YOU NEED TO EXERCISE THESE MUSCLES!๐Ÿ’ช

I go to the gym roughly 3 to 5 days a week. I do so more for mental than physical reasons. I find working out to be one of the best stress relief tools. Breaking a sweat releases endorphins which make us feel good. I do my best to hit every area of the body, but I discovered I am missing some of the most important muscles.

This is CJ Fletcher, one of the fitness people I enjoy listening to. He, like myself, had open-heart surgery. He, like myself, died on the table. He did it 3 times, however! When he came back he was more determined than ever. He blends fitness with motivational and educational messages here.

This is Tony Robbins, the man who first got me interested in self-improvement over 20 years ago. CJ and Tony both mentioned working some muscles we don’t think of. When you work your arms, the more you do it, the stronger it becomes. When that happens, it can handle a bigger load. The same is true for your legs, your abs, your back and any other of the physical muscles. Most of us know this.

What we might not think of is the same holds true of our spiritual, mental and emotional muscles as well. The more we practice being patient, the better we become. The more patient we become, the bigger load our patience can handle. In our modern world, that’s a good thing. Before you run out to wait at the DMV, be aware there will be plenty of opportunities to workout this muscle presented to you. At the grocery store and the little old lady ahead of you has 50 coupons? You are working out. Waiting for your coffee and the person ahead of you has been arguing that they did not get 5.78 ice cubes? Yep, you’re working out.

It is not just patience that you can workout. Controlling your temper? That’s a good workout. Learning how to love your partner better? That’s a workout! There are so many muscles to be worked out that we might not think of. When life seems to be giving us a hard time, step back, take a breath and say, “thanks for the workout! I’ll be stronger next time!”

YOU NEED ONE OF THESE

Yesterday, I took a rest day. To be honest, I’m not very good at that. Today, I’m feeling rather healthy, and even more important, happy. In physical fitness, they always recommend you take a day off to let your body heal. I believe the same is true for your mind and your spirit. Even the toughest of us need a chance to catch our breath.

So, go ahead. Take a rest day. You deserve it.

WHY I LOVE PAIN

This title may be a little misleading. I do not actually love pain. Especially in the moment. I am not sure anyone does. What I do feel is respect for pain. I know in pain and darkness is where some of the greatest growth happens. I was reminded of this late last week. It is fairly obvious when it comes to physical fitness. The pain you feel in your muscles is what proceeds the growth of new muscle. The pain of deprivation and self-sacrifice when you are improving your diet will lead to the growth of a healthier you. These are all pretty obvious situations. Sometimes pain is sneaky and the growth is not so easy to understand until you can look back.

Last week I had one of those sneaky moments. I am still not 100% sure why, but I am guessing a host of personal situations that occurred had me feeling down. It can be quite frustrating when you feel down and you just can’t put your finger on exactly why. I decided to get some writing done. I went to the local coffee shop and started to write some blogs. They felt a little dark, but they were very introspective. After I was done writing, it occurred to me that often this can be the result of me feeling in a funk. I get in my own head and really start thinking about my life and how I am living it. Then, I come up with some pretty interesting conclusions. Ones that would probably not have come to me if I was running around with a smile on my face and in my heart.

Many people assume that being happy 100% of the time should be a goal. I disagree. I think a little pain is good for us all. What we should try to do is limit the duration and frequency of that pain. On the other end of the spectrum, we should try to maximize the profitability of our pain. What I mean by that is we should try to get the most out of a painful situation. It can be tempting to wallow in self-pity or sadness. I know just as well as anyone how good that can feel. Here is a little secret, it doesn’t get you very far. Certainly, give those feelings their due, but then put them to work for you. Suffering the pain of regret after losing someone? Let it be the kick in the butt to be more loving to those you still have. Sad because the person you thought you would be with forever had a far shorter definition of the word than you did? Learn from that. Were there red flags you overlooked? Is there something you can improve about yourself?

Pain can suck. There is no way around that. What makes it ten times worse, is if you don’t get anything out of it. Imagine going to the gym once, feeling sore, waiting weeks until you feel better and then repeating it. Not only would you feel sore again, you would not be any closer to being in shape. The pain of losing a job for being late and then showing up 30 minutes after the start time for your new job. None of this would make sense. Put pain to work for you. Don’t let it run you!

WHICH PAIN WILL YOU CHOOSE TODAY?๐Ÿค”

It is Monday, and that can be a pain. People generally focus on what is causing them pain in their lives. Why? In a physical sense, it can be pretty hard to ignore. When the pain is mental or emotional, it can be overwhelming.

