There is a story that stands out in my mind, it was told to me several years ago by a client during a workout. The story was told offhand, a sad story about a tragic situation, something that we all hear countless times a week but usually let fade away after hearing. It was the story of ultra-successful gentlemen – at least in our traditional Western framework – who had worked hard and become the CEO of a large company, unfortunately, like all things in life, success in one area often comes at a cost to others. He had missed kids sporting events, family dinners, vacations, and moments with his wife and now he was dying.
Cancer, diagnosed in the late stages was attacking his body, and the prognosis was rough. 12 months maybe less. This gentleman decided that if that were his fate he would enjoy the time he had left, he wouldn’t miss a game, a family dinner, a vacation. He would spend the time he had left with his family, put work second and them first, and he did. He changed his entire life, diet, exercise, mental well-being and a seemingly miraculous thing happened, remission. The doctors couldn’t understand how or why but the cancer was gone, and he had a second lease on life.
He gradually went back to work, took more calls, scheduled more meetings, missed more family meals and eventually in a year he returned to the exact same man he was before…and so did the cancer. This time it was too late, and my client was speaking with him on his death bed when he heard the sentence that would later stick in my brain for years, “What I regret most is that I forgot the lessons I learned.”
Here was a man, given a second chance at life who clawed his way out of death’s clutches only to slide back in. The lessons were forgotten despite the genuine example of what could happen.
I’m not pretending to be an expert on cancer remission and say that it was his lifestyle alone that caused the return. Perhaps, he could have maintained a balance, continued to spend time with his family while still mitigating the stress of his career and cancer would have returned anyway. But in his mind, the return of his terminal illness was his own inability to remember the lessons he learned, and I believe that that is more valuable than any diagnosis. What we think shapes how we act, what we feel, and what happens to us.
How could this happen? How could a person have a lesson so painfully taught to them forgotten after a short 12 months?
A lack of self-awareness.
Any of us could have been the man in the story if you think different you are mistaken. We are so often unaware of who we actually are, what are actions actually mean and how they affect both us and others. We are in perpetual motion and never take the time to reflect and take honest stock. Even when our reality is revealed to us, we often dismiss it as inaccurate or assume that the laws of nature apply to other people but not us.
And it’s understandable.
Being self-aware is cripplingly hard, it requires you to rip off your own skin raw and acknowledge your faults for everyone to see. It’s not someone’s else’s opinion that you can choose to ignore or shrug off as jealousy or unknowing. It’s your own acknowledgment of what actually is, and that is why it is so important.
Imagine yourself and your life as a boat in the ocean, without a map and compass you will forever sail aimlessly. Sometimes, by chance, you may discover the land, and it will prove bountiful and provide you with happiness, but eventually, you will sail into a storm and likely capsize. Even if you manage to stay afloat, it is only a matter of time before you encounter another storm on your captain less journey.
Having a clear picture of who you are, and how you act allows you to begin making changes and decisions for the better. It helps to create a True North that you can use to reference your choices.
Is this helping me become the person I want to be and lead the life I want to live?
You will fail, you will stumble and make mistakes and embarrass yourself and get off track. But, you can only return to the proper course and re-orient yourself towards your goal if you admit that the error occurred, that you were not – at that moment – the person you are trying to be, and that is painful. That requires strength. Admitting your faults is not for the meek and why so few are willing to do it, but if you can find the courage, the result is liberation and progress at a rate that those unwilling can never match.
We are living in a complicated time, perhaps not physically but indeed emotionally and societally. Definitions are ever-changing, opinions are always on display in all manner of public forums, and it would seem that outrage is on the rise. The gigantic information highway sitting snugly in our pocket, or beside us on the couch has eliminated the late dinner disagreements on which actor starred in a 1970’s movie, which pitcher threw the first no-hitter, and how many publishers rejected Stephen King’s first novel – 30 it was the random fact of the day yesterday.
