Make It So: Jean-Luc Picard’s Guide to Living Life

Yussssss!

If you are like me, a sci-fi geek with a television in the 20th century, you probably also suffer from NIIS: Nothing Is Impossible Syndrome. It’s not our fault, it it the hoard of incredible science fiction shows that had amazing leaders that couldn’t lose. Whether it was Jack O’niel and SG-1 or Spiderman and his amazing friends, we were flooded with leaders and teams who were truly heroes. None of this flawed, troubled hero crap of the 21st century.  While television of yesteryear was full of great leaders, there was no greater leader than Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his leadership of the crew of the NCC-1701-D Enterprise.

Picard had it all (except for hair): strength, charisma, intelligence, a British accent.  No matter what predicament he was put in, he always knew how to act, what decisions to make, and what to say that would motivate his crew to rise above any dilemma.

In short: Captain Picard knew how to get shit done and live an awesome life.

He gave me such a great role model in my early years. He made me realize that you can always do more, act faster, and be better than you think you can… You just need an inspirational speech and a bald headed smirk.

So without further ado, I bring you Jean-Luc Picard’s six steps to living life to the fullest… Make it so!

1. Know no limits

Picard: Data, find a way to defeat that shield.
Data
: That may be impossible, sir.
Picard
: Data, things are only impossible until they’re not.

Picard was never afraid to push his limits, the ships limits, or the limits of his crew. He constantly raised the bar because he knew his crew could manage. You should do the same with your life.

For the longest time, I never thought I would be a runner. Why? I tried it and it was hard. Half a mile sucked the life out of me. A mile was impossible.  So I thought running would never be for me… But one day I decided to suck it up, and start running. 100′s of miles later, I’m now training for a half marathon, which will lead to a full marathon, which will lead to something else. If I never pushed my limits, I would still be 250 and out of breath when I climb a flight of stairs.

Picard would never approve of that.

2. Do it better and faster, your life depends on it

“I think it’s time to try some unsafe velocities.”

When Geordi needed 10 minutes to repair a warp conduit, Picard gave him 5. Picard knew Geordi could do it if he pushed himself.

Just like you need to believe there is nothing you can’t do, you also need to realize that you can always improve on the things you can already do.

Take some time to measure your abilities and constantly try to break your old records. Everyday might not be a new personal best, but why not use the bar you set for yourself as motivation for the next day. How many times can you keep raising the bar? And while your life may not really depend on doing things better and faster, why not pretend that it does and crush it every day.

Next time you feel like doing something half assed or not at all, just think of an upset Jean-Luc.

 

Image courtesy of picardfacepalm.com

3. Don’t waste time being someone you’re not

“If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”

One of the biggest problems people have with making progress in life is that they are to busy living up to other people’s standards to move forward in their own life. You can spend all of your time trying to accomplish the goals and live up to the expectation of others. It’s only later that you realize you never got anything done for yourself. If you pretend to be someone you’re not or bend to the will of others, you will always hit a wall.

Figure out what you really want to get done, and do it the way you want it to be done. If you are true to yourself and believe in what you are doing, you will keep doing incredible things.

4. Act now

Seize the time… Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.

Picard knew what his mission was: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. He knew he couldn’t sit around to do that. He had to get out there and do it (though, ironically he did do a lot of sitting once he got out there).

When you have an urge to start a new project or a new subject grabs your attention, do something about it. Try that new exercise. Read that new book. Learn that new programming language. It’s our mission as humans to better ourselves, and you can only do that by action. No more “tomorrow” or “maybe someday” when you can do it right now.

Lay in a course and engage.

5. Live desperately

Unnamed Officer (Fencing with Picard): Interesting move. What technique was that?
Jean-Luc Picard: The technique of a desperate man.

We live in an awesome world full of hope and promise.  The problem with living a good and prosperous life is we sometimes get lethargic and forget what we are capable of. When Picard and his crew were put under pressure – life or death pressure – they pulled out some spectacular miracles (failure would have hurt the ratings).

