A Guide To A Good Life

What if money was no object?

That is a question every single one of us should ask ourselves, as early as possible in life, ideally when we’re still in school. It’s not too late for you now if you’re out of school. It’s just that it’s so important, you should do it as soon as possible. Asking it makes you aware of yourself; it raises you out of the dull routine of supposed life and supposed work that you thought you ought to be doing and opens your eyes to the possibilities that are out there. You’d be surprised how much of what we consider reality is just supposition — a matter of perception.

So, what if money was no object? What if income became irrelevant? What would you do with your life? Would you be willing to sacrifice a life of supposed luxury to pursue what you really love to do? It doesn’t have to be a permanent sacrifice, you know… It need only be for a while, until you get so good at what you do that the income will come automatically.

You only have one life to live, remember that, and for most people, it’s not that long. What would you do? Don’t you want your life to be fantastic? Don’t you want it to be amazing? I do. I want my life and Ligia’s life to be fantastic and amazing and spectacular and I hope that others want the same thing for themselves. We sacrificed a lot to be where we are today and yes, the effort was and is worth it, because we’re doing what we love.

As I was thinking about this tonight, a video appeared in my news reader, a video which talks about this very thing. Coincidence? I think not; we make our own fortunes.

Watch it and then take at least a few minutes (a few hours is better) to think about your life. What do you or did you want to do with your life? Are you doing it? Why not?

If you’re a parent, think about the life of your children. What are you pushing your children to do? Is it really worth it to impose yourself on them, only to have them blame you and avoid you later in life, when they discover they’ve been pushed down a path they didn’t really want? Do you want them to accuse you of manipulating them? There’s a thin line between guidance and dictatorial control when you’re a parent, and so many parents cross it…

The video is courtesy of the TragedyandHope channel on YouTube and it came to me via Likecool.

A Guide To A Good Life, Exercise

Arnold’s 6 Rules for Success

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who remains one of my heroes in spite of his (old and recent) shortcomings, once gave this speech, where he outlined his six rules for success.

  1. Trust yourself
  2. Break some rules
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail
  4. Ignore the naysayers
  5. Work very hard
  6. Give something back

Right on, Arnold!


These modern times

We live in some interesting times, don’t we?

We’re more than happy to share private information with all kinds of strangers online, but we can’t be bothered to share our private thoughts with our spouses. Too busy for that… It’s no wonder the divorce rate keeps increasing.

We talk (a lot) but we don’t listen.

We know how to eat right, but we still eat crap.

We know how to exercise, but we’re getting flabbier and fatter.

We have access to more information than ever before, yet individually, we know less than ever. Our ability to condense the avalanche of information into knowledge is decreasing, because we’re more focused on quantity than quality. We read tons of articles every day, but we’ve lost the art of enjoying a single good article and thinking about what we’ve read.

We know exactly what we’re doing that’s hurting the environment, and instead of changing, we move our factories to developing countries, where no one cares (yet).

We can be entertained in more ways than ever thought possible. We can have incredible amounts of fun, yet most of us will admit to having little fun in their lives. Everything seems empty to some.

We know how to de-stress, but we don’t do it.

We know how to de-clutter, but we continue to accumulate more stuff.

We know how to be more efficient, but we continue to waste.

We have the manual, but we don’t RT*M.

We know when we need to grow up, but we continue to be immature just the same.

We know what meaningful work means, and we’ve heard of focusing on the task at hand, but we prefer to whittle away the hours on meaningless tasks that could be postponed or avoided.

We know we have innate abilities that make each of us special, but we don’t pursue the development of those hidden talents. Instead, we dream about what would happen if we did.

Our lives could be so much richer, individually and collectively, if we only did what we already know to be right and true.


Finding the right resolve for exercise

Exercise today is in bad shape. This is not because people are exercising too little, or because the general public’s perception of exercise is disdainful. We are being inundated with reasons to exercise these days. Virtually all magazines are full of large-type promises: a leaner waist, tighter abs, bigger arms, etc. The list goes on and on.

People’s approach to exercise today is very piecemeal. They focus on the trees instead of looking at the forest. Most every fitness article that I read mentions nothing about whole body workouts or gymnastics. Instead, they all give the “perfect” prescription for getting rid of fat in problem areas, or tightening/enlarging a specific muscle. Your body is not a machine. You cannot replace the spare tire around your waist by just working your abs. You cannot work on just specific parts and ignore the rest. You can focus on specific body parts, but you need to work your entire body.

What’s worse, the wrong reasons are offered for exercising. Have you looked at the headlines lately? “Have better sex”, “Have better orgasms”, “Impress the girls”, “Get the biceps that will turn eyes”, “Girls, get a tighter butt”, etc. Are those really the reasons that people should exercise? No!

Exercising simply to obtain those benefits is a short-sighted, egotistical approach that will only make it harder for you to have a positive body image. Exercising for these reasons will definitely enforce negative habits and cause you to obsess unnecessarily about things that are out of your control.

