Want to become a ‘Super Hero’ in your life? Just watch this video
My next door neighbor and I have helped each other out in more than typical neighborly ways, especially in improving our health and fitness. He was always driven to achieve a lot of whatever he was doing.
I thought I was doing fine, just coasting along, putting on my five or ten pounds every year, losing muscle because I wasn’t using it. The growing old edition of the American dream.
When we first moved into our house, there were no other houses on the road. In fact, there wasn’t even a road on the road. I would walk my dog when I was dressed in nothing more than my pajamas, or in my underwear, weather permitting. So if the dog decided to go pee, so would I. There was no one around.
Then other people started building houses and moving in, and things started to change. I had to actually mow my lawn.
Tom moved next door, and the guy was constantly moving. He was building walls, moving trees, planting flowers and shrubs. He was like a five-foot-nine dwarf, whistling while he worked. He would mow the lawn once, twice, three times a week if needed, and then water and fertilize it so that it would grow some more.
I, on the other hand, hadn’t edged in years, and there were bare patches all across my sod. It was a mess.
I was compelled to improve my lawn just from the energy I saw expended next door.
Tom has described his epiphany of being related to his near-death experience. It motivated him to improve his health even more than he had.
My epiphany came of its own, and was the culmination of three decades of struggling with my weight, my fitness, and yo-yo dieting. I tried every gimmick out there, but couldn’t make any of them last more than a couple of months.
Tom took his workouts seriously, and as we shared notes, I became more focused in my training just from the energy I saw expended next door. Being around someone with a positive, enthused approach to exercise helped me sustain my habits.
(NOTE: Tom had attached greater meaning to his habits, and I did as well. That’s what allowed the lasting change, but habits are tricky and complicated, and sharing energy and positive feedback make them stick.)
Tom tried to bring me up to his intensity level, but I have a lot of other passions. Exercise was not my main passion, so I couldn’t catch on to it like he did.
Then Tom took it to another level with his even bigger goal of becoming a body-builder. I exercised with him a few times during that phase, but it just wasn’t for me.
The point for him is that he used a big goal to help him improve many aspects of his health, and attached greater meaning to his efforts. The point for me was that I had my own goal — different from his — but took inspiration from him, and used the greater meaning (for me) to motivate myself.
I don’t exercise and eat right just because I want to exercise and eat right — I do it because doing that helps me work towards what is truly meaningful in my life, and that makes me happy.
I wasn’t always this awesome. I used to be an average guy, a joe-schmoe, a mr. cellophane. Now I’m great. But what is the difference between greatness and mediocrity? What separates the chaff from the wheat? Enthusiasm? Really? Is that what I meant?
I really was mediocre back in the day. I didn’t change my life to be great, but I was just a bit tired of mediocrity. I do try to be great, but it ain’t easy, this being great. For the record, being mediocre is easy.
The world doesn’t necessarily think I’m great. The world thinks I’m pretty mediocre. I’m okay with that. It’s hard to change what the world thinks of you. But I feel great.
You might think I owe it all to Tom Matt, Founder of Boomers Rock, Talk Show host, author, and all around good egg. I give myself quite a bit of credit. I make myself feel great.
Here are the steps I took to starting feeling great:
At the height of my mediocrity, I believed I was destined to be average, with an average amount of success, an average amount of money, and an average amount of happiness in my life. I didn’t think I deserved to be all that happy.
My epiphany was realizing that I was finally worthy of happiness, and that I was responsible for making it happen. No one was going to make me happy.
Being mediocre, I was not particularly fit, and on some level of my psyche I thought that if I was fit, other things would be better. I was mostly wrong about that, but it brought me to a better place, so it’s worth mentioning here.
Along the way, I learned what would make me happy, so I’m very grateful I started down that path.
Once I decided I was worth it, and that I wanted to improve my fitness, the next question was how to make it happen.
The decision is one thing. The work to make improvements is quite a bit another thing. I gave myself a present:
It took 40 years to get out of shape; I can give myself a couple of years to improve things.
I did not look for any shortcuts for quick results. I looked for problems in the process of how I did things and tried to correct those areas. For instance:
I was the king snacker. I had these triggers going back to when I was a latch-key kid, when I got home from school, I’d eat a cool-whip sandwich and a bowl of Lucky Charms. As an adult, any time I arrived home, day or night, I was immediately hungry, and scrounged up food.
I worked to change that trigger. I still eat when I get home, but now I have carrots or cauliflower or cabbage. (I have a thing for c-words.)
I started preparing my meals, and choosing whole foods first, especially vegetables. What I have discovered along the way is my sensitivity to carbohydrates, especially starch and sugar, and so those items I push to the back of my list. It’s not that they are evil, but they don’t help me stay healthy.
I was very spotty on exercise, and also very much able to talk myself out of a workout if, for instance, my foot had fallen asleep, or if it was raining, or if it wasn’t raining. It basically didn’t take very much to convince myself to wait until the next day to exercise, and then the next day never came.
By the way, formal exercise is not really necessary if you happen to have a demanding lifestyle, or can walk enough to be human, but here in America we drive a lot, we sit at desks, or have machines do the truly heavy lifting.
If didn’t see Les Miserables, starring The Wolverine, it opens on a group of prisoners dragging a large, wooden battleship into a dock from the sea. There are hundreds of men pulling on ropes. My first reaction was, “Wow, that sucks.” But my next reaction was, “Hey, there’s a total body workout that really must burn some calories.”
We don’t do that stuff anymore. I arranged my desk at work so that everything I need, for hours at a stretch, is at my fingertips. Phone on my right, input tray next to that, then the monitor and keyboard right in front of me, and my notebook on the left. I don’t even have to go looking for the stapler because it’s tucked conveniently underneath the monitor, but I don’t even print paper anymore because everything is digital (poor stapler!). I queue up what few print jobs I do have so that I get them after I go to the men’s room. If I installed a urinal in my cubicle, I wouldn’t even have to get up to do that.
