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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Heather and I took a trip to Washington DC on the Labor day weekend and spend a couple of days walking up and down the National Mall looking at the many sites.

I was particularly moved by the quotes at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.

What landed on me most of all was that the quotes apply to no person or group of people specifically, but to all of mankind. His language was inclusive, he referenced an almost universal struggle against the injustices suffered by any person. The quotes are from a time in human history when a number of different groups of people were pushing society to give them the same rights as the most privileged of any society. He was a man of colour, but before that, he was a huMAN and powerfully communicated the equality of all people.

Reading the quotes and noticing all the people who were spending time at the memorial it was both fantastic and frightening. Fantastic that a member of our species was capable of communicating so clearly what is right and needed for society to truly prosper. Frightening that some would regard this as so dangerous to their way of life that they would be compelled to murder him, and so many who were working to move society forward.

Society has made some strides towards embracing the dream he had, and we’ll continue move in that direction. But at the core of the love and hate that people share and act upon are beliefs. There is nothing unique about people today who view equality as a guiding principle. Had they been born in the 1940’s there is a good chance that they would not considered race or gender to be just tiny differences between people. They may simply believe differently than we do today because they were taught something different.

The quotes are worth reading and reflecting on even if you are not at the memorial. They apply as much today as they did when he spoke them, and they’ll always apply no matter how enlightened we may become.

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 thought a dreadful illness, a child being recovered alive from a kidnapping for example - 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 programers 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.

Conflict of Interest Revisited

In early October 2012 I posted Interesting Stuff About Conflicts of Interest and have decided to take another run at the topic because my feelings have intensified and evolved since then.

Heather likes sales people - well, she likes listening to their pitch and she completely admits that she is open to being taken on the “what would your life be like if you owned this” ride that skilled sellers can take you on. But she doesn’t buy anything she doesn’t want to buy. She is open, but always in control. Sellers like her up until when she says “no thanks.”

I’m the opposite of it this - I hate it when people try to sell me stuff. I rarely allow myself to consider the benefits that buying their product will bring me while I am in front of the sales person. I’m on guard constantly when I shop. It can take me a long time to buy something and I rarely use the items I buy on an impulse or was “sold”. The buying (the sales) process for me is about collecting information that I will consider later.

Both approaches work, but Heathers seems to deliver a more joyful experience than mine.

Heather is extremely strong and has a clear vision of what she needs in her life. She is able to go along with the sales process to see if the object fits her vision. Items that do, are bought, items that do not are not. It’s very simple. At her job she says “no” to a lot of vendors so she doesn’t seem to fear the consequences of saying “no” and she is already primed with the knowledge if someone is selling something they cannot be trusted to speak objectively about the negatives of that item. She buys when her mind is made up, and she ONLY buys when she wants the thing that is being sold.

I’m different here. While I’m strong and have a vision of what I want my life to be like, I need to try things on in a more reflective way. The reason I believe I am like this is because I have spent a lot of time selling in the fitness industry and am aware that effective selling can be about doing something to the other person vs. doing something for them. Be it a gym membership, personal training sessions or supplements, these items are sold the same way, on the hope of a better life or some improvement if someone ends up buying. While I was selling, I had a conflict of interest that biased my view of what was true.

Much of how I see the fitness world now is based a need for me to live with myself. Given that, as revealed in the clip of my initial post, IF I have a conflict of interest I will have a tough time being honest, in order to live with myself I need to remove the conflict of interest.

What I’ve stumbled on, through experience and conversation with my brother and Ben, is that the industry as it presently exists is incompatible with my views. Most of the people in the industry are selling something OTHER than what the industry is offering. They are selling the hope of a better life disguised as a short-cut. Regardless of their conscious or mindless intentions, very few of them are actually being honest about what they are doing. “Join this gym and you will lose weight”, “eat this supplement and you will gain muscle”, “train with me for 6 months and you’ll become a brand new person”, etc…..

