Demystifying Depression Article – The Cumulative Effect Of Stress

A number of years ago my brother sent me an article called Demystifying Depression – Part I by Name of Feather – Name of Feather is the username under which the article was originally posted in May 2005 . Over the years the article has disappeared and reappeared on a number of occasions as the websites it was hosted on have changed owners or simply just shut down.

The major thesis of the article is that depression is a physical disease and, more specifically, a disease that is the manifestation of an inability to recover for the day to day stress of being alive.

In general, human beings have a finite ability for cellular repair and depending upon the amount of stress, stimulation and tissue damage they experience they will require a specific length of time to fully recover. For example, a person may have the ability to repair 48 units of damage per day, or 2 units per hour. If they have an easy day that causes 12 units of damage, it will take them 6 hours to recover. A much tougher day that causes 48 units of damage, will, assuming no further damage occurs, require a full 24 hours to restore things to normal.

Something that is less than helpful is the nature of recovery. Unused potential simply evaporates and cannot be stored. If it was not used when it was available, it is just no longer available. Which is a problem when we consider the following example: Someone has an exceptionally stressful day and generates 96 units of damage, mandating the need for 2 full days of recovery. Not a problem, so long as the time is taken to recover and allow the body to return to baseline, the individual will be fine – think about someone taking it easy on the weekend or going to bed a few hours earlier for a couple of days. Now what happens when to the recovery queue when, on the day following that 96 units of damage, the person has an average day of 48 units?

96 – 48 + 48 = 96.

After a full day or recovery they remain in an un-recovered state; effectively in the same position there were in when their day ended yesterday. It is this cumulative characteristic that creates the possibility that the recovery queue will grow larger and larger over a period of days and weeks.

The body is generally able to keep going for a while when it is over stressed or overworked. This resilience is a survival trait allowing us to push hard when we need to and recover once the work is done. In fact, our ancestors lived in a time that alternated between scarcity and abundance, which favored individuals who were able to carry-on under suboptimal circumstances. Sooner or later things would improve and the opportunity for recovery would present itself. Baseline functioning would be restored after the required period of time.

Human beings run into problems when the opportunity for recovery is never given or not sufficient enough because our ability to continue to function normally is dependent upon the ability to spend adequate amounts of time in a fully recovered state. When this does not happen there are metabolic and physiological consequences. Initially the negative impact is small – a person might have a more difficult time regulating emotions, maintaining skin health, falling or remaining asleep, concentrating or recovering from physical exercise – but after a short period of time the effects will begin to grow – changes in body composition, personality changes, increased susceptibility to infection, or reduced cognitive functioning – and eventually the body will begin to shut down impairing digestion and immune functioning allowing disease to take hold, which will eventually lead to death.

The article outlines all of this, but most importantly it details how to avoid it from becoming a problem in the first place and how to adjust your behavior in the event it you have dug too big a hole to recover from with a few days of rest, some extra sleep or a couple of weeks vacation.

This to me is the most valuable part of it. So much is known about optimal or normal physiological functioning that it is very easy to miss some of the more critical parts of it. The experience of anxiety and its associated stress response are completely normal and very predictable BUT only as long as the processes that support them have the adequate opportunity to recover. The moment they start to get impacted will mark a change in how the organism will handle any stress. These impairments will have a cascading effect on seemingly unrelated systems, which will cause further negative effects. The example recovery potential of 48 units per day will, once a threshold has been crossed, begin to drop and will not be restored to normal levels until the body has the chance to fully recover. It becomes 47 units, then 46, and it continues to drop until the person consciously takes recovery, breakdown occurs which forces recovery, or the person dies.

The dose is the poison here. The higher the stress, the longer the recovery. The longer one spends in a non-recovered state, the greater the level of physiological impairment and the longer it will take for normal functioning to return. In fact, it is both possible and likely that extended periods of time spend running at a diminished capacity will result in permanent changes to many metabolic functions including the ability to recover from stress.

Consistently receiving nominal amounts are fine, as are occasional periods of time with very large amounts as long as there is the opportunity to completely recover. The potential problems begin when recovery capacity is not able to keep up with the damage and when this damaged state is sustained for periods of time. At this point, the individual will begin to show diminished capacity and this will include their long term resilience.

