Stoic wisdom: Live your highest and healthiest self.

This 52 books in 52 weeks thing is a b&*#@! But man I am getting so much out of it.

If you want answers it’s up to you to go out and search for them. Find people, subjects, theories, and thoughts that resonate with you and continue to ask questions and educate yourself until you have answered all of the questions you were curious about.

I’m a wanna-be philosopher. I try to read as often as possible (captain obvious here). But the fun for me is trying to apply the philosophies I learn to my daily life. Wether some of the principles I come across work for me or not is a moot point. More importantly is the insight I find as I continue to learn about myself. Even more fun is sharing this journey with all of you. Wether we agree or disagree.

After this latest read from my main man Seneca I realized there are a many opportunities every day in which we have the chance to live our highest self. These are the lessons I’ve learned.

Please yourself first

Most of us spend way to much time trying to please others. We get so wrapped up in trying to make sure everyone else is happy that somewhere along the line we forget that it’s important to make ourselves happy first. We’ve all fallen into the YES -YES -YES trap. You know, when anytime someone asks you to do something you automatically just say YES. It’s like a reflex! But not always a good one.

Sooner or later we’ve committed to so many projects at work, favors, house related tasks, or whatever else it might be that we now have no time for ourselves. No time to exercise, cook healthy meals to take with us, embark on skills we want to learn like an instrument, dance classes, or a foreign language. We just don’t have the time anymore. How could we, we’ve committed our self to so many other people. I’m a big believer in following through with commitments and honoring our word but we need to do a better job managing them.

So how do we do that?

What is your most important goal right now? Are you trying to create a healthy eating habit? Exercise consistently? Do you want to learn how to paint or are you trying to start your own business?

What is one step you can take today in order today to get closer to that goal? Prioritize it! Make it the first thing you do every day. If for some reason you can not do it first thing than make sure you do not commit to anything else until that task gets done. Let everyone know what you are trying to do. Here’s a quick example:

Family member, friend, co-worker, random dude: “Hey, can you do me a favor and help me move some furniture.”

You: “Sure, but after I get my fitness on and prep some food for the day. It’s really important to me right now.”

I apologize for the sarcasm here but WOW! Super easy huh?

So make a list of your top priorities right now. I particularly like to focus on one thing at a time until I accomplish it. Like this whole 52 books in 52 weeks thing. I spend an hour reading first thing in the morning every day in order to make sure I accomplish it. Nothing gets in the way.

Schedule an appointment with yourself. Put it in your iCal with an alarm if you have to.

To be everywhere is to be nowhere

Be there for yourself first and for others second. It’s not being selfish. I would suggest it is being true to the self. How hard will it be to help others if we can’t even help ourselves first.

Find the joy in what you are doing

What ever journey you are embarking on make sure it is one that you enjoy.

Do more of what you love and less of what you don’t

Way to often I come across someone who is trying to live a healthier life. Following some fad diet they read somewhere, performing exercises they think they should be doing because they’re the ones that will get you “six-pack abs.” Come to find after talking to them they don’t even enjoy it.

Same goes for work, daily tasks, and leisure activities.

It’s hard for us to find success if we are constantly engaging in activities that we do not fully enjoy. If you don’t like to run than don’t do it. Find an alternative, maybe bike ride, kayaking, swimming.

If you do find yourself doing something that is not aligned with your joy FIND the joy in it. Here’s an example… I hope my girlfriend doesn’t read this :D

I hate hot yoga (Bikram)! With a passion. Who the hell wants to sit in a 110 degree heated room tucked in tight with some sweaty folks. The musk alone will knock you out. Half way through I always feel like I am going to pass out. It sucks! I find no joy in it what-so-ever….  but wait.

I might not like hot yoga but I find joy in the fact that I am spending that time with my girlfriend. I rarely get to see her so the opportunity to do something that she loves and spending that time with her is where I find the joy.

How can yo find the joy in some of your current activities?

Practice being uncomfortable

I mentioned it in a previous post but get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You might be asking why the hell would I want to do this?

If you are able to practice the art of being comfortable with the uncomfortable (and it is an art) you will be able to establish a mindset that asks , wow! Was this what I was actually afraid of?

Fear is more often than not related to  uncertainty versus the experience itself. The more experiences you create for yourself the less fear and anxiety you will have.

Remember when you were in school and out of the blue your teacher was like “POP QUIZ.”

I’m pretty sure your heart was racing, you started to perspire, and there was a borderline anxiety attack happening. But after so many “POP QUIZZES” you eventually become immune. The fear of the unknown or what will be on the test disappears. Sure you might not know what’s on it but you’ve experienced them before and they were never really that bad.

Every so often we throw up challenges on this site like these provided by Julien Smith or some of my weird monthly experiments. There is a method to the madness. It’s al about experiencing as many uncomfortable things as possible so that the fear of the unknown slowly diminishes over time.

Will it ever go away? Absolutely not but the physical and mental response to it will become easier and easier to deal with.

TEST: So try this…. next time you are on an elevator instead of turning around so that you are facing the doors, stand so that you are facing everyone. It will be one of the more uncomfortable things you ever do. I guarantee that most people on that elevator that day will think you are a nut job. Just stand there until the doors open up and it’s time to get off…. take a deep breath or two and reflect. Wasn’t so bad was it. Now keep practicing!

