Posts Tagged ‘simplicity’

motivational mondays: creating good habits without goals

01/30/2012

To quote an old apothegm:
“We are what we repeatedly do.”
– Aristotle

Simply put: We are our actions.
Another way: We are our habits.

If we smoke regularly, we are a smoker. If we exercise regularly, we are in shape. If we eat the right foods, we are healthy.

(Keep in mind, I’m tailoring this down to its simplest form. I understand much more complexity exists within the boundaries I’m laying out, but, in the theme of this post, something is much easier to grasp when pared down to utter simplicity.)

The question now, is how do we create good habits instead of bad ones?

how I’ve created good habits

Since I left my 9-5 job, I’ve created a plethora of good, healthy habits – most times without even meaning to. A mindset that I’ve always found hard to adopt, but have seen repeatedly work in my own life, is that of living without goals. Leo Babauta sums it up incredibly well with his blog post: the best goal is no goal. Even Seth Godin, marketing extraordinaire, has an interesting perspective on a similar vein of thought.

This mindset goes against everything I’ve been raised to believe. In middle school we learned the importance of setting goals to improve ourselves. My father preached to me the importance of having five-year goals and ten-year goals. While I never did this, I still always thought, based on what everyone was telling me, that was the way to get things done.

My own real-life examples say just the opposite.

Now I’m not saying that living with goals is a bad thing or doesn’t work. As the newer, slightly sexual adage goes: “Different strokes for different folks.”

But allow me to lay down a few examples for you. Some of the good, enduring habits I have formed in the past seven months are:

Eating healthier

In June I decided I wanted to try Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Body diet for losing weight. I didn’t need to lose weight, I was just curious to see if it worked. I went on the “formal” diet plan and it fell apart within two weeks.

Then, some time in August, I decided to start cutting to the core of his philosophy and just nixed white carbs (breads, rice, flour-based foods, etc.). Since then, I would say I cut down on my white carb intake by 90%, vastly increasing my consumption of vegetables, fruits and legumes, along with a healthy intake of meats.

I didn’t set any goals. I didn’t follow any plans. I just did what I wanted to do, knowing it was healthy for me. And I enjoy it. I feel better.

Writing daily

I abhor the daily word count goal. It stresses me out and I’ve had mini-anxiety attacks when I don’t meet it. In November I created a nice habit by mixing a goal with the concept of living without goals. I declared that I would write 3,000 words a day, or roughly 100,000 words in the month. For those of you that aren’t familiar with word counts – that’s a freaking book.

I wrote 55,000 words that month. About a week into it I realized I wasn’t going to hit my goal. I accepted that fact and, remarkably, ceased worrying about it. Instead of focusing on the goal, I kept in mind that I wanted to produce a higher volume than Stephen King and just rolled with the daily writing. Whatever I got down on paper, I got down on paper. Whatever I didn’t, I didn’t. And I was content.

Now I don’t focus so much on word count, as much as my smokin’ hot girlfriend says I should :), but rather on writing the things I want to write. I’ve made more progress these past two weeks on my novel than I’ve made in the past two months when I kept trying to make goals.

Stretching daily

In mid-December I made a list of workout goals I wanted to achieve. It set an incredibly high standard and I should have known I wouldn’t have even come close to meeting it. I wrote it all out, printed it up, and never looked at it again. As I said in the writing daily piece above, having daily goals like this stresses me out, because if I don’t do it I feel like I’m falling behind and have to re-evaluate and readjust – steps that take more admin time than I’m willing to put forth.

Since then, I’ve thrown that list of workout goals in the garbage and have focused on a few things at a time, the primary exercise being stretching. Since mid-December, I have stretched out almost daily and noticed a substantial increase in my flexibility. My sideways split has increased by seven inches, and I’m incredibly close to touching my chest to my thigh with little to no warm-up. And all this without goals. I stretch simply for the enjoyment of the physical accomplishment.

