Tag Archives: Optimism

Sometimes “bad” news turns out to be “great” news in disguise

24 Mar

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had some difficulties over the last few weeks. One of those difficulties was learning that the company which I had enrolled with to do my personal training studies was starting to mess me about in a serious way. So much so that I found that they had given away my place to someone else due to a really bogus clerical error, and then claimed that I should not be upset, that I was only one of thousands through their doors, and that if I wanted to study in their full-time course that I would simply have to wait until the next classes were due to start around the end of April or by early May. I guess it’s fairly safe to say that I have been very upset about this, particularly because I have been like a little kid counting the “sleeps” before Santa comes down the chimney, only in my case I’ve been waiting for 3 months for my course to start.

Added to this has been the stress of having the bank send me a letter warning of the imminent foreclosure of my home loan if I don’t manage to find some serious cash by April 10th, and negotiating with a government department to try and release a portion of my superannuation (aka government regulated retirement savings) to help me to buy me the time I need to gain some new skills, improve my employment prospects, and to hold the bank off for the next 6 months while I get my unemployed shit together. The trouble of course is that I really am limited in how much I might be able to access, and in how far that money will go before I find myself neck deep in arrears again, so delays to my education aren’t just troublesome, but can also become very costly if it ends up losing me my house!

So I’ve been waiting so long to finally start my course, and for those who know me the excitement I feel at being a qualified PT and getting to really help others to make a difference in their lives is something I really can’t put into words, except to say that I really feel as if it is my “calling” if you like to think in those terms, and something that I feel so strongly about that I really can’t see myself every being happy doing anything else.

Yeah, I’m 43 years old and talking about this sort of stuff like a 17 year old kid who thinks his life will be over if he can’t follow the job he has dreamed about since he was 5! Perhaps I should be old enough to know a little better, or perhaps I recognise that while my life wouldn’t technically be “over” as such, I’ve been around a while, had 2 professional and one non-professional careers, and I’d like to think that I’ve learned what it is that will bring me happiness, vocationally speaking.

So to be told to effectively suck it and put up with a lot of unprofessionally poor customer service from an organisation that represents and industry where customer service is really the number one most important aspect of everything it does, well you could say that it left me feeling a little disillusioned, and a lot pissed off at the staff members responsible for giving me the run-around. I had one individual being very rude with me, who I suspect messed up the paperwork in the first place and who could not be bothered following up on a problem. I had another guy not returning any of my calls, and a couple of receptionist types who seemed so clueless that their only thought was that I should speak only to one of these two guys who were giving me so much grief.

So it ended up being a really crappy thing instead of the wonderful opportunity I had been looking forward to, and this before I had even been able to sit in a class and learn a single thing!! So I did what anyone would do when a company treats them like shit. I cancelled my enrolment, I will be pursuing the fees that they charged me which they can’t get out of refunding because it was entirely their fault that they did not manage to supply the service to which they were contracted, and I took my business elsewhere, which turns out to be a real blessing in disguise.

I found a company called Wyn Training, which is based in a gym not too far from where I worked in my last job. Not only were they able to get me into a full time course starting on April 2nd, they were also willing to work out a payment plan that I can afford even though I have almost no income at present – and which I am sure from a business perspective must be an inconvenience to them. Even better, the course itself only takes 9 weeks to complete, doesn’t require a probationary 20 hours post graduation with another personal trainer, it won’t mess up my weekends with my kids, and in as little as 10 weeks from now – if I have studied hard and if I don’t completely screw up my exams – I will be a fully qualified PT, ready to be unleashed on the world to train the lard on and off of the arses of all of my many future victims happy clients to my merry little heart’s content!!

So all of this stressful stuff that I went through with the other (muddy-named) provider has turned out to be what I really needed. Not only will I get to do a really great course with a reputable training company, I will also be able to complete my course in about a third of the time it would have taken me with that other mob. This means that by mid-year, I have a real shot at being either gainfully employed with a great PT company, or founding one of my own… and possibly even satisfying both options!! And even better, I will be doing something that I am really enthusiastic about, looking forward to doing, and working in a healthy, and active environment.

