A Lesson in Patience and Positivity

 

 

I’m a pretty positive person. Some of my nearest and dearest may say insanely so. But I’m also a human, and so there are times when certain things or events get me down. They don’t necessarily make me negative, but rather frustrated or impatient (which is certainly one of my flaws). Besides the rather interesting beginning of January, one such thing is my current leg injury.

It’s in the assessment period now, and it could be muscular or a stress fracture. But the point is, I can’t run at all, and even walking is painful. I’d signed up for my first half-marathon back in September – which is now in 6 weeks time. There is no way I can train for it, and be ready. I don’t even know if I will be able to walk it. I’ve another 20km walk booked for next week. I don’t know if I will be able to do that. 

I had fitness plans for January. I was enthusiastic and really motivated to start the New Year with all those plans. But because of this injury, I spent the week doing nothing. I didn’t even get 10,000 steps a day in because I’d to minimize walking. So this has been frustrating me to no end. I get annoyed. I’m impatient. It pisses me off that my body isn’t supporting me when my mind is so ready. 

So today, I decided to go to the gym. Not to do anything stupid – but I figured it was an important psychological step. I could just go, do some light workout, or just work on my upper body. I wasn’t super enthusiastic, mind you. I was still annoyed about my leg. But I went. 

After a slow warm up on elliptical machine which actually did start hurting my leg more (so I stopped), I worked just my upper body and abs with free weights and body weight exercises. The more I got into it, the happier I became. Then, the abs class started, and so I joined in. I’d already done some of those exercises, so at times it was difficult, especially going back into it after a long time away. But got through it. And the more I did, though my body felt it, the happier I felt. 

Because something clicked in. I realised that there was so much I needed to work on. Okay, I can’t do anything about my leg right now. But it doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. There are other areas of my body that need strengthening. The areas I often neglect because I’m focused on my goal of running or combat or something specific. It occurred to me then that this was a good time to learn patience, to be okay with what I could not do, and rather just enjoy and savour what I could do.

Upper body workouts and abs workouts are important, even essential to my overall fitness goals. Building that strength would also make me a better runner, potentially less prone to injuries. The point was, I wasn’t done with all of goals, and all of my areas of improvement. Yes, I couldn’t run. Yes, it’s annoying and frustrating that my leg hurts. But that’s part of life. Shit happens. You have to deal with it. Injuries happen. You need to take time out and look after yourself. Yes, I will lose money on the races, and I will lose my opportunity to participate. But there will be other races. There will be other things. There will be other goals. 

What I don’t want to do is miss this moment, this present, for something I cannot have. I would rather spend this moment on what I can enjoy. I would rather spend it on joy. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Grab your journal and write about what is the one thing in your life where you can use some positivity or perspective change? Are you focusing on what you cannot have, and missing out on what you can have?

 

 

 

 

5 Lessons from a very eventful January 1st

This year is one day old, and I’m writing the kind of post one would expect at the end of the year. Well, for me, 2017 has already begun with a bang, and left me on a shifting sand.

Up until 30th of December, I’d plans. I had decided my goals for 2017. I was really looking forward to returning to London from family visit, and get stuck in. I wanted to just dive into my work, get on with my goals. I felt ready and committed for 2017. I had a plan. I was ready to implement it. After three weeks away, I expected to return fairly relaxed. I was even considering that I would go to the gym a couple of hours after I got home, because I expected to get good night’s sleep before catching my afternoon flight from the US.

It was all in hand. It all made sense. I was ready for 2017.

Turns out, 2017 has other plans for me. And it is from that single eventful day, split across continents and time zones that I bring you these lessons, which I hope will not only make my year better, but help my perspective for life. And I hope it will help you too, because what unexpected things happen to all of us. Life throws curve balls, and we must learn to dodge, hit back, or recover as gracefully, and as optimistically as we possibly can.

 

1. Expectations vs. reality (Shit happens. Sometimes due to  no fault of your own.)

If you noticed, in the first paragraph above, I mentioned multiple times how I “expected” 2017 to start. My expectations were based on my planning, based on my schedule, and basically based on things turning out exactly so. Of course it’s nice when that happens, but I’d a stark reminder literally a minute after I toasted 2017 with my family.

I found out that someone has spent several thousand pounds on my credit card. Of course there was instant shock, and panic. Forget midnight celebrations. I was then supposed to pack for my flight. Everything got delayed, while I spoke to the credit card company, and instead of what should have been a fairly restful and last fun night with family, we all had a tiring and sleepless night.