The bad news first, there will always be pain in your life. Pretty inspiring for a Monday, right? Pain is not always a bad thing. It can be one of life’s greatest teachers. It can let us know when something is not right in our lives. This can be the pain of a physical injury, where our body is letting us know something is wrong. Even the heartache of a toxic relationship is pain that is telling us that person is not right for us.

The good news is that in many ways you can choose your pain. In most cases this comes down to the decision of the pain of discipline verses the pain of regret. I am forever reminding Margie that “discipline equals freedom” a quote I stole from Jocko Willink. So much so, she probably is sick of hearing it. That does not make it any less true. If we choose to skip the initial pain of discipline, we will have to face the pain of regret.

Let us look at our examples above. In the case of a physical injury, physical therapy and doing exercises can be painful. If we do not do them, we could heal incorrectly and suffer the pain of regret. Toxic relationship? Breaking up with someone can be hard and painful. Staying in that relationship can have us waking up to the pain of regret with every painful episode.

How about you? Are there disciplines you are putting off because they are painful? Not disciplined in your fitness because you “don’t have time” or it is “too hard”. Let me tell you from experience. The pain of a good workout goes away in time. The pain of being out of shape is something you have to deal with daily. Not disciplined in your diet because you would just rather “eat what you like. ” or “eat what tastes good.” Then you must suffer the regret of all the pains an unhealthy diet give you. These pains, such as heart disease, can be fatal.

This week, if you find yourself trying to get out of the pain of discipline,ask yourself what the pain of regret will be if you don’t follow through. Be honest with yourself. The pain of missing just one workout or the pain of eating just one doughnut can lead to the regret of choosing bad habits over good ones.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE PATIENT

It is the middle of the week. Might even be the middle of the day when you read this. It might be the middle of your life. I bet, if you are any kind of achiever, there are a few things you expected to have done by now that are not complete. Usually, this leads to a feeling of frustration. This feeling seems to grow as does the time since you began work on this goal/project. I get it. I’ve been there myself and still experience this. Especially, when it is something I am excited to achieve and complete.

What can we do to remain patient and, more to the point, sane while we are waiting for this goal to manifest? Also, what does this picture of my hiking path I took the other day have to to do with any of this? The answer is in the first picture. “The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” This is easy to understand when it comes to growing fruit, but not so easy when it comes to reaching goals.

What can we do if we want the fruit to grow faster? We can make sure it has the right amount of sunlight and water. In other words, make sure it has all the ingredients to help it grow as quickly and as strong as it can. What else could we do? We can remove any rocks or weeds around it. In this case, removing any obstacles that will prevent its growth.

On the other hand, what happens if we try too hard? What happens if we just keep pouring water on the seed? What happens if we put it in the sun too long? It will either flood or dry out in either case it will die.

You may be thinking “that’s great Neil, but I’m not trying to grow a plant!” Whether you are starting your own business, trying to get in shape, or learn a new skill, the answer is the same. Once we begin,or plant the seed, there is only so much we can do. We can work on creating an environment that will make it likely our goal will succeed as soon as possible. Just like watering and making sure our seed has enough sun. If we overdue it, like flooding our seed, it may kill our goal. Think of checking in on other parties that are involved in our goal. Do that once a week or so, it may remind and motivate them. Do it once an hour and you will lose their assistance.

How about removing the rocks and weeds? We can remove obstacles that may prevent our goals. Get all the junk food out of the house if you are trying to eat better. Does this mean you will be skinny tomorrow? Of course not. Does it make it less likely you will fall victim to temptation? Absolutely. Are you more likely to eat junk if you have to get dressed and drive to the store to get it or if you can stay in your pajamas and walk to the fridge?

Just like the tree in this picture, to grow it takes time. Sure, the tree will grow quicker if it has the right amount of sun and water. It will be more likely to grow if all the rocks and weeds are away from the soil. However, it will still take time. Not only does the time it takes a tree to grow vary according to the type of tree,just like it varies depending on what goal you are working on. It also can vary according to the individual tree and the environment it is growing in. Just like the same goal can vary from person to person.

When you find yourself growing impatient, work on both improving the environment and removing obstacles for your goal. When you have done that and your goal has still not manifested, repeat to yourself, “The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” When you have been eating good and putting in the effort at the gym, but you feel like your getting nowhere, say this to yourself. You never now what it happening with the seed under the soil.

HEY BUDDY! THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER!

Today will be a quick, yet important blog. I want to remind everyone how vital our simple acts of kindness can be. A few posts ago, I did this by sharing stories of some nice notes left to me from a coworker and barista. Today’s example was far more striking.

