Propelling Tasks

This insight came to me following the aftermath of a house extension that we’ve recently had that didn’t go exactly to plan.

As a result of said extension, we’ve been left with a slowly decreasing list of internal and external jobs that need finishing off around the house. We’ve made some headway in to working through the list as well as organising our priorities of what’s left to complete.

Despite such progress, I still have moments when I think we’re never going to see the end of the work that needs to be done. Perspective can be lost at times, which is probably not surprising given the incredibly slow progress of the bulk of the building work we endured.

Having said that, I did have a bit of an epiphany moment last week whilst painting the new dining area. Prior to starting, I did think about just how long all of this painting will take me as I’d need to fit it in around work and our busy family lives. However, during the actual doing of the task, feelings of progress and achievement started to surface.

Perspective starred to emerge as I began to think, “as long as I’m actually doing something towards getting the jobs done, then I’m doing my best”. This gave rise to a sense of contentment, satisfaction and feelings of cutting myself some slack.

In addition to this, I realised the following ;

  • Awareness, Planning and Goal Setting is important, but they’re not the be all and end all.
  • ACTION IS KING
  • Taking steps (even small) in the act of doing has so many amazing effects:
  • Action turns the volume way down on thoughts and feelings of being overwhelmed, behind schedule, lacking time and resources
  • Action is the giver of perspective, patience and contentment

Most importantly for me though is that I’ve come to a personal understanding that;

ACTION DISSOLVES FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS OF SLOW PROGRESS AND WILL PROPEL ME TO TAKE FURTHER ACTION IN THE FUTURE.

One for the Exercise Obsessed!

This is more of a command to myself than a musing, however, I’m sure it will resonate with others.

After a day of typical dad type activities such as being a taxi, entertainer, diplomat and fight referee as well not showering of course, I could feel the frustration of needing to get out and exercise building up.

This was partly fuelled by my intention, set last night, to get out for a run during the early hours to start the day off right. Needless to say, this didn’t happen so it was bound to be on my mind during day. The need to get out was further compounded by the sugar and carb filled foods I chose to eat yesterday.

With all of these things in the background, it’s no surprise that I started to get a tad tetchy. I could feel the onset becoming single minded with regards to satisfying my urge to exercise. Thinking about windows of opportunity I could take advantage of to get my fix.

Whilst on a dog walk later in the day, I was sent a link by my wife about a Facebook post written by a dad of three named, Ted Gonder. The crux of the article was about how fathers can better support the mothers of their children in everyday situations. There were more than a few little home truths within that post that definitely struck a chord with me.

I got so caught up in my own guilt about the food I’d eaten, combined with breaking the agreement I’d made with myself that I’d forgotten to consider the thoughts and needs of those around me. A near total lack of perspective is easier to arrive at that I had realised.

Further to this, I’d also seemingly forgot that I had ran over 25 kilometres in the past 8 days! Such is the nature of the beast that recent highs and achievements are quickly forgotten and wear off without leaving a lasting trace it seems.

So the next time I’m starting to feel a bit of exercise related pent up frustration, it would be wise to ask myself a few questions, such as:

  • Why am I feeling the need to exercise so much in this given moment?
  • Is it diet related?
  • Have I made a promise to myself?
  • Have I been “out of action” recently?
  • Am I simply just feeling the need to just be active and blow away a few cobwebs?

If the need has arisen out of diet, then I need to take responsibility for this. I make my own decisions about what I eat and when, therefore it’s understandable that I’d like to ‘put things right’. This usually takes the form of trying to offset the junk with a blistering 5K, however, if I take better control of my diet in the first place then this would help to negate these feelings of guilt.

If I’d made a promise to myself the night before that I’d go for a run in the morning, what were the reasons that I broke said promise? If it’s because I stayed up watching my latest favourite TV show or arsing about on my phone, then I need to take the hit on this.

If it was, and more likely to be, the kids disturbing our sleep, then I need to cut myself some slack here. Or better yet, do more to improve the sleep habits of our kids to help reduce disturbances throughout the night.

Was the plan I made considerate of others? What has my wife got planned that day or how was her day beforehand? Would it actually be more considerate to offer to sort breakfast out in the morning and give her a bit of a sleep in (absolute gold dust in our house!)? Have the kids got any classes or other social engagements etc?