If you want to avoid heated arguments never discuss religion, politics, or whether the toilet paper roll should go over or under
– Weird Al
This is not an article about politics, or religion, or gender, or toilet paper. I’m not interested in having those discussions publicly because I don’t believe I have spent enough time personally reflecting on them and any opinion I would have would be, in the words of Mark Twain, “gotten second-hand and without examination.”
I am however interested in discussing arguments, the act of disagreeing without becoming enraged at the other party and being willing to examine and reflect the opposite viewpoint as it relates to your own. Having access to millions of pieces of information in the form of the internet has made us eternal ‘fact-checkers,’ hammering out a few letters on a touch screen and moments later we have the information in hand. It is a wonderful and terrible thing. We have all this information, but we’ve also outsourced all of our thinking to external parties. When a topic or disagreement pops up that we are unsure of we hop on the information highway, find someone who has similar viewpoints to what we believe are our own and we now know exactly how we think.
The person or group that we choose to get our information from is likely famous or prominent in that space, after all, to stand out from the masses online you have to be. The popularity also comes with a divide in opinion, people both love and hate your work in equal parts and because it’s such a vast place there are a lot of people. You, the information seeker, now have a decision to make, who to ally yourself with, in this war of opinions and once you make your choice, it’s for life. You are expected to live and die by that opinion, fight vehemently for it at all times and become outraged at anyone who disagrees because how could they! At least that’s the narrative being shoved your way.
And it’s complete bullshit.
We should be celebrating the opportunity to have a discussion with someone who disagrees, it’s a chance to have the validity of our argument examined and probed for weakness and perhaps if it’s too porous taken down altogether, and that’s fine!
When I first started martial arts at the ripe old age of 18, I had just received the first real beating of my life and was painfully aware of how ill-prepared I was to defend myself. The first gym I joined was a traditional Korean-style dojang – training hall – that looked like it had been plucked from the 1970s and transplanted into 2000s Sault Ste Marie. We started the first class by bowing in, stretching then practicing Katas – movement forms – for the better part of an hour. We did the same thing on the second day, and third, and fourth, and fifth. You get the idea. After a month I was no better prepared at defending myself than on that first day, but I also had no idea because I hadn’t been tested either. Personally, that was a huge problem, what if I ended up getting in another street fight? Getting beat up twice in short succession would be really tough on an 18-year-old ego.
So I left. I found somewhere with a more experiential learning style. Where I improved my proficiency by competing in a safe-ish version of combat.
I think about combat as a language, different styles of fighting are different ways of speaking, and when you compete in them, you have a discussion, or argument depending on the form of competition or training. When I step on the mat to roll in jiu-jitsu I want my partner to disagree with me, I want them to oppose with every fibre in their body and to try as hard a possible to prove me wrong. I want them to have bad intentions and try to embarrass me. I’m going to do the same.
We do this through a series of physical moves, each attempting to predict what the other will do. If their argument is stronger than mine, they will achieve a set of advantages, leaving me with fewer and fewer options until, eventually, they win.
Then we’ll go again. I get a chance to argue my case to see if maybe it was a lucky exchange or I was unfocused. I can change parts of the argument slightly to see if it creates a better reaction, better solidifies my point or if the same outcome prevails. This process will continue several times a practice, hundreds of times a month and thousands a year. In some instances, my arguments will be dominant, and I can double down on them, in other situations they may fail over and over again, and I will be forced to abandon them or retreat and completely rework the ideas or even adopt the arguments of my partner because they have been shown to be superior time and time again.
We will hurtle ourselves into the exchange with ferocity but remain as emotionless as possible and afterward embrace and thank each other. Those two ideas are fundamental to progress. I must remain calm despite the hostility. Emotional reactions make it difficult to think and react quickly and efficiently, and the result is floundering and a poor representation of my thoughts. Afterward, I must be grateful because they have chosen to expose themselves in the same manner, to be equally vulnerable and challenging. Without my partner, I would never know if my ideas were legitimate, if they would hold up in a real-life situation.
