I came across a study recently looking at the relationship between stress and health. The study uncovered a relationship between high levels of stress and premature death, but only when those suffering the high stress also believed that stress was bad for them.

What I thought interesting is that the group that didn’t believe stress was negative still experienced the same amount of stress. They just didn’t die from it.

You can view the full study here.

In another study, it was shown that children who are praised for “being smart” exhibit less motivation on harder tasks. After a failure, they then became demotivated, giving up more easily and enjoying the task less. These negative effects were not seen among children praised for “working hard.”

Here’s that study.

What you believe about yourself and the world has very real and measurable effects on your health, your performance, and your overall well-being.

It matters.

I’m posting this in relationship to this week’s other post, in which I shared a 10-minute morning routine aimed at altering mindset. Even I called it ‘new agey’ in a derogatory way, and I realized that comment may have trivialized how important it is. I was apologizing for the fact that the exercise is all internal work when in reality I should have emphasized how significant that realm really is.

As the saying from the Upanishads goes:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.

I worry that we tend to get fixated on actions and external results. This can be great because it helps us see when particular thoughts are producing the desired results, but the mindset can also lead us to trivialize the importance of thoughts.

Take some time to think about your beliefs about yourself and your world. Do you think certain categories of people are evil or untrustworthy? Do you consider yourself smart, dumb, a hard worker, or lazy? Do you think of yourself as attractive or awkward? Or both?

KC***

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watchImagine what your life would be like and what you’d accomplish if you started every day full of passion, purpose and drive. Not just a few days a month, or a few hours of each day, but every hour of every day.

You’re probably thinking that’d be great, but it’s not realistic. After all, moods and mindsets are fickle, and people are either born with drive or they’re not, right?

I found myself asking the same question recently, and I decided to see if I could find an answer.

In all my research on high achieving individuals, from the ultra-wealthy to the ultra-accomplished, I noticed that the biggest difference was their mindset. They ask different kinds of questions and see the world in a different way than the majority of people.

For an example of this, check out Sal Khan’s interview of Elon Musk.

It dawned on me that an essential technique for increasing people’s capabilities was to find a way for them to consistently elevate their mindset. Each day spent in a state of openness to possibility compounds on the previous ones.

The problem is, for most of us, our mindset is determined by our mood, which is often determined by the events of the day.

I needed a way to make sure that every day started with an empowered mindset. …Read More

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What a discouraging headline for a blog post, right? Stick with me though, I promise you’ll have something interesting to think about.

When I was transforming my fitness and my body, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I cringe remembering all the things I did wrong and all the ways I could have hurt myself.

But I also remember how determined I was. I was willing to do anything and everything necessary to accomplish my goals. I never hesitated, I never held back, and I never succumbed to paralysis by analysis. I had complete faith that I would achieve my goals, mainly because I didn’t know any better.

Sure, doubts occasionally surfaced. I wondered if I just wasn’t built to be fit, that I simply could never do the things I wanted to, that they were too dangerous, or too hard, or too whatever. But I ignored those thoughts because, even if they were true, I would never know until I tried, and I would get a lot further without them anyway.

The result was that, despite making a lot of mistakes, I actually did accomplish my goals. Eventually, I got to the point where I needed to have better strategies — I actually needed to know what I was doing — but I got a surprisingly long way running on pure passion. I made a fool of myself, I offended others (not intentionally), I injured myself, I inspired others, and I transformed myself.

Often, we refuse to believe that we can do something until we are absolutely sure that we know the right way to do it.

The result is endless research and ultimately, hesitation.

Classic example: never starting an exercise program because you can’t settle on the perfect one.

Believing you can do something, or at least that you can learn as you go, is the essential ingredient. And if you do 90% wrong with enough determination and a willingness to change course as you grow, you will make a lot more progress than the other guy who refuses to take the first step until he’s figured out the perfect way to do it.

This technique applies in the large scale, not the small scale. The best way to win at chess is to think carefully about your moves. The best way to get good at thinking about your moves is to play a lot of games, make mistakes, and decide you’re going to do the work to get good, whether or not you “have a head for chess.” Study all the books you want, but you’ll still get farther with mediocre strategies and a lot of practice than you will with excellent strategies and zero game time.

Remember, when I started training, I was a scrawny, asthmatic, pasty, 145 lb kid. I learned from fitness magazines. Fitness magazines! I hate fitness magazines! I wrote an entire book on why fitness magazines are a terrible place to get fitness advice. But that’s how I started. I would have been stuck if I settled for what I was getting, but I had my eye on a bigger goal. But I know I got better because I cared, not because I found awesome advice.

And yes, I know the saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” But to learn what perfect practice looks like, you have to get through the imperfect.

Being able to work through the imperfect requires an obsession with your goal, a willingness to try, to test, to adjust, and to constantly pursue excellence. It is constant pursuit of an ever-moving target.

