The Environment of Growth

The Environment of Growth

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Ambrose

It’s been about a year now since I joined a gym. Not from a desire to become a body builder; rather, to regain some of the muscle mass we all lose as we age. Preventative maintenance of sorts.

I’d never been in a gym environment before. Certainly, I had heard of the gym being a place full of performance enhancing substances and people looking to hook up with each other. That’s not something I had any interest in, nor have I seen any evidence of either.

Mostly the gym is full of individuals who pretty much keep to themselves, there to take care of their own fitness goals and then they just leave.

I have had plenty of false starts attempting to gym at home. Weights, dumbbells, exercise bike, treadmill. For some reason, though, I never was able to stick with my home routine. I’d dabble, watch the DVD’s I bought on how to transform myself in 90 days, yet I never quite got transformed. I never stuck with it long enough for that to happen.

I guess the living room wasn’t such a great environment.

As I’ve observed the gym life for the past year, what I’ve seen is a great many of people just trying to get better. Better at their physical conditioning, whatever their individual goals may be.

Me? I’m there taking care of me.

And the environment has been a key component in me taking care of me.

Fitness doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a great deal of work, consistency, and commitment. In the gym, you can easily see those who’ve made the commitment. An environment of committed growth is quite infectious. The energy is different. It collectively breeds more growth. That’s what I’ve found at the gym. No one is judging, they’re busy doing. Big bodies, small bodies, young bodies, and old bodies. Everyone silently goes about their business of working toward their own personal targets, surrounded by others driven to do the same.

All of our environments influence us. The productive ones as well as the stagnant ones. This is true for friendships and relationships as well. Our circle matters. Our community matters. Seldom will we ever outperform the collective expectations of our circle or community. Surrounding yourself with others who share a common goal, outcome, or vision greatly increases the probability that you’ll hit your own goal, outcome or vision.

If you want to grow, place yourself in an environment populated with people who are actually growing, who are doing the work, who are actually in a position to support your growth, who actively encourage your growth.

Growth isn’t always easy, especially when surrounded by those driven by, well, nothing.

Does your environment support who it is you desire to be?

Perhaps it’s time to find a better circle?

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

Is It Worth The Fight?

Is It Worth The Fight?

It always seems to happen this way.

March is often a month of weather extremes here in New England. This month we’ve seen temps in the low 70’s and this morning we reached back down into the teens. Opposing forces in the form of changing seasons can create epic battles as they both attempt to assert themselves. Spring is ready to take over but Winter isn’t ready to let go.

The battle between Spring and Winter reminds me a great deal about personal growth. When the new version of you wants to rise up, the old version of you often would rather have you stay exactly as you are. It can create its own epic inner battle, the vision of who you are not quite ready to accept the vision of who you tell yourself you want to be.

With the laws of nature, seasonality lets us know that Spring will eventually prevail no matter how much Winter doesn’t want to let go. For us humans, though, there is no specific seasonality to the inner battles between who we are and who we tell ourselves we want to be. There is no pre-determined outcome. Change, especially when it comes to changing long-held ideas of who it is we believe ourselves to be, is always met with some level of inner resistance. This resistance is strong, quite convincing, and thinks it has your best interest at heart.

Get ready for an epic battle.

Get ready for the fight for your life.

The life you want is worth fighting for.

Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash

Thanking The Hammer For The Beating

Thanking The Hammer For The Beating

It’s rather paradoxical. And perhaps can only be done from a detached sense of self awareness.

But it’s an important part of the process.

Life often uses rather unconventional teaching methods to get us to learn what we need to learn. Many of those lessons unfortunately involve a degree of pain, quite often repeated until the lesson is eventually learned.

Like heated steel is reshaped between the anvil and the force of the blacksmith’s hammer, life, too, can heat us and beat us and reshape us through its own hammering process. The people and situations which at times can confusingly hurt us will often reshape us, change us, but if we look deeper we will often see there was a purpose to the pain.

It’s not a pleasant process. Even with a detached sense of self awareness. And usually it’s not something we express gratitude for.

Perhaps we should.

It’s not easy to thank those who’ve hammered us. But that hammering is what has changed us, often against our will, but often for the better.

And for that I’ve learned to be grateful.

When You Listen To What You’re Telling Yourself

When You Listen To What You’re Telling Yourself

“Good Vibes Only.”

It was a nice t-shirt.

But life simply doesn’t work that way.

At least not mine.

