Stimulus -> Response? No It’s Stimulus -> Moment -> Response

Des once told me that there is a moment between stimulus and response and how we use that moment will determine what type of people we are and the quality of choices that we make. He said that once you realize that there is a period of time, you can then work to expand it and make more logical decisions instead of emotional reactions. That was a few years ago. It made logical sense at the time but it making practical sense has been long time in coming.

Well, yesterday I caught myself almost getting angry and in the moment when I realized the rage was building, I stopped and asked myself the question “why are you getting angry about this?” I was boiling water for tea and left the kettle in the kitchen. When I came back a few minutes later, I didn’t realize that someone had used the water and just turned the kettle on again to make sure the water was hot. If you didn’t know, it’s better for kettles if they have water in them when they are on. Nothing bad happened but I was told that you need to make sure there is water in the kettle before you turn it on.

I don’t know why, but having someone tell me this really got under my skin. It bothered me so much that I actually took the moment to try and figure out why it bothered me. My internal reaction was so strong that my initial guess what that I felt that someone was attacking me personally and unjustly. I asked myself what I was afraid of and why the words “you need to run it with water in it because it’ll break otherwise” caused such a visceral response. As I talked myself through it I realized that my interpretation of the sentence was what was causing the problem. I heard a lot of stuff that wasn’t said and I had started to react to that. I made assumptions about what the person was implying and didn’t stick with just the facts.

The fact was, I ran the kettle with very little water in it and that will ruin a kettle.

What I took out of the comment “you need to run it with water in it because it’ll break otherwise” was a negative value judgement about me and my intelligence. The person was saying that I didn’t know how to use a kettle, that I was too stupid to figure it out and that I always did that type of thing. I don’t think my response would have been out of line if I had actually been told that I was stupid but, that wasn’t what was said. The other person stated a fact because they saw me doing something that didn’t make any sense. Which is fair because they hadn’t seen the other person slip in and use the water while I was out of the room.

What was odd about yesterday was how quickly I stopped the anger from building and tracked down its source. Normally the reaction takes hold and I’m left to let it run its course, only to figure it out later. This time I KNEW the rage feeling wasn’t appropriate so I checked out of the process and took a moment to identify what I was feeling, why I usually feel that way and how I took what was said to me as I did.

It was kind of cool because I stopped the emotional reaction dead in its tracks. It’s one of the first times that I’ve been able to grab hold of it mid process, engage it and take corrective actions to stop it from continuing. I’m also very happy to have identified my reactive tendency towards taking neutral comments as criticisms. Taken together, it’s a big step forward in my awareness of what is going on unconsciously in my brain.

Des was right about the existence of that moment of time, now I start to work on lengthening it.

Muscles for Athletes Part II by Christian Thibaudeau

Muscles for Athletes, Part II The Hypertrophy Methods by Christian Thibaudeau of T-Nation is mandatory reading for athletes and training professionals who want to keep their clients at the front of the pack and on the podium. It covers a variety of topics including concentric, ballistic, eccentric and isometric muscle contractions as they apply to athletic performance and functional muscle development. Christian also includes exercises, instruction and periodization cycles to maximize your gains.

I do not pretend to understand everything he is writing, but I will say this, when I have followed his advice before, I have seen improvements in my speed and times on the trails. His advice on isometric training mirrors exactly the advice Rachel gave me a couple of weeks ago – I’m not surprised by this given her immersion in the athletic therapy field and Christians track record with training performance athletes.

If you are going to be racing against me this year, DO NOT read his article.

New Starts and Falling in Love With The Future

I’ve taken a couple of day’s off from blogging to find myself again.

I wasn’t as lost as I was over the last 3 decades, but I’m starting a new job today and tend to find my mind wondering on all the possibilities of what it could become. I am a dreamer and I love to dream, even when I’m awake and particularly when I start something new.