So to those of you who find yourselves at a crossroads in life, where you think that things are seriously going south and you think that “everyone” is on your case and getting you down, my suggestion to you is to find the strength within you to endure, to persevere, and to look for those little golden moments of opportunity so that you will find yourself emotionally available to take advantage of them when they appear. You can never really guess how things will turn out until they happen, and I truly believe that you can always find that positive silver lining somewhere at the end of those negative clouds that life sees you walking amongst.

Be strong, find your focus, set your goals, take a risk to chase your dreams, and you may just find that if you take advantage of the opportunities that arise, you might just manage to achieve everything you set out to do.

Just between me and you… I really hope that you do! ūüôā


What do you do when the wheels fall off the bus?

23 Mar

Failure_Freeway (Photo credit: StormKatt)

To say that I’ve had a tough past couple of weeks would be an understatement of epic proportions. I won’t go into all of the details, so suffice to say that I’ve been on the proverbial emotional roller-coaster, and that life has decided to chew me up and spit me out for yet another attempt at trying to get my shit together.¬†I’m not going to make any excuses, and whatever the reasoning is won’t change the fact that the past couple of weeks have been a write-off in terms of diet and exercise.

Yes, somewhere along the journey I fell off the wagon… well, perhaps not completely off the wagon, and it wasn’t entirely falling off either. It is more like I went and took a running leap to try and get off the wagon, only I’ve tripped, got my foot caught, and ended up being dragged along by the wagon with my foot still on it and the rest of me bumping along the path while I lie there thinking to myself “WTF am I doing?!!”.

So where have I failed?

  1. I haven’t been drinking nearly enough water. I am probably mildly dehydrated, and have probably been this way for over a week now.
  2. I haven’t paid much attention to my food, so I haven’t been eating nearly enough vegetables, nor have I been eating a wide enough variety of colours or types of vegetables.
  3. I’ve been lazy about getting my exercise. The last workout I put any effort into was when my kids were here about 3 weeks ago, when I went for a run with my youngest son. Since then, I’ve ignored my weights, bands, routine, gym clothes… all of it.
  4. I’ve not been getting nearly enough sleep. Waking early, and going to bed late.

These don’t appear to be very good signs for a future personal trainer do they. I mean, how can I expect people to take my advice seriously if I can’t even stick to it myself? What do I expect is going to happen, how am I going to make a success out of my new career, and what will become of all of those future clients that I want to help?

The last couple of paragraphs show you how easy it can be to create a negative mind set around a problem area in your life, and is really the culmination of all of the negative behaviours that we learn as children, and which are reinforced as we become adults. Yes, all of this negativity is learned behaviour, and we all know that negativity can be a bad thing when it becomes a focal point in your life and in how you deal with the challenges that life places in your path.

So what can you do to prevent negative emotion having it’s way and bringing your life to a standstill? How can you ensure that negative emotion won’t either send you or return you to an emotional place where you don’t wish to be, and how can you create an emotional environment for yourself that will help you to keep yourself focussed on your goals and ultimately motivated to achieve them regardless of the emotional hurdles which you face? I believe that the answer to these questions is really all about understanding your priorities, understanding where you are emotionally, and deciding for yourself how you wish to live emotionally.

