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2018 Is Here!

2018 is here! What changes will you make? The new year is a great time to commit yourself to better health. Sadly, New Year’s resolutions to get into better shape and go to the gym rarely last out the month of January.  I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself to make fitness a regular part of your life and stick with it.

There is no use getting a gym membership where you either have no real idea where to start or you get into something that’s not a good fit for you.  

Fitness is not a quick fix.  Instead, it is all about the steady, long-term, day-to-day training.  If we all take an honest look at our lives, we can all get an idea of how long we have been abusing our bodies.  The changes for the negative did not happen overnight, and it is going to take some time to get it healthy again. There are no shortcuts.  If something promises a quick fix, run away from it.  

It will be hard to stay committed. You will be tired and sore and there are many days you will not feel like training.  Excuses are a dime a dozen, but those of us that stick with it will find that reward worth it.

There will come a point where you will be amazed at how great you feel.  You will eventually come to the realization that you accepted feeling bad as normal.  

Life is short.  We have no guarantee for tomorrow.  Take care of your body while you are in it.

This could be the year that more of us come to the realization that food is fuel for our bodies. It’s purpose is not to make us happy or comfort us.  Good food, unlike medications, has no negative side effects.  Proper diet is important to our health and can keep us functioning at our best.

You have heard it before,“Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”

Eat smart, train smart, make it fun and stick with it. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in your life.

 

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Making Time

Making better use of our time while enriching our lives sounds a little bit like a self help guru’s pie-in-the-sky sales pitch. In all honesty, it is possible to accomplish both of these goals by making a few small changes to our daily routines.

I love to wake up early before most of the world around me is awake.  The early morning is a quiet time when (after a cup of coffee) my mind is working like a well oiled machine.  I can get a lot finished in a short period of time.

I realize that most people will not want to wake up as early as I do.  We can all, however, plan our lives so we have a routine where we go to bed a little earlier, and get up a little bit earlier.

The extra morning time is time we can use to enrich our lives.  How?  Reading, for one.  I always read books at night before I go to sleep. Reading helps me unwind and relax before I go to sleep.  I also enjoy catching up on world news and reading my Bible first thing in the morning.

Books open up new worlds. They let us experience other lives, other periods of history and other places. Books can teach us or entertain us. Often, they do both.   I have read so many books that I thought I would have no interest in, yet once I started I was sucked into the story.

The year is winding down.  It’s time to think about the new year ahead and making some changes.  I encourage you to wake up earlier and enjoy the morning hours.  I also urge you to spend more time reading books.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

 

Stand Out

Each of us defines success in a different way.  My definition of success today is being content, loving those close to me with a full heart and enjoying life to the fullest.

One of the things I like to do is speak to people about life and what they can do to accomplish their dreams and goals.  I listen to their stories and try to find the commonalities with others who have become successful in life.

I was speaking with two people, in particular, this week with very different lives, yet their stories share common threads. One is an actor who started out for many years as a carpenter first. He studied acting on the side as he worked his woodworking craft.  He lived frugally and held himself to a high standard. He pushed himself and never lost sight of where he wanted to be.  There were no roles available for guys like him, yet he never gave up and today he is in a number of shows working as a full time actor.

The second is a professional athlete who has worked at his craft his whole life.  He reached the top of his game and still he kept at it.  Even when his career started to wind down, he stuck to his personal code.  He faced tough times and many changes, but with each move and shift he learned and grew. Those tough times helped shape him and equip him for his life today coaching and pushing other athletes to reach their potential.

We can all learn from their stories.  First, they each had a clear vision of where they wanted to be, and worked toward it.  They did not get caught up in the small things that drag us down in life and will do nothing for us.  Second, they demanded excellence from themselves.  They went to bed early, got plenty of sleep and woke up early on a schedule.  Each of them was willing to sacrifice immediate temporary pleasure for their long term goals. They were willing to put as much time as they could possibly find into mastering their craft.

In doing this they cracked the code of success that many others have followed. Hard work at every stage. They gave it their all no matter how small the work seemed at the time.  People took notice because of their hard work.  Good work never really goes unseen, even if you feel like it does not matter at the time.

After many years of toil, when they finally had their big opportunity, they were ready.

Another thing that stands out to me about these two, is that they both give thanks to him who made it possible. They will tell you that God will never give you more than you can handle.  Their advice is to stay focused, do everything to the best of your ability, demand excellence from yourself and make no excuses. By following these guidelines, we can all reach our full potential.

Titus 2:7

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

 

Thrive

Here in the United States, we have access to so many things that can enrich our lives, yet many of us never take advantage of any of it.  We all have free time, we all have resources around us – libraries, museums, job opportunities, educational opportunities.  Yet most of us would rather spend our time complaining about all of the things we don’t have and the opportunities that are not handed to us, than to go out and create opportunities for ourselves.  Why?

