Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

I owe this one to Seth Godin. I was reading ‘Tribes’ and this was a part that stuck out for me.

how was your day

“How was your day?” – Its one of those common every day questions that people ask, part polite interest and part conversational opener. Standard responses are usually expected to be positive. The conversation then moves on.

But what if your day wasn’t fine? You can have a moan and the relationship you have with the listener will depend on the level of sympathy/interest you gain. Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you wet your face. Nobody really likes listening to whining. But we all have days when things don’t go so well and sometimes a good rant to a friend is a cathartic process that leaves you feeling better and as long as you can do it with sufficient wit or interest (and not too often!) means the listening party doesn’t suffer too much.

But what of your day isn’t fine and your they haven’t been for some time? How you answer this question in public does not need to be the same as you how you answer it to yourself. But if your days haven’t been fine it’s what you do next that’s the important bit. Many when asked how their day was, answer “yeah fine,” almost by rote and move on to the next piece of conversation.

I’ve met enough people who hate their jobs, hate how they look, don’t like their health or are in relationships they don’t like. Yet they keep on doing the same job, the same diet,  the same lifestyle choices and stay in the same relationship. If things aren’t going well the first thing to do is to identify it. Then decide if it is a transitory thing or whether it’s here to stay. If its transitory, how will you work through it? If it’s here to stay, what are you going to do about it? It’s up to you to sort out what you will do to turn it around. Waiting for someone else to show up and do it for you is likely to be a long wait.

As I’ve got older I’ve become less tolerant. I don’t have time for people who procrastinate and I get annoyed with myself if I find I’m doing it. I’d rather get on with things than spend hours brooding about them. Planning strategies and the time it takes up is fine. Paralysed by indecision isn’t. Life is too short (and I’ve got fewer sands in the timer than I used to have) so upwards, onwards and deal with whatever needs dealt with. That gives me time to do the good stuff, rather than just deal with the bad stuff.

When things get on top of me, there are a few strategies that I’ve found help me out.

  • Think first, react second. Be logical.
  • Break down big problems into various smaller ones and then deal with them one by one.
  • Have I had any similar issues in the past for any experience I can draw on?
  • Remind myself I’ve dealt with worse in the past and got through it.
  • Look for the positives in any situation, there are always some.
  • If a friend came to me with the same problem, what would I advise them?
  • And how pissed off would I be if they then went and did something different in the spur of the moment which made the situation worse?

So how was your day? It’s a question we should ask ourselves every day and answer it honestly. And if we don’t like the answer then time for a serious look at what we are going to do about it.

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When I first started going to the gym I used to wear baggy old clothes that I could hide in. I’d tell myself it didn’t matter what I wore it was about what I did, that’s what was important.  It’s hard to argue with that statement, but here’s the thing, I didn’t perform very well. I didn’t feel good about myself and my confidence was rock bottom. Once I managed to learn a bit about what I was doing and I started to see improvements in my shape, my mindset about what I wore changed completely. I got rid of the old baggy jogging bottoms and T-shirts and bought some proper gym gear. It fitted better and I felt better in it, I felt more confident and as a result I performed even better.

Today I found another improvement. My current gym gear was getting pretty old and faded and I decided to get some new stuff. I’ve dropped a size. I’m now a medium – upper body and waist. Two and a half years ago I was an X-Large and I remember how delighted I was to get to being a large. I’d never really expected to get to medium. It wasn’t an intention or a goal, but it just seems to have happened. Naturally, I’m delighted. This is what I bought:

  Reebok top Adidas running top

My first ever sleeveless gym top and a standard sleeved one, although both are fairly fitted.

I’m a firm believer in feeling positive improves performance. As I’ve got older appearance has mattered more to me, and just as much at the gym as anywhere else. So feeling good about myself brings confidence, this my improves performance. It doesn’t substitute for performance. I’ve seen plenty of people at the gym in trendy clothing that do very little in the way of exercise – that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, when I feel good about myself I’m more inclined to be able to squeeze out that last rep when my arms are burning and I’m feeling exhausted. Confidence helps me do more, and by doing more I feel more confident  – it’s a win-win situation if you can get the mindset right.

I’ve never worn a sleeveless gym top before. Never had the courage. I’ve always been too old, not buff enough, too much something, not enough something else. Well at 48 years of age I’m going to give it a go. I’m slightly surprised at myself for being this confident. Two years ago this would simply never have happened and would have never even been considered. Anyone suggesting it to me would have got a flat refusal. But yet here I am… I’ve toned up enough in the last couple of years to be able to wear this and while I’ll feel a bit strange (at first anyway) I won’t feel silly or laughable. Is buying a sleeveless gym top the onset of the mid-life crisis? I don’t think so, but if it is at least its cheaper than a Harley.