Which is why it is hard. Until it becomes your normal.

This is starting to sound like a Nike commercial, so I’m done. Leave a comment.

KC (***

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Elevate Your Normal

January 14, 2015

normal

I’m…a guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down. – Psy, Gangnam Style

I recently began running in the snow wearing only a t-shirt, light pants, and my minimalist shoes. Air temperatures here in Boulder have been 34 degrees at the warmest, and down around 23 this morning.

Every morning, I look wistfully at my warm hoodie and gloves as I pull on my thin shirt and head out the door.

But when I step outside, I’m always surprised at how bearable the cold is. And when I start running, I heat up really fast. In fact, by wearing so little clothing, I heat up even more than I would otherwise as my body works to combat the cold. I find I’m actually quite comfortable.

Everyone else is bundled up (if they’re running at all) while I’m out for a refreshing morning jog in a t-shirt. I pass runners who look at me like I’m crazy.

But for me, this has become normal.

The message I’m sending myself: I’m not the kind of person who is intimidated, or even slowed down, by small discomforts. That’s my normal. That’s just how I operate now (at least in terms of bad weather).

Normal is what’s expected. It is unsurprising, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to believe that normal is what you’re going to get.

What is normal for you? What’s your baseline, standard operating procedure?

For some people, normal is another day at the office. For others, normal is two flights and three countries in a week. For others, normal is sitting on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign. It’s not frustrating or scary. It’s not hard to believe in. It’s just normal.

Personally, for some, normal is keeping their mouth shut, playing it safe, avoiding the gym, and staying in the lines. For other people, normal is facing fears, taking on new challenges, pushing themselves, surprising themselves, and that’s just…normal.

Most people take normal at face value. They don’t think that “normal” can change, even though it probably has several times in their lives.

How can you elevate your normal?

  • Learn to solve those wicked Rubix cubes that have more than 3×3 blocks.
  • Become a nationally ranked chess player.
  • Memorize a Shakespeare play, or any other piece of classical literature.
  • Learn how to tell amazing stories to kids at the local library.
  • Commit to cooking a five course meal every night.
  • Hike up a mountain once a week.
  • Learn gymnastics or Parkour (when your normal includes the ability to do a standing backflip, you’ll gain a very different perspective on life).

None of these are that hard. They just sound hard. But with the right planning, and maybe a few lessons and a bit of practice, they become your normal.

But when you start to do them, and you find that your reality now includes a weekly hike up a mountain, or hosting a get together for your friends that becomes the cornerstone of their week, it starts to shift your perception of who you are and what you consider normal for yourself.

And when your idea of Normal is someone else’s idea of extraordinary, you inspire, you start to shift what’s possible, and you elevate the kind of person you are, and thus the kind of life you are going to lead.

And when your Normal is extraordinary, just imagine what your Exceptional could be.

Where can you shift your reality? How can you elevate your normal?

KC***

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goalsAlright! It’s the end of the second week in January and we’re finally done with all the ways to plan out an epic 2015. Part 1 focused on the big picture strategy. Part 2 focused on the foundational habits that need to happen to provide the time, energy, and financial resources to make it happen. Part 3 will focus on the specific actions to take.

For the underlying theory, go here.

Also, sorry I didn’t post yesterday. I lost my keys (again) which meant walking and busing all over Boulder to get a spare set from my fiancé and get home. Okay, I could have written something, but I figured you’d get a better quality post if I slept first.

Strategy Recap

Here are the big life goals from part 1:

  • Write a novel
  • See Tibet, meet the Dalai Lama, and see a snow leopard in the wild
  • Become a martial arts master — Krav Maga, Kenpo, Ninjutsu
  • Spend more face-to-face time with friends and become a valuable support to them
  • Play more games
  • Read more
  • Spend more time in nature
  • Fly
  • Start a business

A Year Long Lens

Focusing down on a year timeframe is the first step. That’s pretty hard. We tend to underestimate what we can accomplish on a long time frame and overestimate what we can do in a short one. But here’s a shot at where I’d like to be at the end of the 2015 in relation to the above goals (excepting flying and visiting Tibet, as I’ve decided to hold off on those):

  • Completed a manuscript for a novel, found an agent, beginning the publication process
  • Got my Level 5 in Krav Maga
  • Grown the blog to 1000/hits a day
  • Created or learned a coaching program and applied it to helping my friends
  • Read 52 books in 2015
  • Hike once a week
  • Have a business that brings in $10,000/month

Creating Specific Actions

My rule for a specific action is something that you can imagine actually doing. I cannot picture in my head doing “Become a Level 5 in Krav Maga.” It’s too vague and isn’t something I can imagine actions around.

But I can imagine myself driving to the class and taking the class.

This is advice I give to my writing students as well: specific examples allow you to picture as vividly as possible the thing being described.

