Monday, March 27, 2017

Back to Social Media

After a nearly five week break, last night I signed back on to social media.  I've been hesitant to do so because frankly, I feel as though my life was improved without it but continued consideration led me to a place where I think the benefits can and will outweigh any potential negatives so long as I approach its use in a healthy manner.  And that's where things get interesting.  Defining what's healthy social media use can vary from individual to individual.  I think some cases of unhealthy use are pretty clear but I'm not even sure where the median would be anymore either.  I know now that my use prior to unplugging was unhealthy because it was affecting daily life.  No, I wasn't using it in a manner that would lead to infidelity or anything of that manner but it had become a time suck that was taking moments away from my family and other aspects of life.  Additionally, the arguments and discussions were and still are, getting increasingly out of hand. When I was involved I didn't see the impact but after removing myself for awhile it's pretty clear.  As such, it's time to take the lesson's I've learned and apply them because the reality is my long term goals pretty much require the use of social media whether I like it or not.

Plugging in may be necessary but we control what we give.
One of the biggest issues I noticed upon deactivating was the amount of mindless time I was spent looking at my phone.  It had become such a habit I honestly didn't even realize I was doing it most of the time.  I'd be watching a show and look at my phone.  I'd be out and about, and look at my phone.  I'd be working outside and when I stopped I'd look at my phone.  And when I say look, I mean I'd bring up my account, not just a quick check of the home screen for messages.  Then I'd mindlessly scroll and if I found nothing, I might refresh to find more nothing.  This cycle could and would continue and by the end, I was doing it constantly.  I don't know exactly what I was looking for but I do know that I was wasting a lot of time.  I tried to place when the habit really began in earnest and if I had to guess I'd say when we were living up north and our ability to interact with others was limited to social media. I believe I became much more reliant on it for information and it carried over to when we moved down here. My accident certainly didn't help either since it limited my ability to be active or even leave the house.  I had no idea the way I was using it had become an actual problem but now that I've been able to recognize it, going forward I should be able to avoid those same pitfalls.

Interestingly enough, none of that was on my radar when I made the decision to take a break.  That decision actually stemmed from the overwhelming and overbearing amount of negativity that's overtaken the news and social media in recent years.  I needed a mental break from it all because that negativity was actually leeching into my life outside of the net.  Finding out that I was displaying addiction characteristics was an unanticipated bonus.  I say bonus because it has and will offer an absolute prime opportunity to make some adjustments and gain some education regarding the subject that I'll be able to use going forward, plus it's providing me with an opportunity to write about my experience and lessons learned so that others may benefit.  In the long run I gained some valuable lessons without anyone really getting hurt.   That's certainly not always the case.

So now that I'm back on, what lessons will I bring with me?  First, I'm going to limit my social media time. Currently, I have no plans to reinstall the app on my phone and will do most of my work at my computer. Keeping access limited builds in constraints that will insure I don't fall into the same habits.  I'm not saying I'll be doing this forever because there may (and hopefully will) come a time when I'm required to have more access but for the time being, this will help me continue developing good habits. Second, I'm going to continue working to reduce the amount of negativity that shows on my news feed.  Many of the pages I follow are coaches of varying professions, scientists, philosophers, athletes, artists, musicians, educators, and the like.  Many of the political pundits, spokespersons, news agencies, and rabblerousers I formerly found enjoyment in following are gone.  I'm still willing to have genuine discussions with people regarding a wide range of topics including the ones you're not suppose to talk about, (religion, politics, ect), but the days of getting caught up or sucked into pissing matches with people who have no ability to talk without attacking or who will not even consider evidence contrary to their opinion, are over.  Positivitey, problem solvers, people who make me think and reconsider my thoughts and opinions, and those who force me to strengthen my own arguments because of the way they debate, are of much more value to me at this point in my life.

Lastly, I want to use social media as a tool for improvement rather than simply a way to follow others. There are a vast amount of opportunities and ways to gain education and I want to streamline my usage to more align with those abilities.  I want to use it to grow this blog and other writings I'm working on and once I've completed the necessary work, some other ventures I'm planning in the future as well.  I want to use my small voice to try and help others improve and grow their own businesses because there are millions of people out there with fantastic ideas who may only be a share or two away from reaching someone who can bring those ideas to life on a macro scale.  I want my social media pages and presence to help bring solutions, ideas, improvements, and education to others to whatever degree possible.  My time away was valuable and now it's time to show why.                  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Just Do It

I've been sitting here for the past 25 minutes trying to come up with something to write about to no avail. I've been dealing with what I believe to be an inner ear infection that's been clouding my brain and combined with the fatigue from a week of travel, I feel extremely slow on the uptick.  I tried to check in on some in-progress posts but nothing I was writing fit the flows I'd already begun so to the scrap heap the ideas were relegated. I had two paragraphs of a new post that after re-reading I decided sucks and would never see the light of day. It was then that I realized, I may actually be on my way to be becoming a writer.

