Aries Fire, the Vernal Equinox, and the Beginnings of Re-Mojo-fication

I don’t know about you, but for me, the past several years have had their fair share of challenges.  I suspect that many of us could say the same.  If I step back and take a look around, I see a lot of very tired, very stressed, very worn-thin folks.  That sounds pessimistic, I know.  Maybe it’s my age.  Maybe it’s the fact that this past winter was a particularly rough one here in the northeastern part of the US.  Can’t say for sure, but I still suspect that the Tension Meter is a bit higher than usual now.

Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I have been finding it difficult to regain my mojo after the grind of those challenging years.  Almost as if I’d used up all of my Picking-Self-Up-By-The-Bootstraps energy and was left flat and apathetic.

However, sometimes Mother Nature provides just the right energy and environment to give her children a gentle nudge, if they are paying attention.  Today is one such day.

With the Vernal Equinox, we have equal day and night.  In other words, there is balance.  It is a symbolic reminder for us to stop and check in with ourselves:  am I in balance?  And with the Sun moving into Aries, a Fire Sign, we are also given an extra spark of motivation to DO something about it if we are not.

Now, like many bloggers, I have a dream to be a “real” writer someday.  I have a manuscript that I have been working on for many years, and I have been sending out queries and attending conferences.  I’ve also been reading about the changes to the industry and learning about the different paths to publication.  At first, I was determined to go the “traditional” route of finding an agent who would sell my story to an editor.  But in all my research on the writing world today, I am learning that perhaps a different approach is best.

There is no doubt that e-publishing and self-publishing have completely changed the landscape for authors today.  And it’s the savvy writer who takes advantage of these new opportunities.  I’ve come to realize that the traditional route is going the way of the dinosaur and that a new route may be best for me.

Sooooooo. . . . I have found my Aries spark of fire in the decision to self-publish my book this year.  And I would like your help.  I will post the first chapter of my manuscript in the next post here, and I would gladly welcome your feedback, comments, and constructive criticisms.

Thank you, WordPress Family, for this venue to share thoughts and words and ideas.  I look forward to any comments you might have, and I look forward to reading all of your wonderful blogs in the months and years ahead!

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Applying Power (in Life and in Sports)

More than half my life has been spent in Sports World.  And I can tell you, without reservation, that sports are indeed a metaphor for life.  Consider the concept of power.
Right now, I coach a power sport–dragon boating.  (Do an internet search on it if you aren’t familiar with it. . . . it’s pretty cool.)  Here’s a picture in case you want the general idea:
dragon boat

