When our mind is out of balance, our body will follow. When our body is out of balance, our mind will follow. The important aspect of life is to live in that middle area where the mind and body are working towards beautiful harmony. Falling out of balance will place undue stress on the mind or the body. This unnecessary stress in our life, especially an endurance athlete, can hinder your quality of life and performance. How does the body or mind fall out of balance? Humans are naturally suited for habitual practices, and if they make you feel good in the temporary moment then these habits will stick. We need to become aware and re-enter a state of balance.
When the body is out of balance it begins to guard itself. The end goal of our body and mind is to preserve life. This is the most basic goal but when we are unhealthy, emotionally or physically, our energy is spent repairing. In this state we are in pure survival or preservation mode. Everything in our peripheral, and sometimes in your direct line of sight, becomes blurry and out of focus. We begin to just focus on surviving and not learning or even “living.” During our stay in the preservation state our relationships begin to slowly fall apart. We become too focused on fixing our own health out of our own control. Like I said, this is out of our control. We need to focus on the things we can control though, awareness. You need to become aware of this survival state and work on returning to a healthy balanced life.
A common trap that we fall into is a negative feedback loop. Something goes wrong in our life, big or small, and we focus on this negativity. It starts with you eating a donut, which turns into you feeling bad and telling yourself you are fat. Then you tell yourself that you are fat because you are a failure. You say you are a failure because you have negative thoughts… And you can see how that can just keep looping into infinite self-destruction. Athletes are not immune to this negative feedback loop. Athletes can easily slip into the loop through doubting their training and abilities. Breaking this loop is pretty challenging but only because it is tough to recognize being in the loop. This is why beginning daily rituals to set your mind and body into a positive path is important.
What kind of rituals or habits can you begin to ensure you are setting yourself up for a positive day?
To one person, the world might be coming to an end and to another a new beginning. The scene from Day After Tomorrow comes to mind. The extreme cold creeping down the halls, through the desolate New York Library, might seem like the end. To another person, the fire set by the group of young teens might signify the beginning. The point being that the way we see the world changes with every person. Issues arise when society, or human kind, does not accept that everybody sees the world differently. Walking a different path does not mean it is wrong. Due to fear and ignorance, we place judgement upon the ones who walk a different way.
At the core of every human decision is survival. In today’s world, we aren’t encountering saber-toothed cats or giant hyenas. Our survival instinct isn’t necessarily being tested through physical threats. Today, our main threat comes mentally. The threat to our way of life. Everyone has been taught, from ancestors and peers, a certain way people should live. This can range from opinions on same sex marriage to the way a human should appear. When you encounter someone that goes against your norm you begin to set a defensive posture. Your sympathetic nervous system activates and it’s time to make the decision. Do you avoid the situation completely or do you fight? Humans, at the most basic level, are smart and tend to avoid situations entirely. Consequently, this forces us to miss out on amazing stories.
Our bodies can judge from afar if a situation could be a danger to us. Partner that with the human mind that constantly thinks negative before positive and we have a cocktail for fear and isolation. What if we challenged our instincts? Become aware of your judgements.
The first step to challenge your instinct is to become aware. Pay attention to your body and how it handles daily life. When you walk by your boss or coworker concentrate on your body. Do you feel a tension in your body? What about a feeling to run away? Now that you are aware of it, start working on relaxing. If you enter a conversation, focus on your body position. Are your arms or legs crossed? Whatever you do, the other person will mimic. So bring the conversation to neutrality or even positive by assuming a positive body position. Open your body up by unfolding your arms, taking your hands out of your pockets, and then subtly showing your palms. Keep your arms and body relaxed. This will surprisingly change your attitude too! You can force your body into neutrality and feeling safe!
The next thing is simple. Ask questions and learn. Educate yourself on as much culture as you can. Understanding other people’s way of living will help you show empathy towards them. If you don’t have the time to learn outside of these situations, then just learn in them! If you are in a conversation with someone you have judged, become aware, and ask questions. Learn about their life and their reasons for doing things. By asking questions you can find areas in which you will relate. Establishing areas in which you relate will start to melt away the judgement you entered the situation with.
Judgement is a waste of human time. We wake up every day with a limited amount of energy. Don’t waste your energy on a made up fear. A simple conversation won’t kill you. Learn some stuff and be happy.