Some of what they promise might actually come true, but that doesn’t make their sales pitch an honest one because most of the people who buy from them do not achieve their goals. In the fitness industry, the sellers are leaving out two very critical pieces of information that one must keep in mind when someone is attempting to sell them something:

1) The seller stands to gain from them buying. Even if the seller is a very moral person, they will lie, manipulate, pressure, etc…. to get the other person to buy their product or service (P&S). IF the seller honestly believes their (P&S) is effective and amazing, and will help the other person get what they want, can they really be blamed for playing hardball to get them to get them to buy? After all, they are acting in the other persons best interest even if the other person doesn’t see it that way. While not necessarily malice, it does imply that the seller does actually know what is best for the other person and knows with absolute certainty that their (P&S) is the best. In the fitness industry this is rarely the case.

2) The future actions of the buyer are what will determine if a (P&S) is actually helpful. In fact, the (P&S) is essentially interchangeable for any similar (P&S), equally effective or useless depending upon the actions of the buyer. The responsibility for the outcome is solely on the buyer.

Consider these for a moment.

If it is the actions of the buyer that determine the value of a sellers (P&S), can the seller really make any statement about the efficacy of what they are selling? The answer is almost always no. The fact that so many people in the fitness industry fail to recognize and mention that their P&S are useless without the consistent effort of the user makes it a dirty industry, loaded with salesmen, cheats, lairs, charlatans and the otherwise “need to be ignored”. Given this it’s easy to understand why so many gym rats dislike the personal training industry. They don’t care that the clients are using the equipment, they don’t like seeing people getting taken advantage of. The gym rats clearly understand that the individual works hard to get the results and that no mentor, coach, trainer or paid companion will ever do the work from them.

Thoughts Are Things

Tony sent me a text the other day, it was a quote from a text book he is studying, and it basically stated that words are things and as such, they have can have an impact on others. He and I have been having an ongoing conversation about healing and the contribution that other people make. In the recovery setting, words can make a huge difference in one direction or the other.

At the very minimum, 25% of people will so some improvement simply because of some interaction with a healer. Be it the placebo effect, bedside manner, or the simple caring offered by a health care provider, just telling someone that they are going to improve is enough for a quarter of them to improve. Real pathologies are likely not going to just spontaneously correct themselves but a lot of the things that do get people down can be addressed simply by believing they are going to get better.  NOTE - it is always best to get checked out by a professional if you are sick or suspect that you are as positive thinking is NOT a substitute for medical intervention.

It works by using cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps people get better because thoughts impact feelings and feelings impact actions. If we’re able to change the thoughts, the actions we take will change. It is very simple and has been proven to be effective at treating a variety of psychological disorders in otherwise healthy people.

What gets me excited when I think about all of this is the realization that thought are thing in both a metaphorical sense and in a physical sense - thoughts are made-up of nerve impulse and therefore have a mass. Given that they have a mass, having a repeated thought is going to have a cumulative effect on an individual. Over time, the mass moving in a particular way is going to change the course of all the matter that surrounds it.

The brain adapts to repeated thoughts by increasing the amount of neural branching in the area that is responsible for the thoughts and the subsequent feeling and actions. This makes all of these things more likely in the future and effectively conditions the thought to become the baseline.

For things that make our lives better, this occurrence is exactly what we would hope for, but for things that make our lives more challenging, it isn’t what we want and it makes changing behavior a lot more challenging that creating brand new behaviors; the old pattern will remain hardwired in the brain for years and can be triggered easily.

But given that thoughts are things and that we have conscious control of them, enough consistent effort will change the course of matter and establish a new baseline. For me, this is a much more appealing way to look at life. It gives us the power because we can control the flow of matter, we just need to choose.

