When Is Enough, Enough?

WANTING MORE VS. BEING GRATEFUL

As I get older, I find myself in a curious spot. I am truly grateful for so much in my life, yet I feel that I have not lived up to my potential. Frankly, I’m not satisfied with where I am because I know I can do more. I realize the big irony is that my dissatisfaction is causing me to have anxiety and fear about what actions to take next to in regards to business and lifestyle. Worse, I find myself looking at my wonderful family and remembering the experiences I have had and I feel guilt over wanting more. Is it wrong that I should strive to want more considering that I have so much more than millions suffering from ill health, poverty and want? Perhaps, but it’s in my nature to strive for more. I don’t think I’m alone in this desire. After all, progress is happiness. It doesn’t matter what you used to do, or make, or bench press, if you find yourself slipping backwards, it can be devastating to the psyche. Conversely, if you set a goal which causes you to make progress from your current position, you will have a sense of achievement and worth. I have to remind myself of this constantly. If you find yourself in a similar mental situation as myself, let’s explore the following together…

WHAT DRIVES PROGRESS-

All human progress stems from dissatisfaction. Period. If man were perfectly content with his lot in life, there would be no reason for innovation, increased production or investments. The desire to improve lifestyle, length of life, financial position and physical capacity is what underlies our entire economy and society. It takes millions of people working to increase their value to others which leads to advancement and the creation of new wealth. Without this desire, which is unique and inherent to mankind, the free market and all its benefits would not be available. Society would not exist as we know it today. Life would be a very different experience for us without the need for self improvement. Therefore it’s reasonable that we should all want to do more, produce more, be more valuable so that we may help others as well as improve our own lives.

PURPOSE OVER HAPPINESS
I stated before that progress equals happiness, but happiness is overrated. I’ll say that again; happiness is overrated. Perhaps “progress equals fulfillment” would be a more appropriate statement. Happiness is too vague a term. It’s fleeting and it is not a dependable nor accurate barometer of how ones life is progressing. Yet too many people look to how happy they are currently as a measure of how they perceive their life. Happiness can be a bar of chocolate or a smile from an attractive person. It can be a past memory that comes into your consciousness. It doesn’t last. Happiness is a feeling and feelings don’t last. Happiness will flee anytime you fall ill, become stressed, experience pain or a change in fortune. We look at happiness as a destination, but it is not. This is the reason so many are drawn to television, sports or foods and drink that bring about a change in mental state. We are pursuing happiness in the form of a change of consciousness. We are seeking happiness by doing these things. We all know that spending time with certain people can be a great source of happiness. It can also be a source of anxiety. According to many studies, our relationships with others is the greatest indicator of how happy we are. I would suggest however, that the focus not be on happiness, but rather purpose. Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want? These are the three questions according to Stanislavsky that we need to answer in order to fulfill our purpose. By shifting your focus to answering these questions instead of wondering what will make you happy, you may just find true fulfillment, which is much more important than happiness.

FINDING BALANCE

Of course purpose and fulfillment cannot occur without reflection of your current situation and where it stands in relation to your goals. This requires one be both mindful of what is going right and what needs improvement. It’s not possible to get an accurate reading without considering both the positive and negative of your situation. If you are only focussed on what is lacking, without taking into consideration what you have accomplished, it will become impossible to get into an emotional state that will allow you to take the action needed to progress towards your goal. Once you achieve that emotional state that causes you to dream about what you want and jump out of bed early in the morning to get it, remember that what you’re doing is transforming into the best version of you. It’s not about what you’re getting, it’s about what you’re becoming. It does no good to ask, “What am I getting?” Instead, “What am I becoming?” If the answer is you are becoming more because you learned more and have more to give, you are on the right track. Therefore, no guilt should be associated with wanting more from life, so long as we don’t lose sight of all we have to be truly grateful for. And therein lies the difficulty. Balancing equal time on focussing what you have to be grateful for, with planning and taking action on how to become more and fulfill your potential. There must be balance or neither will happen and anxiety will ensue. It is a tricky task to balance, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

To becoming more!

-Sean

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The Problem With Competing

DON’T COMPETE

We live in a very competitive world. We have the idea of competition engrained in us when we are very very young. We are told that we have to try harder and do things better than everyone around us so that we can succeed. In school, we have to be at the top of the class. In sports, we have to be the MVP. Winners are recognized by society and we all desire significance on some level. Indeed, the idea behind winning is that we have performed better than everyone else doing the same activity as us and we should be recognized for being outstanding. I do admit that there is some value in competition. In certain situations it causes people to try harder and push past their previous perceived limits. On another level though, competition is one of the major causes of unhappiness in our culture. The constant stress of outperforming others can lead to some just “shutting down” instead of pressing on harder. Competition also creates constant fear that we may lose our jobs, our businesses, our titles and status to others. This fear can be useful if it leads to massive action and creativity, but I think in most instances this is simply not the case. From what I have observed, the opposite is true.