Shit happens. There was nothing we could do about it.  In “real life” bad things, unpleasant things happen on a daily basis. But you also can’t sit home worrying about all the things that may happen. Fear of unknown, fear of failure, fear of the unexpected…you can’t let them dictate your life. You have to find a way to shed the fear. It isn’t easy, nor always possible, in which case, you have to find a way  to deal with it. 

2. Be grateful (the people who stick by you in down times, matter. A lot).

You know what the first thing I did when I confirmed that this genuinely had happened? That someone had indeed committed a fraud on my card? I shouted, “Dad!” I’ve not lived with my Dad for over 16 years. But because I was home, and because this happened, my first instinct was to shout for my Dad.

The fact that my family was there helped immensely. My dad and my sister, two very practical and  capable people, were calm and collected. Their calm helped me.

Even on that night, while I was tired and stressed, I was extremely grateful for my family. It matters to be surrounded by people who love and support you. Always be grateful for them. Value them. Show them that they matter. 

3. Sometimes, being physically “Stuck” can make you actually “Unstuck”

I spent most of the 1st of January on a plane, and by the time I got to the UK it was 2nd. I was literally travelling across time, and stuck in air. I couldn’t make phone calls, or start solving my problems. I really couldn’t do anything much at all. So I read, and I tried to sleep. As it happens, I was reading, Boston Bound by Elizabeth Clor, which is about her 7 year journey to get qualified for Boston Marathon.

I’d wanted to read this book as an inspiration for my running. I started running last year, and this year I wanted to take it up a notch. My first half-marathon is in seven weeks, and again, I’ve a specific training plan. Only to discover couple of days ago constant pain in my shin. I’m not sure how bad it is, except to know that it was there 4 weeks ago, and it hasn’t gone away completely despite a lot of rest. So now I am not even sure if I will be running the half-marathon, and more importantly, actually need to investigate the cause of this shin irritation because wait for it to go away hasn’t worked. 

Boston Bound is about running, but it’s actually about overcoming one’s mental barriers. In Clor’s case, her perfectionism. I can relate to that. If not entirely an perfectionist, and perhaps a tad more relaxed than Clor was, I, too, measure my achievements as if they are my worth. I know they contribute to it, but they don’t entirely define me. Yet it is easy to forget that when you are caught up in the fever of accomplishing your goals. 

So being stuck on a plane, at the beginning of a year where my idea of how I was going to start my new year had been completely taken over by things outside of my control, I reflected on how I incorporate these “unexpected” things into my expectations. (Ever the control freak!). No, but in all seriousness, it has helped my perspective. I will be revising my goals, because I realized that with what I’ve planned, I’m still expecting too many things to go according to plan. 

Being stuck on the plane was also an exercise in the lesson that there is no point worrying when you can’t do anything about your problems. Up there at 35000 feet, I couldn’t do anything to fix anything. So instead of dwelling on it, I just had to let it rest. It doesn’t mean it goes away from your brain, but you don’t let it take over.

4. Yes, life is unfair. Accept it. Deal with it. 

You would think that being a victim of a credit card fraud and shin splits that affect what is a very important goal to me would be enough to start off a New Year with. No. I also got the worst jet leg in my memory, which has extended into physical symptoms well after the flight. My hands are swollen, and they go numb when I go to sleep, so then I wake up. They also feel numb and tingly as I am typing this. I’m not entirely sure but I believe it is called peripheral edema. So besides being completely knackered, bit worried, I also now had to deal with these other symptoms, while of course regular life is already starting to crowd in. Work that needs to be done, people to see, chores to do…none of that waits for me to be “normal” and back on the “plan.” 

But it’s the way it is. Sometimes, things just happen. And you just have to deal with them. You just have to look for the next step. For the next way out. You just have to keep looking for the light. Because there is a light. Always. Some people just give up before they see it. 

5. Perspective for 2017 (and life)

I’m looking at the start of 2017 as a sign from the universe. I’m looking at it as a reminder that unexpected things will happen, often unpleasant ones, and that I need to be more mentally ready to deal with them. People matter, and that I should never forget that, even when I am busy pursuing my goals. Likewise, people who treat me like I matter, no matter how busy they are…well, they are the keepers. 

And most importantly….

Goals are a part of life. They are not life.

This is the lesson I think I need to remember the most. 

