the Power of Indecision
In conversation with a man last week, I was told that a recent post had struck a voluble chord with him.
He’s well aware that his life, his business, his personal well-being and happiness, all depend on the decisions he takes.
He was lamenting the fact that he had not taken steps to get himself into better shape, mentally, physically and emotionally, much sooner than he had.
I was pleased to reassure him that a decision taken even later, rather than sooner, is fine.
It is still a decisive move on his part and one that will stand him in good stead for the rest of his life.
We’ve all done it at times, haven’t we?
We’ve put off, procrastinated, dithered, sat on the fence, and delayed our decision to commit ourselves to a direction in our lives.
And to this day, I am convinced that most people, myself included, put things off, not because we are afraid of failing.
We put it off because we fear succeeding.
Success means maintenance.
It means we’ll have to work, apply ourselves, to sustaining the new level at which we have arrived. It means we’ll have to think in a way that we may not always like.
It means we may have to make unpopular but necessary decisions.
It means taking responsibility for what we have achieved and honouring it with the responsibility it deserves.
Ask any politician.
Ask any business builder.
Ask any full-time artist, sports person, any one who has chased the dream and established him/her self.
Ask the successful weight loser, figure toner, bodybuilder, spiritual leader.
Everything has its price.
How do we see the price?
Is it a cost? Or a privilege?
What's your aim in life?
How do you feel about what you do?
About what you want to do?
About what you can do?
About your potential? How do you feel about that? Your own potential?
When you don't come up with an instant answer, don't worry. Neither does any of us.
These aren't facile questions.
What we aim for and what we do, are Life Directional activities. Truly.
Frequently people can only think of what they might like to own materially, or what they want to possess, or get, or have access to as an amenity in their lives.
But these are means to an end. They're things that get collected along the way.
And they're useful in that context.
They can be a measurement of choices available. Or of an affluence. Or influence. Or of a status.
And they can be used like that, reflecting where you are in a social setting, or business achievement, or of personal ability.
It depends on how you choose to interpret them.
But there's another aspect to your aims and goals, your aspirations.
Who do you believe you are? What image have you of yourself as a Human Being?
When I was asked this in the 1960's, I thought the question was irrelevant.
So much so, that I nearly dismissed it.
Of course, then, when I'd thought about it for all of five minutes, I saw that what I was being asked was what I believed, really believed, my life was about.
What was my purpose?
Was I conscious of one?
Did I believe in it?
Was I up to it?
What was I doing about it?
How was my life going in relation to it?
These questions came to me over weeks, not minutes. They set me on another road to thinking about what I was, and in my own case, largely wasn't, doing about it.
They questioned basic thoughts, actions, activities which I'd taken for granted. A lot of what I was doing was because 'that's the way things were'.
That was what we did in life. And mostly because I hadn't questioned why we did it this way, or that way.
So when these questions began to bring up answers I'd never before considered, there was a strong element of surprise, wonder, and mainly of a kind of quiet excitement at the possibilities that began to surface. It didn't mean that life turned upside down and instantly changed into raging success and rabid achievement.
The transformation was more subtle, much more subtle. And much more real.
The fact that we even consider an alternative to what we see as the current existence, opens the mind.
We don't have to do anything. There's no obligation.
However, the fact that we know we can do something about where we are, or where we want to go, brings choice into our lives.
Then we make our own decisions.
And stand or fall by them.
As a matter of interest, in my own case it meant a complete change of life; giving up what was considered a safe, secure and pensionable career, and one at which I was competent, at age 25, to go into an area of work that wasn't even a recognised industry at the time.
My friends tried earnestly, and sincerely, to dissuade me.
My family nearly disowned me; they thought I was getting into the 'Massage Parlour' business.
And frankly, I'd no idea on how it'd turn out.
Was it worth it?
That depends on your definition of success. It's a different criterion for everyone.
But more on this later. Stay posted.
How to Achieve Your Aims.
Writing goals is a beginning.
It’s a start to a process.
Goals are a means to fulfilling a purpose.
Our purpose could be, for instance, to make the most of our lives in doing something that we see as worthwhile.
A very simple concept, as many a worthwhile purpose is.
The goals we set are a means to that end.
So the goals need to be compatible with our values and with our beliefs.
What we value and what we believe in contribute to our sense of purpose.
Understanding this helps us set goals that agree with our deepest convictions.
This is why we need to write our goals and then re-read them every day, to make alterations as we see fit.
They need to be modified as our thinking progresses.
As it will do.
Re-reading the goals is like mental practice. By repeatedly reminding ourselves of what our aims are, we begin to bend our minds in that direction. The goals begin to become part of our thinking.
