Resetting Goals

So unfortunately a few of the goals I made earlier this week didn’t stick around. If you didn’t read that post, I wrote about 3 goals; regular exercise, daily meditation, and NOCNOM. To read more about them, go to this post.

Each day this week I meditated for at least 15 minutes or, for most of them, more. Sometimes I would wake up and meditate, others I’d do it after lunch, but I did keep that goal. By having a short required time (you can sit down for 5 minutes at any given moment), I was able to meditate on my own schedule. It was convenient and that’s why it stuck.

Exercise, on the other hand, requires more time. Most of the training I’ve done in the past focuses on cardio, which usually requires a shower afterward. If I want to exercise in the morning, I have to get up earlier rather than just fitting it into my schedule. However, I want to start the goal again with modifications.

Simple exercises like pushups, planks, crunches, and mountain climbers, require very little time. This makes them convenient because, like meditation, I can sprinkle them throughout the day. With the help of the Lift app, for the next 30 days I’m going to do pushups (varying), 1-minute planks, and 1-minute of flutter-kicks each day. As the days progress I’ll do more sets and at different times during the day.

NOCNOM (No Complaining, No Masturbating) is a totally different story. I’m blushing a little bit inside because I may or may not have broken it and it’s not from complaining. While I’ve been mostly successful, I can’t say I’m pure. Even though it’s been 5ish days, I have to admit, I do feel more energetic and I have a greater sex drive… as one would imagine. Nonetheless, it’s a great measure of discipline and I’m going to reattempt it starting tonight.

I mentioned it yesterday but you should really check out the “Lift” app for iPhone and Android. It’s a fantastic way to start building habits and interact with a new community. While I’ve only been on it a week, I’ve had a great experience with it and I encourage you to check it out!

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No Complaints

I never realized how difficult it would be to give up complaining. While it’s been an imperfect process, day 1 of NOCNOM has went on without a hitch. Only 29 more days of no complaining! It’s going great and I’m really enjoying it so far!

Giving up complaining has been unusual because I normally speak freely without paying any attention to what I’m saying. I don’t think about whether I’m complaining, complimenting, or anything. I just don’t spend time thinking about what I’m going to say. While that sounds bad, I think it makes me honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mean but I share my thoughts freely.

If you’ve seen the movie “What Women Want”, remember the scene where he’s getting tired of hearing everyone’s thoughts at work. He walks into an office with two of his coworkers, who are women, and there is silence. He doesn’t hear their thoughts because they openly share them. There isn’t any extra. It’s quiet because they speak their mind and they don’t have thoughts trapped inside. I think I’m somewhat like that.

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Super-Boost (Fitness Goals)

After a weekend of sulking, I decided that I needed to make goals for myself. The center of these goals is to improve cognition, mood, and overall fitness. Each of these three goals are tasks that I’ve done in the past and I know to work for me. While they may not work for everyone, I encourage you to make goals and work towards improving yourself. When you’re living life passively, it’s easy to get in a depressive funk. This was a solution to my downward spiral.

1. Regular Exercise

The first goal is the most physical. When I noticed that I was being a Debby Downer to myself, I thought about taking 5-HTP again. Last year it temporarily relieved my depression but left me feeling horrible after a couple months. Immediately I deterred myself and decided to go for a run.

It worked. The depressive funk cleared and I was able to focus on other things. While running I thought about my relationship to exercise. Earlier this year I wrote about being skinny (short story – I was tired of other people commenting on my diet and my body). While I am physically healthy, I had an unhealthy view of myself.

The way other people talked sounded like they wanted me to gain muscle or that my body wasn’t good enough. My way of rebelling was to neglect my body. Internally I wanted to prove to others that I was healthy, even without weight lifting. It was mostly ego, centered on displaying the image “I can be healthy like this”.

While that view hasn’t changed, I’ve decided that I don’t care what other people think anymore. I want to build my body for me. It doesn’t matter if they see me as skinny, muscly, or anywhere in-between. I’ve always been a health junkie, so it’s never been a question of health. I just want to see how I can maximize my body.

Plus, exercise has always helped manage my mood swings. That was the original goal from this weekend; I want to improve my life in as many ways as possible. If I can do that through exercise, then that’s a good place to start.

Haha, oh look at me. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to smile in this sort of picture so I made a serious face.

A few of the ways that cardiovascular exercise improves your mind/body are through growth factors. In the book “Spark“, John J. Ratey discusses BDNF, VEGF, IGF-1, FGF-2, and other ways that your body changes through exercise. The next day after a good run, I feel mentally sharp, clear, and fit. I want to maximize that.

