You can’t protect everything perfectly all the time – even if you curl up into a tight ball, a skilled opponent will find ways through your defences. Similarly, the things we value in life – our job, self image, health, relationships, so on are vulnerable, especially if we intend to keep moving and exploring.
The possibility of finding yourself in a tricky situation is only scary if you lack belief in your ability to defend and escape. And there is no better way to learn than to be willing to end up in bad positions. And if we are unsuccessful in getting out, there is always another roll, another project, another opportunity. Failure in one instance does not mean failure over all unless we stop turning up and trying.
The more you relax, the more clearly you will be able to spot opportunities in the midst of danger. Being relaxed but fast and attentive is where we are at our most effective.
Perhaps to relax, you have to trust life, as you would trust a training partner. Some people view life like an attacker on the street – cruel and without our best intentions at heart. I can’t say which is the right view but I like viewing life as something largely helpful to us. Like a training partner in Jiu Jitsu, the challenges it throws at us are intended to make us more skilled.
Whether a Jiu Jitsu roll or any other challenge, situations can be viewed in a neutral manner when we recognize that they do not exist only for us. A balance has to be struck between achieving our desires and sharing time, resources and opportunities with others. Me not getting a job is perhaps someone else landing their perfect role. Me unsuccessfully defending a submission is my training partner successfully practicing their technique.
Energy has many definitions in the English Dictionary. On the most basic level, energy is a scientific measure of ‘power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat or to work machines.(Oxford Dictionary)’’. The focus of this article is not the above definition.
The focus of this article is the first definition of energy in the Oxford Dictionary which says that energy is ‘’the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.’’
When we talk about maintaining high energy and we aren’t talking about the energy derived from food, it can easily sound like pseudo-science. To be entirely clear, I am not talking about some magic way of sustaining energy without food but instead I am arguing that we often have more than enough physical energy to do everything we want to and instead what holds us back is a lack of mental strength and vitality.
Therefore, for the purpose of this article, we’ll define being ‘high energy’ as having the mental strength and vitality to do all the things you want or need to do during your day enthusiastically. Of course, in turn, I think it’s pretty clear that having this sort of high mental energy leads us to finding physical energy reserves we didn’t know we had! It is no secret in exercise or in life that our minds sometimes give up long before our bodies do. We do far less than we are capable off, not because our bodies are weak but because we give up or hold ourselves back mentally.
Now that the definition is all cleared up, without further ado, here is my list of 5 compounding ways in which we can have an abundance of energy!
1. Don’t judge or criticise yourself or your life. Appreciation and curiosity can be more positive and pleasant drivers of action than dissatisfaction. I think a part of us believes that if we accept everything in our life, we will become stuck and passive. But, in truth, acceptance of our current circumstances is a solid grounded base to take action from. Being grateful for the things we have can allow us to spot opportunities and take action calmly and confidently rather than in a rushed, panicked manner.
‘’Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.’’ – Eckhart Tolle
2. Focus on the thing that is right under your nose rather than a million things in the near or distant future.
‘’The idea is, you know, you live from moment to moment…this moment decides the next step. You shouldn’t be five steps ahead, only the very next one. And if you can keep to that, you’re always alright. You see, but people are thinking too far ahead…you know what I mean? Think only what’s right there. Do only what’s right under your nose to do. You know? It’s such a simple thing and people can’t do it, you know.” – Henry Miller
3. Have silence in your life. Our eyes, ears and brains need a break from constant stimulus in order to function properly.
4. Find those few things that you seem to have energy for no matter what and continue to make time for them. For me, no matter how tired I think I am, when I walk onto the mats at my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy, it’s rare that I’m not suddenly filled with an abundance of energy. Reading a book that restores my perspective and reminds of what’s important have a similar effect. A current favourite that I’ve been reading again and again is The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer – Chapters 15 and 17 in particular.
