07 Oct Quarterly Insights, Part Three
I was having a great conversation with a friend of mine last week where he said to me that the most important relationship you have in life is with yourself. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, the driving factor behind this article series is to spend focused time deeply reflecting, and creating insights I can take forward.
I’ve learnt more and more just how critical it is to be self-aware, introspective and approach life with a mature sense of emotional intelligence. This doesn’t come without work, and like with any relationship, you need to spend time cultivating it, nurturing it, and giving it the attention deserves. Having ‘me time’ has become increasingly critical in this hyper connected world we live in, where it can be extremely difficult to switch off and actually ‘live’ and ‘be’.
Part of my own ‘me time’ is my writing, where on an almost daily basis, I’ll sit down first thing in the morning to write for anywhere from 30 minutes up to 3 hours.
I always endeavour to weave my own experiences into everything I speak about. These ‘Quarterly Insights’ are the best example. It’s a highly personal piece, and is quickly becoming my favourite to dive into and explore… So without further ado, here’s part three for 2018.
Create hyper presence
Back in August, I was on a workshop run by Jason Ferruggia and something which was constantly being reinforced was the importance of being as present as possible in every moment.
This was something I’d been conscious of for a while, and had always taken steps to make this easier for myself. Simple things like never having my phone out on the table when talking to people, switching emails off my phone, and trying to not let things out of my control affect me too much have all helped.
But what I’ve realised more in the past few months in particular is there’s a whole new level. There’s hyper presence which I liken to being in flow state, and being completely in the moment with someone or something that not only does time fly, but we get to truly experience every element of life.
It’s the act of not pre planning what we’re going to say, do or even think, and just going with it instead. For a ‘planner’ like me, this is super tough, and I need to keep checking myself to stop pre-meditating events (and being conscious of my automatic), and trust myself to use my experience to act in the appropriate manner.
For example, when we’re having extremely difficult conversations with people, we have no choice but to be hyper present in order to gauge reaction, respond correctly and make it productive. If we instead allow previous emotion to leech in, and apply too much internal planning or context into the conversation, we’re going to miss the key points.
Hyper presence can be created inadvertently too, not just as a self awareness mechanism. In the past few months, I’ve seen this in the form of trying improv (where without staying present, you’ll be completely lost), painting (where your subconscious emotion and/or life context will likely be expressed in some form) and rock climbing (where presence is forced through the need to hold on when trying difficult climbing problems).
Different levels of presence can also be activated with different people in our lives, and I’m a firm believer in spending as much time as possible with people that interest you, are interesting, and keep you locked into presence.
Accessing higher levels of consciousness
By approaching situations in the present moment, you automatically access higher levels of consciousness. I’m not a religious person, but I can attest to growing my spiritual side exponentially in the past year, and especially the last few months.
Various experiences have allowed me to connect with the universe as one, and appreciate life as life. Not as a pre-planned script, or as something you control. Something which is.
This might all sound a bit wacky. I thought the same thing before. But I’m now convinced that we all share a level of spirituality that connects us.
We’re all built from the same matter, and share a level of consciousness that creates oneness.
I’m reminded of something I read a few months ago by Eckhart Tolle, when I was trying to understand a specific experience. He said, ‘You are not the universe, you are the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle’.
When I sit back and think about how vast the universe is, both in time (the question of time is one for another day!) and in sheer enormity, it’s incredible to think that we make up a little smidgen of something so colossal. But despite this, our role to play is still critical, and is all part of the constant evolution and being of life.
If I relate these realisations to specific situations over the past quarter, it puts all problems and issues into perspective. Instead of wallowing in the frustration of problems, a more pragmatic approach is to allow life to bring these problems to surface, and use them as teachings and drivers of personal growth, and accessing even higher levels of consciousness.
Every problem and issue we face is an opportunity to grow and learn from. By practising presence and self-awareness in a higher state of consciousness, we can truly appreciate life’s ability to put us in situations we need at that exact moment in time to build from.
Questions around fulfilment
An interesting mindset shift I’ve experienced in this quarter has been surrounding the concept of fulfilment.
For years I believed success (in whatever definition you have) meant fulfilment. But this has now flipped. Instead, I believe that fulfilment means success.
This might sound confusing, as you might be wondering what fulfilment is in the first place. My definition of this has always been clouded, and I thought of it as some sort of magical feeling that I was chasing to obtain, but consistently falling short on.