Yes, what I am saying here is that you can actually choose to exist in a poor emotional state, and when you live in a place where you surround yourself ¬†with negativity, you yourself have chosen to be there. No one made you do it. Nobody is forcing you to live that way. It is something that you have deliberately chosen to do – even if only subconsciously – and all because it is your response to life’s challenges which you unfortunately learned from your parents, teachers, bosses, and others who all seem to believe that teaching through failure means to hold up failures as examples to be made and to feel bad about, rather than examining how failures occur in order to better understand them and to learn from them.

negative feedback system

negative feedback system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clinging to negative examples in life doesn’t teach you to learn from them. It instead sets up a negative feedback cycle that gains strength with every additional failure, and it encourages you to behave in a manner that is consistent with feelings of guilt, poor self worth, and depression. The longer you live your life in this state of mind, the more attractive negative thought and emotion becomes, the more normal it seems to be in a negative state, and the more learned and ingrained will negative behaviour become. So much so that you can reach a point where you and can feel as if a negative state of being is normal and that you¬†can’t remember ever living any other way.

As I mentioned, I believe it comes down to a question of priorities. I’m talking about choices here, and how it’s up to you to choose how you wish to live your life. Do you¬†choose to live your life surrounding yourself with negative emotion, feeling negative, and focussing only on your negative thoughts? Or, do you choose¬†to take each moment in life one at a time, to face your problems and your negative feelings, and to use those negative emotions as a teacher rather than as a torturer? Or to put it more simply – and perhaps a little less dramatically, ¬†do you strive to be happy or do you choose to give up and be unhappy?

For me personally, I find it difficult to maintain a positive attitude all of the time, let alone when life keeps sending me curve-balls and sliders, when all I want is a good fast ball that I know I can hit. The thing is, you need to accept in life that you don’t always get what you ask for, and there is no point getting all pouty and depressed when you aren’t getting things all your way. I do like to believe though that like the song says, while you don’t always get what you want you will often find that you get what you truly need, and often you won’t realise this until a lot of time has passed and with the benefit of hindsight you can appreciate how things eventually ended up.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to recall two very profound moments in my life where I found myself aware enough to recognise in that moment that I was getting something that I truly needed. In both cases they were words of advice which not only changed my outlook in life, but which also came to be incorporated into my own core values. The first happened about 5 months prior to separating with my ex-wife back in 2007, and while the advice given was something I already strived for in myself, I don’t believe I truly understood it or recognised it until it was spoken to me.

Sadly I don’t recall the name of the guy who I was speaking with. I do remember that he was a psychologist at the time, working as a marriage counsellor with Humaneed in Carlton, Melbourne. I had travelled to see him to engage his services as a marriage counsellor, and to help me find a way to try and recover the shreds of a very sad and tattered marriage. While his advice and work didn’t get me the result I had asked him for, he did give me some very good advice that has stayed with me for many years now, as well as some tools to recognise how unrecoverable my marriage was, and how I could survive those awful days after separation when I didn’t get to see or hear from my sons for several weeks.

What this psychologist said to me was the following:

“When it comes my time to die, I’d like to think that I will end up standing before the gates of heaven, and that in order to pass in I will be asked a single question… ‘What have you learned?’ “.

This single statement has had a profound effect on my life. While I’m uncertain whether I should believe in a heaven, pearly gates, and white-winged folk with little gold halos, the mental picture that it created for me was such that it has stayed with me as something to reflect on whenever¬†I am faced with a negative moment, and sometimes it’s something I reflect on during some of the more positive moments as well. For me this has grown as a concept, so that when I personally reach that inevitable moment in my life where it is time for my own journey to end, I’d like to be able to reflect not only on all of the things that I have learned, but also on the number of lives I will have been able to touch in a positive way.

The real message behind this story however, is that it was a very timely piece of advice that came to me when I needed it most, and that in some ways continues to come to my aid in those moments that come from time to time where I fail to get what I want, and when it is this reminder of something that I truly need, and that is to learn from all of my experiences in life so that my life can be enriched by all of those experiences, and by that I mean both the positive and the negative ones.

The second really profound moment for me is both about some words of advice, and also about a way to approach everything in a way that really reinforces the lessons which I learned through my earlier experience. it was another psychologist by the name of Rob Cunningham who I went to see when I  found myself dealing with an emotional breakdown round the middle of 2011. I have written before about how it is thought which creates emotion, and it was Rob who taught me about this by getting me to keep a thoughts diary, where I only needed to write a couple of lines to note how I was feeling, and what I was actually thinking about as I felt it.