Another important element of good action are that they are things within your control. I can’t fully determine whether my book is published or not, but I can sit down and write it, and I can research and call agents. I can find out what those agents want, and I can follow the advice of my agent in securing a publisher.

When creating your actions:

  • Make sure you can actually picture yourself doing them. If you can’t, get more specific.
  • Make sure it’s something you can control, not something that relies on some external force to swoop in a make stuff happen for you (that’s not a goal, it’s a wish).

Breaking it Down – 3 months out

Now, I need to figure out exactly what I’m going to do to make all these things happen. Let’s stick to a 3 month window for the first set of actions.

  • Write 30 uninterrupted minutes a day. Based on my current pace of 500-1500/words a night, that should allow me to finish the first draft in 3 months
  • Attend Krav Maga classes once a week in Denver. For the first 3 months, the goal will just be to reintegrate the habit of martial arts practice.
  • Write 2 blog posts a week. Start writing emails again. Restart the twitter strategy I used to get tons of guest posts in 2012. Getting up to speed again is a good start for the first 3 months of 2015.
  • Get a post on Mind Body Green. This is a bit of a stretch goal for me, but I think it’s entirely doable. I’ll research the process and talk to some friends who have done it, and see if I can craft a post that is more powerful than my last one.
  • Read an hour a day. This isn’t really work for me, since I already read about this much. The trick will be making sure I’m reading the right things, making progress on books rather than random stuff.
  • Hike once a week. Creating space is the first step for me to actually get something done, so I will be choosing a day and time and making that sacred time, because time in nature is sacred time.

The Business Side

I’m working with a coach on this, and the emphasis has been on developing habits that expand my relationships and thus opportunities. Here are the actions I’ve taken as part of the coaching and on my own:

  • Took a free online class on business strategy.
  • Used that class to negotiate myself into an internship with a friend who runs a small business to gain experience and pick his brain.
  • Reach out to 3 people a day.
  • Start a conversation with 1 stranger a day.
  • Commit to being totally present in the interactions I am having in the moment. Here’s a wonderful video from Marie Forleo on that.
  • Actively look for ways to bring value to the lives of people I influence.

More concretely:

  • Set up an Etsy store for my fiancé and I to sell her art. Then, tell everyone about it (nudge, nudge).
  • Write a paid blog article a day.
  • Ask everyone I meet for a referral, with the goal of having 5 clients by the end of March.

And that’s about it. Some very specific things I can do to make progress in the direction of the overarching strategies of my life.

I think of actions as the How, and the strategy as the What. Or, put another way, the strategy is the direction, and the actions are the steps.

The reason I like the latter metaphor is that all the actions I mentioned above could serve a totally different goal in another context. It’s only the direction I’ve given myself that make those particular actions relevant to my goals.

Anyway, that’s my planning process. I hope it’s been helpful to you in getting some clarity on your own process. Maybe you don’t have a process, and you prefer to go via intention rather than the admittedly military concept of a strategy, with logistics and tactics.

What are some specific actions you can take in the next 3 months to move you in the direction of your big dreams?

KC***

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timeclockLast week, I shared my overarching strategy for 2015 and how I got there, with a simple, but very helpful exercise.

This week, I was planning to talk about specific actions and the structures I’m going to put into place to support my plans, but it became a longer article than I’d expected. So, I’m going to limit it to logistics now, and actions on Thursday, because dreams without action will stay that way, and action without logistics will fizzle out real fast.

Quick Definitions

I realize not everyone here is a military history buff (or UPS admirer), so you may not be entirely familiar with what logistics are.

Basically, logistics are the support systems that enable an army to do its job. This includes things like food, transportation systems, and even lifestyle. The best trained Navy SEAL is useless without the entire support system that puts him in the right place to start his mission.

In your personal life, it is important to create a system to support you. This includes things like your habits, your environment, and your routine.

Good logistics are just as essential as good strategy and good tactics.

Logistics

The problem with last week’s post was that I didn’t account for time, energy, or financial resources; I simply wrote down everything I want to do in the next year.

So, this week, I’ll show you how to handle the rest. …Read More

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My 2015 Strategy Part 1: Dreams and Aspirations

January 1, 2015

Setting a course for 2015, I started with focusing on my life mission and setting goals to move me there.

Read the full article →

Strategies for Success in 2015

December 30, 2014

The keys to good resolutions: a clear mission/purpose, solid strategy, and actionable goals. Make 2015 a year to remember.

Read the full article →

Happy Holidays from Warrior Spirit, and Looking Back with Gratitude

December 26, 2014

A holiday thank you from Warrior Spirit. Its been a rough year, but 2015 is looking good. Plus, an exercise for your end of year reflection.

Read the full article →

Can I do This?: A Question to Improve Performance on Everything

December 9, 2014

Instead of psyching yourself up with motivational self-talk, asking questions is far more effective.

Read the full article →