Get Clear

Life is brief get clear on not what you WANT but on what you NEED. We spend too much time changing our minds, wavering back and forth between what we want and who we want to be.

Ask yourself this question right now. In order to live my life according to my highest self what is important to me. What do I NEED in order to live a life that I am excited about each day.

Do you really NEED that car? Do you really NEED that jewelry? Do you really NEED to do the laundry right this instant?

Here is what I need:

Love: of family and friends and of myself
Exercise
Proper nutrition
Take risks
To be creative
Serve a higher purpose than myself
Optimism
Practice gratitude
Knowledge acquisition

There’s a few more but in essence the more I practice these virtues the more I am aligned with my true self, the happier I am, and the more excited I am about what I am doing on a daily basis.

Maslow had it right when he developed this hierarchy. No where on this do I see material things. Collect experiences, connect with yourself, and connect with others.

 It’s all a test, accept the challenge

Look at any situation you are in as a learning experience. A chance to get to know yourself, the world, and the people in it. I know we have all been in a situation where we are dealing with someone who might be a little difficult, unruly, just plain stubborn. Take it as a test of your patience and compassion.

Maybe you just started your “Paleo” (aka real food) nutrition plan. You’re cravings are out of control. Consider it a test of your will and ability to stick to a plan.

You’re a little tired, some soreness is there, and all your buds are going out for drinks. TEST!

Next time you are in a situation like this take a step back and remind yourself that somehow this is a test of who you are and what you are capable of. How can you respond positively and in a way that acts according to your virtues?

The more tests you embrace and accept the better you will do on them. It takes practice but become aware of these situations and accept the challenges that each of them present.

Catch yourself in the act

In order to change any behavior you have to catch yourself in the act of that behavior. I hate to repeat myself but it all comes back to awareness.

How can we improve if we are not even aware of what we are doing. I’ve worked with so many people who say they eat right. Or here is the exact quote…

“Nutrition is pretty good.”

This usually leads to me asking them to fill out a 5-7 day nutrition log so we can get a bigger picture and to see what “pretty good” actually looks like. They are usually amazed. “I had no idea I drank that, ate that, or wow I didn’t even remember that.” We’ve been so accustomed to following a routine that it’s like clock work. We’ve lost all sense of awareness and do way to much mindlessly.

If you are trying to eat healthier you have to catch yourself in those moments of weakness when you don’t.

If you are trying to develop the exercise habit you need to catch yourself in those moments when you make excuses for not going.

If you want to take a big-risk like bungee jumping but somehow always avoid it, again, catch yourself in those moments where you talk yourself out of it.

It’s easier said than done especially while in the moment but one strategy I have used is journaling. I use to carry around a journal with me all day. Every time I felt a negative emotion, thought, or put myself in a negative experience I would write it down. I started to see patterns. The time of day, people I was with, my reactions to certain events. It helped me to develop a sense of awareness so that eventually as certain things came up I noticed it right away and could react more positively or in a way that was more inline with who I wanted to be as a person.

This is a great strategy for anyone, especially if you are looking to improve you nutritional or exercising habits. If you are not a big fan of pen and paper there are some pretty sweet apps that you can use to take pictures of meals.

Here’s two in particular. Meal snap and Pic healthy.

Now while it’s all good and well to write it down make sure you take some time to reflect on it. Spend a few minutes to look back on your notes. Yeah, yeah, yeah… you’re all done with school and you don’t want to study anymore. Sorry Charlie, if you really want to improve certain aspects of your life it takes some hard work.

Free Lemonade

Convince yourself that it’s easy peezy lemon squeezy

How have you convinced yourself that your goals, dreams, and ambitions are too difficult?

If your goal is to lose 20 pounds don’t think of it as 20 pounds think of it as 1 pound this week. Shrink the change a bit make it more manageable and less overwhelming.

If you are trying eat healthier or follow a Paleo approach try to switch one meal to a “Paleo” meal and build upon that. Maybe next week you can move to two, then the following three meals…. before you know it you’ve dialed it in.

Take the “hard” out of it.

If you want to run your first 5K but haven’t run in years I suggest walking first. Take baby steps to your goal.

Have you always wanted to go skydiving? Try indoor skydiving first.

Sometimes jumping all in is a great way to approach something but sometimes it’s not. Know yourself, what you respond to best and figure out an approach that suits who YOU are.

The jump off

I know there was a lot of information here so I’ll wrap it up short and sweet. This thing called life can really be dumbed down. I use to ask myself this on a daily basis to make sure I a was continuing to grow.

Am I a better person when I exercise, eat right, tackle personal challenges, and strive for goals?

You can use that question for anything.

Am I a better person when _________, ____________, ____________ insert anything your heart desires. If you answer no than move on to the areas that do make you a better person.

This post was inspired by “Letters form a Stoic” by Seneca. Part of 52 books in 52 weeks.

PS: If you didn’t get a chance to fill out the quick survey I tossed out please do. I would really like your help. RIGHT HERE

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About Justin

I'm inspired by how simple changes made to your nutritional, exercise, and lifestyle choices can effect your overall well-being in such dramatic ways. More energy, improved mood, increased happiness, strength, power, and sheer enjoyment for life is what I do.

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