I would exercise every day. I had been an “every other day” guy for workouts. I decided I would do a little bit every single day, no excuses. I would just do something. I figured that if smoking a couple of cigarettes a day would slowly kill you, maybe doing a couple of push ups or running a couple of miles would make me better. I didn’t demand of myself a total body, cross-fit killer workout like dragging a ship in from sea with Jean Val-Jean; I just wanted to get about 30 minutes in of something.
Eating right and getting some exercise is all well and good, especially if you saw that vitamin commercial back in the 70s (“I eat right, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Oh, and I take One-A-Day vitamins.”). But is that all there is to life?
If it is, you may not be able to sustain the habits that keep you healthy. We’re meant to be happy — I realize that sounds stupidly obvious, but “happy” is the name we’ve given to the state we are wired to seek. But it’s not the endless pursuit of fun or pleasurable distractions. Those are important, but they aren’t the point.
To make a lasting change in your healthy, wellness, and overall quality of life, you have to attach meaning to your life, and figure out what really makes you happy. The answer to that is elsewhere in this website/book/seminar series. Seriously, we have discovered the meaning life. Someone else wrote it down much better than we have, but it’s out there, and we’ll help you find it, too.
Meanwhile, you need to understand that, in my case, by clearly articulating to myself what mattered, my life-improving habits were not a burden or a chore, but a joyful experience that made me glad. I was happy that I was caring for myself, because it gives me more energy to pursue fun, and care for my family, and create things I want to share with the world.
For me, my true passion is storytelling, and that’s what I work on, everyday, and hope soon to get so good at that people will want to read or hear those stories. But I also have fun playing table tennis, and playing the ukulele, and joking around with my friends and family. I even appreciate going to work more than I ever have because it is part of my bigger picture that allows me to care for my family and work on my passions.
Smoked every day, or ate a can of cake frosting every day, over time, you would make a big, and likely negative change in your life. The tar would reek havoc on your lungs, or the sugar would wear out your pancreas.
But if you can figure out what matters in your life, and use that knowledge to motivate yourself to take some small steps toward improving your health every day, over time, you would make a big, positive change in your life.
The trick about making a positive change for yourself, about yourself, is that it sets off a lot of warning bells in your mind. It’s kind of like fixing a boat that is sailing across the ocean: there will be plenty of people on the boat screaming, “If it ain’t sinking, leave it alone.” There’s that constant threat of whatever you might do to improve the boat making it worse, and sinking it in the cold and unforgiving ocean, to be forgotten like so many lost souls of history.
The brain has a bias to over-value the current situation, and fear the unknown. Let’s get back on that boat in the middle of the ocean. It’s international waters so we can gamble. Gambling is one of those activities that, if you play long enough, you are going to lose. The casinos, even in international water, aren’t going to let you play if they aren’t going to win–over time. But casinos seem fun. People are engaged in the activity, there are lights, drinks, and scantily clad women. It seems like the thing to do, especially with so many other people doing it. That’s when the bias to over-value the current situation kicks in.
We think we can have a bit of fun now, because we don’t know when we might get this chance again. Why save our money, or put it to work in an annuity, or invest in our future, when we can have fun now? Over-valuing the current situation may well condemn your future. We do it with our finances, the food we eat, and the exercise, or lack thereof, each and every day.
So how do we break out of that mindset? How do we fix what we are built to do naturally?
The greatest successes come from an impassioned dedication to an art, craft, or duty for which the practice is the reward you seek. Caring for your family because you care about them. Walking because you enjoy the movement and the time outside. Making music because you love music.
Passionate practice gives us an opportunity to do something we enjoy, that can help our brain get some needed exercise, and may even offer our body some exercise as well, if your passion happens to be physical. But if it’s playing the ukulele, then by all means do that.
Even something as simple as walking like you mean it can be done with passionately, and lead to greater things. It’s something you can do now, and it invests in your future.
Our psyche is very wary of danger, and the embarrassment of failure can be devastating, so our minds will often predetermine that something is too difficult, so it will be okay to fail. So how do we assuage those fears to give us the best chance to succeed?
You must take the time to assure yourself that you are trying something you care about, and that it will help your future. I mean you literally have to think those very words, and then thank yourself afterwards for giving yourself the chance to try it.
Sharing your time and talents may be the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself, and demonstrates how much you care about yourself. You can’t expect others to love you or care for you if you don’t love yourself or take care of yourself.
It’s like those pay-it-forward commercials in which people help the blind guy, hold open a door, or pick up trash from the sidewalk. Chipping in and helping the village take care of business connects us with the community. You deserve to live in a place with people that do just something like that, and the best way to make it happen is to do it for yourself first of all.
The difference between the internal compelling enthusiasm and the external expression of enthusiastic action that others may notice. People are inspired by enthusiasm. It’s contagious, and a big part of the joy of living.
We humans developed the ability to notice dangerous situations and recognize suspicious characters who might do us harm. We also enjoy the ability to immediately trust people who seem like-minded and sincerely interested in our well being.
That’s the great payoff for being positive, showing enthusiasm, and doing something you are passionate about — people that share that passion will be attracted to you, and will want to talk to you. Your circle of friends will grow because you do what you enjoy, and do it with enthusiasm.
Our intelligence is not limited to a certain genetic allotment, or even to a particular area. Quite the contrary, we can develop and improve our ability to think, the speed at which we think, and explore new areas of intelligence, including the ability to learn. If you have a sincere interest, and pursue a passionate practice, you can strengthen your ability to think.
It’s possible I’m delusional, but I am convinced that since I began practicing music (currently playing the ukulele) and exercising regularly, and eating primarily whole foods, and taking supplements like fish oil, my brain works better and I think more clearly.
If this is crazy, I don’t want to be sane.
At the Boomers Rock seminar this past week, Regie Reider of On Target Living explained the importance of groups, especially how groups make the individual better.
Common terms might be the last thing you think need to be defined, and I thought “Group” was common enough to be understood by all. But I was glad that Regie took the time to explain it, because it matters how you define the term group to understand the effect on the individual.