5. Conversely, recognise what activities make you feel more low in energy, even if they are commonly thought to be relaxing. E.g. if I spend a few hours watching television, I usually end up feeling more lethargic than relaxed at the end of it.
6. Above all, take everything lightly. Our personal set of problems aren’t really as serious and life-changing as our minds make them out to be. Taking things lightly means we are less likely to freeze from fear and be unable to take action.
My cousin and I work in office blocks across town from each other. Funnily, our houses are located in such a way and our timing is such that every single morning, without exception, our paths cross on our drives to work. And we always manage to roll our windows down and have a quick chat before the business of the day ensues. My office is by all descriptions modest and my work is nothing to brag about either. Regardless, I love my work day. Its an interesting place with interesting things. I even enjoy experiencing the traffic jams on the way to work, the unsettling phone calls with clients and all the other downs that come with the ups.
This is not a description of an actual day at the office for me but a game my cousin and I used to play as kids. We very creatively called it ‘Office Office.’ I don’t know where child me got an image of office work from because neither of my parents worked in an office growing up, probably from television or books! Either way, it was this interesting and slightly odd thing that adults did that was fun to imitate! It was fun to pretend that we had important places to rush off to in the morning, phone calls to answers, letters to write and that we had use for adult things like staplers and hole punches.
Sometimes in the real world, when the stars align, I get transported back to the games room of my childhood home where my fake office was located and become a 5-year-old again.
In that mode, I really enjoy my work and appreciate and investigate all the interesting information and tools -digital and physical – that I have access to. I enjoy interacting with all sorts of people and my commute to work and lunch time walks become wonderful and amusing experiences.
During COVID-19-free times, Central London, where my actual office is, is a great place for a lunchtime walk. The footpaths look like they really should have two lanes – one for the super-slow picture-taking tourists and another for the super-busy speed-walking office workers! You can’t blame the tourists for being so irritatingly slow when there are a million things to look at – the old buildings, the new buildings, the red buses, the telephone boxes, the sometimes large and sometime tiny groups of protestors outside important buildings and everything else! The tourists with their poses in front of the red telephone boxes make me laugh! Sometimes I make myself laugh when I catch myself huffing and puffing to my next meeting with an important look on my face or engaging in corporate speak that doesn’t fully make sense.
With the central London lunch time visualisation over, I really want to make two points with this article.
Firstly, that we should all seek out work that brings out the child in us! This can be both through emphasising certain parts of our current job or through seeking to find a new line of work! For me, for example, reading non-fiction, writing, planning projects, and finding solutions to interesting or technical problems is where I lose all track of time!
Secondly, that whether we enjoy our job in its entirety or not, people and things are inherently interesting. How could they not be? If we are consistently bored during a day, we should ask ourselves if we are prejudging things or failing to pay close attention.
This idea of child-like enjoyment and simplicity extends to almost everything else in our world. Another example, besides work, that comes to mind is social media. For a while, I really suffered my use of social media – it became something serious and how I presented my life to my small number of followers became important to me! More recently, I’ve started looking at it as an opportunity to play around. E.g. Instagram is this little world of blank squares that I can fill with whatever images, words, and videos I like for others to see! That’s quite something!
It seems to me that somewhere along the way we got sold on the idea that beyond a certain age, we must look at things seriously. That if we are to be serious and competent adults, we can no longer look at things with child-like fascination!
My hope for myself and for you, person reading this, is that while we strive to get to the places that promise us more fulfilment, we find child-like joy in the ordinary everyday things and events and that we refuse to look at this colourful beautiful intricate world like its anything less than marvellous!!
Note: The heading is by Alan Watts! If you’ve known me long enough, you are probably tired of me quoting him or are soon to be but what can I do, the man was full of brilliant wisdom!
My favourite kind of advice are ones without qualifiers – strong statements that aren’t diluted by ifs and buts.