 

With that, I would like to thank YOU, Kaizen Warriors, for being here. I hope that no matter what life throws at you this year, you find a way to turn it to your advantage, where it becomes a joy or a lesson. I wish you the best. 

 

 

End of Year Journaling & Mind Cleansing – Join In for Free

 

 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Seneca

Life can change in a split second. The moment of revelation, or decision, or when perspective shifts. Often all it takes is a split second. It doesn’t matter what day it is. Life does not wait for the New Year to start, or Monday morning to start a new routine. What that means is that you don’t need to either. Possibilities for change and for growth are year around.
 
Yet, we continue to make New Year’s resolutions. We continue to create monthly, weekly, daily goals. We try often to start things on a Monday, or on the first of the month, or on our birthday, or some such “rational” beginning. While I make plenty of decisions and changes regardless of the date, I, too like to review my year, and set goals for the following year.
 
Why?
 
I suppose it feels tidy. A new year feels like a new beginning, even though it’s same old us moving forward in time. It just comes with that sense of optimism, of hope, of possibilities. But before you can embrace new possibilities, you need to take stock of your current situation, and that’s where the end of year mental cleansing comes in. Don’t get put off by the word “cleansing.” We aren’t going to go into fluffy nonsense. That’s not how Kaizen Warriors function.
 
However, for most us, our increasingly busy and crammed modern lives mean that our minds are just FULL. They are full to the brim of thoughts, worries, goals, dreams, wishes, desires, fears, everything. Often all that once. Sometimes to the point of explosion. That’s where regular journaling helps. That’s where good friends that you can vent to help. But sometimes you just need to do a focused cleansing in order to create that new beginning.
 
Now that December’s almost at the end, that’s my aim, and I want to share with you how I am going about this mental cleansing. All of which is done through journaling, but of course the life you lead will impact it, because our minds don’t wait until we are journaling to process our thoughts.

 

Each day for the next 8 days until 31st of December, I will post a prompt on Kaizen Journaling Facebook Page & link it on Kaizen Journaling Twitter. You can follow the prompts, do your journaling, as well as participate through your experience, comments and insights. 

 

I hope these prompts will, well, prompt you to squeeze in some journaling during the holidays. (Bad pun, I know) I hope it will also help you have a clearer mind before you firm up your 2017 goals. Because you are going to have goals right? Remember, if you don’t even know where you want to end up, you may spend a lot of time blundering about. 

 

Of course you can use these prompts any time you like, but it is a good idea to get into them daily so that you are mentally ready for your new goals at the beginning of January. Millions of people set resolutions, but I always prefer to set goals instead, as there is more of a chance of sticking to them. Don’t obsess too much about your answers. The aim is to get clarity – half of which means just getting stuff out of your head. Once it’s out there on the page, you will see more clearly, and you will spot the patterns more easily.
 
As you respond to the prompts over the next 8 days, keep asking yourself how this year went. Focus on facts and feelings. Check if your perception and truths match, or if they are at odds with each other.
 
Just keep writing. Keep digging deep. You won’t only have a better awareness of your year, but you may also end up creating memories of your year which you can cherish. 

 

Happy Journaling, and let’s welcome 2017 with gusto! 

 

 

NAWE 2016 Conference Report

 

nawe-name-tag

I am about a month late on this report, but fortunately, the subject is not time sensitive. I spent the weekend of 11th to 13th November attending my first academic conference, which is actually only a bit different from BristolCon (Science Fiction and Fantasy convention where writers and artists gather) that I attend annually. The National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) turned out to be a much more useful and fun event than I was expecting. Of course as one would assume, it was full of academics. But also, a large number of freelancers.

I met academics and freelancers from all around the UK, though we had a fair few Australians and North Americans as well. I also met some European representatives too. 

I was also fortunate enough to have a chance to talk about journaling there. I presented a paper, “Handwritten Journaling in the Digital Age,” highlighting why handwriting journals are still important, but also how we can use digital tools and technology available at our disposal to enhance that journaling practice. 

My presentation was segmented in a group with other two interesting presentations, “A Silent Journey: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Storytelling – Inés Gregori-Labarta” by Inés Gregori-Labarta and “Non-Linear Storytelling” by Chris Walker and Lara Munden. The whole weekend was actually full of many fascinating topics and presentations, as well as so many interesting chats.

nawe-presentation

Three days in completely immersive environment in a hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. I didn’t put a foot outside the hotel until the conference was finished, because I simply didn’t have time. I was too busy attending sessions, or talking to people. Multi-stream programme was organised perfectly by lovely Seraphima. After twitter and email acquaintance over the last few months, it was a pleasure to meet her in person.

