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Mind Article : Fitness and Kindness

I think the two really are like chalk and cheese. Fitness and kindness are quite different things. But are they ? Recently i was listening to a French Monk (Matthieu Ricard) talk about happiness. He was talking about basic philosophies of happiness or well being, it seems no one wakes up thinking they want to suffer the whole day. Consciously or not, whatever we hope and dream its related to a profound desire for happiness. There is incredible diversity in happiness, fleeting or vague and each of us to define it in our own terms. But if its something to determine our destiny and what we feel , then we need to know what it is, when we seek it we want to know we are running to it.

Matthieu Ricard, philosopher on the state of happiness.

Is happiness pleasure ? Pleasure depends on an object, its very fleeting and it always diminishes in value, i mean its fun if you do it once, exhilarating, and a cheeseburger or chocolate cake would seem to be less pleasurable as time passes. So as much as we think that junk food makes us fat, it stems from an innate desire to be happy but this happiness is short lived and expensive. Conversely, a fit body would only be as beautiful until we begin to point out flaws no matter how perfect it would be. We need a deeper sense of fulfilment than just looking good and being fit, we need to push boundaries and be better versions of ourselves in mind and body.

I think that happiness is a deep sense of fulfilment, called Eudemonia. A sense of well being, a sense of kindness. Matthieu Richard says the mind translates things into pleasure or pain, and we would do well to train it. Because if we do not build the inner conditions, no matter what your outer conditions are, you would not be happy. We have heard of people who have auxiliary happiness but their mind is unable to translate this happiness to them, they have the nicest house or best spouse and children and health but they are not happy. They are successful but not flourishing. If you give them paradise, they would probably find a way out of it because they cant translate this paradise into happiness.

I feel happiness is a sense of calmness, a way to transform our mind, a way to change the destructive emotions into constructive ones. We need to proceed with positive emotions, finding inner freedom, exercising loving kindness towards hatred. Finding a general cure for our problems inwards. If we spend a large portion of our lives to study and exercise to get successful and fit, then maybe we should take more care of what matters even more, the way our mind functions.  A way is by being completely open and kind towards ourselves and others. By making someone happy without recognition, having a sense of integration with our deep nature.

Being aware, or in Buddhism, being “mindful” or in a state of “mindfulness”. Being more cognitive, and understanding of our own emotions is important, because if we could not identify our emotions, then what different are we from a stone. When we look around we see people obsessed with how their body looks or performs, if you can lift 100 kg and if I lift 110kg I am stronger than you therefore I am better. If I win, you lose, if i can’t hit my goals i lose.

You life is a miracle. Why not make the best use of it ?

We must be aware of such destructive thoughts and emotions that seek to break our calm, telling us we are “less than” and giving us a lot of pressure, allowing us only meagre happiness when we achieve our goals, we must be kinder to ourselves. We should proceed in life with mindfulness with a kind of happiness and sense of duty with deeper sense of happiness in who we, what we are becoming and where we are moving towards, that is the only thing that can sustain and withstand the hardships and adversities in life, having a stronger frame of mind.

What I am saying is that we should look at our rules and make things kinder for ourselves, we never lose per se, but we do become less calm and confident and when we are not mindful. Goals push us, but only in being better people and not just being better at things. Maybe the reason why you run is fighting a battle with yourself, putting pain and discomfort on the line, pushing boundaries, for YOURSELF. You are not lesser off by not having the dream and athletic body you prefer, but rather you would be poorer off if you gave up being a better person because it was hard to achieve.

In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about reaching your limits. Being kind to yourself, playing for the ultimate victory, the victory over yourself, becoming the best version of yourself. Being the kindest, calmest, most confident and ultimately the happiest version of yourself.

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Mind Article : Life and Fitness Part II

Very often, we look at the very successful people in life and think they came from very privileged backgrounds. We look at Oprah Winfrey and think she had it made – She was born in poverty, sexually abused as a child and pregnant at 14, her infant son died at childbirth. We look at Sylvester Stallone and think he had it easy – He had half his face paralysed and spoke with a slur as a result of a botched delivery during birth, was homeless for a period of time struggling to survive acting in small roles in films. Steve Jobs was not a billionaire by right of inheritance but a belief and hard work produced the first garage-produced apple computer and the rest was history.

What makes these people so different from us ? Its not that they were extremely gifted in some ways (some of them even had huge obstacles like Stallone’s slur and partial face paralysis made it very difficult for him to be a credible actor). They did not believe there is a set way of doing things but rather believed in themselves and their ability to find a way.

Attitude – Locus of Control

In Psychology there is this term locus of control which guides belief. Individuals that believe his/her behaviour is guided by fate, luck, family background or other external circumstances (Oftentimes limiting) belong to those with a stronger external locus of control. While those who believe that his/her behaviour is guided by their personal decisions and efforts are those with stronger internal locus of control.

Which end do you want to end up at ?