Which brings us to the actual problem with stress. We handle it very effectively and for a while, until we don’t, and at that point it is already too late. We have created a lot of damage that we need to recover from, and some of that damage is to the recovery processes and to the processes that create stress resistance. But we are blind about this simply because dealing with stress is so natural and doesn’t have a lot of symptoms.

If you haven’t read the article before give it a read and consider making a copy and saving it on your computer. It is very useful and given its tendency to disappear without warning, there is no guarantee that it will always be available to you when you need it the most.

Affective Forecasting

It never cease to amaze me just how wrong I can get it. So much so that as I get older I make fewer and fewer predictions about how something I have never done is going to make me feel when I do it. There’s just no point in trying to figure it out because I don’t get it right. There are just so many ways it can go, so many emotions to feel that the likelihood that I’ll get it correct is close to zero.

When I started working out again, after I moved on from being an IT manager and began working for GoodLife, I wanted my abs to be visible. Maybe I had been that lean before, but if I had been, it had been years before when I was in high school. So I worked at it. I trained and ate well and projected myself forward into a time when I would have abs conditioned myself to feel amazing about it. And when that day came when I looked in the mirror and saw my abs three things hit me. Initially I had a rush of excitement thinking that I had achieved my goal. After about 15 seconds the excitement was replaced with a feeling of loss. Now what was I going to do? And then came the realization that NOTHING had changed. Big deal, I had a six pack, I was still bitter and unhappy, looking for something that would make me better than what I believed I was.

And that’s the thing about the future. It isn’t going to be much different from the present, particularly if the present is very different from the past. Just because you achieve a goal doesn’t mean the world is any different. It doesn’t mean anything is any different. If you are a 6 out of 10 in happiness you’ll return to being a 6 out of 10 in happiness pretty quickly after you reach your goal.

Human beings are dreadful with affective forecasting. We have no idea what our emotional state is going to be in the future in response to some future event. The best predictors are how we feel right now and how we felt when a similar thing happened; which is probably going to be very similar to how we feel right now.

I’ve known a few people who have had cancer. After the initial shock of being told that they are going to die sooner than expected, their lives went back to normal. I’m inclined to say that the last 6 weeks of my dad’s life were happier than the five years leading up to them. He laughed more, ate whatever he wanted and generally didn’t give a crap about all the stuff that, when we take a real hard look at, doesn’t matter anyway. Maybe my dad was sad, but when I asked him he seemed more concerned about my mom and her future than he did about his upcoming death. He didn’t seem sad, he didn’t really seem to care in a way that I would have imagined he would have cared.

He did remark a few weeks before the end that he was wondering why he wasn’t feeling bad about it, that maybe there was something wrong with him not feeling like there was something wrong. I said maybe he didn’t regard what was happening as anything other than what was always going to happen – rather trite and useless, but my dad was a pragmatist and realized that everyone dies.

For anything other than the most extreme cases – beating cancer, a loved on pulling through a dreadful illness, a child being recovered alive from a kidnapping, etc… – a human beings ability to predict their future emotional state is going to be poor, and this is something that I keep in mind when I am coaching people or talking to them about about training and goals.

I’ve seen it too many times to count, someone believing that the world will be different if they lose weight, gain muscle, do this or that thing, but their world isn’t different. All of them say the same thing after a few months: “I’m glad I did it, but not much has changed.” And this is why, in the fitness industry, there are so many relapses with body transformations – an awful lot of people return to their old habits and regain the lack of health & vitality they worked so hard to shed.

For those who are actually interested in helping their clients, it is best that they take the time to unpack the clients motivation and reframe their expectations in terms of the likely outcome. For example, every person who gains strength will notice that life just gets easier. But very few people seek out the help of a fitness professional to make life easier in the ways increasing strength will make it easier. In fact, most people do not realize the positive impact that a stronger back will have. Picking-up the laundry basket is as hard as it is, until it gets easier, then you will realize how hard it used to be.

Most of the really positive outcomes of improving your fitness are unknown until you improve your fitness. Having low energy is normal until you do the work needed to have high energy. The fog that dulls your thinking is always there until it is gone. The slowness of your digestive system is only noticed after it speeds up when you start eating real food and moving more.

