Tag Archives: James Altucher

10,000 Steps – Thoughts on Goals

Actual, Physical Steps

I use the Pacer App on my iPhone which records the number of steps I take. I assume this works by sensing the bounces in my strides. I came to this conclusion by observing that it continued to accurately count my steps when I was walking on a treadmill and not actually moving from one place to another. The goal is to take 10,000 steps every day. Overall I think this has been a positive addition to my life in that by using it I am probably getting more physical activity that I would otherwise get without it.

IMG_0664Using the app has changed my daily behavior. For example, now when I go to a store I will purposefully park far away in order to add to my step count. I have also noticed that if I have not reached my goal for the day every activity I engage in is valued to some extent through the lens of how many steps it will generate.

There is a significant downside, however, in that I do feel compelled to take my phone with me where ever I go so that I can get credit for the steps that I take. In this way my iPhone has further still intertwined itself with my daily existence which is something I struggle with and perhaps a topic for another blog post.

Self Improvement

It is all about self improvement and partly inspired by a blogger I follow named James Altucher. He advocates engaging in what he calls a “daily practice” consisting of self improvement in four areas of life daily. These areas are (1) Intellectual (e.g., reading or learning something new), (2) Physical (e.g., going out for a walk), (3) Emotional (e.g., keeping negative influences to a minimum) and (4) Spiritual (e.g., praying, meditating, engaging in religious practice). I try to follow this practice and use the 10,000 daily steps as a means of improving myself physically.

This is important because I have a job where I spend a significant amount of time sitting at a desk. It is good to break up the day by taking a walk. I used to feel guilty about leaving my desk to take a walk because I felt that was time I could have spent working. But now I realize that if I do not take care of myself physically then the other four areas of my daily practice will suffer. For example, if I do not take care of myself physically I will have less stamina and concentration to perform my job or other pursuits. I will also likely feel more irritated and less fulfilled as well. For these reasons, I now feel entitled to my 10,000 daily steps.

Accomplishing Goals in the Now

I usually make a point of getting most of my steps in by noon. But some days are busier than others and I find myself thinking that I will put off taking my steps until the evening. Unfortunately, I have found that this to be a mistake because more often than not when I do put my steps off until the evening I never actually end up reaching my goal of 10,000. There is a lesson in this. It seems similar to the adage, “never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” Only in this case it is, “never put off until the end of the day what can be done in the morning.”

Of course the goal renews itself daily so I never make myself feel guilty if I do not actually  reach the goal. This would be counterproductive because if I do make myself feel guilty (aka employ shame as a motivating force) I will eventually become resentful with the goal in its entirety. When this happens I am likely to say, “To hell with it!” and give up on the whole scheme. Accordingly, if I do not reach the goal (which almost never happens) I know that the goal will be there when I wake up in the morning and that is the end of that.

Goals Should Be Daunting at First

I have a goal of 10,000 steps per day. It is said that people must practice a skill for 10,000 hours to master it. The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. There is nothing magical about the number 10,000. The nexus between these three ideas is that the goals are daunting at first but with persistence (that is, additional steps) the goals are eventually achieved.

When I first had the idea of taking 10,000 steps per day it seemed a little daunting. So I started out with a goal of 5,000 steps and every day after I tried to exceed the number of steps I took the day before. Using this method I eventually reached the real goal of 10,000 per day. Now a day does not seem complete if I have not reached that goal. It is a good thing that 10,000 steps seems daunting at first because that means in order to accomplish it I must push myself a little harder than I am used to pushing myself. There are probably 10,000 steps between the starting point and the achievement of any worthwhile goal. But I have found that most goals in life can be achieved eventually by continuously taking steps towards their achievement.

