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Putting Off The Important Things? It’s Not For The Reasons You Think

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do now,
especially if you’re holding back in the hope of doing it properly

All you really need to succeed, according to the writer-philosopher Robert Pirsig, who died last month, is gumption. “Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going,” he writes, in a rare part of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance that’s actually about motorcycle maintenance. (Well, and the whole of human existence, too – but that’s always the case with Pirsig.) “If you haven’t got any, there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it, there’s absolutely no way in the world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed.” The biggest dangers, accordingly, are what he calls “gumption traps”: seemingly minor external events, or ways of thinking, that play a disproportionate role in depleting it. There are “maybe millions” of these, he writes. But there’s one I fall into far more often than others. You might call it the Importance Trap.

This is hardly a brand new insight – but then, as Pirsig liked to point out, looking for new insights can be a fool’s errand; what you want are the ones that make a difference. The Importance Trap refers to the way that, the more an activity really matters to you, the more you start to believe you need focus, energy and long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to do it – things that, you tell yourself, you currently lack. And so the less likely you are to do it. Unimportant stuff gets done; important stuff doesn’t.

Take reading. “If you’re only going to open a book on the off-chance you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch,” wrote Kevin Nguyen in GQ recently, “it’s only going to happen when you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch.” That’s classic Importance Trap thinking. We tend to think of procrastination as being motivated by more melodramatic emotions: fear of failure, the terror of being judged, etc. Yet sometimes the mere desire to do something properly is the reason you’re not doing it.

A close cousin of the Importance Trap – for me, anyway – is the Consistency Trap: the assumption that something’s not worth doing until your life’s arranged to do it regularly. No point going on a protest march, or rekindling a neglected friendship, unless you can turn yourself into the kind of person who does that all the time. This is absurd, firstly because such things are worth doing in themselves, and second because you definitely won’t become the kind of person who does them if you never even do them once.

The irony, I’ve found, is that the only way to obtain the things you imagine are the preconditions for acting – high energy, a sense of concentration – is to start acting. (“Motivation follows action”, as the saying goes.) So when you catch yourself telling yourself you’ll do something later, once you’re refreshed and ready, take it as a prod to do it now. You might think you need to wait for more gumption – but in fact that very thought is a hole in your fuel tank, through which the gumption’s leaking away.

oliver.burkeman@theguardian.com     @oliverburkeman      Friday 19 May 2017


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5 Things To Give Up Right Now (Even If You Don’t Want To)

“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

Giving up anything we’ve come to embrace (consciously or not) as part of ourselves is often a tough endeavor. Compiling a list of things that each one of us “shouldn’t do” is hard too, by the way. But we digress.

It is our sincere belief that giving up the 5 things on this list will lead to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. Each item has the potential to eliminate a ton of stress and possible heartache while maybe even providing a renewed sense of freedom.

 HERE ARE 5 THINGS WE SHOULD ALL AIM TO GIVE UP:

1. THE NEED FOR CONTROL
Aside from positive self-control, we should each minimize the need to feel in control of things around you.

People tagged with the “control freak” label always need to feel in control of events, situations, and especially people; this last one strips the right of each individual to simply be themselves. Controlling others is a form of abuse; something nobody should have to experience.

Letting go of this need for control, no matter how hard at first, will feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted. It’s quite likely that your relationships will improve as well.

2. THE NEED TO BE RIGHT
For some of us, the idea of admitting a mistake – or conceding that someone else is right – produces a sense of dread. In this regard, we share the same sentiment as the great Bruce Lee, who once said:

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”

Countless relationships and friendships have ended because one (or both) person ALWAYS had to be right; no matter any facts or evidence to the contrary.

Not only is this erroneous stubbornness a relationship-breaker; it’s a very unhealthy behavior – not just for the individual, but to those unfortunate enough to be exposed to it.

Ever had a boss with an insatiable need to be right? How terrible was it to work under the microscope of a borderline tyrant? These same feelings surface in others when we insist on being right.

3. THE NEED TO COMPLAIN
Totally giving up the act of complaining is similar to giving up the need to breathe. Inwardly or outwardly, we will all engage in a grumbling episode from time to time. We all possess enough self-awareness to admit whether or not we’re constant complainers – and whether or not a change in outlook is in order.