When was the last time you really lived desperately? It’s always good to think about what your actions would be if you truly had to live like your life depended on it.

Try challenging yourself:

  • Run as if you were being chased by zombies (It might happen!)
  • Climb a wall and pull off some parkour skills like it’s the only way to save yourself from an crazed pack of wolves.
  • Work on a passion project as if your entire career depended on it

Sometimes it takes something seemingly bad to allow you to rise to your full potential. Instead of waiting for that to happen, take some risks and see if you can force it to happen.

6.  Remember what’s important in life

Jean-Luc Picard: I should have done this a long time ago.
Deanna Troi: You were always welcome.
Jean-Luc Picard: So, five-card stud, nothing wild… and the sky’s the limit.

In life, we often get tunnel-vision on whatever we are doing at the moment. When I’m in the middle of a big work project, I often forget about my fitness and neglect my precious family time. When I’m focused on fitness, I often spend more time working out and browsing fitness blogs that working on passion projects or taking time to just rest. When your the captain of the flagship of the federation, it’s easy to get caught up in saving the human race, but remember that Picard’s final regret in the series was that he didn’t spend enough time with his friends… his family.

When was the last time you called your mom/dad/brother/sister/son/daughter/heterosexual-life-mate and told them you loved them? When was the last time you went and had lunch with a good friend? Don’t ignore the things that make you happiest deep down in your soul. You may forget from time to time, but remind yourself to do these things daily, weekly, monthly… whenever you feel yourself getting disconnected. These personal relationships are what living is all about, so get living!

Also, remember to smile!

Remember to smile!

Captain’s Log: Supplemental

I’ll finish up with some awesome Picard pictures and some other great Picard quotes (not at all related to the pictures)

What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived

 

 

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century.
Lily Sloane: No money? You mean, you don’t get paid?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: We work to better ourselves.

 

Image courtesy of WrongTees

 

 

Doctor Beverly Crusher: Personally, I think you just enjoy waking everybody up in the middle of the night.
Capt. Picard: Actually, I really like running around the ship in my bare feet.

 

Capt. Picard: Wishing for a thing does not make it so.

 

Capt. Picard: Don’t try so hard to be human. Just be yourself.

What is your favorite life lesson you leaned from Star Trek: TNG?
What is your favorite Picard moment?
Is it really possible to repair a warp conduit in 5 minutes?

Let me know in the comments!

When the Cat’s Away, The Mice Will… Write a Lot of Blog Posts!

Image courtesy of foskarulla on Flickr

You may have noticed that I have been writing more these last few days. Partly, that’s because my wife and my sister packed up all of the kids, 4 total from 10 months old to 7 years old (God, give them strength.), and took off to the beach.

Only one ER visit so far during the trip!

So I am wifeless, kidless, and have extra free time on my hands. But mostly, I’ve been writing more because…

I’ve been feeling really inspired lately.

The weather is nice, the air is fresh, the world is getting colorful again. But for me, there are three primary reasons that I have been feeling so good. I thought I would share them with you.

1. I’m almost there

Image courtesy of Evil Erin on Flickr

It is hard to believe, but I am nearly at the end of my planned weight loss journey. All I have to do is “just tap it on in, tap, tap, tappy.” Last December, I set out a three phased plan to lose weight:

  • Starting out: I started at 236 lbs. (Boo this weight!)
  • Goal 1: Be down to 220 lbs by April for my fraternity’s annual graduate dinner. Check (though I gained 3 pounds from the dinner and Pabst Blue Ribbon that weekend)
  • Goal 2: Be down to 200 lbs by September for my 10 yr high school reunion. Check (and the old high school honeys couldn’t keep up with my tootsie roll)
  • Goal 3: Be down to 190 lbs by New Years Eve so my wife’s birthday present can be ABS (And back abs, ’cause there’s a Situation up in here)

Really, I didn’t know what I should set my end weight goal to be. I ended up and chose 190 because it was a good even number on the upper end of the “Normal weight” BMI chart. (Holy shit! I just realized I am in the normal weight range on the BMI chart!) I knew that would get me to a point where I would really be able to assess my body and reassess my goals.