I'm under no disillusionment that my writing isn't fantastic and I have a long way to go before I could ever be considered professional. That's fine, everyone starts somewhere.  But I realized tonight even though I didn't necessarily want to write and nothing profound was coming to me, here I was, sitting at this computer, trying time after time to put out something worthy of being seen.  Sure, nothing thus far has worked but that's not the point.  The point is, not matter how good or bad the writing, I'm still doing it.  And that's a big step. Steven Pressfield, in his book, "The War of Art", calls it overcoming your resistance. Resistance will always do things to try and insure you don't follow your dreams and callings.  By sitting in front of my laptop and working, today I'm overcoming that resistance.  Sure, I'll have to face it again tomorrow but that's no matter because today I've achieved a victory.  Tomorrow I'll also be back in the gym and will get some more studying in because I have pursuits in those two fields as well.  Because I'm putting work in, I'm setting the foundation for achievements.  Sure, there is generally nothing fancy about setting foundations but without them nothing else matters.  You can design the most beautiful building ever imagined but if you don't insure the foundation is built properly you'll end up with nothing but a pile of rubble and probably a lifetime of court fees and lawsuit payouts.  No matter how good tonight's post is or isn't, another brick has been laid in my foundation.

I'm often faced with a similar decision when it comes to training and admittedly, I've often bitched out when given the chance.  But as with today's writing, sometimes all it takes is getting started.  I'm now on my third paragraph because I forced myself to sit and write until I was making some sense.  Training is the same way. I can't count the number of times I've forced myself to start my warm up and once I did, the rest took care of itself.  Now, that's not to say the workout will be a great but getting through rough ones can be accomplishments and confidence builders themselves.  It's the same with my post tonight.  I'm battling through and though this certainly won't be my best or favorite post I've written, it will be completed and published and therefore, a victory. 

Though most would prefer that everything they do to be top notch, that's not always going to happen. Acknowledging that allows us to keep pushing through the frustrations that life can present. If you want to write, try and sit once or twice a week to start and just put some words on paper or the computer.  If you want to paint, get the materials, and set some time aside this week.  If you want to begin getting into better physical shape, don't start off a million miles an hour and burn yourself out, start slow with some small changes that you don't just feel you can build on, but you believe you can complete when life tries to get in the way.  And when it does try to get in the way, and it will, remember those are the times when it's most necessary to try and get your work in because if you can create accomplishments on those days you can create them everyday.             

Monday, March 13, 2017

Entering the Fitness World

I'm not yet anywhere near approaching personal trainer status so I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who has a little knowledge about specific topics within the world of fitness, but not nearly enough to be called expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I guess I'm like any other hobbyist in that I don't know much but it's probably more than the general public.  I tell you this so you understand the perspective from which I'm gathering my ideas regarding today's topic; entering the fitness world (as a practitioner, not a trainer, just to be clear).  What do I mean by the, "fitness world"?  It can be anything from wanting to simply begin walking regularly, entering (or reentering) a gym, hiring a personal trainer/coach or anything outside or in between those examples.  The amount of questions most people have when beginning their journey is considerable and the answers can be confusing.  Hell, when you see some of the discussion/arguments between acknowledged experts (the real ones, not the self proclaimed InstaSnapFace bro-science "experts") you realize that science still doesn't have all the answers.  Perhaps you're now asking yourself, what chance do I have of achieving success if even experts don't have all the answers?  A great one.  Why? Because A.) Many of those questions are so deep within topics that anyone who's not literally an expert in that field is unlikely to ever concern themselves to that level, and B.)  Because those experts ARE out there working, discovering, creating, and finding new information all the time and sharing it with the world because many, if not most, have a strong desire to help others.        

Here are a few of the questions I asked myself when I started the first time and some which I asked in subsequent restarts thereafter.
1.) How and where do I even begin?  2.)  What are my actual goals 3.) How do I tell fact from fiction?