Seven hundred and forty seven dollars is the visual price tag the TV. It is easy to get caught up in the great deals of the holidays, and the urge to spend money you earned. Society and marketers make it difficult to make any real decision on need versus want. You get this idea in your head that the TV is a reward for all your hard work. People fall into this trap and aren't allowed the time to see beyond the price tag. They don't realize that it costs the minutes and hours away from family conversation and connection, from lost adventures outside. It costs more than money because you end up getting stuck in this loop of "needing" something better. You begin to find yourself constantly comparing yourself to what others have in their lives, but not appreciating what is in yours. This, my friends, is American materialism. A place where money and the objects you have make you feel more valuable than the relationships you don’t have and the opportunities you missed. People are always chasing after the objects over the emotions. In this world, relationships give the meaning to objects. What is Facebook without anybody else there to see it? What is a car if there isn’t a track to race it at or a road to drive it on?
A couple of weeks ago I watched this Ted Talk by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, the founders of theminimalists.com. They tell their story about finding wealth and then spending it on objects to fill an emptiness. Their goal was to make more money to buy more things in hopes to be happier. It took them awhile, but eventually they realized that these objects weren’t making them feel whole. So, they made a choice to ask a simple question. Does this add value to my life? Never an easy question to answer. How do you do it? Make a list or keep track of what you actually use over a three week period. At the end, get rid of the rest. Sell it, or donate it.
This value of minimalism is applicable in the corporate world as well. It is not hard to walk around any facility and find equipment that is never used, large warehouses filled, and unchallenged employees. A lot of comapnies put practices in place to try and remove this clutter. "Lean manufacturing" is the minimalism theory for corporations. "Lean" is actually an extremely effective tool but it doesn't address the bigger problem. Lean tools are not applied enough to the people spending the money. Lean manufacturing tends to be applied too late in the process. Unnecesasry items purchased which is followed by a consistent buildup. Production lines and office buildings are then slowed down and distracted by items that aren't adding value. "Lean" is a band-aid to the bigger problem, the purchasing of "non-value added" items. Corporate leaders need to ask themselves "Does this add true value to my corporation?" This goes beyond just a simple ROI. Sometimes, you can have an item that has a great ROI but will get in the way of the process or end goal. Relating this back to your personal life, determining what is a "value added" item vs "non-value added" item is convoluted.
I have this number in my head, a max salary I will keep. I won’t turn down more money, but anything made above my number will go towards the community. I’ve got this idea of what a valuable and purposeful life looks like. It isn’t a mansion with Maserati’s and a pool. Yes, it is easy to say this all now when I don’t make that amount. But saying it now is worth more than not trying.
As the Notorious B.I.G. said “The more money we come across, the more problems we see.”
Author and corporate consultant Simon Sinek proclaims, “corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything.” Corporate culture can change the success and innovation for better or for worse. Culture is set throughout the corporate organizational structure. It all comes down to how the people in the organization view the titles and positions above them. I believe we can all agree that the whole purpose of a company is to make money. Without money, nothing can advance. There are a couple ways to make money but in the end it all boils down to innovation. Innovation is the most secure way to move forward. Without innovation companies slip into stagnation and fade away from the consumer’s eye. The trajectory of innovation within a company is established within the structure. Without the correct structure a company loses direction and purpose.
What you see above is the 1937 Organizational Structure from General Motors. This is a clean example of what you see from every company today. It doesn’t matter if it is Shell, Google, or Facebook. They all have this vertical organization. It all originates with this flawed ideal that leaders need to be on top. We can look at this chart in two ways. One, is that the company is moving upward. Have you ever tried to climb a rope with added weight strapped to your feet? It is not easy… The other way to look at the chart is that the organization is falling, due to gravity. The weight of the company is on the bottom, pulling it down. Either way you look at this… it isn’t setting yourself up for success. What if we looked at one of the classic examples of leadership? The great military charge.
There is one organization that consistently gets the point across of sound leadership; the military. At the front of every battle charge is the leader. Their soldiers will follow when they know forward progress is possible. These soldiers will be less afraid when their leader shows strength at the front. Being at the front allows the leader two major tactical benefits..