 

 

 

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10 Ways To Go From Feeling Stuck In Life To Feeling Unstuck

Feeling stuck comes from the desire to move forward from one phase of life to another but (for what ever reason) not being able to do so. The perceived reason could be any number of things including fear, other people or situations. Regardless of the reason, it is my contention that dealing with the feeling of being stuck has to be a subjective process with subjective solutions. In other words no one else and no situation can make you feel stuck without your consent. Certainly some situations are more extreme; an abusive spouse or incarceration for example. But even in these examples it is possible to deal with the feeling of being stuck internally. Here are ten methods:

  1. Take Action  – In many ways the feeling of being stuck comes from the inability to take action. As such, taking action by pushing up against your comfort zone fights against or acts to disprove that this inability is in fact a reality. Depending on what you think your reason is for being stuck, take action to counteract this reason. If (for example) you feel that unemployment is the reason for being stuck take action and look for a job. You need to put yourself out there and address whatever your fear may be and by doing so you will cultivate courage and strength. Other forms of taking action might be cleaning your house. I find getting a haircut shifts my feeling of being stuck for some reason. Creating a check list of things to do can be helpful when feeling stuck because it takes the initiative off of yourself and puts it on the list. This at least is a good temporary solution. Ideally you want to act under your own volition.
  2. Cultivate Spirituality – Spirituality means many things to different people. At its core it addresses humanity’s belief or longing for there to be something more to existence than material reality. Feeling stuck is very much a feeling rooted in the material world. As such cultivating spirituality is a means of rising above this feeling. This can be done in many ways and here are a few: (a) Meditation – sit still for ten minutes, be quiet and focus on your breathing. When you find your mind wandering bring your attention non judgmentally back to your breathing. It works. I don’t know why. (b) Prayer – directly address the divine honestly with your whole heart. List the things for which you are grateful. Ask for help. (c) If you have the opportunity I highly recommend going on a retreat for a structured spiritual experience. (d) Simply try to be aware and recognize that inner voice who whispers the negativity in your ear and reinforces this feeling of being stuck. When you recognize it, name it so that you diminish it and separate yourself from it.
  3. Move – Remove yourself from your present situation and negative people. This may be difficult because the reason you feel stuck might be because you feel you cannot move. I have found that moving from one location to another always brings about a feeling of renewal initially. However, be careful you don’t just take your baggage from one place to another. If you find yourself repeating negative patterns after the newness of a move wears off then therapy is probably a better option. If you cannot move at the very least get out of the house and go to the movies or simply take a walk until your mood shifts.
  4. Therapy – Caveat Emptor: There are good therapists and bad therapists and different types of therapy works better for some people than others. I have found that Gestalt body centered therapy was the most effective therapy I ever experienced to address the feelings of shame that had kept me feeling stuck for so long.
  5. Wait it out – All things change; especially moods. The feeling of being stuck feels like it will never end but it will. Simply knowing this can be helpful to combat hopelessness. While you are waiting you can focus on any other item on this list.
  6. Read – There are many helpful advice type books out there. The simple action of reaching out for one of these is therapeutic because when you do this you are taking action. In terms of content, I highly recommend Choose Yourself and The Rich Employee by James Altucher. Both have been very helpful for me.
  7. Exercise – It is important to exercise, eat well and sleep well when you are feeling stuck because these actions increase your energy and ability to shift from being stuck to being unstuck. By contrast, avoid or restrict alcohol and pornography as these things tend to have the opposite effect.
  8. Write – I have found writing about my experiences has given me the ability to see them more clearly. Blog, keep a journal or write a book and self publish it. I have self published twice and both the experience of writing and the experience of actually publishing were both therapeutic. Self Promotion: My books are Shame and Internet Trolling (non fiction) and The Book of Bud (a $.99 novel) are both available on Amazon.
  9. Establish Boundaries – If your feeling of being stuck is associated with another person you need to establish boundaries with this person. This means saying “no” when you don’t want to do something this other person wants you to do. You must say “no” even if it feels bad. It will feel bad at first because you will feel like you are doing something wrong. But what you will also feel soon after is a lightening of your mood. Any prior resentment you had for this person will begin to evaporate. It is quite dramatic and unexpected how powerful this technique is.
  10. Stop Judging – You might equate judgment and morality but this is a false association. When you judge other people you judge yourself with equal intensity. That is because both forms of judgment come from the same place: a wounded ego. When you make the conscious effort not to judge other people the force of the wounded ego weakens. You will find that you will stop judging yourself as well and from this place you can begin to cultivate compassion both for yourself and other people.

