Pursuit of Calm #19

Never underestimate the power of the mind.
Working with our inner is where we have the
capacity to transform the outer.

Note though, this is often neither linear or tangible.
Which is exactly why it makes the process of self-transformation
frustratingly challenging, exciting, confronting,
and profoundly life changing.

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Hello Friends…

In Tim Ferris’s 700+ page doorstopper of a book Tools of Titans:The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers, he interviews a range of more than 200 guests. From tech entrepreneurs, actors, athletes, writers and artists – from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Brené Brown, Jamie Foxx and Ultra athlete Amelia Boone, to the Iceman Wim Hoff, and record producer supremo Rick Rubin.

I read this book nearly 10 years ago now and what has stuck with me over this time were two things that virtually all the interviewees had in common.

  1. Firstly, all of these successful, talented, motivated, strong, over-achievers were in one way or another just as messed up as you or I. Meaning, each had their own peculiar set of idiosyncrasies, anxieties, addictions, contrary habits and ‘issues’, yet all of them managed to hone in, isolate and exploit their innate skillset.
  2. Secondly, virtually all of them had some kind of bespoke daily routine. A daily ritual of habitual actionable processes that enabled them to perform their day ‘better’

This triggered my curiosity, so I delved in to see if there were any common routine habit patterns shared amongst those that Tim interviewed.

Interestingly:

  • More than 80% of the interviewees practice some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.
  • Virtually everyone prioritised some form of fitness, and or strength training, into their daily / weekly regime. They all viewed ‘training’ as not only integral to their wellbeing and success, but as a non-negotiable – it was planned, scheduled and prioritised as if they were having a business meeting with themselves.
  • A common mindset amongst them was viewing ‘weaknesses & failures’ as an opportunity to lean into and learn where to improve. That missteps were not only durable, but were both expected & necessary to learn & grow.
  • Sleep optimisation was central to maintaining and improving every aspect of their physiological & psychological wellbeing.

Our best strategy to propagate a healthy resilient steadfast life-approach is found in the choice of actions that we perform all day, everyday.

We do have a choice how we approach our day. Yet the challenge we all face everyday is that we are either a benefactor of our daily habits, or a casualty.

Our choices are either proactively supporting us, or, undermining us.

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Are You In A State of Prehab or Rehab?

Rehab

Productive Discomfort: [A Deliberate Practice]
As you challenge yourself, your comfort zones adjusts.
What was difficult and anxiety inducing before,
now becomes easier.

I’ve adopted the term prehab, from the sporting and medical fields whereby prehab is a means to strengthening someone’s physical and physiological health & wellbeing –  it’s about seeking and identifying, in advance, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and imbalances. 

I also think it’s about nutrition – not just only in terms of food, nutrients and calories, but in terms of what we feed our mind, and how we take care of our mind.

If we can take 15-30 minutes each morning to ‘satiate’ ourselves, both cognitively and physiologically, then we’ll have the ‘internal resources’ available to us, to naturally default to, when invariably the day demands it.

If we don’t have those resources at hand, then we’ll be predisposed to naturally default to our cravings and impulsive habitual thinking and doing habits.

It just makes practical & pragmatic sense to me, that if we’re physically and mentally “satiated” we’ll be:
Calmer & steadfast
Less reactionary, less impulsive and compulsive.
We’ll have increased self-control, be more resilient, and in a position to harvest better choices. And more importantly, take action with those choices.
 

Rehab

Unproductive Comfort: [An Unconscious Practice]
When we naturally and continually move towards actions and behaviours that are not only habitual and easy, but tend to be debilitating and detrimental to our physical and mental health.

 

The flip-side to prehab, is living in a state of rehab.

The word rehab is mostly referred to in the context of rehabilitating drug and/or alcohol abusers. But I’d like to extend the definition to include all habitual thinking and doing habits that puts our well-being into a ‘deficit’.

Meaning, behaviours that impede your ability for you to make the best choices, and take the best action.

Walking out the front door and starting your day, and, as a result of your choices & behaviours, feeling tired, anxious, distracted, physically and mentally malnourished, is automatically placing you in a position of ‘reaction’.

Your emotional responses will be inclined to be more reactionary
Your food and beverage choices become more reactionary
Your ability to best respond to the ebbs and flow of everyday life becomes reactionary…in short, insignificance escalates. Things that shouldn’t matter, matter. And those things that do matter, don’t.
Your self-control flounders, and you become a slave to your cravings and over-committed to your ‘comfort zone’.