I’m not sure how the new job is going to impact what I write, or how much I will write, but I know it’s going to influence things. New experience delivers us to new knowledge and if you keep your mind open, eventually to wisdom. I’m hoping to learn a lot and nurture a new level of self-awareness.

I’m happy about getting the job. I got the lead from an old friend I reconnected with on Facebook – so already there’s some new wisdom as I’m going to have to edit my unpublished draft of my article what Facebook is good for to include helping you find work.

You could say that I have that falling in love feeling again because I’m filled with optimism and excitement. There are a bunch of new experiences waiting for me in the next couple of months and I’m probably going to lose myself in a lot of new challenges. There’s the usual apprehension I have when I’m about to start something new, but given what I’ve learned about myself since taking the RPM training in February, I know I just need to take a deep breath, exhale and walk through the door. I can’t predict the future so I’m not going to try. I’ll be successful and right now I have no idea exactly what that will mean in this circumstance.

What will be will be.

How I Learn My RPM Choreo

Once every 3 months I receive new music and choreography for LMI for the RPM Group Cycling program I teach. I have about 6 weeks to learn the release and be ready to teach it for the class. It’s a standardized program so I have to teach it a standardized way. That means there is a right and a wrong way to perform the release so it is very clear when I don’t get it right.

My challenge is to learn 9 songs in six weeks. If I do it, I get to lead successful classes and if I don’t, the class is more stressful and a lot less fun.

How do I do it?

1) Listen to the music over and over again so I know the songs inside and out. I need to be able to start hearing a song mid way thought and know exactly how people should be riding the bike. If I’m working too hard, my head can get a little spacey so it helps to know your way through the music. I listen to the music in the car, when I’m riding outside, when I’m working out in the gym and sometimes when I’m writing.

2) Know the profile of each track and of the class. The class profile is always the same so song 4 is always going to bring you the same sort of experience, although the timing of the hills and the racing sections is going to be different. There are patterns within the tracks and once you find them, the profile starts to make sense and becomes very easy to remember.

3) Learn the level of exertion that is required for each track. I only needed to learn this once because it is fairly stable between releases.

4) Practice the release with the music playing through speakers in front of a mirror and verbally cueing and coaching until it flows out of me. Perfect practice makes perfect. I can’t stress enough the impact of an elevated heart rate on ones ability to perform tasks that require thinking. Once it goes above 165, I’m pretty useless at novel tasks.

5) Continue to practice older releases as well because they reveal patterns for particular tracks. Also, it takes a lot to learn them and very little to keep remembering them.

6) Attend as many RPM classes as I can. I’ve noticed that other instructors add different things to the performance of a release, things that I may not have picked up on or things that I may never have been able to think of. Whenever one of these things presents itself to me, I usually remember it because it is so different from anything I’ve thought of.

Admittedly, learning the choreography for RPM isn’t as difficult as it would be for an LMI program like Body Jam or Body Flow, but when you’ve never had to learn choreography for anything before, it can be challenging. It comes down to understanding what you are supposed to do and knowing the music inside and out.

Top 3 Nutritional Mistakes – Why You Need A Food Journal

Top 3 Nutritional Mistakes (and how to fix them) by Michael Roussell of T-nation outlines 3 mistakes bodybuilders make when trying to build mass while keeping body fat levels down. I mention it because body builders are just extreme versions of the rest of us who are interested in getting or staying lean – their goals are the same, their practices are just a little more intense.

1) Focusing too much on Macronutrient Breakdowns

I’m a big believer that the type of calories (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) you eat does matter, but people can overlook the importance of total calories. Yes, it’s possible to manipulate macronutrients percentages so that you can eat more or less food with favorable advances toward your body composition goals, BUT total calories matter. I liken the total vs. type of calorie debate to the diet vs. exercise debate. They’re not exclusive and both matter!

2) Skipping Meals & Eating Unplanned Meals

Not getting the results you want is one thing, but to not know how well you’re following your plan means you’re blindly stumbling around the land of mediocrity with no chance of success.

