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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Picture This…Best Training Practice

A picture is worth a thousand words. It is cliché, over-used and perhaps under-appreciated but this tired quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte is still powerfully, resolutely true regardless of the realm or genre in which it is employed. 

Why is this so? While the answer lies within the science of brain neurology and biochemistry, which is greatly beyond my own knowledge and training, I nonetheless have experienced the truth of positive mental imagery within the realm of my physical fitness training.

Whether pictures are generated mentally or viewed through the lens of our physical eyes, imagery excites our being at a subconscious level. Whether it is a symbol, a photograph of our beloved one(s), an artistic rendering or creation, or landscapes and portraits discovered in nature, imagery impacts us profoundly. Positively or negatively, imagery triggers changes in our thoughts, feelings and biochemistry.

Our brains translate our words and thoughts into images. Images ignite our mirror neurons. These mirror neurons are located next to our motor neurons. The excitement in mirror neurons resonates in the motor neurons and vice versa. This is why athletes can improve their athletic performance with visualization. Jennifer Morse MS PhD

When we invoke this positive biochemical cascade frequently enough, especially with the use of personally meaningful images or imagery, we create a neurological super-highway within the structures of our brain. These mental super-highways construct bridges from our mind, to our brain, then into our body so as to build memory maps into our muscles. Continued, regular activation of our imagination via our mind/body super-highways, create predictable physical responses in our body which thereafter translates or replicates into habitual, memorized re-actions.

And we all know how easy and how difficult it is to overcome an acquired pattern of moving or behaving. Habits are naturally preferred by mind and body because they using the neural super-highways. These super-pathways require reduced thinking resources from our conscious mind. Hence, once we birth a new way of thinking or being, these new pathways become preferred patterns for our doing and/or behaving.

Failure is an inside job. So is success.
If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first.
You can’t let the failure outside you get inside you.
You certainly can’t control the length of your life—but you can control its width and depth.
You can’t control the contour of your face—but you can control its expression.
You can’t control the weather—but you can control the atmosphere of your mind.
Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?
The Maxwell Daily Reader

Perhaps you now realize where I am leading you in this discussion. If the idiom we have considered is true, and we know by experience that it is, then you may avail yourself of its power when you use and think upon those images which create positive attraction or emotion within you. Your attention to this detail (image attraction/repulsion) is keenly important.

During your playful imagery research, take notice also of the quality of feeling excited within you when viewing a particular image or symbol. Once you discover and identify the imagery which pings you or sparks your imagination or creates hope to stir excitedly in your center, refer to and call upon those imagines whenever your thinking needs inspiration or refreshment.

Have fun stocking your mental image vault. Keep only those images which propel you positively toward your desired goals. Cycle through them as needed, whenever you need a lift or motivation or you require a change of direction.

Just picture this…You reaching your goal…reach for it! Climb, go on…climb higher still! Scramble, hike, run! Chase it down, don’t stop, don’t stop ever…only wait until you are done!

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. 

DECIDE…TO…MOVE

Living in a healthy, strong body does not happen by chance, but rather by choice. This is most honestly true if the body you are living in has celebrated at least 50 birthdays. If your current body is one of the 50+ year old models, do you regularly choose to move yourself in a way which might be construed as exercise? Do you walk, jog, lift weights, bike, dance, swim, go to a gym or fitness class at least once a day? If not, how about these activities: sweeping or vacuuming floors, washing dishes by hand; cleaning windows; gardening. Do not discount your household activities, they require bodily movement and as such, may be considered purposeful exercise for your body.

Whatever activities you do to move your body for well-being, the best fitness outcome will occur when you actively, mindfully move yourself every day. If not everyday, how about every other day? If you cannot or choose not to move yourself on purpose most days of the week, then prepare yourself, and your body for some disturbing news: if you do not change what you are doing today to become more active, by this time next year you will have gained weight and lost strength!

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. John C Maxwell

Now for the good news! Every day presents you with opportunities; perhaps that is part of the problem, too many choices. Regardless, every day provides you with at least 10 minutes from which you may engage yourself physically so as to build strength, stamina and flexibility. All you have to do is make a decision to move and then…MOVE IT!

“Do something today which your body will thank you for 10 years from now.”

