartless, thoughtless and generally a complete pain in the butt to be around. It pains me because as a rule, they weren’t born this way, they were raises this way.

In terms of socialization, children are effectively blank slates when they are born. Certain personality traits are innate, but the degree of their expression is going to be determined by the experiences a child has as they grow up. For example, most human beings are capable of experiencing empathy. We learn through watching our parents and peers that the feeling we get inside when we hear of something troubling happening to someone is called empathy and that a small expression of the emotion is an appropriate response to bad news for someone else. Happiness, love, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, etc… are all the same way. We have the capacity to experience them and we learn how to manage their expression through observation and practice with the people we socialize with. These early experiences lay the groundwork for what becomes our emotional spectrum in terms of expression, thoughts and triggers. So our caregivers from birth to age 10 play an enormous role in determining how we handle ourselves as we interact in the world.

But imagine the possible consequences to a system that relies on a small number of people to enrich a young person with all of the experiences that are needed to effectively create an objective understanding of the world and ones innate emotional potential. For one thing, this approach is very narrow in scope and it engenders an almost carbon copy of what the caregivers believes. While not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t actually offer a lot of diversity and can lead to adjustment issues once the child experiences different points of view or a different world view; as each new experience must be assimilated or repelled to maintain a consistent understanding of the world. Also, by virtue of the small number of primary care givers, many experiences will be missed because these they fall outside the scope of what these people know. Finally and most seriously, there is not sufficient redundancy in such a small system to safe guard for the deluding influence of a deviant role model; anti social or maladaptive behaviors are assumed to be the norm by the child very early. Their struggle with the world begins well before they have an capacity to understand what it is about their behavior that isn’t appropriate.

Love, self-image and anger are the three main emotional areas that are most negatively impacted by absence or inappropriate childhood behavioral modeling.

Love is complicate in the self-aware adult, it’s a ball of confusion for a child. First thing, parents and adults are capable of loving each other in the same way a child loves a parent and also in a completely abstract way that doesn’t make any sense to a child. But that’s “love” modeled for a child. Assuming the care giver is capable of expressing love, the child will begin to generate an association between the feeling of love and the actions that accompany it. If the feeling is paired with loving actions – smiling, cuddling, holding, talking, singing, basically the things that make one feel happy and secure – the child’s understanding of family / caregiver love will well established in reality which will serve them well as they move forward. But if the care giver models something other than loving actions when the child is expecting love erroneous emotion / action pairing begin to form and the child’s view of love will corrupted. For example, an abusive parent who yells, hit or punishes their child for being afraid of the dark, painting outside the lines or not being immediately successful when trying something new. Care giver actions like these teach the child that no one cares when you are afraid, that love is conditional upon you being successful at everything you do and that creative efforts will result in emotional or physical pain. That becomes their understanding of love. It’s ugly, it’s damaging it, and it occurred before the child was old enough to identify any of what was going on.

Self-image depends upon care gives identifying our talents and efforts during critical periods in life. Between 3 – 7 children need to be acknowledged and recognized for how they engage their world. This is critical because they are starting to branch-out and their understanding of the world is expanding as their brain matures – their social circle is growing as they go to preschool and then to school. For the first time in their lives, they have the cognitive capacity to consider that they are not the same thing as other people and that each person is separate. In order for a child to properly form an accurate image of themselves, they need to be taught about themselves. Care gives who recognize a child’s actions and talents help them associate these actions and talents with the image they create about who they are. Care givers who do not draw the child’s attention to their achievements fail to help them connect the dots between actions and self-image, often leaving the child fixate on this phase of development. The end result can be insecurity and narcissism as the developing child struggles to satisfy a need for a positive self-image but having never been given the tools needed to consolidate it out of real life experiences.

