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Personal trainers and fitness coaches are a special breed of people.  They are “people people,” observant, good listeners, effective planners and capable of adjusting the plan on the fly, but most of all a good trainer is good at creating and maintaining motivation in his or her clients. 

An excellent trainer is all that and more.  Like good trainers, the best trainers are good with people, skillful motivators and creative in their work, but they are also expert at managing pressure.

Progress in fitness is generally made by a combination of two things: (1) consistency and (2) pushing slightly beyond present capacity, when the timing is right.  Under-exertion is just as dangerous to the process as over-exertion.  As in all things, there is a sweet spot in the middle. 

I’ve spoken with a number of top-notch personal trainers over the years and every one of them has noted that they generally see two types of clients.  The first type is likely to push through barriers, always doing the extra repetition, walking the extra step and going the extra minute, while the second type of person is likely to retreat, collapse, hesitate or quit when met with obstacles.  Do these sound familiar?

Growth invariably involves pushing slightly beyond present limitations.  It is not always the most comfortable thing, but for some reason you always feel better when you push yourself at the right time.  While we’re on the topic of comfort, it is worth mentioning that the worship of comfort is a top cause of stagnation and dissipation.  Comfort in and of itself is wonderful, useful and desirable, but the worship of comfort often lurks at the root of stagnant or disintegrative patterns.

The next time you meet an obstacle in yourself, push a little farther than you typically would.  There is no need to force the process, but there is the need to bring just enough extra pressure to bear that you don’t collapse at the foot of the barrier over and over again. 

I’ve often found in my own experience that the barriers I’ve met were less difficult to overcome than I had made them out to be.  So another way to approach this matter is to avoid making a big deal out of challenges that lie ahead before you take your first stab at it.  Approaching obstacles in the spirit of victory rather than in temerity, anxiety or frustration creates useful momentum in any challenge. 

Confidence peppered with hubris is unattractive at best.  Confidence tempered with humility, on the other hand, is always useful.

Have fun with this today and this week.  I know I will!

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If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch an episode of the 11 part series, “Life,” narrated by Oprah Winfrey, you’re missing something special. Presented on the Discovery Channel, the series “reveals the most spectacular, bizarre and fascinating behaviors that living things have devised in order to thrive,” according to a http://www.discovery.com press release.

The episode I saw focused on several remarkable bird species, including the Lammergeier, also known as the Bearded Vulture. This large vulture breeds on crags in high mountains and feeds on the bones of carrion left by other predators. What is amazing about this bird is that it not only selects the bones with the most fat content, but it drops them from great heights on rocky plateaus to break them apart. Their digestive juices are more corrosive than battery acid, making an easy meal out of even the toughest bones. For more information on this fascinating bird, visit naturalist and author Pat Bumstead’s blog, http://wildtracks.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/bone-bustin-birds/.

I likewise have been keenly observing the brouhaha around Tiger Woods’ return to the pro golf tour. It often amazes me to see what can thrust itself onto center stage of the consciousness of so many, no matter how distanced the observer might be from the actual event or person. Life is full of fascinating elements, isn’t it?

What occupies the center of your attention from moment to moment? Human consciousness can be such a fickle and unpredictable thing, yet for each one there are typically several themes that dominate one’s private thoughts. Those themes are related to deeper patterns of orientation in the individual and they also tend to form the lens through which the individual sees the world around him or herself.

For some, the theme of either victory or failure tends to occupy a central place in consciousness. For others, it might be the theme of struggle or cooperation. In many ways, the themes tend to shape up according to basic assumptions about the nature of life itself. Is it nasty, brutish and short as Hobbes asserted or is it fundamentally harmonious, pleasant and progressing upward? If you were google and I typed “define: life” on your search screen, what definitions would you return?

No doubt the definition you would give is in part moulded by your life experiences, your education, your upbringing and so on, but independent of all of that, what really do you feel about life? Is there hope for humanity in your heart and mind? Or are you, and consequently your fellows, a lost cause?