On the practical side I also find wearing the proper gear means I sweat less, and there are no two ways about it, I just don’t look that great when bright red of face with sweat pouring off me. Anything that improves that has got to be good – for everyone. So I’m guilty of a bit of gym wear vanity. I can live with that, if it helps my performance and I feel better in it then it sounds like a good investment to me. I dare say some people would disagree and if that works fine for them then I have no desire to try to change their minds. But as this blog is about me, its my opinions I’ll be focussing on.

I can’t say it’s as simple as new clothes automatically equals better performance, but I can say new clothes gives me a little more confidence and that boosts my performance. It’s also a chance to try something slightly new – and that’s always worthwhile. Sleeveless tops, whatever next…?

It was with a wry smile I read this article on the BBC website. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘slimming industry’, in fact I can’t think of a better example of a business which deserves to be pummelled out of existence. If that sounds a little harsh then let’s have a look at the evidence. If the slimming industry model actually worked, if the products were successful,  we wouldn’t have the industry. Instead we would have fit and healthy people. The slimming industry model is built not on customer success, but instead on customer failure. According to research, 77% of people who buy slimming industry products gain all lost weight within 5 years. I can’t think of any other business where a 77% failure rate would be accepted.

The slimming industry makes its bucks by selling dreams – not solutions. Well, not solutions for 77% of the customer base anyway. Buy a fad diet and the products, lose some weight, finish fad diet, put some weight back on again, buy another fad diet and more products. Repeat cycle for the rest of your life, or until you don’t care any more and decide being fat and unfit is acceptable. Wherever there is a fad diet there is someone making money. Buy the book, the DVD, subscribe to the monthly update, the supplements and then wait for the next one to come out that is EVEN better (which is normally not too hard a promise to keep). The money (and we’re talking billions here!) comes in from the repeat failure of customers unable to make a long-term difference. A significant part of that is down to the customer looking for an easy way to have the lifestyle they want while not putting on weight. ‘I want to eat burgers and pizza every night and still look great.’ That is never going to work and anyone who says its possible is lying or more likely about to try to sell you an alternative. Yet the slimming industry keeps on flogging the dream and the suckers keep paying for it.

There is a Weight Watchers group that meet weekly at the gym I go to. I see them sitting around in the reception area. One slim woman with big hair, perfect make up and a painted on smile clicking away on a laptop while taking money, one set of scales and a bunch of overweight people sitting about. There have been a at least a few times I’ve thought of saying ‘instead of sitting on your ass in the reception area why not go into the gym and maybe move around a bit?’ But that would be rude and probably hurtful. I believe that most of the people attending these meetings think that by showing up and paying their fees they are already making a positive step to lose weight.

weight scales

So now Weight Watchers are feeling the pinch themselves. They have fallen victim to the amount of fitness and diet apps out there. We no longer have to sign up to Weight Watchers and attend meetings, we can fool ourselves from the comfort of our own couch while eating potato chips that by downloading an app we are living a more healthy life. It won’t make us any healthier but at least it might make the snake oil market a good bit more competitive which will allow people to have more money for their medical bills when their health fails from following the fads of the slimming industry. Looking at the company statement the writing has been on the wall for WW throughout 2013. Growth in quarters 2013 went 10.9%, 6.6%, 0.6% and then in Q4 down 5.3%. And I’d also love to know what was behind:

Excluding the $14.5 million over-accrual reversal benefit associated with the settlement in Q4 2012 of the UK self-employment tax litigation

Looks like they got off far lighter than they expected for some tax ‘issue’, or perhaps just a clever way to defer some profits to reduce tax dues for the year? Who can say? For me, and I’m not an accountant, the big thing in the statement was how attendance had dropped from 50.7m to 42.9m in one year. So over the course of 12 months approx 1 in 6 people who had been paying Weight Watchers decided to stop. There is no business on the planet looking at that statistic that isn’t thinking ‘we must do something about this’. It’s also a chance for a positive change. Its their big chance to do something the slimming industry has never done – provide an honest product that makes a lasting difference. I’m not holding my breath though.

One last thing, if you ever get the chance to see the BBC series The Men Who Made Us Thin, then I really recommend you do so. A fascinating documentary on the marketing that leads us to purchase products from the slimming and health industries and also some of the history behind it. A really good series. You can find a write-up of it here.

Living A Younger Life

Posted: January 29, 2014 in General, Motivation

For the past couple of years I’ve been unable to come up with a suitable description for what I want to achieve with my lifestyle. A big part of it has been me being unable to quantify what I want to achieve. Be fitter, healthier, better, more active physically and mentally. It’s all a bit vague. Fitter than what? Better than what? I’ve ben unable to convey in anything but the most general terms what my aim is.