I came away from the weekend in high spirit, excited about returning to the NAWE in 2017. What’s great about a good conference is that it leaves you bursting with ideas. They may not be ground-breaking, new ideas, but just the process of conversing with like minded people, seeing somethings from a new/different perspective than your own can lead to future projects. It can leave you full of  creative energy. And that is after all what we all love and seek to express. 

 

Brexit, Trump, and the World Getting You Down? Unoverwhelm Your Mind With Journaling

 

Stress, Relief, Help, Sign, Relax, Relaxation, Pressure

image credit

 

I woke up this morning to find that Donald Trump has been elected the 45th president of the United States. Brexit repercussions continue to play havoc in the UK. In India, Prime Minster Modi has decided to stop 500 and 1000 Rupees notes from circulation to reduce the amount of Black Money in the market. And these are just the three countries that personally affect me – as these three countries have been my home.

Whatever happens in the rest of the world also affects all of us. We live in a global world, and isolating ourselves in a national cocoon is no longer possible, unless you are satisfied with a hermit life and very little in the way of material ambitions and needs. 2016 has been pretty eventful from the deaths of many beloved celebrities such as Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, David Bowie and Ronnie Corbett. On a personal level, I lost an aunt this year, my mother’s only sister. On political front, it has been a disaster, no matter which way you voted. It’s like we are living in the middle of a storm, waiting for the aftermath, so we can see exactly how much damage has occurred.

Of course on a more micro-level, each of us have our own lives, our own issues, our individual struggles to contend with. It is easy to be overwhelmed. It is understandable to want to hide under a duvet, and never come out. It is perfectly reasonable to seek escape. But we can’t escape from our minds, or from ourselves.

So the only thing to do, in a very British way, is to keep calm and carry on.

But how do you keep calm? You need to find it. You need to discover that peace within you. That’s where journaling can help. Use it as a tool to unoverwhelm your over-burdened mind. Here are 5 steps to get started:

1. Dump everything on the page

Just write your heart out. Keep going. Don’t worry about being fair, or clever, or indeed anything. Just write what you feel. Vent. Be subjective. Be honest. Give your thoughts, your fears, your worries, your hopes a place to exist. In the pages of your journal, they can come alive in that moment of you writing them down. And they can be out of your mind. Relieve the pressure in your head, by letting it all out. Then when you are done, when you can’t write anymore, when you feel empty, take a deep breath.

2. Make a list of all the things that you are grateful about

Ok, now let’s bring some positivity into focus. What are you grateful about? What are the good things in your life? Don’t forget to include simple pleasures too that you may  take for granted. It can be your family, your health, your work, your sheer love of life, the place where you live, your room, your mind, the stranger who smiled at you, the outfit you look and feel great in, the meal someone made for you, something nice you did for someone else…just about anything. Find moments of gratitude. (Gratitude can also make  you instantly happier.) Write them down. Cherish them.

3. What is your next step?

Of course, here, we believe in action. So what is the next thing you want to focus on? What is your next step? In the world of uncertainty where things seem to spin out of control, find the things that you can control. Things that you can do something about. Where can you take action? It all begins with one step. And that’s what personal development is. Action taken, one step at a time. What is going to be your next step?

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Give yourself the time and space to do this journaling meditation by unoverwhelming your mind. And then, take your next step. Because action is what you need to progress. Remember, stagnant is a path to decay. To thrive, you must keep moving.

 

Journaling Prompt: Halloween

 

halloween-1574079_960_720

image credit

 

It may be all about commercial purchases, like many holidays these days, but I do love Halloween. Supposedly scary costumes become cool, and it’s okay for us all to be dressed in weird get-ups! 

In the spirit of Halloween then, here’s a journaling prompt for you to try out:

What’s the scariest (in the spooky sense) thing you’ve ever experienced? Where was this? When? What exactly happened? Did you ever find out the true reason behind why you were spooked? Did you feel better about it then?

Did it excite you? Did it scare you? Did it give you an adrenaline rush?

How do you feel about spooky things now? 

 

NAWE Conference: Stratford-Upon-Avon (Come say Hello)

 

I will be attending the National Association of Writers in Education Conference from November 11-13 in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of the bard!

Check out the full, exciting programme here. 