Funnily the advice I write about or give out is usually on the softer side. I guess it is my way of avoiding criticism because the harsher the advice, the easier it is to turn our nose up and find flaws in it.
Breaking that trend, here are 4 pieces of advice that would make it onto my personal one-page guide to living a good life.
1. Michael Singer – Be Unconditionally Happy
From my observation, putting conditions on happiness does not work. If my way of living is, ‘I will be happy if’, it is easy to continually put off happiness until another condition is fulfilled. And given, happiness is the ultimate goal behind all other goals (health, fame, money, survival – you name it), it absolutely makes sense to me to cut the chase and go directly to being happy.
The following excerpt from Chapter 15 of Michael Singer’s book ‘Untethered Soul’ really resonated with me and is one I go back to time and time again.
”You have to realize that you really only have one choice in this life, and it’s not about your career, whom you want to marry, or whether you want to seek God. People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.
Most people don’t dare give themselves that choice because they think it’s not under their control. Someone might say, “Well, of course I want to be happy, but my wife left me.” In other words, they want to be happy, but not if their wife leaves them. But that wasn’t the question. The question was, very simply, “Do you want to be happy or not?” If you keep it that simple, you will see that it really is under your control. It’s just that you have a deep-seated set of preferences that gets in the way.
Let’s say you’ve been lost and without food for days, and you finally find your way to a house. You can hardly make it to the doorstep, but you manage to pull yourself up and knock on the door. Somebody opens the door, looks at you and says, “Oh my God! You poor thing! Do you want something to eat? What would you like?” Now the truth is, you really don’t care what they give you. You don’t even want to think about it. You just utter the word “food.” And because you really mean it when you say you need food, it no longer has anything to do with your mental preferences. The same goes for the question about happiness. The question is simply “Do you want to be happy?” If the answer is really yes, then say it without qualifying it. After all, what the question really means is “Do you want to be happy from this point forward for the rest of your life, regardless of what happens?”
Now, if you say yes, it might happen that your wife leaves you, or your husband dies, or the stock market crashes, or your car breaks down on an open highway at night. Those things might happen between now and the end of your life. But if you want to walk the highest spiritual path, then when you answer yes to that simple question, you must really mean it. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s not a question of whether your happiness is under your control. Of course it’s under your control. It’s just that you don’t really mean it when you say you’re willing to stay happy. You want to qualify it. You want to say that as long as this doesn’t happen, or as long as that does happen, then you’re willing to be happy. That’s why it seems like it is out of your control. Any condition you create will limit your happiness. You simply aren’t going to be able to control things and keep them the way you want them. ”
2. David Goggins – Apply the 40% rule
David Goggins, if you don’t know him, is a retired navy seal and ultra marathon runner, proclaimed by some as the toughest man alive! He’s done some crazy shit like once holding the world record for most pull-ups in 24 hours with over 4000 pull-ups and completing a 100 mile race with stress fractures and all the small bones in his feet broken!
David Goggin’s whole philosophy is that most of us are capable of far more than we realise and the reason why we can’t access our full capabilities is mental weakness. The truth in this isn’t difficult to realise when I observe myself and people around me – we complain about the stupidest things and give up at the first signs of things getting difficult. But when we push ourselves or someone else pushes us, it’s easy to realise that what we had perceived as the limit of our ability is really just the edge of our comfort zone.
He believes that by testing limits during exercise, we prepare ourselves for unexpected challenges and difficulty in every other aspect of life.
The following excerpt from his’ book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ illustrates the 40% rule.
” The human body is like a stock car. We may look different on the outside, but under the hood we all have huge reservoirs of potential and a governor impeding us from reaching our maximum velocity. In a car, the governor limits the flow of fuel and air so it doesn’t burn too hot, which places a ceiling on performance. It’s a hardware issue; the governor can easily be removed, and if you disable yours, watch your car rocket beyond 130 mph.
It’s a subtler process in the human animal.
