Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Archive for the ‘Goal Setting’ Category

Don’t Compare Yourself With Anyone

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As we strive to improve ourselves, it is tempting to compare ourselves with others. No matter how much we are failing, there will be someone else we can look at and tell ourselves that at least we are doing better than them. On the flip side, it is also true that no matter how successful we are, there will be someone else doing better.

Comparing ourselves with others is a destructive habit. It can prevent us from pushing forward when faced with failure and it can be demotivating when we are succeeding.

When you compare yourself with someone else, you are not seeing the whole truth. Everyone is different, with different motivations, advantages, backgrounds and strengths. Someone who is doing better than you at one aspect of life, may be struggling in others where you excel. A person who is failing where you are doing well, may not place the same level of importance on that particular endeavor. Whatever the differences, when you compare yourself to someone else, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The better approach is to look to others for inspiration and strategies. It is not only acceptable to look to others for ideas, it is required to succeed. The difference is that you need to be more concerned with the behaviors than the results. Ask yourself: What is the other person doing that contributed to their success and is this a behavior I can adopt?

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

June 11, 2014 at 7:42 am

Change Your Mind, Change Your Body

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Living a healthy and fit lifestyle requires a constant and high level of effort. For those of us who were not raised in an environment that promoted exercise and and healthy diet, there can be a persistent pull to return to old habits. As much as we know that a healthy lifestyle is not temporary, our habits and conditioning will take much longer to adjust.

It can be exhausting to consciously push myself on a daily basis to get my workout done and to avoid certain foods. It has gotten easier but I wish the urge to exercise was as natural as my urge to sit on the couch and just watch TV. I wish I craved broccoli or spinach as much as do cheesecake or pizza.

When I see someone who is obese eating foods that contribute to their life threatening condition, I can relate. I get it. I can’t judge because if it were not for being exposed to positive influences, that would be me. From a genetic and environmental standpoint, I should be about 300 pounds, suffering from diabetes and dealing with a number of other health issues.

What keeps me going is knowing what is true. I don’t think that if I gave up I may end up overweight and prematurely die – I know that it will happen. I don’t think that eating right and exercise may keep me in shape – I know that it will. I have learned to avoid the soft words – could, would, should, may and I try to frame things in definite terms. I will exercise and eat right or I will suffer and die.

Knowing, without a doubt, the paths that are available to me has pushed to go beyond what is needed to be healthy and fit. With my risk factors, I can’t afford to be on the line between healthy and unhealthy lifestyles. I have to stay as far away from that line as possible. If 20% body fat is healthy, than I’ll strive for 10%. If exercising 3 times per week is part of healthy lifestyle, than I’ll exercise 5 times per week. If 80% compliance to eating healthy is good enough, than I’ll strive for 95%.

I believe the reason why so many people struggle to get healthy and fit is that they think too small and too big. They overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term and they underestimate what they can accomplish in the long term.

I knew an obese woman, who must been about 220 pounds, say that if she got down to 180 pounds she would be happy. That still about have been over 50 pounds overweight. If she had accomplished that, it would have been a great accomplishment, but what do you think would happen when she hit that goal? She would struggle to maintain that weight and with the lack of something to strive for she would eventually gain the weight back and then some.

Another thing that bothers me it that she put weight loss as a prerequisite for happiness. Happiness is not related to how much you weigh. Being healthy and fit can help you be happy, but ultimately, happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy at 300 pounds and you can choose to be miserable when you are lean and fit. She got it in reverse. Getting fit is not be a prerequisite for happiness. Happiness is a prerequisite to getting fit. When you choose to take action to improve your live, you can choose to be happy about the journey.

When I first started on my fitness journey, I looked for something visual to focus on as a marker for what I wanted to achieve. I picked the Men’s Health magazine with Ryan Reynolds on the cover as something to strive for. I decided that was going to be the level of leanness I was looking for. As out of shape as I was, most people would have considered that unrealistic, but when I chose that cover as a visual goal, I knew without a doubt I was going to achieve it. To be accurate, I knew without a doubt that I was going to take the actions I needed that would get me to that level of leanness – whether or not I achieved it was irrelevant.

I had thought that I was choosing a goal that would keep me busy for the next five to ten years. I met my goal in one year. From looking at the cover, I would guess that his body fat percentage was between 10-12%. I believe I hit 10% this past January – it’s hard to know for sure as the calipers I use are not that accurate at that level of leanness but at this point losing any more fat has to be judged by how I look in the mirror – if I choose to continue.

Even thought I did accomplish it in one year, If I had decided to hit my goal in one year, I probably would have failed. During the process, every time I had a set-back, I would tell myself that I was in this for the long term and that I would succeed and with every step forward I would feel a sense of accomplishment that I was progressing. With that mindset I did not rush and I was not forced to starve myself.

