Wednesday, 22 August 2012

zen habits: Building Your Strength In The Present Moment

zen habits: Building Your Strength In The Present Moment

Building Your Strength In The Present Moment

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from JC Deen, author of LGN365: A Complete Body-Recomposition Course.

I want you to try something for me. Read the instructions first, and then give it a go.


Close your eyes and be very deliberate with your thoughts. I don’t want you to think about what happened yesterday, or what you plan on doing later today.

Do nothing but focus on your breathing, counting each inhalation and exhalation as 1 breath.

Count  1 … 2 … 3 … and so forth.

Set a timer on your smartphone and do this for the next sixty seconds.

Okay go.

All right, so now that you’re reading again, if you made it the entire minute without interruption, congratulations. You’re doing very well when it comes to giving deliberate focus to your daily tasks and objectives.

However, I imagine your mind wandered far past counting your breaths. If you’re like most people (myself included), you were inundated with thoughts of your to-do list, what you’re going to eat for dinner, that you forgot to put on deodorant, or wondering if you turned off the curling iron at home.

The truth is we hardly ever give all of our attention to the present moment.

This is problematic because we aren’t getting the most out of our work, and we’re robbing ourselves of results later on.

As a fitness coach, I see this in play on a daily basis. When a client comes to me, our conversation is most always about the future – how they want to look and feel on a certain date in the future.

Some of the guys I coach have the goal of a bigger, chiseled physique, while the ladies want to improve their appearance and get back into their skinny jeans.

Or maybe their goal is to improve general health and to simply feel better about themselves.

Regardless of the goal (as there are many), the common theme is being too outcome dependent, which can often overwhelm us. Setting big goals can seem rather daunting, which often leads to fear and procrastination.

Rarely any of us ever focus 100% on the present moment, which is what produces the actual result in the future.

Because of this, I’ve completely changed my approach to the way I work with my clients and my own goal setting.

If we don’t take action now, we’ll settle for nothing later.

The Importance of Now

All we have is this second, and at any given point, it can all end.

So I ask this: ‘Why are we so often caught up in worrying about the future? Why don’t we focus on the now and be deliberate with our actions?’

It’s easy to avoid dealing with the current moment, and putting it off to get lost in time-wasting tasks that aren’t serving us.

However this will never get us the results we want.

So how does one normally reach a goal?

It’s simple. You decide what needs to happen, and then work backward, determining the actions necessary to succeed.

But simple is not always easy.

Some feel we have no control over what happens to us. If this is your belief, then it’s probably real for you.

You can have control over your goals and circumstances if you pay closer attention to each moment.

I got the idea for this article as I was chatting with my friend Roman about our pursuit of strength through barbell training and how our experiences focusing on the moment are very similar.

About three years ago, I was in and out of college, working a job I hated and at 22, completely unsure of what my future would look like.

I lost interest in my studies, but kept going to class and wasting away at work. I was empty, 500 miles from home, and was constantly obsessing about the future. I thought I'd never figure it out.

During this period in my life, I found myself gravitating toward my gym sessions… much more so than before. I was in the weight room when I should’ve been in class taking exams.

This experience was quite liberating. When I was training, I completely forgot about my worries. The gym was the only place I found relief from my daily stresses. All I thought about was how my muscles felt, and can vividly remember the taste of lactate as I finished my grueling workouts.

I absorbed every thought and feeling I experienced during this pursuit of strength. My focus on the present moment gave me control. It gave me purpose.

I eventually dropped out, and found myself even more obsessed with strength and conditioning than I was during my days of high school athletics. Late nights were spent reading books and articles – literally everything I could find about training and coaching.

As a result of this deliberate focus in the gym, I built a physique I was proud of and I soon began helping others do the same.

For the first time in my life, I was focused and living in the now – I was happy again.

I promised myself to always place emphasis on helping others, improving myself, and the pursuit of happiness in my work.

The question I ask myself daily is this: ‘what deserves my attention in this very moment and how can it make mine or someone else's life better?’

Building Your Strength In The Present Moment

It's hard to understand just how important this concept is.

This is what I tell my clients: “The only thing you must do today is make every action count. If tomorrow happens to come, then repeat what you did today.”

This helps people take their mind off a goal that might seem very far away.

Give each moment your full attention.

So you want to wear your favorite bikini this time next year? Maybe you want to enter a triathlon in the fall?

Good. Set those goals, and then come back to the present. What can you do right now to ensure you reach your goal?

Start with your first work out. What does the weight feel like in your hands? How do your quads feel as you finish your intervals? How does it feel to record improvements in your training log?

It’s easy to fantasize about the future, but daydreaming is hardly fruitful.

All we have is the task of this current moment – treat it with respect and give it your deliberate attention.

As simple as it sounds, my challenge to you is this: Keep your goals in in mind, but aim to be much more deliberate with your daily actions.