How I Have Been Wrong

There is this thing people do that used to annoy me but that I now use as a vetting tool and that is a persons ability to admit that they were wrong. Regardless of their motivation, if someone isn’t able to say that they were wrong they are not a scientist, so their inflated opinion of what they know is tainted by an unmentioned emotional need and biased by something that isn’t an objective truth or reality.

I have been wrong a lot, even if it was well intentioned and based on everything that I knew at the time. And it is important to be wrong and to admit it because only the divine and the foolish do not change.

Here is a list of some of the ways that I have been wrong and changed over the last 15 years in the realm of the fitness industry:

Believing that nutrition is more important than food. This mistake, like a number of the ones I have made while in the fitness industry, was based on the need to make statements that sounded correct, were thought provoking, and that were sticky. But it is nonsense. Human beings NEED to eat food to get nutrients, they cannot thrive consuming the nutrients alone. Whole food is a natural concoction of 1000’s of chemicals that work in a synergistic way inside the body. When these chemicals are taken in one at a time, they have a different impact on the body and there is no certainty that this is going to be a health promoting.

Believing that the program is more important than consistency. I used to believe a lot of the hype and I would dispense this advice as though it was scientific fact. The fact that my clients were getting good results I interpreted as proof that the programing was effective. But over time I started to notice that the clients of some other trainers who programed using the same methods were not experiencing the same results. Furthermore, I noticed that clients who were using extraordinarily simple programs were experiencing great results. What I had missed was the fact that doing small things consistently will generate better results than a perfectly crafted program that is done occasionally.

Believing that by creating an emotional response a transformation has occurred. This one is false, completely false. While there may be times when an emotional response indicates a readiness for change or that a person has started their transformation, setting out to make a client cry is not helpful and will usually permanently damage the relationship. This is not to say that there is no useful information revealed when a client has a spontaneous and organic emotional response, there is just very little useful information to be gained by setting out to create an emotional response. It’s a sales tool that is used to breakdown defenses so someone can sell their services. It’s unforgivable and anyone who sets out to do it is trying to help their own bottom line and doesn’t care about the well-being of the person they are trying to take money from.

Believing that EVERYONE should workout and become more healthy. Morally I struggled with this one for a while. I believe that everyone is entitled to live an amazing life, rich in health and vitality BUT they must choose to live this life. Any coercion or pressure that forces them to choose it will usually result in more suffering as they fail to achieve success and feel worse than they would have had they not tried. I am always enthusiastic and possibility driven with anyone who is suffering the effects of poor health choices, but I’m only at their service when they choose to transform their life. Everyone CAN be more healthy but people shouldn’t be pressured into it.

Believing that what gurus said was more useful than what I knew. Within the fitness industry the gurus have a field day selling their wisdom to anyone who is looking for a shortcut. These people in turn make money dispensing this wisdom to the people they convinced would benefit from it. The problem with believing the gurus is that they rarely have any scientific basis for supporting their claims, and given that they have a financial motive for stating anything, there is a conflict of interest that motivates them to lie. Their well of wisdom in poisoned and unless science supports their claims, you shouldn’t buy into them. After 15 years in the industry, the formula for success is very simple, consistent intense work through a full range of motion, moderate amounts of good quality food (mostly vegetables), adequate rest and recovery, and a positive outlook on life in general. This isn’t flashy and it won’t make me millions of dollars, but it works for everyone and it is based on science.

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.

How I Changed My Life - Part Two

In the post How I Changed My Life - Part One I spoke about the reasons why I changed my life; moving from compulsive escapist behavior towards a more direct and purposeful course. The intention of this post is to paint a clearer picture of the specifics and to unpack some of the more practical / experiential components of it.

My life was a mess. I worked-out a lot, did hours of cycling each week, taught cycling fitness classes and was training people. I looked really good, lean and muscular and seemed to have an abundance of energy. But I was eating at least a box of cookies a night and on weekends I’d gorge until I passed out and drink too much. I had started smoking again as well. While these behaviors didn’t seem to impact my teaching or training, I wasn’t doing what I was asking my clients or participants to do. I was being a hypocrite by advocating lean eating and avoidance of alcohol then doing those things. My justification was that I needed to re-feed to make-up for all the training I was doing.