Why does this all really matter? The power of the mind… An organization’s structure and an employee’s title matter when it comes to success. If these things didn’t matter than we would never have wasted our time creating these titles. Certain words have powerful connotations. Using the word leader in someone’s title, compared to manager, could open the door to faster product development and more product going out the door. Leaders work from the front and pull their organization while managers stand atop and squish their organization. Leaders are not afraid to challenge the norm. They willingly put themselves on the line for their group because they believe in the capabilites of their followers. Leaders challenge their followers by showing them what is possible and to surpass their own abilities. Leaders are not tied down but rather use the rope to pull themselves forward to victory.
Are you happy with who you are today? Then why do you continue to do the same things day after day? Something keeps you going in that same direction, on that same path of dissatisfaction. Comfort, security, complacency, and fear of change are what keep you there. You will continue to remain there because nothing will change unless you decide to act and think differently. You know, there are so many things in this world that tell you that you don’t look good enough, work hard enough, or are smart enough… you don’t need your own mind telling you the same things. Let’s make some changes, and the only place to start is how you think.
Constantly hearing or seeing something can trick your mind in to believing. The problem is people get in this trap of telling themselves that shit isn’t going right. They create this momentum in a negative direction and it just keeps rolling. Eventually, it gets so overwhelming it is like you have to move Mt. Everest! The thing people fear so much is that the mountain is yours to move. It is your responsibility to be the change in your life. People around you can support you, keep it going in the right direction, but you need to be the force.
Don’t wake up and start your day in a negative mindset. Start every day the same way. Get into the habit of saying something positive to yourself in the mirror. Pick one simple phrase and say it every morning. Make it the first thing you do! Don’t turn off your alarm and immediately open that social media app. I know this is hard because I catch myself doing it all the time. It is not a healthy habit. So don’t open that app, immediately go to the mirror and say something positive, out loud. Do this, every morning, for at least 20 days. I promise, you will notice a difference. Like I said, if you don’t put in the effort then nothing will change. It is up to you.
Image 1: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/files/2015/08/mirror_capgras.jpg
Image 2: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/files/2015/08/mirror_capgras.jpg
How do we measure happiness? A simple question, but tends to be a complicated answer. Take a second to think about that question. Happiness is not something tangible. You can’t hold happiness in your hand, smell it, or taste it. You can feel it, but not in the scientific meaning of the word. So how do we really know if we are happy? One of the most traditional places to look first is Mr. Webster’s book.
Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment.
Webster’s definition doesn’t really help me define a measurement system for happiness. This is still a vague and general definition. It doesn’t provide a simple way to determine if you are happy. So let’s dive into this a little more.
As an engineer I need something more than just a feeling, something subjective. I went to the great encyclopedia of the cloud, Google. I searched high and low for answers on how to quantitatively measure happiness. I was very surprised to see that the most common result was based around money/wealth. I chuckled and immediately drew the conclusion that money is the root to happiness. But we all know that is not the truth. We would be a very shallow and chronically unhappy society if money was the only way to measure happiness.
Take a look at the 5 happiest countries in the world (GDP/capita USD)1,2.
36. Qatar ($132,900)
The happiest countries in the world don’t even make it into the top 10 for GDP per capita. Thank goodness, money is not the direct path to happiness. So I got the top 5 happiest cuntries from the World Happiness Report 2016. This organization uses 6 markers to determine happiness in a country; GDP, social support, healthy life expectancy at birth, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption. I think on a world scope, these markers are good to analyze. It takes into account the political and economic situations people exist in. I do have a problem with two of their markers… Freedom to make life choices and perceptions of corruption.
Why do I not like these two markers? It puts the blame of why one is not happy on someone else. You have the freedom to choose what you want. I am not naive about this, I understand that North Koreans don’t have the same opportunities as Americans or Europeans… but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as happy. If all you knew was North Korea then maybe serving your country is all you desire in life. Maybe that is what makes you happy.
I am proposing a new method to measure one’s happiness. How do I measure happiness? I would have to say I measure happiness from a combination of things.
How do you determine purpose? Ask yourself, if you could only do three things everyday what would those three things be? Remove the ideas of commitment and idea of money. Unlimited time, money, and resources. Purpose is the meaning to life. It is what keeps our lungs filled with air and the spark to keep our heart beating. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the fullest; how do you stack up?