Rob also taught me about another concept called mindfulness, which I have more recently learned is a practice inherited from Buddhist tradition that has been a very useful tool in the Western psychologist’s bag of¬†therapeutic¬†tricks. While Rob help me to learn to become more mindful – that is more self-aware – as a means to treat anxiety and depression, he may not have realised that he was also giving me a tool which is also very useful in helping me to find enrichment in my life through all of the experiences that I encounter.

As I was learning to become more mindful, it was like I was having one of those light-bulb moments of pure clarity, where something very profound and difficult to understand has suddenly become easy and so meaningful that it makes you wonder how you could have been getting by in life without having realised it before. I could see at the time that I had a long way to go to learn to employ mindfulness effectively, and yet I could also see that being mindful was not simply a way to distract me from my negative thoughts, but was rather something I could use to examine thought in such a way that I didn’t need to focus too heavily on it to understand it, and to learn from it.

Even better for me was the realization that I could enjoy the benefit of learning just as well from my positive experiences and thoughts as I could from the negative ones, and in some ways it was this process that not only set me firmly on a path towards recovery from long term anxiety and depression, but which also taught me to open my mind to greater possibilities in life and to be more receptive to them. So much so that I don’t believe I would have found my desire to become a personal trainer had I not allowed myself to be mindful and open to the possibility that I could do something else quite fulfilling in my life.

So as I often do I start one story, yet I end up telling another. The thing is that the two are intimately related. You see, it’s because of these profound experiences that I had – a kind of “spiritual awakening” if you like to think about these things in such terms – that I feel gives me the ability to look back over recent events on my life quite objectively. And just as I prefer it to be, I have remembered to be mindful, to reflect on my recent experiences, and to see what I have learned.

Yes, I slipped into a bad habit of neglecting my dietary intake of water, and yes I’ve been lazy with some of my meals and maintaining a good dietary balance, yet I have also experienced something very positive, and that is that I have maintained the quality of the foods which I have been eating, and I have not slipped into a habit of binging on processed foods. I can be proud of myself because I’ve changed some habits and I no longer seek comfort in food, nor do I use negative experiences and emotions as an excuse to go off and cheat on my diet. I have also been paying more attention to my fluid intake, and I have nearly returned myself to the strict hydration habit that I was trying to instil in myself before my “March Madness” began.

Yes, I have been lazy about my workouts. I have however been moving a lot of furniture and other things about the house, and when I have found myself in places where it is customary to sit, I have learned that sitting for extended periods of time has now become incredibly uncomfortable for me. So much so that my legs kind of “hurt” in a way that encourages me to stand up and move around, and when my back starts to feel sore, I do my little hula exercise, and a couple of Psoas stretches, and after a short while the pain goes away.

Even though I have skipped out on the exercise, by maintaining my diet, and encouraging myself to stand more often, I have also continued to lose excess body fat, and a recent weight measurement shows that I am now at least 1 kg lighter without any additional effort required. In other words, my journey hasn’t really stalled or failed, it has simply gone into a temporary recess, awaiting the return of my more positive and enthusiastic self.

Yes, I also found myself not getting enough sleep, and this is probably because my water intake became quite low. The thing is that I am recovering in this area also, because I recognised the problem, I connected the cause with the symptoms, and I have taken action to correct the problem. In other words, I have become proactive about dealing with each of these things that I have seen as negative symptoms of the events which have been occurring in my life.

