Monthly Archives: January 2017

how to suffer without going crazy.

A few days back I posted about the gift of putting oneself in a position to suffer (so as to learn, grow, and break through plateaus). For me, when thinking about struggle states, the next question revolves around how to get through that state of frustration and duress in a way that allows growth to occur and to get through in one piece.

humility

Suffering stinks. It doesn’t feel good and it is not supposed to. From an evolutionary biology standpoint, pain serves a very specific focus: it forces us to provide effort and attention to an area that requires improvement or to cause a condition change.

Think about a time when you were motivated to accomplish a big task, example being passing a large test. You probably felt an intrinsic stress to study, learn, cram, and get it together to win the test. This distress most likely propelled you to surpass your expectation; without it you may not have accomplished your goal.

So what are some helpful ideas and tools to remain in that state while not being bowled over by the distress? Here are some that help me:

  1. Community – I try to stay connected and avoid isolation. Let’s make it clear – I am an introvert – and big groups of people can make me tired. However, even if I can stay in communication with a couple people who can support and uplift me – or who have been in a similar place and can provide opinions or advice – this helps me to remain confident that I will grow beyond the frustration state I am in.
  2. Reflection – I make time every day to meditate or simply stop what I am doing and reflect on existence. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is the purpose and why does it matter? Keeping the big picture perspective in view allows me to know that my efforts can have significance and that intrinsically motivates me to push onward.
  3. Health – I choose to not allow any challenge compromise my own personal and physical health. Ensuring that I am eating well, sleeping well, and exercising allows my body to remain healthy – which allows my brain and conscience to make clear and smart decisions that support my efforts… and to hold a degree of optimism.
  4. Forgiveness – As leaders, we push ourselves to great lengths to be the best. Not being the best at something can be hard but internally berating ourselves when we’re not the best can be easy. Remember to stick it out and that your state of struggle is short-term, not permanent. Allow your max effort each day or time to be good enough for now.

struggle-state-graph

An example of my own intentional struggle can be seen in the daily cross fit classes I attend. Last year, I became bored of standard gym-type exercising and I do not have any mountains around where I live any longer (so I am not able to hike like I used to [and deeply miss]). My goal around doing cross fit was to become stronger, happier, and healthier. Two months in, I am far from my strength goals. In fact, I’m firmly in last place in most classes. I won’t lie – I genuinely hate to see myself, a person used to being successful, struggling to just finish some workouts – and my hyper-competitive internal dialogue can have relentless, shameful, and unforgiving tendencies. But then I think about the above assistance points: I am surrounded by positive people who support me in this endeavor, regardless of what place I come in. I will be stronger long-term because of the pain and ridiculous effort I have to put in every day just to get through these workouts.

My arrow is pointing up and this state is temporary. I must remember that.

Someday I will not be in last place. I might even be good… and that is when the flow state will start to show itself a bit more. I will continue to weather the storm in the temporary to enjoy the future capacity growth and other benefits. I have faith that my hard work is creating ability and will lead to some degree of success, however that may look.

A fifth point not mentioned above is also worth mentioning: gratitude and appreciation. We leaders push ourselves to meet almost-impossible success standards. Don’t just focus on future happiness, but recognize the small moments of happiness and victory during this season. Life is too short to allow a relentless drive to manifest an ever-present sense of discontent. Don’t forget to notice on the happy and wonderful things around you. I actively choose to laugh and enjoy the daily struggle of cross fit – and to embrace the opportunity I’ve been given as joyously as possible, even when it’s remarkably hard, and it keeps me going back every day.

Humility is not fun… but conscious and proactive choices can make this state of being manageable. Because of our intentional struggle, we grow, accomplish, and become more than we can imagine. We further actualize our potential and increase our capacity to be amazing.

What are some struggles you intentionally put yourself through? What things you do to make struggle states more bearable? When have you struggled to eventually overcome a plateau?

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Filed under change management, leadership, motivation, observation

suffering.

flow

“Hold your breath for a better day, and you’ll never learn how to breathe.
You’re afraid of the dark, but that’s where you learn to see.
Your no good to the living if you’re too afraid to bleed.
And that’s why your show starts now Your show starts now.”

– Cloud Cult “Your Show Starts Now”

If “flow” is a new term for you, here is what it is in a nutshell: Flow is a condition in which the self, body, and mind are hyper-engaged and present. Flow occurs at the nexus between suffering and victory. If you think of a time when you won a race or accomplished something profound, you probably felt an rush of success, pride, and relief simultaneously – and you were probably experiencing flow. Flow is awesome and is a condition that everyone wants in their lives and it effects everything from your physical well-being to your brain chemistry to your confidence and intrinsic motivation.

Flow is a loaded concept that I will explore in different ways down the road. However, the aspect of it I want to highlight today is the pain surrounding it.

Flow occurs after great suffering. If you have ever climbed a mountain, you experienced flow (and sore quads) upon reaching the summit. If you have aced a really hard test, you probably experienced flow upon receiving your A+ after weeks of studying and remarkably hard work. If you have ever received a prestigious job after days of focused preparation and anxiety, you probably experienced the flow state upon that memorable phone call or conversation. Suffering is necessary for success.

Are you stuck where you are, personally or professionally or athletically or creatively? One answer to breaking through that malaise might be intentionally putting yourself in a place to suffer. Do something hard. If you are a guitar player who is struggling to write music, you can lock yourself in a room for a day and focus on writing…or you can force yourself to learn piano. If you have hit a plateau socially, join a group that is completely different from what you’re used to.

Go be uncomfortable. Embrace the uneasiness. Let discomfort be your gift. It could lead to one of the happiest moments you will ever experience. Your show starts now.

 

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January 15, 2017 · 7:40 pm

Self Actualization

Some food for thought for your day.

I believe that our world is a balanced system, a depiction of tension between fulfilled results of actions while inherently holding an unknown limit of potential that is simply awaiting further realization and manifestation.

Self-actualization is a major theme in human development. It is covered in several theories, most prominently Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and refers to “the achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.” (dictionary.com) When we fulfill potential and begin to see our dreams become reality, we self-actualize.

Imagine this for a moment: Our world is filled with billions of people, each uniquely created and gifted. Within each of those people are many, many dreams to become something and to do something that has an impact and that may further our civilization.In order to realize dreams, several factors need to occur, including immersion in an environment where the resources are needed and a supportive relationship is imperative.

We are leaders of people. As you walk through your day, look around at the people you witness. Can you play a part in helping a person to reach their potential? Maybe it means giving a person the courage to dream, maybe it means helping a person to have the means to go beyond “just surviving each day” and to think about doing something beyond said survival, or maybe it is something like helping a person to simply become better in their job, in their social circles, or in life.

Finally – imagine the result of all of the world’s leaders tapping into the great potential of others around them. Imagine the impact on the future. Imagine the transformation that could ensue when billions of unique dreams and capacities transfer from a subjective individual vision to an objective, externalized reality. A collective planet of self actualization, a remarkable shift from “can dream” to “can do,” and an actualization of an unknown limit of greatness. Maybe this looks like some sort of scene in a sci-fi movie or maybe this looks like something beyond anything any of us have ever imagined.

Now go help others learn how awesome they can truly be.

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January 6, 2017 · 9:36 am