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Your life, Your Responsibility – Taking Ownership of What Happens to You

The featured image for this article is from a camping trip with my father in the fall of 2016. He always taught me that even though it may not be our fault that a campsite is littered and destroyed when we get there – it IS our responsibility to clean it up and leave it better than we found it. A life lesson that goes well beyond good camping etiquette. 

Excuses, Excuses

Eating healthy, training regularly, getting enough sleep; these are all components in building a healthier life that are much easier said than done. Oftentimes we’ll experience a powerful wave of motivation that pushes us out of our comfort zone to drive for these things but then excuses creep in and nudge us back to the more comfortable life we had before.

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It’s easy to feel like you have a valid excuse to eat terribly, skip your training, or stay up late binge watching TV because you had a bad day at work. Additionally, it’s easy to reward yourself after a productive day by eating terribly, skipping your training, and binge watching TV into the AM hours. These excuses manifest in the same result for one reason:

You don’t want to do it!

That’s why whether the day was good or bad you do the same thing; all under the guise of “Treating Yourself.” At the end of the day they are excuses that you need to confront and get over.

 

Can you tell if the person in this picture is celebrating an accomplishment or comforting themselves after a hard day? Probably not, because people often reward themselves similarly for both situations. We reward our bad days the same as our good days. This has major implications for our self-control.

The good news is that what you’re experiencing is perfectly normal, the bad news is that that doesn’t make it okay.

You’re going to slip up on your diet, you’re going to have days that you skip your training, and you’re going to get caught up in a story on NetFlix from time to time. This shit happens to all of us.

The difference between the people that effectively get at their goals and other people is one big attitude difference.

successful people take Ownership

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When they overeat, they don’t pretend it didn’t happen and skip logging. I’ve had times I’ve logged some legendary buffet sessions where I’ve gone over my calories by 2500-4000 calories while I was trying to cut! But I didn’t pretend it didn’t happen. I acknowledged it as reality and tracked it.

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When they aren’t feeling up for a training session they push themselves through it, no matter how shitty it feels. Successful people acknowledge when they fee tired or busy, they own it, and then they get after their goals! When it comes to achieving the goals you want, nothing matters more than you’re consistency in your efforts. We’ve all gone into the gym and felt like crap the entire time but if you’re smart you dial down the weight to an intensity you can handle and you get the job done.

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When they are caught up staying up late, they know that this will make them suffer tomorrow. Staying up late to binge watch your favorite new season of whatever show is something we all do. The difference is some people wake up the next day thinking “why am I so tired? Poor me, I didn’t get enough sleep” while others think “well that was fun but I’m paying for it now.” Simply acknowledge that your actions impacted your sleep, this will make you more mindful overall about getting enough sleep. You’re tired because of your own actions, don’t go looking for an excuse, take ownership.

How can you be better about taking ownership?

It’s simple. Acknowledge what is happening in your life is your responsibility. That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily your fault, but it does mean that it’s up to you to deal with it.

If you want a better physique then you have to take ownership of the responsibilities that come with that. That means controlling your food intake, being consistent about your training, and going to sleep at a decent time regularly. It also means taking responsibility for the shit that’s going to interfere with your efforts – bad days at work, bad weather, bad traffic, being tired, being hungry, etc…

Much of this article is influenced by Jocko Willinck, co-author of “Extreme Ownership.” You can learn more about Jocko for free by listening to his interview with Tim Ferriss here. You can also purchase his book at the link below.

 

 

The reason I like Jocko’s overall attitude about this subject is that he’s very clear cut – you can’t control everything that happens to you, and it certainly may not be your fault, however dealing with it IS your responsibility. If you need a good kick in the pants to start being more disciplined and take-charge in your own life then I cannot recommend this book enough!

Get started

After reading all of this I hope you’re ready to go out into the world with a slightly different view than before. You should feel empowered with a new perspective that you own your life and everything in it. When you find yourself making excuses you should stop and think “How can I better own up to this?”