On Saturday November 12th, I’m presenting a paper titled “Hand-written journaling in the digital age.” 

This is the programme blurb: 

Digital technology has become a norm in our lives. A study by the American Press Institute in 2015 found that 88% of Millennials get news from Facebook. Social media has become a primary form of acquiring information, and people are increasingly shifting from the tactile experience of reading a physical book or writing by hand. In this paper, I investigate how the amalgamation of digital tools and technology can indeed aid, enhance, and even encourage the tactile experience of writing by hand, and impact the art and practice of journaling for personal development.

If you are attending the conference, do be sure to say hi. I look forward to meeting you.

 

My Year, or How Change in One Area of My Life Led to a Better, Healthier, More Empowered Me!

 

So, this particular year started on September 21st, 2015. But in all honesty, the journey – or rather the struggle to get to that stage – started years before.

On 21/09/15 I joined my new gym – and where I’m today and who I’m today is very different from who I was then. Bear with me a little, because this post is not just about fitness, or losing weight. It’s about overcoming your limits, your fears, and it’s about being the best you can be. In ANYTHING you choose. No matter how shit you think you are at it.

This is a long post, because I’m trying to share how something that holds you back for years can still be changed. If you want. So stick with me :-)

First time Bouldering

 First time Bouldering

Backstory:

I was NEVER a sporty person. Not even as a kid. My mom tried to get to me to learn swimming, which I learned only under duress, promptly to forget it as soon as the course was finished. She tried to get me to learn to skate, and for the entire summer, I never let go of the rails, while my younger sister won medals in skating competitions. I did not participate in school sports days, beyond mandatory requirements. I got good grades in gym classes for turning up on time, being polite, and participating. I did not excel at anything physical. EVER. So I’d long since accepted that I just wasn’t a physical person. I was cerebral. As proven by my interests, my studious personality, and the fact that I love to do things that require you to sit down – like read books, write, and be hunched over my laptop. And I was perfectly fine with that. After all, who doesn’t want to be smart? 

Fast forward into mid-twenties. The sedentary lifestyle, not-so-good eating habits started catching up. I started putting on weight. Every time I got to a certain weight level that made me cringe, I would sign up for a gym membership, or use Wii Fit at home, workout for a few months, three times a week, bog standard workouts. This usually happened before going away on a holiday. I would get back to relatively non-hideous level (in my opinion of my self), and then forget about the gym, the exercise, until the next time it happened.

And so the cycle continued for years. But I think at least for the last five years, I was never happy with my weight, or the way I looked. I went through phases when I would set fitness goals, keep fitness journals, and be super motivated, but then – usually during travel periods or Christmas break – I would fall off the wagon.

Moving to London and the Changes:

In autumn 2014, I started my MA in English Literature and joined the university gym because I’d returned from seven months abroad where my family had lovingly fed me, and I was the heaviest I’d ever been. I started working out 2-3 times a week, but only if I was on campus. Again, classic stationery bike for a bit, or elliptical (I was too lazy to actually use treadmill and hated cardio). But for the first time, I also used some weight machines and did free weight, and found that I actually enjoyed those. But then classes finished, I had no reason to go to the campus, and therefore to the gym. So another 3 months of break, and it looked like I was about to repeat the cycle all over again. My intention had been to start running outside, rather than pay for the gym. But I never managed. I didn’t have the will or the discipline. It was always too cold, too hot, too dark, too something. And as I couldn’t run a mile without huffing and puffing, I was too embarrassed to do it on the streets. I was 31 years old, and very unfit. But I wasn’t even thinking about fitness or health. I just didn’t like the way I looked.

Andrew - He's pretty good at his job!

Andrew – He’s pretty good at his job!

Days before going away on a week-long holiday to Prague, I popped into my local Fitness First, just to ask for details. Andrew, one of the consultants there, sweet-talked his way into a sales pitch and I ended up buying membership then there, to start upon my return from Prague.

September 21, 2015 – The Journey Begins

This time, I decided to do things differently. I started going to the classes, and try new things. I started with Yoga on my first day, because I’d always liked Yoga, and at least I wasn’t shit at it, because I’d better flexibility than cardio capacity or strength. I have never been the one to diet, and I’d no intention of doing so. So I just focused on going to the gym, and in the beginning I usually did 4 classes a week, two of which were always Yoga and Zumba. For the most part, only 1 of these 4 classes was an intense cardio session.