1.)  How and Where Do I Even Begin

Answer:  You've read this far, feel free to use it as your jumping off point. Now you have to think, potentially discuss, and make some decisions. What are your reasons for beginning? What health issues do you have?  How much time and money do you want to invest in your pursuit?  What do you like and not like? What kind of training are you interested in?  Do you need or want a trainer?  What obstacles can you see needing to overcome?  Are you going this alone or will you have a partner?  Do you have, want, or need a support system? (You may think, No, but I'll say having support is immensely positive. )  As you can see, there are a lot of questions to be asked when beginning, especially since this isn't even all of them.  Often, I think people just get a hair across their ass when they read, hear, or see something motivational and they begin like their hair's on fire and no plan.  In the beginning it's easy to rely on that fresh motivation to get you going but as times get tough and life happens, they fall off the rails never to return.  Much of that could have been avoided if they'd discussed, ironed out, and answered questions like the ones listed so they'd be prepared when the beginning momentum wears off and the real work and mental fortitude begins.  (And for those that don't know, if you think you feel good completing a workout that you were motivated to begin, wait until you complete a workout you didn't want to even start.  The mental and emotional lift from overcoming your own mind is AH-MAZING!)  

2.)  What Are My Actual Goals

Answer:  Clearly this one is personal and different for everyone.  Even partners and couples who begin their journey's together may have different ideas about what they want, and that's perfectly reasonable.  Team fitness journeys aren't necessarily about achieving the same goals as others, though they can be, but are instead about working with people who have the same drive to achieve their personal goals you do.  My wife and I have vastly different professional goals but we still lean on, support, and try to help one another when possible because we're on this journey together.  Write your goals down.  Track them.  Review them.  Discuss them.  Change them if need be but identify them clearly at all times.  Once they're created and you feel confident they're what you want, begin pursuing them with smaller goals.  Why do it that way?  Because psychologically you're more likely to continue when you have some success.  For example.  You begin weight training with a little cardio and decide all you need to track progress is your scale.  After a month, not only have you not lost any weight, you've gained four pounds.  Distress enters and you'll likely quit.  Now, same scenario but together with a scale you also have body fat and measurement goals.  The scale add's those four pounds but..BUT, your body fat % drops 1 percentage point, and you've lost 1" off your chest, and 3 inches off your waist.  Now you know your pants didn't just feel like they fit differently, they actually do.  These small victories give you the confidence and drive to keep on your journey.  The importance of that cannot be understated  .  Most people, myself included, don't quit things because they're actually too hard.  We do so because we perceive them to be.  By increasing the ability to achieve goals, we can change perceptions from negative to positive and that could potentially be the difference between stopping or continuing.  Between failure and achievement.  

3.)  How Do I Tell Fact From Fiction

Answer:  This is a hard one, one I've struggled with for years, and one that will continue to catch people within its net because a lot of people are assholes and have made marketing and sales pitches sound like reasonable science.  Not only that, they market by deception so you buy their products.  Plus, some of them have credentials that make it seem like they're someone to be listened to when in reality they're nothing more than snake oil salesmen.  Honestly, I still struggle mightily here, no bullshit, because I A.) have trust issues in life to begin with and, B.) because I've researched the topic enough to know how bad the industry really is. And I'm not even talking about the fitness industry specifically here because I don't have enough education to formulate a concise opinion there.  I'm talking the food and drug industries as a whole.  The people that you hear, read, and see information from daily.  Supplements are certainly a large industry and perhaps something I'll discuss at a later date when and if I feel educated enough to do so, but what I'm referring to here is trying to learn the basics of what to eat and drink.  Seems like it should be easy but when we're bombarded by no fat, low fat, medium fat, high fat, super high fat, eat this but not this, this is OK even though it has this but this isn't because it has this is a different form, ect, you're God damn right it gets confusing.  I'm lucky in that I have people to bounce questions and ideas off who have some understanding.  Most people don't and end up relying on information they get from the, "news" or "Dr's" they see on TV or some reality show.  A search on the internet may not lead you to the proper advice but instead to someone who was willing to pay a little more to Google ad space to have their site appear at the top of a search.

As you can tell I get it.  I know that struggle and I empathize.  So what can you do?  Honestly, set aside some time to do real research.  My above example only touched on the consumption side because as a beginner, you likely understand more about that than the techniques and training programs available but you'll need to look into that too.  My best advice here would be to look up reviews pertaining to trainers and nutrition experts and find one you think will fit (like any service, be sure you're comfortable with the person you hire) that can help you navigate many of these questions.  But if you can't for whatever reason, utilize your access to technology and educate yourself to get started.  Spend some time asking and answering questions.  Use your own common sense and if something doesn't sound right, review it because it may not be.  I have a post in progress where I'll share some pages and sites that I follow that I find value in but for now, if you're ready to start, fire up that technology and get to work.