Do I need to drop 10 more pounds?
Do I need to start training for a strongman competition?
Do I look like a tool being so skinny and need to start going to Mickie D’s again?

I wouldn’t know till I got there… Well guess what? I’m 3 lbs away from 190!

I’ll write up a bigger post when I finally get there, but for now, I’ll move onto Inspiration #2

2. There are soo many good books out there

Image courtesy of luis de bethencourt on Flickr

I have tried to stop watching so much TV lately. In case your wondering, September is NOT a good time to stop watching TV. But after a late summer TV binge where I watched a whole season of True Blood, Mad Men, Fringe, and 3 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (Only 234 Stargate seasons left to go!), I decided books should move to the top of my priority list.

I wanted to share some of the one’s that have stuck out. You may notice that they are all non-fiction and pseudo self helpy. That is why I’ve been so inspired.

  • Rework (by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson) – This book really changed my perspective on how I go about my work. It’s raw and minimalist and all-around amazing. The book link is to amazon, but even if you don’t buy or read this book, please check out Signal vs. Noise, the blog for the company that that the authors run… incredible stuff.
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (by Chip and Dan Heath) – Wow, I’m must be all about multi author books. I am only on the second chapter of this book, but the book’s introduction is so impacting that I had to go ahead and mention it.  They use an analogy for the psychology of change that has completely tangibilitated the whole subject for me (it’s so good, I made up a word for it). The introduction is available in the Amazon preview, so if you have a few minutes, go read it. You will not be disappointed.

But I haven’t just been inspired by the good ol’ bounded paper books. There have been some epic e-books out in the wild. One of my new favorite things is reading e-books while I workout on the elliptical machine. I’ll hop on there late at night, and get fully absorbed in these books. An hour later, I realize I’ve burned 700+ calories and by brain has just been filled with wonderful knowledge and motivation. Here are two that really hit me.

  • Fearless Health (by Matt Gartland) – I think I have mentioned Matt before, but this *FREE* e-book is spectacular. It came out in August, and sat on my virtual nightstand for a while, but I finally picked it up, and I am really glad I did. The book is directly targeted at your mind and it’s role in becoming vibrantly healthy… and it doesn’t miss. Check out this book and Matt’s blog Healthy Lifestyle Design!
  • Rebel Fitness Guide (by Steve Kamb) – You all probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of Steve and what he does over at Nerd Fitness. This book does not disappoint. It not only gave me motivation and inspiration, but it lays out a clear exercise and eating plan that will lead you to become, well, a bad ass. I will admit I don’t follow his plan religiously since my wife and I take classes at the gym together, but if I missed a class at the gym, I attack his plan with a vengeance. (Is it odd that I go to a gym called Empire Fitness, but I actively train to be a part of the rebel alliance?)

And lastly, I just bought a bundle of minimalist guides from some of the pros like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Everett Bogue of Far Beyond the Stars, and Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt. This package was put together by another awesome author, Karol Kajda of Ridiculously Extraordinary. I’ve been a outside observer to most of these minimalist blogs and authors, checking out their blogs now and again when they had a viral post, but this package was too good to pass up. The package contains 17 books for $27! Some of the books I was already thinking about buying anyways at their full price, but at $1.50 apiece, I couldn’t not click.

Check out the 17 Minimalist Guides sale here, it is only available for two more days (stupid limited time offers and my inability to not fall for them). I can’t wait to dig in.

3. I am actively trying to better myself

I mentioned in my last post that I am trying new methods to meet some of the lifestyle goals I have been having problems with. I am still only two days into it, but I can already tell the Geek Into Shape Goal Board is keeping me focused and honest.

