Don’t Stop Believing

How does one effectively cope with stressful times in life? Sometimes, life throws you one challenge after another in rapid-fire succession. On occasion, the undesirable stressors are caused by events which are completely out of your control. Of course, there are those moments when, through your own mistakes, you are forced to deal with the painful consequences of your poor decisions. Whatever the circumstances, stress is spelled the same. It feels the same. It effects are the same. It is undeniable that a constant barrage of negative stress is detrimental to your health. Loss of sleep, increased anxiety, loneliness, severe feelings of depression, unusual bouts with anger, and deep despair are a few ways it can rear its ugly head.  These and other nasty symptoms need to be combated as quickly as possible before you spiral into a complete physical, mental, and emotional breakdown. “Every struggle in life will either make you bitter or better.”–Dave Willis  Everyone will be tried and tested. No one will survive without a few scars. But, you may be wondering, “How do I survive at all?”

I want to tell you about a good friend. His name is Ron. I first met Ron over three years ago. I still recall our very first conversation. He appeared down on himself and a bit lost. I commenced training him in my gym shortly after that initial meeting. What I have witnessed throughout these several years of working with Ron is nothing short of remarkable. He could be a poster-child for unwanted stress. I think he’d prefer the term spokesperson. Nevertheless, I have been so impressed with Ron’s ability to deal with an ever-changing landscape in his life. What are some of the most stressful experiences in life? All of the experts’ lists are pretty much identical: break-ups in relationships, job changes, getting fired, moving, and problems with one’s immediate family. Yes, Ron has gone through several job changes. He worked in an extremely high-stress environment. At one point, his position was “eliminated” due to “restructuring of his department”. That’s the gentle way of saying he was fired. But, Ron is resilient, and Ron has an extremely diverse set of skills. He was troubled, but not afraid of his future. When Ron’s occupation required him to start traveling each week, he did not freak out. He just worked out! Ron and I used to meet Monday through Friday. He could have abandoned his commitment to himself because he was tired and overwhelmed. Instead, Ron asked if he could train with me each weekend. So, we adjusted our schedule.

I remember when Ron called me to say his girlfriend had broken off their relationship. That phone call came while he was on his way to my gym. He wasn’t going to lay around and feel sorry for himself. Ron knew that training would help him through this episode of his life. Indeed, it did. Yes, he has dealt with the stress of moving, not once, but several times. Though annoyed and exhausted at the same time, he never missed an exercise session with me. All the while, Ron demonstrated a determination that is second to none. Though he is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, he has been very teachable. Ron always asks questions. He’s always been open to trying whatever varied exercise routine I’d throw at him. Ron loves to tweak his D.I.E.T. and experiment with food.  I suppose it helps that he graduated from Culinary school years ago. Although that in itself doesn’t guarantee any personal success regarding overall health and wellness, it surely has provided a great foundation. Throughout his ordeals of the past three years, Ron has not ditched his commitment to eating healthy. Ron loves meeting new people and exploring new adventures. He speaks three languages, but guess what. He is learning another. Ron is always moving forward with hope for a better tomorrow. He is an entrepreneur. He started up a couple small businesses. His mind never dwells too long on the past because he’s always looking to create something. Ron is a musician, an IT specialist, a voice-over artist, a web-page designer, a comedian–in short, he’s amazing! His resume reads like a novel with suspenseful twists and turns. He graduated from Michigan State University and also has a degree from the University of Southern California. He is a well-traveled man. He has spent time in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip. He loved it so much he’s returned many times.

So, what can you learn from my dear friend? Never give in to doubt! We are all going to face disappointments. Never give up! Life can and will be cruel to us sometimes. Don’t stop believing!  Well, he’s at it again! Ron is taking his talents to Houston, Texas. More potential stress on the horizon, but I’m not worried about him. He’s developed an ideal coping mechanism for stress: keep breathing, keep living, keep loving, keep serving, keep busy, keep exercising, and keep eating healthy. Hasta la vista, Ron, mi amigo. I am going to miss torturing you with my workouts and all of our stimulating and fun conversations.

High Hopes for the New Year

I hope that you find some value in these quotes!