So what do you do when the wheels fall off your personal “bus”? You stop the bus, get out, step back, and look at the problem from a distance, look at each wheel in turn, and if a wheel has fallen off take action to put the wheel back into its place, and when the bus has all of it’s wheels again, get back on the bus and continue your journey.

photo credit – theboringrunner.com

For those of you who hate metaphors, I’ll spell it all out with a little psycho-babble thrown in for good measure: You take a moment, try to be mindful of your situation and how you are reacting to the situation in your thoughts. You take each problem that you face, examine it mindfully, accept that it has happened, see what you can learn from the experience, and then take steps to return yourself to a place where it doesn’t matter what the problem is or whether it happened, and you permit yourself to move forward from the experience with an open mind. You deal only with those immediate problems which you feel are barriers to your self-improvement or life journey, and you leave the others until you actually need to address them. Then, you simply return to travelling your life journey one moment at a time.

I have also learned that I don’t necessarily need to maintain a positive mindset all of the time, and that’s it’s OK to have negative thoughts from time to time. No emotion is truly bad, yet how we respond to those emotions and what we¬†choose¬†to do in response to those emotions is important and something that we need to be more mindful of. In reflecting on all of this, I have reminded myself of the things that I feel are most important to me, and I have remembered that I would rather learn from my failures than sink back and wallow in them.

In my own recent experience, while it may have felt at the time that I had thrown myself under the wheels of the wagon I should have been on, the reality is that things were only feeling so bad because I allowed myself to feel that way. I learned that I was mistaken, and that I didn’t need to feel this way. I learned that my journey hadn’t ended, but rather that it simply took a detour and that it was up to me to determine the length and quality of the detour. I learned that even while I felt myself failing at some of my goals and tasks, I was also succeeding at most of my other goals and tasks.

Something else that I’ve taken away from all of this is that the purpose is not to balance successes against failures to determine how well or how badly I have done. Instead, the purpose is to either try alternate strategies when a failure occurs and keep trying until I feel comfortable that I have reached a point of success, or to reflect on the failure, learn from it, and to identify if my goals are sensible and achievable, or if I should be redefining my goals to better reflect my abilities and my needs.

What all of this means is that I don’t need to feel guilt, or low self esteem simply because I have failed to achieve my goals. I don’t need to allow myself to become depressed. I can instead choose to take something positive out of every negative experience, because no matter how tenuous the positive connection may be, it is still a good thing and something to feel good about. So for every negative experience and thought you might have, remember that there is something positive to learn, and that in itself is a small goal that you can set yourself to achieve every time something occurs in your life, regardless of how you might otherwise choose to feel about it.

An easy way to change how you think

5 Mar

Reblogged from www.the1bigthing.com:

An easy way to change how you think

I’m seriously proud of my family members, and in particular those that take the big risks and do everything they can to really make the most of their lives and those who try to enrich the lives of others while at the same time enriching their own. My cousin Karen for example is a good example of what I’m talking about here, as she and her partner Paul are on their life journey together, making their living far from the maddening crowd and at the same time working on a campaign to bring people together to make a real difference in the world through their¬†Global Help Swap¬†program.

Karen¬†posted an article¬†on her blog today that gets to the heart of a matter that I’ve¬†written about before, about how our thoughts that define how we feel and how we react to the events which impact on our daily lives. Now it’s easy for me to say that you need to use a positive mind set in order to effect a positive outcome in your own life, but Karen takes this concept further and poses some very poignant questions that I think we should automatically be asking ourselves every time something happens in our lives in order to ensure we are giving ourselves the positive reinforcement needed to encourage that ever so important positive mind set. From all of this positivity will ultimately spring our happiness, so it really should be a priority to ask ourselves these questions which Karen suggests we ask ourselves.

I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to turn your life around and bring about positive changes in yourself in terms of your habits and mind set, and I particularly like how Karen suggests asking questions which reflect on the impact of your perceptions on other aspects of your life. This is why I think that¬†Karen’s article is a very good place to begin when you are on your personal development, fitness, & weight loss journeys, and in particular when you are feeling that the events in your life might risk challenging your perceptions of the positive aspects of any situation that you might encounter.

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