“A man who sees the world at 50 the same as at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life”
– Muhammad Ai
We should aim for the same level of openness in all of our exchanges, having someone disagree is not a personal assault on character but an opportunity to refine your argument. Notice where it fails, where it holds firm, go back and spend real time thinking about the idea, exploring both sides in your mind. Needle for areas you can exploit and improve your understanding of why those areas still have merit and never be afraid to have your opinion changed. Changing our mind is a natural human right, it’s a display of strength, not weakness.
Honesty, defined as “a person or action who/that is “fair and straightforward and free of deceit or morally just”. It is an attribute revered by nearly all countries, cultures, and religions. It is constantly discussed throughout life, from all figures: parents, teachers, coaches. All urging you to be honest. To tell the truth no matter what.
As a child it’s easy. Did you eat that? Yes. Did you brush your teeth? No. Are you listening to me? Maybe… Adrian! Yes.
But, as we get older, we start to doubt or avoid the truth. We begin to manipulate it in different ways, searching for the line, perhaps crossing it just a little to skew the deck in our favour. Lying about brushing our teeth may afford us an extra 5 minutes of play time before bed and that’s valuable currency at age 6 when you have not yet made the connection between poor oral hygiene and cavities.
The older we get the more liberal we are with the truth. We may outright lie to avoid punishment or fail to tell the whole story to ensure we are painted in the proper light. Or, it might be well intentioned, perhaps we omit the truth to spare the feelings of someone we care about. These instances of dishonesty are undoubtedly wrong even the well-intentioned situation. We can identify the immorality in these instances, even if we don’t feel remorse for the action.
In many ways outward dishonesty is easier to identify but it is not the only kind we must be ready for. There is a second category of honesty which is much more painful, yet easier to hide and therefore easier to avoid facing. I’m referring to honesty of self and it is far more important than the omissions you may make outward. Not because lying to ourselves is worse than lying to others but if we are truthful with ourselves the decision to be honest with others is already made.
I have been mulling over this topic for a while, both as it relates to my personal life and how others can use it. And I hope to explain or at least unpack it in a way that makes it more accessible. The lies that we tell ourselves are the most dangerous of all because we often do not realize how far away we’ve gotten from truth.
The Truth of a Lizard
There is a theory of brain evolution that was developed in the ’60s by neuroscientist Paul Maclean called The Triune Brain. The basic idea is that our brain has a hierarchal progression beginning with the most basic level – Survival and progressing to Higher Level Thinking. – The demand for abstract art and philosophical debates is pretty low if we aren’t first breathing and aware of threats to our survival, and it’s these first two levels of the brain that have allowed us to develop and achieve a position in the dominance hierarchy that gives us the opportunity to use our Neocortex – higher thinking. Unfortunately, what our Neocortex tells us we want and what our survival instincts want are often seperate things.
Let me explain.
Seth Godin and Stephen Pressfield – both better writers and more experienced thinkers than myself- have discussed this topic at length. What Mr. Godin calls the lizard brain, Pressfield has termed the Resistance. They are essentially describing the same thing, it’s the natural self-preservation instinct that prevents us from executing on our goals and task. We are eternally terrified of being judged or looking stupid, of failing or disappointing others. We think ourselves into a petrified state and the only movement we can make is backward into safety. Then, once safe we berate ourselves for our cowardice, force ourselves back to cusp of action only to repeat the cycle. It’s a terrible feeling and we have all done it, in fact, I just stopped typing to send a text message I had been avoiding to avoid being a complete hypocrite and lying to you with this article. The problem with the lizard brain is that it never goes away, you don’t stop feeling the doubt or fear. The higher the stakes or further the progress you’ve made the stronger the resistance.
Why is this important for honesty?