These were my questions.  Yours could and likely will formulate others but whatever they are, try like hell to answer them before you begin if possible.  I say if possible, because maybe you really are stumped on something non-vital.  My advice would be to not delay your start if a question remains unanswered because that could grow into a huge stress that begins as no big deal and ends up holding you back from progressing. Similar to the grain of sand shutting down the large mechanical device example.  Understand that like lifts, you're unlikely to always be perfect but by laying out details out ahead of time you'll make it easier to navigate when times get tough or unexpected life events occur.  Entering the fitness world for me has absolutely been an enriching experience but I also understand that it isn't and hasn't been that way for everyone for a variety of reasons.  Here's hoping that your next experience is fantastic and you're presented the opportunity and benefits I have.    


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Confidence Conundrum

Confidence is an amazing thing.  One minute it's flowing like a mountain snow melt river and the next it's dried up like a scorched earth scene from a dystopian novel.  Your confidence can be high regarding one subject and low to non-existent for another.  You could be an all around confident person or perhaps the type who's confidence is only raised when feeling secure in knowledge of specific topics.  You can be over confident, which often leads to problems and failure or you can be under confident and unwilling to even try something foreign. Yes, confidence has time and time again proven itself difficult to understand and near impossible to master.  And nowhere was that more evident for myself than the previous week.

I'm going back to work outside the home.  It's exhilarating, exciting, nerve racking, and a whole host of other adjectives.  It's been roughly four years since I've worked a job outside the walls which I reside and I'm finding getting back on the horse more difficult than I'd imagined for a variety of reasons.  The need for a somewhat flexible schedule due to both my caregiver responsibilities as well as my desire to continue coaching are clearly obstacles to take into consideration and to be worked around.  That eliminates some potential opportunities off the top.  The fact that I haven't worked traditional employment for the past few years will clearly play a roll because there's no history of what I've learned and done recently.  And lest we forget, the way many things are done today are not the same as they were even a couple years ago.  While they likely existed when I was seeking employment prior, computer programs today search resume's and cover letter's for key words while it and other technology has limited the initial interactions potential employers and employees have with one another.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning the practice because I have no doubt it's been magnificent for companies and particularly recruiters and HR people because it saves a lot of time and resources, but it can make applying for jobs with those firms harder for good candidates who may not be as educated or versed in the, "art of applying for employment".

So why do I mention all this?  I do so because in the past week I've have a couple different experiences while attempting to gain employment and a vast swing in confidence was on display.  The first job I applied for a week ago was a coaching position I wasn't sure I'd get but I still felt good walking in.  I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say and even the couple curve balls fell within parameters I felt prepared to discuss. While I didn't end up getting that particular job, I think it had more to do with my lack of experience and I was actually extended the opportunity to apply for another position that will allow me to gain that knowledge in the future.  My limited experience, practice, and preparedness built my confidence to a point where I was able to present myself as who I am and that's absolutely important.  Unfortunately, that's not close to what happened yesterday.

Yesterday I put on nice clothes, nice shoes, and printed resume's and cover letters before heading to a local job fair.  Leaving the house, I felt pretty decent and ready to discuss with some of the 45 potential employers the opportunities they had available.  I felt good right up until the time I entered the parking lot when suddenly and without warning, my confidence decided keep going up the main rd instead of turning with me. My confidence dropped immensely while driving around in search of an empty parking spot.  Walking in, what little remained was looking for a way to exit and by the time I actually entered the room with all the employers, I'd basically relegated myself to feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, and basically incapable of displaying my best self.  The few employers I did speak to, there's no way I left a good impression. Frankly, if I left no impression at all it would make me feel better than what I'm thinking I left them with.  Leaving the floor half an hour later, I felt completely deflated and exhausted.  My confidence was shaken and I knew reevaluating, regrouping, and refocusing was going to be necessary.