Learning new things – all the time

Neuroscience, Taoism, medieval society, the Beatniks, new words, barefoot running – these are all things I have a strong desire to learn about. Instead of laying out goals filled with books I wanted to read by certain times, I just learned what I wanted to learn when I wanted to learn it. And I haven’t stopped. I’m all sorts of smart now!! (if only…)

Final example:

Over the summer I lifted weights nearly every day for three months straight. Without fail. I was excited when I saw results, which I noticed on a weekly basis. Whether it was getting more cut in my glamor muscles, as my brother would say, or increasing weight – which I knew to be muscle weight – I saw results regularly. My lifting threshold would increase, my max increased by 40 lbs, and, in direct proportion, increased my esteem regarding my physical appearance and sense of well-being.

All this I did without goals. As soon as I returned from Nicaragua this past October, I laid out a weight-lifting regimen.

I stopped going to the gym after that.

living in the moment

Bottom line(s):

  • Find something you love doing and just do it.
  • Find something that makes you feel good and just do it.
  • Find something that can improve the quality of your life and just do it.

But START SMALL! Nothing is as conducive to putting the brakes on a good habit as the “all or nothing” mentality. Start small, then, as you get more comfortable, work your way up the ladder.

Without goals, you may be surprised by just how high you can climb.

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the importance of disconnecting

01/19/2012

As written Wednesday night, 1/18 at 11:30 p.m:

unplugI’ve spent the past 54 hours disconnected from the world save via my phone (which is a dumb phone, so no web access, thank JC). Posting a Motivational Monday blog post, I disappeared from the World Wide Web for more than two days, and must say it was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.

No Facebook + No Twitter + No email = A Little Slice of Heaven

In my limited experience as a feeble human being on this raped planet we call Earth, I have had the good fortune to not always be ultimately reliable upon the internet, search engines, word documents and online porn. It is through this experience that I have come to realize the benefits of disconnecting from the online world. I understand this is not a new concept, but stick with me on this one.

Think of how often you’re texting on your phone when you’re out with friends or family. Think of how often you’re surfing the web on your smart phone for something that can wait til later. Think of how many miscommunications we have via these channels because the receiving end misconstrues a word or phrase, not being party to the intended inflection and body language. We have become slaves to immediate gratification, losing one of the most important (and undervalued) qualities in the world today: patience. In a paraphrased quote from Einstein: “Our technology has exceeded our humanity.” (and that was before the World Wide Web)

microcosms

Straight up: Communication technology, while having its benefits, is virtually destroying our ability to effectively communicate, while simultaneously killing our appreciation for the world around us.

Some examples:

1. A couple years ago I was on a first date when about an hour into it she told me how thankful she was that I hadn’t brought out my phone once. Sad, but true.

2. I have a very good friend who has nearly all of her important conversations with potential partners via text message. Whenever she says, “So I was talking with so-and-so the other day…” my immediate response is “Talking or texting?” It’s nearly always the latter. And she wonders why she gets into a lot of arguments with these people. . .

3. People get into heated arguments on Facebook and then let it carry over into real life when they next see this person. I used to be like this, but I sought help. If you find yourself in similar circumstances currently but are unwilling to change, I have a loaded glock and a full bottle of sleeping pills – take your pick.

4. When I worked a white collar job, I would walk in every day to at least 50+ emails of varying natures. I know people who walk in to many more than that. Information overload and more than half of it is white noise.

5. About a month ago on a freak day in the midst of a Cleveland winter when it was 50 degrees and sunny, a girl was walking across a cross-walk in a major intersection with her phone in front of her face, either texting or surfing the Web. Just as she stepped out, an SUV was accelerating toward the walk and almost hit her. The driver was also on her phone, except talking. The walker called the driver a cunt, and the driver, window down, shouted profanities.

For me, all of this serves as a fruitful definition of insanity.

A final note: My main concern is with communication technology – not necessarily information technology (although I understand the lines between the two are more and more blurred every day). While I think there is still value associated with hard copies of Britannica, one cannot deny the effectiveness of search engines and information sharing on the World Wide Web. And I also understand the value of these kinds of communications in emergency situations – I have no doubt it has saved many lives and helped to avoid harmful situations. But, like anything, when taken to the extreme it can do more harm than good. Another fitting apothegm: “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.”