In this first picture I look bigger than in real life. I want to focus on my arms and my chest. People have bothered me over the last few years to start going to the gym. As an act of defiance, I always said I’d just do bodyweight exercises. I never liked gyms or the gym-rat mentality, so I read books on exercise.

Unfortunately I never picked it up. I have a few bodyweight books next to my bed now but I’m going to start a routine for this week and change it over the next month. My goal is to run 2 1/2 miles on Mon, Wed, Fri and to do bodyweight exercises on Tues and Thurs. I’m working next weekend so I don’t have anything planned for those days.

Afterwards I’m going to swap and do running on Tues and Thurs. I’m already great at running, so after a week my body should be used to movement again. At that time I’ll focus on bodyweight exercises Mon, Wed, Fri. Each session will be approx. 30 minutes.

Later on I’ll develop a plan that involves Pilates or yoga to improve flexibility.

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Another aspect I struggle with is diet. I’m a Pescatarian, which means that I’m a vegetarian that eats fish and other seafood. This means my base protein intake is lower than average. I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, which are quick to to be burned off. Over the next month I will integrate more fish and proteins into my diet.

In the past I’ve raved about how great cold showers are. They increase circulation, help with breathing, and, of course, they wake you up like nobody’s business. Since I wrote that post in December, I stopped taking cold showers. I don’t know why but it just happened over time. Everyday I will take at least one cold shower.

2. Daily Meditation

Moving onto other goals, mediation is another great activity that boosts happiness. Personally, I feel more alert through the day, my mind is quieter, and I’m better able to concentrate after a good meditation. For the last year, I’ve supplemented sessions as necessary, usually 5-10 minutes in the middle of a rough day.

Now I want to make it a regular thing. For this goal to be reasonable, and to blend with this 365 project, I’m aiming for at least 15 minutes a day of sitting meditation. This will continue on for the next two weeks or until I decide to change it.

Other people I know that meditate have qualities that I want to find in myself. Easy traits to notice are presence, clarity, and peacefulness. When you’re having a conversation, they’re participating in it. They aren’t waiting to respond and their mind isn’t wandering. It’s just another wellness boost.

3. NOCNOM (No Complaining, No Masturbating)

The original name for this goal is NOBNOM (No Booze, No Masturbating), and the goal is to increase average testosterone. Rather than taking supplements to increase testosterone, removing alcohol and masturbation naturally levels it back out. Since I’m underage and already choose to be sober, I’ve adopted the alternate challenge to eliminate complaining.

I know it sounds silly but Tim Ferriss talked about his success with it. He listed increased focus, productivity, and sex drive on his blog. It’s just something to try over the next month. Hopefully I’ll free up some extra time, keep more protein in my body 😉 and become more focused. Who knows?

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The reason I’m focusing on exercise, meditation, and NOCNOM (that acronym won’t get any better) is to improve my life. Each of them are simple things that I can implement into my daily life.

The point is, life is not a movie playing out in front of you. If you choose to sit back, it can seem that way. Life is happening inside of you and you’re the one who’s feeling it. This weekend, I felt helpless. I knew there were things I wanted to accomplish but I felt that I was going into a downward plummet. Even in creating these goals, I feel better. Instead of watching life pass by, make a few goals, accomplish them, and take part in your life.

I’ll keep you all up to date on how everything is going!

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Grabbing onto the Wheel

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July a couple of years back, a girl named Elodie lived in my house with my family. She was from France and came wide-eyed to America with the intention of improving her English. At the time, she was only 16 years old with the curiosity of a 4 year old. Her goal soon became to explore as much of our culture as she could.

As it turns out, part of that culture was taking private flying lessons. When the opportunity presented itself, she took up the offer and flew away with it so to speak. Having no previous experience with flying, she hopped in ready to go.

When the plane took off, her nervousness became apparent. She sat quietly in her seat while her whole body trembled. The flying instructor got her into the air and when we reached a high enough altitude, he took his hands off the wheel.

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Elodie slowly reached forward and grabbed on. It was clear that she was unsure of herself and her ability to steer the already flying aircraft.

It took a few minutes until she became comfortable with turning the aircraft. After many more sweeps she gained a confidence in herself. The trembling was gone and she steered fluidly left and right above the beautiful chain of lakes below us. For the next 20 minutes, she was in bliss at how remarkable it was to fly. We were thousands of feet in the air and she could direct us anywhere.

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Life moves in the same way; we’re nervous to grab the handles and steer for ourselves. Internally we quiver at the thought of being in control of our lives. We understand how to steer the plane but we’re busy thinking about how many things could go wrong. After all, when you’re a thousand feet in the air, you have a thousand feet to fall if you make a mistake.