Dragon Boating

For our sport, we need to be sprinters, not marathoners.  We need to be strong and we need to have good technique; in that way, we can apply our power and move the boat.
All winter we train, lifting weights and practicing technique in an indoor paddle pool.  We coaches talk about the fundamentals of the stroke, starting at the bottom (this is called leg drive).  We are trying to show the proper way to translate the strength earned from weight training into power through the water.  Basically, the legs/lower body are way stronger than the arms, and so they supply the power to move the boat.  Even though it might seem counterintuitive, trying to paddle by pulling with the arms is nothing more than spinning your wheels.
Here’s a concrete example.  Members of my team are asked to do a fitness test on an erg (rowing machine).  We coaches need to measure each paddler’s strength, and therefore, their contribution to the boat.  Now, whether a paddler is racing or fitness testing, they are trying to generate a buttload of energy, or watts.  To do that, you need power (power = force x velocity).  Power makes watts.  (What are watts, exactly?  Long story short, it’s how we coaches can see if someone is literally pulling her weight.  For example, if you weigh 100 lbs and you get 100 watts, you have pulled your weight…… if you weigh 100 lbs but you get 75 watts, you are NOT pulling your weight……. and if you weigh 100 lbs and you get 175 watts, I want you on my team.)
Still with me?  I know, I don’t like math either.  But hang in there…… almost done.
OK, so think about times you’ve been on a bicycle.  Let’s say you were trying to go down a hill very fast.  If you were in the “granny gears” (the smaller rings), you probably just ended up “spinning your wheels.”  Your legs would be flying at a ridiculous cadence but you wouldn’t be going very fast.  BUT if you put the hammer down and shifted into the bigger gears, you could fly.  Your quads would be pushing hard, and your strength would translate into power and watts.
Same on the erg.  If you put the resistance damper on a lower setting (say, on 2) and yanked on the handle and pulled a really high stroke rate (that is, over 35 pulls per minute), you might not get such a good score.  But you’d sure be winded!  Now, try that erg with a decent amount of resistance (maybe 4 or 5 on the damper) and biiiiiiiiig hard pulls at a nice steady rate (a stroke rate of 25-30), and you’d rock out.
In both examples above (the bike and the erg), you need great, strong leg drive.  Velocity AND resistance matter.  Don’t be fooled by fast stroke rate alone.  A high stroke rate will FEEL like a big intense effort.  But in reality, you won’t have much resistance to create a lot of power.  Remember that power is velocity TIMES force.  Let me ‘splain.  No, there’s no time.  Let me sum up.  BIG GIANT LEG DRIVE MOVES THE BOAT BEST.  Make sense?  (I’m sorry if it doesn’t….. I’m trying to type this while watching the Olympics, and I keep getting distracted by Apolo Ohno……)
So how is all of this a metaphor for life?  Well, just like on the boat, using your “leg drive” (i.e. your stronger muscles, whether those be literal or metaphorical) and a proper technique will translate into more success.  Why put things into an easy gear and spin your wheels?  Why not rely on your strengths and make bigger strides?
Go forth and be powerful, everyone. . . .

SFLP: Part 1

“Observe all men, thyself most.”  Benjamin Franklin

Who’s up for a road trip?

For the next several posts, you can participate in an internal road trip of self-discovery.  I invite you to cruise all the highways and byways of your physical, mental, and emotional self.  And unlike a vacation, this is one trip where you will unload your baggage rather than pack it.

The Simply Fit Lifestyle Program is a multi-part overhaul of your current habits in which you try new things, learn what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully adopt new patterns which contribute to a healthier and more productive lifestyle.

Previous posts on this blog have emphasized the value of reviewing, reflecting, and re-doing.  So now, it’s time to put all of that into action.  Over the next few weeks, I will present a plan for “knowing thyself.”  There will be guidelines, suggestions, and ideas to ponder.  And as with most things in life, you can get out of it whatever you put into it.

Care to join me, then?  From what I have observed in my own life and in the goings-on around me, it seems like I am not the only one ready for a change.  So, if you, like me, are ready for something new, hop in the driver’s seat, put the top down, throw it into first, and let’s go!

Elephant & Rider: A Tale of Motivation

As a sports coach, one of my jobs is to help motivate.  I suppose, ideally, each person would find her own motivation, but we all have days when we are a bit off, so I know that at any given practice, at least one person will not be at her best.  And some days,  the whole team might be suffering from a general malaise.  Sigh. . . .

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, author Jonathan Haidt writes about a Buddhist metaphor for motivation.  The conscious mind is the rider, and the unconscious mind is the elephant.  As the logical one, the rider is able to see the big picture, to plan, and to reason.  The elephant, then, represents emotions and impulses.

Bottom line is that each of us needs to learn how to train our elephant.  By being patient and not necessarily acting on our emotional impulses, we can find the key to motivation and self-improvement.

One of the things that helps me train my own elephant is to find that which is greater than the “quick fix.”  Remember, that emotionally-driven elephant is a heckuva lot bigger than the rider.  So I have to find something REALLY compelling to keep that elephant on the road I choose.

In a sports setting, I can use motivators that might seem a little negative or taunting.  For example, I might push an athlete by asking, “What are YOU going to do for this team?  What are YOU going to give RIGHT NOW?”  I often encourage my team members to find out what they are made of, to push more than they thought they could give.