The real secret to my success was in setting a definite path. When I started, I thought really hard about what it would take to accomplish my goal. I also took an honest assessment of my limitations. I knew that I had a tendency to be really enthusiastic at the start but then would lose interest over time. I decided then that if I did lose interest that I would continue anyway. I realized at the start that my ability to keep going when I did not feel like it was going to be the reason I succeeded or failed. With that in mind, every time I exercise when I did not feel like it, I gave myself extra credit.

The day you exercise when you don’t feel like it is worth more than ten days you exercise when you are eager to do so. That day you refrain from eating unhealthy foods when your cravings are almost unbearable is many times more important than those days when there are no temptations.

When we give in to our urge to miss a workout or eat unhealthy foods, we miss out on an opportunity to grow.

I apologize for rambling in this post but it is difficult to write in words the inner challenges we must face when making lifestyle changes. Anyone who ever succeeded has had to figure out how to address the internal changes they must make to achieve their goal. To succeed in adopting a healthy and fit lifestyle is more about what is going on in your head than it is about exercise or diet.

 

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

June 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

Too Busy to Exercise? Not an Excuse

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Everybody gets the same 24 hours and while you may think your circumstances are special, they probably aren’t. The truth is that whatever you have going on in your life, there are very few things more important than your health. If you have to drop another goal or activity in your life to make time for exercise, so be it.

Now the good news. One of the benefits of physical fitness and regular exercise is that you increase you ability to do everything else. A fit person can get more done in less time than someone who is out of shape. Fit people learn faster, make decisions faster, work faster and move faster. If you commit to exercise an hour per day, you will end up with more time, not less.

The bottom line is – you are too busy not to exercise.

Unfortunately, if you are currently out of shape, the transition from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy active lifestyle can be a drain on your time and energy. You will lose time and the amount of time you lose will be related to how out of shape you are. You can adopt a strategy of slowly transitioning over a long period of time, but you risk losing interest and motivation when results are hard to see.

I suggest committing fully to a fitness schedule regardless of the short term costs. You are going to under perform in some areas of your life while you are going through this transition but the payoff after a few months of regular exercise will outweigh the negative aspects.

For example, lets say you have an opportunity to increase your status at work by working extra hours on a project. You may even get a promotion if you really shine on this project. I’m suggesting that you risk taking full advantage of this opportunity while you transition to a healthy lifestyle.

Living a happy, fulfilling life requires that we focus our time and effort on activities that contribute to our long term happiness. We have to resist the urge to only focus on the things in our lives in the present. The urgent but less important should not be done at the expense of critical, long term goals.

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

May 21, 2014 at 8:36 am

Posted in Fitness, Goal Setting, Life

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Self Discipline Can Be Developed

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There’s a common misconception that your amount of self discipline is a trait you are born with and can’t be developed. Try telling that to the military which repeatedly turns fresh recruits into strong soldiers.

Sure genetics are a factor, but self discipline is more a result of influence and circumstance than genes. I personally know a set of identical twins who have radically different levels of self discipline. One is hard working family man who gets up every day and goes to work and also keeps his yard well groomed. The other can’t keep a job and routinely blows off work and family.

The first step to developing self discipline is to be honest with yourself and taking complete responsibility for your behavior. There may be many external factors that have had a negative impact on your self discipline, but you can decide to take action now to build self discipline.

Create a list the behaviors you would like to develop. For example, if you have a habit of being late for work, you might want to add “Get to work on time everyday”.

When you have your list, pick the behavior you would like to develop first. It is important to pick  a behavior that is not dependent on another behavior you need to develop. You can’t decide to go running everyday at 6AM if you currently have a problem with getting up before 8 AM. I’m not saying you can strive to do both, but your immediate focus should be on getting up early.

The next step is to track your compliance to the new behavior or habit. You can mark it down on a calendar, smart phone or online log. Whatever tool you use, make sure you are consistent and track whether or not you did what you are tracking. The goal is to try to have as many successful consecutive days as you can.

How many days it will take to develop the habit varies from person to person and habit to habit. There’s this belief that it take 21 days to form a new habit but in truth it can vary from 10 day to a year or more. In general, the easier it is to perform the habit action, the shorter the time it takes to develop the habit. Deciding to eat an apple everyday is going to take less time to make a habit than it would be to run a mile everyday.

When I first started trying to develop the habit of exercising everyday, I failed repeatedly for a couple of months before I was able to consistently exercise every day. Even then, it was still an act of will to keep doing it. It took me 6 months before it became a habit. Now I would find it uncomfortable to miss a workout.