And one of the abiding tenets of psychology is that we tend to become what we think about.
So the more specific the goals are, and the more we think about them, the more they begin to influence how we think, how we feel, and what we do.
And when they conform to our sense of purpose they become a resource in our lives, a plentiful resource and a powerfully driving force.
So, take the time, invest it in yourself and your potential. The return will repay you out of all proportion to your investment.
More Quality than Quantity
Not so much quantity.
People are becoming more aware of this in their exercise activities now.
A few of years ago, I was training a couple of hurlers, county players, who were spending one and a half, to two and a half hours in the gym.
They were tired.
They weren't just physically tired, they were mentally tired from the boredom of pressing a weight in a desultory manner through the movements they were doing. They'd been taught that to get benefit from weight training, you had to 'spend time in the gym'.
To a point, that was true.
But the problem was that they weren't training. They pushed a few weights, took a break, chatted, talked about the weight they were using and added another bit, or did another couple of repetitions in the hope that they'd get stronger, faster, bigger, more muscular, more powerful, and achieve indomitable strength on the hurling pitch.
Now, in one regard they were on the right track. If they kept on doing that, there would likely be an increase in muscle strength, size, and eventually, efficiency.
However, physical training is a skill. And to exert an effective result on the body, the skill needs to be learned, practised and developed. So it isn't so much what you're doing, as it is how you're doing it.
What's important when training is what goes on underneath the skin. it doesn't matter what you've got in your hand.
You can get as much from a concrete brick as you can from a Solid Gold, Designer Dumb-Bell.
So, every now and again, it's vital to go back to basics, ask yourself what you're seeking as you train, and tailor your programme accordingly.
But whatever you do, you need to learn the skill of thoughtful training.
That's learning to focus on the movement you're performing. You need to think about the stance, the positioning of feet and hands, the element of balance, the tempo, the style of action, that suits you. You're the one doing the exercise and when you take these things into account you can alter the effects of the movement dramatically.
And it doesn't mean that you have to become encyclopedic about physiology or anatomy. It means that you try small adjustments as you train. You can shift a foot forward, or alter the angle of your body, or grip a bar or rope a bit tighter, or looser, or alter the tempo, or experiment with your breathing, shorten or lengthen the range of movement, or any number of other small changes that can make a big difference.
I've seen this hundreds of times over the years; where a body has made some small change in technique that doubles the value of a movement.
Never forget, training is a skill. It has fundamentals. They can be learned, and then adapted, modified to suit the style or the shape or the temperament of the person doing it.
This is what turns the activity into a developed skill, sometimes even to reach the level of artistry.
I often describe physical training as a type of muscular choreography. It can be a form of dance, with the same thought, focus and rhythm brought into it that blends the mind and the body and the spirit into a movement in which the entire
Being becomes the doer of the act, and the recipient of the benefits.
It makes for efficiency, for effectiveness and a developed interest in application and progress.
Try this on your next exercise session. Think of it as an exercise in Concentration and Personal Development.
“This will transform your life.“
Practically every advertisement, we see today promises personal, mystical, financial, even spiritual, transformation.
I don't deny them.
What we have to bear in mind though, is that the knowledge that is going to transform us, is only as good as the use to which it is put.
You hear it, said all the time that knowledge is Power.
Knowledge is potential power.
It’s by bringing our potential to what we know, or to what we have, that allows us discover and exert the power.
Breathing can be transformational. Over 55 years, I’ve seen people actively put it to practice and reap great benefits.
I’ve also seen people learn about it, read about it, write about it, talk about it, plan it, with beautifully drawn maps and preparations, and then relegate them to the drawer.
Again, it’s the use to which the knowledge, the writings, the plannings, and the preparations are put, that brings about the transformation.
The transformational power that regulated breathing brings to the nervous system alone, makes it an unrivalled practice to study and to do.
Whatever you do to bring your fitness and wellness and your life, do it frequently.
However great, or however small, the result may be, bear in mind that it will be inevitable.
Inevitable. No exaggeration.
Start with your breathing exercises.
Bring them into your life as part of who you are, not just something you do.
Many people look on fundamental health and wellness as something that is “nice to have“.
It is more, much more, than that.
If we are unfit, out of shape, even moderately unwell, life is hard, hard going.
When we are fundamentally fit, healthy, and well, we will do things, try things, and achieve things that would otherwise be outside the realm of possibility.
So whatever your preferred activity is, do it.
Trust Your Gut
Do you trust your gut feeling?
What is it anyway? This gut feeling?
It’s far more powerful than logic, isn’t it?
I've seen this over the years, when people have taken decisions that flew in the face of all the logic, all the advice thrown at them, and found that they'd taken the right decision.