Here’s what I do for myself to make it easy. This might work for you too. Just move for 10 minutes! If you don’t feel better after moving about for 10 minutes, then return to your former activity and try again a few hours down the road. This is how an inactive person becomes a more active person, 10 minutes at a time.

In case you find yourself in front of the television or computer screen for more than 10 minutes today, you can move it (your body) in between your sit time with some of these Move It moves:

  1. 10 squat touchdowns
  2. 10 high knee steps
  3. 10 wall or floor pushups
  4. 10 pogo hops
  5. 10 inchworms

To stave the decline of passing years upon your body, DECIDE TODAY to make physical fitness a PRIORITY in your life. I know this sounds like work to you, but I promise you this: If you will choose activities which seem like fun to you, then moving your body more minutes each day will seem less like work and more like a gift for yourself. Just move more and NEVER GIVE UP TRYING. 

 

 

Our Best Self…Inside Out

Seconds…minutes…hours…days…years…

All of life is lived in tempo to the silent tick, tick, ticking of each minute’s passing. This muted drummer is forever playing its ghostly background beat, but always just out of range from our waking perception. Yet nature’s seasons clearly inform our senses of the forward cadence…onward it idles…time maneuvers itself with alarming regularity.

Often as we are being transformed, we cannot tell what is happening. For while in the midst of staying afloat, it is next to impossible to see the ocean we are being carried into. Mark Nepo

This commodity, measured as units are consumed, allows for no replacements; once spent, it is forever gone. Like a spendthrift, time drones on shamelessly; always unfolding forward, devouring itself before it has a chance to live or give. With an unrelenting, never-sated appetite, time marches; time may lull; but time never misses a beat. If only it would hold still or stop altogether, just long enough for us to rest a while in its growing shadow…to catch our breath…breathe in, breathe out…

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by day, in all the thousand small, uncaring waysStephen Vincent Benet

Yet as we measure time, it is clearly the great equalizer unto all humanity. Without partiality, time as currency, is meted out in equal portions to every living being. Whether young or old; rich or poor; strong or weak; time stands still for no one; each one is granted the same allotment of minutes per day from which to make life meaningful for living.

How does one become a wise manager and investor of this precious commodity? What activities enlarge the quality of our minutes? What activities decrease their value? As physical beings who are relegated to the constraints and boundaries of a 24-hour day cycle, we must remind ourselves that we are not without recourse. We may recompense time before it spills and spends itself before us.  How do we master the illusive, forward, ceaseless minutes of our life? We make time our captive when we engage our center… our core…our hidden life…our spirit-life.

We are spiritual beings living a human existence. Stephen Covey

By spending quality minutes in relationship with ourselves and the Divine, we enter eternity’s realm; in this timeless place we may invest ourselves in care-full pursuit of our divine life. In this hidden place, we may expend and exalt our being to a higher plain; above the fray of seconds and mintues. We may transcend to the higher calling of our inner life whever we settle into the cocoon of our center.

It is at the core of being where we may realize and learn how best to live our life on the outside.  When we spend time with the Eternal One, we invest in our long-term well-being. Time spent in quiet devotion, meditation and contemplation will always build into our life (hidden and otherwise) the tri-fold dividends of purpose, peace, and passion…from the inside, out.

TIME WITH ME cannot be rushed. When you are in a hurry, your mind flitters back and forth between Me and the tasks ahead of you. Push back the demands pressing in on you; create a safe space around you, a haven in which you can rest with Me. I also desire this time of focused attention and I use it to bless you, strengthening and equipping you for the day ahead. Thus, spending time with Me is a wise investment. Bring Me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you. Sarah Young ~ Jesus Calling

Toddler Tactics & Mind Gymnastics

I love to be asked a good question, don’t you?

Have you ever been in the proximity of a 3 or 5-year-old child whose every sentence or thought was a question? Or how about this? Have you ever been in a meeting or with a group of people discussing ideas or problems, and to your surprise noticed the most obvious question(s) were left unasked?

Here’s the deal, from my perspective, it seems that living a meaningful life begs us to question…everything! Socrates said, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” Those are strong words, but they may be worth considering when life feels like its ‘off course’.

Honestly, the longer I live the more I realize how much I don’t know about anything. And yes, I realize that some things in life are meant to remain as mystery to us. But as long as my thinking processes are in tact, I will question, question, question.