I’m a huge fan of good vibes. Love them. Strive for them. But I know that life, no matter what our clothing may say, isn’t always good vibes only.

I’ve come to appreciate all of my vibes. And I’ve got lots of them, too. The good. The bad. The angry. The empty. The frustrated. The disappointed. A full spectrum of emotions and feelings. I’m not sure if I’m complicated, or complex, but I do know at times I can be a lot for me to deal with.

As much as I prefer the good ones, I’ve found, paradoxically, that it’s the not-so-good ones which are the ones that lead me to more of the good ones.

Huh?

I’ve found that I learn from my vibes. Each one has something to tell me. Something to teach me about me and where I am at any given moment. Emotions are kind of my dashboard which lets me see what’s going on inside of me. Instead of fighting the ones I don’t want or feeding them further, I’ve learned to just notice them. A younger, far less self-compassionate version of me would often beat myself up for feeling a certain way. Now, I simply just let them be, without judging. Much like an auto mechanic, I don’t get mad that the dashboard indicator light is on, I use that indicator to get to the source of what needs tending to. Once I know where to look, I can work on getting me back to where I prefer to be.

Sometimes those not-so-good vibes stick around for a while, and I’ve come to accept that it’s OK if they do. Sometimes those emotions just need their space to breathe and not be forced back into the darkness. And in a strange way, being able to befriend the emotions and vibes I don’t really want to experience and learning to work with them helps me to more quickly get back to the positive and happier vibes I want to enjoy.

Self-awareness and a bit of compassionate patience have become such powerful tools for me to try and take better care of the emotional side of me.

Perhaps that’s the most important good vibe of all?

The Surprising Benefits of Thinking Like A Sunflower

The Surprising Benefits of Thinking Like A Sunflower

It was the strangest thing.

A sunflower growing in the gutter.

My gutter.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there but there it was. Growing tall, fully in bloom, oblivious to the fact that flowers simply don’t grow in the gutter.

This flower just didn’t know any better. It never questioned why it was in the gutter. It never once questioned if it would ever be able to grow there.

It just grew.

Where it was.

I don’t know much about flowers, but I do know about us humans. And for many of us we simply find ways not to grow.

We think. We analyze. We overthink. We overanalyze. So much thinking and we can actually think ourselves out of growing. We use our ability to rationalize to find ways for us to stay in a state of waiting for a better environment, a better time, a better system of support. Guilty, I’ve been, an experienced “justifier” of staying stuck and waiting for things to be “right” before moving ahead.

Meanwhile, in my gutter grows a beautiful sunflower…

Often our stagnation is simply a reflection of our belief system, of what we honestly feel is – or isn’t – possible for us. And rather than confront any limitations in our internal belief system it’s much easier to focus on external conditions and factors as reasons why we’re still where we tell ourselves we no longer wish to be.

What if we were to think like that flower in my gutter and just grew, grew into all we were created to be? Never questioning our ability, our environment, the timing, nor our inherent worthiness to simply allow ourselves to grow into who we were created to become? Right here. Right now.

If we can think of ways to hold ourselves stagnant, why can’t we change that thinking to support our divine evolution?

Could it be that simple?

Just something to not overthink about.

The Inconvenient Nature Of Sunrises

The Inconvenient Nature Of Sunrises

More people would enjoy sunrises if they simply scheduled them later in the day.

It just doesn’t work that way.

The alarm on my phone reminded me it’s 4:30 AM. It’s unseasonably cold, it’s dark, and I’m very tired. But I told myself I wanted to see the sunrise and the sun tends to get up early. 

My trek to meet the sun isn’t very convenient. The best view is over the bay, and that’s about a 30 minute drive from home. But that’s the price I must pay if I want to experience an ideal sunrise. Because the sun isn’t going to wait for me to rise.

On this particular morning, the cloud cover on the horizon did not produce the spectacular sunrise I had hoped for. But none the less, I showed up for it, and if you don’t show up in life you’re guaranteed to miss far more than spectacular sunrises.

Experiencing things out of the ordinary requires me to do things I wouldn’t ordinarily do. The blast of frigid air on my face as I walked to the car reminded me that quite often the road to accomplishment is seldom comfortable. Comfort, actually, is often the greatest obstacle to accomplishment.

So much of the personal growth I’ve experienced in my life started with me doing something uncomfortable. Inconvenient. Out of my ordinary. Even deciding to do something new can be met with a wave of discomfort. Change is never easy. It complicates things and who needs more complications in their life?

It’s only when the reward is greater than the discomfort are we willing to create the new habits and rituals needed to claim our reward. Be it witnessing a sunrise or anything else we hope to experience or accomplish in life.

So what’s your reward? What are you striving for? Is it greater than the level of comfort you already enjoy? Because if it isn’t, at some point you’ll simply choose comfort over accomplishment, what is over what could be.

Goals and dreams require us to work with them under their terms and conditions, not ours. Often inconvenient. Often worth it.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Thank You, Unselfish Veggies

Thank You, Unselfish Veggies

And that was it. The last cherry tomato had been picked and all of the weathered vines were now finally stripped bare. It was unusually late in the season to have a fresh tomato, but this year has been anything but usual.

As I walked back from the garden and into the kitchen I started thinking about that little just-picked tomato now nestled in my hand.

It’s entire journey was never about itself. From seed to harvest, it was never about ego or accomplishment. It simply grew fully into what it was created to become and gave itself away for the benefit of others, to feed and nourish and yet asking nothing in return.

Maybe the little tomato was trying to tell me something about life. That maybe I, too, should focus on my own growth, to become all I was created to become, not for ego or accomplishment, but for the benefit of others, to help feed and nourish their lives and asking for nothing in return.

The natural world has so many lessons to teach us.

Playing Big By Playing Small

Playing Big By Playing Small

New Year’s Day.

I’m invincible.

I’ve been fine tuning my resolutions. My intentions are confidently set and I’m ready.

“This year will be different” I confidently tell myself. “This is the year I stick to my resolutions.”

Because I usually don’t.

Maybe the best resolution is no resolutions at all.

I’m not quite sure why I have such a challenging time with resolutions. I know there are things I want to change and things I want to accomplish, and there are things I tell myself I no longer want to do. Yet within a few weeks the resolutions I enthusiastically and boldly ran into the new year with feel like work.

They never make it to February.

Change, even change we tell ourselves we really want, can often be quite difficult. We’re often undoing things that we’ve spent a lifetime doing. Change is always much easier Continue reading “Playing Big By Playing Small”

Are You Spitting On The Seeds Of Your Greatness?

Are You Spitting On The Seeds Of Your Greatness?

I didn’t expect to see them. It’s 14 degrees, snow is in the forecast and there they were.

Seeds.

Flowers and veggies.

I’m not sure if Home Depot knows it’s still very much winter, but apparently in their mind it’s already spring. Right next to the seasonally correct collection of snow shovels and ice melt, little reminders of spring are slowly creeping in. Even if it’s 14 degrees outside.

And it’s not just the seeds. It’s all the other stuff seeds need in order to grow and flourish. Fertilizers, weed killers, hoses, sprinklers, rakes, landscape fabric. It’s amazing what actually goes into optimizing a garden.

Great gardens just don’t happen. They need to be fed and watered and cared for in order to optimize their growth and yield. And how well they are cared for determines Continue reading “Are You Spitting On The Seeds Of Your Greatness?”

Life Is A Journey, But Are You The One Who’s Driving?

Life Is A Journey, But Are You The One Who’s Driving?

Maybe we shouldn’t have bought her the car?

Recently we needed to get my daughter a car to get her to and from school. She did all the research, scouring the local dealerships’ websites for her first car. My job was easy; I just needed to pay for it.

She settled on a used, rather sporty Honda Civic, two door coupe. Her only concern?

She didn’t know what the clutch was for.

The car was perfect, except for the fact it had a stick shift. My job was to teach her the art of driving with a manual transmission. At some point it just became easier for me to simply drive the car myself.

I had forgotten how much I had always enjoyed driving with a stick shift. I had gotten used to the less-involved, far more simplistic version of driving with an automatic transmission. But just like riding a bicycle I quickly regained the mechanics of smoothly negotiating gas-clutch-shift. For the first time in years I felt like I was actually driving, an active participant interacting with the road ahead. No more free ride for my left foot.

The biggest difference in driving a stick? Awareness. You focus far more intensely on things you wouldn’t ordinarily need to when driving an automatic transmission. You need to more fully understand your environment, observing and accounting for the contours and elevations of the road, shifting and adjusting accordingly, listening to and feeling the vibration of the engine in order to purposefully and intentionally respond with the fluidity and grace of a tai-chi master. A rather tactile experience. Continue reading “Life Is A Journey, But Are You The One Who’s Driving?”