Life Skills

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.

Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 3

I’ve got a future-me set up, and I have defined one of the traits I desire for him to possess. Now, I’m going to add one more trait to the list. Continue Reading…

Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 2

We now have a better idea of who it is we want to become, but we don’t know how we get from here to there. Let’s start to change that. Continue Reading…

Preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, Part 1

Today is Christmas Day, meaning we have just seven days until the New Year begins. Continue Reading…

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