I woke up this morning with a bad craving for a Pumpkin Spice Latte  (did I mention I love the Fall), but I was able to withstand the urge because all I could think about was that little yellow post-it note that says: “NO $4 COFFEE”. So instead of going to the coffee shop, I worked out for an hour. Two birds, my friends! Two birds!

Here is my progress so far:

First progress report

Back to the Grindstone

Well, now I’m off to do manly things like mow the yard and clean out the garage (my Wife gives me chores, you know).

I would really appreciate it if you would share some of your recent  inspirations with me in the comments section.
Do you have any good book recommendations?
Am I missing a new fall TV show that I shouldn’t be?

How I Plan to Master My Life (One Pesky Goal at a Time)

Image courtesy of margolove on Flickr

It’s time for me to change how I attack my goals.

Why, you may ask? I have definitely been successful with my primary goal — losing weight. But there are still some pesky lifestyle goals that I cannot seem to get solid footing on:

  • Not eating out during lunch (but everyone is going, and it’s Greg’s birthday, and the boss will be there)
  • Stop buying $4 coffee (but it’s so damn good, and I’m so sleepy, and the barista is sooo hot)
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time (but I’m in the middle of a raid, and I need to catch up on blogs, and Caprica is on the DVR)

I know how to achieve these goals, but I can seem to make it happen. I always seem to lose focus due to the daily grind. And I’m tired of it.

It’s time to make a change how I attack my goals!

I have been ranting on and on about how Agile Software development methodologies have benefited my overall health and fitness mindset. The premise is very simple: focus on action toward your goals rather than over-planning, and set small, incremental goals intended to add up to your long term goal. This is what I have been doing, and still no luck. But I just realized I haven’t tried to incorporate one of my favorite aspects of Agile Development into my new healthy lifestyle — the focus on information radiators.

I first read about information radiators in the book Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game. An information radiator is a clear and easy to access display of critical information that is used to track progress towards an end goal. The genius of the information radiator is that it provides a clear visualization of how you are doing against your goals. It should be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. Now, I don’t know nuthin ’bout no fancy psychology, but having that constant visualization of progress helps provide immediate focus to what needs to get done.

Aha! An information radiator is what I’ve been missing!

So I decided to try an experiment, and build my own information radiator. I call it my Geek Into Shape Goal Board.

I thought I would take you on the journey with me – building the board, setting goals, and tracking my progress. Hopefully this will give me the clarity and the focus each day to overcome the little unhealthy devil sitting on my shoulder. If it works for me, maybe it will also be what you are looking for. So here we go…

Step 1: Choose your information radiator

I thought about a few ways to do this. I wanted to go cheap, so buying a giant white board like I use at my job was out of the question. I initially planned on just painting an empty wall I had in my bedroom, but the Mrs. just laughed at my face when I brought that idea up to her. So, I decided to go with a nice, simple cork board. I used a standard black frame cork board that I got from Target (here it is on Amazon)

Step 2: Choose your methodology

Since my goals are so focused on day-to-day activities (and since my board was only 22″ wide), I decided to set up daily goals, based around a week-long tracking period. I plan on setting four goals each week. As I achieve each daily goal, I will “mark” that goal as completed by advancing the goal (like a progress bar). At the end of each week, I will assess my progress, possibly modify my goals and/or add new ones, and start fresh for the next week.

Step 3: Design your goal board

Now that you have your information radiator and you have set your methodology, it’s time to get creative and have some fun designing you board. Here is what I did:

Initial Goal Boards Design

With this setup, I gave myself a cool header, and my main progress chart is sort-of like a weekly calendar. I left some space in the middle for (what I consider) the most important piece of the board – my motivation.

Geek into Shape Goal Board With My Motivation

Step 4: Set your goals

The next step to finalizing the Geek Into Shape Goal Board was to set my goals for the week. When I designed my board, I left enough space for 1.5″x2″ post-it notes to track my goals.

Writing down goals for the Geek Into Shape Goal Board

Since I could fit four goals on my board each week, I took the list I mentioned at the top of this post (I promise to go to bed early tonight. I promise to go to bed early tonight. I promise to go to bed early tonight.) and added a fourth goal of working out for 45 minutes or more for 6 out of 7 days during the week. Here is what my final board looks like:

Final Geek Into Shape Goal Board with Goals

Step 5: Place your information radiator

I decided to not place this on the free wall next to my bed, like initially planned. I realized that I normally haven’t even come into consciousness when I mosey past that wall. So, since I am trying really hard to meet these goals this week, I decided to put it somewhere more visible to me:

Placing the Geek Into Shape Goal Board

Step 6: Track your progress

To be continued…

I am so excited to try this new method. It puts these goals that I have set for myself right out in the open. Each morning, my goals and motivation for achieving these goals will be staring me in the face, refocusing my mind, and beating down any urges I might have to sabotage progress.

I’d love to hear what you think. Would a constant visualization of your goals, your progress, and your motivation help you stay focused? Do you like my board (I do)? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Fitness Mind Hacks Part 2: How Programming Helped Me Lose Weight and Become Healthy

Code Monkey want a better body. Code Monkey way too fat.

As I mentioned last week, it only took a few key changes to drastically change the way I approached and, more importantly, conquered my fitness goals.  These changes had nothing to do with learning about the the latest fitness and diet trends — I already knew all of those. The changes had nothing to do with joining a gym or buying fancy equipment — I had tried both. No, my problem was all mental, and mostly due to a lack of confidence and a lack of hope. I didn’t believe that I could tackle the monstrous project called “health” because I didn’t have the skills or experience.

Image courtesy of juco on Flickr

Well, all of that changed when I took a new approach to how I thought about fitness and diet and health. Small mental changes, little fitness mind hacks, that helped me relate my fitness journey to other aspects of my life that I was successful at. I would have to say the biggest of these mind-hacks was when I realized that I could treat my fitness related goals like I treat my software development projects.

It amazed me how closely aligned the processes I use every day when I write code or plan my software development project were to the process for losing weight and setting goals. I’ll admit it wasn’t a huge leap to make this correlation, it seems obvious in hindsight, but it was this minor mental mapping — software development to fitness — that kick started my weight loss and kept me delivering on my fitness goals.

Here is exactly how programming and software development helped me lose weight and meet my goals:

1. You need a good development environment

Image courtesy of John Wiseman on Flickr

As every programmer knows, you need a good development environment to get things done. Without the proper environment, you’ll often find yourself limited in your capability to move forward or spinning your wheels trying to get started because of too many options.

Finding the perfect environment is a can be a little bit of a task in itself.  Take the time to look at your options. The environment you choose should easily mold with your personal style, taste,  and experience.  Like choosing a software development environment, you don’t want limit yourself to the status-quo or what the “pros” say you should use when choosing your fitness development environment.

Explore, experiment, and like Goldilocks, find one that is “just right”.

Here is my mini guide for fitness development environments:

  • The minimalist environment (This is the style for all of you vi and gcc’ers): You don’t need a fancy gym membership or exercise equipment to get you where you need to go. You understand that you only need two things in this world to get into shape: you and gravity – and those things are always available.
  • The DIY environment (This is for the “best tool for the job” coders): You realize that there are some great tools that exist to help you meet your goals, so you buy a few weights and some resistance bands and you maybe even splurge on an exercise bike. But with this method, you are not limited or constrained on what you do. You build your own environment based around only the things you need.
  • The virtual environment (This is for you… virtual environmentalists?): Like the DIY environment, you have a hodge-podge of tools at your disposal, but you have an specific environment you are aiming for as a part of your end goals, so you really try to set up your training environment to match.   If you want to be a fighter, you enroll in a martial arts class where you learn critical skills you need or buy a punching bag to hang up in your garage. If you want to be a rock climber, you build find or a training wall.
  • The fully integrated environment (This is for you Eclipse and Visual Studio users): With this method, you commit to a place that offers the kitchen sink when it comes to fitness. I’m talking about a good, ol’ fashion, all-purpose gym.  You need weights – you got ‘em. You want aerobic classes – they offer those too.  You want tanning beds – most of them surprisingly have those as well. Even though you may have to pay a premium for it, you have just about everything you need in one nice, consolidated package.