Gut feeling is a peculiar thing. It's so strong that it often trumps considered reason. And we do well to listen to it. There are times, aren't there, when everything points to a particular decision, and yet, and yet, there's a voice in the back of the head that speaks to us with such conviction that we feel compelled to follow it.
This is a thought pattern that comes of experience.
Experience can suggest a move that seems illogical.
Experience often sees what inexperience doesn't.
Life skills and ‘know how’ account for a lot. Most life skills are born of experience. They're the result of personal decisions that have taught us something. But only when we're watching and listening.
It's not always the case, but it's frequent.
Experience, the 'doing' of something, gives insights that no amount of theory can begin to give. We can experience in a second what takes minutes, sometimes hours, to read and understand. Even then we've only got a theoretical take on it.
The doing of something gives a living sensation of acting, facing challenges, using our resources, that imprints itself on the mind, the body, the nervous system, that cannot be got otherwise. And there is the added power of the emotion felt in the encounter. This is what imprints it decidedly in our minds.
A lot of the learning in experience is so fast it hardly registers consciously. We don't sit and analyze move by move, thought by flashing thought, what happened. Or what we did.
It's as much a reaction as an action.
We're reacting to our own split second perceptions and responses.
This is what gives experience. It gives the confidence of having faced the unknown and responded to it. And found that we're still here.
Some people learn instinctively. They can see a situation, and in the beat of the heart, see what it's about and decide which way to go with it. This is what 'awareness' is about; a conscious thoughtfulness of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and searching for a way to deal with them.
This has been one of the discoveries of the past decade, where people have found the time and discipline to meditate, calm the mind, to just 'be', and quietened the mind of the bustling noise that assails us. When we let it.
Mindfulness, Meditation, Quietening, have brought a level of observant thought to very many people. As activities, they overlap and bring a balance into our lives. They give us time to reflect, stand back and observe ourselves in the act of living.
At a recent workshop, there was very strong evidence of individuals who had gained benefit from this practice. The benefit was real, not some woolly wishful thinking conjured up to coincide with their intentions.
It's a skill. It can be learned. And then needs to be practiced.
Take the time.
Indecision is a huge factor in stress, worry, fear and doubt.
Friend, good morning.
Persistence is a fine quality. But so is knowing when to quit.
The truth is that most of us are never really sure , are we?
When we're pursuing an elusive end, we tell ourselves to persist and stick at it, that we're almost there. That another step, maybe two, will bring us home and it'll all have been worth it.
Or we may see in our hearts that 'this isn't working', that it's like throwing money at something that is not going to respond. And we quit.
There are questions here which can be useful to ask. The first is to take the nature of the project on which we're working into account.
Is it something dependent on our application?
Or is it something dependent on some outside factor over which we've little or no control?
If it's the former, and we're experiencing no progress, the fault is no one else's but our own. We either need to change our practice, or modify our goal to be more compatible with our life, and present style of life.
But either way, even asking this question has often reinforced the goal in the mind of the questioner, and inspired Herculean effort, or made the goal more realistic in terms of achievement.
When we're dependent on outside factors, we need to be able to influence them to our aims, or continue banging heads on stone walls.
But there's a third question here. So often, we attribute control or influence to a circumstance that really has none.
An instance of this could be , 'I'll start the diet on Monday. My son is having a party on Saturday, and the grandchildren are coming to the house on Sunday.'
Or 'The holiday season is starting now, I'll begin the course studies in September.'
We all know that there's no good or bad time to start something about which we feel strongly and intend to bring into our lives. Weekend parties and holiday seasons do not deserve the honour of being elements of influence. Not if we're in earnest.
So have a look at your current decision-making. Spend some time considering whether you're genuinely looking at an influence about which you can do nothing, or whether you're elevating an excuse to the level of a reason.
We all tend to do it at times. It's good to be aware of it. Then we can reconsider our decisions and bring a much more favourable influence into our lives.
My friend lives in a village in the country. There's a calm about him that reflects the life he leads, and the pace at which he lives it.
It's in his voice, the easy movement as he walks, conversing in a sonorous tone and comfortable rate of words so that everything is clear, considered and articulate.
So, when I met him recently, and saw that he was experiencing some turbulence in his life, I was curious.
'It's the celebs', he said, with a kind conspiratorial tone that suggested he didn't want anyone else to hear him.
'They're everywhere.', he continued. 'You can't move for the Celebrities and Famous People that have emerged in the country.'
He then went on to tell me of the number of people in his village who had become minor, medium and major celebrities, courtesy of the Internet.
