For Auld Lang Syne

The New Year is upon us!!! What was awesome about your 2016? What didn’t work out so well for you? The questions you ask yourself and the evaluations you give to those questions will determine the quality of your life, not just for this new year, but forever. Most of us ask questions that trigger bad answers. Ask: Why am I fat? , your brain will say: “Because you’re lazy”. The reason for this, is because most of carry around our past failures with us. Instead, carry your victories with you. Ask better questions if you want better results. What are you proud of? What are you juiced about? What makes your feel good? Those questions will get you unbelievable results in the gym and in your life.

Sometimes it helps to think about areas of you life like fitness as if it were a car being driven along the road. What type of car do you want to drive? How fast are you reaching your destination? Do you have enough fuel? I like to remind people they are always driving somewhere, but often they’re looking in the wrong direction. While the rear view mirror is very useful, if that’s all you’re looking at while driving……CRASH!!!! Make sure you check it to see what’s behind you, but focus on the windshield so you can see what lies ahead. And what a bright future it can be if you let it.

Auld Lang Syne the tune many of us hear during the New Year was written in 1788 by a Scottish poet named Robert Burns. You know the tune, but do you know what it means? Auld Lang Syne means ‘for days of old’. The poet was talking about “talking a cup of kindness” for days of old. The song instructs us to think fondly of our past, not take our defeats with us. In other words, it’s good to reminisce, but only if you’re focusing on what was good and what you can  be grateful for.

So let’s change your focus in 2017 to your victories and not your defeats. Focus on what you love and not what you fear. Focus on your goals, but focus more on the reasons you want to achieve them. Remember, success leaves clues. Find out what you want, then figure out who has done it before you and get some coaching.

So what’s your real goals for 2017?

-Sean Covell

Conquer Fear Forever

What’s the biggest problem in you life right now? If you are like most people I know, the “problem” that you have probably isn’t as bad as the fear you have from what you believe will be the result of your problem. Sure, you may have a legitimate obstacle in your life, standing in the way of your desired outcome, but it is the perception of your problem, the fear you have that may be a bigger problem. In other words, people fear a certain outcome before it has even happened, causing them anxiety, worry, nervousness, even depression (the fear that you lack agency in your life, that you have no control over what happens to you or what you do about events in your life). All of these emotions are just fear manifesting itself. Stress is another code word for fear. We feel stressed because we fear something is not going to happen as we like it. I’m going to reveal a big secret here; fear is only possible because of…attachment.

Fear always results from feelings or beliefs of attachment to something or someone. Attachment to success leads to the fear of ridicule. Attachment to loved ones leads to the fear of loss or death. Attachment to wealth leads to the fear of poverty. Attachment to a career or project leads to fear of loss of that work. Attachment to a relationship or romantic partner leads to the fear of adultery or rejection. Attachment to beauty and youth leads to a fear of old age. Attachment to a certain outcome leads to the fear of failure and ridicule. Attachment to your own life leads to a fear of death and discomfort. Above all, attachment to things that are not in our control leads to the fear of lack of fulfillment and eventual disappointment. It is clear, to me at least, that fear is only possible with attachment. This leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the answer to conquering fear forever is to remove any attachment that we have in our lives. Right? Right… easier said than done.

As social beings, we have the natural tendency to allow ourselves to feel attachment to others. We develop attachments to things and people and develop strong emotional ties to them throughout our lives. While strong relationships and physical objects that improve our lifestyle are necessary, attachments to people, outcomes and objects is not necessary, nor do I believe it is healthy. Yet, most of us do it anyways. Opinions differ on why this occurs, but I believe, as do many philosophers and psychologists that we form attachments because of a perceived lack or void within ourselves. The belief that we are not enough leads us to feelings of attachment. Feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and emptiness are all terms we use to explain the void. Therefore, the only way to avoid attachment that leads to fear, is to accept that we are the void. Loneliness, emptiness and the like are natural to the human experience and you do not need to validate yourself with anyone or anything else. When we accept something, we can stop running from it and begin to reason as to what is in our control and what is not.

There are some tools that exist to help us deal with attachment and eliminate the fear that holds so many in prisons within their own minds. The most powerful, in my opinion, comes from the ancient Stoics who used negative visualization- daily meditation on the impermanence of all things and people. By constantly reminding ourselves that “this too shall pass”, we keep from becoming overly attached because nothing lasts. The beauty of impermanence is that is can remind us that life is short, so how we spend our time matters a great deal. Relationships with others can become stronger using this technique too. If you remind yourself that every moment matters, you will be less likely engaging others in triviality, choosing instead to savor every moment with that person. The most important aspect of negative visualization is that it reminds us that we truly do not own anyone or anything, including our own lives. Everything is on loan to us. We are the void. We have nothing. And someone who has nothing has nothing to fear.

