Archive for Month: December 2015
Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 6
We’ve set up a solid pathway for success in all ways but one.
Day 6: What do do when the arrow misses
Most Americans (and possibly the entire Western world) are failure-averse. This derives from years of conditioning in schools and media, which spends too much time praising and building up esteem with too little time devoted to failure. The result is that, when most of us screw up, we give up.
Today’s meditation will focus on retraining ourselves out of that bad pattern.
Once more, into the “trance”. As we meditate this time, we’ll begin by repeating yesterday’s meditation. We both observe (in the 3rd person view) and experience (in the 1st person view) ourselves performing those tasks that produce the results that we so strongly desire. This is important – we want the emphasis to always be on the path to success, not the accidents along the way.
Now, once we’ve covered all those patterns that we intend to produce, we’ll look at a case of failure.
I envision my future self, having just had a bad day at the gym. I’ll experience this once as though I was sick (which, at the red hot moment, I am), and once as though I somehow failed to even show up.
I see myself fail to accomplish my lifting target for the day. My muscles strain and strain, but I am unable to lift the weight that I know I should be able to lift. I set the bar back down, take a deep breath, and set a lower target than desired. While this is a failure to accomplish my goals, I am reinforcing a “do all that you can” attitude, which will ensure that I take at least a small victory out of my failure.
Now, I will envision the greatest failure – I didn’t even hit the gym. I imagine that I had a large project due, and I got a flat tire on the way home, and I just didn’t manage to make the time for my usual workout. I feel shame and disappointment well up inside me, but I kill them. I have no time for counter-productive emotions when it comes to my goals. So, I do some quick pushups and squats, each time reminding myself that tomorrow I’ll be ready to hit the gym twice as hard. This helps keep me positive about the gym and focused on the ultimate goal.
The same would naturally apply to my social and mental goals. I would envision a scenario such as a really bad date, then focus on how to move from the bad date toward the good date tomorrow. It’s a path of learning and development, not a set of rigid and measurable achievements.
On the path to greatness lie a multitude of failures. If we learn from these failures and power through to the next task, we will be rewarded with the success that we crave.
Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 7
If you are reading this on the day of its publication, then it’s New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, this is a night for celebration, drinking, and great remorse on the morrow.
New Year’s Day is usually full of easily-broken promises which will not survive into February. That has been the topic of this brief series.
Day [today]: Desire it, See it, Earn it
The patterns I have laid out in the past few posts have been preparation for a life-long journey of self-perfection. They’re packed full of basic techniques that often separate the successful from the unsuccessful:
- Meditation – Building focus
- Visualization – Building desire and clarity
- Repetition – Developing strong habits
But above all these things, we need determination. The human will is the only force which we can develop that will drive us toward the successes we seek. This same will allows the young farm boy to become a skilled architect and the impoverished Austrian to become an American icon.
Yeah, let’s talk about the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Comedian Bill Burr pointed out that, by all rights, he should be parking cars in Austria. But because of his determination, he moved to the US, became a world-famous bodybuilder, starred in a host of films, became a governor, and married into the wealthy and powerful Kennedy family.
How could a young man, recently escaped from the socialist East, accomplish all these things?
Schwarzenegger threw himself into everything he did, 100%. He set a number of reps and weights he would perform, and then he went out and did them. He decided to learn to speak the English language, and he did it (amusingly, he put “reps” on every goal card he ever wrote).
He could see what he wanted to accomplish. He desired it more than anything. And, because he had a strong desire and a clear goal, he was able to fully apply his will to accomplish everything.
You have that same power within you, if you will only use it.
New Year’s is a great excuse to develop new habits and set strong goals, but it’s only an excuse. If you take the 30 minutes every day to visualize and focus, you will be able to do these things every day of every year.
You have a spark of greatness in you. Now go out there and start a fire.
Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 5
Visualization is a key component of brain retraining. It has been observed that athletes who visualize performing their sports effectively experience improvements greater than those who do not. However, visualization by itself will never be enough.
Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich explains that wishing gets us nowhere. We have to move from wishing to desire, and in that desire we have to make plans to achieve our desires. When we are filled with desire for an outcome, the opportunities and mechanisms required for that outcome become clear to us.
That’s the focus of today’s meditation: moving from a clear vision to a set of goals required to achieve it.