They were running everything from local podcasts to jumble sales to blog sites and each of them was an Expert, a Specialist, in the scheme of things, particularly the world and its problems.
'Now', he said, 'Most of them talk a good story and seem to have a sound grasp of facts. But my concern, Dave, is that there'll soon no ordinary people left. Everyone is either a celebrity, or on the way to being one.'
'So, there'll be no ordinary people. No audiences. No one to listen. Everyone will be too busy giving their own celebrated opinion.'
I wondered whether he was exaggerating, whether or not his view had become a bit skewed as a consequence of listening to too many 'influencers'.
But he did have a point. There exists a 'Celebrity Culture' today. Apart from the Showbiz crowd who are asked for, and give, their opinions in the various media outlets, there are sports stars, business types, politicians, all of whom once stuck to their various milieux, now all queuing up to expound their expertise on everything from coarse fishing to coarse humour to how the country, the media and the world should be run.
There's even a splash of it in the Criminal Fraternity.
Someone was telling me of an article in which he read about a vicious psychopath, couched in warm, fuzzy cuddly terms by the diminutive pet name by which the miscreant is addressed by his associates. One wonders if he may be the next interviewee about the severity and unfairness of sentences for murder, torture, intimidation, protection, and terrorism.
Yes, he's a rogue. A likeable one, of course. And he loves his Mammy.
Celebrity is indeed a strange phenomenon. It courts the worst in many who'll do anything to be seen, heard and noted in the media.
Though sometimes it can come about accidentally. Or unintentionally. I asked my friend if there were any particular instances that worried him.
He said there was concern about the planning for a Windfarm in the area. The money on tap for land was staggering. There were mixed and strongly contentious feelings about it. There was a meeting being held in a local pub' which would be broadcast on the local radio, and on Social Media too.
He then revealed that he was off to get coaching on Presentation Skills for this event, He'd been asked to make a statement and he was aware that a couple of Provincial Papers would be sending reporters and photographers.
'So,' I asked mischievously, 'Shall we be seeing you on the Six O'clock News? Or Primetime?'
'I doubt we'll make that kind of mark', he answered earnestly.
Then, he lifted his eyebrows, broke a charming smile, and said, 'But you never know, do you? You just never know what could come of a simple event like this.' He then nodded to himself in affable and bemused agreement, 'You just never know.'
Now Hear This!
A truly refreshing interview from Brendan O'Connor a couple of days ago.
Listen to this
Have a Great Day and Do Well...
The Next Level
'The next level'.
You can't open any of the Social Platforms without being exhorted to bring whatever it is you do to the 'next level'.
While it's tiresome to read the same old scripts masquerading as copywrite, there are times when the phrase is apt.
Never more so than in the area of Personal Development.
Recent experience has reiterated the importance of learning basics. Just like the alphabet, or basic chords on a guitar, or basic scales on a piano, or being in contact with people if you expect to do a business, there are fundamental to every skill. Without the fundamentals, the more sophisticated moves, systems, procedures, have no substance.
In any activity.
Which brings us back to the 'next level'.
On a programme about six months ago, in which I was teaching the value of Human Contact and Customer Care to a gym' team, the emphasis was on communication skills. Most of the team had NEVER been taught the basics of communication, the core of Customer Care. The retention rate of members in the premises was very low, which was why the Management had asked me to deliver the programme.
Now, the boys and girls on the team were more than adequately qualified to instruct their charges in safety and procedures. But, as in everything, it isn't so much what you do, as it is how you do it.
The premises had outsourced courses previously, but the delivery either assumed a knowledge of the basics, or wasn't aware of them.
Over the following immediate months of completing the programme, there was a marked increase in Renewals of membership.
The same goes for being Fit, Healthy and Well. The 'next level' is usually reached by a diligent application of the principles that apply at EVERY level, for the accomplished athlete or the complete beginner.
It's not in the 'Magic Bullet', the 'Silver Sword', or the 'Gound breaking Discovery' of the latest Guru on the scene.
It's usually by the painstaking, attentive, intelligent application of personal resources.
That's where we tend to discover, with the benefit of practice and experience, other values and aspects to what we've already learned. We see things that could not have been seen before because we didn't know what they were. We weren't aware of them. And you can't learn what you don't know exists.
But once we understand the potential that is within the realm of possibility, then our horizons broaden, our minds open and we can truly, take ourselves and our lives, to the next level.
Keep it simple.
Do it well.
Have a Great Day and Do Well...
Take the Decision
Life seems to be a series of decisions, doesn’t it?
Some of them are conscious.
They are the ones we contemplate before we decide.
