We do not ask life what the meaning of life is. Life asks us, what is the meaning of your life. And life demands our answer. ― Viktor E. Frankl (Attributed)
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The first action to take in order to improve is to implement a growth mindset. This can be done by remembering each of the following GROWTH tenants and practicing these daily:
- G – Gravitate to the challenges placed before them (as opposed to avoiding the issues)
- R – Retain a positive outlook, despite struggles and challenges in the near term (instead of focusing on the negative)
- O – Operate in a space just outside their comfort zone (rather than avoiding discomfort)
- W – Work diligently, taking self-disciplined steps towards improving mind, body and spirit and enjoying the process and journey and not the end goal (versus avoiding the effort and focusing just on the outcome).
- T – Take lessons from setbacks mistakes and criticism (as opposed to striving for perfection and not accepting feedback or acting on negative experiences)
- H – Help others to succeed and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others (as opposed to feeling threatened by others’ success), especially following the mantra whereby you should: “plant trees under whose shade you may never sit”.
To help cement the growth needed, I like to picture the future – what a future will look like if you were able to solve the challenges you identified. For each challenge that is holding you back, what would the opposite look like? How would you look, feel and act? What benefits would this have on your life?
Vision Journaling – A journal from the future
I was listening to a podcast recently with Jane McGonigal, a futurist, and she was discussing how hard it can be to effect change. “The brain normally assumes things will continue as they are. But what that means is it can be very hard to wake up and realize this thing that used to be true is no longer true, or this assumption I had is no longer helpful.”
One of the ways she helps herself and others better imagine a new future is through “journaling from the future”. What does it mean to “journal from the future”, something we coined Vision Journaling? Putting yourself some three to five years from now, you can then write a journal entry about your life at this time.
Ms. McGonigal discusses how important it is to provide details when you journal, covering as much as you think you would write about in the journal as if it was today. This means being able to cover each of the challenges that are a priority from your assessments and your intention plans, documenting in detail:
- What you are experiencing – doing, seeing and feeling
- Where you are living
- Where you are working
- What your relationships look like, with your sons and daughters, friends and partner
Be sure to cover the who, what, when, where, how and why and write each vision journal entry as a story.
Embracing this technique has been very helpful to better envision and start to effect change.
Write your story from three to five years from now here:
- What you are experiencing – doing, seeing and feeling
- Where you are living
- Where you are working
- What your relationships look like, with your sons and daughters, friends and partner.
Source: PREDICT THE FUTURE, FEEL READY FOR ANYTHING AND PREPARE FOR THE WORLD AHEAD – Impact Theory Podcast w/ Jane McGonigal – https://impacttheory.com/episode/jane-mcgonigal/
Now it is time to elevate, taking mindful, deliberate, and consistent action to bring about the change needed to obtain what you have envisioned.
When it comes to improving your Body, there are several elements you may want to address as part of your overall growth journey, examining the assessment and the priority challenges you indicated.
Although this may not work for everyone, my own journey regarding body had me gain my sobriety, shedding over 50 lbs, and obtaining the abs I always wanted at 58.
I certainly had my own set of challenges, especially around alcohol, where I needed to improve the most, and as I refined over the past several years in growth, here is my personal checklist of growth improvements I have made (keeping in mind that I didn’t execute these improvements all at once, and that these work for me, but may not be appropriate for everyone):
- Drinking a glass of lemon water to start each day, helping to boost metabolism from the start
- Giving up alcohol completely, now over four and a half years without any consumption
- Although I didn’t do much if at all abstaining from all mind altering substances / drugs, including marijuana – to be present and lucid throughout the growth process
- Implementing intermittent fasting, eating one or two meals between a six hour window in the afternoon / early evening
- Eliminated red meat consumption, relying on organic chicken for my meat-based protein
- Reduced carbohydrate and sugar consumption
- Giving up coffee (a ridiculous 9 cups a day prior) and almost all caffeine, converting to tea instead (a Metabolism boosting Oolong tea for me)
- Eliminating all carbonated drinks (to reduce carbonic acid intake) including not consuming any diet sodas or sparkling waters
- Taking a high-quality 50+ multi-vitamin each day
- Conducting a gut biome test to further refine my food and drink mix – understanding specifically what my gut needed to reinforce the good flora and inhibit bad bacteria, viruses, and more
- Leveraging general and then precision probiotics designed specifically for my body
- Eliminating corn and nightshades as these showed up as foods to avoid or eliminate in my gut biome test, but also on the advice of some pioneering gut health physicians such as Dr. Gundry
- Using apple cider vinegar supplements after my meals
- Leveraging Nutragenix, a pre-Testosterone supplement (not Testosterone itself) to aid in building muscle (which I have been able to amply do despite being almost 60 years old).