However, after a month of that, something weird happened. I automatically wanted to eat a bit better because I didn’t want to waste all the hard work I was doing. Keep in mind that my sole motivation was still weight loss and looking good.

I was medically overweight. Not obese, but certainly not healthy. I was 24 pounds / 11 kg heavier than I’m now. That’s A LOT when you consider that I am 5″3. So I started keeping a food diary. Again, not a diet, but simply an awareness of what I was eating. And I learned a lot about food. About portions, about things I thought were healthy but weren’t. Out of that, again, I improved some eating habits, such as not ordering takeaways at home because I couldn’t be bothered to cook – except for emergencies, such as being sick. I still ate out a lot, and continue to do that because most of my social life happens over food. But takeaways at home are mostly eliminated.

Change Your Mind and Change Your Life 

Meanwhile, I was really enjoying my gym classes because I was learning things. Instead of thinking about exercise, I was now beginning to focus on how I wanted to learn to dance (I’d always wanted to learn to dance, and for the first time I’d a chance), and how I wanted to be good at Yoga. So it became a mission to improve at certain skills, rather than exercise. It’s amazing how much difference word choices make. When your mind perceives something as pleasure, it is very keen to support you.

I was also being very social in the gym, talking to all the trainers, and the people. As I started to become more of a regular, more people were recognizing me, and nodding. In my second month, I was doing 6 classes a week, because there were so many things I wanted to learn. For example, I didn’t want to miss out on Yoga or Zumba, but I equally wanted to learn Street Dance and kick ass in Body Combat. So I went to the gym for 6 classes, because it was FUN! And because I was consistent, I became better. While not a good dancer by any means, I was now bit more coordinated, and could remember the routines.

Ryan is an ex-MMA fighter and Boxer. He's just brilliant.

Ryan is an ex-MMA fighter and Boxer. He’s just brilliant.

 

And as I progressed, my focus slowly began to shift from just looking good to feeling good. For all these years I absolutely resented all those people who talked about exercise high and endorphin rush, because I’d NEVER felt that. I figured they were just the lucky ones. But my consistency was paying off. I was now feeling that rush. I also understood what it felt like to actually feel fit and healthy from the inside. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about looking good, but I care more about feeling good whereas before that consideration hadn’t even occurred to me.

What changed for me was changing my mindset. I decided at some point in this process to ENJOY exercise. I told myself to focus on the skills I was learning, and things I wanted to be able to do. I motivated the hell out of myself by spending ages on Pinterest looking at fitness related pins. I bought nice gym clothes. I created a spreadsheet to keep track of all my workouts so that I could remain consistent and not break my habit.

Adrian giving me some hardcore (for me) pad workout.

Adrian giving me some hardcore (for me) pad workout.

So What’s Changed in One Year:

Besides the actual weight loss of 24 pounds / 11 kg (which by the way happened within first 6 months, without giving up Pizza or Chocolate or indeed any food, which if you are on my Facebook or Instagram you would be well aware of) these are the things that have happened in one year:

I’m 33 and I’m the fittest I’ve EVER been

I can dance (still not well, grant you, but I can dance and I love it)

I am better at Yoga

I found that I love Boxing

I got into hiking and outdoors – which I’d never enjoyed before. As a result of this I’ve seen more parts of England this summer than in my previous 10 years put together. 

I started doing indoor bouldering (rockclimbing without harness)

I ran my first 5k, and have signed up for a 10K and half-marathon

I learned how to swim (again, and willingly, and I can now swim)

I feel healthier, and I find it easier to adopt healthier habits

And yes, I do feel happy with the way I look

But most of all, what’s been very surprising and amazing and astonishing is the realization that I can achieve physical things. That I wasn’t destined to be rubbish at it. That if I put in the work, I can be good, and have fun, and enjoy it as much as I enjoy my cerebral endeavors.

It's official! I can swim.

It’s official! I can swim.

This one year, pushing myself physically, therefore, opened up my mental boundaries. It allowed me to see that I’d kept myself boxed in, telling myself that I wasn’t capable of doing certain things. It taught me that in order to be really limitless, you’ve to free yourself of the limits you think you have. You have to take chances, and try things. You have to push yourself. And most importantly you have to be true to yourself.

It also allowed me to really broaden my horizons by trying new things, meeting new people, learning new skills. It enabled me to take that one crucial step towards creating my Kaizen Life where I’m not held back by my lack of physical fitness. 