“Will I stay at what I’m doing? All I change direction in life? Will I keep this friendship? It’s a time to get this person out of, or into, my life? Well I challenge that statement? Will I change the car? Shall I do that course? Is it time to end this relationship? Should I be wary of what I see happening here? Should I report what I’ve just witnessed? Would it be hard on the person I am reporting? Does he deserve it? Should I let it go? Should I get involved?
And there are any number of questions which need conscious, considered answers.
But, they are a very small part of our daily lives. Ninety five percent, (95%) of our decisions, and subsequent actions, are unconscious.
They come about as a result of habitual, conditioned thinking.
Driving to work, eating breakfast, greeting our colleagues in the morning, how we think on Monday morning, how we think on Friday morning, these are conditioned habitual ways of thinking. The save us time and trouble. As we drive to work, we can consider the day ahead and what we have to do, instead of having to think our way through every gear change and every clutch depression.
Some conditioned thinking, serves us very well, some not so well.
Checking, the bank balance regularly, planning the week ahead, checking tyres and other systems on the car, ringing mum, dad, granny, grandad, children, are all good habits and serve us well.
Dropping in for a quick one on the way home on Friday night, knowing that one will become two or three, and then continuing the half mile drive to our home in the belief that we are “home and dry“ is an example that doesn’t serve us well.
We’ve turned ourselves and our car into a lethal weapon.
Running the credit card limit as if it’s a target, and using another card to pay it off, isn’t a good habit, as we are creating our own potentially bottomless pit of developing debt.
Cutting corners on safety procedures and vital policies, in daily living or the work environment is not a great idea.
We are making ourselves vulnerable with all the possible consequences, not to mention what we’re doing to our self confidence.
Many of the unconscious, habitual decisions, if not all, can be changed. Some of them can be small decisions.
But with huge effects.
Next post, we’ll show how to examine these decisions and get them working for us; how small changes can ring big differences into our lives.
Have a Great Day and Do Well...
Every Friday evening without fail, Maurice called in to Larry Murphy's.
Remember Larry Murphy’s?
His intention was to have one gin.
It usually went to two, or three, sometimes four.
Whenever Maura thought about going for a glass of wine, or a coffee, she saw a very clear picture of herself, with the glass, or the coffee, invariably smoking a cigarette.
Though these habits are physical, they’re generated by mental images.
These images are so strong that when Maurice arrived at Baggot St., even if he was late leaving the office, he parked, without thinking, at the nearest spot he could find to Larry‘s.
As Maura journeyed to her place for the glass of wine, or the coffee, she unconsciously searched her bag for cigarettes. If she didn’t have them, she went and bought some, in order to complete the picture in her mind.
These images are so entrenched that they determine our actions and behaviours without our even realising it.
Once aware of this, Maurice bypassed, Baggot St., and within a month had changed his route, his drive home on a Friday night, and kicked what he saw, was becoming an insidious habit.
Maura practised seeing a different image when she thought of her glass of wine and coffee. She made an outrageously different picture in her mind of herself taking long deep breaths as she sat in the wine bar and sipped from her glass.
In her underwear.
This gave her a different picture and a different feel about the whole event.
And of course, a new perspective.
That’s a way to change a mental habit.
Alter the pattern of the habitual image and see what happens.
Maura taught herself to see the cigarette she was smoking was a soggy butt, taken from the street. Her reaction to this idea was disgust. The association of ideas with smoking grew more revolting by the day. Now even the thought of cigarettes is nearly enough to make Maura nauseous.
A whole new range of projected activity comes into view. The picture changes, the thought pattern changes and the response to it changes.
Then persist with the change.
That can take a bit of time, determination, and the power of decision.
The real change is in the thinking about it. Constantly. Think about the new image, one that you can clearly imagine and that you can develop till it becomes the dominant force.
As in ALL skills, it’s the attention to the process that makes the change; the daily indomitable determination to use each day to apply the thinking that revises the viewpoint.
It may take time; a day, a year, a minute.
But once the picture clears and settles in the framework of the imagination, the course is certain, the destination assured.
Have a Great Day and Do Well...
Get Anything Done
Getting anything done is about taking the decision, getting started, doing it , and seeing it through, isn't it?
That's the Universal Formula.
Nothing works as well.
At the age of 10, I first heard that.
At that age, I felt there was something to it, but I wasn't sure what it was.
My mind wasn't attuned to abstracts.
What I saw and heard was a tall, gruff, lovable man of whom I thought the world, saying something to me on which he obviously set great store.
Because it was he who was saying it, I believed it, but I didn't understand it fully. Or the significance of it.
Later, in my late teens and early twenties, the original statement I'd heard in my early years, came to me again.
"Whatever ye do, Boy, Take a decision, Do it with a will, See it through."