A collection of Individuals that are in contact with each other, share comaraderie, and also share one or more common goals.
Some examples are: * a business group * a religious group * social or personal groups
The key is that they are based on belief systems.
If people are hanging around each other but don’t believe in the same thing, they really aren’t in the same group.
When groups assemble for the purpose of accomplishing something, they must follow some steps to succeed. They must: * create bench marks * establish accountability for their actions * exhibit growth
By measuring current capabilities on a agreed upon scale, a group creates a bench mark for their performance in the area where they hope to accomplish something. Weight Watchers asks you to weigh in. A karate class will assess your abilities on their belt system.
Take responsibility for accomplishing a particular task, and also measuring performance, is accountability. Without it, nothing would likely ever get done. There would be just enough confusion about the work towards an accomplishment that the point of the task would be likely somewhere in the group’s distracted thinking (for without accountability, distractions would run rampant in the group, as they would have nothing in particular to discuss about their shared belief).
By measuring performance in the group’s efforts to accomplish a task, growth would be exhibited. The success would likely compel the group to continue, or urge them to fix what is being done wrong if progress had not been made.
To make a group work better for an individual than what the individual might accomplish individually, the group must have fun while also exhibiting growth. And if the amount of fun is more than the individual can enjoy on their own (like who can laugh at their own jokes more than a couple of times, anyway?) then it will compel the individual to stay in the group.
People have struggled with the meaning of life for thousands of years. One of the best expressions of that struggle is in Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, verses 9-11.:
What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task that God has appointed for the sons of men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
That passage tells me that it is common for people to not get the big picture. The why of why we’re here, the what of what we’re supposed to do, thinking that there is some plan for us. It’s a tricky picture, and may make you think there is no point to it all.
Being human means we have an amazing one-two punch: self-actualization, and self-determination. We can discover who we are, and we can decide what we shall do. We may pursue whatever we so desire to pursue.
If pursuit of happiness is in the Constitution, you might think that it’s a fine thing to do. But that phrase, “Pursuit of Happiness”, was a compromise from the original, “Ownership of Property.” In the haggling over slavery during the constitutional convention, that phrase implied that owning slaves was fine and dandy, so abolitionists wanted it struck. Pursuit of Happiness was put in its place.
I do not believe the founding fathers wanted us to chase joyful distractions during our waking hours, just as I don’t believe they wanted us to own military weapons with large capacity clips. They wanted us to lead responsible lives if given the opportunity to decide our own beliefs. And I am certain that chasing joyful distractions is fun and important, but it won’t bring lasting happiness. Joyful distractions fade from sight like shooting stars, and you must search the heavens for more and more of them.
Pursuing joyful distractions can not lead you to a place where you will always be happily distracted. That sort of fun is fleeting. It is not a lasting happiness. It’s important, but will not fulfill you.
Lasting happiness requires three things:
It works especially well if we care about the something, and our hope involves that same something in the future. For instance, caring for your family or friends gives you plenty to do, involves lots of love, and will develop in the future based on the care you provide.
A job that helps others improve their own lives, or helps the community, can also fulfill the three elements of happiness.
The trick about being human is that the self-determination is our gift that allows us to attach meaning to our lives, and to choose activities that support that meaning. For instance, I am a father and husband. I believe part of my purpose here on earth is to help raise my children, and share in their life. I am meant to do that.
Like the author of Ecclesiastes, you may not ever understand God’s reason for giving you life. That may be frustrating, or baffling, or even discouraging. But we were given that one gift — free will — for good reason: that we may decide a meaning of our own.
You may decide that your life is meant to provide yourself with shallow or selfish pleasures. If you do, then you may feel unfulfilled at some point in your life.
But if you decide that your life is meant to connect you more closely with your family, friends, or community, you experience a deep and lasting happiness from the good work you accomplished, and from the gratitude and favor returned by those you have helped.
In the book “Maximize Your Quality of Life, The 200% Solution“, the single factor under your control that determines your quality of life is revealed. That factor may surprise you, because it’s not genetics, and it’s not socio-economic status, and it’s not your birth order or your parents marital status. Those items are all important, but those items are all out of your control.
If all of those items were working against you, the single factor under your control that determines your quality of life can still overcome those items, and help you improve yourself. It’s not voodoo, it’s not a mystical power of the universe, and it’s not will power. None of those things can help.
The single most important factor determining your quality of life is your attitude. If you believe you can improve your quality of life, you are correct. Similarly, if you believe you can’t improve, you would also be correct. That belief is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it’s a deadly accurate factor. It can also be the most difficult thing to change about yourself.
If you were born into an angry, dysfunctional family, that was poor and rarely generated good opportunities, and perhaps you just never clicked with you classmates at school or friends in your neighborhood, then you may have become convinced at some point that you would never amount to much, or you would never feel fit, or simply never have a chance at happiness. Life has a way of being very discouraging.
But here’s a few things scientists have proven about people that might help you change your “life”:
You can decide who you spend time with, so choose your friends carefully. (If your family has dysfunctional problems, work to improve the problems, or control your time with them.)
You can decide what foods are best for you. If you are hanging around people that don’t eat a balanced diet, plan your meal times carefully to ensure you get the correct nutrition for you.
You can decide what activities you do. If you like to run or workout at a gym, that’s an awesome choice for getting your brain to work better. If you like to walk or dance, then make plans to have those things happen.
If you take steps in some of these areas, I promise you that you will notice the difference, and you will want to take additional steps in other areas, as well. And when you are improving multiple areas of your life, your quality of life will improve. You will have taken control, and determined for yourself what your life will be.
You will have used your brain to help your brain, and you will have thought things better for yourself.
The short answer is to exercise 30 minutes a day, every day, like you mean it. You don’t have to hurt yourself, or collapse from exhaustion. But it takes a bit of exertion and may make you sweat.
