Focus…First Things First

I’ll be the first to admit…it’s easier to talk or think about my priorities rather than actually pursuing my priorities in the order of their value and supremacy. What makes prioritizing so problematic is that my life is lived in many venues, and all of these venues have built-in priorities from which I must choose (decide) their order of primacy.

We have relationships and roles to fulfill (work, family, social, community, etc.); we have stuff which obligates our time or material resources (houses, cars, hobbies, etc); we have bodies which need to be nourished (mental, physical, emotional, social, etc). Our to-do lists are endless. So how do we determine what gets priority? How do we order and rank our most precious resource…time…in any given day?

You always have time for the things you put (do) first. ~Anonymous

Instant messaging, fast food and next day shipping has become standard operating procedure for those of us living and working in industrialized economies. Our inboxes, virtual or otherwise, are overflowing and all the messages are marked ‘urgent’ or ‘important’. We say we value our relationships, our physical health, our freedom, our faith…but how much of what we do everyday actually supports, nourishes or advances our values; our priority(s)? How do we focus our attention when the minutes of the day are full of diversion and distraction?

 Starve Your Distractions ~ Feed Your Focus…That Which You Seek, Finds You!

Our attention and focus is pulled out of whack and into disorder by every thing we allow to come into our awareness. If we are honest with ourselves and truly desire to accomplish those things we say we value, then we must decide (choose), again and again to do only those things which we have identified as ‘priority’. Two questions help us rank our values:  #1. What do I truly desire? #2. What is standing in my way? If you’re not sure of the answer to question number one, then consider what you spend your time thinking about. What you spend time thinking about is a strong indication of where the desires of your heart lay.

Focus like a laser, not a flashlight…

Do you get the sense that accomplishing something of import for yourself will require your relentless determination and focus? If this sounds like hard work, that’s because it is hard work! Prioritizing your life, sharpening your focus, ignoring those things which would divert and distract your attention, all these things and more will be required from you when you set out to craft your most meaningful life.

But do not despair of this worthwhile work of yours. Your desire, determination and dedication will provide you strength and stamina to pursue the object of your focus. It’s no harder than doing the ‘number one’ item on your priority list FIRST. Do not move on to item number two or item number three if doing so will remove the urgency and primacy of your focus.

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Everyday a Champion! Begin, Again.

Who trains the body for days, weeks, and months, for the privilege of toeing a start line?  A finisher, that’s who! Whether or not you’ve ever paid the entry fee to run a foot-race, don’t assume you are not competing in a race. Beacause if you are reading these words right now, then you are indeed a competitor, in the Game of Life!

Understand that the what must come before the how. First choose what you would do. The how usually falls into place of itself. Julia Cameron

Does that statement fill you with happy expectation or dread? How will you fill your waking hours? What brings meaning to your minutes? Don’t you know that you are a living, breathing, being full of unlimited potential and possibility?

You have everything you need to create your very best life, today! You are the Creator of Your Living-Life! With the dawning of every new day you are given the Gift of Beginning! Breathing is proof of your championship potential. Breathing is proof you hold the gift, the gift of your beginning…again.

A champion, by definition, is one who competes so as to win a prize or best her competition.  Crossing a finish line is the goal of every champion. Even though every striving entrant knows that only one participant will cross the finish line first, this fact does not minimize the drive of a champion’s will to cross that line.

The need to win, now, is the need to win approval from others. As an antidote, we must learn to approve of ourselves. Showing up for the work is the win that matters. Julia Cameron

To train is to join the game. To join the game is the delight of living! A champion’s  heart beats to the cadence of willful, intented steps towards her goal. A champion thinks and believes in her training because every day she trains is proof to herself that she is besting herself. The mindset of a champion-at-heart is determined to overcome her can’t-do’s with her can-do’s.

The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew. Julia Cameron

The heart of an authentic competitor-champion steels her will, hones her drive, attends her focus and casts off distractions to squash the lure of indifference. A true competitior evolves as champion with every choice she makes to actively train her body and mind with each new day. Championship is born in the process of one’s training. You are a Champion when you take the risk to begin your training, again and again. 

You Choose!

Most of the time, given the opportunity, I prefer not to choose. My general preference, when the time to choose arises, is to let my spouse or friend or client or employee make the choice for me: where to dine; what to work on; where/when to exercise; which movie to watch or music to listen to.

This is not a comfortable or flattering thing to admit about myself, especially since I am the type of person who likes to ‘work out’ my body. How strange then to realize that I am quite lazy when it comes to choosing in the realm of the everyday and mundane. How hard is it really, to make a choice? Why would I rather deflect an opportunity to make my own choice onto others? And yet, to not choose is making a choice too, isn’t it?