For me, it was a combination of the all of these environments that got me where I needed to be. The fully integrated environment helped me figure out what was available and mold my training path. The DIY environment helped me supplement the areas that the fully integrated environment lacked. And the DIY environment allowed me to workout wherever I happened to be sitting or standing at the moment.  One, none, or all of these environments might work for you. Take time to try them all and see which gives you the best results.

2. Just get Started

Phot courtesy of ColtahMang on Flickr

The most important thing I have learned in software development is that, sometimes, you just have to get started. You can spend hours researching the “perfect” ab workout or developing a detailed 48-month fitness plan, and never move a muscle. The unfortunate thing is that there is no perfect plan. Like in software development, you can spend all your time trying to figure out the perfect framework, or the best libraries for the job, but sometimes the best way to figure it out is by diving straight in.

Start moving. Do anything. Run. Walk. Pop, lock it, drop it. It doesn’t matter – just do it.  If you need to refine you workout routine later, as you read about optimal methods for your specific goals, you can. But just get moving today.

3. Always be agile

Photo courtesy of Garrettc on Flickr

A while back, I wrote about how to Agile development practices applied to health and fitness. The concept of Agile Development comes with a host of methodologies that keep your development paths clean, quick, and versatile. Here are a few of those methods that I used to drop pounds.

  • Use short iterations for your goals: Of course you have a long term goal (40 pounds, run a marathon, etc.), but the best way to meet your long term goals is to set many short term goals that build up to your long term goal. The time frames should be short and and the goals attainable. For example: If you want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, set a goal of 8-10 pounds a month and then forget about the big goal. Each month, put all of your focus on the short term goal. Sprint towards that goal as fast as you can.
  • Do daily scrumsEach morning, ask yourself the following questions: What have you done since yesterday? What are you planning to do today? Do you have any problems preventing you from accomplishing your goal?
  • Allow time for reflection: At the end of each sprint, take some time to reflect on the previous month. Did you meet your goal? If you didn’t, why not? Reassess your next month’s goals. Maybe something has changed – a new long term goal or a new long term deadline – that might change your short term goals.

There are so many support groups that have this model built in already. Use them. My favorite is the 28 day challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards. Each month, you set 3 goals that you are pushed to meet within 28 days. Each day (or week, or never, your choice), you post your progress — what you did the day before, what you plan on doing the following day, how you feel, etc.  At the end of each challenge, you have a week to share and celebrate your results. If you didn’t meet your goal, there is a whole community of people ready to help you work through what you need to change and motivate you for the next challenge.

4. Use Design Patterns

Photo courtesy of Grant MacDonald

As in any field, there are problems common to all software development projects. For these problems, people have built general, reusable design patterns that can be adapted to your specific goals. Keeping a good working knowledge of some of the most common design patterns can save you time during your development. Instead of focusing on a secondary problem, you can just focus on the core business logic.

The same is true for fitness. If you have a specific goal in mind, chances are, someone has had that goal to and met it. If you are lucky, they wrote the method they used down and put it out into the public domain so you can just adapt their plan to you. You might know these as training plans. Here are a few of the fitness design patterns that I have used:

These patterns can give you a big head start towards meeting your goals, but don’t feel you have to follow these plans word for word. Remember we are all different. Use them as a guide, but you will know when it is time to start building your own custom pattern. Remember to write it down and maybe you will have your own pattern that will act as a guide for others.