The uncomfortable (but freeing) reality is that external stressors are a matter of internal perception. Sir Charles Lyell, in 1863, wrote:

“It may be said that, so far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed introduction into the earth at successive geological periods of life – sensation, instinct, the intelligence of the higher mammalia bordering on reason, and lastly, the improvable reason of Man himself – presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over matter.“

In short, our improbable existence, and the indisputable superiority of our species’ innate intellect to adapt in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges throughout the ages proves the natural power of man.

Complaining is a pointless act. Instead, use your mind and overcome the matter.

4. THE NEED TO MAKE EXCUSES
Excuse making is an act of self-limitation – a behavior that can stunt individual progress.

Instead of putting forth the necessary effort to achieve our goals, finish a task, or follow through on a commitment, many of us will instead take the easy way out. Allowing some baseless excuse to spew from our lips is the easiest way out possible.

Attribute constant excuse-making to ignorance, immaturity, or laziness; the effects are disruptive, even disastrous. But this can all change if we’re able to admit this shortcoming and drive forward.

George Washington Carver, an African-American born into slavery, received nationwide recognition (including in Time Magazine) for his breakthroughs in the areas of botany and biology throughout his lifetime. Despite living in a time of extreme racism, Mr. Carver once proclaimed

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

That’s an eye opener, indeed. Well put, Mr. Carver.

5. THE NEED TO LIMIT YOURSELF
As intelligent human beings, we are aware when something we’re doing is holding us back.

We couldn’t possibly list every single thing that is counterproductive to health, growth, and happiness. We’re all different, which only makes such any attempt to compartmentalize limiting behavior all the more impossible.

Are you a chronic procrastinator? Slowly work on disciplining yourself to get things done on time.

Are you engaging in habits you know to be harmful?

Maybe you drink a bit too much, watch too much television, spend too much money, hang out with the wrong crowd, (fill in the behavior here)…it’s never too late to commit to change.

Admit your shortcomings and work (however slowly) to finding a different way.

REFERENCES: 
BARTLETT, JOHN (2002). BARTLETT’S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS: A COLLECTION OF PASSAGES, PHRASES, AND PROVERBS TRACED TO THEIR SOURCES IN ANCIENT AND MODERN LITERATURE (17. ED.). BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY. ISBN 978-0-316-08460-4.
WIKIPEDIA. (2017). GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER. RETRIEVED MARCH 21, 2017, FROM
HTTPS://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/GEORGE_WASHINGTON_CARVER#RISE_TO_FAME


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13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

“On your last day on earth, 

the person you became will meet 

the person you could have become.”  

 -Anonymous

Sometimes, to become successful and get closer to the person we can become, we don’t need to add more things — we need to give up on some of them.

There are certain things that are universal, which will make you successful if you give up on them, even though each one of us could have a different definition of success.

You can give up on some of them today, while it might take a bit longer to give up on others.

1. Give Up On The Unhealthy Lifestyle

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

If you want to achieve anything in life, everything starts here. First you have to take care of your health, and there are only two things you need to keep in mind:

1. Healthy Diet
2. Physical Activity

Small steps, but you will thank yourself one day.

2. Give Up The Short-term Mindset

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Successful people set long-term goals, and they know these aims are merely the result of short-term habits that they need to do every day.

These healthy habits shouldn’t be something you do; they should be something you embody.

There is a difference between: “Working out to get a summer body” and “Working out because that’s who you are.”

3. Give Up On Playing Small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

If you never try and take great opportunities, or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved.

So voice your ideas, don’t be afraid to fail, and certainly don’t be afraid to succeed.

4. Give Up Your Excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Successful people know that they are responsible for their life, no matter their starting point, weaknesses, and past failures.

Realising that you are responsible for what happens next in your life is both frightening and exciting.
And when you do, that becomes the only way you can become successful, because excuses limit and prevent us from growing personally and professionally.

Own your life; no one else will.

5. Give Up The Fixed Mindset

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

People with a fixed mindset think their intelligence or talents are simply fixed traits, and that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong.

Successful people know this. They invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Remember, who you are today, it’s not who you have to be tomorrow.

6. Give Up Believing In The “Magic Bullet.”

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

Overnight success is a myth.

Successful people know that making small continual improvement every day will be compounded over time, and give them desirable results.

That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1% every day.

7. Give Up Your Perfectionism

“Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Nothing will ever be perfect, no matter how much we try.

Fear of failure (or even fear of success) often prevents us from taking an action and putting our creation out there in the world. But a lot of opportunities will be lost if we wait for the things to be right.

So “ship,” and then improve (that 1%).

8. Give Up Multi-tasking

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Successful people know this. That’s why they choose one thing and then beat it into submission. No matter what it is — a business idea, a conversation, or a workout.