Our governor is buried deep in our minds, intertwined with our very identity. It knows what and who we love and hate; it’s read our whole life story and forms the way we see ourselves and how we’d like to be seen. It’s the software that delivers personalized feedback—in the form of pain and exhaustion, but also fear and insecurity, and it uses all of that to encourage us to stop before we risk it all. But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t have absolute control. Unlike the governor in an engine, ours can’t stop us unless we buy into its bullsh*t and agree to quit.
Sadly, most of us give up when we’ve only given around 40 percent of our maximum effort. Even when we feel like we’ve reached our absolute limit, we still have 60 percent more to give! That’s the governor in action! Once you know that to be true, it’s simply a matter of stretching your pain tolerance, letting go of your identity and all your self-limiting stories, so you can get to 60 percent, then 80 percent and beyond without giving up. I call this The 40 Percent Rule, and the reason it’s so powerful is that if you follow it, you will unlock your mind to new levels of performance and excellence in sports and in life, and your rewards will run far deeper than mere material success.
The 40 Percent Rule can be applied to everything we do. Because in life almost nothing will turn out exactly as we hope. There are always challenges, and whether we are at work or school, or feeling tested within our most intimate or important relationships, we will all be tempted to walk away from commitments, give up on our goals and dreams, and sell our own happiness short at some point. Because we will feel empty, like we have no more to give, when we haven’t tapped even half of the treasure buried deep in our minds, hearts, and souls.
I know how it feels to be approaching an energetic dead end. I’ve been there too many times to count. I understand the temptation to sell short, but I also know that impulse is driven by your mind’s desire for comfort, and it’s not telling you the truth. It’s your identity trying to find sanctuary, not helping you grow. It’s looking for status quo, not reaching for greatness or seeking wholeness. But the software update that you need to shut your governor down is no supersonic download. It takes twenty years to gain twenty years of experience, and the only way to move beyond your 40 percent is to callous your mind, day after day. Which means you’ll have to chase pain like it’s your damn job! ”
3. Eckhart Tolle – Focus on the one thing you can do now, rather than the hundred things you may have to do later
Eckhart Tolle doesn’t need much of an introduction! His book ‘The Power of Now’ has been read and loved by millions. There are some parts of this book that could have been better written and can border on sounding like pseudo science but the overall message I believe is invaluable if followed. I also love his book ‘Stillness Speaks’.
This quote from ‘The Power of Now” has a special place in my brain from where I dig it out every time I find myself needlessly focusing on problems.
” Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation may be full of problems—most life situations are—but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now? When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.”
A few paras later Tolle says ” If you found yourself in paradise, it wouldn’t be long before your mind would say ”yes, but…” Ultimately this is not about solving your problems. Its about realizing that there are no problems – only situations to be dealt with now or to be left alone and accepted as part of the ‘isness’ of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with. ”
Again this is really easy to verify from first-hand experience. For example, a few weeks back, I found myself incessantly worrying about an important work meeting over the weekend, even though I did not plan on doing anything about it till Monday. The whole thing was even more silly because my work is filled with meetings or tasks that can be anxiety inducing if I let them be. The only reasonable thing, which I eventually did, was to forget about the whole thing until the time came to take action and prepare for it.
4. Mooji – Be a witness to life unfolding by itself
Mooji’s philosophy is centred around experiencing life as a witness to it rather than through the screen of personal concerns.
I’ve always found it rather strange and contrary to logic how I can be fixated on the minute issues in my life, even with the knowledge that there are 7 billion other people in the world. So I have deeply enjoyed coming across thinkers such as Mooji who call us out on our bullshit.
Having said that, Mooji’s approach to writing is an emotional and unscientific one. For a more scientific argument on recognizing yourself to be a witness to life, rather than a separate control centre, I would highly recommend reading ‘Free Will’ by Sam Harris who is a writer and neuroscientist! I’ve included an excerpt from both of them for balance.