Given that people are poor affective forecasters, to make sticky the changes your client makes, you’ll serve them better by finding-out why and how they ended-up in front of you and by pointing out all the good things they’ll notice that other people have noticed. You’ll help them more by ignoring or speaking very little about the things they believe they’ll enjoy about achieving their goal because they’ve probably got them wrong anyway.

Fitness Professional Smell

During lunch today my brother talked about code smell. I hadn’t heard of the term before, but have a lot of experience with a similar thing in the fitness industry. “Code smell, in the realm of computer programming, is any symptom in the source code of a program that possibly indicates a deeper problem” – the program works but there is something about the code that isn’t as it should be. Seasoned programmers are able to identify them because they have had enough experience to gain a high level of distinction about what works, what doesn’t and what things actually mean.

In the fitness field, there are what I will call Fitness Professional Smells and they indicate with accuracy when a professional doesn’t really know what they are doing. My list is below and if you find yourself working with someone who displays them, considering checking their references and their back ground because they may not be worth the money they are billing you in-spite of their claims.

Someone making a claim that seems outrageous, unreasonable, or well outside common sense. There is a saying that a line of bullshit is a line of bullshit. When it comes to improving your health and fitness it will require your hard work, your attention to nutrition and your introspection as to why you ended-up in the position of needing to improve your health. Getting out of shape takes time and sustained effort / rituals. Getting into shape isn’t going to take as long, but there’s a very good chance that it will take a year to drop 50 pounds. If you are starting on your first journey to improved your health, it will probably take longer. You’ll get there, but it is going to take YOUR conscious direct and consistence effort.

When emotional selling practices are used or when they try to make you cry so you buy. Unflappable people buy only the things they want to buy because they always remain in control and always think logically. When someone is trying to trigger an emotional response within you to get your compliance, be guarded. Things may not be as they appear. Let the emotion fade and do another check when you are able to process things logically. Very often things will be different, and if they are, engage the person and find out what their objective is. Maybe they just used the wrong tool to get the right outcome when an honest conversation is the way to go but maybe they are just trying to line their wallets and your are their mark.

Someone is making a promise on behalf of another person. Some gyms / personal training companies sell training packages and subcontract trainers to service the sessions. I am not a fan of this for a few reasons: First, the trainer does not get paid as much as they should, or the trainer gets paid what they are worth and are not of a high caliber. Next, when someone is selling something that they are not servicing, they cannot be held to account for the promises they make. Finally, training is about building a relationship with your trainer. Just because you like the person who sells you the package doesn’t mean that you are going to connect with the trainer they find for you. Pay the trainer directly and if that isn’t possible, talk to the trainer BEFORE you buy anything and find out why they are having someone else sell for them.

Someone who doesn’t have YOU as the engine of action and behaviors that will create change. If you want different results you are going to need to do things that are outside of your baseline, and you are probably going to need to do them consistently and for a fairly long time. When selling personal training, some people will neglect to tell you this because it can crush optimism and create a sense of hopelessness. But the truth is that YOU have created the very life that you feel you deserve; every action has moved you to become exactly what you are today. Becoming something different is simply a matter of deciding what that is and taking the actions needed to create it. You’ve been doing it all along.

Anyone who is selling a short cut. There are no shortcuts and you cannot hack the approach. There’s a very good chance that you already know what you should be doing in order to get what you want – hard work and mindful action. Anyone suggesting that there is a different way is selling something to you, plain and simple. It’s fine if you buy from them but you are never going to get what you want without the hard work and mindful action. It will always be there for you to do after the shortcut takes you somewhere different.

Anyone who doesn’t consume the product or service they are selling. I cannot reconcile a fitness professional who doesn’t workout. It isn’t just their lack of integrity that I struggle with, it’s the fact that being in great shape just feels really good – why WOULDN’T they make doing what they are selling a priority in their life before everything else?

Being asked to do anything overly complicated and for which there is no simple reason why it needs to be done. There should be a reason for everything you do in the gym or while being trained. If there isn’t a good reason, there’s a good chance that the trainer hasn’t thought much about it and is just selecting exercises that they’ve seen before or that they know how to coach. While better than doing nothing at all, it’s a poor substitute for well thought out program design that builds upon the movements you have become good at performing.