Competition kills creativity. This may fly in the face of what you’ve been told since childhood, but I stand by the statement. By definition, if you are competing against someone, you are doing the same thing as them, only attempting to do it better. This is the opposite of creativity. This is a form of copying. In the business world this is easily observed. Most companies start out trying to do the exact same thing as their competition, only perhaps make it slightly better or more convenient. Sometimes, businesses are engaging in the exact same activity and a customer would have a difficult time distinguishing between them. By copying what others are doing, the creative process of building something new is shut down. So much focus is given to outperforming the other, innovation takes a back seat. However, when you look at the most respected companies throughout history, most of them are recognized for being the first to do something or drastically improving the way something is done. The fifth company to the marketplace is rarely recognized, but that is what most people do- they start companies that are copies of others, or they get a job in the marketplace without giving much thought to what special skills will set them apart and allow them to do something unique.

Our world is in dire need of innovation. We need brand new technologies and ideas to drive humanity forward, but society teaches us from an early age, especially in our primary schools and universities to compete with each other for the same prizes, as if there was one pie and we all have to fight to get a slice. The truth is that through the creative process, we can all expand the size of the pie, or create a different prize all together. Get a piece of cake instead of pie. The world is not “dog eat dog”. In fact, dogs don’t really eat each other anymore, so I think it’s time to throw at that whole phrase and start working to build something new to benefit mankind. This requires that we use our mind as much as our bodies. Humanity must continue to evolve in its thinking and use the untapped mind-power we were blessed with at birth. Yes, it’s hard to think creatively in a world with constant noise. We have information at our fingertips today, but it’s not necessarily leading to more creativity. Much of it is just more noise. Our brains cannot process all the information it receives while at the same time trying to engage in creative thinking. The noise must be quieted in order for our minds to generate new ideas. Everyone is capable of creativity so long as we are not preoccupied with keeping ahead in the proverbial rat race. Break out of the race and blaze a new path. If you are an athlete, take your focus off the competition and put it on bringing something new and phenomenal to your sport. Develop a system, rituals or technology that allows you to surpass what you were previously capable of.

Happy New Year. May the coming year be a never ending fountain of creativity and energy for you and your family. Spend time thinking about new ideas. Who knows, if you’re trying to build something new, you might just do so!

In Health,
Sean

Guard Your Mind

Volumes of literature have been written about the impact that your thoughts can have upon your life. Although you are not your thoughts, (you are the one producing them) you certainly can become what you think about most of the time. Our thoughts influence our moods and therefore our actions more than anything else. But where do our thoughts come from? How and why do we produce the thoughts we do? Certainly some ideas and notions just “pop” into our head—the product of billions of neurons in our brains making connections without us consciously trying to cultivate such thinking. These random thoughts serve as a great reminder that we are not our thoughts. Our brain is producing them but we get to decide whether we “listen” to them and subsequently if we act of them. I believe that given the fact the brain/mind produces thoughts, it can be likened to a factory. Think of it as sort of a mental factory if you will. How do factories work? They take raw ingredients or inputs and work to turn them into a more finished product. Therefore, it is fair to say that our minds produce thoughts largely in part to the input it receives. Which leads me to this point…

BEWARE OF WHAT YOU FEED YOUR MIND!

If you find yourself having predominantly negative, unproductive or sad thoughts, or, if you find yourself in the same situations you have been facing for sometime without progress, it may be useful to examine what ingredients are going into your mental factory. Consider the input that you are giving your brain day after day, year after year. How many hours of television, social media, or movies is your brain being “fed”? What type of media is it being fed? Dark fictional stories? Negative news programs? What people do you most associate with? Whose ideas do you let influence you? These are all questions that should be answered periodically. If your mind really is a factory, it would be wise to make sure the ingredients it uses are purely appropriate. Can you imagine trying to make a delicious chocolate bar with rocks and dirt? I firmly believe that is what most people are trying to achieve on a daily basis. They would like positive, happy thoughts and emotions—they want the chocolate bar. But they are baking with the wrong ingredients, which leads them to producing negative thoughts and emotions. If it’s true that you become what you think about most of the time, and I believe it is, it’s clear to see how important it is to give your brain the right inputs so that you may have happy, productive thoughts and actions.

IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE THE BAD INGREDIENTS COME FROM

One of my favorite stories to listen to is businessman and author Jim Rohn speaking to a room of school children. He asked the kids, “What would happen if my worst enemy put sugar in my coffee?” The kids replied that he’d be okay. Jim goes on, “What would happen if my best friend accidentally put strychnine in my coffee?” “You’d be dead!” the kids said. Jim says, “That’s right! Lesson one: life is both sugar and strychnine and it doesn’t matter if it’s your worst enemy or you best friend that drops the poison in your coffee. And that brings us to the next lesson: watch your coffee!” I love this analogy because it’s so simple and easily understood. Even if the people you trust and love were accidentally putting negative ingredients into your mind, the outcome would be as if your enemy was doing it. It’s important to understand who and what is influencing us and that we constantly guard our mind against those who would do it harm, even inadvertently. That doesn’t mean we should necessarily cut people out of our life, although sometimes I firmly believe it is necessary. It would be wise to understand how our brains work and that our minds are constantly being fed information and opinion and images. Sometimes we are receiving information and ideas from people close to us, and those inputs are not serving us. Don’t just let anything into your mind without analyzing it first! It could be strychnine that is poisoning your thoughts without you even realizing it.

In closing I’ll leave you with this Jim Rohn quote. It would do us all well to read it daily:

“Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind.”

Perspective During the Holidays

Things To Keep in Mind This Season

I love the Holiday Season as a time for reflection on the past year as well as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones. If I’m being honest, I could do without the cold weather and smoky fires and Christmas trees (I have asthma and all three of these aggravate the condition.) I remember countless Christmases and New Years being sick as a kid. In fact, I’m sick while writing this. All that said, I still get overjoyed and excited around this time of year because of the spirit of giving and love. I love seeing children go to church to celebrate their religion and learn about giving to others. I also love giving children presents and watching their eyes light up as they open their gifts. However, I know the Holidays are not all positive for many, including myself. Even with all the issues I personally have with the Holiday Season, I look forward to it all year. I know others do as well, despite the fact that millions report stress and anxiety during this season. To keep stress at a minimum, there are some things I like to remind myself of during this time of the year. I’m going to share them with you in the hopes that it helps you realize some wonderful experiences.

The Power of Anticipation/ Momentum- While most tend to take their foot off the gas and coast through the Holidays and into the New Year, I use this time to anticipate the coming year to really work hard so that I can build momentum heading into January. This is especially true with my physical training and business preparations. Being in the fitness industry, it’s vital that I build momentum heading into the New Years because those who join the gym during before the end of the year are more likely to stick around after those who didn’t realize their New Year’s resolutions drop off. I also like to kick up my training a notch so that I’m able to use the extra food I consume at parties to build muscle rather than store fat. By increasing the intensity of my training, I also have more energy for all my employees and family. Momentum is very important although most underestimate how valuable it can be. Use the Holidays to build momentum and absolutely drive pedal to the metal into the New Year.

Unrealistic Expectations- I have been guilty of having unrealistic expectations of what Christmas and New Years should be like and have suffered disappointment when my expectations were not met. I think that so many of us are like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation; we have a grand vision of what should happen during the Holidays and how it should happen and then catastrophe occurs because we become so attached to this vision. Now, I’m not usually one for lowering standards, but trading expectation for appreciation is really the key to happiness during this time of year. If we are more appreciative of the time we have with family and friends and less attached to the expectations in our mind, I guarantee less stress and more positive feelings.

What’s Under Your Control- Along the same lines as having unrealistic expectations, it’s important to remember, as always, what is under your control and what it not. You may fall ill during this season. If that happens, it happens! It’s not in your control any longer. You may wish there was a different outcome, but that will not affect the reality of the situation. You also may not receive the present or bonus you wanted. These are also not in your control. Certain family members may not be present at your get-together. Again, this is not in your control. The only thing you can control is yourself and how you act to external events. Therein, lies a big choice. You can choose to be happy and appreciative despite what is happening, or you can let yourself be overcome with stress, grief and disappointments. How? You can always choose to use reason. That is under your control. Everything else is not.

The Importance of Your Health- The stress of the Holidays, the financial stress, the stress of expectations, and the physical stress due to poor food choices and excessive alcohol consumption are very real. Heart-related deaths increase by 5 percent during the holiday season. Fatal heart attacks peak on Christmas, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Day, according to a national Circulation study. People may also tend to put off health care during the holidays, leading to potentially fatal situations. My advice? The holidays are a time to enjoy the health of you and your loved ones, not ignore it. ‘Tis not the season for gluttony and alcohol abuse. Enjoy the treats and parties, but remember that health is a very serious thing. We tend to forget this until we experience a near death experience or have a family member pass away. Don’t ignore your health this season. Improve it.

