Seasons

The universe operates in terms of cycles – or seasons as I like to call them.

This applies to obvious things in our environment – like the changing weather throughout the year; as well as other things like relationships that come – and go – and then come back together again, businesses that thrive – wither and then come back to life, or as was the case of my White River 50 experience, emotions that go from good –  to terrible – to oh my god I’m gonna die – to great….all over the course of a few hours of racing.

The seasonal nature of things plays in out so many ways.

I’ve seen this enough in my own life that I know it’s how things work. Sometimes the seasons play out over the course of a few hours. Other times it takes many years…but they always do play out.

Yogis have understood the seasonal nature of things at a cosmic scale for thousands of years.

Acknowledge the seasons and know that when things are not going so well…they are bound to improve. Likewise, when things are going great – take the opportunity to “prepare for winter” – that is to say, remember your successes and draw on them stay strong and confident in your purpose when things become challenging. This is where journals become powerful tools, as do vision boards, affirmations or regular meditation on a positive intention.

A look at the first climb during my White River 50 mile run.

Shift Your Vision – Lesson from a Hike to Lake Serene

I took this photo of one of the amazing waterfalls on the way to Lake Serene, I adjusted the exposure on my Nikon D60 SLR to capture the silky smooth nature of the water rushing over this granite slab.

I went on what turnout out to be an incredible hike yesterday, though at times I felt pretty miserable. I headed to Lake Serene, a wonderful hike in the Cascade Mountains about 90 minutes from Seattle. Just drive east on Rt 2 towards Steven’s Pass. Head 7 miles past the hamlet of Gold Bar and turn right on Mt Index Rd (a well-maintained dirt road) and you’ll come to the trail-head.

It is a 7-8 mile hike round-trip, with the first part fairly flat to rolling along small rises in the hills. You’ll cross streams (great fun!) with an optional spur taking you to Bridle Falls (a 1 mile round-trip hike straight up the side of the mountain!). The final 2 miles to Lake Serene are a steady and steep climb, all the way to an epic looking alpine lake. On a nice day you can see the 3000 foot granite cliffs rising from the far side of the lake like an ancient amphitheater. It is totally surreal! Here is a photo panorama I took last year on a clear day:

Photo panorama composed from 10 individual pics of Lake Serene on clear day last year.

Yesterday however, the weather did not cooperate. It was very cold at the start (40 degrees) and the rain began to pick up from a mist to a steady downpour. My supposedly rain-proof coat gave up and quickly became soaked through all the way! My pants were pretty useless too, so I zipped off the bottom portion and just hiked in shorts (people looked at me like I was crazy!). In fact, I resolved to hike “barefoot” using my Vibram’s, and everyone I passed on the trail asked me about them. It was pretty funny since most people were wearing intense hiking gear, with gaiters, poles, and full water-proof regalia…and here I was with a small day-pack, no shoes and shorts!

I did this entire hike in my Vibram Five-Fingers, felt like I was walking barefoot! Yes, I got tons of questions from other hikers on the trail :).

The trail was full of large puddles and at times was flowing with running water. After a few hundred yards I stopped trying to step around the puddles and just tramped right through them. These Vibram’s are meant for walking through streams while kayaking, and work incredibly well. Over time my feet have gotten used to the rocks and roots, and I only winced a few times when I stepped on something sharp poking through. I relished the chance to dunk my legs in streams mid-calf while other hiker tentatively tip-toed across rocks trying not to get their shoes wet! The sense of absolutely freedom that comes from just going right through mud, water and not worrying about the conditions is so amazingly cool.

Self-portrait!

I eventually made it to the summit, where the weather was much colder, the streams were frigid and it actually was snowing! My feet were cold but surprisingly not as cold as I thought. In fact, my hands were far colder than my toes!!!! I eventually reached Lake Serene, and this time, instead of seeing an epic amphitheater fit for the gods, was greeted by a misty fog-drenched lake, half-covered with snow. The granite columns were invisible. My arrival was also welcomed by the sound of periodic “ka-booms” in the far distance, followed by low-rumbles that grew to deafening roars. Indeed, avalanches on the far side of the lake were happening every few minutes! I could hear the rush of the snow, but due to the fog could not see a thing. It’s neat how when one of our senses gets cut off, the others are so much more in tune. Luckily, my position at the water’s edge surrounded by flat earth and large trees made me very safe from direct hit by an avalanche.