When you get the creeps from someone or the feeling that something doesn’t add-up. Almost all of our mental functioning is unconscious and very often we are not aware of the outcome of a process. But there will be times when we get a gut feeling about something; this represents the outcome of a process. These feelings are the result of a pattern matching some past similar experience. It is best to pay attention to your gut when you have one of these moments because there is critical information being revealed; a flag is being raised. Take a timeout and reengage the situation only when you figure out the source of the feeling. Invite someone with more experience into the situation to get a second opinion on what is going on.

Someone is suggesting you do programs that are for someone who is more advanced. High performance or advanced athletes are not the same as us normal folk simply because they have done so much work that their bodies adapt very quickly. In a lot of cases, your body would adapt just as quickly if you had done the same things they have done. But you haven’t, so your gains and adaptation are going to take a lot longer. Programming for the untrained doesn’t need to be complicated and you will progress a lot faster if you are given the time needed to adapt to the movements. A one week micro cycle may be what an Olympic weight lifter needs to pull a new personal best, but it isn’t going to do very much for most people. Programs should change a little bit over time, not all at once every 3 weeks.

So there you have it, a list of things that to me indicate that a fitness professional may not be exactly what they are presenting themselves to be. Fitness Professional Smells that you can use to figure out if you need to ask more questions or find someone else to work with.

Fitness Professionals – What They Should Be Doing

Entropy is defined as a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.

A humans life is the perfect example of entropy. We are born with 100% of our potential available to be actualized; all that we can do and everything we can achieve exists only during the first few years of life. Our bodies and brains are primed to be shaped by the environment, to learn how to exist within it in a symbiotic, fulfilling and life-sustaining way. This period of time is not impacted by our intellect as we do not have a high level of consciousness.

Our perfectly developed bodies move naturally, through a full range of motion, uninhibited by overuse, dysfunction or injury.

We are in a state of maximum order and this state can be maintained easily with deliberate action of thought and movement. Entropy, while unavoidable, can be postponed if the individual does the things that sustain order.

Very few people do these things. Most tend to float through life passively, doing what is easy, what feels good and what takes them off course, guided by impulse and repulsion into an unplanned future. Their body and brain become broken-down systems advancing ever faster to the final state of chaos (death).

The essential role of fitness professionals is to help the individual delay entropy. At the root of their practice is the wisdom that people are born perfect and learn to behave in ways that expedite ‎the consequences of increasing disorder. They know, or should know, that they facilitate the clients realignment but that they are not a critical or unique catalyst; their intervention is to shape the actions of the client but the client is in control of everything.

It has been my experience that most of the people who are involved in the fitness industry do not understand or accept their role. ‎It is humbling maybe for an expert to see themselves as a servant to those who do not possess their knowledge but humility is a key characteristic for anyone who is attempting to alter the course of someones life without creating a relationship of dependency.

And these may be the biggest problems with the fitness industry; the egos of those experts and their perceived need to create long term clients.

Cognitive Overhead – How I Think About Thinking

NOTE: I started writing this about 3 years ago. It came out of a conversation with Des over lunch. It doesn’t represent 3 years of direct work. It reflects the results of 3 years of passively fostering a feeling that there is a truth in an idea into a more complete understanding as to why it is a truth. This past weekend it all came together for me, not just how I think about the way the brain functions, but how I think about nervous energy being the power of EVERY process that exists within the body.

Sometimes when I’m having trouble thinking about consciousness I try to simplify it by comparing it to a computer.

Consciousness is a process that is running in the background and is one of many processes that are running. Each process requires a certain amount of resources to function correctly. If it does not get what it needs, it will begin to malfunction and eventually shut down. Some processes run in the background working as much as the available resources allow e.g. the process of scouring the memories searching for patterns and relationships – these would be like the indexing for faster search type process with an operating system. Most of the other processes are called when needed and the amount of cognitive effort they take up is usually a product of how long they are being used. E.g. you are singing a song so you need to use you voice, creative and memory processes, much like a computer playing an audio file using the sound card and media player,

If you are in a flow or meditative state or if you are sleeping, your consciousness is going to require the least amount of cognitive resources. The freed up resources go towards some other brain activity. I call this the base line because the brain is effectively running with no input from your active conscious mind.

If you end up getting stuck in a loop you begin to drain the reserves.

Provided the you do not get stuck in a loop you will return the energies to the underlying processes and return to the base line once you stop thinking.