Maybe the next time we’re on our phone, texting or surfing the Web or even talking, we should stop, put technology away, and take in what is around us:

real life

.

the smell

09/15/2011

The smell.

That’s what I always notice first about the rain. Not the feel of it on my skin. Not the sound of it on the tin awning outside the window. Not even the sight of it drifting in sheets through the orange glow of the solitary streetlight. It’s the smell that sends that wholesome reverberation, starting at the nose, throughout the body.

There’s a purity to the rain, to water. Perhaps it’s the analogous “washing away” of filth, of past sins. We feel clean after water has touched our skin. We feel either energized or refreshed (or both). Whether it’s a hot shower, playing with bubbles in our bath as children, or midnight skinny dipping with friends in the lake. No matter the source, the disposition, or the quantity, there’s a purity and a constancy to its effects on the allegorical soul.

I enjoy the simple pleasure of standing in the rain on purpose. It’s not that I feel purified or some such nonsense. It’s just nice to feel the steady rhythm of nature’s beating drum on my skin, in my hair, on my lips, reminding me that no matter what happened that day or night, the world continues to function, much as it did before I drew my first wailing breath, and much as it will after the memory of my existence is forgotten. The rain allows me to reflect on the inconsequential events of my life, and just be content to have experienced anything at all. Thus am I able to make peace with my own inevitable death.

But no matter what, even after the last drop evaporates from my skin, even after the last pattering sounds its final dirge on the tin awning, and even after the last faint glistening reflected in that streetlight glow disappears, no matter what, the smell lingers.

i wanna go crazy with you

10/15/2010

A friend told me this past summer that everybody is always looking for love. I thought it to be an interesting perspective, if a little bit simplistic. But then, most times the simplest way is the most sensible way.

Lately I’ve been listening to Tim McGraw’s new single “Felt Good on My Lips,” and it brings to mind again this concept of everybody always looking for love.

I want your thoughts on this, but allow me to offer my perspective first (I mean, it is my blog after all):

I wouldn’t say I’m looking for love, per se. I’m looking for someone I can go crazy with. Someone with whom I can cut loose, do things I wouldn’t normally do on my own, and enjoy the things more that I DO normally do on my own. Is that what love’s about?

I’m not sure. But this song isn’t about love, at least in its classical definition. It’s about living wild and free in the moment, enjoying life for the simple pleasures. Whether it be the sound of someone’s name, singing the lyrics of a song you don’t know, drinking an unfamiliar drink or kissing unfamiliar lips.

an unforgettable night

I did exactly that just this past weekend. I went to dinner with a girl to a place I never would have gone on my own (or even found, in all likelihood). We went to a hole-in-the-wall bar afterward where they let you smoke inside, and just lost ourselves in a couple games of pool, a few good songs and each other’s company. It’s an incredible feeling, just living for the night and flipping the bird to tomorrow. We swing danced, we sang, we smoked cigarettes as we lined up our shot on the pool table. It was raw, innocent and pure, untarnished by senses of self-worth, superficial misgivings and reality television.

We all need to cut loose and go crazy sometimes, losing ourselves in the lucid oblivion of present circumstance. While we’re young, be young and stupid. If we’re old, become young and stupid again, even if just for a moment.

WITH as opposed to a mere with

And sometimes…sometimes we understand that it’s nice to go crazy with someone else. And I don’t just mean with someone else, I mean WITH someone else. To feel the sun on your shoulders and the wind at your back with someone at your side. It reminds me of Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away.” This guy takes his motorcycle for a ride, stops in at a bar and meets a girl who decides to ride with him for a time. They end up not lasting the duration of the song, but that’s not the point. The point is that they had that time together in the first place. They celebrated their lives WITH someone, as opposed to with someone.

There’s definitely a romanticism to being alone, rolling down the highway with your only concern being your personal Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “Here I Go Again On My Own” has always resonated with me, but there comes a time when being a lone wolf just isn’t enough. There comes a time when going crazy WITH someone else is exactly what you need.