What Is Really Important- Lastly, remember what is really important about this time of year. Faith, family, friends, traditions, health- these are all the things that should be celebrated during this special time, not material things. I love to give as much as anyone, but I realize now the most important thing I can give is my presence not my presents. (I know that’s a cliche, but indulge me.) I will say there is one caveat to this; if your family or work parties are not conducive to improving your spirits and health, as in they are blanketed with negativity and excess libations, I suggest it best to skip them and focus on reflecting over the past year and planning where improvements can be made. This may sound harsh, but in the end, you are the most important person in your world because you are the only one in control of you! So make sure the Holidays bring out the best version of you so that you can be a joy for others.

So there you have it. These are the five things I like to remind myself of during this time of year. I think it’s important to reflect them so that the Holiday will be filled with positive emotions rather than negative ones. The Holidays, like another other time of the year is what you make them. I hope this season will be the best one yet for you and your family and loved ones.

In Health,

Sean

The Dirty Little Holiday Secret

WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

There is a dirty little secret that no one likes to admit about the holiday season. It’s well known that millions suffer from additional stress and anxiety during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Some of this anxiety is due to the additional financial stress from the feelings of guilt about purchasing presents for everyone in our lives. Household credit card debt spikes during the holidays leaving a lingering money problems for millions heading into the New Year. Then there is the stress about traveling and seeing all the members of your family you feel obligated to see. Let’s be honest, we all have some family and friends that require us to consume copious amounts of alcohol just to feel comfortable around. For millions others it’s the time off work that becomes a problem. If you are lucky enough to be paid for the time off, great. If not, not only do the stresses of additional purchases come into play, but also the loss of income. For some, all of the issues listed above are applicable. These, however are not the dirty little secret I’m referring to.

What We Think the Holidays Are

The holidays can be many things to many people. Whatever story we tell ourselves about the meaning of the holidays will become reality. Therefore it is very important to consider what you are telling yourself about what the holidays are. Are they about family? Are the holidays about your faith? Do the holidays mean giving to others? Are they about stressing out? Watching movies like Christmas Story or Die Hard? All of these meanings may be great and they may apply to you, but let me suggest to you what the Holidays and all other days are about. In fact, the Holiday Season is not unlike any other season in what it means for all of us. How can this be? If you look at what we really have control over in our lives versus what is outside our control, the answer is clear. You cannot control external events such as how people act at family parties, what movies are on TV, whether or not you come down with an illness or how much stress others have during this season. You only have control over one thing, your mind and how you decide to take action with it. The special feelings and rituals we have during this season are not exclusive to this time of year. Moreover, the positive lessons of the season are not meant to only be learned and remembered during winter. So the question then becomes, “how do we control our minds an keep the lessons of the holidays all year?” In a word, reflection.

What the Holidays Are Really About-

The Christmas season is considered the “season of miracles”. I think the greatest miracle is the human mind and what it is capable of. In the Bible, Jesus states “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, meaning all of us are capable of cultivating heavenly thoughts and therefore a wonderful life. We can also choose to ignore the miracle of our minds and allow ourselves to be overcome with negative emotions. One advantage of having Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other special holidays near the end of the year is that we are able to reflect on our actions and thoughts over the previous year. I believe that’s what the Holidays are really about- reflection. It is a time to look back at what we have learned, who we have met, what opportunities have come our way, what we are grateful for. This is not just about New Years. The emotions connected with all the Holidays this time of year can sometimes cloud our thinking, but strong emotional environments can also be useful for internal reflection. Sometimes is takes strong emotions for us to realize what is important. It’s important to reflect on what is in our control and what is not. By reflecting on the past year, we can learn much about ourselves and how we responded to things outside our control. For me, I like to write down situations that I was proud of how I acted as well as the times I am not so proud of. Also, what things were in my control that I maybe neglected? What do I need to work? See, the Holiday season is truly a time for miracles, a time to reflect on the miracle of life and our minds. The fact that humans can self-reflect is itself a miracle. We can choose our values and actions- choice is a miracle.

WHAT NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT- IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
So here’s the dirty little secret- the Holidays are really about the most important person in your life…you. Every day is about you. We like to think what we do is for others, but we cannot control others or how they react or feel. We can give all we like, but it’s still for us. We can only control ourselves and our minds. You are the most important person in your life because you are the only one who can control you. If you want to help others this Holiday season, fine, but understand why you are doing it. You are doing it for because it fits with your values and fulfills a need you have to contribute. There’s nothing wrong with that. No reason to feel guilty about it. In fact, it makes you a better person, a better you! Everything you do, even if it’s for others is still for you. Reflect on that this holiday season. Reflect on how you can do more for yourself so that you may help others. Consider what is in your control and what is not so you can live a life with less anxiety and allow yourself to grow. Reflect on what you are grateful for, especially your mind. Reflect on how important you are. To others, to the world, to your loved ones. You are the most important person in your world. So take care of yourself so that you may help take care of others.

Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!!!!

Sean

Picking Your Battles

Much of life is discerning between what is in your control and what is not in your control. So much effort is wasted on things that we have no control over and inevitable pain occurs from the wasted energy. It’s not always easy to establish what we have control over, but once we do, we can properly focus our efforts on taking action. However, as I have gotten a little older, I realize that sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. That is not to say that we should be lazy and do nothing. What I mean is that part of becoming wise is learning how to pick your battles. In other words, the question we should all ask is, “Where will our efforts have the most effect?” Picking the right battle is essentially properly allocating your resources and energy. This means that we must ignore less important situations while the major ones are addressed.

I cannot even begin to express how much energy I have wasted fighting the wrong fights. This is especially true being a business owner because I often think that everything is in my control in the business. This is a mistake. Although I’m responsible for the business, I do not have control over every aspect. In business, owners like myself make the mistake of misdiagnosing what areas need the most attention and then we spend enormous amounts of money and energy on things that have very little impact. I’ve done this by focusing on advertising instead of having the sales staff properly trained. I didn’t realize that the ads were not the problem. It was the ability of the staff to close the sale because we had either the wrong people, or they were not trained correctly. This is just one example of picking the wrong battle to fight. Although I had control over both these aspects of my business, one battle would have yielded much more return on investment than the other. I’ve also made the mistake of adding more equipment thinking that would increase sales. In fact, the newer equipment had almost no impact on sales. What did increase sales was remodeling the locker rooms. Interesting.

Just because something is in your control doesn’t mean you have to take action immediately. Rushing into battle unprepared is often worse than taking time to properly analyze the situation and then choosing how and where to attack the problem. Most of us can understand that it would be a mistake to attack an enemy head on where their forces are the most concentrated and you are outnumbered. But that is exactly the mistake we make when we rush into taking action without analyzing where we can be most effective. Again, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should! Sometimes the best course of action is to save up your energy and attack a problem where you will have a huge impact. Think of this as getting a bigger weapon. Don’t throw a rock at a tank just because you’re holding one in your hand. Take the time to find the right weapon to take on the problem.

Thoughts Are Not Enough

THE PROBLEM WITH POSITIVE THINKING

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith“ – The Book of Timothy.

Being both an athlete and an owner of a somewhat large business in the fitness industry, I have noticed much more talk about the Law of Attraction and positive thinking as it relates to fitness and sports. Of course, these concepts are nothing new, but they seem to have found new life in social media circles as of late. I’m happy to see that there is an increased focus on the power of thought and philosophy as it relates to physical performance and health. I do, however, become a little concerned when I see so many people post about thinking positive without talking about the other major factor in achievement and health, WORK. Thoughts alone are not enough. You still have to do the work to succeed. Positive thinking without hard work is delusion. It’s the same as walking into a garden and chanting, “There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds.” Guess what? There probably is weeds and they will take over the whole garden without working to rip them out.

In fact, not only does it take work, it takes massive action to achieve your desires and make sure the garden of your life is beautiful. What does that mean? It means that it usually takes even more work than you think it’s going to initially. So be prepared for that. Not only do you have to think positively that you can do something, you must be ready to work as if your life depends on it. I believe like the quote says, much of life is a battle. We all must battle everyday against the negative thoughts we have. We must battle against the obstacles that stand in the way of our goals. We must battle against darkness in the world by becoming a beacon of light. But a battle takes work. Thinking you can win is not enough. You must begin the race by doing the work of taking the first step and then having the belief you can finish, and then following up to make sure you do. Optimism itself will not do. Positive thinking must lead you to take action for it to be useful.

The last key to making sure win the battle is keeping the faith in yourself and others. What good is it to fight for what you want if you let the fight change you into something you are not proud of? Look all around and you’ll find people who have been jaded and disillusioned because of their struggles in life. This is where positive thinking comes back into play. It takes both hard work and positive thinking, especially while the work is being done. Hard work has the potential to change us into worse versions of ourselves unless we have faith the work is worth it in the long run.

So remember, believe you can succeed, fight the fight to make success a reality and always keep faith in yourself and others that you can persevere and the struggle will be worth it. Remember too that few things worth having ever come easy. Positive thinking alone may only lead to disappointment without applying the massive action needed towards achieving your goals.