But in a personal setting, when you don’t have a coach yelling in your ear, how do you dig down deep and wrangle that elephant?  Are you able to focus on that big-picture goal and wisely and gently keep your elephant’s eyes on the true prize?

Who guides your actions, elephant or rider?

 

Gooooooooooooal!

Every four years, my training and motivation get an extra boost.  The Summer Olympics make me want to vault, jump, throw and aim for the stars.  I even like the commercials about the athletes that show them working toward their goals.  Seeing other people push themselves makes me want to prove myself and reminds me that other people are achieving their goals, so why not me too?

In one of the commercials airing now, we hear athletes talking about what they’ve had to do and what they’ve given up:  I haven’t had dessert in two years, I haven’t read the latest bestseller, etc.

A lot of us set goals for ourselves.  Think of the countless New Year’s Resolutions made every year.  But ACHIEVING them is a whole other ball of yarn.  Reaching goals often requires following a long, tangled road, and sometimes we quit before we get there.

Do you set goals? Does your reach exceed your grasp?

And if you do set goals, what are you willing to do to get there?  What are you willing to give up to get there?

Ready?  Set?  Gooooooooo!

Words of Wisdom

Most times we can usually motivate ourselves or work through our “stuff” on our own.  But every now and then, some outside help, well. . . . helps!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes about wisdom that remind me there are others walking on a path of learning too:

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.”  David Starr Jordan

“Perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”  Alan Kay

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”  Doug Larson

“Wise men make more opportunity than they find.”  Francis Bacon

Got a few of your own favorite quotes that motivate you?  Share here!

Pep Talk

Sports and fitness have always been a part of my life.  I began to play organized sports when I was twelve years old, and I have been a coach and personal trainer since 1993.  The lessons I have learned from athletics have been priceless.

For me, the most valuable lesson has been discipline.  Learning how to clear the mind and prepare for anything is truly a gift, and one that keeps giving in all areas of life.  I believe that getting the mind set for action is like cleaning out the attic, clearing away the cobwebs and getting rid of stuff you didn’t need anyway.

I use four guidelines to get my mind set; these guidelines are useful for any task, from running a marathon to solving a problem at work.

  • SIMPLIFY.  Get rid of what doesn’t work.  I mean this literally as well as figuratively.  Old clothes that you haven’t worn in years, old habits that don’t contribute anything to your life.  I know of people who will not go to a workout unless the hair, makeup, outfit is just right.  I see two problems here.  First,  most people are not really watching you; they are more worried about their own appearance or their own workout.  Second, if you have done your workout correctly, you will need to shower after the workout anyway!  By hanging onto inefficient habits and unfounded beliefs, not only have you wasted your own time, but you have also caused yoursel unnecessary stress.
  • BECOME MINDFUL.  I encourage everyone to develop a strong kinesthetic sense and to realize that the body is not separate from the mind.  Being more aware of yourself can literally turn up the volume on your senses.  By paying attention, by thinking about what you are doing, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you see, hear, taste, or feel.  You might even find that what you thought was a lack of coordination was really just an undeveloped sense of your body.
  • BECOME ACTIVE.  Put the emphasis on you.  You are an active participant in your life, not a passive victim.  Raise the standards for yourself and constantly strive to outdo them.  Robert Browning once wrote, ” a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  Let this be your guiding principal in all your endeavors.
  • VISUALIZE.  Visualization techniques are not just for Olympic athletes.  You can use them to perform better and conquer any challenge in life.  First, quiet your mind by breathing deeply a few times.  Then visualize yourself accomplishing your goal as though a camera is filming from the perspective of your eyes, not as though you are taping yourself from the outside.  This is important.  By mentally viewing the scene as if you are DOING IT, not as if you are WATCHING IT, you will have greater success.

Be patient with yourself as you develop your new mindset.  Remember that you may have spent years NOT paying attention.  And remember that mistakes are not failures.  Rather they are opportunities to learn more about yourself.  Conquer the mental chatter that is trying to talk you out of success, embrace the challenge, and always keep learning.