If you had skipped a workout due to work. Do you blame your boss for piling on the work or yourself for skipping it?  Both are very valid reasons but  the framework behind  each reason is vastly different.  When we blame external factors ,  we are carving a portion  of what we can control to other people of things, it becomes your boss and nature of your work that needs changing  and not you as a result you feel powerless and unable to change things (Developing this uncanny ability to come up with excuses all the time for failure).

The power of Choice

If we attribute skipping a workout to something within our control and take responsibility for it, we actually have a choice – and it is by knowing we have a choice that we begin to exercise our own personal power. it’s not work that forces you to give up going to the gym  – You chose to skip gym over work. The keyword is “You choose” rather than XXX forces me to do something.

When we skip a workout, there are quite a few things within our control, is the workout time unsuitable ? Is the workout time too long ? Did you plan your work well and achieve efficiency ? Can you foresee times which you have to stay late and overcome this ? All these are controllable to some extent.

Blaming the boss and work are things you can’t change much(unless you change your job and you can’t have full control over where you end up) and its far better to take accountability and be flexible in our approach.

Increasing your control over situations

Another important thing about the locus in control is that the more you exercise your own ownership over your problems  the more your control over aspects of your life increases –   It expands what you can control. This is important because whenever you accomplish something like losing your first five kilos, it creates a kind of cycle  which resonates the “I can do this” – confidence. Small success build into greater successes, and if by accomplishing goals through planning and sheer hard work, you are actually telling yourself that you are capable of more and better, your mind believes in this – and your sphere of control expands.

Go out and get what you are worth

The most successful people are those who can manage their minds and have a good history of small successes, who do not give up due to setbacks and are flexible in their approach. They have a greater sphere of control and influence over themselves because of numerous victories and goals that they accomplished.

They have stretched their limits and mind, and once you stretched the limits of your mind on what’s possible, it can never return to its original constrains (which is a good thing !). They will not blame circumstance and will find a way no matter what. And to quote our favourite boxer again

” If you know what you’re worth, Go out and Get What Your Worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you aren’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.”

You ARE better than that, we deserve far more than what we are capable of right now. Start by building what you can control, start by building up your body and health (entirely within your control), gain enough confidence to create small successes and stretch yourself by accomplishing goals that align with your purpose pushing the envelope further and further each time – and get what you are worth.

Mind Article : Life and Fitness Part I

“When things got hard, you started looking for something to blame. Like a Big Shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The worlds aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it…

You’ve gotta hit as hard as life. It isn’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? That’s how winning is done.

If you know what you’re worth, Go out and Get What Your Worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you aren’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.”

—-Rocky Balboa

I saw this clip some time ago. I like boxing and believe that boxers are philosophers in their own right. They get quoted quite alot as athletes. Life has been likened to a fight, and at times we have to roll with the punches. Every time we get knocked down we got to stand back up and move forward, put our best feet forward and take punches while giving punches. Its raw and unadulterated, and in many ways its like life.

The clip by the fictional character Rocky (styled against one of the greatest undefeated fighters in history “Rocky” Marciano), is a reminder to all of us, that every time we get knocked down, get dealt a bad card in life, or feel frustrated and at wits end – We never give up, we just stand up and go on swinging. Every time we face adversity, it’s not time to throw in the towel, we just have to bite down and do our best. Because life is not going to back down, life isn’t going to throw you some slack because you are suffering. The only way we can face life is on our terms, building on our personal power and knowing that everything can be solved, every punch that life throws can be taken. Every time life knocks us down, there is strength within us to stand back up. Every time we feel that we need to throw in the towel, we can just dig deep and find that strength that is within all of us. The human spirit is larger than life . There’s something inside bigger than what we know, something stronger and something greater than what we are.

Many times, when we face problems that overwhelm us or seem to have no solution and things get bleak without a solution, we tend to despair. It has happened to me and probably has happened to you at some part of your life, and a sure sign of it is that you begin to lose that spring in your feet, the joie vivre (the joy of life) and your body, fitness and spirit will start to deteriorate rapidly. Many times then, we would rely on very quick fixes, like that burst of sugar from comforting junk food, saturate ourselves with oil and chips and numb our minds with television and even drugs. As if seeing people on television living out their lives would somehow be an extension of ours, putting our lives on hold so that we can immerse ourselves in the interesting life of others. As if taking Prozac or sleeping pills would numb our conscience of making wrong choices in life and unburden us from our responsibilities. No, it doesn’t work that way.

More than anything, decisions and not the conditions in our lives determine our destiny. All of us know of people who have been born with disadvantages, and all of us have heard of inspiring tales of people who despite all triumphs survived all odds and flourished. Despite all disadvantages in their lives, they have made the change exploding beyond the limits that their conditions try to constrain them to. How ?

Simply put – They knew something had to change and they would be the one to change it.  

Never give up
ALWAYS find a way

They took ownership of their problems and from there they took ownership of their lives. It was not some big excuse everytime they failed to go to the gym or keep to a resolution, they held themselves accountable for things that they resolved to do. Even if they had significant physical disabilities, they found a creative way. They had the two “A”s in life. The attitude and the approach. These are the two elements that we can control in life to determine whether we succeed or not.

More on Mind Article :  Life and Fitness Part II