Lake Serene this time around, covered in snow with the sound of avalanches rumbling through the natural amphitheater every few minutes!

On my way down from the lake, I began to get colder and ridiculously hungry. I had plenty of food and water with me, but due to the cold, was hesitant to take a break and eat like I should have. As I descended the mountain, I was laser focused on the trail right in front of me. I wasn’t looking around. I was day-dreaming and not very present. I was out in this pristine wilderness but not soaking it in, I was in my own bubble. I might as well have been in a shopping mall or lounging in my apartment, I was that oblivious.

Suddenly, I turned a corner in the trail and came to a small vantage point. I was still laser-focused on the muddiness of the trail ahead, not enjoying the environment. This lovely woman was standing just aside from the trail and greeted me with a big smile. It was enough to get me to stop for a moment. She said a few words and seemed incredibly relaxed and enjoying the moment. I just stood there, still feeling cold, hungry and staring at my mud-soaked feet.

Suddenly, I saw her zip open her back and pull something out. It was a camera! She turned to one side and pointed across the valley, saying “check that out.” Turning my gaze I saw an epic waterfall, one of the biggest I’ve seen in a long time, pouring off the top of the mountain, spraying mist everywhere. In this instant I went from feeling cold and anxious to feeling totally calm and happy. A small shift in my vision made all the distance. I pulled out me own camera to capture the moment (check it out below….).

A small in vision led me to notice this amazing vantage of a roaring waterfall! The picture really doesn't do it justice. It's spectacular.

In the end, the hike was remarkable. I didn’t get the view of Lake Serene that I hoped for, but a small shift in my vision allowed me to see the bigger scenery that was there, and come away with a pleasant experience despite the conditions! If such a small shift in focus could have such a profound affect on a single walk in the woods, imagine how we can use such small shifts in our vision to make every day amazing!

Using Jedi mind power to support a fallen tree!
There is beauty all around, we just need to stop and notice.

Know what you don't want

As you start setting your intentions and aspirations for the new year, don’t fret if you can’t pinpoint the exact things that you want to do, places you want to visit, people you want to meet or other experiences you want to have. Try as best you can to make your intention something that is empowering and motivating for you, and back it up with a few specific actions you can take to realize that intention in the world (e.g. goals).

Our Home

Then recognize that there are a lot of things going on out there in the world, and you might not be able to pinpoint the exact experiences you want to have and goals you want to achieve in the coming year…yet.

For me, I create a list of intentions for every new year, and a few goals that substantiate each one. For example, one intention I have this year is to Embody My True Personal Power and Vitality, and one goal in line with this is to compete in a off-road trail running race this year (distance isn’t important). That said, I don’t at this point have all my specific goals nailed down, and that is ok. I know that as the days move on I’ll have a clearer idea of the specific goals I want….goals that are lined up with my intentions for the year.

However, this year I am also going to try something new….I am going to spend a little (not a ton, but some) time doing is identifying a list of things I don’t want to experience this year! I am motivated to do this after reading this little quote by Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

It got me thinking. I think many people, especially those who are motivated to grow personally and professionally, often get oversubscribed with doing things…and this makes it tough to 1) really focus on the things that matter and 2) take advantage of ad-hoc fun experiences that pop up from time to time.

For example, just a few days ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to go to go snowshoeing for a few days….staying in a “Yurt” near Mt. Rainier. Apparently, someone in the group fell sick and a spot opened up. With 24 hours notice, I was able to take advantage of this since I hadn’t booked my weekend full of random stuff to do. It ended up being one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a long time.

So after you’ve spent time setting your intentions and creating your vision board, think about a few things you are willing to cut-back on or totally cut-out. Do so and you might just end up creating the free time and space to really achieve those lofty goals, and have a ton of fun in the process.

The Purpose of Life is to Sing and Dance Along the Way

An short but profound story by Alan Watts. Enjoy.

Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

8bc72ed7It’s another year, and another time to reflect on the amazing things have been created over the past year, while also considering great new possibilities for the coming 12 months.

It’s also a time of year when gyms and health clubs are packed and hordes of people are crowding the organic produce sections at the local grocer in an attempt to clean up their diet, their bodies and their overall health. Yes, it’s that time of year – resolution time.

Even though history shows that the vast majority of resolutions set at the beginning of the year go unfulfilled – people still go through the process of setting them and then charging out to achieve them with reckless abandon.

