Becoming a Happy Camper

Camping per se means that you left the comforts of home and embarked on a journey. So many people meander through life without ever leaving their comfort zones. Although death is tragic, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than being alive and not living. Note to self: Magic does not happen in a comfort zone, it happens beyond its borders.

It is an old cliche, life is a journey and if you want to experience the magic of truly living you’ll have to leave your comfort zone and wander bravely into the unknown. In order for your journey to have purpose and a realistic chance of success you’ll need a good and proper base camp.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a base camp as ‘a camp from where people start their journey when climbing high mountains.’ Another (wikipedia) definition specifically refers to a base camp as ‘a place of preparation’. I like both definitions. The first implies that a base camp is required when chasing lofty goals while the other suggests that a base camp is where you prepare yourself before setting off for the summit (your goal).

It’s therefore clear that your base camp needs to be well stocked with whatever provisions, tools and equipment you’ll need on your journey to the summit. It should be a place where you’ll receive nurture and rest before tackling your objective. It should provide you with shelter while waiting for the perfect opportunity to push for the summit. It should be a place where you receive encouragement and advice from people sharing the same values and goals.

Your base camp should be inhabited by the right people. Pick the wrong people to man your camp – negative personalities – and you’re setting yourself up for judgement and criticism that will most probably deflate your spirit and derail your progress. It is of crucial importance to pick the people you confide in wisely. In other words, the strength of your base camp community will ultimately determine your success.

They say that you’re the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Take control of your inner circle and if necessary upgrade. Actively seek out positive and inspirational people and spend time with them. Seek their counsel and advice. Look for those who share your values and values your dreams.

If you are currently surrounded by people who drag you down, who constantly questions your actions and bombards you with criticism born out of jealousy, its time for some tough decisions. These decisions will be even tougher if these nay-sayers are the ones closest to you. Excising them completely from your life might not be an option or even possible but you can choose what you share with them. You can de-escalate the intimacy of the relationship. You can deny them space in your head by carefully choosing what you share and what you don’t share with them. Sounds selfish? Self-respecting people won’t tolerate negative relationships and neither should you. Maintaining such relationships might be sign of poor self-esteem. You might think that you don’t deserve better relationships. Discard that limiting believe. You owe it to yourself to surround you with people that inspires you, that elevates you and most importantly that believes in you.

Banish the negative, pessimistic personalities from your base camp. Time spent with them is time wasted. It is that simple. Making it into base camp already shows that you’ve committed yourself to a hero’s journey. It is time to stop being the supporting actor and act like the hero.

Another thought about the people in your base camp is this: The overall health (or strength) of the camp depends on the health of the individuals and the health of the individuals depends on the health of the camp. Successful mountaineers know that they must spend as much time, if not more, in tending to their base camp as they do on actually climbing mountains. Devoting too much time on reaching summits will lead to the deterioration of the base camp. That’s why a man constantly climbing the corporate ladder might return one day to find his house in shambles and his spouse gone. The other side of the coin also holds true. The wife thinking that just being in base camp is her summit cannot understand or empathise with her husband’s need for achievement and reacts to them with jealousy and never-ending demands that he must devote more of his energy to the home. Sooner or later the husband will suffocate and flee the camp.

The ideal is then for a community or relationship to exist for the primary purpose of nurturing each of the individual participants for their individual journeys towards their own goals. Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other but actually seeks to cultivate it, even at the risk of separation or loss. The ultimate goal (in life) remains the (spiritual) growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can only be climbed alone – for it is the sacrifices made on behalf of the growth of the other that result in the the equal or even greater growth of the self. It is the return of the individual from the peaks he or she has traveled to alone which serves to elevate the base camp community (or the relationship). In this way individual growth and that of the people you surround yourself with are interdependent, but it is always and inevitably lonely out on the (summit) growing edge…

Getting your base camp right (well stocked and manned by people that inspires you) will not only launch you onto those growing edges but it will make the return from those edges the highlight of your journey. Similarly, so will the summits reached by those around you fill you with the same gratitude and purpose as the summits you conquered yourself.

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The Power of Community – an underrated tool

funny-aerobicsThe other day my daughter had to prepare a short talk on ‘spectators’ and their influence on her life. She started off by stating that two is better than one and then went on to describe how we all are spectators of each others’ lives and that merely standing by and observing doesn’t cut it and that it is only when we give something of ourselves that we truly get involved in the game and transform ourselves from passive onlookers to active participants, thereby tasting what life is really about. A proper mouthful for a 16 year-old.

It made me think. On how many roads have I embarked just to be turned around without reaching my intended destination. Dozens, no, more. Now, with the power of hindsight, I’m not in the least bit surprised that on each of those journeys I’ve set off alone.

