On Happiness

“I’ll be happy when..” I caught myself starting out a thought with that yesterday.

While it definitely relates to circumstances, remember that happiness is a state of mind. If you are not happy, changing one condition will not usually give you a lasting feeling of joy. More often, you will experience a fleeting, momentary sense of accomplishment that will get replaced when the next want comes around.

Try to separate emotional well-being from goal realization. Both are important throughout life, but making one dependent on the other can lead to a vicious roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows.

Patiently Working

The hardest thing about making positive changes is having the patience to wait for results; which is not surprising when you consider that it takes weeks or possibly even months to see the change you want. While many important adaptations happen in your body during that period, these often do not feel like enough in a culture that celebrates instant gratification.

You can either:

Be more aware of the small changes. Test your progress and then re-test. Seeing numbers that are improving will help you to mentally fight against the feeling of being stuck.

Or:

Chart your improvement by paying more attention to the habitual change, as opposed to the physical change. Your body might not be changing at the rate you desire, but the more you work at it, the more your training routine is becoming a sustainable lifestyle.

The Measure Of Success

We all have goals that we are working toward. But how are we measuring them; and when?

Any journey can be broken down into a series of steps. The beauty is that you make the decision about how big of a step that you are trying to take. Since we often fizzle on goals that seem too tremendous to accomplish; would it not be better to frame big challenges as smaller, more manageable parts?

Take any long-term goal, especially one that you tend to put off, and break down the steps until you have a simple action that can be accomplished within two to four months. Now project what the follow-up action would be after you accomplish your kick-start task. Once you have these two steps, you are ready.

Invest the time in the next few months for your kick-start task. Do not think about the overarching goal, just go about the business of that first step. Once checked off, take a moment to celebrate the successful first step, and then jump right on to step two. Within the first few weeks, decide what the new follow-up step will be, so that when you finish step two you will already know the next month’s task.

To recap, measure success (and celebrate it!) in small and manageable segments. Plan the current task and it’s follow-up. Then focus on the process and get to it. Do not let something feel so big that you never give it a shot.

How About Now?

There are times when inspiration strikes. The motivation is there, but we wait anyway. Something stops us.

Maybe the conditions are not perfect, or you have an agreement with a friend, or some other reason why next week would be better.

But one lesson I have learned is that life will get in the way, if you let it. If the motivation is there, you should start right now. The sooner you start on a goal, the sooner the practice becomes a habit that will get easier with regularity. There is no time like the present.

What Is Your End Game?

Will you run one marathon just to prove you can do it; or will you keep on racing, long after the first 26.2 miles have past?

Put another way, what are you going to do once you reach your objective?

It is an important thing to consider, because it tells you how to best go about reaching your goal. Grueling training sessions without appropriate recovery will get you to your goal faster. But there is a long-term cost for the extra wear and tear if you try to maintain that regiment intensity for years.

So if you are in it for the long hall, take appropriate care of yourself. You may need to take a step back every once in a while to ensure that you will continue to move forward.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

When you want to get better at something, you work at it a lot. That really is the secret to success.

But is it possible to work at it too much?

The answer is yes, on multiple levels. Aside from the pitfalls of obsession, there may also be long-term effects on the body from asymmetrical training patterns.

I do not mention this point to discourage you from your goal, I bring this up merely as a reminder that neuromuscular balance is highly desirable and should not be taken for granted. If you train specific movements often, remember to work both sides of the body, as well as the opposing movements (i.e. if you push often, do not forget to train pulling as well).

Make It A Game

When training feels like work, it gets harder and harder to stay motivated. A workout does not have to feel like work.

One way around this phenomenon is to play a game, or make a game of what you have set out to do. A mini-obstacle course is a lot more fun than doing sets of pull-ups. Soccer and basketball are just as intense as wind sprints, but the mind is focused on the game instead of fatigue. Recruit a workout partner or join a group. Fun will make a big difference in your motivation and enable a higher tolerance for intense exercise.

The Help Thresholds

Motivation is not something that we can switch on and off at will. It is a culmination of events that allows someone to arrive at the conclusion that the outcome will be worth the effort. This is a special moment, especially when it comes to health and wellness.

Most people want to do it themselves. Just about everyone recognizes that there is simply too much information, too many areas of research, and too many scientific disciplines to know everything; but that does not stop a person from wanting to go it alone. It is their body, after all. Unfortunately, it may take failure at that point before someone would be willing to ask for advice in the future. We can only help people when they are ready to be helped.

That is the first help threshold; the point when people not only want to enact personal change, but are also ready to listen to instruction (hopefully from a trained professional – just about everyone has an opinion on what people should do, but that opinion is not necessarily based on science or education).

There is a second threshold that is very important. That is the maximum level of help or advice that someone can take at a particular time. The human body changes gradually. The same can be said for personal habits and practices. If that threshold is surpassed, if a person feels that they are being asked to do the impossible – all relative to their subjective experience – then they will lose their motivation and give up. Keeping in mind that most people receive advice from a number of sources, this can be very detrimental (especially when two sources give contradicting advice).

So when we try to help others, we must remember to give advice in small doses. While people want an overall feel for what they are trying to accomplish, they will not necessarily be ready to hear everything at once. Giving the most important point and the very next step is often more than enough to help move someone forward without overloading them.

Strength From Weakness

We tend to enjoy the things that we feel that we are good at, and we tend to avoid what we do not enjoy.

When it comes to self-improvement, those tendencies are destructive – especially in the realm of fitness and health. Your body is not a set of independent parts. It is a complete unit, where every part is interdependent and impacts the function and ability of all of its structures. Avoidance is not the solution, it will only lead to larger issues that take even more time and effort to tackle.

Instead, commit to finding a few minutes each day to work on areas of weakness or that display dysfunctional movement patterns. Improvement and comfort within a routine will only come from regular practice, and removing the negative feelings associated with a practice is your first step to making a weakness into a strength.

Change With The Weather

The weather is changing for the better. Our bodies will respond to the change in seasons, thereby altering both our energy demands and hormone levels. Here are a few quick pointers that will make these adjustments smoother.

Your body requires nutrients from different foods to gear up for a more active spring. Focus on refreshing foods such as sprouted and spring vegetables. Lighten up your protein intake for faster assimilation by eating less red meat, replacing it with more seafood; which will also give the added benefit of reducing the post-meal feeling of drowsiness.

Speaking of sleep, seasonal shifts in the times of sunrise and sunset will alter your sleep pattern. If you have trouble with waking up too early, try to keep as much light from the room (daylight and blue light from electronics cause hormonal responses that will wake you up). If you have trouble falling asleep, try turning off the tv/pc earlier. And do not forget to be flexible with your workout volume and intensity while your body’s natural shift occurs.