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 4-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. This may seem like circular thinking to you, spend some time with toddlers or pre-schoolers. 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?

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.

Our Focus: Our Attraction: Our Destiny

Training our mental focus is just like training our physical body. To gain strength and stamina within our muscles, daily exercise must be engaged. Similarly, to achieve a personal goal, our thinking must be focused, purposeful and regular about that thing  which we desire to achieve.

What if all we need to be successful goal achievers is to understand this one thing? That we fail to achieve because we fail to focus on the right thing. If we are constantly thinking about not doing what we don’t want to accomplish, how much mental energy, stamina or will power will we have in reserve to make the positive change for ourself? Can you see the paradox here? We are always thinking thoughts…but the focus or centrality of our thoughts will determine our achievements and outcomes.

16716098_10154271147716911_542012594032339230_o

Or another way of looking at this paradox is by using the principles of nutrition for our physical  body. We know how to nourish our body with food, even though all food is not equally beneficial for the body.

Likewise, our thoughts are the food by which our minds are energized. Not all thoughts are equally beneficial for mindful action (change). When we need to make a change in our life, we have to nourish our mind for action by thinking about the new habit frequently. We practice this change by replacing the old habit thoughts with thoughts about the new habit whenever we find ourselves thinking about the old habit.

We feed a negative habit by giving it our attention. The best way to change an old habit is to starve it! How do we starve an old habit? We starve an old habit by diverting its food source (our thoughts and attention) with thoughts and imagination about the new habit. This is how we nourish new thoughts…we think about them…alot!

You have to learn that everything you do every day has a deep-seated reason. It gratifies a need and offers psychological support. Therefore, begin where the rewards of the new activity can clearly outweigh what is being sacrificed.
Dr. George Sheehan

Bear with me as I reach this last crucial point. In order to propel us to action, our thoughts require our mindful attention. This is how they influence our behavior. We must recognize  our attraction for old thinking, and as soon as we find ourselves thinking about the old haibt, detour our thinking onto the new habit. This practice requires diligence. But there is no shortcut. We have to be willing to cut ourselves off from our love affair, if you will,  before we can attach our full attention and imagination into new thoughts about our new habit. In other words, we have to fall out of love with the old, before we can take pleasure in the new!

It seems so simple, but I know it’s not so easy to do. But hopefully what you have just read will help you remember…when you need it most. And this is what I hope you will be able to take away from this post: What you focus your attention on…or perhaps, what captures your attention and affection most often, will ultimately propel you towards your destiny.

When we train our focus to embrace a new thought (love) interest, then we invoke the law of attraction upon our goal and our life. This law never fails to succeed for us because, that which we attend to will increase!

Take Time for Change

In resistance and strength training, sets of weight bearing repetitions are used to improve muscle endurance, power and size. Repetition, doing the same exercise again and again, is the foundation of every physical fitness and training philosophy. Changing an exercise or the amount of weight used in the exercise is not required, until the desired physical outcome (change) in the muscles and/or body has been achieved. 

At the beginning of every new thing we pursue: new year’s resolution, new relationship, new job, new hobby or body-improving project, we expect to exert ourselves in novel activity(s) to obtain the ‘new’ object(s) of our desire. In regards to improving our bodies, we understand change occurs only after muscles have moved against resistance by many repetitions.

If you want to experience a year of new things, you must choose to live not in the repetition of the natural, but in the newness of the supernatural.
The Book of Mysteries ~ Jonathan Cohn

We are beings who thrive on change…even when we don’t. Change is  part and parcel to existence in the natural world. The swirling atoms of this world and of our bodies are in constant flux of change. As we live and breathe, change is our destiny. And change we will for better or worse. To change or effect change is our greatest opportunity every day and perhaps also our greatest difficulty.

Time is valuable. Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.  M. Scott Peck, Psychiatrist

Change is a dynamic force (law) of the natural world. And it works in conjunction with another dynamic force of the natural world: time. These two forces, if you will, depending on our perspective, become either an ally or an enemy. Like a runaway freight train, change and time impact our lives whether we perceive their existence or passage within or upon us.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.  Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

In 2017, let’s take time for change…every day. Because time is the currency paid out to us in minutes. Our future self, our future world is created in the realm of how we spend those minutes. Therefore, let us take time to make time change…today…tomorrow and thereafter. 

 

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