Lack of proper compliance … is the number 1 reason people don’t reach their physique goals. If you aren’t reaching your goals, yet haven’t filled out a compliance sheet like the one below, I don’t want to hear about how the diet you’re on doesn’t work or that you need a personalized nutrition plan.

3) Not Giving Your Plan a Change – “The best diet is the one you’re not on.”

… today and there’s an overabundance of training programs accessible at your finger tips. In fact, there are so many programs there is a growing population of people who have become training whores, switching to whatever new program has been published that week.

Unfortunately, the same trend has been emerging with diets and nutrition. Internet forums are overwhelmed with people who are “cutting” one week, “bulking” the next, and “cutting” again the following week. If you’ve done the Velocity Diet, Massive Eating, Get Shredded Diet, and the Anabolic Diet in the span of 8 weeks then I’m talking to YOU.

I have gotten my best result when I write everything out to get a calorie estimate and stick to it for a couple of months. I think this is because it’s very easy to forget eating, not eating and what you eat. I’ll admit, it was a pain in the arm the first couple of days but then it got easier because you get better at it. A food journal is a skill, as is a different eating plan and remaining compliant to it, that gets easier the longer you do it.

Trying Something New

Doing something new is one of the more challenging things that we do as we get older. It seems that our natural tendency to try and make things as unchanging as possible really hurts our motivation to try new things.

But isn’t this tendency just like most of our tendencies in that it exist only because we allow it to exist? There are people who have learned to do new things all the time so our initial fear is not something that cannot be overcome by direct effort to change.

Looking back, if you do find yourself rather unmotivated to try new things, isn’t it also a fact that you were apprehensive to try the thing you most like doing now? For me it is mountain bike riding and I thought about if for a while before I actually started to ride; my friend Chris hounded me for more than a year to buy a bike from him before I relented. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.

The strangest thing about trying mountain biking is where I am now. My life is completely different as a result of my decision to improve my health and fitness, a decision that was the outcome of me loving bike riding. I haven’t taken to anything else in my life like I have taken to cycling. While it is possible that the athlete in me would have come out some other way, I have not yet found or tried whatever activity that is. Regardless of its eventuality, most of my friends are different, most of my activities are different and most of my time is spend doing stuff that I didn’t do before.

It isn’t worth considering where my life would be now if I had not tried, but it’s safe to assume that it would be different.

At least once every couple of days you should try something new. The LuLuLemon people recommend once a day but I’m going to suggest every couple of days. These things really don’t have to matter all that much but they can be big things if you like. Try tanning, a different type of coffee, make a new meal, talk to someone you want to talk to, eat at a new restaurant, try a different type of squat, etc…. The goal of these small things is to keep your brain used to trying new things. You are facing your fear head on and very frequently.

At least once a week you should do something that you don’t really want to do. For many people this should be to complain about poor service or you not getting what you were entitled to. Don’t be a jerk about it, but stand up for yourself. It’s another conflict situation that many tend to avoid because they don’t like the idea of arguing with someone. It’s about tackling something that you know will make your life better once you complete it.

At least once a month you should try something very new. These things should be a little more significant than anything up until now and they should involve some sort of risk, preferably the risk of embarrassment or making a fool of yourself. Karaoke is a good example here, as would be entering an art show. You could take a pottery class, go to bingo or volunteer at the food bank. The thing is to get well outside your normal way of acting and your comfort zone. The goal here is to increase the range of things you feel okay doing. Again, you’re working to face the fear as you increase your exposure to different things.

At least twice a year you should try something that you’ve always been afraid of doing.

At least once a year you should make a list of things that you want to do before you die and make sure the list is disappearing and growing at the same time.

No matter what, your life should be in constant flux trying new things and exposing yourself to as much as you can. I believe this is the only way you are going to be able to determine whenever you have found true happiness and moved towards completion.