The other most effective tool for controlling attachment and therefore fear is developing the ability to recognize what you have control over and what you have no control over. In modern society with the abundance of food choices, you mostly have control over your diet. Therefore, you have some control over your body and physique. You do not, however, have control over whether someone is leaner or more attractive than you. Thus, envy, jealously and the fear that you are not enough is irrational because you cannot control others. Another external factor that humans have a tendency to form attachment to are the outcomes of events. Take a sporting tournament. You may believe that you have control over how you train yourself and therefore how well you will do in the tournament. You may then develop certain expectations for the outcome of the tournament. However, whether you win the tournament is actually outside your control for the reason that you have no control over others and how well they have trained for this event. Therefore, developing an attachment to winning the tournament should not be the goal, but rather focusing on performing as well as possible. By focusing on what is in your control (your performance), rather than what is outside it (the outcome of the tournament), you may in fact win the tournament. Most people develop anxiety and nervousness from competition. By realizing that you only have control over yourself, you will spare yourself the fear of failure and disappointment that comes from attachment to an outcome. The irony here is that by focusing on your performance alone, you are more likely to win the tournament than allowing yourself to become anxious or nervous.

Fear is something that all humans battle throughout life because it is in our nature to form attachments. By remembering that we own nothing and that even our own lives are on loan to us from nature, despite our best efforts to increase our lifespan and quality of life, we can allow all attachments and the fear that accompanies them to fall away. Additionally, by reasoning what is in our control and what is not, we can better focus our energy and time on what we can work to improve, rather than allow ourselves to worry over external events. (Hint: if you look closely, there is always some control you have in any situation, starting with your beliefs about the situation.) My hope is that these tools are of some use to you while navigating through life. Remember, these tools, (negative visualization and reasoning what you have control over and what you do not) are always at your disposal. They are sitting in your tool bag at all times. Whether or not you decide to use them is up to you. As I often remind my wife, most projects that fail, do so because the proper tools were not used. I hope this is not your fate.

Be Great,

Sean

 

Be Negative!

The Importance of Thinking Negative

 

Despite popular belief amongst my family, friends and employees, I am not a very positive person. Actually, I don’t believe in positive thinking–believing that everything will always work out because you want it to be a certain way. No, the truth is that you don’t get what you want in life. You get what you tolerate. You get your standards. Bad stuff happens all the time, even to good people. That’s the way of the universe. Don’t ask me why. I wasn’t included in the board meeting during the master plan to create this reality. I have a belief that nature is clueless and could care less about your desires. You operate in nature, not the other way around. Sure, you can alter nature slightly, using your mind and body to invent and create things that improve your standard of living, but I think it’s always best to be mindful of the reality of nature. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquake, fires, accidents– these are all a natural part of life. No amount of positive thinking is going to make all that go away.

So do we walk around moping all the time and murmuring about how hard life is? Absolutely not! Though I don’t believe in positive thinking, I do believe in accurate thinking–seeing things as they are, but not worse than what they are. For some odd reason, humans have the tendency to create stories about occurrences in everyday life that lead to the conclusion that all hell will break lose, or that no one will love us, or we will never be enough. Accurate thinking, or what the Stoics called Reason, is a tool unique to humans and we can use it to examine the world around us, and make choices that positively affect our lives. Conversely, only thinking about things in a positive way hinders us from being able to correctly identify obstacles and formulate plans to overcome them using reason. What I’m contending here is that seeing the downside to a plan, being able to negatively visualize an outcome is an incredible tool for preventing pain and can actually help you grow as a person. Moreover, not being blindsided by some negative event may allow you to maintain tranquility. I believe the ability to identify possible problems is a crucial part to survival.

Is the glass half full or half empty? This question missed the entire point. Reason would tell us that the glass is filled to half of its capacity. The glass is halfway filled up. This type of thinking is not new. In fact, it’s thousands of years old. The school of philosophy called Stoicism and it’s teachers spoke about using reason to control your emotions and maintain tranquility. Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius also suggested that we use negative visualization as not only a way to identify possible problems before hand, but also to better appreciate the things and people we have in our lives. Here, these philosophers argued that in addition to seeing things as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be, we should also envision the worst-case scenario on occasion. Why? Suppose that in your interactions with others, you envision that this is the last time you might see them because something terrible will happen to you or them. How will you treat them? Will you yell and roll your eyes at them like some of us do? What are the thoughts that will enter your head? Will they be thoughts of malice and hate? Or will they perhaps be thoughts of regret? Regret that you didn’t make more of the time you had together.  What of your possessions?  By imagining you may lose them all, you may develop a better appreciation for what your already have rather than seeking pleasure in acquiring new things.

