4 Elements of My Daily Practice

When life is going sideways, it’s easy to get short-sighted. You get focused on the immediate things you need to get done to survive one more day, and you wind up reacting to what’s out there instead of taking control of the situation.

It’s also easy to feel like nothing you’re doing is working, and that no matter how hard you try, nothing changes. You’ve tried this thing, or that thing, and nothing works like its promised.

I’ve been there myself. For a long time, matter of fact.

Eventually I figured out there are 4 things I need to do every day if I want things to change. They have to do with the 4 areas of your life that you have to own if you’re going to make a lasting difference.

1. Body

You do not have a body. You are a body.

The more you ignore it, the more problems you’re going to have. That’s why I make time every single day to do something that challenges this big ol’ meat puppet I call “my body.”

My preferred method of getting exercise is practicing Kung Fu. As soon as I get out of bed, I go go through the forms of the system.

I’m also partial to body weight exercises. This is due to my crazy travel schedule; I want to be able to stay fit while on the move without relying on bulky equipment or finding the closest gym. Nope, I want to be able to do a complete workout in my hotel room.

The 6 movements I focus on are push-ups, pull-ups (often times I can find a stairwell that works), sit-ups, back bridges, squats, & handstands. There are variations for each that are as easy or difficult as you need (all without the need for a gym membership).

These exercises & changing my eating habits is how I dropped 45 pounds (and kept it off for a couple years now).

So no matter what shape your exercise takes, your body requires daily attention & movement. Ignore it at your own peril, and pay the price later.

2. Mind

Just like you gotta flex your muscles, you gotta flex your mind. Do something fun. Learn something. Work on your creativity.

Creativity is a skill, not an in-born gift.

If you’re used to turning your brain off and watching TV as soon as you get home, your creativity will atrophy. You’ll be less likely to come up with that idea that will get you out of the 9 to 5 prison.

Creating > Consuming

When was the last time you created something? Performed something? Made something that never existed before?

Make the act of creation a daily habit, and you’ll discover it becomes easier and easier to have better and better ideas.

Personally I try to write often (like this post!), learn a new language (been learning Mandarin), work on new show material, write new presentations for speaking engagements, reach out to people who could use my services, create speaking opportunities, and so on.

Every day.

People look at all the incredible things I do, and think “Boy, he sure is lucky.” Luck has nothing to do with it. It’s a daily practice of getting creative about what opportunities I can create for myself.

3. Feel

Emotions are a fantastic barometer for how well your needs are being met. Most of us, however, can rarely even tell what emotion we’re currently feeling.

Our daily lives are spent distracting ourselves in order to numb ourselves against how unhappy we are. Our work lacks emotional content.

This excerpt from Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” is a glimpse into what that means.

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The more you tune into your emotional environment, the better you get at understanding how the situations, people, and thoughts you have affect how you feel about yourself & your ability to accomplish what you want to achieve.

Is your friend making you feel awful about the new hobby you want to work on? Reduce the amount of time you spend with them.

You are under no obligation to sacrifice your happiness on the altar of friendship, family, or work. It’s entirely possible to live a life where the people & things in it are a source of support and encouragement; not a constant drain of your emotional well being.

4. Appreciate

Gratitude has recently enjoyed an increase of research showing how it can increase happiness, reduce depression, and improve self-esteem.

I think the benefits have been misattributed.

Gratitude is outwardly focused. Thanking someone else for what you have. Being thankful for the scraps you manage to scrounge together.

You should be grateful for what you have.

No. It’s ok to want more. It’s ok to improve your situation. It’s ok to want something other than what you have.

What you’re looking for, instead, is an appreciation for where you are.

You don’t have to like it.

Appreciation does not automatically equate with happiness or complacency.

Appreciation is taking the time to consider your situation. Consider the resources available to you. Consider the options you have at any given moment.

Most unhappiness and lack of effectiveness in life comes from a lack of appreciation.

That’s why it’s so important to take time, every day, to appreciate what you do have so you can put it to use most effectively.

So don’t be grateful for your scraps. Appreciate your resources, so you can make the best use of them as you can.

Everyday

I try to start everyday with a mind to develop each of these 4 areas in my life. Ignore any of them, and my life falls apart.

And just like with any practice, the longer you do it, the sooner you notice the impact when I miss a day.

Also remember: It’s called “practice” for a reason. It’s not called the “daily already perfect state of being.” It requires daily effort. No coasting allowed, but also be forgiving towards yourself when you stumble along the way.

Doing Slowly > Not Trying At All

So how about you? What are the elements that make up the best days for you? Do you intentionally put them into practice everyday? What are your physical, mental, emotional, and reflective practices?

I’d love to know what’s worked for you in the past. Leave a comment, or drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you.

Patience is a Virtue

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In the time before bills, I loved getting mail.

All through high school I had penpals from nearby schools, and most of them were people I met at debate tournaments.

All of them were girls.

Seeing an envelope with my name on it in a girl’s handwriting was one of my favorite things in the world. I’d want to open it right now.

But I wouldn’t. I’d try an experiment instead. I’d put the envelope on my desk and leave it until I no longer felt like I had to open it. Sometimes that would take a couple minutes, or a couple days.

The thing is, I couldn’t trick myself out of it, or lie my way out of waiting.

The feeling of “have to” would have to be truly out of my system before proceeding.

Flash forward to the time where I can instantly know any fact, have any food delivered, or flat abs in 2 weeks, I feel like instant gratification comes at a price; our well being.

Science backs me up on this.

In the late 60’s & early 70’s a scientist Walter Mischel came up with an ingenious experiment to test children’s capacity for delayed gratification called “The Marshmallow Test.”

He would give a marshmallow to a kid and tell them they could eat it now & that’s it, or they could wait 10 minutes and if it still hasn’t been eaten, they will get a second marshmallow.

Years later Walter checked in with the (now grown up) kids, and discovered they were more successful in school, got higher test scores, better able to handle stress, etc. Basically any metric we use to measure success, the kids who were able to wait were better at it.

This seems to suggest that cultivating a practice of patience is one of the most essential skills that pays off the most. The clock is ticking, though. The sooner you start practicing, the more time you have for it to pay off.

How’s your patience? What are you doing to cultivate it?

Want to get started? I can help.