I mention health specifically since it is the most common resolution people tend to make, but there are many more. Exercise more, eat better, make more money, work less, etc. However, despite the variety, there is a still a unifying thread under them all.

Each and every one of these resolutions (at least the vast majority) will go unfulfilled. Most will not make it past January 15th.

This has nothing to do with the capabilities or level of dedication that someone has to see a goal through. It just has everything to do wih the actual resolution itself. A poorly set goal is a waste of time  – plain and simple. The key here is the power and ultimate motivation (intent) behind the goal to begin with.

It is the intention, not the resolution or goal itself, that truly matters.

New Year’s Resolutions Cut Off Choice

When you resolve, you decide. That is to say, you close off all possibilities. If you are standing on a trail in the woods, and you come to a fork, you have a choice to make. You can go back (turn around) or go on one fork or the other. Taking a course of action essentially precludes the others. While in theory you could take one fork for a while and then turn back and take the other – this doesn’t happen in real life (as an aside – in real world studies of people who have gotten hopelessly lost in the wilderness, backtracking almost never happens, even when they have no idea where they are going!).

When you take a path, it is human nature to close off other possibilities. Our brains are wired so that we can filter out information that isn’t in line with our goal and identify information that is. The issue here is that while focusing in on a goal is a powerful skill, life is often far from clear cut, and when we commit to accomplishing some thing, we may miss out on noticing other things that could be even more aligned to our true needs and support our life in a more positive way.

For example, someone may make a resolution to jog every day for at least 30 minutes.This seems like an admirable goal at first, and frankly, exercising every day is a great thing for most of us to aspire to. However, suppose that what this person is really after is to have more energy in their life so they can come home from a busy day at work and still have the energy left to play with their kids.

Jogging is a nice goal, but consider how this resolution could actually close of other possibilities for to get exercise – opportunities that might involve other things besides jogging – and might actually preclude activities that could incorporate having fun with the kids while getting exercise at the same time (like playing ball, tennis, hiking with them, etc.).

In other words, resolutions restrict opportunities by focusing the human attention on a very specific goal, a goal that might not be directly aligned with the underlying motivating force for change.

The Power of Intention

It’s the “Why” that matters, not the “What.” If you have a goal to get six-pack abs, lose 20 pounds or clean up your diet – those resolutions are all about the “What.” They don’t consider the “Why.” This is why so many resolutions like this fail hopelessly.

The “Why’s” are the compelling reasons that will motivate you to get up early and stay up late in the pursuit of something that truly matters to you. In the case of losing weight, ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” Is it because it will allow you to live longer? Play with your kids without getting tired? Play sports at a higher level and more safely? For each of those “Why’s,” there is in turn another another set of reasons that are driving them. Continue down this path of asking why, and you’ll notice a series of deeper intentiuons that will bubble up.

These fundamental intentions are the driving forces that will be strong motivations for you over the long-term, when the going gets tough and the initial energy and zeal behind your goal fades away. They will serve as powerful landmarks that will open you up (and more specifically open up your sub-conscious mind) to people, places, things and experiences that are in line with your intention.

8 Steps to Connect With Your Intentions

Here are a few simple steps I take to come up with my intentions for the new year. I’ve done this for the past 4 years or so (modifying the process along the way) and it works incredibly well. Try it out even if you already have your goals all set for the new year, and see how it can help you to get even more clear on what your real intentions are for the year.

Brainstorm.

Begin by taking few blank sheets of paper. I recommend doing this by hand (not on the computer) to avoid distraction and allow for free-association. You can even put on background music if you like. It also is a good idea to do this with others (friends, family) for extra motivation and accountability. Take 10 minutes and just brainstorm all the different things, people, experiences you would like to come into your life. Don’t worry about the time-frame. Just brainstorm. Let your mind flow. Be sure to consider your health, wealth, relationships and career. Think broad. Your goals should be to keep writing without stopping.

Classify.

Take a moment and them write a 1, 3, 5, 10, or 20+ next to each item in your list based on the time frame for the item. For example, you might have “buying a house” as a 5 year goal, but “losing 20 pounds” as a 1 year goal.

Prioritize.

Now, circle your top 5 (you choose how many….3-5 is a good range to start) goals for 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.

Cluster.