- Adding MCT Oil to my tea to help not just improve the flavor, but to boost brain health, reduce inflammation, boost my metabolism, and satiate hunger in between meals.
Body – Movement and Exercise
Every journey starts with a single step, and the key for many to successfully getting a growth mindset is to physically get moving. This was essential to my own journey, which started with that first walk in the park the morning after my wife passed. Physical forward movement has been shown to reduce the impacts of anxiety and quell PTSD. Research reports that just 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms, by as much as 25% compared to those who are inactive (JAMA Psychiatry). Here are a few key elements I used to improve my body through forward motion and exercise:
- Starting every day with a meditative walk with my shitzu poodle (shitty-poo) pup Ruby, to begin each day by immediately moving forward, listening to devotionals (Faith) and growth podcasts
- Getting to the gym each AM to weight lift, so important for both men and women as we age, to maintain and grow our muscle mass (to a healthy, not a pumped-up level)
- Executing aerobic exercise at least three days per week, most weeknights spinning and running occasionally around town in Florida and when on the west coast, up a mountain trail
- Implementing a yoga practice to improve and maintain mobility, at least three days per week (this is relatively new for me at this level, but so welcome to my routine).
The Mind needs to be exercised as well, trying to shift from sadness and loss to growth and purpose. If you work out your body, but don’t change your mindset, you may continue to struggle with your journey, falling back and failing to maintain positive gains and effect change. Here too, a journey begins with a single step – something easy and simple performed first thing in the morning and every day:
- Making my bed every day, first thing, to get moving in a positive direction (and assuring you can’t crawl back in)
- Monitoring and boosting my quality sleep time by retiring earlier every evening and leveraging soothing wave sounds / white noise, which based on my workouts indicates needing 9 hours or more some days.
- Changing what I look at when I first wake up, and what I consume right before bedtime, especially not looking at emails or social media – using this time to not be fed what someone else wants me to consume, but controlling what it is I need to see first and last each day
- Relying on journaling my positive affirmations for the day, in order to eliminate automatic negative thoughts (ANTs)
- Consuming growth podcasts, especially during my morning walks, helping to be inspired by others and learning their secrets to growth, joy and success
- Reading and listening to growth mindset books, usually inspired to explore by the author’s podcast interview in order to dig deeper and learn even more
- Indulging my creativity by joining a classic rock band (playing keyboards) and working on my writing and art every day
- Shifting my work and career from making money and goals to working more on purpose first and enjoying the process / journey
- Creating space for deep, meditative thought (usually during morning walks and in yoga practice).
- Nurturing and exercising Faith every day (which we will cover in the next section).
Note that for some of these growth practices regarding body and mind, I am not sure of the causal relationship to my performance improvements. Some of these changes, like giving up alcohol, I know have been the catalyst for many of the improvements and were foundational. Continuing down my old path with those practices in place and the progress would not have happened.
Others, like taking supplements or giving up coffee, I am less sure of the contribution to my overall health and mental improvements. However, a look at pictures of me from before to after is clear evidence that my changes have worked, and how I have been able to break through several plateaus to keep improving through reassessing and refining many of the later items in each list.