The magic is in the simplicity.
It's a clear path, no confusion, no equivocation, no doubt about the objective.
And I've never known it to fail.
Learn the words.
Yes, do that.
Learn those words and repeat them till they're part of your thinking in any decision you make.
Then follow your own advice.
Tell us how you did when you get around to doing what you may have been putting off for a long time.
Have a Great Day and Do Well...
A Message for Yourself
What do you feel is the most important thing to you in your life?
Why is that?
The significant words in the first question are “you“, feel', and the final two words “your life“.
I recently did a project with seven people, and that first question was the project.
For each individual in the project, there were a myriad of answers.
Not one of the answers was conclusive in the early stages, that is, the first couple of weeks.
Few of us take the time to ask ourselves this question, and then even less time to consider the answer.
There is no one answer.
So many things in life are interdependent that to single out one thing as the most important, can be futile.
That said, look for what you feel is the most important thing to you at this moment anyway. This exercise has the effect of settling priorities.
Decided priorities give meaning and direction to our lives. So, take some time, five, maybe 10, minutes, and scribble down, as fast as you can, as many things as you can, that you feel are important to your life.
Set a clock, an alarm. When your allocated time is up, stop writing.
Then spend some time looking over what you've written, and considering what you flushed out.
Do this exercise for seven consecutive days.
See which element repeats itself and becomes the dominant force.o edit.
Some people grow old when they're still very young. And that's a shame. It puts a man or a woman into a defeatist frame of mind before they even start to live. Others enjoy their vivacious youth, energetic maturity and then begin to age gradually as they advance in chronological years.
There are definite factors that make the difference between ageing and growing old.
We all age.
Years take their toll. Chemistry changes, the mechanics aren't as quick as they once were, and attitudes shift.
That doesn't mean we have to capitulate. Energy levels can be preserved. Digestion, flexibility, reasonable strength, can all be preserved. It depends on how we use what's available to us.
The first thing I would suggest to anyone who's beleaguered by the prospect of ageing would be to make sure that lung capacity is maintained.
This is the life line for anyone.
Most people according to the most recent research, (American Lung Association) begin to have reduced lung capacity as early as 35-40 years of age. This can accelerate dramatically as the years pass and activity declines.
So concerned are the authorities in the National Institute of Health in the USA that they have a campaign in place to promote simple breathing exercises.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is now the fourth biggest cause pf premature death in the United States, and is probably somewhere near the same level here.
Many, by the time they're in their fiftieth year, are existing on 50-60% of their lung capacity.
That means low energy, poor digestion, inefficient elimination, low resistance to colds, infections, tiredness, and a diminished capacity to think, concentrate, use our cognitive ability.
Our mental processes of remembering, perceiving, understanding and reasoning are diminished.
Articles in papers and TV shows focus on the disadvantages of ageing. And with good reason. That's because a good deal of the afflictions can be offset, delayed, and very much diminished.
An active lifestyle, a sense of purpose, some attention to what we eat, and adequate rest, can change the whole concept of life.
The solutions are simple, available and useable by anyone.
The time to begin protecting yourself for when you're older is now.
The first thing to know is that it's never too late.
Simple steps done with a bit of will can not only arrest symptoms, but even reverse them.
The second thing to know is that it's never too early.
Patterns of activity learned and applied in younger years, and continued into the farthest of age, will establish effects that will, literally, last you a lifetime. And that's a lifetime not only longer, but more vigorous, more lively, more likely free of the illnesses normally associated with age, and a hell of a lot more acceptable than the alternative.
I'll be going into what to do about these in the next few posts. Let me know if you've special interests or queries.
Get to it.
For many, the word 'creative' is thought to be the preserve of painters, playwrights, musicians, composers and other artistic practitioners.
Four Mondays ago, a young and inexperienced businessman, not long at his job, and new to the urgencies of keeping payments, loans and other demands up to date, wondered how he was going to pay the wages to his staff of five on the following Friday.
By Thursday afternoon he had the wages sorted for the next three months, rent, rates and looming electricity bill, all due in the very near future, covered, and enough money to live on as well.
Now, there's creativity for you.
His next immediate plan was to organise himself and his activities into a cohesive force that used the same urgency, the same focus, and the same continuous application to refine what he'd done in the crisis. His focus was on the activity, not just the planning.
While aware of the necessity to plan, he was now aware of the equal necessity to act on the plan. That's where he'd fallen behind before; he'd planned meticulously, thought his way through the possible challenges, figured out strategies in the face of obstacles, and then sat on the plan as it gathered the dust of inaction in his memory.