Anger and its expression is in many ways the most damaging outcome of inappropriate modeling as anger tends to motivate drastic action that lacks consideration of the future. Anger is natural. It is a very useful survival tool as it can motivate irrational murderous rage, which is exactly what would be needed to fight off an attacking animal. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often but it needs to be considered that deep within each of us lies the potential to go bizerk and destroy life. Anger needs to be experienced and released, but it needs to be let out in a controlled undamaging way whenever possible. A care giver who takes the time to let out their anger in a control non-volatile way will teach the child the appropriate way to let the emotion flow out of them. However, the physically abusive parent who channel their life frustration onto their child in the form of abuse teaches the child that they are simply an object on which other people beat when they are angry. It doesn’t take very long before the child learns to be helpless and retreats into their head knowing that the violent world will always lay a beating upon them. Worse still in how this lesson makes its way through the generations as the grown child, who has only seen abuse (hitting their children) as the model of anger expression, pays this pattern of behavior forward.

Socializing human beings is a tough, time consuming task, made even more challenging by their tendency towards unquestioned single trial learn and a brain that doesn’t full mature until early adulthood. The key thing with it is to model and teach a child appropriate actions and appropriate responses to external events and emotion evoking occurrences. Our emotional system is well established and it comes on-line will before our brains develop the capacity to work with all of the abstract information that tends to create our understanding of the world. Keep in mind, if a person has never seen it, they are not likely going to do it. If someone is failing to behave in a way that is appropriate, there’s a very good chance that they don’t even know that what they are doing is not appropriate because they haven’t seen anything else, and they haven’t had someone tell them that their actions are alienating and simply don’t work for them.

The Relationship Paradox

The funny thing about relationships is that, unless you’ve know the person for a while, the persons life essentially begins when you realize you’ve meet them; at least your understanding / experiences with the person begin then. Both partners likely see the future in the other – that is, the hope of what can be in a period of time when everything is possible. It’s wondrous and pure, a time of magical excitement. It lasts for a while but in most cases, the past begins to show itself.

It’s the past, it’s why you are the way you are and there’s little you can do to stop it from showing its face and painting doubt on many of the dreams for the future you had been creating. It’s also the reason why your partner struggles to figure-out what the heck happened to fun and even flow what was the budding relationship. You change, not because your dream changed, but because your haven’t stabilized the past in the past, so it come out again to guide your life towards the same experiences. The past helps us change from author of a love story to actor in a modern tragedy because most of the time we do not question our motives for making a decision. We advance, on auto-pilot, sleeping through the decision making process, into the past.

So your initial movement and dreams of the future, being replaced by the automatic behavior of your past, is going to bother your partner because they don’t have any idea about your past. They see amazing, they see beauty, they see an unstoppable, bulletproof partner who will help them grow into their greatness. Thing is, their partners see themselves as all the things their previous experiences conditioned them to see about themselves. And most of this stuff is going to be a lot darker than the dreams their new partner has been manufacturing. Insecurities, assumed dept or unpaid obligations, open loops, guilt pinning actions, mental baggage from relationships, thoughts of wasted potential and in-honorable deeds – things that hurt to think about let alone say out loud and admit to someone you are falling in love with.

Your actions and fears don’t make sense to your new partner because they don’t know you like this. Your birth, in their world view, was the moment they noticed you so they aren’t going to recall your pain when, in grade 4, your answered a question wrong and the teacher laughed, or when you father didn’t show-up for the school play, or when your second boy friend decided to move to Vancouver to live with his wife. But you recall the pain. Your understanding of the world has been shaped by each of these, and 100’s more, disappointing events. Each thing taught or reinforced a new lesson about how the world was and your brain takes each lesson and manufactures a world view with these events as most probably outcomes in similar situations. This is how our past becomes our future.  The lessons shape how we engage the world regardless of the extremely isolated nature and absolute uniqueness of the experience. It’s one trial learning at it’s finest and it is, for the most part, why your current relationship is going to hit some rough water.

You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, maybe.

This relationship paradox, of you being the past and your partner seeing the future, isn’t a problem for self-aware people or those individuals who find themselves to be well adjusted in terms of their world view matching the way the world is. But for the rest of us, we had better get good at feeling the sensation of the past trying to express itself and stop the expression or start talking very candidly with our new partners about why we are the way we are. Let them know about the feelings of disappointment when someone didn’t show-up as planned when you were 6 and how this makes you feel like you are simply waiting to be disappointed by everyone. Let them know that you have some concerns about honesty because your last girl friend was able to lie very convincingly. Explain to them why you act in ways that seem to go against what they view you to be. They may not like hearing the stories, but they’ll benefit from knowing them because they’ll have a better handle on who you actually are because they’ll know what you are coming from.