We are usually unaware of the other underlying processes that require cognitive energies but we can see the consequences when we try to use them under adverse conditions such as driving in snow, giving a presentation when you are really nervous or trying to find the perfect line while skiing when your still thinking about the work you need to do.

There are countless unconscious thought processes that get impaired when we engage in conscious thought or get stuck in a cognitive loop. It can be an obvious process like the one that renders words to speak at the presentation or it can be one you’ll never be aware of like the one that compares the visual input to memories searching for patterns. The consequence is the same in both cases, if they do not get their share of the cognitive energy impairment will begin and they will eventually shut down.

The cumulative effect of excessive calling of cognitive processes is stress and the outcome is degraded or incomplete processing.

8 Lessons From 2012 – Part One

In no particular order and with credit given whenever it can be.

You don’t have a lot of time” – Sean Sullivan. This lesson was given in 2011, almost as soon as I told him that my dad had a brain tumor. Sean lost his father to cancer and he witnessed the rapid decline associated with this disease. I didn’t know exactly what he meant when he said it, but I took his advice and did everything I could to make the best of the time that was remaining. The family ate, talked, and enjoyed each others company and spend little time spend dwelling on what was about to happen. I understand what “you don’t have a lot of time” means now and I understand that it doesn’t just apply to dying relatives, it applies to everything in life.

Life is meaningless and empty so you’re free to create whatever purpose you like” – LandMark Education – March 25, 2012. I find this very empowering because I spontaneously do right by most people. Given this, setting out to make life be about what I want is a lot easier and gratifying than searching for some universal meaning.

So, how is life going to be better than before?” – Heather Arthur – May 4, 2012. It was our first date and Heather was doing what Heather does, rattling things to see if they stand-up to the challenge. My answer, after a lot of squirming, was to say that I didn’t have a plan to make them better, but that I wouldn’t be repeating any of the same mistakes so life was going to be different, and that meant the possibility for better. I had never felt so vulnerable and alive.

Teaching is not like other jobs, teachers have a much bigger impact on the world than almost every other profession” – Des McKinney – December 18, 2012. We had been talking about the rotating teachers strikes in Ontario and I was struggling to understand the teachers position. Once Des laid this one on me I gave-up any notion that they have an unreasonable sense of entitlement. Let’s face it, teachers have shaped every single person I talk to each day and my ability to earn a living is the result of a lot of their intervention. Teachers are kind of important.

Language alters the context which impacts how we view the world – Heather Arthur – May 4, 2012. During our first date, we were talking about the fact that we were both single. I commented that all of my past relationships had failed. Heather gave me the sour face and said “change the context, try saying that you have had great experiences with some amazing people and now you are all growing forward with life.” So I said it and immediately felt my past unfold into something more palatable. I’ve done this with a bunch of other things and have used this technique with some of my clients with similar success.

Thoughts created feelings which create actions, change the thoughts and notice how the feelings and actions change” – Leigh Moore – February 20, 2012. After my dad died I was having some struggles piecing certain things together. Leigh gave me some therapy and focused on one thing that was going to change my state very quickly. She noticed that some of the things I was saying weren’t based on an objective reality and were based on an internal narrative that wasn’t working for me. Her coaching created the possibility that things were not how I thought they were and as soon as I introduced a different possibility I started to feel differently.

How you think you’ll feel about things in the future is different from how you will feel about them – Life – anytime in 2012. I knew my dad was going to die for 6 weeks before he actually passed. But when it happened, how I felt about it wasn’t anything like how I thought I would feel about it. I was sad, but there were moments of gratitude, joy, and nothing at all. The lesson I’m taking out of it is to just accept that things are going to happen and that I am going to feel something when they do, but not to spend much time thinking about what the feelings will be because I’m going to get it wrong.

How you feel right after something happens is not the same as how you will feel in 3 months, but how you feel about it in 3 months is usually how you will feel about it in a year” – Des McKinney January 30, 2012. The day after my dad died I asked Des how he felt. Instead of answering the question I asked he decided to change my life and reveal the answer to a more existential question. Right after something happens or as it happens we’ll feel very strongly about it. That probably won’t last.

This is part one. Last year presented me with some amazing growth opportunities that I dived into.

Being Your Past Again – Don’t Create New Behaviors

“You have a tendency to act emotionally at times like this. Just don’t do anything until you know what you feel. To me there’s nothing going on but maybe there is. If it doesn’t hurt to wait, wait. What is actually occurring will become obvious quickly.”