Everywhere people are telling you what to do with your life: “You should go to college” or “You should start a family. Where you’re from, the society you live in, the people you hang around, and the family you love, all tell you where to go in life.

Equally importantly, they tell you what you can’t do with your life. “You can’t fly to Europe, where will you stay? How will you afford it?”, “You can’t go to art school, you’ll never make enough money to live!”, or even “What are you doing with your life?”

It’s in these moments that you’re shaking like Elodie was during that flight. Internally you know how to fly the plane. You know generally where you want to go and a little on how to get there. At this time everyone’s voice has gotten into your head and suddenly the voice you hear is your own. “You can’t do it, you’re going to crash this plane.”

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Deep down inside of yourself, you know this isn’t true. When the pilot took his hands off the wheel, Elodie nervously grabbed on. She didn’t know how it felt to fly, or how to move, but she had to take charge.

I want you to feel that same responsibility in yourself. After a few minutes of flying, Elodie calmed down. She took a breath of air and steered us around the lakes. After you start steering your life, you’ll calm down and realize you can go wherever you want to. The sky is the limit.

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People snicker at me, and I assure you it isn’t because of this beautiful face. Instead it’s from openly telling others my dreams. I want to hike the Appalachian Train (2,000+ miles), I want to spend six months CouchSurfing across the country, study at a school in Denmark, and somewhere in there I want to WOOF in Australia.

It is my greatest hope that other people realize that their dreams are within their grasp and that they are free to fly their own plane. When I share my goals, I hope that the fire in my belly lights a flame in yours. When you see that I’m not listening to everyone else, I hope that you grab that steering wheel and set your own course.

At first you may shake, but after a few turns you’ll calm down. I guarantee that you are capable of doing so much more than what other people say. You can set your own course and fly until the skies end. If you do this, when you finally land, you’ll find that you’ve gone to the place you’ve always wanted to be. There’s no greater feeling than doing what you love.

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Where are you going in Life?

As many people my age do, I’ve been questioning where I’m going in life and what paths I’m taking. This query has made me wrestle with both happiness and depression, leaving me worn out. Everywhere around me I see people content with mediocre lives, pushing off their dreams until later in life or when their jobs allow it. I can’t help but look at myself and fear the same end.

This terrifies me and wakes me up in the morning wondering what I’ve done with the last three months. I see a dullness in the eyes of the people I work with and I feel the same boredom dwelling within myself. Joe De Sena talks about having a “fire in his belly” to go out into the world: I feel the same ache and drive to experience as much of life as I can.

When my work commitment finishes in 3 years, I leave no anticipation of continuing here. I will not spend my life pointlessly accumulating money to buy things. I have higher dreams than to climb the corporate ladder into the later years of my life.

I find myself questioned by my coworkers about if I’m going to stay here for the next two decades into retirement. When I reply that I’m leaving, I see that there’s a confusion in their eyes. It’s wonderful having a stable job with great benefits, but my heart lays in other places. Places where my 4 weeks a year of vacation cannot coexist with.

After starting “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” I’ve realized that I need to be out in the world again. When I leave, I will start with 6 months thru-hiking the AT. Afterwards I’m going to hike the Camino De Santiago De Compostuela across Northern Spain. Sometime I also want to go WOOFing through Australia and New Zealand. I also want to combine RideShare and CouchSurfing to explore the Western USA and Canada. My friend in Denmark has even convinced me to go to college there, so I want to do that.

Timothy Ferriss’ book “The 4-hour Workweek” talks about this phenomena where people work with the anticipation of doing everything they dream of after they retire. They over-work themselves because they think it will all pay off in the end. However, once many people retire, they look back at their younger years and wish that they did more when they physically could

“Your Money or Your Life” is another great read which talks about our relationship with money. It discusses how money is the currency of our lives. When you hold a $100 bill in your hand, you’re holding hours of your life that you spent working. You’ve exchanged your time for that piece of paper. While this isn’t bad, our relationship to money has become skewed. There’s a limit to how much money we need to live and how much is just plain overworking.

Right now that scale is tipped to one side in my life: towards working too much and experiencing too little. For my previous post, I wrote about how I want to create a book. I think that when I finish my time here, I’ll start the book. It seems that people have a lot of time to think when they’re hiking the AT, perhaps that would be the time to write it.

Of course, I still have another third of this 365 to complete! December is coming up quicker than I thought, and I feel like I’ve learned many things about myself in the last year. We’ll see where these next 4 months take us and play it by ear.

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“Once in a while, it really hits people that they don’t have to experience life in the way they have been told to.”