This example came in one line that was uttered to me. Margie told me it was common courtesy. I’m telling you it really saved me from a bad situation. I was at the gym working out some stress as I do 4 to 5 days a week. Before I left there was an urgent matter I had to attend to on the men’s room. As I walked past the first stall, I noticed the door was closed and it was occupied. I hurried to the next one and was just about to take my place upon the porcelain throne, when a voice from the stall next to me rang out. Taking to a stranger while sitting in what is perhaps the most vulnerable position takes some courage. For men, even more so. What important words of wisdom did this gent feel so eager to share with me? That would be the title of this blog. The man shouted “Hey buddy! There is no toilet paper!”

He did not have to do this. I was sure glad he did. In my excitement at the prospect of handling my business, I had failed to check the toilet paper supply situation. This gentleman saved what could have been a quite embarrassing moment for me. Having to yell out, get someone’s attention to let them know there was no toilet paper,wait for that person to tell the appropriate party, and then wait for them to get the paper and hand it to me in the stall. Yes, that might have cast a long shadow on the day.

That man in the other stall, never did see who he was, saved me from a bad day by simply displaying a common courtesy. Not a big deal for him, but certainly one for me. Remember this comical story as you go about your day and make sure to go the extra mile for the people in your life.

GO FROM HATE TO LOVE

Here in the northern hemisphere spring has arrived and summer is well on its way. If you are anything like myself you have noticed that you have a way to go until you have a body you are happy to show off in the warm rays of the summer sun. In today’s society it can seem like second nature to put ourselves down when it comes to our personal appearance. With everyone sharing their absolute best pictures on social median and celebrities going as far as photoshopping and air-brushing their pictures, it can be easy to feel inadequate. What, if anything does that get us?

Let me ask you this question, who would you do more for, someone you love or someone you hate? The answer here is an obvious one. You would do far more for someone you love. The same can be said for yourself. Last year, I had made a habit of going to the gym or some type of fitness 5 days a week. I was starting to get excited about my progress. January brought open heart surgery and required rest and time away from the gym. It has been almost 3 months since I was going 5 days a week. It is amazing how quickly your body can go downhill and how long it can take to get back to where you were. This cannot only be frustrating, it can be downright depressing. This can cause us to lash out in anger and frustration. Oddly enough, the recipient of this harsh talk and criticism is the person in the mirror. You are about to get in the shower and you glass in the mirror and hate what you see. You are not alone and this happens to far more of us than you can imagine.

You might not even be aware of the negative self-talk you engage in. That is the first step. Notice what you are saying to that image in the mirror. Is it along the lines of “Wow I have a big belly” “I look fat.” or even the less harsh sounding “I sure used to look better.” With statements like that, people end up viewing their body as an enemy. Something that is working against them. Maybe even someone who played a cruel trick on them. Instead, try focusing on something you like about yourself. Do you have a beautiful smile? Do you love your voice? Are your calves sexy? Then, simply say to yourself, or out loud if you are feeling brave, “I love my body. I will do better.”

This may sound like a lie and be hard to believe at first, but keep it up. When we are not healthy, it can be easy to focus on what our bodies are not capable of. We do no run as fast as we would like. We can’t lift as much as we wish we could. To, of course, we can’t fit into those jeans from 3 years ago. What we forget is all of the wonderful things our body does to for us. It gets us from point A to point B. Sure, it might not be as quick or as graceful as we would like, but it does the job. We can pick up things we drop. We can hug ones we love. Our body does a million different things we can be grateful for, if only we choose to be. Imagine if we started that? I say next time you catch yourself looking in the mirror, find at least one thing you love about yourself and your body or at the very least one thing that it allows you to do that you are grateful for. Say that to yourself or out loud and then follow it with telling your body that you love it.

One of the great side effects of this is how you start treating your body. You may pause when you are tempted to fill it up with garbage. Calories that add weight, but lacking the nutrition to supply the system with what it needs. Even if you do, you may find it easier to take a walk after dinner. It might even make you a little sore depending on your fitness level. Deep down you know it is for the best. That is called “Tough Love”. You owe yourself a little of this as well. I can understand how easy it is to get frustrated when the results do not come as quickly as you would like. Ask yourself this question when you feel like quitting, “Would you give up on someone you love?” Of course you wouldn’t. Don’t give up on yourself either. You got this and we are here to support you.

WHEN AND WHERE TO START IMPROVING YOUR LIFE

I love this quote by Jocko Willink. Why? Because all too many of us are guilty of it, myself included. I get it, you don’t want to waste time or action. You want to discover the action that is going to give you the greatest return. Here is a secret – that action is the one you take. You might be asking, “What if I take the wrong action?” I can promise you that you will find out a lot quicker if it is, or is not, the right action by taking it. Not only can you then take corrective action, but you will have learned valuable information on what does not work and why in the process. Plus, as we discussed in the last post, you begin to gain momentum. Even seeing little successes can help you push through and tweak what does not work.