Imagine your kids are walking through the supermarket, and they stumble upon these magazines. Do you really want their impressionable minds to be stamped with these ideas?! You work hard enough trying to keep them on a good path in life, do you really want some profit-minded magazine editor making your life harder? Are these the goals that you would like them to strive for when they are exercising?

Here are the reasons for exercising on a regular basis:

  • Better health, even perfect health. Yes, this is an attainable goal! Good exercise coupled with a healthy diet and sleeping habits is the winning combination for perfect health. Without good health, we cannot lead normal lives. Our intellect is impaired and we cannot work and create at our best, our day to day activities have to be reduced, life is not enjoyed as much, personal relationships suffer enormously… I’m sure we can all think of many more problems that arise when we are not healthy.
  • A longer life. Yup, you’ll live much longer if you exercise on a regular basis. The statistics are all fairly conservative on the issue, but I can tell you that you’ll probably add 10 or more years to your life if you keep exercising till the day you die. Just think of all the people that have died in the prime of their life because they were overweight or simply did not exercise.
  • A faster, more powerful brain. Many research studies have talked about this lately. Exercise makes your mind work better. It’s a given. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. Start an exercise program, and even after just one week, you’ll see a marked difference in the way you think and solve problems.
  • More physical strength. A balanced exercise program will increase your physical strength over time. Your strength can double, or even triple or quadruple depending on your current state.
  • A better posture. Exercise will make you stand up straighter, and will even help correct curvature issues of the spinal column such as scoliosis. Once the muscles in your back get stronger, and if you maintain good body posture at all times while exercising, mild to moderate scoliosis can be corrected largely or entirely. In addition to these benefits, people will give you more respect once you keep a straight body posture. It’s all in the body language. A person with slumped shoulders and a downturned head simply does not get as much respect as a person with correct body posture.
  • Increased flexibility. A good exercise program should make all of your muscles more flexible. Flexibility is the key to staying injury-free when we get older. It is because muscles aren’t flexible and don’t answer as fast that older people lose their balance and fall, breaking hips, legs and hands, sometimes even their necks.
  • Denser bone. Why should you care about this one? Because bones that are less dense are more likely to break. Older people get a disease called osteoporosis, where bones get less dense and as a result are brittle and break very easily. This disease is caused by age-related hormonal imbalances, but exercise can make their and your bones denser, because the effort of the movement not only stimulates your body to make the hormones necessary for bone health, but it also works the bones themselves, literally rejuvenating them. Blood once more circulates through them, and as they twist and turn with your muscles, they start once again to acquire the flexibility and density they possessed in your youth.

Now what do you think of exercise? I could come up with many more reasons, but these are the most important ones. And you will not get these benefits unless your exercise program is put together with them in mind. You will most certainly not get these if your workouts are motivated by a desire to turn heads or have better sex. Why? Because attitude is so important in any activity that we do. And when our attitude is selfish or it focuses on one shortsighted aspect instead of embracing the entire picture, our results suffer.

How then should we structure our exercise programs? Here are a few important guidelines:

  • You should take your entire body into consideration. I’m at the gym about 4-5 times a week, and I see people go there on a regular basis just to work on their abs, or just to work on their arms. I see people that just go there to run on the treadmills or just to use the stairmasters. That’s not the way to do it. An asymmetric approach will produce asymmetric results. People that run all the time may find that they still can’t get rid of the fat around their waists even though they run miles and miles every day. I see people who have indeed developed certain body parts very well, but others lag far behind. For example, their arms, especially their biceps, may be big, but their chest is small, and their legs are pencil thin. They not only put themselves in jeopardy because any one overdeveloped body part will cause imbalances in the rest of your body, but they also proliferate negative weightlifter stereotypes.
  • You should include a lot of stretching exercises in your workouts. As a rule, you should stretch before exercising, during your exercises, and after you are finished with your workout. Read these articles for some great stretching exercises.
  • You should not push your body too hard all the time. Don’t expect to set new personal records with every workout that you do. You will burn out, and that’s guaranteed. Instead, focus your efforts on maintaining good form in all your exercises, and on finishing all the sets that you planned to do. Personal records will come of themselves.
  • You should balance out your exercises. If you are a weightlifter, make sure your have days when you just stretch, run or swim. Plan ahead. Don’t do just one type of exercise all of the time. It may make your ego feel better, but your body will feel worse.

If you put the advice in this article into practice, I guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised. You will eventually receive all of the benefits mentioned here, and many more to boot. You may find that you have gotten rid of that spare fat around your waist, that you are indeed turning heads, and that your intimate relationships have improved, but these will be side effects. They should always be considered just side effects!

The main focus of all your exercises should be to maintain and increase your health. If you do this, all the other benefits will come as a nice bonus, as the icing on the cake. But your health should always come first. That should be your motivation, and that should be your goal.