-Alan Knightley

Falling in love with the Airport

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This photo was taken four years ago during my first journey over to Spain. It was the first time I traveled alone internationally and I will never forget the experience. The people I met and the places I saw forever changed how I saw the world.

Everything starts at the airport, and the airport is built on rushing people, overpriced food, and repetitive loudspeaker messages. Behind the blare and initial discomfort, there’s a deeper emotion: the feeling of excitement and wonder. It’s the blood of traveling and if you listen close enough, you can hear its heartbeat.

Each person is moving in their own direction, completely unaffected by everyone else. The paths that each person takes are varied and go to different destinations. You see people dressed up going to business conferences while others lug around family members on vacation.

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This trip to Spain was significant because it was the first time I went alone. No one was there to tell me which way to go or who to be. I could find my path and make my own accomplishments. Getting to each gate wasn’t difficult, but I felt great knowing I could get around.

Everyone was so diverse and unique but we were all the same. On the flight to Paris, I sat next to a girl in her mid-20s. She was flying from a Google business conference in Hawaii back to her home in France. On the flight she spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German to me. What amazes me is that she was only a few years older than I am now. She was born in Colombia, an incredibly poor country, and grew up to be a Google Analyst living in Paris. What have I done in my life that can even compare?

Occasionally when I meet new people at the airport I ask them what advice they can offer to a 20-year-old. The words they give often shock me. On the flight from Minneapolis to Charleston, a woman told me: “No matter what paths you take in life, know that you can always change course. It doesn’t matter how far you go in one direction, you can always change. Don’t ever think that you have to keep going on one path”.

That is the spirit of the airport: the power to choose your path and destinations in life. You become closer to your goals and the excitement of pursing your dreams. Each flight leads to new places and new experiences where you could do anything. I think that is where we feel most alive, where we can follow our dreams and pursue anything without the baggage of where we live or who we are. In the airport, we are stripped of everything and left with only our pursuits. That is why I love the airport.

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5 Steps to get to Your Destination

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1. Before you can do anything… STOP!

Ever since the industrial revolution we’ve worked tirelessly. When we’re not working, we’re on the internet, watching TV, or busy with some other mind numbing activity. Instead, STOP and take a breather: turn off your cell phone, put the TV remote down, and close your laptop. With how busy we are, it’s a wonder we accomplish anything.

Go outside for a 15-20 minute walk. If you wake up at early for work/school, you probably wake up around the same time on the weekend. You may fall back asleep, but your body is used to waking up at a set time. It takes a few weeks for you to adjust to a different schedule. In the same way, your mind won’t be able to relax until you teach it how to take a break. Find time in your schedule to hit the pause button and do nothing for a change.

2. Get Perspective

So you want to change your life, eh? Well, you’ve gotta know where you’re coming from. The easiest way to start achieving your goals is to recognize where you are now. If you want to go to the gym 5 days a week, focus on how often you go now. Give yourself a comparison and a goal to strive for. The only way you’ll see change is if you have something to compare it to.

A couple of weeks ago I made a goal to run everyday before work (for that week). By gaining perspective of my previous habits, I was able to focus on what I wanted to accomplish. I could notice my habits of hitting the snooze button and choose to change them. Taking a step back, I was able to look at where I was going.

3. Find Out Where You Want to Go

The surest way to get lost is to neglect choosing a destination. With all the glitter and shiny things, it’s easy to get distracted. We want to go in a million different directions but we don’t have time to go everywhere. Choosing a destination will help you focus and accomplish that task.

4. Become Your Own Cartographer

There are a million ways you could meet your dreams. Figure out how you want to do it! You can’t plan it all out but by creating ways to accomplish your tasks, you can save time and energy. Instead of bursting out into action, take a moment to figure out how you want to do it.

Sitting down for 10 minutes daily can do wonders! If you know your destination, it helps to plot a course to get there. If you had a map that lead you to your destination, which course would you take? Are you in it for the trip or just the destination? Do you want to take the scenic route or the shortest path possible.

5. Get Out and do it!

Making a map is only good if you go out and use it! There’s a point when you have to stop looking at your destination and get out there! You can only plan a certain amount. Accepting serendipity is part of the journey! By taking action, you can make your dreams come true.

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Everyone already knows this information, we just choose to ignore it. We all know we need to take time to be alone and to choose where we want to go. Maybe you know your final destination. The reason we don’t get to our destinations is because we neglect to take action or we don’t properly plan. We don’t have enough perspective, so we choose an impossible destination.

Whatever your reason is, take time to think about it. Find where you are now and where you want to go. Take action and you’ll soon find yourself wherever you want to be.

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