I was on the phone with my brother having asked him for advice, and that is close to what he said.

I thanked him, hung-up and felt better.

One of the many things I admire about my brother is his ability to not respond emotionally to anything. Des and I have chatted in length about it and he’s very clear that it is a skill he has worked hard at and one that is still working to perfect as there are times when he finds himself beginning to feel stuff that isn’t based on the immediate reality.

It’s based on the past, and in particular, an old way of responding to a stimuli or situation that is similar. Some of these things will trigger reflexive responses that are years old and learned from a single event. As is the case with relatively young people, unfamiliar events may only have happened when we were incapable determining a logical response. Rage, anger and destruction based on fear may have been the conditioned response to stimuli and the unconscious expression of this behavior is what flows our when faced with a situation that seems to match.

This way of being is unworkable and Des knows that I have a tendency to act without much rational thought when faced with these moments.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do, which is why I called him. I felt a particular way, but couldn’t find a reason for it. By taking the time to think the thing through, it became very apparent what was going on and I was able to see a past action being triggered. It wasn’t right or wrong, it was just outdated and unworkable. Taking the time to realize what was happening created a clearing and the possibility for logical action.

The up-side is that the new logical behavior will begin to become the new response to that particular stimuli. Which is what you need to happen in order to learn and advance your life. Without creating new behaviors, we’ll continue to be exactly what we were in the past.

6 Ways To Create A Better Life

Ever see one of those people who is always happy and wonder what they are doing different that seems to bring everything they want into their life? The people will the big smile, the positive energy and a willingness to go along with whatever seems to come their way, as though it was exactly what was supposed to happen? If you ever sit down and talk to them, you’ll uncover some very surprising things about how they engage the world that seem to open closed doors and create a better life at every moment.

Having a great life is simply a matter of finding out and doing what they do so this greatness is within the realm of possibility for most of us. Below are 6 things that you can start doing today that will improve your experience this summer and beyond.

1) Create goals and look at them every morning when you wake-up and every night before you go to bed. You need to know where you are going in order to get there and your goals are the best predictor of your future, if you focus on achieving them. “Book ending” your day with a quick review of your goals primes your brain to work on them while you are awake and while you sleep. In fact, without priming your brain with problems to solve, you cannot expect to achieve anything that you haven’t already experienced. Take 10 minutes to read your goals at the beginning and end of your day to think and feel what it will be like to achieve them. Creating the emotional sense of accomplishment can alter how your process the world and this can present the pathway to everything that you want.

2) Do 4 hours of intense exercise per week. 4 hours is a critical amount, and having your heart rate elevated is key. This minimum amount of exercise will help improve body composition, improve blood circulation and get your body functioning more efficiently. It’s going to reduce stress, improve sleep and help you look and feel great. Good health is often considered one of the top 3 things needed to have a happy life, so dedicating 4 hours out of 168 that are available per week to move you towards a better life is a small time investment.

3) Eat food that you can identify as food and that will rot in a few days without refrigeration. Food is the only thing that actually becomes you. Every cell that you are is made-up of participles that were outside your body until you ate them. Higher quality food is going to supply more and higher quality nutrient so buy the best quality food that you can afford. The food you eat should be identifiable – that is, you should have some idea from where on the farm it came– and when left at room temperature, it should spoil fairly quickly. Things that have an indefinite shelf life or come from a factory tend to be much lower or void of nutrition. Eat as little of these food-like products as you can in favor of whole foods.

4) Be grateful. It is impossible to be unhappy when you are grateful. You may feel many emotions, but sadness will not be one of them. Being grateful creates a sense of connectedness to others that can eliminate feelings of isolation. It will also alter the way you view the entire world as gratitude tends to have a cascading effect on perception – if you process things from a place of gratitude, you will see more and more things in the world to be grateful for, which will make you happier.

5) Surround yourself with people who are living a great life and get their help in making your life better. This is a matter of doing what they do to achieve what they have achieved. Copy those who have blazed the trail and get the same outcome. Ask them for help and follow their advice. They’ll save you a lot of trial and error and boost the chances of you achieving your goal.