A few more quick mind hacks

There are a dozen more little hacks I use, most of which are too small to give a deep discussion on, but I thought I would quicklymention a few of them.

  • Always refactor your code - You should frequently reassess your workout routines and try to remove inefficiencies and isolate the things that are working. We are all busy people, if you can get your workouts down to the most efficient components, then you will save time and get more results for your effort.
  • You’ll always benefit from better debug logging – Always keep a record of what you do. When you get to the end of your sprints, you might need to look back to remember what you have done. You need to write down all of your core stats (weight, mileage, pounds lifted, etc.) each day as well as your emotional and physical state. Did you lift more during the week you got more sleep?
  • Set up good regression tests – As you meet goals and set new goals, do forget you go back and test your overall fitness levels. If you successfully ran a 10k and set a then new goal to be a backup dancer for Usher, make sure you don’t lose your ability to run a 10k. At the end of every fitness sprint, you should pick a few things that will test your overall fitness ability. Use your old goals as your regression tests.

Conclusion

Applying good software development practices to my fitness life really helped me feel like I had control over my destiny. I knew all of these processes worked. They have taken me from a white screen to a complex application many times before. Thinking about my fitness goals as just another software project gave me the confidence in myself to complete it. I hope this will help some of you too.

I’m interested in what my fellow software developers think.

  • What processes in your daily life as a code monkey have you applied to your fitness life?
  • What processes can you apply?

Let me know!

Fitness Mind Hacks Part 1: An Introduction

I think by now, we all know the general dirt on how to get into shape. The critical fitness and nutrition information is everywhere we turn: The Biggest Loser, the fitness magazine rack at the bookstore, the buddy at work that tells you all about the latest fitness blogs and podcasts while doing awkward hammie stretches at your desk (that’s actually me, well except for the stretches… they’re not awkward!). However, even with the abundance of information and awareness regarding healthy living, there are still a lot of good people out there who can’t seem to find a way put down the Kit-Kats and pick up a dumbbell.

I was that person.

I knew how to workout. I knew how to eat right. But knowledge was only half of the battle. What was holding me back was my mind… my will.

I wasn’t good at working out. I felt like I didn’t relate to the fitness community. And for a long time, I never fully grasped the fact that I, nerdy ol’ George, could be anything other than what I was: overweight and lazy.  Proper fitness was so foreign to me (which is sad that this was the case), that it seemed like something I could never attain; probably because I had tried and failed.

My logical mind knew I needed to shape up, but my emotional side couldn’t kick my ass into gear.

But all of this emotional incompetency changed for me when did one simple thing: I started relating my fitness journey to things in my life that I was good at. I started flooding my head with these little correlations to areas of my life that I was succeeding. I tricked my emotional mind to believing that change was possible. I was reprogramming my brain to take away those silly, irrational barriers that were preventing me from getting where I wanted to be. This “mind-hacking” concept is not new and is used in many other areas other than fitness, but it is what started the positive change in my fitness journey.

So what exactly am I talking about?

The idea is to relate your fitness goals to something you know, something you are passionate about, or something that is so pervasive that you can instantly relate to it.

For example, I love playing MMOs – Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft, etc. – games that are all about starting at level one, and building up you character to the ultimate warrior through slow and methodical steps. Well, mentally, there is no difference in the process leveling a character up from 1 to 60 in those games and dropping 1 to 60 pounds in real life. You start on a journey, and you diligently work at it. You make mistakes, you learn, you grow (as a person, which hopefully corresponds to a shrinking waist). Eventually you reach your goal, and then the real game can begin.

I could level characters all day in game, why couldn’t I level up myself? The answer, was: I COULD! And I did.