Because the lies we tell ourselves are designed to protect this lizard brain, we are fighting our natural instinct! Preservation of ego is king and it is easier to weave a web of falsehoods than shoulder the burden of reality. If you’re good at it, which many of us are, we can convince others that the lie is the truth and once they accept it we no longer believe it to be a lie. We have to actively work at Honesty.
Personal Example Time
I competed in a grappling tournament a few weekends ago, grappling anxiety/lizard brain resistance rates somewhere in the 4-5/10 range. It’s a part of fighting but I’m not paid to compete in it nor am I attempting to become one of the top grapplers in the country or world.
I am one of the professional fighters at the gym and 30 odd students are there to compete and watch, so perhaps a 6/10 on the lizard brain scale. Still quite manageable, but then I noticed another pro fighter in my division who I know and is also ranked in the top 10. We could potentially fight each other in the future. My internal lizard brain scale is bumping up to a 7/10 and my mind is creating comparisons between this match and an actual fight. This match and our professional future, because the lizard brain believes only in scarcity we can’t both be successful!
We compete. I grapple tentatively, playing not to lose which is almost always a losing strategy. He wins by 2 points – 1 Takedown. An exchange that would -likely- be fairly insignificant in a real fight and that’s the way I wanted it. As I exit the mat I am already creating a subplot for why lost. I already had a match and his first round was a bye. I had a poor game plan. It was a hard week of training. The list goes on. I’ll probably make a few jokes about it being a jiu-jitsu tournament so it doesn’t really matter. I’ll do my best to convince everyone else that it’s no big deal, some will believe me.
I’ll discuss it a few more times during the week at the gym, but now with the ‘new perspective’ –read lie – in place and by the time the next Saturday rolls around I might actually believe that the loss meant nothing, that it was because of the match I had prior, and that I was tired from the week of training. My ego will remain intact but I will have made no adjustments, learned no lessons. I’ll have retreated back under my rock away from change and growth but safe.
You see the problem with lying to ourselves – and others – is that it is far too easy if we let ourselves. It will quickly become a habit and we’ll start shaping our perceptions to accommodate the lowest, most cowardly form of us. Cowardice is the refusal to face truth regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. As bad as this strategy may sound, it would work, if we truly believed our lies.
Eventually the truth comes through.
My father is a painter, and I remember him telling me about painting different houses with different owners and habits. One of the habits he was referring too was smoking. If you smoke inside a home the nicotine, will, over time seep into the paint and walls. It won’t happen with one cigarette or two but after a time the walls will develop a stained yellowish tinge that no one likes to see. When that happens the owner, or new owner, will call someone like my Dad to come in and paint. Unfortunately, at this point the walls are deeply saturated and require special treatment, they need to be washed and treated with a heavy primer before any paint can be rolled on. It’s a time consuming and expensive process. If the painter or homeowner decide to skip it and insist that slapping on an extra coat will do the trick they can get the job done much faster and cheaper. The walls will even look clean again, for a time. Eventually, the nicotine stuck underneath starts to seep back through – unhindered by a primer – and because the world is a cruel place that moment will occur at the exact same time the homeowner is giving a prospective buyer a tour of the house. They will look up at the walls, see the stains and know that someone cut corners to avoid the hard work.
Lying is that stain. It works for a time and you may convince yourself or a few people that it’s clean but not forever. Stress acts as a stripping agent, when everything is running smoothly it’s simple to avoid honesty. The internal plot lines are clear and you can easily adjust the story as needed but when the stakes are high, when something of worth is on the line: career, relationship, a fight. That’s when it falls apart. When you step in the cage and the door shuts behind you there is only one way out and it’s through the person in front of you. That’s the moment when the lies fall apart, that’s the moment when you are forced to be honest with yourself, perhaps for the first time in a long time and that’s when you will crack. The discomfort and pain that comes with growth will avalanche back in the form of panic and doubt and you will be exposed because deep down we know, we know that we weren’t honest with ourselves.
The idea of being honest with ourselves seems easy, we believe we always do it, or if not, could start anytime we want.