The question, as found in the title, is how do you extend your life, and improve your brain by working your butt? If you cling to the belief that relaxing instead of exercising is clever, you are only cheating yourself. The human body is a miracle of nature. Like all living things, it can do amazing things, and adapts to the environmental challenges it confronts. We wouldn’t be here if humans had to have things just so. The human body figured out how to clear the hurdles that history has presented.
For instance, if you run to the point of breathing hard, and sustain that exertion, your body responds by growing more blood vessels to deliver additional blood to your muscles. Your body assumes you had a very good reason for running, and begins to build more of what you need to help you run more and faster. If you keep running with consistency, your body will improve its capacity for cardiovascular exertion. Kenyans have a reputation for being great runners. You may think they are born that way, but they aren’t. They grow up that way, though. It’s their “thing” to run everywhere, starting in childhood. There’s just a lot of people in Kenya that run a lot, so some of them become the fastest runners in the world at all the distances.
If you exert your muscles in a particular way — namely, to make them burn off the oxygen and glucose in their immediate energy stores by doing about a minute of heavy lifting — the muscles will respond by growing more muscles. Your body assumes that you need to lift heavy things, and begins to build more of what you need to lift heavy things. If you keep lifting heavy things consistently, you will grow more and more muscle. You may think that some body builders are freaks of nature, but they aren’t. They spend a lot of time exerting each of their muscles, encouraging them to grow bigger, and ensuring the muscles have what they need to grow.
It turns out that you can, within reason, make your body into pretty much anything. You can stretch your muscles so they are really flexible, like a yogi. You can make them stronger by challenging them with nothing but your own body weight, like a gymnast. We all have a genetic pre-disposition for a certain body type, but with consistent exercise and proper nutrition you can change your body.
The one thing the body doesn’t like is complete and continuous rest. When a leg or an arm is clad in a cast for a couple of weeks, the muscles start to shrink and whither. Unused, they withdraw like jilted lovers, and leave us.
A couch potato turns to mashed potatoes. That may be the body that they want, but what you may not realize is how the inactivity harms all parts of our health. Left unchallenged, the body thinks there is less need for blood flow, and arteries and veins begin to disappear. Muscles atrophy. Your heart grows weaker, and must beat more often to keep things flowing.
If inactivity persists, your immune system weakens, your brain activity slows, and the ability of the brain to control the body decreases. Even something as simple as walking becomes a chore, and, with core muscles weaker, people have to lean from side to side to walk forward.
The great news is that you don’t have to run, or lift weights, or practice calisthenics like a gymnast if you don’t want to. A brisk walk for half an hour will provide great benefits. Gardening — if you are digging, lifting, reaching, and moving around — will also provide great benefit. Dancing can be one of the best things to do because you move, challenge your brain to command your body in tempo with the music, and do it in conjunction with someone else. Sex, by the way, wouldn’t hurt either.
The list of fun, simple things goes on: tennis or table tennis; walking a golf course or a frisbee golf course; playing soccer or softball. In fact, playing games has the double bonus of social interaction, having fun, and challenging your mind and body to perform.
Modern life here in America can still present a challenge to getting enough activity into our life. What am I saying? Of course it’s a challenge when we drive through a restaurant to pick up a meal, eat in the car, and then sit in front of a television most of the night. The temptations are great. I recommend you choose some simple techniques to keep your body moving.
I like to do some light calisthenics and stretching first thing in the morning. I barely break a sweat, but I feel the difference. My day goes better when I start it with the light exertion. I know some people that will run or walk a mile on their treadmill, or take their dog for a walk first thing in the morning and for the same reasons: they feel better the rest of the day.
I walk after lunch. Maybe just a mile, but it makes me feel better the rest of the afternoon. If you don’t do it now, give it a try.
For a special, “because it’s there” effect, I will climb the seven flights of stairs in my building late in the afternoon just for the heck of it.
In the evening, after supper, I will run a little, or do some calisthenics (push ups, pull ups, and squats) to the point of exertion. I try to keep it under 20 minutes. And that’s it.
After that, I know I’ve done something good for myself, improved my health, and taken care of someone I love — me.
You should too.
If you haven’t heard, I spent 30 years trying to figure out how to eat. For me, having the luxury of not simply eating to survive is just a bit more than I could handle, and I turned the American Abundance into my own, personal energy reserve. It’s okay to have a few extra pounds, but I didn’t feel healthy. I didn’t like not being able to figure it out.
I followed about a dozen diets, but here are the most memorable:
You can toss in the Special K, South Beach, Total Six Pack, Slow Carb, and strict calorie-counting in there for good measure.
When I dieted, I was convinced that I simply had been misbehaving, and merely had to deny myself food, as if it were punishment for committed sin, and then, once I’d lost some number of pounds, I’d be out of jail and free to eat whatever I wanted.
That way of thinking was my only flaw.
What I needed was to take care of my nutritional needs. That’s what I failed to understand for 30 years.
Let me cut to the answer:
Our bodies need fuel and nutrients. That’s what the brain is wired to seek out. It doesn’t really care how it gets what it needs, but it’s like the Terminator robot seeking one thing, and it won’t stop until it gets it. You may eat all the fuel you need during breakfast, but if your body thinks it needs something else, you will crave food.
Also, if you offer up more fuel than your body can deal with, it will deal with it in its own way. When there’s too much sugar in your blood, the pancreas dumps insulin, and stores it for future use. That may make you sleepy, and then make you crave more fuel, because now your blood is low on sugar. That’s goofy to us now, but it made sense in the time before food was abundant. It’s how hunter-gatherers make best use of everything they eat. But we hunt and gather by driving through Taco Bell, and it ain’t the same.
What kind of stinks is that each and every one of us is unique in our needs, and in the point at which our body decides to dump insulin and turn blood sugar into fat. So what your friend is eating may be fine for your friend, but not for you. What your brother or sister eats may be fine for them, but not for you.
You have to figure out what works for you. You have to figure out the correct amount of fuel, and the correct mix of nutrients, to make you feel great all day, every day.
Start with whole foods. Prepare as much yourself as possible.