Day 5: The Arrow’s Flight
Today, we’ll start our meditation out a bit differently. This borrows a bit from the meditative practices of the Eastern religions, but stick with me. I promise there’s a point to it all.
When you’ve sunk into your usual meditative state, visualize an archery target. Place it as close or far away in your mind’s eye as you want, but you must be able to clearly see the target. Now, think about how an arrow flies. See how it spins through the air as it approaches the target, flying straight and true wherever it has been aimed. When you understand how the arrow will fly, feel yourself draw back the bow. You take a deep breath, and then you simply let go of the arrow. You watch the arrow trace the path you have visualized until (THUNK) it lands dead center in the target.
If you want, see yourself hit the bull’s eye any number of times.
This is the same method we are using to make our resolutions. We have seen the target, and we have placed it before our eyes. The next few days will be spent visualizing how the arrow flies, so that when the time comes we can loose it easily and with confidence.
I will begin my meditation by seeing my fitness goal. I can see him hitting the gym, using a low-rep high-weight routine that I have researched and found effective in the past. I watch and feel as he does every exercise, with perfect form and determination set in his eyes. He sees his goal as he works, and this allows him to squeeze out that extra rep on every workout.
I will also see him preparing his meals. Because he knows that weight control happens in the kitchen, he rejects drinks and foods that will slow his development. He plans his meals in advance, picks up the items required to make these meals, and prepares them according to his plan. When he is disheartened by yet another plate of eggs (which does happen, even to the most egg-loving among us), he powers through because of the vision that he has set before him.
He knows how the arrow must fly to hit the target.
In the same way, I visualize how he achieves his social and intellectual goals. I see him cleaning his apartment in preparation for social events he has arranged to hold. I see him psyching himself up in the mirror before going out to meet new people. I see him reading and taking notes first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Because he knows how the arrow must fly, he is able to accomplish his goals.
Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 4
Generally speaking, you don’t want to think either too small or too large. If you go too large, you bite off more than you can chew and end up accomplishing nothing. If you go to small, you accomplish much less than you ultimately could have.
It might be a slight overreach, but I’m going to add one more aspect to my future self model.
Day 4: Last Additions to the Target
Another day, another 30 minute meditation. At this point, it’s probably worth noting that we’re well on our way to making meditation a habit, so good for us. I’m going to add “mindfulness and learning” to my model.
I see my future self, the strong and well-groomed man who has developed strong social skills, and I think about all the things he will probably know.
Because he’s a writer, he has studied topics such as SEO to create a more optimal blogging presence. This way, he is able to reach a larger audience with his blog, allowing his thoughts to hit the greatest possible number of readers without compromising his message or brief style. To acquire this knowledge, he has probably hit a number of well-optimized sites to observe what he can, and he has read a number of books and posts related to optimization. He takes notes on all the things he learns, and he takes time out of every day to consolidate and meditate on what he’s discovered.
Knowing that it is good to be knowledgable in a great number of things, he has resolved to read approximately one book per week. Of course, longer and more dense treatises will take longer, but he embraces that fact and strives to achieve total understanding. This way, he maximizes the amount of unique information he can glean, allowing him to make educated conversation with everyone. This helps in his goal to become a social powerhouse.
Studying other people’s teachings will never be sufficient if he does not understand himself. As Sun Tzu wrote, victory comes from understanding yourself and understanding others. Therefore, he makes a point of studying both the topics of the day (through dedicated and well-thought-out blogs and podcasts) and the philosophies that can help him reach his maximum potential. His meditations are often occupied as much by why he believes what he believes as what he has learned. In this way, he builds confidence and inner strength every day.
You might notice that these aspects are closely tied in to other aspects of my envisioned future self. This is quite deliberate.
A person is a tight system. When everything is in harmony, life makes sense, and everything seems to flow naturally. However, when one is merely a conglomeration of discrete ideas and personas, disharmony grows and grows, until the person is a useless nest of neuroses. I have no intention of reaching that point.
Unto Us a Child is Born
As the Prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 9), centuries before it came to pass:
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Matthew records it as such (Matthew 1 and 2):
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
And, of course, the key difference between this account and that of Luke is found in the most iconic Christmas movie scene of all time:
Don’t worry about the MA rating: this clip doesn’t really deserve it.
If the video won’t work properly for you, you can watch it here: http://southpark.cc.com/clips/151731/time-to-go-mr-hankey