Getting Better Result By Giving Better Feedback

I am a compliance practitioner so it is important for me to be able to get people to do the things I ask them to do. This is not evil because I’m trying to get them to do the things they want to do but may lack the belief that they can do. The key things in achieving these results is to provide good feedback. Here are the 5 key elements to offering effective feedback. For clarity’s sake the two players in the feedback session are the giver and the target.

1) Know your goal and clearly define your expectations. Make sure you know how to clearly explain what you are looking for and be prepared to explain how the new behaviour differs from the old behavior, why it is more appropriate and and how it fits into the process.

When I’m instructing a cycling class, my primary goal is to get the target to work slightly harder or modify their position on the bike. If we use hip position on the saddle as an example, I’ll say “move your butt to the back of the seat to make it easier for the big leg muscles to work”. It isn’t much but I know that the legs are able to drive more power to the peddles when the hips are in the right position so I throw it out there. Anyone who grabs onto the advice will improve more quickly.

2) When it is possible, tell the target how their actions made you feel. We are an emotional species so most of us tend to feel stuff; always assume the target deals with emotions until you learn otherwise. If we realize that the tone of our voice make someone feel like we are angry, we’re able to draw the connection between the stimulus and the response.

Compare the following two statements, “why are you angry?” and “when you use that tone, it makes me feel like you are angry.” Which do you think will facilitate the quickest change?

Letting the target know how you feel also transfers a lot of the responsibility of the outcome over to you. This will help to keep them open to the suggested changes while giving them valuable information to help modify their behaviour.

3) Get them to project themselves into the future to try and feel what it will be like when they are more successful at the task. This will help to motivate the target to adopt the suggested chances because they will pair the changes to the desired outcome.

To go back to the hips on the saddle example, I’ll say something like “strong leg muscles make those hills easier this season” or “work hard like the quality of your life depends on it”. The goal is to try and help them see the value tomorrow of working hard today. When it’s done effectively, facilitating change is a piece of cake.

4) Let go of judgement. Always assume that the target is acting in their best interest and, when their behaviour goes against their best interests, assume it is because the target doesn’t have enough information to make the right decision. The role of the giver is to provide the target with the information they are lacking.

You can say things like:
Did you know that…, here is something that may help…, here is another option for that…, I have found that doing…, that’s the way I used to do it until…,

5) Be honest but caring. People know a line of BS when they hear it and will resent you for it. You need to be truthful with them but you need to be caring about it because the target may take the feedback as a statement that their actions were wrong. If this happens, it can start an unconscious defense reaction that will cause the target to close up. You will minimize the risk of this by telling them how their actions made you feel.

33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity X 2

This week Steve Pavlina posted 33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity and 33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity – Volume 2 and both are exceptional. 66 tips to help you get more out of your life.

My three favorites are:

Nuke it! The most efficient way to get through a task is to delete it. If it doesn’t need to be done, get it off your to do list.

Minuteman. Once you have the information you need to make a decision, start a timer and give yourself just 60 seconds to make the actual decision. Take a whole minute to vacillate and second-guess yourself all you want, but come out the other end with a clear choice. Once your decision is made, take some kind of action to set it in motion.

Troll hunt. Banish the negative trolls from your life, and associate only with positive, happy, and successful people. Mindsets are contagious. Show loyalty to your potential, not to your pity posse.

Imagine what 63 more of these could do?

NOTE: there are a lot of trackbacks to Steve’s site so be sure to follow a few of them to see how others are using his information.

Consequences Of The Brain Treating Reality And Thought As The Same

Brain scans can show us exactly which part of our brain is active. One thing that these test have uncovered is that the brain will be almost as active when someone thinks about doing a task as it is when they are doing the task. The motor cortex that controls movement is not active but the rest of the brain appears to be as engaged in the activity as it would be if you WERE engaged in the activity.