In my estimation the way that humanity in general views life seals the fate of the natural world. The way that we care for one another, that we think about ourselves, that we handle the harvest of yesterday’s planting, has an immediate and powerful impact on the planet we share. To me it doesn’t much matter what gets you to think about how precious life is, in fact, all life experiences – good, bad or indifferent – can be used to fuel your passion for understanding, exploring and bettering life on our planet.

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“What has your heart has you.”

A simple phrase, isn’t it?  What has your heart has you.  How many times have you snapped out of a moment (or perhaps longer) of obsessing about something that was probably not worth giving the time of day? 

I once heard someone say that what lies in the center of your thoughts is your god for the moment.  An interesting thought.  What occupies the center of your thoughts?  Is that thing truly worthy of deification?  So often people obsess about things they don’t like or that they would go away, but such great emphasis on those things inevitably backfires, for what has your heart has you. 

Likewise, fixating on that which you wish you had, that which you feel would make you happy if you had it – person, place or thing – is ultimately focusing on that which you don’t have, on an absence.  What has your heart has you.  If you center your thoughts on an absence, what will you feel…even after you are fortunate enough to get that thing?  You guessed it, the empty shell of victory…more absence!

Finally, preoccupation with the past also consumes the otherwise productive lives of far too many people.  “If only high school had gone better…”  “If only I hadn’t said that…”  “If only I had chosen differently…”  While the past is worth considering so that mistakes are not repeated, obsessive compulsive infatuation with the “if onlys” never get anyone very far in life.  In fact, the “if  onlys” tend to suck the marrow right out of life, leaving an empty and brittle shell of regret, blame and bitterness.   

Hence the power of appreciation.  A heart full of appreciation for what is, for the starting points now available to you – no matter how big or small – is the perfect place to start in any given moment.  What has your heart has you.  Appreciation is an attitude that opens doors, that inspires others to help and that heals life’s little bumps and bruises.

These are the physics behind every downward spiral that any person has ever gone through on earth.  Conversely, this is the logic which makes it possible to emerge from the low points in life into a new and fresh experience of joy and exultation.  What has your heart has you.

Whether theist, polytheist or atheist, you are always worshipping something.  If you’ve ever wondered what you worship, look at what lies in the center of your heart, for what has your heart has you.  The choice as to which god or gods you worship from day to day is up to you.

No one can make you worship anything, no matter how big, bad, imposing or impressive they might seem.  The choice is always yours.  Use your freedom of choice wisely.  You and the world you center depend on it!

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Katie Spotz, a 22 year old from Ohio, recently rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean, setting new records in the process.  The journey from Dakar, Senegal to Georgetown, Guyana took 70 days, 5 hours and 22 minutes.  Yes, she rowed alone, in a small boat, across the Atlantic Ocean! (see: http://rowforwater.com/)

Listen to Katie Couric’s congratulatory report, and pay particular attention to Katie Spotz’ comments at the end of the video: 

Impressive, eh?  Katie notes that it is often the individual that holds him or herself back from new accomplishments.  Would you say that is true?  In my estimation, most impediments to progress – for the individual and for a group of individuals such as a family, a company or a nation – are, as Katie mentioned, self-imposed.

What stops you?  Confidence?  Motivation?  Follow-through?  Lethargy?  Anxiety?  I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are people on earth.  The question is, what can you do about it, now?  While I don’t anticipate rowing across the Atlantic myself, I know that developing the habits and elements of character that constrain to victory will eventually produce momentum, which is often your greatest ally when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Victory is available to anyone and everyone.  It rarely comes freely and it often requires patience, vision, persistence and strategic thinking.  No matter what challenges you face in life, you have the means of overcoming, of establishing a victory. 

I once heard a U.S. Marine say “you don’t lose until you quit trying.”  How true that is! 

Have a Happy Easter.

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Thank you, my friends, for your thoughtful comments and active consideration today.  As Homer once said, “There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” 

Rest well-

Gregg

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