Being fully present and committed to one task, is indispensable.

9. Give Up Your Need to Control Everything

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus, Stoic philosopher

Differentiating these two is important.

Detach from the things you cannot control, and focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something.

Remember, nobody can be frustrated while saying “Bubbles” in an angry voice.

10. Give Up On Saying YES To Things That Don’t Support Your Goals

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.” — James Allen

Successful people know that in order to accomplish their goals, they will have to say NO to certain tasks, activities, and demands from their friends, family, and colleagues.

In the short-term, you might sacrifice a bit of instant gratification, but when your goals come to fruition, it will all be worth it.

11. Give Up The Toxic People

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
― Jim Rohn

People we spend the most time with, add up to who we become.

There are people who are less accomplished in their personal and professional life, and there are people who are more accomplished than us. If you spend time with those who are behind you, your average will go down, and with it, your success.

But if you spend time with people who are more accomplished than you, no matter how challenging that might be, you will become more successful.

Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes.

12. Give Up Your Need To Be Liked

“The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.” — Oliver Emberton

Think of yourself as a market niche.

There will be a lot of people who like that niche, and there will be individuals who don’t. And no matter what you do, you won’t be able to make the entire market like you.

This is entirely natural, and there’s no need to justify yourself.

The only thing you can do is to remain authentic, improve and provide value every day, and know that the growing number of “haters” means that you are doing important things.

13. Give Up Your Dependency on Social Media & Television

“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

Impulsive web browsing and television watching are diseases of today’s society.

These two should never be an escape from your life or your goals.

Unless your goals depend on either, you should minimise (or even eliminate) your dependency on them, and direct that time towards things that can enrich your life.

source: medium.com


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14 Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes

25 June 2015

The mind is a wonderful thing.

It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

I’ve had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn’t learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let’s expose the cowardly mind’s excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

OK, with that in mind, let’s go into the excuses:

1. I can’t do it.

It seems too hard, so we think we can’t stick to the change. We don’t believe in ourselves. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it. For example, Oprah ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If Oprah can do it, so can I!” I was right.

2. He/she can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.

Just because someone else can do it, doesn’t mean we can, right? We look for reasons they can do it but we can’t — maybe he can be a minimalist because he has no kids, or is a freelancer rather than someone with a real job. Maybe she’s way, way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have a crippling health condition. OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who have worse obstacles than you who’ve done it. I have 6 kids and still managed to change a lot of things in my life. Stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve amazing things. Your obstacles can be overcome.

3. I need my ___.

Fill in the blank: I need my coffee, my cheese, my soda, my TV shows, my car, my shoe collection … these are things we convince ourselves we can’t live without, so we can’t make a change like becoming vegan or eating healthier or unschooling our kids or simplifying our lives or going car-free. And I’ve made these excuses myself, but they all turned out to be lies. I didn’t need any of that. The only things you really need are basic food, water, clothing, shelter, and other people for social needs. Everything else is not a real need.

4. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Sure, I agree with this statement (as many of us would) but the problem is this is used to justify all kinds of crappy behavior. Might as well scarf down those Doritos and Twinkies, because hey, life is meant to be enjoyed, right? No. You can do without junk food and still enjoy life. You can exercise and enjoy it. You can give up pretty much anything and still enjoy life, if you learn to see almost any activity as enjoyable.

5. I need comfort.

This might also be true, but we can push ourselves into more discomfort than we let ourselves believe. We can be a bit cold, instead of needing to be at the perfect comfortable temperature. We can do hard exercise, instead of needing to lay around on the couch. We can write that thing we’ve been procrastinating on — it might be hard, but we can push through that. When our minds seek comfort, don’t let them run — push a little bit outside the comfort zone, and begin to be OK with a bit of discomfort.

6. I don’t know how.

This is also true, but you can learn. Start with a little at a time, and learn how to deal with this new change. Do some research online. Watch some videos. Ask people online how they dealt with it. This is easily overcome with a little effort and practice. In fact, if you do it now, and learn a little at a time, then you’ll be able to do away with this pesky excuse.

goals

 

7. I can do it later.

Sure, you can always do it later … but your later self will also feel the same way. Why should the later self be more disciplined than your current self? In fact, because you’re allowing yourself to slide now, you’re building a habit of procrastination and actually making is less likely that your future self will be more disciplined. Instead, do it now, unless there’s something more important that you need to do … don’t let yourself slide just because you don’t feel like it.