“To the question of your life you are the answer, and to the problems of your life you are the solution.” ~ Joe Cordare

Sometimes I think the reason we struggle to live peacefully with ourselves and others is that we fail to question the constructs of our own status quo. I wonder if we could eliminate some stress and unfulfillment from our lives if we practiced asking ourselves (and appropriate others when necessary) the right questions on a regular basis.

“Questioning is the ability to organize our thinking around what we don’t know.”  ~The Right Question Institue

I wonder if we could help ourselves learn to question more readily if we gave ourself permission to think like a toddler and, “Question everything!” What might we discover about ourselves and life in general if we lived like life ran on questions and not answers?

“If I  had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes dertiming the proper question to ask for once I know the propert question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
~Albert Einstein

Here’s a list of five questions I came across in my readings from a couple years ago. They are meant to help us ‘examin’ our life on a regular basis. These are merely beginning points of inquiry which could quickly lead to many more meaningful questions.

Q1: What is my intention today?
Q2: Why am I doing this?
Q3: Why am I eating this?
Q4: What am I sharing?
Q5: What am I proud of?

“What have I always wished I’d done that I might try in some way now?”
~Dr. Phil McGraw

How will you know if you’re asking the right question? Perhaps when you run out of questions. Or perhaps if you don’t like the answers you’re getting. If this seems like circular thinking to you, you may find it helpful, and slightly amusing to spend some time with people aged 3 to 5 years old. This age group can teach us all how to practice this fine art of mental gymnastics. Now what would you like to know?

 

Riddle Me This

Who are you?

Who you think you are is everything! Have you ever stopped to listen to what you are telling yourself about yourself? You should try it some time. Listening…to the dialog. You may have to sneak up on yourself, and pretend like you’re eves dropping on someone else’s conversation, but take some minutes in any given day to be quiet and alert to your inner dialog. Then notice how you feel about yourself after listening to your self-talk.

Do you have warm, accepting feelings about the YOU of your thinking? Or do you disdain and belittle the person, the YOU of your thinking? Do you realize YOU are the author of your life’s story? Can you wrap your mind around this truth: WHAT you think about yourself is WHO you become? Is it time for you to re-write your script?

English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones is noted for saying that, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.”

In my profession as a personal trainer, people pay me to help them reconfigure their bodies. But what my clients may not be aware of, is that I am also training them to pay attention to their mind via what they are thinking…especially, what they are thinking about before and after they exercise.

If a client thinks she can or cannot achieve the fitness goal she has set for herself, then I guarantee that she most certainly will achieve what she is thinking and believing.

What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone else may think about you. Every problem introduces you to yourself. It shows you how you think and what you’re made of.” George Matthew Adams

A very important part of my training program is to teach my clients how to be their very own best cheerleader.  When I am with them, I encourage them, with positive words, stories and suggestions to help them understand that they have the power to change a negative health behavior into a positive healthful habit.

Mind is everything; muscle–pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.
Paavo Nurmi, Finnish Olympian who won nine gold medals

When I am with them, I am the voice in their head. If they spend enough time with me and believe the things I tell them as true, then my words, spoken into their listening ears and received by a believing heart will soon become internalized. My thoughts about them will  become their own thoughts, their own dialog, their own story about who they are and who they are becoming. Thinking becomes believing. Mind is the master, not the servant, of the body.

Living with the end in mind informs the decisions we make each day.
A Common Ground ~ Todd Outcalt

Everyone feels lost and out of sorts in life from time to time. This is a natural by-product  of the human experience. Since we will deal with difficulties as long as we inhabit our physical body, perhaps we should consider our trials as benefactors in disguise.

What if we turned our thinking around? What if we chose to think of those things we don’t like about our self or our life as gifts to help us discover who we really are at our essence?  What if our upset or short coming is our clarion call for change?

     Consider that your learning goal is the ongoing pursuit of a lifetime of consistent physical movement and self-care.
If you are going to be successful staying physically active and taking care of yourself, you need to learn Strategies that will enable you to prioritize your plans and be consistent, flexible, and creative as you learn to incorporate physical activity into the rest of your dynamic, ever-changing life.
The Strategy of beginning with the end in mind asks you to take the long view: Your goal is lifelong behavior change, and that’s what you want to keep in mind ~ always.
Michelle Segar ~ No Sweat

Now tell me again: Who are you?