If I feel as though I’ve been out of action and need to get back in to it, is this really the case? Take a step back and have a look over my workout records to get a balanced assessment of just how active I’ve been.

If I’m “feeling” out of action, then chances are I’m not! This kind of feeling often reflects the opposite, it usually comes from regular exercise sessions and is a feeling of wanting to keep momentum going as opposed to halting a slump. When I’ve really been inactive for a period of time, I will “know” and not “feel” like I need to get back in to the swing of things.

The last point about wanting to blow a few cobwebs away is the easiest “need” to deal with. Chances are this will be work related, linked to sitting down for too long a period without activity. This kind of desire is easily addressed and often feels less urgent than the other issues I’ve outlined above.

In short, these are the key points to remember for the next time I’m feeling like my focus is narrowing in to exercise related tunnel vision:

1) Ask myself why?
2) What can I take responsibility for?
3) Have I considered others?
4) Get some Perspective

I’ve felt this way in the past and I’ve still managed to keep an exercise regime going. I’ve also never actually stopped an exercise regime even in the face of little breaks or gaps, for the best part of 4 years straight.

It’s also good to remember that even if I do get to scratch the itch in these situations, it will resurface again soon no matter how good the next session makes me feel. Like everything in life, the highs and lows are fleeting, non permanent and cyclical so a little dose of Stoicism would serve me well during such times.

VOICING CHANGE

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I was looking forward to receiving this in the post!

Since reading Finding Ultra and then becoming a regular listener to the Rich Roll Podcast, I was very eager to get my hands on a copy of Voicing Change.

Inspired by the conversations that have taken place on the podcast, this book highlights some of the most meaningful and insightful of them, of which there are many.

My reason for getting this book was for its keepsake value, supporting a podcast that I really connect with as well as its content and design aesthetic.

Stylistically, this book is everything that I expected it to be. Straight away, it’s obvious that the packaging and presentation has been well thought out, the photography is vibrant and typography beautiful. The stunning visual and tactile experience has been nicely finished with this copy being signed by the man himself.

Content wise, I’m pretty certain that I will not be disappointed, having read the opening sections and the initial piece with David Goggins.

I’m looking forward to revisiting some of the stand out conversations that I’ve listened to on the podcast already as well discovering new inspirational insights, people and ideas.

I’m pretty sure Volume 2 is in the pipeline, so I’ll need to make more room on my shelf!

A Reminder on Achieving and Getting Things Done

Striking whilst the iron is hot, fresh from listening to a Rich Roll Podcast, a saying that I’ve heard before was mentioned that really resonated.

It was along the lines of:

“Most overestimate what they can get done in a day, but underestimate what they can do in a year”.

This is so true, especially if you have a tendency to get too caught up in the here and now and don’t take a moment to look to the future.

For me, this saying also relates to cutting yourself some slack so that you can appreciate what you’ve already achieved.

There’s an excellent thread that contains similar sentiments to the above from the Twitter account from the man himself.

THE FESTIVE LAYOFF AND PAYOFF

A little insight for those of you who like to be ‘on the go’ and for those of who like to try and foster good habits and routines. There’s something about this time of year that gives allowances to cut some slack for the likes of us and allows our foot to be taken off the gas a little. This sounds great in theory but it can still have it’s challenges.

There’s also something about this time of year, whereby a lot is built up preceding it and a lot of things are put off until after it.

Standards, whether they be eating, drinking, exercise, spending etc… all seem to slacken off in favour of the saying, “it’s Christmas!”

As enjoyable as this time of year is, it’s important to have something to go back to in terms of normality and structure once the holiday season has passed… it is for me anyway!

There is a risk of ending up in a bit of an over Indulgent limbo state that can be difficult and laborious to climb out of if not careful. Especially during that time period between Christmas and New Year when there’s a bit of a wind down and natural lull anyway.

A lot of things are put off until after Christmas, then all of sudden, the festivities are over, your diet isn’t great and you’ve probably drank and spent more than you normally would. To put the icing on the cake, you’ve also gifted yourself a bit of a hefty to do list as well!

