When Why Matters

Many of us are much more concerned with how to do something than why it works.

While this works for many things in life, it is not always the case when it comes to your body and your health.

The need for understanding comes from the fact that each of us is different, both physiologically and psychologically. Without understanding the mechanisms behind the results, we are unable to make informed decisions about adopting processes that will suit our individual needs.

Seeing Is Believing

Seeing is believing.. or so the saying goes; but does believing something make it true?

If we do not stop to think about what we see before us, we can be fooled into believing just about anything. The same goes for what we hear.

In the constant flood of marketing that has become the norm of our culture, one of the best things we can develop is a healthy amount of skepticism.

Put It To The Test

Happy June everyone! It’s the first day of the month, and it is time to measure your progress through testing. And while this does not work for lofty and abstract goals, it does work for almost all of the others.

Some of us get nervous about tests, but they really just give you data on something that you have already decided to work on. They also validate the method that you have chosen for improvement. If your goal is to become better, and you have not; then there may be something in how you have chosen to practice. Just look for a trend that is in the direction you want to head. You do not have to hit your goal, but the measurement will tell you if you have taken a step forward.

Remember that they are just numbers; your practice can give you a host of intangible benefits before you see a single quantitative improvement. If you like what you are doing, stick with it. There are always outliers. Months when life gets in the way with stress, sickness, or just too much to do. Test yourself anyways; if nothing else, just to get in the habit of it.

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.

Become One Of The Masters

Whether you follow golf or not, The Masters is a wonderful tournament for what it represents. It is said that the mastery of a skill takes 10,000 hours of practice. Put another way, it would take at least four years of dedicated, 8-hour-a-day practice to master a skill.

You will, of course, need to start with the broad strokes. For physical skills, these are called gross motions. It is most definitely in your best interest to seek out the best teacher that you can find (they will save you hours of mistakes and misguided practice). Do not underestimate the importance of these first lessons. Any bad habit you acquire at this point will take a lot of work to break out of, later.

As you improve, you will refine these movements to strip away inconsistencies. You will begin to learn intricacies that you could not possibly understand earlier. Your practice will get shorter, more intense, and more specific; it will challenge your passion. Through it all you will get better, so long as you stick to it.

What this speaks to, more than anything else, is dedication. Whatever you want to get good at; you have to practice, over and over again. The initial enthusiasm will dissipate, and there will be days when you cannot wait to be done, but you will still get in the repetitions; all in the pursuit of greatness.

Fixing Problems

You encounter problems over the course of a lifetime. There is no way around it.

When looking for solutions, remember to ask;

Does the solution address the cause or the effect?

The answer lets you know how effective the solution is; if it only deals with symptoms or effects, then the root problem will need to be fixed by some other means. The habit of asking that question encourages you to look past the surface of issues, to see what underlying action or tension is actually at fault; problems that seem complex may not be after deconstruction. It lets you be more efficient with your effort and if nothing else, it will improve your critical thinking skills.

Competitive Drive

We are instinctually competitive. You see it in children who want to play with the same toy. You see it while driving on the highway when the person getting passed speeds up. You see it at the gym. The tendency is to keep score. To measure yourself against others. While the competitive drive is not the only motivator that we find, it is present in all of us.

But when does it work for us; and when does it work against us?

Competition works for us when we go beyond what we would have done in a non-competitive environment. It gives that push to run a little faster; to jump a bit higher; to take what we are doing more seriously. But it is only beneficial when the need to win does not overshadow our reasons for doing something. Playing a game for enjoyment should be fun whether you win or lose. Exercising has a number of physiological benefits, but a competition should not push you beyond your body’s capability to the point of injury. Also, it should not stop you from participating for fear of the competition’s outcome.

So be aware of your drive to compete. Let it work for you, and know when it is working against you.

Own the Information

We all hear things. See things. Read things.

In this case, the things I am referring to are pieces of information and advice. They are readily available, especially when we surf the web. And we tend to trust them, not necessarily because of the qualifications of the source (although that definitely plays a part in it), but more so because of what we are hoping to find; what the knowledge promises to do.

We all know that reading something does not make it true. The same goes for internet video, or hearing a piece of advice from an unqualified non-professional. But it is not automatically false, either.

Any new information or advice should be listened to with a healthy amount of skepticism, regardless of what it promises to give you. In short, you have to own the information.

With the vast sea of information that is readily available at our fingertips, it is not hard to do. Google it. Or ask a trained professional from the field; many offer free consultations in the hope of gaining new business and answering questions is a good way for them to establish credibility and trust. (Just make sure you approach them in an appropriate setting; I will never give workout advice if I am out with my friends at a bar – that is my personal time.)

If qualified experts reinforce the information that you encountered, it is worthy of your trust. But if you start to hear conflicting opinions, take the advice with a grain of salt.