It’s why I thought I needed other things in my life to help create this (as I reflected on in part 2). The change in my thoughts surrounding fulfilment has been influenced by two excellent teachers in the field of self-mastery, Manmeet Chowdhry and Mike De Santi. Both have slightly different definitions, but I find my meaning of fulfilment to be found in each of theirs.
Manmeet speaks about fulfilment in terms of living and aligning your life by your top priorities. For example, I know I feel extremely fulfilled when I write regularly, achieve amazing client transformations, and spend quality time with those I care about.
Mike talks about attaining fulfilment through giving each distinct domain of your life the love and attention it deserves, but focusing on moving each one forward only an inch at a time. The last bit is critical, and it’s why we hear of so many monetarily / career successful people that still feel so unfulfilled. They forget to bring the other domains in life forward, and so end up unbalanced.
I really like this definition, and ever since, have focused on keeping all areas, from my business, health, relationships, spiritual all in check. Instead of my natural tendency to just blast business non-stop for months on end, I know that’s a rabbit hole that can end sour. So instead I try to keep each area inching forwards at the appropriate time. This might mean time spent away from the business, but at the benefit of another domain, which ultimately is what will drive fulfilment.
Both definitions share similar concepts, and my thoughts are now to live my days by my priorities, but stay conscious and audit all domains to ensure they receive the necessary attention too.
Threats to my ‘HILPs’
My last instalment of this series was written when I booked a spontaneous trip to Sicily, 10 days before going. At the time, I put it down to being ‘burnt out’ and just needing to get away.
But again, my thoughts have now changed. After speaking to Manmeet, she reframed my perspective on it, and helped me realise what was really happening.
A large part of her teachings revolve around defining and understanding your hierarchy of life priorities, or your HILPs. When running the HILP test, my number one at the time was (and still is) building my business. However, what she said was that whenever your top priority is under threat, you’ll co-create chaos in your life to bring it back to order.
When Manmeet explained this, the Sicily trip made sense.
But then one of my best friends mentioned it to me a few weeks after when he said I was slipping from my normal routine, I wasn’t working as hard and didn’t seem as ‘on it’ as normal. Subconsciously, I guess I knew. Yet I wasn’t allowing my conscious to deal with it, and instead tried to bury it, and ‘create chaos’ externally to run away from it. After this realisation, I knew I had to deal with the problem head on, and I’ve noticed since doing so that all the ‘slips’ my friend had noticed are beginning to disappear.
Again, this experience has improved my level of consciousness, and made me more self-aware of myself, what’s important to me, and what I want in life.
Since becoming aware of my previous response to difficult situations, I’ve now shifted my mindset to a more emotionally neutral and conscious approach.
When I met Mike in LA, one phrase that stuck with me is ‘so what, now what’.
He said that any time a challenge is presented, instead of panicking, tackle it in a different way. Reframe your mind and think ‘ok this has happened, now what?’ This can stop a lot of the paralysis by analysis and overthinking that typically accompanies an otherwise stressful issue or situation.
Thinking of what the solutions are immediately, and even what the possible upsides and lessons that can be learned has brought a whole new perspective to approaching life.
This practice is a skill, and it’s something that will always be a work in progress. By no means have I mastered it in a few months; the important insight gained is that I’m now conscious of it.
Never about the physical
A couple of months ago I released an article titled ‘It’s Never About the Physical’, and I was completely taken aback by how relatable it was for so many of the readers.
I’d always been aware of the holistic benefits that a physical transformation can create, but perhaps I’d underrated just how much.
Since releasing it, I’ve seen more and more people speak about the mental health benefits that a physical transformation brings, and the real, deep internal driving force behind their transformation. It’s not just about the six packs and bikini bodies for most people; that’s merely the cool bonus, and the by-product for the hard work that’s been put in.
The real result goes deeper. It’s something very intrinsic and empowering, and it’s what drives my love for what I do.
Our aim at RNT is to essentially use the physical as the vehicle to deliver our present purpose, which is to create holistic transformation across the board. Change that transcends aesthetics, so when people work with us, their results not only makes them amazing on the outside, but improve them on the inside too; which as we know doesn’t always come hand in hand.
Speaking about the physical, my own training has taken an interesting turn in the past few months.
The significant change has been my approach to my ‘off season’ / muscle building phase. In the past, I’ve always tried to push my bodyweight as much as possible, be incredibly diligent with getting the calories down, and really chase mass. I know that as a natural, your most anabolic weapon is food. So you need to push calories and accept looking fluffy for a period in order to come out with a better physique the next time around.
