I got this new hand tattoo a few weeks ago.
Nothing to improve.
No problem to solve.
It’s a mindfulness meditation reminder to get out of the “fixer” mentality. Sometimes we need to be compassionate observers and be present, instead of scanning ourselves of problems and trying to “fix” us. Let’s stop wishing this moment be any different than what it is in it’s truest, rawest form. Then, from there, we can experience fully and act intentionally.
Maybe a little woo-woo for some of you, but I hope you stick around.
Because while I’m definitely not monk, I take my mindfulness practice seriously ⏤ I’m a firm believer that the quality of our thoughts dictate the quality of our life.
I posted this hand pic on my Instagram story yesterday and it gave me an idea to write this email. I know how much certain mindfulness quotes have impacted me, so I figured I’d list them here so you can consider applying them as well.
This stuff is all intertwined.
And I guarantee that if you’re a more mindful person, reaching your fitness goals will feel less stressful and more effortless.
So I hope these help you out as much as they’ve helped me.
“Simply… begin again.”
⏤ Dr. Sam Harris
My interpretation: This one might’ve had the biggest impact on me. I think of this as my internal reset button. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, scatter-brained, guilty, or any other type of “negative” emotion, I pause and catch myself. I take a deep breath. And repeat in my head: “Just begin again.” It allows my mental dust to settle and wipe the moment-slate clean. I don’t need to wait until tomorrow, or next week, or for some event to occur to take back control of my headspace. Every moment is a fresh moment to begin again with full attention and intention. It’s extremely powerful, and I use it several times a day.
How I apply it in fitness: I’m sure we can all relate to declaring, “I’ll start my diet Monday.” But after you realize you’ve been saying variations of this for months or years and no real tangible progress has been made, something needs changed. And I think this saying can be a small mental catalyst. Sure, sometimes the new diet can wait. But if you’re sick of your own shit, remember that you can “begin again” at your very next meal, not Monday. And while it can feel related, what you did in the past needn’t have influence on your next decision. Maybe you’re in the gym, in a bad headspace, distracted, and having a poor workout. There’s no reason why you can’t pause, breathe, and just overwhelmingly decide that your next set is going to be the most intentional, focused, and effortful set you’ve ever done in your entire life. You have the opportunity, at any moment, to begin again.
“What if nothing was truly at stake here? What if improving your experience of the world was seen as a form of play, with no winners or losers?”
⏤ Nate Green
My interpretation: Excuse the bleakness, but we are all going to die. At some point in time, someone is going to say our names for the last time. This is not subjective. So, knowing that, what if we focused less time at war with ourselves, and with others? Do we have to spend large parts of our days drowning in our own anxieties and expectations? Why do we think we have so much to lose? The truth: there is no pressure. Relax. Play!
How I apply it in fitness: While I think short-term fitness goals can be motivating, they can sometimes miss the forest through the trees. In case you didn’t realize, you’ll be working on your fitness goals and health forever. Well, at least, you should. So, what’s your rush? There is already so much suffering in our lives, there is no need to suffer twice by making it worse in our heads. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? What if we did all the health-positive actions we wanted to do anyway, but dropped the worrying? The outcome will be the same either way, but we’ll arrive much happier.
“Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.”
⏤ Hunter S. Thompson
My interpretation: Goals can be helpful to provide direction and intention, but they are usually a means to an end. And, they’re temporary. After reaching one goal, you’ll simply set another, and another. So, therefore, it probably makes sense to reverse engineer what makes you feel the most alive on a daily basis, then optimize for that.
How I apply it in fitness: I live life how I want, then build my fitness approach around that. My goal is not to be the best at dieting and exercise. It’s to use them to support everything else that makes life worth living.
“Just go to the shed. Befriending reality in this way takes courage – perhaps even more courage than the standard confrontational remedy to the tasks you’ve been avoiding, which feels more like getting into a bar fight with reality. Still, it’s nothing superhuman. Quite the opposite. It’s just going to the shed, having a look around, taking stock. It’s just hanging out in the presence of your gnawing rats, waiting to see what strikes you as the best next step.”
⏤ Oliver Burkeman
My interpretation: Burkeman uses the “shed” metaphor here as a way to embrace your problems with minimal pressure to fix everything at once. You don’t have any obligations to uphold a standard, you’re just examining without judgment. I imagine walking into the shed of my psyche, placing both hands on my hips as I scan the walls, and letting out a dad-like sigh that tails off with a faint whistle. Followed by a, “Welp… better get to it, then.”
How I apply it in fitness: I’ve worked with clients who had 20, 30, 40+ lb to lose, which I know felt daunting. I told them to let me worry about their rate of progress, they just focus on what they’re eating for dinner tonight. “Knowing the daily targets we’ve set for you ⏤ what’s your next best decision you can make?” I made sure they kept their attention small and local, stacking wins each day. When they felt overwhelmed, I directed them back to what was controllable. Outcomes can’t be forced, but we can increase our chances of success by checking the right boxes each day. They went to the shed over and over again, inching closer to their goals every time.
“Periods of exploration can be like winter farming; nothing is visibly growing, but a subterranean process is at work and will in time yield a bounty.”
⏤ Derek Thompson
My interpretation: Not all progress is forward. I heard this quote a while ago and it’s repeatedly provided comfort during times I’ve felt lost. We all see it on #motivational social media, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying!” Ehhh, meh. I think that’s bullshit. I’m a huge fan of coasting, thinking, and feeling things out. Sometimes the next move isn’t obvious. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is to stop work at noon and get bottomless mimosa’s with friends. It’s also important to consider that the arbitrary imaginary measuring stick you’re using to justify the quality of your life is incorrect?
How I apply it in fitness: I’ve shared this quote with clients when they’re going through a maintenance phase (an agreed upon period of time where fat loss goals aren’t the highest priority), or while on vacation/taking a trip. When life gets hectic, maintaining whatever progress they’ve made is progress. This will hit home because they realize in the past they’ve let everything go, slipping back into old habits and regressing. It’s a vicious cycle. But if they reduce expectations and make maintenance the goal, they can hit the ground running once they’re ready to get more aggressive again, or returned from their trip. When it comes to long-term healthful behavior change, avoiding major losses over time can be just as valuable as hitting goals, often more so.
Letting go of attachment isn’t about rejecting your wants in the sense of getting rid of the trash or throwing cold water on a fire. A more accurate image is allowing your tea to cool rather than drinking it from an overly hot cup and burning your lips and mouth. Think of it as releasing the energetic hold your desires have on your mind. Release arises spontaneously from mindful observation and wise reflection.
⏤ Phillip Moffitt
My interpretation: This is similar to the “going to the shed” line of thinking, except with our desires instead of problems. Here we are identifying with our desires, but aren’t letting them consume us. They’re present, we’re just not clinging to the thought of obtaining them (or to the thought of not having them yet). There’s a difference between being aware and intentional around things that will make our life better, and desperately grasping at them. The former will allow for more effortless change, while the latter creates resistance and excess suffering.
How I apply it in fitness: I see this as a lesson around choosing the long-term over the short-term, which is arguably one of the most important foundations of behavior change. We have to deal with cravings and temptations on a daily basis. FOMO from friends, wanting to hit snooze, and stressful work days will always test us. So we have to learn to sit in that discomfort, letting those emotions arise and pass away. And this goes beyond saying no to dessert. This extends much deeper, where we need to ask ourselves if we’re OK with never reaching full acceptance with our body and fitness. Our desires for change and improvement will always be present for the rest of our lives… now what?
When you’re ready, here are 3 more ways I can help you:
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