Things will and do get back to normal, life is cyclical and this dance is played out year in, year out by many people the world over.

The most important thing for me is that I have a plan, a method, a way of thinking that gets me back in to the groove of normality that allows me to enjoy and appreciate these kind of moments again in the future.

New Year is a time for R and R for me, as in Refreshed Resilience!

SWITCHING FOCUS – Achieving Goals

Running the last kilometre or so of a run last week, not feeling my best due to a few days of bad eating and poor sleep routines.

I was on a long straight heading back toward my starting point on the long ‘street light corridor’. Feeling as I was, the end of the straight seemed like it would never be manageable or achievable, however it did give me something to aim for, an incentive of sorts.

This made me think about goals and achievements in general. If you fix your gaze too much on the end goal when you’re at the start of a journey, then there’s a chance that the goal may seem unattainable and overwhelming.

However, as long as you make cursory glances at the end goal but switch your focus back to the here and now regularly then the end goal seems more manageable. There’s even a chance that the journey will itself will engross you so much, that before you know it the end goal will be upon you in no time – you might even enjoy it!

Creating notches…

Driving home from work last week listening to Rich Roll Podcast (episode 630) with Mel Robbins, I had a little insight that I wanted get down and share.

During their conversation, the phrase, “creating notches” was used. It wasn’t meant as anything too significant in the context of the conversation but inadvertently, it did “create a notch” within me. I’m pretty sure the context of the conversation related to how certain experiences in your life have lasting effects and create near permanent notches within your psyche.

It occurred to me that during the years I’ve been reading and listening to various self development related materials, certian ideas, tools and models have stuck with me. In other words, a notch has been etched within me as a permanent reference for me to return back to.

This concept isn’t something I’ve ever really paid any mind to and I’m not sure how or why these notches are created.

Some things just seem to stand the test of time and stick with you. Quite often it will be part of a set of ideas / model and very rarely the whole thing being sold. As a result, I’ve ended up with a patchwork of different ideas and tools that are frequently added to, switched up and taken away.

One of the goals with any kind of learning, especially from a personal development perspective is to create these kind of notches. The rub so far as my own experience is that the creation of notches isn’t something that can be forced. Time plays a big part in this too as certain ideas and theories can take a little while to settle and germinate in your mind.

Below is a breakdown some the valuable tools that have stood the test of time for me:

1) GRATITUDE:

Practising Gratitude on a regular basis is something that I’ve found to be a really rewarding exercise. I don’t always manage to keep it up as much as I’d like to but I always come back to it.

Quite often it’s just as simple as writing down five things that I’m grateful for, whatever comes to mind at the time.

Doing this has a real impact on shifting my perspective for the day ahead, even if only for a few moments. It helps to give me a real grounding of appreciation.

2) BREATHING EXERCISES & COLD WATER EXPOSURE

These practices are primarily based on the The Wim Hof Method. There are lots of variations on breathing exercises but I tend to use 3 – 5 Round of 30 breaths with breath hold intervals as my go to.

This is the free guided breathing session that I use most often

The effect of these exercises definitely helps to calm me down and is almost meditative. For the moments you’re engaged in the breathing and breath holds, my mind doesn’t tend to wander and my focus aligns to the exercises.

As for the cold water exposure, this takes the form of cold showers or ice baths. I don’t tend to know the ins and outs of the science behind this but there’s something about this practice that really clears your mind and gives you clarity of thought.

After an ice bath for example, I really do feel more switched on and my mind feels so much more alert and ready.

3) EXERCISE

It’s probably becoming obvious that the tools that I find useful are not exactly new and ground breaking but they definitely work for me.

During the initial Covid lockdown, exercise became more of a staple of my life than it ever had before. During this period, exercise went from something I did fairly regularly, to something that now see as an essential, almost non negotiable part of my life.

The fact that I actually enjoy exercise in different forms, definitely helps me fulfil this new found obligation.

The benefits of exercise have been written about by more people than I care to imagine, but all I know for myself is that it works. It works to keep me feeling physically fit, it works to clear my mind, it works to de-stress, unclutter and ultimately make me feel at my best.

4) THOUGHT RECORDS

Loosely based on Cognitive Behaviour Techniques for managing thoughts. I use this tool as a way to make sense of things that I feel the need to unravel and clarify in my mind.