What I plan to do over a few upcoming posts and podcasts is really dive into the fitness “mind hacks” that helped me clear away my mental barriers. The first of which will be a topic dear to my heart: software development and how it changed the way I view fitness.

In the meantime (does anyone hear that Spacehog bass-line?), here are some fantastic recent articles from some of my favorite bloggers that I would classify as fitness “mind hacks”

See you soon!

The Fitness Grind

Fitness Grind

This picture will make sense in a minute... maybe.

When it comes to modifying your life to cut the flab and shape up, there are normally two main paths you can take:

  1. The Balanced Approach – Incorporate fitness into you current lifestyle, maintaining a healthy balance.
  2. The Fitness Grind – Stop work on your current lifestyle, and dedicate all of your time to becoming healthy.

If you have ever read my site, you probably know that I am a huge fan of the first option. I believe that you have to maintain the activities that you love to keep your mental health, even if they might not be the best for your physical health. Slowly incorporating healthy changes into you life, in a way that changes your habits and patterns, will give you the best results.  The catch: This often takes a long time.

So, what about the fitness grind?

Recently, I have made some aggressive goals that have “forced” me to go down the second path.  I have cut out video games, stopped working on web development projects (except for this blog), and let my DVR fill up with episodes of Fringe. I have put a hold on almost all of the recreational geeky things I normally do.

Well, this has worked out really well for me.

I never thought that this was a good, “healthy” approach for achieving and maintaining overall health. But my mind has been changed due to a single mind hack, which I thought I would share.

Think of the Fitness Grind like an MMO Grind

All of you MMO junkies know all about the MMO grind.  You set your goal: “I want the Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass that you get when you become exalted with the M.F. Face-Crusher faction.“  Well to get that, you do your daily quests, you wear the faction tabard and plow through dungeons, you put aside other endeavors temporarily to focus on the task at hand.

Well, why can’t you apply this to fitness?

I had never thought about applying the mindset I had for years of playing World of Warcraft to my fitness endeavors.

For a short time, switch your primary focus to fitness, and let other things go undone for a while.

This means no World of Warcraft (which is ironic), a minimized workload, blogs going unread, etc. Once you put all of your focus on fitness, be persistent. During the grind for the Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass, would you make extra time to finish the daily quests and make a few dungeon runs? You betcha!  So do the same with fitness.

Never miss a daily fitness quest.

Be vigilant – after all, the more days you do your daily quests, the faster you will meet you goal, right? Do extra workouts to get you to your goals faster.

One of the biggest ways this mind hack helped me, was how I thought about the end-game. In my previous attempts to dive head-first into fitness – my eye was on the goal, and nothing else. This caused me to be short-sighted and I often burned out if I didn’t get the results I wanted. Well in our make believe MMO, our immediate goal may be to obtain the Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass, but the real goal — the long-term goal — is possessing the helm and having the ability to equip it in all future battles – well beyond the immediate goal of current grind.  In the fitness world, you may set a goal to lose 20 pounds, but the big picture goal is the benefits you get after losing 20 pounds.

Focus on the immediate goal for the current fitness grind – but always keep your eye on the big picture!

When you meet your immediate goal, the fitness grind is over. But the fun is just beginning – you now have new tools in your inventory that you have free reign to use. Don your Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass and wave good-bye to the M.F. Face-Crusher Clan and reap the rewards of your hard work.

Enjoy the benefits and rewards of the fitness grind!

It is amazing how small changes in mindset can affect your life. This may not work for you, but it has kept me motivated to lose weight for the longest period in my life. Not because I want to weigh 200 pounds, even though that is my current goal, but because of what I will be able to do as a 200 pound person:

  • Be able to keep up with the kids.
  • Look good in a T-shirt
  • Run a 5k

These are the rewards of meeting my goal, and they are well worth the fitness grind.

Are you in the middle of a fitness grind? What are the immediate and long term goals of your fitness grind?

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Coffee Grinder Photo courtesy of tonx