The point of this exercise is to remind us that eventually there will be a last time for something. Our time is limited and that what is makes it special. Pretending that every time you kiss your wife or kids is the last time may sound depressing, but let me suggest that engaging in this practice radically changes the way you act towards people. By constantly reminding ourselves that our lives are on loan to us and that everything we have will come to and end, we can become driven to do the things that really matter. Also, the way we act towards others will become more positive because few want our last memory of something to be negative-so we being to cherish the relationships that mean something to us even more. Thinking about the negative in this situation can actually cause us to become happier and more fulfilled.

In conclusion, being constantly cheery while ignoring problems is no way to go through life. Happiness is not necessarily our default emotion. Our brains were not designed to make us happy. They certainly can, but their primary purpose is to evaluate the world around us and help us identify obstacles and the solutions to them. Our brains are wired for survival, not necessarily joy. So, if you don’t wake up happy or walk around with a permanent smile, don’t worry. You’re not abnormal. Just be sure that you see things as they are but not worse than what they are. Walking into your garden and chanting “there’s no weeds” will not make the weeds go away. But by thinking “positively” and ignoring them, they might just grow right up over your feet. See things as they really are, not better than they are, not worse than they are. Once you know the reality, you can begin to improve it. And remember too, that we all fated with a death sentence. We all have very limited time. So spend it wisely!

 

In Health,

 

 

Sean

 

 

 

Beating the Winter Blues

Beating Back Winter Blues With Heavy Metal

If there is anything I have learned, it’s the time between Halloween and New Years Eve can be a devastating time of the year for many people. The stress of the Holidays, the sugary sweets, the financial burden of buying others presents and especially the lack of vitamin D from sunlight- all of which can lead to negative emotional and physical states. I’ve always joked that if only we could skip the Holidays, there would be no need for New Years Resolutions because most of those resolutions are to fix what went wrong during the holidays. So, let this year be different. “How?”, you ask. Well, let me suggest that between now and the New Years, you make an effort to train your body like you’ve never done before. We will call this “heavy metal therapy”. The reason for that is because this holidays we are going to use the iron, (weights) in a way that drives us into the New Year with incredible momentum, strength and endurance.

Now, for this heavy metal therapy to be effective, it is important to remember that old habits must be broken. It was old habits that got us in the predicament we are now, therefore, we are going to start off by skipping the treadmill altogether. In fact, all of our cardio is going to be interval training with body weight or weights. We are going to focus instead on big, heavy lifts that stimulate muscle growth, burn fat and cause our bodies to produce more hormones that keep up feeling young and healthy. The main lifts we are going to incorporate to our weekly training us as follows:

-Deadlifts (rack pulls if you lower back doesn’t allow deadlifts)
-Bench press (seated machine or hammer strength press if shoulder injuries are present)
-Squat (leg press is lower back has problems)
-Pull ups (assisted if necessary)
-Dumbbell shoulder press

These movements incorporate many muscle groups to execute the lift properly. This will elevate your metabolism and begin to train

So here’s the plan; we are going to do each of these exercises twice a week throughout the winter months. The rep range is going to be between 5 and 8 reps (after proper warm up). Each repetition should feel somewhat heavy. You get to pick whatever accessory exercises you like, such as bicep curls, leg extensions, planks and shoulder later raise, but the focus is going to be these Big Lifts. Each workout should consist of 5 sets of these main exercises. Be sure to hit each twice a week for throughout winter, allowing the extra Holiday food to fuel your strength gains. Also, try to track the progression in weights week after week. You should find yourself mastering these lifts the more you do them and also begin to notice significant strength gains and hypertrophy in your muscles. Finish off every workout with 15 minutes of interval training(30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) with the following:

-farmers walks
-burpees
-jump rope
-push up to plank movements
-medicine ball clean and jerks.
-kettle bell swings

Last, try to get as much sunlight as possible so that your body can manufacture Vitamin D. Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, is a very real thing that occurs when people suffer a lack of Vitamin D in their diets as well as lack of sunlight during the winter months. Too little Vitamin D can cause a variety of issues including, depression, compromised immune function, joint pain, asthma, decreased cognition and even increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. I personally supplement 5,000 IU of Vitamin D an K2 daily during the winter to ensure my body is operating properly. If you live in an area that still receives direct sunlight during the winter, get outside!

So there it is- an out of the box, heavy metal recipe to beat back the winter blues. Let’s change what the Holidays mean for our bodies this year. It doesn’t have to be a winter of discontent to quote Charles Dickens. Rather, it can be a time when you really learn about your body and what it is capable of doing. Your New Years Resolutions don’t need to be actions to repair yourself from the Holidays, but rather to propel your new self into the New Year. Happy Holidays from my family to yours!   We are eternally grateful for you and family. From our family to yours,
Happy, Healthy, Heavy Holidays!