This is still America, and we have an abundance of prepared, packaged food. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford to eat whatever you want, you may be able to eat more than you can ever use. Packaged food is heavy on sodium, high-fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils, and they can each mess with your health and your ability to judge what else you need to eat.
If it seems too much to deal with preparing your own meals, the Weight Watchers program is a fine place to start. The South Beach diet offers up sensible recipes and balanced meals. I liked the Body For Life program (but the “free Saturdays” were more than I could deal with).
It’s fine to use someone else’s diet, but pay attention to what you are eating, and how your body reacts. If you feel good, and your energy is good, then the diet may be working for you. If not, make adjustments or try something else.
Connect your goals to your happiness, and think of how your meal planning can be a part of your happiness. Prepare a healthy meal for someone you love — yourself, or your family. The effort involved may make you happier, and may make you feel better as well.
We can do anything we want to do. We can do anything we believe we can do. It’s just limiting beliefs — those doubting, frustrated voices inside of us that aren’t sure if we can, or if we should try — that hold us back. I’m sure of that, but we may have to pick and choose because some things will take more time than others, depending on our natural gifts.
For instance, I’ve spent the past thirty years learning to be a novelist. It’s been a long road, and I was not naturally gifted in that regard when I decided I wanted to write the great American novel; but I’ll keep trying. I believe I can be successful at it.
But I don’t think I have the time to become an Olympic Table Tennis player. I spend too much of my time writing novels. Still, I believe I could do it. I’m willing to unlimit my beliefs in that regard. There are many things at which I can be awesome but I’m choosing things important to me:
There are others, but these are the items that garner the most attention. Table tennis may yet trickle into the equation.
One of our human mechanisms is to avoid pain, and the embarrassment of failure is painful. So we are often risk-averse. That’s where many of our limiting beliefs get into our head, in order to avoid the pain of embarrassment.
It may have started by overly critical parents when we were children, or teasing by siblings, taunting by friends, or torment from bullies. Even now, your spouse or boss may be an asshole. Jerks are a dime a dozen, and they all can cause us pain. It often seems easier to avoid it and stay home.
On the Internet, snarkiness often rules the day. They pick on other people, make fun of videos, and goad us with flame wars. There is a Russian proverb: “You don’t need to put a lid on a barrel of crabs.” It refers to the fact that crabs will pull each other back into a barrel or a bucket if one of them tries to escape. They force each other to share the misery.
Life can be just that snarky sometimes. It takes a great deal of personal fortitude to climb out of a barrel of crabs.
It’s also a feature of our brain to be lazy. Our primitive brain wants us to conserve energy. Our primitive brain doesn’t care if we want to improve our fitness, or invest time balancing our checkbook; the primitive part of our brain wants us to chill and sit back to save energy in case there is an emergency later on. A pack of hyenas may be nearby, and we have to stay ready.
So there’s a biological component to not doing certain things. If taking up a sport, or learning a musical instrument, or going out dancing may be a risk, and may require some effort, our own brain may fire signals to just not do it. Skip it. Let someone else take that chance.
The first step in replacing limiting beliefs with unlimiting beliefs is to acknowledge that they exist, and have a place in our life. Without them, your ancestors may have been devoured by hyenas, and you wouldn’t be here. Don’t hate them; just deal with your limiting beliefs.
Tell your limiting belief about what you care about. Is it your health, your family, or a passionate past time? Your brain may appreciate the importance of something like that.
Tell your limiting belief that you are willing to accept the risk of failure. Remind the primitive part of your brain that this is not the kind of thing that will put your well being in jeopardy. It may be embarrassing, but it will be okay.
Assure yourself you will forgive yourself if it doesn’t work out, but that you also are serious about this, and won’t give up. If it’s just a passing fancy, maybe you shouldn’t worry about it. But if it’s truly a step towards a goal you care about, you must allow yourself to believe you have unlimited potential, and the sooner you start, the sooner you can enjoy success.
Motivation comes from within, but inspiration can be found without. Thank goodness for that, because we often need more inspiration than we have at hand. Inspiration is like a hamburger to Blimpie: he’d gladly pay you Tuesday for one today.
Inspiration from great people, the heroes and over-achievers of this world, but it certainly doesn’t have to be from them. If you needed help cheating on your wife, you might turn to Bill Clinton, or if you wanted to start a war you couldn’t finish, you might think of George Bush. But great inspiration can be found in ordinary people. In fact, the best inspiration may come from your own tribe of like-minded people.
We here at Boomers Rock love to emphasize that success is found in small steps and achievable goals. By doing that, you are likely correcting the processes that will improve your quality of life. That helps you make better habits and get used to the feeling of success.
Seek out others interested in similar results. If you want to improve your fitness, join a gym, take a class a night school class on Zumba, or find someone to walk with. If you want to improve your nutrition, read some books or attend a seminar like the one we are hosting. Be open and honest with the people you meet, and share your stories. The support of friends and strangers alike can be the greatest inspiration for achieving your goals.
At some point, you may lose touch with your source of inspiration. Your hero may let you down, a friend may move away, or an acquaintance may take up a new hobby. But if you’ve started down the path of success, and taken the time to congratulate yourself, it will be that much easier to find inspiration again.
We ought to take a cue from the recent deluge of dating websites — hope springs eternal with people’s affection, and so should it also with our ability to improve our life. If you are completely at a loss for inspiration, just Google what it is you are hoping to find; there’s probably a YouTube testimonial by someone who struggled just as much as you have.
One of the quotes in “Maximize Your Quality of Life” is Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” It cleverly sums up the remarkable achievement of the human brain, namely, that self-awareness leads to self-actualization. Because we can think about who we are, and the nature of our existence, we can make decisions about our destiny. If we fail to make those decisions, or fail to act on the decisions we make, we are but beasts in the field, following our nature unto the grave, effected only by the whimsy of the elements.
Imagination grants us the gift of possibility. It allows us to play with what we know, speculate about what may be, and then try to achieve it. If we were merely imaginative — meaning we never, ever acted on what we imagined — we might entertain ourselves endlessly by thinking of an intimacy we might enjoy, if only it ever happened. But by acting on the imagined possibilities, we can find a better life. In fact, we can maximize our quality of life through imagination.