8. One time won’t hurt.

This is so tempting, because it’s kind of true — one time won’t hurt. Assuming, that is, that it’s only one time. One bite of chocolate cake, one missed workout, one time procrastinating instead of writing. Unfortunately, it’s never actually just one time. One time means your brain now knows it can get away with this excuse, and the next “one time” leads to another, until you’re not actually sticking to something. Make a rule: never ever believe the “one time” excuse. I did this with smoking (“Not One Puff Ever”) and it worked. If you’re going to allow yourself a bite or two of chocolate cake, decide beforehand and build it into your plan (“I will allow myself a fist-sized serving of sweets once every weekend”) and stick to that plan, rather than deciding on the fly, when your resistance is weak.

9. I don’t feel like it.

Well, true. You don’t feel like working hard. Who does? Letting the rule of “I’ll do it when feel like it” dictate your life means you’ll never write that book, never build that business, never create anything great, never have healthy habits. Create a plan that’s doable, and execute it. When the rationalizations like this come up, don’t believe them. Everyone is capable of doing a hard workout even when they’re not in the mood. Everyone can overcome their internal resistance.

10. I’m tired.

Yep, me too. I still did my heavy squat workout today. There is truth to needing rest, and resting when you need it (listen to your body) but this is usually the mind trying to weasel out of something uncomfortable. There’s a difference between being exhausted and needing some rest, and being the little tired we all feel every afternoon. Push through the latter.

11. I deserve a reward/break.

We all deserve that tasty treat, or a day off. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give yourself a reward or break. But if you make this rationalization your rule, you’ll always be on a break. You’ll always be giving yourself rewards, and never sticking to the original plan. Here’s what I do instead: I see sticking to my plan as the reward itself. Going on a run isn’t the thing I have to get through to get a reward — the run is the reward.

12. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop?

This again is our mind wanting to run from discomfort, and of course it’s true — it would be nice to stop if you’re pushing into a discomfort zone for too long. The thing is, the implication is that it would be better to stop, because it would be nice … but that’s a lie. It would be easier to stop, but often it’s better to continue pushing. This excuse almost beat me when I tried to run my 50-mile ultramarathon last December, because honestly it would have been much nicer to stop and not finish the race, especially in the last 10 miles or so. I pushed through, and found out I was tougher than I thought.

13. The result you’re going for isn’t important.

If you’re trying to run a marathon, this is phrased like, “It’s not that important that I finish this”. I’ve used this excuse for learning languages (it doesn’t matter if I learn this) or programming or any number of things I wanted to learn. I’ve used it for writing and exercise and eating healthy food. And while the result might not be that important, the truth is that the process is very important. If you stick with a process that will be better for you in the long run, then you will be better off. But if you let yourself go just because you are uncomfortable and at this moment care more for your comfort than the goal you set out for, you’ll have lots of problems. The goal isn’t important, but learning to stick to things when you’re uncomfortable is extremely important.

14. I’m afraid.

Now, this is the most honest excuse there is — most of us don’t want to admit we’re afraid to pursue something difficult. But it’s also a weaselly way out of discomfort — just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can. I’ve done tons of things I’m afraid of — mostly creating things that I was worried I’d fail at. And while the fear sometimes came true — I didn’t do too well sometimes — the act of pushing through the fear was incredibly important and I learned a lot each time.

Awareness & Practice

I’ve used all of these excuses hundreds of times each, so don’t think I’ve overcome them all. And you can use them in the future too. There’s nothing wrong with giving in sometimes.

The key is to learn whether they’re true, and see your pattern. Here’s what I’ve done:

  1. Notice the excuse. It has way more power if it works on you in the background.
  2. Try to have an answer for the excuse beforehand — anticipate it.
  3. If you give in, that’s OK, but recognize that you’re giving in to a lame excuse. Be aware of what you’re doing.
  4. After giving in, see what the results are. Are you happier? Is your life better? Was it worth it giving in to discomfort?
  5. Learn from those results. If you pushed through and are happy about it, remember that. If you gave in to excuses, and didn’t like the result, remember that.

If you consciously practice this process, you’ll get better at recognizing and not believing these lies. And then, bam, you’ve got your mind working for you instead of against you.

More on Self-Limiting Ideas
If you appreciated this discussion of self-limiting ideas, you’ll absolutely love Alan Watts’ The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, which refutes what is perhaps the greatest self-limiting idea of all—the idea that you are nothing more than a separate ego in a sack of skin.

by Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is a writer, runner, vegan, and the creator of Zen Habits.