Still find yourself paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong thing? Let me tell you, doing nothing is the wrong thing. You may be trying to find the spark that disappeared from your relationship and are worried that if you do the wrong thing, it may push that spark further away. If you do nothing, and nothing changes in your relationship, that person’s emotions will continue to slowly fade. Even if you do the wrong thing with the best of intentions, they see that you are trying. Nothing stays the same. It is either getting better or getting worse. Take your health for example. Many people reading this post will have the New Year’s resolution to get in shape. In the next month and a half, not working on improving your health can have disastrous consequences. Those extra pounds around the midsection, that extra daily stress, that unhealthy diet or sedentary lifestyle will continue to slowly, or not so slowly affect you. If you start now, you can find what does and does not work for you. Rather than waiting to start until the New Year, make it your goal to be living a healthier lifestyle by the New Year.

Choices in life can be confusing. What is not, is the choice whether to act or not. Jump in with both feet. You will not drown, but you will figure out how to swim in a hurry. You cannot learn standing on the shore. You may swallow some water, especially early on, but you will get there. Here is another powerful thought to keep in mind. The quicker you start, the quicker you will arrive. You can read about something all you want, and you should, but do so as you are taking action. Learn from your actions as well as your research. When is the best time to start? Now. Where is the best place to start? Right here.

HERE’S THE SECRET TO SUCCESS – JUST START!

Most of us know a great deal of things that would help our lives be better than the one we are currently living. We may even know some of the steps we should take to increase the quality of our life. Yet, even armed with this knowledge, many of us don’t take those actions. As a life coach and self-improvement author, this can be one of the most frustrating things I encounter. So much so, it is often a subject of discussion with my friend Nick when we get together for coffee. The million dollar question is “If people know what to do to improve their lives, and they even know how to do it, then why are they not doing it?”

The answers can seem as complicated and wide-ranging as the people who have them. If we boil it down to the facts, it usually falls into one of two categories. How do I know this? First of all, through this website I communicate with people in over 150 different countries. These include people of all different ages, cultures and geographies. I also connect with many people at book signings and seminars. Plus, I find myself falling victim to this on occasion. If you think it is frustrating wondering why people you are coaching will not take the actions they know will improve their lives, imagine how frustrating it is when you, the coach, do not do it.

Let us look at the reasons why people will not take the actions that they know will make them happier, healthier, wealthier or whatever improvement they are looking to make. The first one is overwhelm. This is one I often suffer from. We tend to look at the entire process instead of the first step. I want to get healthy but I am going to have to eat more vegetables everyday, workout 5 days a week, drink more water and less soda. STOP! Start by making one simple change. Maybe after, or even before, dinner go for a walk around the block. This may seem insignificant but it serves many purposes. It gets the ball rolling. It starts to build momentum. Same can be said for wanting to write a book. You may think of the hours, days, months and sometimes years it will take to complete. Trust me on this one. Instead, just commit to sitting down and writing 1000 words. In many cases, you may find that this progress is moving a little too slow for you and you will find yourself pushing to do more. Add a healthy meal once a week, type 1000 words several times a week. As we mentioned before, you gain momentum.

The danger in this is on occasion the progress can seem so slow that we give up. That is because we forget our why. I have written several posts on the importance of having a strong why. I devote a whole section of it in my new book Living the Dream. For the sake of brevity, we are going to look at how to keep our why strong. The secret is to keep it in front of you. There are 2 ways you can do this, and I highly suggest you make use of both of them. We are motivated as humans in 2 ways – our desire to experience pleasure and to avoid pain. When it comes to motivating ourselves, we should use both. There is no sense in throwing away 50% of our motivation. Let us say our goal is to lose weight. Find a picture of yourself that you do not like. Couple that with a picture of your goal weight. If you don’t have one of yourself, you can find a picture of who you would like to become. Worried about not being healthy for your children or grandchildren? Maybe a picture of them would motivate you as well. You can use these same techniques for any goal you have. Many of you may say “How could I forget why I want to be healthy, I see it in the mirror everyday.” I will be the first to agree that life has a way of reminding us of situations where we might not be quite at our goals. I also know that sometimes I walk into a room and forget why I am there. It is easy to forget that we are pained with how we look in pictures and how much we want to change when there are doughnuts sitting in the break room. Keeping a visual reminder of our goals in front of us increases our chances of success significantly.