I’ll use another example from fitness. When Tom Matt heard about body building for people over the age of 50, he had no idea what his body might look like, or how he would get there. He had suggestions from his training mentor, and found experts to help him in the quest, but he used imagination to inspire himself, and to figure out what the necessary steps were.
Visualization is the process of finding a desired outcome (by using your imagination….) and keeping that image fresh in your mind to help you find your way to that goal. We are consciously exploiting one of the neater features of the human brain — picturing an outcome would have been useful, many, many years ago, to visualize dangers and pitfalls in the wild, such as treacherous terrain or dangerous animals. The visualization was likely part of what helped primitive man survive.
Visualization can help you achieve anything, even things you are incapable of doing, as long as you also imagine the process to follow in order to gain the skills you lack.
If you need help with your finances, you can imagine ways to make it better, such as working with a financial planner. Visualization (of finding, contacting, and visiting the financial planner) can then help achieve that goal.
If you need help with your fitness, you can imagine ways to join a gym or find a trainer. Visualize the steps you’ll take, and then also how you’ll plan your workouts, and then make time to invest time in yourself.
The same can be said about family relations, having fun, or nutrition. Imagination and visualization are key to making things better.
It may seem obvious that imagination and visualization can help you, but what I have found is that by repeated practice of the technique helps overall performance. You can improve your ability to imagine and visualize. You can even use them to improve them, if you know what I mean.
The brain is a remarkable organ that truly makes us what we are. Some scientists like to mention opposable thumbs as what separated us from the beasts, and others mention bipedalism (walking upright). But our brains have the ability to plan, and interpret, and abstract. It allows us to learn how to things we were not necessarily meant to do, such as sing like birds, and things no other animal ever attempted, such as dancing. But high performance comes with a price, and the brain is the most demanding and complex of all our organs, the lengthy colon and sturdy skeleton notwithstanding.
In “Maximize Your Quality of Life,” Tom Matt dedicates several chapters to the physiology of the brain, and several more to how exercise and practice can enhance its abilities to think. But this article will be an abridged version to entice you to learn more. When it comes to your brain, the more you know, the better off you will be.
The brain craves glucose and cholesterol. The glucose is its fuel, and the cholesterol helps the myelin (the nerve fiber sheathing) improve the ability of electrical signals to transport. In a sense, we think what we eat. You can improve your brain’s ability to think, recall, and process information by eating a balanced, nutritious diet. That won’t necessarily make you smarter, unless you do something useful with your improved capacity.
One of the trickier things to achieve nowadays is a diet that does not include too much sugar. That matters because our bodies have a mechanism to manage the blood sugar levels. When it is too high, insulin is released, and the sugar is moved off to fat cells. If you ever feel dim witted, unable to think, or sleepy after a meal (and who hasn’t?) it’s likely because your previous meal triggered your insulin. That lack of blood sugar sends a very clear signal to your brain: have the body eat more food. It can be a vicious cycle.
It’s also tempting to eat “diet” food that is low in cholesterol. Too much LDL is considered unhealthy, but if there isn’t enough available for your heart and your brain, it can cause it’s own version of pandemonium.
The nerve cells, synapses, and myelin covered nerve fibers will all go to waste if we don’t put them to use. In Tom’s interviews with experts on brain health, one concept stood out above all others — the best thing you can do for your brain is to challenge it with mental exercise. Physical activity not only sends oxygen and glucose for fuel, the brain activity required helps encourage the development of synaptic connections. Mental exercises as well, such as learning new things, math problems, or solving difficult problems in any field will further strengthen synaptic connections.
I have found in myself that the clarity in thinking I experience lately is what I crave the most. I now exercise and move and practice regularly not because I have a great reserve of will power that I employ to help me do what is best for me; I enjoy the activities because my brain derives benefit, and I am rewarded. I simply want to do all the things I do now. I don’t have to nag myself, and I don’t have to wonder if it’s worth it.
That may seem outlandish, and likely deserves more explanation. Our seminar series is designed to provide just that, more detail, and to answer your questions. But if you will challenge yourself both physically and mentally while offering your body the nutrition in needs, you will feel the difference. You will want more of it.
We all seek answers to life’s riddles. And in that search we fall prey, occasionally, to clever, smoothly-told pitches for products that claim to solve those riddles. How might we lose weight, gain sexual stamina, or learn a foreign language in three short weeks. They mean well, these people creating products and services to help us solve problems.
Sometimes the promises are so convincing that we think the having the product means the problem is gone. But very few problems are solved that way. We are buying into the gimmick. The gimmicks offer hope. And we all need hope to persevere.
That is not to say that gimmicks are bad. We are complicated creatures in a complicated world, and there really are no simple answers. If you have a home, a job, and a family, you will be challenged daily to solve problems you didn’t create. You will need help. A gimmick may help. In fact, gimmicks help someone, or you would never hear of them at all.
Gimmick diets and exercise programs work for the inventor, and some number of other people. The limiting factor that keeps a gimmick out of the universally accepted habit category is that people are just different from one another that the gimmicks only work for a subset of the population. I have a brother who was always the skinny kid in the family and I was always the chubby kid. We ate the same breakfast, same lunch, same snacks, and sat next to each other at the dinner table, but our body types were radically different. We grew up having different interests in sports, hobbies, and careers. Same mom, same dad, different kids. The gimmicks that work for me don’t work for him.
You have to find the gimmicks that work for you.
Following a diet out of a book or a magazine solves your meal planning, and may allow you enough mental capacity to help your daughter with her homework. Buying marital aids from Johnson and Johnson in the family planning aisle of Target may get you through enough sex to think your marriage is okay. And buying an expensive software program to study French may provide you with hope that one day you’ll travel the world, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Carefully selecting your gimmicks, and using them to defeat distractions, can help you achieve your goals. Or to learn what goals you want to pursue.
Here are a couple of examples I know.