“The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.” “Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it doesn’t have when your actually living it.” Donald Miller

Perhaps the problem with choosing comes from the fact that there is so much from which to choose. If choice making was always about this or that; black or white; yes or no; stay or go, perhaps choosing would be easier. On one hand I wish that making a choice was a one-and-done deal, like when I say I choose to lose weight, gain strength or improve my health status, then BAM, my choice is made and I’m done. Wouldn’t that be grand? No more decisions to make. But that system wouldn’t work too well for me if I made just ONE unwise choice. How could I undo a poor choice if I only had a one-and-done choice making system?

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Fortunately, for all of us, life is full of choice making opportunities, except when our perception tells us otherwise. If we feel stuck, plumb out of choices, then it’s time to remind ourselves this one thing: as long as we are breathing, we may choose; and we may choose as many times as is needed and we may choose differently every time.

Even though I am a lazy choice maker, I am grateful this life I live is not a one-and-done game of chance. No, this life is more like playing the slot machines with the statistical advantage stacked in my favor, because I am privileged to choose; and my choice to choose means I may choose over and over and over again…or not.

In this life, it’s a happy, powerful sentiment to know we have the authority to re-write our life’s story line if we find our story less than meaningful. If by our choices we choose to do the same things enough times, eventually the statistics play out in our favor and our choices become our habits (for better or worse); then our habits create our life (for better or worse). So here’s to the wonderful, wacky world of choice making, and here’s my note to self: You CHOOSE…like your life depends on it!

Three Words

Resistance…Is…Futile…
When uttered by the fictional Borg of the famed Star Trek movie series, those three words were meant to conjure submission, hopelessness and resignation upon the unfortunate individuals to be assimilated into the collective Borg consciousness. Those three words declared power and superiority upon them who would hear and believe.

All of us skirmish against our internal Borg voices, especially when we struggle to reach new health and fitness goals. This is the voice which comes to us as reason, and it so often sounds reasonable to our tired mind. It says: Don’t be so hard on yourself. You set your sights to high. Lower your standard. Reduce your expectations. You are older now, you should slow down, sit down, recuperate. Perhaps a new hobby is in order for you, the Borg voice says: take up knitting, painting, reading, writing, there is nothing to gain by your constant striving to be fit, to be strong. You deserve to rest, relax, retire!

Don’t let your attitude toward change or your own predisposition to avoid it create detrimental hindrances to your own personal success. John C Maxwell

In rebuttal, I say this: THOSE ARE FIGHTING WORDS! Now let me be clear. I am not suggesting that resistance is always right. There is a time to resist and there is a time to rest from doing. But what I am proposing is this: Be attentive to your inner Borg voice. Consider the goal of the Borg: to conquer and assimilate!

Resistance is the first step towards change. Louise Hay

Rather than acquiesce when your journey towards wellness becomes a thing of work for you, instead do this: Remind yourself often and always of the beauty of that goal you have set before yourself. Fight for it! Rest if you must, but do not be your own worst enemy and stop trying. Never give up on yourself…ever!

You are worth the effort. Thank you, thank you for believing in yourself! We, the world, your country, your community, your family, all of us need you to become the very best you. That is what you deserve…to be the very best version of you…today and all the days which follow!

Now let me give you three words to move you onward and upward: JUST…DO…IT!

Winter’s Momentum

It’s the middle of February 2017. The exuberance of the New Year and everything it forbode for change is now a distant memory. In six short weeks, the new has worn off every shiny resolution, fading quietly away from our consciousness like so much snow drifting on the midwestern plains. It is the bleek middle season…Winter.

It sneeks upon our good intentions like a thief, Winter does. It seemingly saps our resolve; remands our momentum; freezes our motivation. But wait…Winter abides in blinding, stinging glory; striving to reach us and teach us…how to grow in a dying season.

Spring, Summer, and Fall fill us with hope; Winter alone reminds us of the human condition. Mignon McLaughlin 

So I think it wise, if we notice Winter still in our midst, perhaps we could this once choose gratefulness. Perhaps then we might notice the inperceptible magic of Winter’s gift: for our resolution, when allowed to rest, we notice the increase of it, not its diminishment.  And the reduction of our momentum, is just a slowing of life’s pace, not a cessation of forwardness. And lastly, the freezing of our motivation for a while, perhaps is wrought  so as to temper mind and body in preparation for Winter’s thaw.

Now do we perceive? Winter’s Momentum is like a retrofit to resync body and spirit. Beautiful Winter! You are a companion for solitary contemplation; for creatitive  incubation and neogenesis of our soul. Let us plant ourselves deep under your covers of freezing rain and falling snow.

Dancing, Blessing, & Moving For Joy

I was over 50 years old before I personally connected  with the happy benefits of moving my body to music…in public…in front of other people…with other people. I know that sounds odd in today’s modern, immodest age, but that is just the kind of person I grew into.