The main aim for me when jotting thoughts using this format is to identify what are called ‘Hot Thoughts’. Looking for evidence to support or negate these thoughts is also part of the process and helps me to obtain a more balanced and rational view of a situation.

My thinking and application of Thought Records was further developed in conjunction with some of the concepts from The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters. A favourite book of mine that I’ve revisited many times.

5) JOURNAL WRITING

This has taken many forms for me over the years but it has been very consistent.

I treat journal writing as a way to ’empty my mind’ and occasionally work things out. I’ve recently started to date my journal entries and bookmark any particular pertinent points or ‘mini breakthroughs / insights’ that I feel I have unearthed so that I can refer to them at a later date.

In terms of the format, I find that typing the written word flows much easier from mind to page than pen and paper. Having said that, I do have a place for pen and paper, especially when I feel as though I want to take more time to make sense of what I feel are more complicated issues.

Good old fashioned To Do Lists also have a place in my journal routine too.

I’m sure there’ll be more to add to this list as time goes on, but as it stands, these are the grooves in the record of my life that have been etched for a good while now.

Thoughts from ‘The Daily Stoic’

I’ve recently started reading The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and have decided to the share my thoughts on this particular of meditations that is poignant to me at the time of writing.

The book is formatted in a way so that each day of the year has a different message for you to digest and hopefully integrate in to your own life on a daily basis.

I’ve found the above quote and expansion by the author quite relevant to my current situation. In so much that it could possibly help get my diet back on track and keep my routine going regards my exercise regimen.

At the time of writing this, we as a family are undergoing a pretty invasive and disruptive house extension. It’s fair to say that our normal routine has been knocked for six somewhat, something that I’d struggle with at the best of times.

These circumstances have had many knock on effects, including my diet. The temptation to avoid preparing healthy food in favour of convenience is high and at some points almost unavoidable.

However, it’s still important for me to attempt to stay on track. I know myself and I know how my diet can affect my mood and wellbeing. I’m also very aware of the cyclic effect poor diet can have on my motivation and ability to exercise which can lead to further negative effects…

Basically the message to myself in light of the above excerpt and circumstances is;

Give myself some slack given what’s going on, but maintain awareness of what I’m eating. Be conscious to eat as healthy as possible and do not slip in to mindless eating of unhealthy, quick fix sugary snacks as the pay off is not worth the time saved or quick hit in the long run!

What I read, write and talk about when I…

‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ – Haruki Murakami

‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ – Haruki Murakami

I’ve read a few books about people who have undertaken athletic feats in various disciplines but this one stands out from the rest in many ways

First of all, it’s a relatively short book, only 170 or so pages. It’s also written in a low key, subtle style. All too often, books relating to endurance sports are filled with “lung busting, leg burning” anecdotes. This is fine and to be expected, but it was good to read this very personal journey of one man’s relationship to running and what it means to him in his life.

So many of the accounts in this book are relatable with regards to the physical aspects as well as mental aspects as to why people run and what it means to have running as a constant (almost necessary) theme in your life.

This book flows so easily and is a joy to read. It’s also sparked a need to exorcise some old demons when it comes to marathon running, I’ve got some unfinished business there I think!

Definitely worth picking up if you’re a runner, a Murikami fan or both

Check out our Book List for other titles that will get reviewed in good time.

Trading the Treadmill for the Trees

Bit of an off the cuff post about a workout I did earlier today…

I always had it in my head to finish the session with a run on the treadmill for 20 mins or so, nothing too specific.

On this rare occasion though, time was on my side and I thought, why not get a 5k in outside at the end of the workout instead!? Not being a massive fan of treadmills in general, plus the fact the weather was pretty great, it was a no brainer.

At the end of it, I got my outdoor running hit in abundance. Something that treadmill running just can’t provide. There’s definitely no competition between the two for me, as most will surely agree. Whether it’s a sensory thing, the uneven ground working your muscles in a different way, the outside air or the fact it’s not boring as hell, outdoor running just can’t be beaten.

So, next time you’re finishing a gym session with a bit of cardio, try going outside to change things up a bit and take in the outside air instead counting the numbers on the screen.