Did we lose the art of believing that anything is possible with hard work and determination?  It can be easy to forget that we are all truly blessed to live in a place where there is an abundance of food and medical care is always available in emergencies. Instead, we all want more, we feel we deserve more without putting in the effort to earn it.

If we spend any amount of time watching TV or poking around on social media, we will be quickly reminded of the things we are lacking.  The truth is, those things are not necessary to achieve our goals.

Life is always better when we spend our time believing that we already have the things we need to enjoy life and pursue our dreams.  Don’t wait until you achieve your goals to believe in yourself.  Believing you can’t thrive until you have reached your goal is a mistake, we need to thrive during the journey. To think otherwise only fills our days with negativity.  

I am healthy and alive and thriving, even though I have so many goals left to achieve.

The fault in my old system of belief was that I thought everything – both good and bad – happened because of me or to me.  I gave myself too much credit – I believed the world revolved around me.  It is hard not to laugh at myself now looking back.  

I believe that if everyday I put in my best effort, it will pay off in the future.  That doesn’t mean life won’t hold struggles, but it means that I can still thrive during life’s struggles.  I know life as it is at this moment is just temporary and will change sometimes for the better or worse. I believe that no matter which way life may go, I am well equipped to handle it and will continue to thrive.

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

Destination or Journey

Often we focus on the destination with so much intensity that we completely forget about the journey. Each of us has a unique story that goes along with our journey in life.  We are exactly where we are today because of the roads we have chosen.

In 2005 I could have never imagined that I would end up in the Midwest.  I became adapted to living the big city life during my time in New York, and the minute I left, I missed it.

I spent a lot of time in a mountain state after that, but I never enjoyed it or even considered living there.  I spent all of my time training, writing, reading and on Fridays, watching movies.  That was probably the longest time I spent living away from a coastline, until now.  Los Angeles began as my home in my early years, and became my home again.  It was the place I thought I would live the rest of my life.

Looking back, the funny thing is that I do not miss it at all.  I was going over all of the choices big and small that brought me to where I am in Illinois today.  I do not regret my past because it shaped who I am today.  I regret certain choices and actions I chose.  I never dwell on my past in a negative way, because it shaped the person I am today.  I am thankful for my journey and most of all, that I survived.  

I learned a lot of things the hard way. The lessons of my life come from experiences both good and bad.  Now, I hope to pass on my experiences to anyone who cares to listen, and save them the trouble of learning the hard way.

I lived in a state of constant dread.  A life of,  “What if?” or, “How long?”  Even after I began the change process, I still felt uneasy all the time. Looking back, I will sometimes catch myself wondering why did I not seek change sooner.  I know now that it is because I was not ready and God’s timing is perfect.

My journey taught me that we can all accomplish what seems impossible as long as we are dedicated to improving and staying the course.  We may not get exactly what we set out for, but what we do receive will be more than we could have dreamed.

Destination or journey? The real prize is what we learn along the way.
Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

Why Details Matter

Sometimes I like to just hang back, watch people to see what they do and how they act.  If you pay attention you can easily determine why some succeed and others fail at certain endeavors.

It has become easy for most of us to skip over the small details in life.  We live in a quick on the go society.  In reality every detail, no matter how small, matters. I have the luxury of hindsight because I am able to look back on my life and determine why I was successful at certain times. I can also be sure of why I failed at other incidents.  It comes down to the details.

Why are Vincent Van Gogh’s works of art so amazing and thought provoking?  After all anyone can paint a starry night.  In reality, very few can capture the mood and feel with a brush.

Last week I watched a championship fight between two fighters at the top of their game.  One of them was hit by a huge hook and right away he came back with a wicked cross.  The hook seemingly had little effect on the one hit.  Two still pictures reveal the reason behind it.

The hook was “winged,” which means the hips were not used and it was only a palm strike.  He didn’t hit with his knuckles, but his opponent did use his hips and turn over his punch.  Those tiny differences made the difference between being able to walk through a punch and being thrown against the ropes.

How many times do we fail to take each step we need to accomplish our goals? Are we using our hips to throw our hooks (hypothetically), or are we just slapping with our hands? I have been and am guilty as the next person when it comes to cutting corners.  I used to never worry about the small things, I always figured I could go back and fix them. This faulty way of thinking has cost me a lot over the years.  I think about all the time and heartache I could have saved myself and I realize how ignorant I had been.

We walk through life without realizing that God has provided us with everything we need to live a prosperous life of fulfillment.  It is hard because we cannot see the big picture or the final outcome. This is where faith comes into the picture and helps us get through the rough periods.  The good news is, that even though we can’t see the future, our job is not to blindly walk in faith, he has given us clear guidelines of how we should live in the Bible.

Our lives are made up of thousands of tiny actions that take place every hour of the day and night.  A chef cannot put a culinary masterpiece on the table without careful attention to each of the ingredients.