We don’t and it’s not. Honesty is the mental equivalent of heavy manual labour repeated day after day. It’s uncomfortable and you are going to be terrible at it for a very long time, your – emotional – muscles will tear and ache, but in the end, it will all be worth it. You will know who you are and be comfortable with that knowledge. You will have deeper connections with the people in your life, and those that can’t handle the truth will disappear, leaving you only those who care. You will be the best version of you possible, you won’t be perfect but you’ll be real and that knowledge is liberating. It allows you to hurtle yourself completely at any task you choose, not concerned with the outcome because your lizard brain no longer controls you.
It’s funny to think that a biological process that is necessary for survival is underrated, especially one that occurs automatically with no mental energy required. We inhale and exhale 12 – 16 times a minute, for as long as we live and rarely give it a second thought.
And that is the problem.
Breathing is rarely discussed in fitness or sport and our idea’s surrounding it are often ill-informed. If you had the opportunity to experience or practice breathing growing up thank your parents for their progressive approach, it was likely born out of yoga or meditative practice, both of which have only recently entered the mainstream. I have always been cautiously skeptical of most aspects of spirituality or alternative thinking, the byproduct of living in a traditional home in a small Northern community with a mother in healthcare. I wanted science and hard facts told by someone in at least a Halloween costume lab coat – that’s a Bill Burr joke – and that sector was not distributing any information. It meant I was breathless for a long time.
At the beginning of the article, I mentioned breathing as an action our nervous system performs subconsciously, which is true. But, we also now know that we possess the ability to manipulate our nervous system through breathing, more specifically the vagus nerve which plays a major role in our nervous system regulation. We can influence our present state by altering the frequency and type of breaths we take. This, in turn, impacts our cortisol (stress hormone) release. We can decrease Cortisol by (1) reducing the number of breaths per minute and inhaling deeply into our diaphragm. Or increase it by taking more rapid, shallow breathes. These changes in hormone release have a direct influence on our emotions, attitude, decision making, and productivity.
So, how do you breathe?
For most of us, rapid and shallow breathing is our default. Years of bad posture, minimal movement, and high-stress levels have turned us into a walking state of panic, think movie chase scene where the main character stops in an alleyway, almost hyperventilating. This type of breathing contribute to excessive stress hormone release, fatigues us faster and increases the likelihood of illness. It also wreaks havoc on our mood and emotions, making us miserable to be around.
My friends have a funny term that they will use when I get upset, it’s the peacock. The reason is probably obvious, I do my very best impersonation of the bird, puffing out my chest, pulling back my shoulders, flaring my arms slightly and becoming as big as possible to respond to whatever has upset or frightened me. This is actually a very primal threat response so I imagine they also do it, or, maybe I’m just lower on the evolutionary scale than the average human. Then, the moment passes and we all have a laugh at my expense. The overwhelming majority of the time it turns out to be a situation that was nowhere near qualified that response. I am always envious of individuals that remain level-headed throughout all situations never letting their emotion get the better of them and refusing to rise to the bait.
Monitoring emotional responses to life and work problems is unbelievably beneficial, arguably vital. Negotiation, problem-solving, and people management are all skills that work best when you remain level-headed and clear thinking. In a previous article, I mentioned a few employers I had worked for in the past and how their response to problems trickled down and impacted the rest of the company – unfortunately not for the better. Calm is contagious and breathwork is a crucial part of maintaining that calm. The number of studies examining breath and the effects on the nervous system have risen dramatically over the past few years. ‘Breathwork therapy’ is being used to help with depression, anxiety, emotional and pain management amongst other things.
In addition to helping with emotional management, breathing can have a major upside for performance in both the business and athletic arenas. Several top entrepreneurs credit meditation and breathwork as one of their keys to success, Tim Ferriss, Scott Amyx, Laird Hamilton are all strong advocates of intentional deep breathing. Onnit founder, Aubrey Marcus, believes so strongly that he dedicated an entire chapter in his latest book to educating and implementing breathing as a method for dealing with overwhelming situations. It’s easy to do, immediately implementable and has tangible benefits.