When Tom Matt (founder of Boomers Rock) decided to dedicate more time to physical fitness, he heard about bodybuilding, and used the available training regimens to keep him on track. It provided guidelines for nutrition, cardio, and weight training. The gimmick may have gotten out of hand when he shaved his body and painted himself oompa-loompa orange, but by then he had achieved his fitness goals.
When I decided to improve my health, my gimmick was a visualization of my inner dog. I imagined my body as a dog I had to take care of, like a pet. When pets get out of shape, it’s usually because the owner feeds them too much, or the wrong things, or doesn’t ensure the pet gets exercise. I realized that I had to take care of my inner dog like it was a dog I had adopted and promised to care for. The gimmick helped me summon the time and effort required to plan meals, serve myself sensible portions, and get my needed exercise.
There are somewhere between 17 and 42 things you need to do right to really maximize the quality of your life. But you don’t have to do them all at once. You just need to choose one area and focus on that to begin your journey. So your first gimmick might be to embrace the idea that you are on a journey toward a better life. You may need help with your finances, health, family, or personal skills for your career.
Choose one of those areas to get started, and focus on it to make things better. Pick a gimmick to help. If you choose wrong, don’t fret. There are enough gimmicks in the world that you don’t have to spend a lot of time worrying that you may not find one suitable. Try another until you find one that works for you.
And don’t be shy about needing gimmicks. Early man was known as the “tool maker”. Modern man will one day be known as the “gimmick keeper.” It’s a very human thing to do.
The biggest problem we face in America is our darned abundance. I don’t mean we as a people, but we as a bunch of individuals. Each one of us has to deal with the fact that there is enough pre-packaged, tasty food here in America to choke a horse. But we’re choking ourselves. The supermarkets sell you food that makes them money, but doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. Dunkin Donuts will give you a deal with a bagel with the coffee, but Dunkin Donuts doesn’t necessarily know what all you’ve eaten that day.
The diet and fitness industries mean well, but they take the same approach to marketing products that the food industry takes. They are all competing for your attention. Your attention is the most important thing you have in this American economy. Sometimes, it seems companies will sacrifice everything for your attention, including your good health.
The moral of the story is that you must be responsible for your own health. You’ve heard that many times before, and you’ve probably tried it over and over, but our abundance, ironically, acts to defeat those best efforts. “Diet” food is sold to you because it claims it is healthy, but that one food does not know what else you’ve eaten. You know, so you have to make that decision.
Exercise gadgets look like great ideas on TV, or on the end-cap at Target, and that one exercise gadget might be very useful, but it doesn’t know what else you like to do, or how busy you are. You know how busy you are, so you are responsible for taking care of yourself. I know we all know that, but the
America provides an amazingly easy lifestyle for the vast majority of us. There are forms of transportation to convey us from one place to another. Many of us sit at a desk, and factory work is not as physically demanding as it once was. We don’t pump water out of the earth by hand, and we don’t chop wood very often. Hell, I hardly have to type anymore.
The easier life is, the more difficult it is to stay active and physically fit. The more abundant convenient food is, the greater the challenge to eating a nutritious diet.
In spite of our culture encouraging healthy living, and the marketplace’s attempts to sell us a better lifestyle, it often works against us. We show up to fight the good fight, but it turns out we brought a knife to a gun fight. The companies selling us convenient health food and fitness contraptions are selling us the idea that our health can be bought in a store.
But it can’t be bought in a store. We have to earn our health and well-being every day. We have to plan our meals, and plan some activity, to care for ourselves.
It bears repeating: we have to care for ourselves, because we can’t buy our health in a store.
Yes, we have to earn our health and well-being every day; the good news is that it’s simple to achieve, once you embrace the idea that you are responsible for it. You don’t have to do it alone, and you can seek help. The solution can be as elaborate as you want, or as simple as you want.
We’ll talk about that over the next few weeks. It will likely take a while to earn your good health back. The longest journeys begin with the first step. You’ve taken that step by showing up here.
Let’s take an example. This is not a hypothetical, but me, the author, as the example. I spent 30 years, from when I was 13, until I was 43, fretting about losing weight. I tried various exercise programs, and I tried gimmick diets, and I would lose weight only to gain it back later on. In the following year I lost 40 pounds and I’ve kept it off. I’ve also improved my muscle tone, and found ways to enjoy myself through physical activity I thought I’d have to forgo.
I did about 17 things right to make it all happen (and I will share them all with you in this series of articles, or you can read “Maximize Your Quality of Life” to hear Tom Matt’s version), but the first, and most important thing I did was to realize that I needed to take care of myself. I had spent those three decades waiting for just the right diet and exercise plan to come along and solve all of my problems with health and happiness.
The first and most fundamental step was to get my mind right about the problem and how to fix it. The truth is that I had been defeating myself all those years in spite of every good intention and regardless of my new years resolution. I craved sweets, and resented the need to exercise, but couldn’t admit it to my conscious self. I secretly didn’t think that I deserved to be healthy and happy, so I gave up (unconsciously) and sought, instead, the fun and gratifying approach of eating sweet snacks, and not working very hard at my exercise when I did go.
I deserved better than that, especially from me. I’m so glad I finally decided to take care of me.
You deserve better too. But you are going to have to take care of yourself. I can’t help you, and Tom can’t help you, either. Not really. You can (and should) read his book, and take our seminar, but you are going to make those choices each day to care for you mind, spirit, and body.
The good news is that, once you decide to care for yourself, it brings great joy to make those choices. It gives you something to do, for someone you love, and provides you something for which to hope.
And here is one dirty little secret I can offer that may help convince you: if you merely went for a brisk walk every day, for 30 minutes a day, you would give yourself a gift so great that all your dreams about health and fitness may seem inevitable, rather than impossible.
So if you don’t want to wait to learn more about improving your quality of life, and want to begin right now, push away from the screen you’re using to read this, and go for a brisk walk.
Come back later, and ask yourself how you feel. Let me know.