Re-write your circled goals on another sheet of paper, but instead of writing your goals in a list, you will do an affinity map. To do this, begin to write goals that are similar to each other close to each other. For example, if you have a goal to “lose 20 pounds” and another to “run a marathon” these might be close to each other because they are related to health and fitness. If you have sticky notes available, you can even write all of your circled goals on stickies and then arrange them into little clusters based on similarity. At the end of this step, you should see a few clusters begin to emerge.

Embody.

For each cluster, consider the person you would have to become to achieve those goals. This is where you begin to develop your intention. For me, I structure my intentions in the form of “I am…“. For a cluster of health-related goals – for example – I might write “I am a strong and lean physical powerhouse.” Putting the “I” at the beginning makes them personal, and using “I am” precludes that you are already that which you seek – your job is just to discover that and see it in yourself! Once you have discovered this intention, write it down as the title for the cluster.

Prioritize.

Look across the intentions you have created…all starting with “I am”….and if you have more than 5, circle the top 5 (ideally you would have 3-5 at most). These would be five things that – if you really embodied these intentions for the year – would completely transform your life and the lives of those around you.

Purpose.

Now – for each of these 3-5 intentions – write a short paragraph about why they matters. Think about the people you will impact for the better. Think about how your life will be better. Think about how you will feel when you embody the intention every day of your life.

Clarify.

Revisit the list of specific goals you have for each intention (look at the affinity map clusters you created) – and add any additional goals that might have come to mind for you. Take about 10-15 minutes to really flesh these out. You can also take this time to get more specific about goals you have already identified. For example, if your goals is to “lose weight,” perhaps you can get more specific and say “I will lose 10 pounds of fat while gaining 5 pounds of muscle in the next 3 months.”

There you have it! Post your intentions in a clearly visible place and reflect on them (and the goals that support them) every day.

Through following this simple process, you will used your brain’s natural desire to set and accomplish specific resolutions/goals to uncover the fundamental intentions that are driving your desires. You will also have a specific set of goals that map to each intention, giving you a clear place to start from and march toward.

However, unlike traditional resolutions, the intention – that is to say – the role that you have created for yourself (the “I am…..“) is what really matters.

Keep reading these intentions to yourself every day, and your brain will continue to serve you by being on the lookout for situations and experiences that can help you become the person you intent to become.

I’ve used this process to achieve big things in my my own life, I hope that it is useful to you. Please try it out and let me know how it goes in the comments!

Motivation: What It Means and How To Get It!

This article is a summary from a live group discussion (moderated by Ravi Raman) during the April 14th Seattle Personal Development POWERGROUP meeting.

Motivation is not some magic gift reserved only for the exceptional and accomplished few. It is something that each and every one of us can harness to get more done, while enjoying the process. In fact, achieving ANY goal, or completing any task requires some level of motivation.

What is Motivation?

Defined; motivation means: “the PSYCHOLOGICAL feature that arouses an organism to ACTION toward a desired GOAL.”

The letters in capitals are VERY IMPORTANT to internalize.

Motivation is PSYCHOLOGICAL, which means that it is something that comes from within you. It is not some mysterious force that comes and goes as it pleases. It is something that can be understand and indeed CREATED at will.

The results of being motivated are ACTIONS. Action is movement and it is through this movement that actual progress is made. Lastly, all this progress is made toward a desired GOAL. This last part is crucial. Without a clear goal and purpose, it is hard, if not impossible to get motivated.

So it stands that becoming a motivated individual is completely within YOUR CONTROL. It is really a state of mind, that is manifested through the body (via action) toward a specific purpose (goal). Sound simple enough?

The Antithesis of Motivation is Procrastination

Getting motivated on a consistent basis is harder than it sounds. We frequently fall victim to procrastination.

Why do we procrastinate? Ultimately, as dictated through human needs psychology, it comes down to FEAR. This is not inherently bad, but it is somethingthat must be understood. Our brains have evolved in such a way as to ensure that we are safe and protected at all times. Thank goodness for that.

However, while this hard-wiring was great at helping us avoid getting mauled by a saber-toothed tiger thousands of years ago, it is not helpful in pushing you to try new things and drive through fear in a more civilized and modern society. Our SOCIETY has evovled MUCH FASTER than our BIOLOGY. If you want to success in a modern world, you need to be able to cope with this.

Luckily, there are many tools out there to help you.

Continue reading Motivation: What It Means and How To Get It!