Now take a second to think about that. The brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is thought. What is the difference between doing something and thinking about doing it? I think only the movement portion, and the motor cortex is the only portion of the brain that shows a decrease in activity when we only think about something.

Have you ever had a dream that impacted the rest of your day? No matter what you do you’re left with a lagging feeling that started with the dream. Would having that same experience in real life have create a similar impact, maybe not the same but one as equally profound? I’ve had dreams that stayed with me because they felt so real – it was as though I had actually had to run for my life or jump from a building. That’s because my brain DID response as though I was running for my life or jumping from a building. Technology shows us that this is how the brain works.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of thinking about something that makes you angry and gets your blood boiling. The response is exactly the same as the real thing, you get an adrenalin spike as you charge up for action. You’re having a real physiological response to a mental stimulus. You can create whatever emotional response that you like by thinking about things that evoke that response.

It really is a stimulus response world. No matter what it is, it you are old enough to read and comprehend what I’m saying here, you probably have had enough experience to create 10000’s of response / stimulus pairings. Very rarely will you be faced with a situation for which you do not have a response.

If this is how the brain works, how do we put it to work for us?

Start changing your thought patterns. Stop thinking thoughts that create negative emotional reactions. Think of kittens, or stake, or something that causes you to respond in a positive way. Start thinking thoughts that foster the emotional state that you need to perform at your best at every moment. I do my best blog writing when I think of things that give me hope and optimism. My best song writing comes out when I’m feeling down or heart broken. When I’m at the gym trying to lift heavy I need to manufacture feelings of personal injustice to give me something to rise against. When I’m engaging someone in a discussion, I’ll picture myself being open and receiving their knowledge. Whatever it is, if I can perform better in a different state of mind I’ll work to find that state.

It only makes sense to do this. Find what makes your performance better and hack your brain to manufacture the emotional state that will allow you to tap into it.

Stop Thinking About Cuteness

I was having Pho with Des today and he told me about an article he read. The article was about a movie the blogger had watched was particularly disturbing. When he went to bed that night, he was having trouble falling asleep because he couldn’t stop thinking about what he had seen. He asked his girlfriend if she ever had trouble falling asleep because she couldn’t let go of a thought. She said not any more because she plays the cuteness game.

The cuteness game starts by thinking of something cute and then trying to think of something that is even cuter. Then try to think of something that is cuter still, and so on. The game ends when you fall asleep.

It is immaterial that cuteness is subjective, all that matters is that you try to think of something that is cuter and cuter and cuter. The point is, when you’re thinking of cute things you’re not able to think about the creepy movie you saw.

I laughed when he told me, then he told me what Sarah said, she plays the size game. Same sort of thing, pick something and then think of something that is smaller or bigger than it, then continue in that direction. Not that you need an example, but a bread box is bigger than a loaf of bread which is bigger than a jar of peanut butter which is larger than a salted cracker, etc…. Again the game ends when you fall asleep.

I laughed even louder at that game because the whole idea of it is so profoundly simple that I feel like a moron for not thinking of it myself. Up until today I worked to silence my mind when I found myself thinking things I didn’t like. It had never occurred to me to just think of something else. I liken this to a bad smell. When faced with a bad smell you have two choices, you can try to get rid of the smell or you can try to cover over the smell with a better smell. Which one do you think is easier? It works the same way with thinking. You’ll have an easier time thinking about a litter of puppies playing than you will of turning your thinking off. Thinking is natural, not thinking isn’t.

We can control our thoughts and so we should take an active role in what we allow ourselves to think. There will be times when you will need to worry about something, to make sure you have addressed all of the known knowns, but at some point you will start to over think it, triggering a feedback loop that keeps you worrying about it. Even if you did leave the stove on, so what? You cook with it, it’s designed to be on. Make the decision about what you are going to do about it and start trying to think of three things that are cuter than a kitten. Smile and go back to living outside your head.