It’s very simple. Good partnerships thrive when each person is able to predict the thoughts and actions of the other. To do this, each needs to know who the other person actually is as well as knowing  their hopes, dreams and potential. This won’t happen by accident. It takes work, open conversation, and an ability to accept that there are things about you that aren’t working for you anymore. The past is going to try to show itself again and again. With good teamwork and some frank discussions, you can identify the role your past plays on your present and shape your future to be much closer to what your new loves see it to be.

How I Have Not Served My Clients Adequately

Looking back about 3 years on my training, I can now see a few ways that I have not provided my clients with adequate service. Below is a list of 5 things I am now doing differently:

1) Sell small numbers of sessions during the initial few months. Some people will not keep doing this and while it is good for them, getting them to do it actually makes their life worse. It SUCKS to be out of shape and it can be even worse trying to get back into shape. And maybe, just maybe, selling someone a years worth of training when they are feeling excited in January is going to hurt them a lot more than help them. Give them the option to leave early on, and give them plenty of chances. You don’t want to train those who do not want to be trained.

2) Focus on getting them to properly engage their core. Humans need to be able to rotate their upper and lower bodies independently, but they also need to be able to prevent this rotation. If you do not set the ab muscles correctly when you lift, energy is going to be wasted and you will not lift as much weight. Worse still, is that if you ruin your back with relative ease when you lift without properly engaging your core. There has been an enormous increase in the level of satisfaction with most of my female clients now that I stay on them throughout the set to keep their core tight. The initial reduction in load is a small price to pay for the improvement in posture and function that accompanies appropriate core recruitment.

3) Focus on flexibility, joint mobility and function. This is one that annoys me because it was completely selfish. I don’t like stretching much (at all) and while I understood the importance of having adequate flexibility and proper joint range of motion, I didn’t place enough value on this for a long time. Fortunately all of my clients remained injury free so this shortcoming in training didn’t have a major impact on them now that it is being addressed.

4) Focus 70% of the strength training on eccentric phases. The lengthening phase of a working muscle is called the eccentric phase. It’s easiest to build strength and most of the micro trauma that forces muscle recovery occurs during this phase – these mean that if you have a lot to lose by not focusing on eccentric work. At its simplest, when you are lowering a weight you just move at 1/2 to 1/4 the speed that you would when you are lifting the weight. I don’t think you’ll lose fat as quickly if you avoid 4-5 second eccentric phases.

5) Focus on psychology with the people who don’t follow instructions. Athletes listen and do. People who want to change their body composition shut-up and follow the advice that is given. But what do you do when the people say they want something but fail to do what is needed to achieve their objective? You have two choices, the first is to fire them and get a new client, hopefully someone who will follow instructions and work towards their goal. The second choice is to get into their head and try to point out exactly what you are seeing and what it indicates. Doing the second consistently is what separates the good coaches from the great ones – and I’m hoping to be one of the great ones – because you’ll be able to get people to change who could not have achieved it on their own.

I have started to spend more time addressing these areas with my current clients, but I’m sure there will be a new list of shortcomings in the coming months and years, and that’s a good thing! We only improve the process when we admit to that which is not working and seek to change it.

Feeling The Past? Beat It Back To Live Your Future

Spending so much time in my head – because I ride by myself so much – I’ve started to develop an awareness of the moment when my unconscious moves an idea into my conscious mind. It’s startling to experience the influence of a past pattern trying to rekindle its influence and it is wonderful to sense my emotions begin to build as that influence almost takes hold. I’m starting to be able to observe the process start as opposed to allowing it to continue, only to reflect on the poor choices later. Stopping the emotions allow me to return to logical thinking; which tends to render a much easier and quicker movement through whatever it was that almost triggered my past to begin again.