I won’t bore you with the tearful details of each (perceived) failure but I will say this: Had I embarked on those journeys WITH someone or at least FOR someone other than myself, I would in all likelihood have reached the destination.

The power of community is often overlooked and underestimated. It is especially true if your goal is reaching a place where you’re fit and healthy. Improving your health (and therefore your fitness) requires focused intention and consistent effort. It requires discipline when it comes to making daily choices. What it comes down to is changing habits and as we all know, changing habits is hard. Especially if you’re trying to do it alone.

Being part of a community, or harnessing the power of ‘togetherness’ is a powerful tool. And it is out there, and it is free. Being engaged in community will improve your health – and not just physically. Conversely, isolation will prevent you from becoming the best version of yourself. Alcoholics for example don’t get drunk in groups, they do however try to heal in groups.

Here’s the kicker: Health habits are contagious. For example, if you spend time with people who exercise, you are more likely to exercise. Same with eating healthy. The group you associate with often determines the type of person you become. This does not mean you should ditch all your fat friends. You are not only capable of being influenced, you can influence as well. If you keep healthy habits, friends and family are more likely to follow. Like I said, habits are contagious which means you can have a significant effect on those around you.

It won’t happen overnight however. You will most likely encounter some resistance. Chewing on a carrot while your friends are puffing away will draw the odd comment of resentment. By the way, that should be your sign that just maybe you’re associating with the wrong crowd.

And then there’s the small matter of ‘commitment’. To most commitment does not come naturally, we’d rather opt for the ‘no obligations’ route than be tied up, missing the point that commitment actually gives us freedom. The freedom to be who we want to be because it is only in the confines of relationships that we can let our hair down. Or fart out loud.

There is also comfort in knowing that we’re not alone in our battle to stay on track with our fitness and health goals. And being committed to a group or a couple of friends will cause them to be committed to you, dragging you along even on those days when you’re not feeling up for it.

You need not look far to start forging such bonds. Co-workers, neighbors, friends, parents of your kids’ friends – in today’s world of connections, groups and social media it should be quite easy to find a few like-minded individuals. A great place to start can be your immediate family. It’s a fact that couples who train together, are more likely to stay together so just maybe you don’t need to look any further than your better-half. After getting your better-half on board don’t be surprised if the kids follow suit. You might have started off thinking that you’ll be the inspiration but more often than not you’ll find that once those bonds have been established, you’re the one that is inspired for once you are surrounded by others who are just as committed to ‘loving thy neighbor’ as you are, you become the recipient of that ‘love’ as well as the giver of it. And only then will you transform yourself from a passive onlooker to an active participant in the joyous game we call ‘Life’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a difference a week makes

Last week I reminisced about how tough it is to start from scratch. The good news is that things get better quickly. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy nor am I saying that you’ll have a beach-body overnight. What you need to do is to embrace the process.

Day 1 was a battle. During that first workout I doubted myself and my abilities. I felt weak, physically and mentally. The second workout was even harder. It was similar to the first day’s workout. A 3-round warm-up followed by a 10 minute EMOM of thrusters and 40-second planks and finished off with a 7-minute AMRAP of kettlbell swings, sumo-deadlift-high-pulls and squats. I felt even more lethargic and useless than the previous day.

On day 3 I started feeling better. Not necessarily because I was physically coping better with the workouts but because psychologically I was patting myself on the shoulder for sticking to the plan. I identified my problem, I made a plan of how I was going to solve it and for the third consecutive day, I was sticking to the plan. I started to embrace the process and that made me happy.

On day 4 I “upgraded” from the 20 kg kettlebell I used on Monday to a 24 kg bell. That in itself was a little victory. The second hooray came when I was able to accelerate the pace during the workout. Something I was not capable of doing on any of the previous days. In  the span of just 4 days feelings of utter uselessness and self-doubt were replaced by a sense of happiness and determination.

The “happy-feelings” stem from the fact that not only was I busy solving my problem (of being unfit and overweight), I could feel that I was solving my problem. Happiness is a work in progress because solving problems are. Happiness is not waiting for you around the corner. It’s a form of action.

Instead of being discouraged by unrealistic goals, focus on the steps needed to achieve the goal rather than the goal itself. Every completed step, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, will motivate you to take the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

The process is simple, but it’s not easy. There will be “lapses of concentration”, moments when you take your eye of the ball. My “lapse” came on day 5. It was my wife’s birthday. A joyous occasion celebrated with good friends, good food and copious quantities of wine. My Saturday workout didn’t happen. But Sunday’s did. That’s the trick. Don’t beat yourself up about a “lapse of concentration”, move on.

I’m ten days into my eighty-day plan. I did 9 workouts. I lost 1,8 kg. I’m happy.