Excerpt from ‘White Fire’ by Mooji
” Don’t be a storehouse of memories. Leave past, future and even present thoughts behind. Be a witness to life unfolding by itself. Be free of all attachments, fears and concerns by keeping your mind inside your own heart. Rest in being. Like this, your life is always fresh and imbued with pure joy and timeless presence. Be happy, wise and free. ”
Excerpt from ‘Free Will’ by Sam Harris
”Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime – by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?”
Alan Watts is one of my favourite philosophers. What I love about his work is the humour and playfulness with which he views life. His words are alchemical – turning anxiety into laughter and serious problems into nothings. I have found antidotes to many a situation by delving into his books or listening to his lectures! In hope that you too may find value in them, here are 30 pearls of wisdom gathered from his work!
On the Present Moment
1. Don’t hurry anything. Don’t worry about the future. Don’t worry about what progress you’re making. Just be entirely content to be aware of what is.
2. After all, the future is quite meaningless and unimportant unless, sooner or later, it is going to become the present. Thus to plan for a future which is not going to become present is hardly more absurd than to plan for a future which, when it comes to me, will find me “absent,” looking fixedly over its shoulder instead of into its face.
3. The art of living … is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive
4. It’s a kind of digging the present, it’s a kind of grooving with the eternal now, and brings us into a state of peace where we can understand that the point of life — the place where it’s at — is simply here and now.
5. Therefore, the important thing is simply to begin—anywhere, wherever you are. If you happen to be sitting, just sit. If you are smoking a pipe, just smoke it. If you are thinking out a problem, just think. But don’t think and reflect unnecessarily, compulsively, from sheer force of nervous habit.
6. The only zen you’ll find on mountain tops is the zen you bring up there with you.
On Work and Play
7. If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.
8. All this might have been wonderful if, at every stage, you had been able to play it as a game, finding your work as fascinating as poker, chess, or fishing. But for most of us the day is divided into work-time and play-time, the work consisting largely of tasks which others pay us to do because they are abysmally uninteresting. We therefore work, not for the work’s sake, but for money—and money is supposed to get us what we really want in our hours of leisure and play.
9. This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.
10. Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.
11. People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.
12. The real problem does not come from any momentary sensitivity to pain, but from our marvelous powers of memory and foresight—in short from our consciousness of time . For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations — especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.
On facing change and making decisions
13. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
14. Regard yourself as a cloud. Clouds never make mistakes. Did you ever see a cloud that was misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave? No, they always do the right thing. And if you will treat yourself for a while as a cloud or wave, you’ll realize that you can’t make a mistake whatever you do. Because even if you do something that appears totally bizarre, it will all come out in the wash somehow or another. Then through this capacity you will develop a kind of confidence. And through confidence you will be able to trust your own intuition.
15. Taking this ghastly risk is the condition of there being life. You see, for all life is an act of faith and an act of gamble. The moment you take a step, you do so on an act of faith because you don’t really know that the floor’s not going to give under your feet … so, actually, therefore, the course of wisdom, what is really sensible, is to let go, is to commit oneself, to give oneself up and that’s quite mad. So we come to the strange conclusion that in madness lies sanity.
On Achievement and Improvement
17. Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.
18. What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.
19. If we are unduly absorbed in improving our lives we may forget altogether to live them.
20. If we begin to think about our goals in life as destinations, as points to which we must arrive, this thinking begins to cut out all that makes a point worth having. It is as if instead of giving you a full banana to eat, I have you just two tiny ends of the banana – and that would not be, in any sense, a satisfactory meal.
On Good and Bad
21. Detachment means to have neither regrets for the past nor fears for the future; to let life take its course without attempting to interfere with its movement and change, neither trying to prolong the stay of things pleasant nor to hasten the departure of things unpleasant. To do this is to move in time with life, to be in perfect accord with its changing music.
22. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can’t have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn’t be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side-by-side with white, or white unless side-by-side with black
On the existence of a separate self
23. Your heart beats “self-so,” and, if you would give it half a chance, your mind can function “self-so”—though most of us are much too afraid of ourselves to try the experiment.
25. It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it
26. We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body — a center which “confronts” an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”
This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.
27. Most of the wisdom which we employ in everyday life never came to us as verbal information. It was not through statements that we learned how to breathe, swallow, see, circulate the blood, digest food, or resist diseases. Yet these things are performed by the most complex and marvelous processes which no amount of book-learning and technical skill can reproduce. This is real wisdom—but our brains have little to do with it. This is the kind of wisdom which we need in solving the real, practical problems of human life. It has done wonders for us already, and there is no reason why it should not do much more
28. The timid mind shuts this window with a bang, and is silent and thoughtless about what it does not know in order to chatter the more about what it thinks it knows. It fills up the uncharted spaces with mere repetition of what has already been explored.
The following passages aren’t by Alan Watts as such but words quoted in his work.
29. Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind.
From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1
30. A centipede was happy – quite! Until a toad in fun Said, “Pray, which leg goes after which?” This worked his mind to such a pitch, He lay distracted in a ditch, Considering how to run.
Books Used in this Article
The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
Become What You Are
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
The Way of Zen
Some quotes are from lectures, recordings of which can be found online including on youtube!
Mindfulness and its benefits in exercise is a microcosm for the benefits of mindfulness in life. Just as life becomes more fulfilling, and rich in nature when lived moment by moment, breath by breath, exercise becomes more manageable and productive when you focus on each movement as you go along.
The present moment is almost always bearable.
Observing our minds during the last moments of a tough set or the last mile of a long run is likely to reveal common repetitive thoughts – ‘I need to stop.’ ‘ I can’t do this’. ‘I still have another 10 minutes to go’.
”Some of the biggest and most insidious distractions come to us not from the outside, but from inside – the inside of our own heads, that is. All of our mental chatter and negative self-talk gets in the way of our focus.”
George Mumford in The Mindful Athlete
When things get tough or even at the first signs of discomfort, instead of focusing on the task at hand, our minds can begin judging the situation – how much we have left to do, our lack of ability to keep going, and verbalising the need to stop and rest.
Being mindful of our breathing and observing the sensations in our body helps us to silence the mind and keep going or identify the rare situations where we do truly need to stop or adjust something. We can recognise discomfort e.g. aching or burning muscles (as opposed to an injury) as simple sensations and stay with them without unnecessarily reacting to, naming or labeling them.
”Boredom, anger, sadness or fear are not ‘you’ or personal. They are conditions of the mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you.”
Eckhart Tolle, in Stillness Speaks
Being mindful and focusing on our breath also helps us keep our breathing steady, consistent and under control. This prevents our body from going into stress-mode and increases muscular and cardiovascular endurance as well as our ability to recover quicker between bouts of hard effort.
”We have become a generation of shallow breathers. We rush through life and our breathing rushes along with us”
George Mumford in The Mindful Athlete
Being mindful includes being aware of the totality of the moment and not zeroing in one negative sensation or problem. In the example of running, our awareness may include the soreness in our legs but also the rest of our body, our breathing, the wind on our face, the sky and the rest of our surroundings.
Something I do when running, which slightly moves away from mindfulness perhaps, is giving myself a reality check. I remind myself momentarily that I’m just one person doing one run on one particular day of my life and despite the run feeling like it could go on forever, it is going to be over in a blink of an eye.
The added bonus of tough workouts!
Whilst we can be mindful during any exercise or activity, a tough workout brings out a greater need for mindfulness as it requires us to dig a bit deeper to complete it. Athletes who undertake extreme endurance challenges such as Ultra-Marathons sometimes report entering into deep meditative state and feelings of bliss, in the midst of intense fatigue and pain or less dramatically and more commonly, catching a second wind, after they’ve pushed through feeling too tired to continue.