Yet as a personal trainer and recreational sportsperson, I am well versed in the feel-good endorphins illicted in the body when it is engaged in moderate physical activities. I just  never considered or experienced the value of participating in a group fitness class  based in music or dance. I assumed such benefits were reserved for those who had a background in dance, and I had no such experience with dance in a social or fitness setting. Thankfully, in the early days of my fitness education training, my mentor (who was also my employer) strongly encouraged me to consider providing a group music-based fitness class to his facility’s program offerings.

The soul is seen when it reaches out in love. Blessing is done by the soul.
Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another.
We must think it, and feel it, and will it.
We communicate it with our bodies.
Blessing is kind of like an ancient dance of the Hokey-Pokey;
Before you finish you have to ‘put your whole self in.’
Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You ~ John Ortberg

Now fast forward 8 years and I have had the privilege of leading as many as 7 group movement classes per week in addition to a roster full of personal training clients. Half of those group classes involve moving to music; and I like to think of these music-based classes as synchronized movement therapy. I still don’t think of myself as a dancer, but in the six years of leading these group music-based movement classes I have witnessed over and over again, the transformative and healthful benefits produced upon the lives of those who regularly attend these physical activity classes.

Changing your personal meaning of exercise and physical activity from a chore into a gift will transform your relationship with movement.
No Sweat ~ Michelle Segar

And be assured, the only requirement necessary to receive a health benefit from moving is to simply choose a mindset of being a blessing…to yourself. When you attend to your body’s need for movement with the intentional purpose of having fun (read: joy), you practically guarantee a blessing upon yourself, your soul. Additionally, such a mindset (job one = fun) quickly displaces feelings of competition or uncomfortable self-awareness you might otherwise experience in a group setting.

As the instructor of these music-movement classes, I have discovered I am not immune to this soul blessing phenomenon which takes place during and after the classes I lead.  It is a mystical effect, of which I cannot easily explain. But many times during a class period this blessing energy is not only visible on the radiant, gleaming faces of group participants, but I also sense the invisible yet nearly tangible presence of joy (love?) mixing and moving in our midst…the likes of which make me feel like a silly, awestruck five year old child.

Always remember this: Most of our aging is just decay, and decay is optional; it’s  under your control. Some of life’s changes are not under your control, but this one
is. Taking charge of your life, physically and emotionally, is the best possible antidote to standard aging.  And it all starts with exercise.
Younger Next Year ~ Chris Crowley & Henry S Lodge, M.D.

Wherever I go and with whomever I talk, I preach the blessing-benefits available for the taking when we discover a physical activity which brings playful joyfulness into our lives. There is not a one-size-fits-all list of sanctioned activities which constitutes ‘real exercise’. No, the most vital part of soul/body blessing is in bringing and moving one’s self purposefully to each and every activity which brings joyful feelings to one’s heart and puts beaming smiles on one’s face.

When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.
Jean Shinoda Bolen

Change…You Gotta Love It

Nothing ever stays the same, ever. In nature, in life, in our bodies. Change is one of those immutable laws of the universe. It informs us with great constancy that all things are simply on a continuum: of birth and death; of growth and decay; of youth and age; of static and dynamic; of forward and backward. There is no place to shelter ourselves from change; it is the essence and life force of every atom and molecule found in the created world. To not love change, is to not love reality.

Change (v): to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be, if left alone. Dictionary.com

The problem with change for people though, is that we often do not perceive its arrival until its presence is most obvious and unwelcome. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, we often resist change wherever and whenever we encounter it. Like sleep walkers who are suddenly awakened from our slumber, change interjects clarity and reality into our once fantastical thinking. This may explain why weight gain of 5, 10, or more pounds on our bodies is so imperceptible to us at first, until it is not.  

Is it not also interesting how we try to manage and comprehend change by employing superlatives to describe its effects upon us (gain or loss, most or least, best or worst). But what if we were to consider change not in terms of either/or, but rather in terms of ONE. What if we were to relate to change in simplicity, realizing that its power transforms all things in the singularity of its ONE-ness, ad infinitum: one moment, one day, one inch, one pound after the other.  

Perhaps then we would become lovers of change. Perhaps then we would live our lives  with ONE purposeful step after another and another and another. And then perhaps we would love change, because we would know and believe and witness that each ONE step, each ONE action, each ONE belief accumulates; and this accumulation, whether we perceive it moving us along or not, soon works a change through us.

This is the law and nature and beauty of change. With our each and every thought or movement, change works on our behalf to move us along infinity’s continuum: closer to strength or weakness, closer to health or illness, closer to happiness or sadness, closer to failure or success.

Change…you gotta love it. The power of ONE. Embrace it, or not…