I’ve read a few great books about how to form habits. My favorite is the Habit Factor because it is concise and easy to follow. There is even a companion app you can install on your smart phone to help you track your habit streaks. I highly recommend using a habit tracking app even if you track your habits on a more general purpose application. For some, paper and pencil is the best approach – it’s up to you.

 

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 28, 2014 at 8:11 am

Become Who You Were Meant To Be

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When getting assistance from a mentor or a coach, one may will take offense that they are being told to change who they are. But they are mistaken to feel that way.

Each of us is born with a blueprint of the person we are supposed to be. When we are young, it is obvious that we need to grow into that person. Children accept that learning and growth is part of their lives. But at some arbitrary age, society labels us as “adults”. We are considered matured and done with learning and  growing.

The truth is that we are is defined by the entirety of lives and the legacy we leave. We are not simply who we are when we reach a certain age. When we,  even as adults, continue to learn and grow, we are striving to become the person we were meant to be.

Even though I am over 40, I continue to find new ways to learn and grow. My behaviors and habits are not the same as they were twenty years ago or even just a year ago. However, I feel more at ease with who I am with the new behaviors and I’m excited to learn more about myself as I try new things.

When people reject opportunities to learn and grown, they are not defending who they are, but rather stopping themselves from being the person they were meant to be.

 

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 23, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Fitness Knowledge is Power

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One of the key factors to getting in shape is knowledge. It doesn’t matter what program or routine you are trying out, if you don’t acquire the right knowledge about fitness, diet and exercise you will fail. With the Internet, there is no excuse for not having access to knowledge. I just Google the term “weight loss” and the first link I saw was http://www.webmd.com/diet/. I went to that page and found a great deal of information – more than I could read in one sitting.

But don’t stop at the first site you see. Keep looking. Your journey should be a constant process of discovery. You need to find out what works best for you. The common advice will get you where you want to go but you may also find tips and tricks that speeds up the process or fits your lifestyle better.

Knowledge is power. I don’t provide a lot of detailed advice on my blog because I know how easy it is to find. I can tell you that you need to avoid sugar but if you want to learn why you can find that information easily.

Learning what exercises to do or what foods to eat is not the hard part. The most difficult aspect of getting in shape is figuring out for yourself how to keep going. What level of progression is too fast or too slow depends on the individual. I’ve pushed myself too hard on occasion and paid the price but I had to find out what my limits are. No book, video or magazine article is going to tell me how much I can take.

The acquisition of knowledge is not just about techniques and strategies. You also need to gain, what I’m going to call, motivational knowledge. Humans learn best by watching others. If we someone else doing something that helps us believe that we can do it. For this reason, I routinely look for success stories and motivation videos online. Go to YouTube and search the term “fitness motivation” and you will find thousands of videos of people working out or offering words of encouragement. Sure some of it may be over the top and extreme, but in the quest to get motivated you often have to witness the fringes of what’s possible.

The answers are out there. You just need to go find them.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

How To Keep Going When You Aren’t Feeling It

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For the past few days, I haven’t been feeling the excitement that I usually feel as I move towards my fitness goals. I’ve hit a plateau in my strength training and my percentage of body fat is so low that progress in that area is not perceptible. In other words, I’m in the best position to take it to the next level.

I’m at the point where most people give up. I know that moving forward when I’m not feeling it, is what success is all about. When I look at myself in the mirror, it’s obvious that I’ve achieved a level of fitness higher than most men in their 40’s. In my current circle of family and friends I’m at the top of the fitness curve even when I factor in the younger members.

The thing that keeps me going is that I know I can do better and I want to do better. The standards of the community are not as important as my standards for myself. It would be easy to take it easy knowing that I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished, but that’s not the path I’ve chosen.

I’m not a competitive bodybuilder or fitness model. I have little extrinsic motivation to push myself beyond what is needed for general fitness and health.  But I know if I stop pushing forward when I have more to give, I’ll be disappointed. I’ll always wonder what I could have achieved.

When you are not feeling it, know that you are at the point of greatest potential. This is the beginning of your journey, not the end. If you get past this slump, you will have achieved something beyond your usual limits. Once you do that, you will question other limits you think you have.

I know this because I’ve gone past other self-imposed limits before. I remember feeling like I was done and that I couldn’t possibly move forward, but I kept going anyway and found I was just getting started. The first time I did that, it was a life changing experience and made me question the limits of what I could achieve.

When you  aren’t feeling that the excitement and passion that got you started, this is when you must lean into it and embrace the challenge of getting past it. Once you do, you’ll find a new and deeper level of passion and determination that will drive you even further towards your goals.

 

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 11, 2014 at 8:27 am