This morning I had an ‘Eureka’ moment. I was just browsing the net and somehow I came across a website for Drenched Fitness in California. So not exactly local to me. However it looks an attractive site so I had a look around and came across this page. And there was exactly the description I’ve been looking for – ‘Living A Younger Life‘ – this sums up exactly what I’ve been trying to achieve. They may not be the first people to use the phrase, but its the first time I have seen it, so I’m giving them the credit for it.

Anyone reading that expression knows exactly what is intended. My mistake when trying to describe what I wanted to convey was too much analysis. Looking for things to compare to so I could describe a clear message. All I ended up doing was cluttering up the idea. The sheer simplicity of this statement is what makes it more effective. A classic case of when less is more.

Working it back into what I had though about originally and it becomes clearer. I’ll be fitter than the average person my age, I’ll have the fitness level of a younger person, same for healthier and being more active. I can’t turn back the clock, but how I am as I get older is down to me. Physically and mentally I intend to live a younger life.

How young? I don’t see why I can’t be as fit, healthy and active as just about anyone 10 years younger than me. In fact looking around at people going about their daily business I’m already there for a large percentage.

So that’s the overall goal, clearly defined. Live a younger life. And big thanks to Drenched Fitness for having the expression in the first place for me to use.

Motivational humour

Posted: January 10, 2014 in Humour, Motivation

There are so many images across the interweb which supposedly have the aim of motivating us to do better. They have such horrendously cheesy wording like “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” imposed over a basketball hoop. I really hate that stuff. There is nothing about wording which is cheesier than a 10-year-old Gorgonzola to inspire me to do anything. Instead its more likely to stop me in my tracks and have me turning around and hurling a volley of abuse at whoever spouted such patronising rubbish.

Sometime however there is the odd image which does amuse me.

You're not fat

I’m more likely to be inspired by something which makes me smile and the above certainly did amuse. I’d love to plaster it about the gym at this time of year when its full of people who have made new year’s resolutions. Maybe if they looked at it enough they would last beyond the end of February!

Reflections on 2013

Posted: December 28, 2013 in General, Motivation, Musings

With 2014 almost upon us, it’s time to take stock of 2013. 2013 is coming to an end and its time to have a look back and see what has gone well this year. Overall its been a fairly good year. A quick look at how it went.

Positives:

  • Had a superb holiday to Mexico, two weeks of absolute bliss.
  • Relationship has been great, we are growing in the same direction.
  • Fitness level and physique have improved. Gym attendance this year has been up on last year. I can now do proper dips.
  • I’ve become far more knowledgable about fitness and nutrition.
  • Elder daughter became a doctor of chemistry and left University for a full-time job and that seems to be working out really well for her.
  • I’d wanted to replace a lot of my old XL clothing and replace them with better, smaller sized and more flattering garments. Managed that and then some.
  • I now have slim-fit shirts!
  • I’ve had a good year performance wise at work.
  • Got the kitchen redone.
  • Discovered Sons of Anarchy.
  • Bought a new TV. 50″ of hi-res awesomeness
  • Quit playing World of Warcraft

Negatives:

  • My mood often focussed on the negatives rather than the positives. Too much of the glass being half empty.
  • Socially I feel we are becoming more reclusive than ever. I don’t seek out new people to interact with. Or even stay in touch with existing contacts as much as I should.
  • The prevailing attitude at work of profit over all and the focus on cost cutting has been depressing.
  • Spent too many hours just killing time. Spider solitaire and the likes when I could be doing something more interesting.
  • Been a bit too indulgent with money buying fripperies. It has not caused any problems but has resulted in missed opportunities.
  • The plan of finding new recipes to try sort of fizzled out.
  • Haven’t read enough. And not found much in the way of new authors.
  • Started 2013 reading up on business books which helped me pick up new skills and alternative processes but I let that slip as the year went on.
  • Didn’t get round to replacing the PC
  • Haven’t found much in the way of new music to listen to.

Looking over the above it feels as if not only are there more positives than negatives, but also the positives are more significant too. As the year draws to a close I feel pretty good about 2013. As I go into 2014 I don’t need to worry about some of the things I wanted for 2013 (e.g. replacing my clothes to the same extent as I did in 2013) and having done my homework on fitness and diet, 2014 should be about keeping up what I did in 2013 as opposed to having to fundamentally change anything.

My relationship with the fair one continues to go in all the right directions and definitely moving together rather than apart. While we getting are older we both feel pretty good about it and I’d even be as bold enough to say look pretty good for it too. For 2014 it’s about continuing the same and if all goes to plan we can be looking back in twelve months time thinking that 2014 went as well for us as 2013.

The challenge for 2014 will be to remain more positive. Sometimes I get bogged down in the negatives and its only when looking over the successes and reminding myself of them that I realise that things are actually pretty good.