Your thoughts?

DISCLAIMER
I wrote this post in the dead of night and in less than 10 minutes. A famous writer once said you never have to change something you got up in the middle of the night to write, so I’m not changing anything. Straight from the heart right onto the computer screen. No hesitation (aside from a little editing, but I’m an OU PR kid – editing is in the marrow of my bones. And if some grammar nut reads this and noticed me ending the second sentence in the fourth paragraph with the word “with”, shove it). This shit’s authentic. Hah! Now go do something fucking stupid, like writing “fucking” in a blog that you know your boss reads.

underscheduling my life

09/03/2010

If you’re a regular reader and wonder why I haven’t posted for a few weeks, it was purposeful. And if you weren’t wondering…well poop.

I needed to detach myself from certain aspects of my normative behavior, take a wide-angle view on things by underscheduling my life. I had felt paralyzed for a little while, like I wasn’t making progress with regard to my passions. So, I put a hold on my martial arts pursuits, I stopped fretting over my lack of progress on the guitar, I took a break from running and I stopped worrying about what my next blog post was going to be. I put a lot of thought into creating good content on this blog and I felt myself repeatedly coming up empty. I had 35 drafts of posts with nothing flushed out. When I tried to come back to something and expound upon it, the original intent of the post eluded me. I knew I needed a break.

An influence on this “hold” I placed on things was a slight running injury – I had symptoms of plantar fasciitis, so I web-MD’d myself and laid off for a while. This frustrated me immensely, because when I finally feel a flare of passion for running I come up with a running injury instead of a barefoot half-marathon. Instead of beating myself up over it I made my decision to step back from the world for a bit.

So, instead of producing anything worthy of praise (learning new songs, logging more miles, writing semi-decent blog posts), I played videogames, read a couple books, took more naps and hung out with a new group of friends probably too often – in other words, I became really good at doing nothing. I let simplicity take hold and ran with it, and I’m already feeling the emotional and psychological kickbacks a mere three weeks later. I feel refreshed.

If you’re feeling like I was a few weeks ago, give this theory of underscheduling a shot. Even if you have kids or other responsibilities that take up a vast amount of your time, find a little time in your day to just do nothing. The rewards are subtle but immense.

a different kind of free – running barefoot

07/19/2010

Never before in my life have I been excited to run. It was always a necessary evil to stay healthy and in shape and occasionally relieve some stress. Plus, during high school track season it made my ass look great! But lately I’ve been seeing it differently, as I’ve been taking a different approach. And that approach is to hit the pavement barefoot.

It’s a different kind of free. This type of running allows you to experience something you can’t enjoy whilst huffing and puffing along heel-to-toe with typical running shoes, and for the first time in my life I have looked forward to running. I honestly can’t explain WHY I feel this way about barefoot running. I’ve always preferred the hobbit-like lifestyle, but never has it given me this much enjoyment. It’s just…fun.

“it’s science”

But aside from the aesthetics, there’s also a science to it. A running shoe is essentially a cast. The most expensive running shoes that have the most padding and “support” inhibit the natural pronating movement of the foot. For years doctors have said that pronation is a bad thing, that it leads to injuries such as shin splints, plantar fascitis and various knee problems. But a host of recent studies have shown that the running shoe, in fact, could be the true cause of all of our running problems.

Padded, arched running shoes have only been around since Nike’s experiments with a waffle iron and rubber in the 70’s. And since the 70’s, running injuries have increased at an exponential rate. Nowadays, eight out of 10 regular runners get injured every year. As Nike has evolved and come to realize this…well, check out one of their most recent commercials:

born to run

I recently finished the book Born to Run. It’s about an adventuring journalist’s voyage to simply discover why his foot hurt when he ran. Throughout the novel, you follow his journey to discover a hidden tribe of superathletes in Mexico, meet and befriend a host of eccentric ultrarunners, and learn from some of the world’s best scientists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists. His ultimate conclusion is that homo sapiens were literally born to run.