A How To Guide
A quick and easy drill to help understand the difference in styles of breath involves your two hands and the floor.
Lie on your back, place one hand on your sternum, and the other on your belly button.
Inhale normally and notice what hand rises, it will likely be the one on your chest.
Now inhale through your nose and focus on the pulling the breath down into your belly.
The bottom hand should start to rise as well. Continue breathing slowly (5-7 seconds/ breath) until the top hand is still and only the bottom rises.
Ma, Xiao et al. “The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults” Frontiers in psychology vol. 8 874. 6 Jun. 2017, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874
There is a saying in combat sports that you are only as good as your last fight. It is continually uttered by analysts, coaches, fighters, and fans. It refers to the fickle nature of the masses. Win? You are a God, incapable of failing. Lose? A worthless bum who should retire. As the athlete, it is your responsibility to protect your mind from the horde of internet trolls. It really is part of the job at all levels and across all creative endeavors that offer up a product for judgment. Although you may not be publicly criticized we all have an internal critic that is as bad, if not worse than anyone else we might meet.
I grabbed dinner with a friend a couple of weeks ago to discuss an idea. He’s well connected in a community and I was looking for insight into the culture. I started to ask questions regarding past companies and attitudes and he mentioned that being fired from a previous company over a year ago was something that still deeply bothers him and forces him to question his worth. The quote he used was “back playing on the B team”, the idea being that his current position and company was a demotion from where he had been previously. The conversation made me think about the ideas of self-worth and the lens through which we choose to view ourselves.
I completely understand his feelings, for a very long time, 10 years, my identity as an individual was tied to my performance inside the cage. I was a fighter, not someone who fights and if I was a fighter it meant I was only as good as my last fight. Truthfully, it ran much deeper than that, the number of times you can fight in a year is limited – smashing the hard parts of your body off of another trained professional is damaging and requires rest. Because I wasn’t fighting every week practice became the ‘fight’ that I would judge myself by.
Yes, how I would rate my worth was based on the result of practice, a word that means to regularly perform a skill for improvement! As if I should already understand how to perform these skills despite never being exposed to them. A good day of practice would mean the radio blasting on the way home, a quick stop for flowers, and a night spent relaxing with friends or a drink with my partner. A bad day at practice meant I was worthless, that I didn’t deserve the gifts I had earned and that everyone around me was going to have to deal with a level of self-pity and sulking that could rival any 6-year old. Never mind that my family loves me, my partner is amazing, I get to work on other dope projects all the time and live in the greatest city in the world. None of that would matter, I’m a fighter and I had a terrible day fighting you better believe everyone else is about to have a terrible day.
When I lost a real fight the aftermath was even worse! I fought in Pittsburgh a couple years ago, the day before my birthday. Unfortunately, my opponent was better than me that night – much better – and it didn’t go my way, which made for a really long drive home. When I walked into the house the next day sitting in the fridge for my birthday was a cherry cheesecake – which I love – from my favourite spot. Instead of turning around and saying thank you for thinking of me, I muttered something about ‘not even wanting it’ and slammed the door shut. My entire life worth in that moment was predicated on the result of a highly volatile 50/50 gamble. Not that I had just passed my 26th year on this planet and accomplished much more than I ever hoped, that I had a life full of great relationships and was getting paid to compete professionally in a sport I love. Nope, I had to go and drag myself and everyone around me down because putting it all on red hadn’t paid off last night so let’s be a miserable SOB for the next 2 weeks.
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson then and there but that would be a lie. Like my friend who a year later still feels the sting of being let go, I carried that loss with me for a very long time. I will never pretend that ‘success’ doesn’t matter. That it shouldn’t hurt but how we define success is what is important. It took an illness that forced me away from the sport I love for nearly 2 years for me to realize that who I am is not defined by a single what.