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Everything I need is already within me

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The first item on the list reads:

Everything I need is already within me.

Authentic power comes from finding balance within; it is not imposed from external authorities.

I have heard this notion many times in Yoga and Buddhist circles. The idea is that I am searching for external validation or seeking to find that place, thing or person that will make me feel complete, meanwhile, all the time I am already whole and complete. I feel like this is true but I don’t really have first hand experience that definitively proves it.

There is an analogy to James Altucher’s idea of “Choosing Yourself.” In the third grade my class performed the play “Hansel and Gretel.” Before the auditions I had this fantasy of being on stage, entertaining the crowd and receiving applause. After the auditions they assigned me the non-speaking role of “Background Tree.” I was devastated and humiliated. I cried all night in my bed because I felt unappreciated and unvalued. Twenty years later I felt the same way sitting behind a desk as an attorney performing document review for nine hours a day.

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve to facilitate his reclamation. Where these ghosts external authorities or were they some manifestation of Scrooge’s subconscious mind or soul? In other words, did Scrooge reclaim himself by finding the balance within by creating these ghosts? Did he choose himself?

There have been many times in my life where I picked up and moved from one place to another. There was always the feeling of liberation initially but eventually all the old feelings of inadequacy and being trapped caught up with me. In this example the external authority failed to make me whole permanently.

So again, it seems like a valid and true concept. On the other hand I find it difficult to muster these inner resources I supposedly have access to. Have I just not found my inner balance yet? Do I already have all I need and not know that I have all I need? If so, that does not seem satisfying to me because I still feel the way I did before I knew that I already had what I needed.

It would be nice to feel like I found my inner balance when it came to enduring criticism from other people.

When I was in law school I helped to represent a prisoner appealing a murder conviction. He had hand written his appeal on a yellow legal pad. Even though a jury of his peers had convicted him and everyone else (including me) knew he was guilty he still advocated for himself.

I can hold onto the idea that I am already complete and all I need to do is to find my inner balance. I can use this idea as an anchor for meditation even though I don’t necessarily entirely feel that way. I can always hope.

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Where do ideas come from?

I have recently committed myself to following James Altucher’s Daily Practice. One aspect of the Daily Practice as Altucher describes it is to write down ten ideas a day. The idea behind this mental practice is that when I “exercise my idea muscle” (to coin a term employed by Altucher) I become better at generating ideas. Altucher opines that being able to come up with good ideas is a key to success. If you have not already I highly recommend listening to Altucher’s podcast or reading his book “Choose Yourself” where he discusses this concept in greater detail.

When I sit down to write my ten ideas I find that with any given topic six ideas come to me relatively easily but the last four require effort. It is at this moment that the brain begins to sweat (to coin another term employed by Altucher). When the brain sweats I imagine this is the point at which it is developing new neural pathways. I further imagine that these new neural pathways in turn allow the brain to become more receptive to ideas.

As far as I can tell the ideas themselves seem to generate spontaneously. This gives rise to the question where do ideas come from.  It seems reasonable that much of idea generation comes from memories that are linked to present experience and trains of thought. But there definitely appears to be a large chunk of ideas that are truly inspired. These truly inspired ideas are generated either internally from some subconscious location or externally from some source of which I am not aware.