We at Boomers Rock believe that the solution to improving your life is to get your mind right about the problems you face. It’s an attitude adjustment, but not like the one the warden made for Luke (in the movie “Cool Hand Luke”) when he broke a man’s spirit through domination and punishment. That is to say, you do not have to spend a night in the box to improve your life.
The first step to getting your mind right is to forgive yourself any mistakes you’ve made in the past. We are all afflicted with the disease of American Abundance. I could go into the great many fallacies that confound and confuse our best intentions. But you are worthy of forgiveness, at least where your quality of life is concerned.
The second step is to fix your processes, not the results. We all have routines, habits, and triggers that lead us through our daily life. We get up a certain way, get ready and go to work a certain way, get through the day, and home, and to bed. All those very many processes. They may cause us joy, or stress, or anxiety. They may excite or exhaust us.
If you worry about the number of calories you consume during the day, or the amount of exercise you did or did not do, or the number promises you kept or broke, you will likely exhaust and disappoint yourself further.
So we’ll pick one thing at a time, such as stretching or light calisthenics in the morning, or a walk at lunch, or visiting a gym on the way home — but just one. Work on that one thing until it’s a habit, and see how you feel about it, and if it helps your attitude, and how it effects your energy levels.
Has it improved your quality of life? If you’ve done it for a few days, congratulate yourself on that. It can take two to three weeks to make a habit, and to begin to notice changes. Your mind will work against change, but if you recall how we are here to take care of someone we love (i.e., we have to take care of ourself) then it will help reinforce the positive attitude.
Let’s recall the bit about happiness:
There are probably a lot of processes that can be improved. I used to quip that it took me doing about 17 things correct before I made a lasting improvement. It may take you more or less. But I struggled for a long time. What helped was finding a positive partner to encourage me (thanks Tom!) and to do things better. I did things better; when I occasionally made mistakes, or simply didn’t see the positive results, I reminded myself that I’m improving the process.
Tom picked up a phrase somewhere that goes: “Make the habit, and the habit makes you.” (It’s in the book!) I changed my processes and I started to see improvements in my quality of life. I ate better, exercised more consistently, added movement to lots of little parts of my life (I walk at lunch a lot, and walk the dog in the evening) and my physical fitness improved, and lost weight along the way, and stayed in shape. I feel better.
I improved the quality of my life.
The end of 2012 draws near, and thoughts turn to what lies ahead. A new year is a chance for a new beginning. If you are like me, then hope springs eternal. You may be tempted to throw caution to the end during the holiday rush, and allow yourself to eat, drink, and be merry to excess. That is more likely to frustrate your good intentions for the new year. I get frustrated often, and I have frustrated myself in the past with over-reaching new year resolutions. But in the past few years, I’ve gotten better at resolving to make positive change. Here is how I do it.
Let us begin with a few fundamentals. We are all hard-wired to seek happiness. However, we are not hard-wired to understand what happiness is, or to realize when we are being fooled, instead, by short-term joy and pleasant distractions. Happiness is:
If you resolve to improve your health next year, there are a great many things you can do to make that happen. You’re off to a good start then, for finding happiness.
Improving your health benefits someone you should love. So the many things you need to do can be considered joyful acts, even if sometimes they are difficult to accomplish.
Improving your health also engenders hope for a better tomorrow.
If there is something you want, or something you want to accomplish, or something you want to change, it is worth the effort to think how that thing, accomplishment, or change fits into the above three categories. If all you want is to be happy, then you must go through the effort of finding things to do, love, and hope for; otherwise, happiness will not come of its own accord.
Doing something fun will not bring you lasting happiness. You should have fun, and you should have as much fun as you can, but you should be responsible enough in managing your affairs to know when you can afford to have fun, be it indulging in good food or good drinks, or playing exciting games.
If you are not sure what, or who, you should love, start with yourself. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself. If you are considering a change in diet, or to start exercising in the new year, don’t look at it as a burden or a deprivation you must undergo. Instead, think first of how good it will feel to take care of your mind, spirit and body by giving it time to rest, nourishing food, and fun exercise.
And in the new year, each time you wonder if you should exercise, or select something to eat, think in that moment that your choice is an act of love for yourself. When your actions care for yourself (someone you should love very much) then those actions will be a joy to continue.
The book, “Maximize Your Quality of Life, The 200% Solution” is now available for order at Amazon.com, and so we are launching a series of articles that explain some of the book’s concepts. Reading these articles may be all that you need to improve the quality of your life. We sincerely hope so. Our goal is to help as many people as possible.
The book covers three main areas of concern:
It is our conceit to have the percentages add up to more than 100%. We want to emphasize how very important it is to have the right attitude in order to enjoy life, and that taking care of your brain’s physical health and mental capacity are keys to your success.
Very often, gimmicks and fads sweep across the nation’s consciousness with a new approach to fitness, success, or happiness. We realize we are lumped into that same group of advocates, but reading the book you will learn that this particular formula for success is based on the physiological reality of being humanity, the psychological phenomenon of living our lives in the media-centric modern world, and need to figure out the stress of life.
To sum it up into a pithy paragraph, if you don’t have the right attitude, you won’t be able to deal with the change of habits you need to succeed. If you don’t change your habits in such a way that you improve your brain’s physical and psychological health, the habits won’t stick. If you don’t feed your body the correct nutrition, no amount of exercise will make you feel better. And if you don’t exercise correctly, you will undo all the good you’ve done.
Let me say that in a more positive style:
If you treat yourself kindly, and change your mind about what it means to succeed, and give yourself the gift of happiness, you will find it easier to practice the habits that reinforce health and wellness. When you acquire those habits, and eat foods that are good for you, your body will respond with increased energy, stamina, and performance. And when you reinforce those habits with passionate practice of activities that are fun and beneficial to your body, you will be rewarded with improved health and feelings of goodwill towards yourself and those that are close to you.
The coming articles in this series will introduce you to the techniques advocated by Tom Matt, and the advice from the many experts he has interviewed over the past two years.
We here at Boomers Rock truly hope you find them useful.