That wasn’t workable. The most effective people do the things they advocate for. My integrity in this area was nonexistent. Worse than that was the fact that I would ride my bike to escape life vs. to improve my cycling or health. Cycling helped release a lot of the anxiety that my behavioral choices created. But since it was a form of medication / therapy, I was abusing it and was in free-fall with the cyclical nature of my choices.

Exercise causes an increase in physiological pollution within the body. This pollution can be cleaned-up through proper nutrition - green leafy vegetables and nutrient rich foods will eliminate a lot of the bi-products from exercise. However, there is a limit to the restorative potential of high quality food; moderate amounts of exercise are easily handled but there is a level at which some of the pollution remains, causing damage to the body. I wasn’t eating well enough to clean-up the mess I was making with all of the exercise I was doing. While I looked healthy, I was starved for recovery and nutrients.

It’s safe to say that anyone who is engaging in escapist behaviors has created an identity that mandates their actions; given that people act only in a way that is congruent to their view of themselves. I was running out of track when it came to the stories I was using to justify the life I was living. Logically, I knew things weren’t right. Emotionally it was starting to feel more and more wrong. Once you notice these things it is impossible to forget them. Change was the inevitable outcome, it just became a matter of when.

Looking back on all of it, it sure seems like the change occurred quickly when I woke-up one morning and said “this is the last day of this life” and that was the last day of that life. But that’s only the day I made the decision. The change had been occurring for a while with the foundation of a new life being created just below my consciousness.

Change can take a while, big changes tend to take even longer. In a few instances, massive transformations are instant - some people learn to operate this way and simply go about doing the big things on a whim - but for most things, there is a process of building unworkability and increasing awareness before the moment of decision. With my life, the instant of decision had been fueled by about a year of growing turmoil.

The change itself was easy in the ways I thought it would be tough and tough in ways that I hadn’t even considered. The first 2 days were a lot easier than I thought they would be - I was full of power and intention to make a new life, so I just did what I had to do. The time between day 3 and day 20 were the tough parts. First off, whatever state change I had been getting from my behavior was chemical in nature so the eliminate of those chemicals caused withdrawal symptoms - an increase in anxiety, boredom, sleepiness, loss of appetite, changes in mental functioning. There was a monkey on my back, a few of them, and they were pounding on my consciousness in an attempt to restore things back to how they used to be. I wasn’t craving anything, I just felt wrong, aware that things were not as they used to be.

From about three weeks on everything just got easier. The withdrawal symptoms were gone, a new baseline, my natural baseline, had been established. The process of the transformation had been rather unremarkable; especially when compared to what I had thought it would be like. It was possible and I had done it. I had been correct that I was living a life that wasn’t fitting for me and I had been correct that I didn’t want to live it anymore. It had taken some time to prepare for the decision to change, but once that decision had been made and become something that I must do, it had been done.

The 13 Things Mentally Strong People Avoid Doing

Cheryl Conner, contributor for Forbes magazine, wrote “Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid” and while I enjoyed the article, I needed to do a lot of draining mental gymnastics to keep it in order because of the title she choose. Since I like the article, I’m going to rewrite the sub heading using the positive vs. the negative.

For the record, I’ve changed the way I write recently to make sure I say as many things in the affirmative phrasing as possible e.g. “13 things mentally strong people do” instead of “13 things mentally strong people avoid doing”. The reason I made this change is because we have no choice but to consider affirmative first when dealing with sentences that contain an eventual negative.

So, on to Cheryl’s list of 13 things mentally strong people do:

1) They spend time feeling good about themselves and seeing the power they have in every situation.

2) They maintain their sense of self and see themselves as the cause of their successes and the lessons they learn.

3) They embrace change, adapting to it quickly and with enthusiasm.