This skill is developing because I’m able to spend a lot of time by myself, thinking about stuff then thinking about nothing and repeating over and over again. Hard bike riding is meditative to me because the intense efforts or challenging terrain make necessary a silencing of the mind and a shut-down of that audible internal narrative that causes me to believe I am the center of the universe. It is of practical advantage because the trail eventually gets easier or I tire from the exhaustive effort and slow down; both of these things tend to shut off the meditation, re-empowering the voice to remind me that I am all that matters. The key thing is, after having consolidated your consciousness into the present moment, you become aware of things that you had stopped considering or had not normalized.

For example, my clothes don’t matter when I’m 3/4 of the way up a big hill. What the guy who cut me off on the way to the gym yesterday thinks about me doesn’t come into my awareness when I’m about to lock up my front wheel on gravel just to slow down enough to not launch over the escarpment fence. This stuff doesn’t exist then because I can’t manufacture it into existence. And when I’m not so tired or so focused on not crashing this knowledge carries forward into my conscious mind. I KNOW it doesn’t matter so it’s much easier to push the thought out of my head or simple justify them out of existence because I know they are the creation of something from my past and not necessarily the reflection of what I want for my future.

That is a summary of course and it represents the evolution of an aspect of self-awareness that has taken close to 15 years to move from not being considered, not just as a possibility but at all, to a well organized reality that I am able to engage, observe and manage.

So what? Well, given that we are pattern matching machines with a tendency to unconscious automation of anything that requires effort, we are most likely going to repeat patterns over and over and over again until we do something to stop repeating them. We KNOW something isn’t working for us, but we just keep doing it like a mindless computer following a program that has been written because we are, in many ways, mindless computers that run programs that were written in the past by our experiences and interpretations. Given this, one is not likely going to escape their past (stop running the program) until they accept that it is happening, which can take a while. They must then learn how to interfere with the program by preventing it from starting (avoiding the triggers entirely which is really tough to do) or observing the program beginning to start and stopping it dead. One gains a tremendous amount of independence and self-control by learning how and what these these old programs feel like, so in many ways self-awareness is the solution while avoidance is a treatment.

Our pasts become our future when we allow old patterns to become present behaviors. If these patterns are not working for you, you NEED to break them and you need to gain awareness and feel them before you are able to stop them. It can take a while to gain this awareness, but once you have it, you’ll be able to beat back these old patterns and create your future based on what you decide as opposed to what you did in the past.

If You Want To Change Your Life, Change Your Life

After months, okay, years of sitting on my hands feeling like the world was a horrible place and that most if its inhabitants were out to get me I finally gave-up. Almost literally, I packed it in on what I thought was the world and my rightful place in it and shed the notions of romantic love, companionship, security and basically anything that I had grown to expect was my birthright. I made the decision to not date or fall in love because I felt that the people I was attracting and was attracted to were not going to work with me.

It wasn’t until about 6 months into this giving-up that I realized what I had done. I had identified something that wasn’t working in my life and I changed it. Months before I had made the decision to stop pursuing romantic relationships because they hurt and they require a long time to get over, time that I had not taken because I just moved onto the next relationship.

Looking back on before this decision, I hadn’t realized what life is like when you live it with only having yourself to consider. But it really is living! When you live a life surrounded by people who are not your responsibility, you gain a tremendous amount of mental time to focus on yourself. For me, I sort of went into my head while doing a ton of things by myself. Played a bunch of guitar, drank a lot of beer, rode like crazy, read, wrote, and generally floated through days, weeks, months coming to terms with the fact that without a significant other in my life, I was basically worthless.

Now, when I say that, people tend to recoil first, then move to rebuild me, but they shouldn’t. I honestly believe that there’s more to be gained from the wisdom that you are basically worthless than from the delusion that you are unique. From embracing the “I’m $7 worth of carbon, a giant meat sack, a bag of particles” view, one is freed from the responsibility to act like something. You’re moral and smart, so you aren’t going to do stupid things, but realizing that you are not what you think you are is going to free you up to BE what you actually are.