My true self (as opposed to my ego) seems to play a role. As far as I can tell my true self is generally capable of two actions; observation and intention. It is intention that seems to play a role in the actual generation of ideas. That is, my true self can intend to be more receptive to ideas. I imagine that this intent through neuroplasticity alters the neural pathways such that the brain becomes more receptive to idea generation. Wherever the ideas come from, intending to be more receptive to ideas seems to allow the ideas to arrive into consciousness with greater efficiency.

I suppose it is possible that ideas come from my true self in such a way that escapes the awareness of my conscious mind. But the ideas seem to appear out of no where. Despite this, I seem to want to take credit for the ideas I generate. I think this applies to most people as there is a whole field of law (intellectual property) developed to protect people’s right to possess the ideas they come up with. Perhaps what people are actually taking credit for is their brains’ receptiveness to idea generation. This is a valuable skill in itself as James Altucher frequently attests.

Where do ideas actually come from? This question seeks to define one of those things where I don’t know how it works but it really doesn’t matter because I can get it to work without knowing how it works. I suppose I should affix a label on that concept.

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My Lenten Practice

I recently read Tony Robin’s book Money Master the Game. I recommend it for anyone who is concerned about their financial situation and does not know what the first steps would be to address that situation. Towards the end of his book he talks about a three-step meditation technique he practices every morning. For three minutes he thinks about all the things he is grateful for. For three minutes he sends out blessings to the people he thinks need help. And for three minutes he pictures himself succeeding at whatever endeavors he wants to accomplish.

I was introduced to this book through a podcast where James Altucher interviewed Tony Robins about this book. James frequently talks about what he calls “The Daily Practice” where he tries to work on four pillars of his life every day. Those pillars are physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

I have been trying to follow the advice described above from both Tony Robbins and James Altucher for some time now but during Lent I have decided to do this in a more disciplined manner.

Spiritual:

This lent I am taking 20 minutes out of my day (preferably first thing in the morning) to meditate. I use the free “Insight Timer” app as a meditation timer which rings a bell in the beginning and end of the meditation. For the first part of my meditation I follow Tony Robbins’ meditation technique. During the gratefulness section this morning it came to me that one function God serves is to be an object for gratefulness. I know being grateful is a powerful spiritual practice because it deprograms what my shame-ego tries to program me to think. It seems to me that expressing gratefulness to someone is more powerful than just being grateful and so (for me) God can be that someone. Another thing I noticed while meditating today was that the voice of my shame-ego was smaller than the voice of my intentions. It was in the background trying to undermine me but was easy to dismiss. God is the personification of the object of my gratefulness. My shame-ego is the personification of the voice that undermines me in my head. I am also reading a daily Lenten reflection book called Lent with St. Paul.

Intellectual:

For the intellectual pillar I am trying to finish a novel I have been writing for some time which I intend to publish as an e-book. I will also work more regularly on this blog. I also write down 10 ideas a day (another James Altucher suggestion).

Physical:

I run, walk, and do push ups every day. I avoid those activities that do not serve me physically.

Emotional:

This pillar seems to be the most difficult for me. James Altucher talks about avoiding negative people and associating with people who love and respect you as a way of working on this pillar. I do this to an extent but because I work from home I do not associate with people outside my immediate family with the regularity I need. During this Lent I will try to seek out organizations to join to work on this.

I am grateful for the opportunity to focus my energy in a more disciplined way during Lent. I recognize that it is important not to overburden myself with an overly strict regimen because I risk burning out and abandoning the practice. I simply try to do the best that I can with a whole heart.

 

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Ted Leonsis’ Six Secrets to Achieving Happiness and Success (through the lens of shame)

I recently listened to a podcast by James Altucher where he interviewed Ted Leonsis (former president of AOL and current owner of several Washington DC professional sports franchises) who talked about his six secrets to achieving happiness and success. The first secret is to actively participate in multiple groups of interest. That is, a happy and successful person must be a contributing member of more than one organization involved with activities the person is actually interested in. Second, a happy and successful person makes an effort to listen to others and also experiences regular opportunities for self-expression where other people are listening. Third, a happy and successful person has empathy for others. Fourth, a happy and successful person gets out of the “I” and into the “we”. By this, I take Leonsis to mean that a happy and successful person is not looking for opportunities for self-aggrandizement and is motivated to be a team player. Fifth, a happy and successful person finds a higher calling in all pursuits. That is, his pursuits are motivated by goals that benefit the greater good and not just the bottom line. And sixth, a happy and successful person creates situations that give rise to a “double bottom line” (i.e., multiple beneficial outcomes).

