Flow vs. Deliberate Practice

Flow is nice. Flow feels good. Your body is doing something, but your mind is free to wonder or focus on other things. Some people run to feel a flow. It’s calming, it’s soothing, it gives you a since of mastery and accomplishment. This action has become so routine, that I don’t even have to think about it.

Flow certainly has its place. But it isn’t growth or progress. The state of flow doesn’t lead to improvement.

In order to truly improve yourself, you must be deliberate in your practice.

I have anecdotal evidence that supports this hypothesis. For years, I’ve used my recumbent bike for exercising. It’s an easy way to burn calories.  I hope on, set my resistance program and start peddling. My body is working and burning calories,  but my mind is elsewhere.  I’m reading, playing a video game, or watching tv. I get into a mindless flow. My biking doesn’t improve.  I don’t burn more and more calories. I don’t go faster or further. I’ve maintained a similar rpm the entire 10 years I’ve been using that bike.

Onward! I think.

On the other hand, when I run, my entire focus is on running. I’m deliberate when I run because I want to improve my speed, stamina, and my overall cardiovascular fitness.  I don’t listen to music. I don’t listen to audiobooks. The only thing I pay  attention to is me and what my body is doing.  I constantly remind myself that I am growing and growing hurts. Improvement comes from stress and being focused and deliberate.

And I am improving.

I started only running for 30 seconds and then walking for 1 minute. As of this posting, I’m running for 1:25 while still only recovering by walking for 1 minute. My goal is to consistently be running 10-12 minute miles by the end of the year. Right now, I am hitting around 12:55, my fastest being 12:05 so far.

I’m killing it.

So when you set a performance goal for yourself, whether it be physical, creative, mental, or whatever, be deliberate in your practice.

And always be moving…

ONWARD.

 

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Spring in North Georgia

My heart is alive again, for I can be outdoors once more.

I start my mornings meditating outside on my deck, listening to the world waking up around me – the frogs, the crickets, the stream in my backyard, the lazy morning moos from distant cows, and even the hum of 6am traffic from ghe highway beyond even that. It’s a mindful peace that I can find without having to delve into mysic. I prefer to meditate to the sounds of my backyard and forest. It feels more honest to me.

I spend my lunch breaks outside, walking laps around an oh-so-familiar graveyard, now accompanied by the caws of crows and the calls of hawks, the atmospheric tumbling whirl of a lopsided wind ornament. My spirits rise as i can now truly take it all in, instead of retreating into layers of clothing and protection from the bone chilling wind that leaves me exhausted after only a few minutes. Now. My walks are once again uplifting. Soon, the my seasonal companions, the graveyard grasshoppers, will be wildly bouncing about.

My backporch view

And when I get home in the evenings, I can spend hours on my back porch, enjoying the symphony of color and sounds that accompanies twilight in the woods. I may be reading, writing (like I am at this moment), or just being at peace with myself and my surroundings.

I am so grateful for the return of Spring in North Georgia.

 

What I’ve Been Reading: The Energy Bus

The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon is probably the most sappy self-help book I’ve read so far, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Different folks need to different paths and scenery on their journey to contentment and self-actualization. I tend to lean towards the grittier, self-empowering, do it your own damned self type of growth, but this book definitely has an audience and place in the growth and empowerment world.

The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

Gordon’s book is a lot more upbeat, and his whole argument is presented as a parable-type narrative. The main character, George, is having a rough time of it. His career is in the crapper, his marriage is suffering, and to top it all off, he has to put his car in the shop and use public transportation to get to and from work.

But his life begins to change soon after taking a few rides on the Energy Bus, driven by the aptly named Joy. She and the other passengers present George ten rules to help him be a more positive person.

It’s a fun, quick read (or listen) and can be inspiring.

 

 

My Personal Core Values

Yesterday, I posted on what core values were, list a whole bunch of them, and then challenged you to create a list of 4-6 personal core values that you hold. As promised, today I’m posting the core values that I embody and that define who at am.

      1. Explore: I explore wonders of both knowledge and nature
      2. Impact: I strive to make a positive impact on the people around me
      3. Balance: I seek balance and fairness in all aspects of my life
      4. Honesty: I speak and act with honesty to myself and others
      5. Independence: I do not seek others to do what I can do myself

I may edit and refine my value statements as I live with them and learn. But for right now, these five words are the most distilled version of me.

Over a series of posts, I will focus on each of these aspects of my person and expand on them. Perhaps in this exploration, I will decide to alter my value statements, perhaps not.

Maybe I should add something about my flexibility and openness to change…

Creating Personal Core Values

Core Values are the internalized rules that you live by. They are NOT future goals; rather, they are what you already believe in and how you function right now. Your core values are shaped by everything that has happened to you in your life. They form the foundation for your decision making and your relationships with other humans. They can include influences from your parents and family, your religious affiliation, your friends and peers, your education, your reading, your experiences, and more.