Creativity isn't always about divine inspiration, flashes of insight, inspired motivation. Mostly, it's about doing. It's about starting to act on an idea, a hunch, a detailed plan. But it's the starting that matters. Once the plan of action is in place, it's a matter of doing it. Once we start doing it, we deal with the obstacles and diversions just as we do on any journey. And even though the route can be sometimes diversified, we get there eventually. Which is better any day than waiting for the plan of perfection to express itself into our lives.
If we don't start, we can end up waiting for the right time, the right feeling, the right day of the week. And of course all these things can be relevant. But once they have been reasonably assessed, then it's time to move, to do, to get started.
In the realm of people getting fit, preserving their health, helping themselves become the best version of themselves, I see this a lot. Some people will examine their options, decide what they need to do, what they should be doing, for themselves and their lives, and immediately come up with the most persuasive of reasons why the time isn't right, why the course won't work for them, why they will do it sometime.
But not now.
And the moment is gone. The opportunity to begin the journey, start the process, slips by.
The ideas, the incredible benefits, the unquestionable advantages of a more fit body, a more alert mind, and a more sound sense of being well, not just physically fit, but universally well, get lost in the tide of good intentions.
"What You Can Do, or Dream You Can, Begin It; Boldness Has Genius, Power, and Magic in It".
Wolfgang Von Goethe, German playwright.
When Nothing is Happening
Performance in any field is down to the individual. We can make all the excuses we like, even call them reasons, but when it comes to getting it done, the only thing to do is to do it.
Very basic. Even simplistic.
Yet, it's amazing how many of us
It's addictive. We castigate ourselves for being remiss in our duties and then dive wholeheartedly into it on the following occasion, when faced with a routine but necessary duty, the kind of activity that doesn't excite us, isn't colourful or highly profitable, and yet if it isn't done and in place, the rest of our efforts are rendered useless.
This kind of repetitive procrastination can become compulsive. Like most humans in the world, I've done it myself. For instance, when it's time to prepare some figures at that time of the year, we can get out the books, gather receipts and invoices and other relevant documents and just as we're about to start, find the really important things to do, like give the dog a bone, check that there's water in the kettle in case someone calls, run out and check the car's tyre pressures, sweep the front hall, straighten all the pictures, don't want to appear sloppy in the Art Department of meticulously hung pictures, count the pens we have in the office and start rummaging for a long-lost fountain pen that could be anywhere between here and the last three houses through which we've moved.
But look anyway.
Just in case.
And you never know.
Finally, having run out of desperately important jobs to do, we reluctantly shuffle into our core chore. To our relief we find it isn't as bad as we thought it'd be, and we get through it uninjured and in one piece.
Now, what I've found over the years, and so have many with whom I've shared this, is that when we sketch out our agenda for the following day on the night before, commit to a Morning Ritual of Stretch 'n' Tone, Breathing, and reinforced with a Statement of Intent, things get done like clockwork.
Even the constant activity of performing the Ritual creates it's own direction and sense of purpose. It gives us the impetus to search for worthwhile directed attention. Over time, a deep sense of that purpose begins to pervade our language and our thoughts, and becomes part of who we are. Those thoughts and words begin to seep into that mysterious mind that we call the subconscious. At which point they begin to guide behaviours and actions; which are now chosen as supports to our aims and aspirations.
It may take a little bit of time, and a lot of persistence and patience.
But when it happens, it hits the life of the individual like a benevolent tornado.
And that's when true transformation can be said to have taken place.
If Music Be The Food of Love
Had a wonderful conversation with a very interesting man the other day.
He’s been a musician all his life, and in the 60s and 70s played with a couple of show bands as well as doing work with pit orchestras for shows.
We were speaking on the motivational power of music.
Among his favourites, were the themes from “Rocky” and a little heard version of “Clare to Here“ by Red Hurley.
In the realm of training for fitness, there is a great case for music to train to; the “Rocky” theme is a universal favourite, as is “I will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
They’re songs of triumph over adversity, and of course that’s what hard training is about; overcoming the mental persuasion to resist the seduction of the easy option.
Both songs have an up-tempo rhythm too, which, along with the lyrics of self assertion and wilfulness, are great motivators for training.
This isn’t some new discovery. In the 60s, in a gym in Southeast London, to which I went on Saturday afternoons, the recording of Duke Ellington‘s “Night Train“ was played over and over again. This was alternated with up-tempo Chuck Berry numbers.
It was in an old fashioned gym of those times.
The premises had been a storeroom, of about 2000 ft.². It had a wooden floor and punch bags hung from the high ceiling at various points.
The main exercises done were skipping, bag punching, and training with an assortment of fairly light barbells and dumbbells, which lay in a corner for those who wanted to use them
The showers were just off the main floor, a smallish room with concrete floor and a huge outlet for the waste water at one corner.