I found the interview inspiring and I highly recommend giving it a listen. But while I was listening I  kept thinking that shame actively works to undermine each one of these secrets to success and happiness. First, shame does not like to participating groups because shame feels judged by other people, jealous of other people’s success and ashamed of its own failures. Shame perceives the success of others as a personal failure in comparison. Group situations tend to exacerbate these feelings and as a result shame will avoid them.  Even when shame operates within a group setting and receives acceptance the high is really high and then shame tends to sabotage it and turn it into something bad. Shame then becomes suspicious of success and avoids it (or becomes incapable of embracing success) when it arrives. Second, shame does not want to listen to others because it finds others annoying or it becomes jealous and ashamed when listening to other people’s success. Furthermore, shame is afraid to put itself out there and express itself because it is afraid of judgment and criticism. Third, shame does not have empathy for others or itself. Fourth, shame is dominated by the “I” both in desperately trying to look good in the eyes of others and in criticizing the self to appease others (in order to look good in the eyes of others). Fifth, shame has no higher calling but to look good in the eyes of others. Sixth, shame never gets to be in a position of creating situations that give rise to a double bottom line because shame undermines its endeavors in the manner already described.

The bottom line I take from this is to be happy and successful a person must overcome shame at all costs.

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New Years Resolutions for Shame Based People

So you have decided to make a New Years Resolution and you feel ashamed for various reasons a good deal of the time. Here is what I recommend based upon my life experience dealing with shame issues.

First of all, do not make a New Years Resolution out of a sense of guilt. Only make New Years Resolutions for your own benefit. Of course, your shame ego will tell you this way of thinking is selfish and something to feel ashamed about. Remember that the shame ego is the same thing that will convince you that maintaining the resolution you made out of guilt is too difficult to keep up and then once you stop maintaining the resolution will then tell you that you are weak for giving it up. Of course this requires awareness of when your shame ego is sabotaging your efforts and looking for reasons to feel ashamed (but that is a topic for another blog post).

I recommend your resolution should either be to stop performing some self-destructive behavior or to take up a behavior that improves yourself. It should be something you are capable of doing with your whole heart. That is, it should be something you want to do. People with well-developed shame egos have a hard time knowing what they truly want because they have bonded to the message that what they want is wrong. A good way to tell if something is what you want is to pay attention to how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel good then it is (most likely) good and something you like doing. If it does not make you feel good then it is (most likely) not good and something you do not like doing. Be careful. Somethings feel good in the short-term but are destructive in the long-term, like addictions. Addictions are another trap of the shame ego. At first addictions seem like an escape from the shame ego’s constant criticism. That of course feels good. But eventually the addiction becomes self-destructive and gives the shame ego another reason to criticize you.

James Altucher recommends performing what he calls a “Daily Practice” where you perform activities daily that benefit four aspects of the self in order be happy. The four aspects are Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual. He claims (and I believe him) that you need to nurture these four aspects of the self to be happy. Quick examples: Physical – exercise (even just a little), Intellectual – read a book, Spiritual – meditate, pray, read something spiritual, Emotional – do something that makes you happy, avoid things that make you unhappy. Read the article I linked to above for good ideas about making a resolution that comes from your heart and not shame.

To maintain this resolution make it a habit. Take time out first thing in the morning to perform this resolution. Make it the first priority. Do it with your whole heart and not out of a sense of obligation. Good luck and Happy New Year.

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