I challenge you to figure out 4-6 Personal Core Values that you live by in your personal and professional life. Then, create value statement around these core values (Like how for GetUWired’s Core Value “Empower” the value statement is “We empower and respect small businesses.”)  Below is a long list of example values that may help you along your way:

Examples of Core Values:

      • ambition
      • competency
      • individuality
      • equality
      • integrity
      • service
      • responsibility
      • accuracy
      • respect
      • dedication
      • diversity
      •  improvement
      •  enjoyment
      • fun
      • loyalty
      • credibility
      • honesty
      • innovation
      • teamwork
      • excellence
      • accountability
      • empowerment
      • quality
      • efficiency
      • dignity
      • collaboration,
      • stewardship
      • empathy
      • accomplishment
      • achievement
      • courage
      • wisdom
      • independence
      • security
      • challenge
      • influence
      • learning
      • compassion
      • friendliness
      • discipline
      • order
      • generosity
      • persistence
      • optimism
      •  dependability
      • flexibility
      • change
      • growth
      • self-reliance
      • self-improvement
      • balance
      • warmth
      • presence
      • power
      • recognition
      • clarity
      • impact
      • leadership
      • humility
      • dreamer
      •  goal-oriented

Examples of Value Statements

Zappos

      • Deliver WOW Through Service
      • Embrace and Drive Change
      • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
      • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
      • Pursue Growth and Learning
      • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
      • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
      • Do More With Less
      • Be Passionate and Determined
      • Be Humble

Marriott Core Values:

      • We put People first
      • We Pursue Excellence
      • We Embrace Change
      • We Act with Integrity

GetUWired Core Values:

      • Empower: We Empower and Respect Small Businesses
      • Respect: We honor the role and respect the position
      • Excellence: We take pride and ownership in our work
      • Challenge: We define and conquer every challenge
      • Tribe: We _____ together

My Personal Core Values?

Will be discussed in my next post. Stay tuned.

My Morning Meditation

Meditation is one of the first things I do after I get out of bed. After taking care of the basic necessities and of my dogs’ needs, I typically head down to my basement or outside (depending on the weather). I’ve posted before about my meditation setup, so there’s no need to get into that.

I do have a meditation routine that I go through that I discovered after trying many different things. I complete this routine most mornings, though sometimes I do allow myself to freestyle my meditation.

First I get settled, then I set up my Insight meditation timer – sometimes with music, sometimes with silence. This is what works for me. It won’t work for everyone you have to find your own comfortable routine.

I begin by taking ten slow, deep breaths. Then, I inhale and then on the exhale begin saying my mantra. With each exhale, I whisper a sentence of my mantra. Inhale, “I am Fit.” Inhale, “I am Flexible,” and so on and so forth.

Then I reanchor myself, usually by wiggling my toes or maybe rolling my shoulders. Once again, I take ten slow, deep, cleansing breaths.

Next I focus on gratitude. I think on three to five things in my personal life that I am thankful for. Repeating each time, in my mind, “I am grateful for this…” sometimes with a “Because” clause, sometimes just general gratitude.

Ten more deep breaths.

Still focusing on gratitude, I think on three to five things that I am thankful for in my professional life.

Ten more deep breaths (seeing a pattern here?)

The next part can be the most unnerving. I list out three things that I love about myself. I love my sense of wonder and adventure. I love my shoulder muscles. I love my ability to speed read. I love the life I’ve built for myself. You can love anything about yourself that you have a modicum of control over. Love your choices.

Ten deep breaths.

Finally, I repeat my mantra, focusing on each phrase and the variety of connotations each word means to me.

To end my meditation, I take a few deep breaths and then go into a series of gentle stretches to reawaken my muscles – usually some side bends and twists, neck rolls, and should rolls.

All-in-all, this meditation typically takes me about 12-17 minutes, depending on how focused I am.

***

Find me on Insight Timer – April Loebick

My Meditation Setup

When meditating, it is important to be comfortable. Being present in your body goes from being pleasant and relaxing to near torturous when your focus centers on the sensation of your spine being compressed or the ache you feel in your joints.

When I first started meditating, I would sit on my basement floor, crossed-legged, with my butt directly on the floor – which happens to be thin carpet with little padding over concrete. This was fine for shorter 5 minute meditation, but when I began challenging myself to do at least 15 minutes, something had to change. My spine ached with the stress and pressure and I found myself focusing on that pain and discomfort.

Many people use a zabuton and zafu, a round pillow and a pad, to meditate. It gives your body a bit of padding and allows you to better relax and settle into a solid meditative position. You sit on the round pillow, with your legs crossed, but somewhat dangling loose in front of you. This takes loads of stress off your spine.

Believing that you don’t have to spend money to seek wellness, I improvised. I took a plushy blanket and folded it into a nice rectangle to give it a bit more thickness. And then I took a throw pillow that, while cute (It has a corgi face on it, of course), didn’t really do anything else for me – until now.

My typical setup

This set up has greatly increased my comfort and helps me focus on more pleasant or neutral sensations while meditating.

Which brings me do another point. If at anytime while you’re meditating and you feel stressed or tense in any part of your body and simple releasing doesn’t seem to help, take a breath or two to stretch. I find that rolling my neck or shoulders help release tension that sometimes builds up over a longer session.

Find your mind wandering to things beyond the here and now? Wiggle your toes a bit, and focus your thought on them. It’s a great little trick for bringing you back and breaking a rumination cycle.

A little bit of movement as needed is okay. What’s the point of meditating if it causes you suffering?

What set up do you use when you’re meditating?