How to keep your exercise goals

So you’ve had it with yourself. You’ve decided it’s high time you started to exercise. You’ve heard about all the benefits: increased energy and stamina, better health, more strength, and of course, a better looking body. But you don’t know where to begin, and simply deciding that you’re going to drop 20 pounds or add 20 pounds (whichever your case may be) probably won’t work for most people. You need a plan, and you need to break down that plan into achievable steps or goals.

This article makes it easy for you to identify and prioritize your exercise goals and establish an easy to follow exercise program. Just follow along and jot down your own notes or answers to each of the points mentioned.

  • Make sure your goals are in line with your priorities. For example, if your first priority is your family (you want to spend time with your wife or husband, or you have children,) don’t go all out with your exercise and steal away all of the quality family time. Your exercise will separate you from them, create tensions within your family, and in the end, you’ll probably associate exercise with that bad experience and you’ll be less likely to begin a new program. Instead, talk with your spouse about your plans and work out a schedule that works for both of you. Begin with exercise sessions 3 times a week for 20-40 minutes each. As you start experiencing the benefits of exercise, share your enthusiasm with your spouse. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that they will join in your exercise program.
  • Set realistic, achievable goals and time frames. This is a biggie! Many people get discouraged and stop exercising because they don’t achieve the goals they set for themselves. Of course you’re not going to achieve your goals if they are too high and lofty. Having fallen prey to this mistake myself, I can tell you right now that you will not drop/add 20-30 pounds in a month, or in some cases, even in 2 months. It just will not happen, unless you’re incredibly lucky or you do some incredibly thoughtless thing like going on a crash diet. What will most likely happen is that you will be able to drop or add 10 pounds in a month of serious exercise. These are what’s called “beginner’s bonus”. After that, your gains or losses will come harder for the following reasons:
    • If you’re trying to lose weight, you are, but you’re also replacing that weight with muscle, so as your muscles grow, you’re adding weight and replacing the fat weight that you’re losing. So if you are lifting heavy weights and hoping that your own weight will drop as a result, you’re in for a surprise. If you’re lifting light weights, focusing on lots of repetitions and lots of cardio exercises (which increase your heart rate), your weight will probably continue to drop fairly steadily, although the leaner you get, the harder you will have to work for those last few pounds. So, unless you’re very fat, your “beginner’s bonus” will wear out quickly and you’ll need to work harder in order to continue losing weight.
    • If you’re trying to add weight because you’re thin, your body will like staying thin and won’t like adding weight. So after the initial shock of exercise and an initial amount of weight gain, your body will try to stay at the new weight or even go down to its previous weight. What’s worse, if you gorge on food hoping the sheer amount of calories will force your body to add more weight, you’ll be adding lots of fat, not muscle, and then you’ll be both scrawny and flabby (bet that’s a pretty picture…).
    • Basically, the fight will be with yourself. After the beginner’s bonus wears out, you’ll really need to get determined and stick close to your exercise schedule, because sooner or later you will reach something called a “plateau”, which is dead point in your progress. The only way to get out of a plateau is to set small, achievable goals and document everything, so you can follow your progress on a daily basis. Then it’ll be a game of comparison: you’ll compare the numbers with the dates, and before long, you’ll see yourself progressing again.
  • Visualize the results. Every time you look in a mirror, imagine yourself at your goal image, and keep that image in mind as you exercise. The power of getting results depends on the determination that you use in picturing your end result. Even when the image gets stale or seems too far away, you have to hold on to it and truly believe you can get there, or else the game is lost. Once you get in a regular exercise schedule, it’s all a mind game. You have to actively decide to go to the gym, to stay in there till you’re done with what you planned to do, to eat right, sleep right and stay focused. Otherwise, you’ll get lost on the wayside and never reach your destination. Focusing on your goal image helps keep you on track and gives your the extra power that you need to finish your workouts.
  • Take positive steps toward your destination everyday, even if it’s just a few moments for reflection. While it’s harder for you to control your thoughts or feelings (you will have many doubts), it’s much easier to control your actions. If you want to drop those pounds, make sure that every bit of food you eat is healthy, and every exercise that you do at the gym is done toward losing that weight. If you want to add weight, make sure you eat all of the food that you planned, that you work out until the point of total exhaustion at every workout, and that you get more than adequate amounts of sleep. And take a few moments a few times each day to think about the progress you’ve made and enjoy the goals you’ve already achieved. You’ll be re-enforcing your drive when you do that, and you’ll motivate yourself to go even further than you planned. Every little bit that you do counts, no matter what your goal is.
  • Reward yourself. When you give yourself a reward for your achievement, you unconsciously give yourself support for your actions. Give yourself a worthy gift for a worthy success, but don’t spoil yourself. In other words, if you’ve just dropped 20 pounds, don’t celebrate with a triple fudge Sundae and an all-course brunch. You’ll be ruining everything you worked for. Instead, re-inforce the positive habits you’ve created by doing something healthful, like getting a full body massage or treating yourself to some exotic fruit smoothies. Chances are you won’t need to worry about rewarding yourself; if your body looks better, your spouse will probably find plenty of ways to reward you…