You could blame your dietary failure on “life getting too crazy” but that just sets you up to fail again and again. Alternatively, you can attribute your folly to “failure to adequately plan ahead” – the difference is that one gives you a direction to continue on from and the other is just a copout of sticking to your plans.

Reaching your goals is never going to happen under perfect conditions. Shit is always going to happen to make things more difficult. Take ownership of the things that happen to you and you’ll overcome any obstacle in your way.

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“N of 1” – living the self experimenting lifestyle

(Image courtesy of upsplash.com)
Crazy stuff is happening in big research laboratories across the world.  On the flip side there’s also smaller labs popping up, typically consisting of a smartphone, a laptop, lots of paper and a single participant (who also happens to be the researcher). I’m not one to subscribe to trends and fads much (every trendy hipster says that) but there is one movement I am really enjoying being a part of and watching take off: it’s called Quantitative Self or N-of-one lifestyle.  It revolves around self-experimentation to reach optimal results for the individual. This lifestyle produces empowered individuals with a deep intimate understanding of themselves.  It’s taking pride in being a little self-centered and that’s absolutely wonderful.

The big idea behind this movement is listening to your body to find out what works for it as opposed to relying on bigger researchers to tell you to do something.  For instance: want to know if going to sleep within 2 hours of your last alcoholic beverage affects your sleep? Design a way to test that! Go without drinking for a week and record your sleep quality, then drink until bed time for a week and again record the results.  The results may be obvious on this example but the point still remains: this is a powerful tool.
Many will ask “why do these self-experiments? You can use google to conjure up any set of facts based on reliable studies and work from there.” Let’s begin this discussion with how self-experimentation may relate to conventional scientific studies.  Conventional studies usually involve a lot of participants, in fact the more participants the more reliable the results tend to be. These studies are the basis of good information available to the general public and we should all utilize the information they provide. Personally I will read through studies trying to absorb their results into my mental library of knowledge but I never take any studies to be absolute; I do this because no matter how well the study was done I was not a member of the study and do not know how I would react/be affected.
Consider this instance: Creatine Monohydrate is a well researched supplement and most studies agree that users will see an increase in strength. Based on this I took my 5-10g of Creatine daily for a few years before I decided to take a small break from it.  During that break my lifts went up across the board and I did not fatigue as easily, after the break everything went back to normal.  Despite being extremely well researched Creatine does not work as intended for me, this does not mean I tell everyone “Creatine’s a big fat phony” it just means I don’t take it anymore.*

Overall relating this to health and fitness is simple, I isolate one variable in my training or nutrition and note any changes from the norm.  Here are some results I’ve gathered so far:
– I sleep best taking zinc and magnesium 30 minutes prior to sleeping

– 9 hours sleep daily is optimal

– My legs hypertrophy significantly when I run after squats and only fatigue faster if I do the opposite

– Creatine monohydrate has not had a significant effect on my absolute strength*

– My optimal range for daily fat intake is 75-85g.

– I perform much better on a high protein, high carb diet

Sure some of those things sound like I could have deduced them from scientific studies or even just ripped them from some other website… and to be honest much of my knowledge came from those sources, however I still tested the results myself. I experimented with each of these things and now I know, with more certainty, how each applies to me.  If I would not have done these experiments I might still be consuming 5-10g of Creatine everyday with little to no positive effects.

One community I have seen adopt this sort of self-experimentation lifestyle is the “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) community.  Many of these individuals regularly post about how they are calculating their macronutrient levels and what TDEE calculators seem to be the most reliable for them. It’s quite amazing to see how many of these people are living the scientific lifestyle without fully being aware of it.

There’s much more to the Quantitative self lifestyle than manipulations in nutrition and training while noting the results. It’s all about optimizing your life experience and finding the best fit for you in all facets you care to experiment with.  These days there’s no reason to not live this sort of life with devices like smartphones, fitbits, and (for some of the more hardcore) glucometers, regular blood testing through companies like wellnessFX. This is a movement wherein people are rediscovering that science is not just a collection of facts and theories, science is a methodology for a better life.
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*like any good scientist I will be repeating this experiment soon to either support my current theory or shed light on another unseen factor.