“We must accept finite disappointments but never lose infinite hope!”–Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.”–Dale Carnegie
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.”–Orison Swett Marden
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”–Vaclav Havel
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blest. The soul, uneasy, and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”–Alexander Pope
“He who does not hope to win has already lost.”–Jose Joaquin de Olmedo
“To be without hope is like being without goals. What are working towards?”–Catherine Pulsifer
“Hope is the last thing ever lost.”–Italian Proverb
“Hope is outreaching desire with expectancy of good.” It is a characteristic of all living things.”–Edward S. Ame
“If we expect change, we must act on our hope every day until we have accomplished what we wanted.”–Christopher Goodman
“You can’t just wait until the last minute before you start to think in a positive way in hope of helping yourself out of a negative situation. It would be like waiting until after you are severely dehydrated before you finally start to drink water.”–David A. Hunter
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”–Helen Keller
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite the darkness.”–Desmond Tutu
“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”–Bernard Williams
“Hope is like the sun, which as we journey toward it, cast the shadow of our burden behind us.”–Samuel Smiles
“Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.”–Robert H. Schuller
“Survival was my only hope, success my only revenge.”–Patricia Cornwell

Two Questions

Reflecting upon the many conversations I’ve had already this year with prospective students, I wish to share one element common to each of my discussions. It is found in a couple simple questions which I ask of all I meet. After intensely listening to the individual stories which led these people to me, after engaging in detailed dialogue, after offering my guidance and encouragement, I ask these wonderful people, who have bared their souls to me, two things. “What are you willing to give up?” and “How hard are you willing to work for what you want?”

In addressing the second question, first, I stress this important principle. Every good thing in life comes about as a result of a specific action or series of actions. To a great extent, the nature of one’s desire for achievement of a personal fitness goal or an improved golf game is irrelevant. If I could measure desire on a scale or quantify it in some brilliant fashion, what value would that be to us?  Reaching your potential cannot be based solely on a reading of how badly you want it. It would just be a useless number. “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”–unknown.  You must work and must understand that “you can never  expect to succeed if you only put in work on the days you feel like it.”–Chad Hymas.

My intention is not to completely diminish the important role that desire does play in one’s life. For “desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our action. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.”–Dallin H. Oaks.  But, there is that word, again, action! So, how can you increase the probability of acting with determination on your desires? To illustrate, I share the following story as told by Dallin H. Oaks. “Aron Ralston was hiking in a remote canyon in southern Utah. In the course of his hike, an 800-pound rock shifted suddenly and trapped his right arm. For five lonely days, he struggled to free himself. When he was about to give up and accept death, he had a vision of a three-year-old boy running toward him and being scooped up with his left arm. Understanding this as a vision of his future son and an assurance that he could still live, Ralston summoned the courage and took drastic action to save his life before his strength ran out. He broke the two bones in his trapped right arm and then used the knife in his multi-tool to cut off that arm. He then summoned the strength to hike 5 miles for help. What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire!”

When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.

In regards to my first question, “What are you willing to give up?”, the call to change, out of which is born your burning desire, requires that you sacrifice. There is no way around this truth. If you truly wish to become better than you are today, dumping some ballast is the only way you’ll rise to the level of your best self. The things that are holding you back are certainly unique to your life. But, they are not uncommon to the human condition. So, others have done what it is that you need to do. Many have shared private details of their struggles, addictions, fears, imperfect family life, their strange circle of friends, unfulfilling job experiences, and the stress and anxiety which they carry. I am encouraging you to let go of the burdens that bind you to the present. “Those mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”–Najwa Zebian. If you need a guide to climb your mountains, you can count on me. Obviously, I’d prefer if you’d take the courageous action to turn those mountains into mole hills. “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”–C.S. Lewis.  From there, our work becomes easier. Only you can make the decision to break the chains which imprison you in your current condition. Choose wisely. You do not deserve a life sentence. You are worthy of a new start at life. What are you willing to give up today? How hard are you willing to work right now?

photo credit: ThoroughlyReviewed Stretching Fitness Yoga Gym Workout – Must Link to via photopin (license)