I listen when someone is explaining something unfamiliar to me and I absorb the information.  If I don’t understand something, I will ask questions.

I make every effort to do whatever task I set out to do right in the first place. I know I will fail at times, but I learn and I never continue to make the same mistakes again.

How could paying attention to details make your life easier?  The next question is why are you not sweating the details?  When we cease to learn, life is over.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

 

Aftermath: Rebuilding Your Life

We have all heard the saying, “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are ready to change.” This is something that I know first hand. I also know others who have gone through the same experience.  In fact, most of us will have to rebuild our lives at some point in life.

It may come from an unexpected loss, the death of a loved one, a job, or it could be our own self-destructive behavior. It does not matter the cause, because the outcome is the same. A life in shambles, the feeling of no hope, bitterness, and blame. You can feel the walls of despair closing in on you as depression sets into your life.

Life seems overwhelming and we become frozen in place, shut down.  For some, it sends them into a self-medication period or an overeating binge.  All the while we distance ourselves from friends and loved ones.

When you find yourself at rock bottom, It is time to examine your life and figure out what has brought you to this place. Make a list, because when you write it down you can easily decide what is most important. You can also devise a plan to begin the journey of rebuilding.

A good approach is to begin by controlling what you can.  We can all control what goes into our bodies. Alcohol and drugs will just bring us down, even more, the problem still exists but now our minds are clouded.

What we eat also has a huge effect on how we feel.  If we eat sugar or foods heavy with fats, we will feel it. Excess sugar will cause us to hit highs and then come crashing down feeling worse than ever.  Unhealthy food will make your whole system feel sluggish.  Cut it all out. We do not need them and once our system begins functioning better on healthy fuel, we will not miss them.  Challenge yourself by being strong and watching your food intake.

The more you start to take control of your life, the better you feel.  It is time to make commitments with some new habits. A lot of hugely successful people start the day early with some exercise. I am not suggesting that you begin with a gym membership.  We must crawl before we can walk, so start small.  Try walking around your neighborhood every day for thirty minutes in the mornings, without distractions and without stopping.  I am not talking about a treadmill! Get outdoors where the weather and terrain varies daily.  Use this alone time to think about life and plan your day.

After a series of events in my life, I found myself all alone in a place I had never been. I was depressed and fat, with no idea what I would do with my life from that point forward. The first day I shut myself inside the hotel suite and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t want to face reality. My old life was no more.  The people I knew would never and could never be a part of my new life. I had brought everything on myself because of my actions, so the only person I could blame was myself.

I decided that I should begin walking every morning for an hour. I was out the door before light that second day. I walked every day for the rest of that first week. After my walk, I would come back to the suite and watch TV.  Eventually, I ventured across the street after dark to a huge bookstore and bought some books and a notepad.  I developed a routine.  Walk, read, write about my life and eat fresh unprocessed food.  After that first week, I found a Mixed Martial Arts gym and I started walking past it every day.  Martial arts had been an important part of my early life, but it had been a few years since I had been in a martial arts gym. I checked out the class schedule and thought about joining.  It took me almost a month to finally decide to walk into the gym.  When I did, I decided on a whim to take a class.

The class gave me over an hour a day when the only thing I could think about was the class. My head was clear and focused when I trained. I developed a new schedule.  I would walk every day for an hour, come back and watch two shows, then go take a class, read a book for learning (history, science, etc), eat lunch, work on writing the story of my life, and later read another book for pleasure. This routine pulled me out of the hole I had dug for myself.

Writing about my life laid bare the fact that all of my problems had been caused by the choices I made.  I started a list of things that I had to change, and believe me it was a huge list. I started working on one of them at a time. I am still working on the list and it grows all the time.  I have found that I gain confidence every time I conquer a personal dislike.  People might feel my life is too regimented and strict, but it is actually freeing.

Find something that you can get into.  Something that allows you to forget about your problems and clear your mind for a time, even if you can see no immediate benefit.

When you develop a new routine, make a pact with yourself that you will not stop for a month.

Write about your thoughts and problems.  Keep a diary, even if it is just a short e-mail you send to yourself at the beginning of each day. This is enormously helpful and it is between you and you alone.

As I was writing this post, I counted at least five times that I have hit bottom and started to rebuild my life. The best thing to come out of those experiences is that I have tread familiar ground repeatedly. I do not know what the says about me, but at least I know what choices I no longer wish to make.

I spoke to two others about the aftermath of their destructive lives.  I asked them both what helped them come back from the brink.  One told me that when he was doing his thing it was about him.  When it all came crashing down it affected those close to him.  He let everyone down. He had support and he decided that he would take it and better himself.  The second person told me he realized he was a grown man and if he did nothing he would be wasting his life. The life he had was no longer part of the equation, so he started one step at a time and day by day it got better.

Ephesians 4:28

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

2 Timothy

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.