The inverse wasn’t working for me, that’s all I can tell you. Believing that I was unique and therefore special created an internal narrative that I was entitled to stuff – a girl friend, a job, lots of money, effortless success – which really doesn’t align with reality. But so long as I maintained the view, that I was worth something, I was going to wait around for success to land on my lap which doesn’t happen. So until I embraced my insignificance I suffered the hell out of life.

Without a girl friend, I started to notice that my jokes didn’t really need an audience to exist, I could just think them. My thoughts had paper instead of an ear. I had myself if I wanted to go to a movie, or climbing, or camping, or whatever. This was the change in my life I needed because I could do more or less what I wanted without holding back or being limited by what I thought the other person expected or was thinking. I began to grow happier and stronger, setting out and taking an active role in making the life I wanted.

It required work, it required my shift in perspective from intrinsic value to innate worthlessness. And that is something your mind doesn’t really want to wrestle with because it goes against almost everything we think we know and everything we have experienced. But the rewards are well worth a trip 20 times as hard!

It all comes down to “if you want to change your life, change your life!”

Therapy Is A Good Thing

Therapy works. Talk to people who have seen a therapist, joined a self-help group, or counseled with a qualified spiritual counselor and you will always hear positive things about their experiences. If you are open minded and follow the guidance of the therapist you will gain insight into your life. This is a good thing! Your improved ability to engage the world productively will transform your life completely. There is a freedom and lightness of responsibility, a sense of liberation, a rebirth into a world now understood and no longer resisted.

People moving through the experience of self discovery view it as a good thing, after they pass the threshold of it making a difference. It’s hard work to tear down a world view that has been forming for 20+ years. People resist that kind of change. It hurts, it requires energy, it runs against our immediate needs in both reflex and survival. Many will walk away before they hit the threshold. For them, old programs make a resurgence and press pause on the treatment. Understandable, but unforgivable when you realize what is being sacrificed. You shouldn’t walk away from recovery.

For those who see it through and break through the clutter and noise, the world beckons forward possibilities thought impossible, if thought at all, months before. It comes down to one moment when the light goes on and you see everything clearly. You work at it for months for that instant when everything changes. A switch flips and you are transformed. Eyes open, seeing the world simply as it is. You can’t go back to not knowing so you move forward and do what you now have to do.

What this means and what this will feel like is going to depend on how damaged you are; although it doesn’t really matter if you are recovering. Once you accept the help of a qualified therapists they will guide you through it and you will get better. Therapy is a good thing.

Happiness Ends And Begins With “Me”

Happiness is a passion of mine. Always has been. Even when I haven’t always been happy I’ve always wanted to be happy. It’s a nice way to feel, a good goal state if I was forced to pick one.

I’ve noticed that I can recall two period of my life when I was truly happy – childhood up until I moved from Ireland at age 9 and building over the last 6 months with a particular dramatic jump in the last month. So, what going on?

Well, as good as I can tell, the exact opposite thing occurred at these two times. When the family moved from Ireland, I was forced, for the first time in my life, to see myself as separate and different from other people. This likely would have happened anyway, but when we landed in Canada in 1981 I became immediately obvious to me that I was not the same as my peers. They were Canadian and I was an Irish immigrant, I had an accent while they sounded the way I wanted to sound, my approach to school was different and the way I engaged people was slightly strange to others. The move introduced me to self-awareness’s jerk uncle self-consciousness who taught me how to see myself as not a part of what everyone else was a part of.

Move forward almost 30 years, with a fully formed prefrontal cortex and an abundance of information and experiences, I have been able to more accurately model the world as it actually is. But how is that? Well, it’s a lot like how it was right before I moved from Ireland – I am the same as everyone else, I have just been shaped differently. I am alone and unique, yet completely connected with everyone. I am no longer self-conscious, I am developing self-awareness. The self-awareness allows me to see that it’s all just a bunch of stories that we make up to give our life meaning. It is all pointless really so tell and sell yourself a decent story that makes you feel fantastic. The story I tell myself now is not that I am different from everyone else but that I am connect to everyone else, just most people don’t realize it.