6) Remain open or childlike! Very often life is not going to go the way you want or plan. Embrace this fact and realize that the things that are unfamiliar actually create more joy in the long run than the things that are predictable. Accept that every lesson grew out of something you didn’t know before. Being wrong is the best way we have of eventually being right, but only when we accept and remain open to making mistakes. If you want to make an extraordinary life for yourself, you need to learn some extraordinary things thought the making of some extraordinary mistakes. Be childlike with your mistakes, be open to making them, learn from them and discard any sense of shame they created.

That’s it, 6 simple things you can start doing that will being to transform your experience of life into the realm of greatness. Begin to do one a week until all 6 of them are a habit and be curious and pleased to see the impact they have on your life!

Creating Mentors Vs. Averaging Down

It has been said that you are the average of your 5 closest friends – this is a big reason why big life transformations are often accompanied by a change in friends.

To a lessor degree, the same thing applies to work – the people you work with will tend to become more like you and you will tend to become more like them.

It also applies to the gym you go to, the church you belong to, the sports team you play for, the places you shop, the school you attend, etc… – the longer you spend with people, the more similar you become to those people.

So what?

At its simplest, if you are having a crappy life, you may want to consider the company you keep. But before you completely overhaul your friends and cut off people forever, take a few minutes to uncover your own identity (how your view yourself in terms of worth and the life experience you believe you are entitled to). If you identify yourself as a loser, a drug addict, someone who has a crappy job, etc… there’s a very good chance that you’ll know a few people that match one or more of these characteristics. If you connect with a group of people that match your identify, swapping them out for a new group of people will likely only introduce you to a new group of the same. Fix your identity issue, engage a professional if you have no idea how to do that.

Assuming your identify isn’t an issue, a small change in attitude in this area can take you a very long way, and save you the challenges of finding a new peers group. The thinking here is that if you view those around you in a particular way (even if they are NOT as you view them) you will slowly start to become as you view them. Consider this for another moment. You begin to become how you think your friends are. You begin to become the same type of worker, parent, student as you believe your coworkers, spouse, and student friends to be. Reality doesn’t interfere with your notion as you become your thoughts about them.

In this case, the easiest way to progress and develop is to improve your attitude about your friends / peers / coworkers and view them as potential mentors – realize that they have something unique and important to teach you and notice that your differences are simply just differences in upbringing and experience, not flaws in personality. Adjusting your view of them in this way will create a clearing in your mind that will shift them into a place of power and helpfulness, allowing you to grow.

Remember, your mind controls the average that your friends are so flipping the switch to view your peers as amazing, outstanding and stand-up people may be what is needed to trend the average up.

Cannot Make Poor Choices

Des was asking me about Heather a few days ago and I mentioned that there are moments when I feel a little scared about things. I used the word insecure and he took the opportunity to ask me about it and give his opinion about what insecurity is.

“People are insecure when they believe they can make a wrong decision.”

It was a great and timely comment.

I’m enjoying the progress of this relationship. I feel very connected to Heather and I feel very challenged by her. She is unlike anyone I have dated before and there is something she says each day that alters my understanding of the world. I have a strong desire to grow and cultivate our relationship.

What scares me about things is that I’ve had a lot of good relationships with great girls and we have learned a lot of amazing lessons together. But I am not with any of them anymore. The relationships ran their course and all parties have moved forward with life. The story or narrative that runs within my mind is about the end of every relationship. Compounding this were the “lessons” I gleamed from the premature death of Natalie – that life ends unexpectedly.

There is little wonder why I was worried about the future, I have allowed “the end” to be a part of the present. I’ve scaled down the timeline of the future and making the end to be the next thing that I think of. Given that it was so close, I believed that I was able to make poor choices. So I made poor choices.

Writing this out is great. Most of what I’m saying has an antiquated feel. I get how it was true, but it doesn’t apply to me so much now. The notion that things will end and that I will have a hand in them is silly. Sure, I can wreck things, but that is a conscious choice, it won’t be a wrong decision in an insecurity-creating way. My desire is for happiness, fun, fulfillment and passion and a lot of it for a very long time. With these motivations, I cannot make a poor choice. Things that are good don’t end and as I view the middle as the longest, funnest and greatest part of it, the future looks a lot brighter.

For the first time in my adult life I am more excited about the middle than I am about the beginning. This really is an unfamiliar way to approach a relationship and I’m grateful to have found this way of being with Heather.