And that's where today's post comes from.  This is a necessary part of the reevaluate, regroup, and refocus process for me.  Writing it down allows me to think deeply into the subject and make corrections as they arise.  In this case, sharing it is really the easy part because I'm pretty positive others have had their confidence shaken before as well.  I know what happened yesterday and going forward, acknowledging problems, will allow me to hopefully avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

Yesterday I lost my confidence but by acknowledging that my confidence was reduced it's allowing my confidence to increase so in the future I'll have more confidence and will be confident that my confidence will be there when I need it, confidently.  And thus, we have the confidence conundrum.

The Confidence Conundrum

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Social Media Break

A couple weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook account.  Some people were curious why and a couple even reached out asking me to rethink my decision because there, like here, I attempt to be both honest as well as positive when presenting idea's and opinions.  I'm not always successful and at times negativity will flow from brain to fingertips but in recent years it's become more and more a rarity that I allow it to happen. However, there came a point a couple weekends ago where I suddenly realized that the negativity from everyone else was getting to me in an unhealthy manner and it was not just affecting me but I also felt like it was leaching into my real life. Disturbed by the revelation it was clear there was only one course of action; an immediate break. That was nearly two weeks ago.

As I write this now, life without social media is getting easier and easier.  I won't lie, the first couple days were weird.  It has become readily apparent to me just how much I'd been using it.  For the first three days plus I kept picking up my phone without thinking about it simply to scan.  There was no app because I deleted it off my phone (and probably won't re-add it even after I reactivate) so I'd stare at my phone for a moment or load up ESPN or the news to see if anything had changed.  Of course, it hadn't because contrary to what our social media feeds tell us, actual news doesn't tend to change all the fast (except for the NBA trade deadline.  Information was coming out every few minutes, or so it seemed).  Now that I have some time away I'm not doing that nearly as much but what an awakening this has provided.  Life in general doesn't seem nearly as negative as it did.  I have no idea what's going on with a whole lot of people's lives which is unfortunate because I really do enjoy being able to keep up with people in such an easy format but I don't regret my decision.  On the contrary, not only am I unsure when I may reactivate, but earlier this week I was faced the possibility of needing to get back on for professional reasons and it actually stressed me out. Clearly, the break was more needed than I'd realized.

Social media allows many things.  It can make us believe our voice is bigger than it is or make us feel like our voice is too small to ever matter.   It can allow us to share our opinions, our positivity, our negativity.  It's proven over and over again that, "it's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're an idiot than open it (or post to the world) and prove it."  It's allowed those we would not have otherwise known exist, to share profound thoughts, ideas, and education, while permitting others to use it as a mode of transmitting hate, ignorance, and stupidity.  It has created a means of proliferating information that I'm unsure humans were and are ready for at this time.  It's something I'd felt before but not nearly to the degree that I did a week ago.  That I had so much information available there was no way I could process everything and it was indeed beginning to slow me down; like an old computer who's memory has filled to the point where it still works, but even the simplest of tasks are slowed to the point of being nearly useless.

Learning the Old School Way
So now I'm on reset of sorts.  I find myself not only getting more accomplished but also feel like I'm actually learning more.  In the past two weeks I've read or finished reading 5 books, which both puts a good dent in my 25 book year end goal as well as providing some needed education without so many distractions.  I've read actual articles rather than simply skimming and reading comments (some of which I do miss because while comment sections can be the definition of hell, occasionally there are some great discussions that provide a wealth of information and "rabbit hole" links).  I've made some phone calls and talked with people rather than simply relying on text or messenger (which come to find out you don't lose just because you deactivate from FB.  Who knew?)  I've done a little writing but not enough but I'm still not as stressed as I could or perhaps should be because I've been using the time to accomplish actual tasks not simply scrolling.  No, thus far I do not regret my decision to unplug.

Eventually I'll get back on.  In reality, not only will I likely reactivate but I'm likely to add additional social media accounts because in order to achieve some future goals, it will be a business requirement.  However, what I'm seeing and hope that I can hold onto going forward is the separation from life and social media. Looking at the situation from 10,000 feet, so to speak, I can see that my overuse began years ago as a way to fill a void but while it may have seemed like I was connecting with people, over time it was actually having to opposite effect.  As I mentioned above, that is not to say that there are not positive things about social media because there absolutely are.  But if one is not careful, it can metastasize and without even realizing it, it's caused unforeseen damage.  I'm not saying a break is a necessity for everyone, but every so often take a moment to review your usage.  Think about whether it's positively impacting your life or whether it's become nothing more than a habit or addiction.  Like a diet, exercise regime, or household budget, reviewing and adjusting actions based on what you find never hurts and will be beneficial in the long run.