Dealing with Other People’s Opinions and Expectations

Any significant change is never easy. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, there will always be obstacles, and you can bet that 9 times of 10, other people will be one of them. 

Other people can be supportive, but they can also be hindrance – often through good intentions. When I first started exercising, people were supportive, saying oh yeah, good, lose some weight. But then as I got heavily into fitness, more and more of my “normal” family and friends started saying I was doing too much, unable to understand that it was no longer about weight loss. That in fact, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but rather to up my fitness levels.

People were concerned I was going to be too skinny. For the record, I’m not. I’m in fact medically at a very healthy range of weight and cholesterol levels. I also have more muscle mass. Some people told me I was pushing myself too hard. What it comes down to is this: people often respond based on their experience, their issues, and even their inner demons. When someone tell you what you should do, consider that it may actually be about them, rather than you. Each person is different, our bodies are different. What’s healthy for one person may not be the same for another. So use your judgement. Get medical advice where appropriate rather than listening to everyone and anyone. 

Hear what your well-wishers have to say, but don’t necessarily do what they say. You know what’s good for you, and you know what you want to achieve and what your goals are – so stick to them. Other people haven’t been in your shoes, they won’t always understand  your journey. But if they care about you, they will come around to understanding it eventually, or at the very least support you.

Diana (in black at front) is one of the trainers. Voted the most popular by clients, because she always has a smile on her face, and is very good at her job!

Diana (in black at the front) is one of the trainers. Voted the most popular by clients, because she always has a smile on her face, and is very good at her job!

 

There is also an issue of time. Making fitness a priority in my life meant other things had to take a back seat. So I’ve to often turn to my friends and say no to social plans because I’ve to go to the gym. Everything has a price, and you need to decide your priorities and figure out what works for you. But for me, my good friends all understand. And in fact, sometimes I end up doing certain activities with them. I’ve also made new friends based on my new interests with whom I go on hikes, bouldering etc.  Trainers in my gym have been fantastic – which is why they’ve been featured in this article! If you need a personal trainer, I would heartily recommend any of them. I’ve also been inspired by my fellow gym-goers, and just random people I see on the street, doing what I want to be doing – whether it’s running, or bouldering, or doing cool ninja-kicks!

Always keep your inner compass tuned, because you will need it. Do not let peer pressure dictate your priorities. 

September 21, 2016

I’m currently in Granada on what is a working vacation. It’s past 11 pm, and just a little while ago, I returned from a celebratory run to commemorate this fitness journey. It was a short run – I’d no distance goals, or speed goals; I just had a route in mind, finishing at an ice-cream shop, from where I got a Mango Sorbet cone, because what’s celebration without ice-cream!! 

The fact that I went out for a run while on vacation, and that at night, amazes me beyond words. It also thrills me, makes me proud of how far I’ve come. Now, when I am doing all these workouts, one of the feelings always at the forefront of my mind is GRATITUDE. Because now, I truly appreciate what a good fortune it is to be healthy, to have a body that is capable of movement. Now, when I am exercising and it’s hard and sometimes I want to quit, I remind myself that I’m lucky to be here, that I’m lucky to be capable of doing this, and I thank God, Universe, My Parents (for the genes) and smile, and keep going…

To paraphrase Robert Frost…I have miles to go before I sleep, and I intend to make the best of those miles. Because now, finally, I’ve come to appreciate that both your body and mind work better when they are kept well-oiled and healthy. So for me to be the best version of me, I need to continue pushing myself on both mental and physical front! I’ve learned a very important lesson: that I need not to be caged, even by own limiting beliefs. If I’m willing to show up consistently and work hard, then I can smash my limits to smithereens. SO CAN YOU!

 

20160505_175934-1

Ben is one of my favourite trainers. He’s just the right kind of pushes-you-hard-but-is-not-an-asshole attitude that works for me.

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Think about my journey in the context of your life, and journal about the following questions. What limits have you set for your self? What limiting beliefs hold you back? What transformations would you like to have in your life? 

 

 

 

Journaling to Discover and Defy Your Limits

 

image credit

Do you ever stop to think about your limits? How often do you say, “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not smart enough for that”, or “I’m not fit enough for that,” or “I’m not disciplined enough for that” or other similar phrases? 

Do a 24 hour experiment. 

For one day, make a simple mark on a notebook, or your smartphone, or a post-it for every time a phrase such as above comes out of your mouth or even in your mind. Pay attention and be honest. Are you unconsciously setting limits for yourself? What makes you think you are not smart enough / fit enough / capable enough to do something? And if you aren’t, can’t you learn?