When it comes to our goals, remember it is important to just start. I love increasing my happiness and joy in my life. I saw this picture at a place Margie and I like to eat and it made me laugh. Not sure why it seemed so funny to me, but it did. I decided to take a picture of it to look at on occasion and make me laugh. Do the same with your goals. Add one thing, one simple thing. Do this over and over again. You will start to build momentum and it will gradually become easier. Also, be kind to yourself. If you forget, if you mess up do not beat yourself up. Success is seldom and linear journey. Just recommit and refocus. Keeping a picture of our goals in front of us will help that. Do your best to include the pain of what will happen if you do not reach your goal as well as the pleasure of what will happen if you do. Don’t concern yourself with everything you have to do to reach your goal, just start by doing something. You will not only feel better, you will be one step closer to success.

MAKE YOUR HABITS STICK

Last post we looked at why developing winning habits is so important and how they can have a dramatic impact on our lives. The million dollar question is how can we be motivated to make those habits stick, especially in the moments we really don’t feel like doing them. This can be true early on. After a habit becomes a part of our life, it is usually much easier to stick with. Some habits you will even come to find yourself looking forward to and end up feeling like something is missing when you don’t do them. We are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us back up and tackle the question as to how we can maintain our level of commitment and enthusiasm for our daily winning habits.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is right at the beginning. When we are putting a new habit in place in our lives, we need to have a strong enough ‘why’. Let us use the example of eating healthier. If we are doing it because we know we should or simply that it would be good for us, that is not a very powerful why. Will this reason hold up when you find out the local pizza place has buy one get one free and you are tired from a hard days work? I am guessing not. Before we put our new healthy habits in place and make them a part of our lives, we need to become emotionally attached to why we are doing them. It is simply not enough to know on an intellectual level why what we are doing is beneficial for us. In order to stick to our winning habits, especially in tough times, we need to become emotionally invested in the outcome. Let us take a look at a few ways in which we can do that.

One of the most powerful things we can do is to really get clear as to not only what pleasurable and positive things will happen by us sticking with our new winning habit, but also what painful and negative things will happen if we do not stick with this habit. Using both will not only double our motivation, but will help us be motivated in an entirely different light. Most of us tend to use only the former and forget the latter. Take trying to quit smoking for example. Some of the reasons you may list for you ‘why’ is as follows. I will be able to breathe better and do more things without becoming so winded. I will stink less and be more attractive to others, especially those who do not smoke. My skin will age less rapidly. My immune system will be stronger and I will be able to fight off sickness better. All very good and helpful reasons to quite smoking. Let us look at examples of what would happen if we don’t stop smoking. These can often be discovered by taking to opposite of our positive statements. I will miss out on playing with my children and grand children because I will be too winded to keep up. In several year, or less, I will have to depend on oxygen and not be able to breathe on my own. I will meet the person of my dreams but they will be sick from the smell of cigarettes on my clothes and hair. My skin will dry, have more wrinkles and I will look older than I am. My immune system will be so weak I will spend more days sick than healthy. I will not be able to taste and appreciate some of the wonderful food I enjoy.

Some people may consider looking at the negative aspect of not achieving your goal or sticking to your habit as ‘scaring yourself’. In a way that is true, but when we are looking to transform our lives in a positive way, we need to use both the carrot and the stick. Both hope and fear are great motivators and should both be employed.

Another great motivational tool is considering something that may be more important to us than ourselves. For parents, this is hopefully their children. These quotes in the pictures above paint a pretty honest picture. You can tell your children how it is important it is to eat right and not to spend all of their time in front of the television or on their phone playing video games. If, however, they watch their parents spend hours a day on Facebook, twitter and other social media platforms while having a coffee and doughnuts for breakfast. What we say goes so far. When faced with believing someone’s words or actions, especially if they contradict, people will always believe actions. This holds true not only for children, but for our friends and coworkers and other people who observe us. If you want to be known as a great spouse and you are consistently posting loving words on social media, but when people see you out together you are disrespectful to your spouse, which one are they more likely to believe? When you are busy lecturing your children on the importance of good health and finances, make sure you are showing them as well. That is even more important.

So when the temptation to stray from the path of the winning habit creeps in, remember your ‘why’. If you have had a stressful day and your are tempted to light up, picture and really think about both running around playing with your grandchildren as well as laying in a hospital bed not being able to breathe on your own. It will certainly make it easier to find an alternative to that cigarette. Free doughnuts in the breakroom? Imagine your children following in your footsteps on unhealthy dietary habits and what that will mean for their lives going forward. It is important to use every means at our disposal for changing our healthy habits. We will not only be transforming our own lives, but you never know who may be watching us as well.