Additionally, practicing mindfulness outside the gym or off the mats (reference to mindfulness and jiu jitsu here which is an article for another time!) can help us access mindfulness more easily when we need it during a workout. I enjoy both seated meditation (i.e. what someone would traditionally imagine meditation to be) and meditating while I go about my daily activities. At the end of the day, mindfulness is a way of life; something that makes every conceivable activity better because we are truly present during it.
The Mindful Athlete – George Mumford
The Nike Run Club app – Guided runs by Headspace and Andy Puddicombe
I have known for a while that ultimately I would love to have my own business. (Why that is so is for another time!)
I won’t say that I have not made any progress towards this goal because without the benefit of hindsight, I don’t know how everything in my life will connect together. But what I can say is that I haven’t backed up my desire with the rationale consistent steps that I would have advised someone else to take. That changes now!
My starting point
The ‘bad‘: I don’t have a concrete idea yet and I don’t have substantial practical knowledge across the key aspects of starting or running a business!
The good: I like learning things (like jiu jitsu!) and creating things (like this blog!) and when I really enjoying something, I can get lost in it. I love reading and the process of gaining knowledge is enjoyable to me rather than a hassle. Lastly, from my studies and career, I have a bunch of other useful skills, experience and a confidence in my ability to figure things out.
My initial plan:
Note: I’m a complete newbie so these are just some initial thoughts to get my brain juices flowing!
1. Finding my idea
Taking the advice of Alex Pellew and Martin Amor from The Idea in You, I commit to experimenting – trying and creating new things everyday – until my idea appears.
I also commit to paying more attention to the world around me. I have started an already growing list of problems I spot and solutions I can think of aka baby business ideas!
2. Gaining Knowledge
It is a no brainer why business knowledge would be important once you have an idea to work on. But even before that, I think we are more likely to see opportunities around us if we know what is possible and how. I sometimes dismiss ideas in my head just because I have no clue how I would ever transform them into reality.
For a split second this morning, I considered a business related masters degree. Then it occurred to me that I don’t need a piece of paper saying I’m qualified. I need the knowledge and confidence that I would obtain from the process of doing the degree.
So instead I have started looking for reading lists for books and other materials used in MBA degrees. I am looking forward to delving into these but first, heeding my own advice, I will reread books that are already in my collection because I know for a fact I have not fully acted upon them, starting The Idea in You. Look out for book summaries to follow over the coming weeks!
Bonus: Lastly, I will begin the process of letting go of the untrue thoughts that owning a business is something that comes naturally to others and not to me.
It is scary saying what I want out loud but even more so, it is exciting to be raw and honest and share the very beginning of what may be a long and challenging journey.
Perhaps one day someone reading these blog articles will find them useful. But at the outset, the process of writing helps me organise my thoughts and serves as a compass to my ship. For when I have a million thoughts and feelings running around inside, I enjoy coming back here and reading the few that I felt were worth sharing.
We are naturally drawn to shiny new things that offer new solutions to our problems. Reminding me of fast fashion, fast self-help involves not utilising everything that you already have and getting distracted by everything that is advertised around you. This is a real problem because results, by definition, require us to stick with things and follow through to completion.
To begin building a habit of following through, we can start by taking inventory
1. What information do you have that you aren’t utilising?
This could be good advice that you read or received but never took any actions off the back of. It could be the habits you know are great for you but don’t implement.
2. What projects have you started and not completed?
This could include projects, big and small, that you are behind schedule on or have completed forgotten.
3. What are some products that you’ve bought but haven’t used as you intended?
This could include objects, services or memberships. Do you already have what you need to achieve your desired results? Are there free materials available to you that you could use?These are questions to come back to every time you want to buy something.
It has never been easier for us to buy something new with a click. What differentiates someone and produces results is their ability to consistently utilise what is available to them. Results aside, this is also great for your bank balance and the earth.