For skinny guys who want to gain size, this is almost always the necessary route to make real significant changes. But I’ve now been training for ten years, and this might be the first time I’ve been happy with my current size.
Earlier this year, I was starting to push the envelope again with calories to try hit a new ‘peak bodyweight’, as I’ve done in the past two lengthy muscle building phases. I reached my target just about, but hated how I looked and felt. And for the sake of a few extra pounds of muscle (which comes at a miniscule rate for me now given my training age), I wasn’t willing to go through it.
So I started to naturally cut back on food intake through the day, and almost ‘accidentally’, my bodyweight has dropped 6-7kg. Part of this has been due to reductions in appetite, but part of it has also been a conscious change in certain meals in the day.
For example, instead of a bowl of oats or cereal post workout (or meal 3), I’m now having a large bowl of fruit, which by default more than halves the carb intake for that meal.
I’m now sitting around the 83-84kg mark (down from 90kg), and want to keep going till I settle around the 82kg mark. Looking over past training logs, it’s at this point that if I go any lower, I start to lose my peak strength.
Does this mean I won’t compete again? Who knows. I probably will in a few years’ time, but it’s not a huge priority now, and not something I’m thinking about just yet.
My aim now is to get as strong as I can while staying relatively lean. I feel like I’ve put those ‘fluffy years’ in to build my foundation, and now the benefits of pushing bodyweight really high for a few extra pounds of muscle aren’t as clear.
For years I’ve kept my sole focus in fitness as weight training. Besides the odd week, I’ve never really tried anything outside of it. In fact, when I first started training at 17, I gave up all sports I was playing at the time so that nothing could take away from my goal of getting bigger and stronger.
Leading on from the previous point about my current ‘off season’, things are now different, and I’m trying to stay far more open minded about fitness as a whole.
The stand out example for me is the concept of running. Yes, running. A few months ago, I completed my first run in 10 years. By run, I mean a steady state run. No intervals, or HIIT. But a normal, outdoor run.
And it was brutal. 8 minutes in, I had a stitch, and 4 minutes later, it felt like my heart was beating out of my throat. I (somehow) stuck with it, and completed 5km.
10 weeks later, along with a few more practice runs, I managed to finish a ten mile Tough Mudder challenge with a group of friends who also hadn’t run in years. It was a really fun day out, and I enjoyed the running aspect a great deal. It almost felt like I was reliving the old days of being a half decent cross-country runner back at school!
In order to include more sports and activities into my week, I’m now going to drop my weight training down to three days a week, and aim to use the other day to either play a sport, go for a run or hike, do some conditioning, or try something new.
Following your passion in your career
Recently I had the privilege to speak at a local community career’s fair about following your passion, and thinking outside of the box when it comes to choosing your career path.
With so many teenagers (especially in Asian culture) being pigeon holed into what they think they should be doing, and following the traditional route of medicine, law and finance, it was refreshing to see how many took an interest in this talk. With lots of follow up questions from the youngsters and parents, it’s clear we’re entering the early stages of a shift in mindset towards career choices.
Giving this talk took me on a trip right down memory lane. I remember being in the exact same position, and ultimately making the decision to switch from law to fitness. To this day, it still stands as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and definitely the most life-altering.
Off the back of this, I’ll be speaking next month to year 11s at my old secondary school to talk about this exact topic, and why more young people need to audit themselves as to whether they’re doing what they think they should do, or whether they’re following their real passion.
Being grateful to my mentors
A common theme in all my introspective pieces is to spend time being grateful to those who’ve helped, and continue to help me along my journey.
This time I’d like to thank Charles Poliquin, who recently passed away suddenly at the age of 57. Charles was a pioneer in the fitness industry, and completely changed the way everyone thought about weight training. Back when I was first getting into fitness, I remember reading every article every published by Charles, and soaking it up like a sponge. He was a fountain of knowledge, and forgot more about training than I’ll ever know.
It was actually Charles who made me realise there was a potential career that could be made in fitness, and his courses and articles formed an extensive part of my early education.
Every ‘real world’ great coach out there has been heavily influenced by Charles. While they’ve all gone on to form their own philosophies, they all have their roots in Charles’ teachings and methodologies. His impact was that widespread.
I likely wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Charles; the career opportunities that opened up, the places I worked at, and the courses I attended were all made possible by him. While I only met him a few times, I wish I’d told him just how significantly he positively impacted me, and by default, everyone we’ve managed to help with his knowledge that he passed on.
Rest in peace, Charles Poliquin.
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