4) They realize that they cannot control everything and focus their effort on changing the course of the things that they can and want to alter.

5) They live with absolute authenticity based on a code of ethics / morals that is compatible with those who seek to do no harm and leave the world no worse but possibly better than how they find it.

6) They do their due-diligence and take strategic risks to move themselves towards the things that are important to them.

7) They understand that the past was exactly as it was and they work to create the life they want to live today.

8) They learn from everything they do and learn each lesson only once.

9) They interpret other peoples successes as validation that success is the outcome of the habit of hardwork.

10) They are persistent, learning lessons from every action while they continue to do the hardwork needed to move them towards their goals and objectives.

11) They enjoy their alone time because they understand that time is as valuable as what you do with it.

12) They understand that life has no universal meaning, that a big part of it is suffering and that we need to earn everything that we have.

13) They understand that each small step is a small reward but that sustained and long term effort is needed to achieve the huge leaps forward.

How I Changed My Life - Part One

One of my clients asked me how I changed. Slightly puzzled I asked her exactly what she meant. Turns out she was referring to the transformation after my father died when I made the decision to stop engaging in the escapist compulsive behavior and start living a more purposeful life. My answer was a little scattered because there were many reason why I changed but below is a list of the things that lined-up for me in order to begin living a life that I was a cause for:

Making the decision to do new things - regardless of what they were or what I thought about them (how scary they may be) I knew that I needed to do different things to have a different life. But knowing wasn’t enough, I needed to actually do them. I made a decision one moment and that was when things began to change.

Noticing that I have everything in my life that I believe I need to have and realizing that if I started to believe that I needed other things, I would do whatever I needed to do to get them.

Seeing my life as being a part of something bigger that involved other people. Some would call this spirituality or a sense of community or interconnectedness, but by realizing that everyone is part of the same thing, my role changed immediately. Instead of being a floater, wandering the earth, I was able to see the impact that I had on other people and the impact that they could have on me.

Realizing that there was more to the experience of life than what I had been getting. The compulsive behaviors created a predictable state change and I liked the certainty of that. But it was boring because I was doing the same things over and over again. After almost 20 years I was getting tired of it and I was becoming increasingly aware that other people were doing some pretty cool things.

Honoring my dad’s final requests of me. When I asked my dad if there was anything he wanted me to do with my life he said “look after your mother” and “figure-out what I love doing and make a life out of those things.” Looking after my mom was a no brainer, she has always been amazing so I was going to do this anyway, but the other part of it took sometime to process. The truth was that I wasn’t sure exactly what I loved doing because I spend a lot of my time out of my head. But behind all the fog and compulsions were a few things that I did often in a natural state. Those were the things that I spent more time of as a result of his recommendation and they have proven to bring me a lot of joy and gratification.

Examine my thoughts and internal dialogue to uncover generalizations, errors and negative patterns. Thoughts impact feelings that shape behaviors. These unworkable thoughts lead to behaviors that make them real. When I made a list of these things and a list of the possible outcomes of what would happen if I was to stop them, the loop was complete. My behavior was obvious and what I needed to do to get different results was equally clear.

Take a disassociated inventory of my life, my behaviors and my beliefs to bring to light any incongruities between my internal understanding of who and what I am and an external view of what I am. People said things to me that didn’t connect with how I viewed myself. I asked the question “what if they are correct and I am not correct?” and then tired-on how life could be if I decided to let them be right and just let go of what I believed. It became funny after a few minutes because I realized that both sides were right and that it didn’t matter anyway. I was telling myself a story, a rather elaborate and convincing one and at any moment, I was free to tell myself a different story. The reality is that human beings are animals that possess a keen ability to interact with their environment and make predictions about that environment based on past experiences. The other stuff I had been telling myself about it was unnecessary and was only serving an antiquated identity.

Admittedly this list isn’t complete but some of the observations might apply to other people.