I’ll say it again.
Our Who Should Never Be Defined By A Single What.
Fighting was my narrow subset through which I defined success. My friend’s chosen ‘success marker’ was his career. He completely overlooked all the other areas of his life that are full and instead focused on one small section of who he is. Every one of us is guilty of this, often daily. If cars are your thing you feel like a loser because your Honda Fit isn’t a Porsche Cayenne, or your Porsche Cayenne isn’t a Buggati. If it’s tennis then you don’t care that you won the club championships because you’re not Roger Federer. Entrepreneurship? Zuckerberg, Bezos or it’s a bust. Investing? Buffet. Cooking? Massimo Bottura.
The list goes on forever and ever. The problem with defining our success by one individual subset is that unless you become the 1 percent of the 1 percent you will forever feel inadequate and completely unsatisfied with what you have. I would celebrate a win, 6 – 8 weeks of suffocating hard work for all of 5 minutes before the feeling would fade and I would already be looking for what was next. That is a sad thought, that I lacked the ability to enjoy hard-earned rewards, rewards gained by sacrificing my body.
Obsessive fixation on the outcome, more specifically one outcome will bring with it feelings of isolation and worthlessness. We need more. More connection. More variety. More buckets to draw from. More places to find worth and feel success, because unfortunately becoming the very best in the world is still not enough for contentment.
It took me a very long and painful time to realize this but even once I understood I had an unhealthy mindset it was not easy to alter. Intellectual understanding is not enough. You need to believe deeply, emotionally. Quitting smoking is a great example, the smoker understands that the act is bad for them. They see the infographics, feel shortness of breath and hear the advice of their doctor. They intellectually understand but are not emotionally committed to tossing the cigarettes away – of course, the nicotine plays a factor – and as a result, the average smoker attempts to quit over 6 times before being successful.
So how can we shift our worth paradigm?
Re-definition and Gratitude.
Redefining success and the factors that you use to quantify it is an absolute must. We need to realize all the amazing things we have to be grateful for them. It seems basic and perhaps a touch analytical but I broke my life down into categories. I know nothing about you but imagine your life is divided up daily into something similar to the following: Career, Relationships, Passion 1, Passion 2. This seems to be the typical spread or at least a variation of. There are hundreds of potential additional categories and often they will crossover which is why you must do the exercise for yourself creating 4-5 main columns.
Once I had broken down the separate categories I started to write down one person or item that I was grateful for in 2-3 of the categories each day, rotating through them during the week. I would suggest being very diligent in the first few months, write it down with a paper and pen and do it everyday. In the evening I would revisit my categories and how well I did in each. More often than not I had dropped the ball in one of them but it was more easily dealt with when I had 2-3 other success’s to remind me that I am not a loser. It was also motivating to know if I had succeeded in of the categories it meant I could perform better in the ‘failed’ areas tomorrow. Competence and confidence work in an amazing loop. I also began creating space to be upset about poor performances in any category but put a time limit on emotionally obsessing over it. It has allowed me to acknowledge that I care about the outcome but in a more healthy and productive way. If I’m upset I will allow myself the time it takes me to drive to my next appointment but when I get out of the car I have to be ready to accept the outcome and move forward. The quicker we can reach acceptance the faster we can progress.
Worried that diversifying your life will negatively impact your performance? That you won’t be as focused on your task?
Probably not. I have spent a lot of time with high performers, some of whom are arguable the very best at their discipline and they draw worth from several places. They know a bad day in their sport or job does not define them and that having different activities and people to spend time with away from their main pursuit makes them better. My fighting has gotten 10x better since I’ve stopped giving a shit if I win or lose! No longer being defined by an outcome has removed the tension and allowed me to grow my skill set without the constant interference of ego. This has allowed me to appreciate all the areas of my life more and be present when it is time to execute. Gone are the days of attempting to be serious and staring at the wall, instead I get to enjoy every area and realize that nothing matters as much as I thought it did.