We evolved that way for a reason – by shodding our feet in padded running shoes, we’ve taken a step back in the evolutionary process. One of the best lines in the book refers to the fact that supporting your arch is inherently wrong – why would you put a support under an arch? It only weakens the structure. If you let the arch stand alone with no support, it is more architecturally sound.

Now it definitely takes some getting used to, that’s for sure. For the past few days my foot has been wrapped to pad the blisters that have begun to populate the soles of my feet…but they’re getting tougher. More calluses are already forming and my calves are consistently sore as my muscles grow.

Bottom line: Barefoot running is an exhilarating experience and one that will hopefully last 26.2 miles this fall for me and my brother.

Here’s a nice wrap-up video about barefoot running (and I strongly recommend you purchase Born to Run – it’s one of them life-changing books folks keep talking about):

the culling

04/13/2010

Culling has a pretty negative connotation in the English language. We tend to think of animals or people being weeded out of existence in order to foster desirable traits…well, I do anyway. I want you to think of culling in terms of your personal “stuff.”

American society and TV shows like Cribs teach us that in order to be successful we should have lots of stuff. We should own a house. We should drive a car or two. We should have an infinity pool with a built-in deck. We should have the latest mobile app. We should have an iPad. More money = bigger and better things = a larger sense of accomplishment. And everybody wants that, right?

I know most of you are probably reading this and consciously thinking, “No, that’s not what’s important.” But in our subconscious, most of us do feel like that – even if we don’t “believe” it. So don’t post something akin to that in the comments if you’re thinking of doing that! It’s a very difficult mindset to tear yourself away from. I still haven’t quite yet. Hell, I just bought a PS3 a month ago that I didn’t and don’t need.

Materialism = trying to fill the void that is life with a bunch of shit we don’t need.

“The things you own end up owning you”

simplify yourself

We need to simplify ourselves, and a good way to do that is to begin with our materialistic “stuff.”

That’s easy enough to say and to believe in, but how exactly do we do this? What’s that first step?

Hence, we have the culling. Personally, I like to go room by room (I do this once a year). Clean out a closet. Check underneath your bed. Head up into your attic. Open the garage. Think of it in terms of reorganizing. For example, with the coming of the nice weather to Cleveland, I was pretty pumped to turn my attic (a second floor, really) into my office – minus the cubicle, phone and work e-mail. So the other day I spent a couple hours reorganizing my attic, making it more into an office/library. As I was reorganizing, I came across so much crap that I nearly filled up a garbage bag with what wasn’t recyclable. It was a fantastic feeling to get rid of things I don’t and will never use. Plus, if/when it ever comes time to move, you don’t have to worry about packing it up and moving it! Or if I get hit by a train or eaten by a black bear anytime soon, it’s less crap my family has to sift through.

One less thing, right?

So try culling your belongings. Become a little more minimalist. You may be surprised with your results.

Get your mind right.

walking barefoot

04/01/2010

During fall and spring quarter at OU, it was a rare week that went by where I wasn’t called a hobbit or a neanderthal. My first weekend there freshman year  I  walked two miles around campus, down Union Street, Court Street, North Green, South Green, barefoot. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have shied away from that decision…

Regardless. I walked (and walk) barefoot as often as humanly possible. I just escaped from this storage closet I call an office for about 15 minutes to enjoy the nicest day yet this year. Took off my dress shoes, my black socks, and just went for a stroll in the grass.

Feeling the grass on my feet helps me to remember to feel the wind on my face. Feeling the wind on my face helps me to remember to breathe deeper and easier. There’s something about walking barefoot that is just so beautiful in its simplicity. It’s pure…it’s you and nature with nothing in between. No sports cars. No reality television. No societal norms to be abided. No drama. You just feel the blades of grass bend beneath the soles of your feet. You feel others sprout between your toes or simply brush the sides.

It’s simple.

It’s perfect.

It’s incorruptible.

To see it explained much better than I ever could, click here.

So keep your Housewives of New York and your designer heels. I’ll take being barefoot in the grass any day.