The source of water came from the mains, through a 4 inch flexible pipe bent into two large covered buckets, which overhung the middle of the small room. When you wanted to shower, you went in, turned on the mains, and stood under one of the buckets, which had small punched holes in the bottom. As the stone cold water pelted onto you with a force that would nearly peel the skin from your body, it made the whole process an exhilarating experience
The other musical number played in that premises was a rousing version of ‘Woodchoppers’ Ball’, by the Woody Herman Band.
I paid two shillings and sixpence for the use of the gym’ on Saturday afternoons. I stopped using it after about three months. The owner was a forward-thinking man and refurbished the place with a carpet, chrome equipment and six shower cubicles, along with a designated changing area.
Up to then we’d changed wherever there was a space, usually somewhere around the edge of the premises, never taking your eye off your gear, and bringing valuables to the owner, who’d put them in a box with a padlock, and give you the key, which you then brought back to him when you were leaving, to retrieve your goods and go.
The advent of the chrome and carpets, not to mention the real tank-fed showers, changed the place. The bags were done away with, and with a carpet only floor, there was no place for any skipping.
When I stopped going, I was able to replace it with a kind of gym’ of my own.
I was living in a ground-floor bed-sit at the time. I had access to the back yard and a small well-kept garden, kept green and tidy by my very elderly land-lady. She had no objection to my skipping in the yard, and using my ‘Bullworker’ ( remember them?) in the garden.
And being a generation or two older than me, was fully tolerant of my vinyl discs from the Big Band Swing era of the thirties and forties and fifties, played at full volume.
The styles of music and the fashions have changed, but the principle is unshakeable.
Long may it continue.
The New Speed
Today, the world changes more quickly in a year than it did previously in fifty years.
Talking with a man who writes books for a living a few days ago, here's what transpired in the conversation. He was telling me that he submitted his manuscript to the publisher and was waiting for the interminable delay that's associated with that process.
I remember this well, as the process I experienced in 1983 was what follows.
The manuscript was submitted. It was usually sent to one, perhaps two, at most, publishers, at a time. It was considered unethical to send to many publishers at once. You can see how authors spent, lost, years of their lives in the process. This was my fifteenth submission, as the previous fourteen were rejected. Some of the rejections were hairsbreadth, the publisher saying that they loved it, but their quota was full at the time, so, if it wasn't taken up in the next 12 months, to come back to them.
That was what we might call an encouraging rejection. Anyway, this fifteenth submission went out, and two months later, after the usual morning vigilance around the letterbox, day in, day out, I got the notice of acceptance in the form of a phone call.
The manuscript had been first sent out just three years previously. It took anything from two months to three months to get a final decision. So, the average send-out and return was about two to two and a half months. Fifteen submissions represented thirty seven and a half months. That's three years and a bit.
When the book was accepted, it was scheduled for publication in hardback.
Twelve months later.
If the book sold well over the next 6 to 12 months, the paperback edition might then be offered to a paperback publisher, or done by the original hardback publisher. Either way there was another 8 to 12 months wait for the paperback edition. This was my experience In 1983.
Consider the difference 40 years later.
Today, an author sends her completed manuscript by BCC email to 40 publishers at one time and can expect replies within 3 to 10 weeks.
When the book is accepted, and the deal done, it can be available in hardback, paperback, digitally, large print, and even in braille, to the world, that is, globally, within another six weeks.
I say this to indicate the speed at which we live today. That’s only one tiny indication.
Everything is changing so quickly that we find ourselves adapting, or trying to, not only physically , but mentally to the New Speed.
And in spite of the New Generation being born into it, the pace of life today is something to which we haven't yet adapted.
And it may take a while. And that's why we need to make our own pace, and keep it. Otherwise the world and it's accelerated tempo will batter us into a burnt-out, frenzied wreckage in which we end up serving technology rather than the other way round.
Let the body relax and deliver.
Let the mind go quiet and calm.
With the power of a free flowing river
And the peace of a Sunday-time psalm.
Quick tips to make the most of your practice sessions:
i) If you want to get rid of body fat cut out alcohol for four weeks. If that's a problem, address it.
ii) The majority of your nutrition should come from real food. Supplements are very useful, but the bulk and vitality of live food is what we were designed to digest..
iii) Endless crunches don't shred your abs––you need a good, honest diet and frequent activity.
iv) 2-3 tough, rigorous workouts will net you better results, and more lasting results, than hours of desultory visits to the gym'. Intensity is important. It's not meant to be easy.
v) Always have a plan when you go to train.
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