Focus on the tasks you take as you work toward your destination, and be mindful of moment. Absorb everything because the moment will eventually be gone forever.

Read more from JC at his blog, JCDFitness.

Raising Minimalist Teenagers in an Age of Consumerism

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist.

"We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap." ~ Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

Four years ago, we sold, donated, or discarded most of our material possessions. It was a decision based on discontent with our current lives. We were tired of living paycheck to paycheck — never able to get ahead with our finances. And we were growing weary of all the time, energy, and effort that our possessions were draining from us. We realized we had far too few resources left over for the things most important to us.

Since embarking on this life-giving journey, we have found this lifestyle resonates effectively with young adults, parents, and older generations. But one of our greatest passions is to also inspire teenagers to build a better life by owning less.

For the last 14 years, I have given my life to teenagers through my full-time employment at nonprofit organizations around the country. I have developed relationships with hundred of teens. I have spoken at public schools and student conferences. I have written books for teenagers. In short, I love the opportunity to invest in their lives and introduce them to a better way to live.

There are, of course, significant challenges in reaching teenagers with the message of simplicity:

  • The world around them grows increasingly materialistic.
  • Teenagers value acceptance and conformity with their peers.
  • Advertisers target their message to the young adult demographic.
  • Teenagers are beginning to explore their own decision-making. As a result, they are less likely to value input from others … particularly parents.

The challenges are certainly formidable. But we find great motivation by also recognizing the benefits of reaching teenagers with this message:

  • Many of their significant decisions are still ahead of them. The message of simplicity helps equip them to make wise ones.
  • They are not in debt … yet. As a result, they are not held captive under the weight of creditors (especially housing, cars, student loans).
  • Their spending habits are not yet formed. They are definitely being shaped, but are not fully determined.

We must recognize the challenges before us. But we also understand the importance of sparing our teenagers from decades of financial burden and empty promises of fulfillment. We recognize an important opportunity to inspire our teenagers to pursue lives of greater value.

As parents, mentors, and community members, consider these 10 helpful tips for raising minimalist teenagers in an age of consumerism:

  1. Model simplicity. The cliche rings true, "Life lessons are better caught than taught." The first (and most important) step in raising minimalist teenagers is to model for them the joys and benefits of intentionally living with less.
  2. Encourage idealism. Many teenagers embrace idealism and desire to find a cause that can change the world. But far too often, teenage idealism is misunderstood and/or discouraged. It ought to be encouraged. Allow children of all ages to dream bigger dreams than cozy homes, cool cars, and white picket fences.
  3. Volunteer as a family. Be active offering your time in the community through a local food bank, soup kitchen or community organization that serves the underprivileged in your area.
  4. Watch less television. It's not as hard as you think … and has immediate results.
  5. Make teenagers pay for expensive items themselves. Every parent ought to provide food, clothing, shelter, and basic necessities. And every parent should give good gifts to their kids too. But asking your teenager to purchase expensive items with their own money will create a stronger sense of ownership and a better understanding of the relationship between work, money, and consumerism.
  6. Encourage teenagers to recognize the underlying message in advertising. Advertisements are not going away and can never be completely avoided. Help your child read behind the marketing message by often asking, "What are they really trying to sell you with this advertisement? Do you think that product will deliver on its promise?" If luck is in your favor, it can even become a fun little game in your family.
  7. Find an ally. By the time your children have reached the teenage years, your role as a parent has changed significantly. In most families, teenagers are beginning to express independence in their relationship with their parents … but that doesn't mean they’ll never listen. Find an accompanying voice in your community that prescribes to your values and provide opportunities for him/her to speak into your teenager's life.
  8. Discourage entitlement in your family. Often times, as parents, we work hard to ensure a significant advantage for our children by providing for them at all costs. But as we do, we equally run the risk of not preparing them for life by neglecting to teach them the truths of responsibility. It is hard work maintaining the possessions of life (lawns have to be mowed, cars cleaned & maintained, laundry sorted, rooms tidied). Expose teenagers to this truth as early (and as often) as possible.
  9. Travel to less developed countries. This world is big and the cultures are varied. Some of the most teachable moments of my teenage years occurred while visiting third-world countries and experiencing the living conditions of those who live on so little (an estimated 6 billion people live on less than $13,000/year). Their joy and peace has served as an inspiration to me even up to this day.
  10. Teach them what matters most is not what they own, but who they are. A man or woman of noble character holds a far greater asset than those who have traded it for material possessions. Believe this truth. Live this truth. And remind the teenagers in your life of it as often as possible.

Our world has chased happiness, joy and fulfillment in the pursuit of riches and possessions for far too long. It is time we intentionally seek to raise a generation that values greater things.

Read more from Joshua at his blog, Becoming Minimalist, or check out his new book, Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness.

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