Last month I’d never run 5K. Yesterday, I ran 9k. Three years ago, I could have barely run for a bus. It wasn’t a miracle. I worked for this change. Three years ago, I would have said, “I can’t run”. Now I ask, why not? I’m fortunate enough to have two healthy, working legs. My body is relatively healthy. So why not? 

No reason, except for the limits I set for myself. Mostly mental limits.

This applies to anything and everything you want to do. If your mind believes you can do it, you probably can. It’s convincing your mind, truly deeply convincing yourself that’s the hard part. 

So as you journal, start paying attention to all your personal limits. Then start asking yourself, why am I limiting myself? Why can’t I do it? What’s stopping me?

Once you know that…then you can start defying those limits. 

If you choose not to do something, that’s fine. But don’t tell yourself you aren’t doing it, because you can’t. The more you limit yourself, the more limited you will become as a person. Break those boundaries, and become limitless.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Grab your journal and start a 24 hour experiment to find your personal limits. 

 

 

Limited Journaling for Those Who Can’t Journal

 

image credit

 

I often hear from people who say they have tried keeping a journal, but just can’t keep up the habit consistently. Others face the fear of the blank page…they don’t know what to write. Yet others feel that their life isn’t exciting enough, fun enough, or in any way worthy of recording.

One of the common complaints I’ve heard from readers and my friends who like the idea of keeping a journal runs along the lines of “I live a dull routine of work and home. Weekends are full of chores, an occasional outing, or obligatory family visits. It’s boring to even write about it.”

I get it. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to journal in your already busy schedule when journaling itself feels like a chore. So this article is for all of you, who would like to keep a journal, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to. But if you are already keeping a journal, then good news is, you can use these exercises too, to add another dimension or a creative layer to  your journaling. 

The idea is to make it less scary, and easy. Therefore, instead of the blank canvas, you can limit your journaling. Before I go deeper into the many ways through which you can do limited journaling, I want you to pay attention to the tools you are using. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is make the process appealing, by buying a nice journal and a pen. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be something that you find pleasant. The notebook needs to be welcoming, appealing…if you use the same notepad for journaling that you do to dish out chores for your household, it’s unlikely to feel special. This makes even the anticipation of journaling a more happier prospect. A pretty notebook, a classic leatherbound journal, an understated moleskine….depending on your taste, any of these are more likely to encourage you to write than that ratty notebook you’ve got lying around the house. Same goes for a pen. Make sure it’s comfortable and works well on the notebook you have chosen. If you need convincing, read this article: Why you should always use quality journals

Got it?

Cool. Now let’s move onto how you can keep a limited journal:

1. Keep a list journal

No need to write paragraphs. Or complete sentence. Just make a list. Doesn’t matter what kind of list it is. You can either do it thematically, such as, Things I Ate, What I Did, People I Saw, or you can simply use a list full of words/phrases that describes your day, emotions, reflections etc.

Remember, the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. So do whatever works for  you. If you are not sure, experiment.

2. Keep one sentence journal

If lists aren’t your thing, or you want to branch out a bit, simply commit to writing one sentence daily in your journal. At the end of the year, you will have 365 sentences. And chances are, there will be days when you write more simply because you couldn’t stop yourself. It will also force you to learn to be succinct or to pick out things from your day that matter to you the most.

3. Keep three words journal

Forget sentences and lists. For a more restrictive approach, just use three words. They can be absolutely anything. 

4. Journal for 5 Minutes a Day

If word count doesn’t work you, try time restriction. Set a timer and journal for 5 minutes. Do a free write, so that you write whatever comes into your mind without stopping. It can be about your day, or it can be just whatever is going on in your mind. There are no restrictions. You can do the same for 10 minutes a Day if you want. 

5. Keep a doodle/drawing journal

If you are a more visual person, or more artistically inclined, then you can draw or doodle an image a day in your journal. 

6. Line from a song/movie/book

Each day, you can write a line from a song/movie/book etc. that represents your day. 

 

As you can see from above, journaling isn’t just about writing paragraph after paragraph of reflections, or about describing your day. It can be anything. Try these ideas out. Try to be consistent, and do it daily. Because keeping a regular journal is about forming a habit rather than how much you write. Once the habit is formed, it becomes a second nature, even if you skip a day or a week. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Grab that pretty notebook, and get started with one of these exercises!