 

The more you stay in your comfort zone, the more it shrinks

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Mornings: A Time To FlashLight Your Attention & Intentions
A morning routine has two primary roles:

  1. To practice being calm. Sit (or walk) in quietude, in a reflective, mediative state of mind and relearn how to be still with yourself. This process alone, practiced over time creates a gap between stimulus and response – it nurtures breathing-room to interpret how best to react and respond to the world around us. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters” – Epictetus
  2. To deliberately practice strategies to positive stress test yourself (eustress). “Practice’ is in itself positive stress testing. We undertake the process of practice because we desire to get better at something. The job of repeated practice is to shine a flashlight on exactly where we need to improve.  Practice pinpoints our weaknesses. Working on our areas of improvement pushes us out of our comfort zone. Through this process we become stronger, resilient, and more fulfilled [more on comfort-zones in a future post]

 

The more you deliberately practice
stepping out of your comfort zone,
the more comfortable you will feel in your life…

 

Don’t get me wrong, comfort is awesome.
It’s vitally important that you relax, disengage, socialise and recover. But, if all your leisure time, that is, time outside the constraints of our careers and domestic responsibilities, is solely spent seeking comfort and distraction, then you’ll more than likely find yourself in a constant state of rehabilitation, and thus, with limited volition, unable to make the best choices for yourself.

All I’d encourage is that you take some time to audit and take an inventory of your habits, and identify where small changes can be made. If we can, over time tip the balance of your habits so that you’re proactively taking better care of yourself, then each day just gets ‘better’.

 

The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, 
but a reality to experience.

Dune 2021

 

Next: Positive Stress Test No.1 – Breathe

Coming Up: Methods, Strategies & Tools in…

  • Meditation
  • The 4 ’S’s: Stress, Sleep, Sobriety & [P]Sychology
  • Reflection, Reading & Journalling
  • Strength Training
  • Satiation
  • The 4 “C”s: Calm, Courage, Curiosity & Consistency
  • Habit Strategies

Current Reading List & References:

Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chödrön
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
The Wisdom of Frugality by Emrys Westacott
4000 Weeks
by Oliver Burkeman
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Mindsight: Change your brain and your life by Daniel J Siegel MD
Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall
Wherever You Go, There You Are. John Kabat-Zinn
“Start Where You Are” by Pema Chödrön
“Breathe” by James Nestor
The Places That Scare You” by Pema Chödrön
“In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Maté
The Shortness Of Life by Seneca
“Lost Connections” by Johann Hari
How To Meditate – Pema Chödrön
The Wisdom of No Escape – Pema Chödrön
‘Breaking Down the Wall of Silence’ – Alice Miller
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
Atomic Habits – James Clear
The New Rules For Lifting For Life – Lou Shuler
Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker PhD
Essentialism: The Discipline Pursuit Of Less – Greg McKeown
Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahnemen
Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Resilience Project: Finding Happiness Through Gratitude Empathy & Mindfulness – Hugh Van Cuylenburg
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods – Catherine Shanahan MD
The School of Life – An Emotional Education
The School of Life – How To Think More Effectively
The Consolations Of Philosophy – Alain De Botton
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief – Jordan B Peterson
The Owners Manual for the Brain: The Ultimate Guide to Peak Mental Performance – Pierce J. Howard
The Daily Stoic / Stillness Is The Key / Ego Is The Enemy / The Obstacle is The Way– Ryan Halliday
Indistractable – How To Control Your Attention & Choose Your Life – Nir Eyal
Mindset – Dr Carol Dweck
The Holy Shit Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in A Minute – James Fell
Stop Playing Safe – Margie Warrell
The Worlds Fittest Book – Ross Edgley
The Art Of Resilience – Ross Edgley
The Oxygen Advantage: Scientific Proven Breathing Techniques To Revolutionise Your Health – Patrick McKeown
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
The Practicing Mind – Develop Focus & Discipline Your Life – Thomas M. Sterner
Mistakes Were Made – Carol Travis & Elliot Aronson
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Life: A Users Manual – Julian Baggini & Antonia Macaro
Good Habits Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick – Wendy Wood
The Madness of Crowds – Douglas Murray
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Wired To Eat – Robb Wolf
Philosophy For Life, and other dangerous situations – Jules Evans
Peak – Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool
The Body, A guide For Occupants – Bill Bryson
The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz