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

There Is No Need To Struggle Alone

There Is No Need To Struggle Alone

“Just suck it up.”

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I had no idea until just recently. One of the goals of NMHA Month is to hopefully provide a safe space for uncomfortable conversations around mental and emotional health. The unfortunate stigmas surrounding mental health often prevent any conversations from even getting started. That silence keeps us suffering…alone. Alone with the pain and the hurt and the anxiety and isolation we may be experiencing.

That silence, at times, can even even end lives.

As a man, I was taught to keep my emotions to myself. I think most men have been told or shown the same. Expressing emotions is a sign of weakness, they’d say. “Real” men simply “suck it up” or “deal with it” or are told to “man up”. Manhood and emotions don’t mix, I was told. That generational stigma often keeps us from even admitting that we are struggling, let alone actually seek some help and guidance. That stigma is not gender specific.

That stigma needs to end.

I have a rather small number of people I consider friends. The benefit of that is I actually know them some quite well. I’ve gotten to know their stories. And not just the happy stuff. I’ve gotten to know many of their pains, their struggles, and their challenges.

There are friends currently dealing with the heaviness life sometimes forces us to carry…the anxiety, the uncertainty, the unhealed traumas, the emotional scars, the pressure, the unmet expectations, the feelings of doubt and unworthiness, of being in accepted as they are. Often hidden behind the facades of some beautiful smiles or jovial laughter.

Life teaches us many things, but learning to deal with the weight of life is something we’re forced to figure out on our own.

Often we will try and minimize the pain we feel. Others, we tell ourselves, have it much worse than we do. But our pains and hurts and traumas need never be justified. They exist. If we feel them then they are real, regardless of what else is going on in the world. If we minimize them, all we are doing is suppressing them, and the suppressed pains always find a way back to the surface eventually. They seldom simply go away by themselves.

I see Mental Health Awareness Month as a great opportunity for me to proactively begin a dialog with those closest to me. It’s an opportunity to remind me to simply check in and touch base, to simply call or text and let them know I’m thinking about them. To remind them I’m here for them, to support them. Because you just don’t know what others are going through. You just don’t know what may be weighing them down.

Maybe checking in is something we can all do for each other?

Check in with the “strong” ones. Often the “strong” ones are strong because they feel they have to be, sort of their way of attempting to rise above the weight of their pain. Check in with the “quiet” ones, the ones who’ve been less available and less accessible than usual. And those who tell you they’re “fine” are usually anything but. “I’m fine” is a way to answer the “How are you doing?” question without having to actually answer it.

And don’t forget to check in on the most important person in your life. You. How are you doing? How does your life feel? Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or simply not feeling like your usual self. Is there someone you could reach out to, a friend or colleague, and let them know how you’ve been feeling?

Struggle, at times, feels inevitable.

But there is no need to struggle alone.

Let’s take care of each other, shall we?

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

The Promise

The Promise

I probably won’t have the answer.

(Questions sometimes don’t have answers.)

I probably won’t fully understand, either.

And, no, I won’t know exactly how you feel.

What I can give you?

My presence.

Compassionate presence.

My full attention.

My open ears.

My open arms.

My open heart.

My infinite patience.

My silence if that’s what is needed.

I will never minimize the burden you carry.

I just won’t let you carry it alone.

Photo by Brent Ninaber on Unsplash

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

Thursday was a big day for Danielle.

11 months sober.

I didn’t even know sobriety was an issue for her.

You could feel both her pride and apprehension in her Facebook post informing her friends of her milestone. Apparently she’s been down this path before, she knows it’s something she is taking one step at a time.

It was great to see the love, support, and encouragement her friends posted in reply. Her replies to their posted comments indicated she, too, was quite happy for the love being sent her way.

Danielle bravely decided to publicly share her struggles with those in her social media world. Bravely, because our world tends to look down on struggle, leaving many of those who do struggle to struggle in silence, battling their own demons alone. Struggle often Continue reading “This One Assumption Can Save A Life”