physiology

Master These 2 Things- Master Your Life

After spending years scouring self help books for the best and brightest techniques and insights, I have come to see that it is pretty simple. There are two things that determine the quality of our lives- the quality of our experience on this earth- as long or as short as it might be. People are generally not happy with their life and they look to their external circumstances to justify it. They blame their job, their financial situation, the government, their boss, their partner, society, etc. The issue becomes that if these external forces are really to blame for your difficult life, then why even try? Why not give up? These are 100% outside of our control. Well most people do give up and resort to life of bitching and moaning (and most certainly a life of quiet desperation). 

While the external circumstances might not be ideal or fertile. We do have control over two things that will ensure you reach your goals, dreams and ultimate destiny. Rather than spending all your time on things that are outside of your control (other people, institutions, society, etc), if you just focused each day on these two simple things- the quality of your life would be completely different. After a day or two, you might not see a tangible difference. Though after a year or two, you be in a completely different place and more importantly the trajectory of your life would be different. 

So what are these two things that will change your life, change your business, change your relationships and transform your existence on this planet?

 #1: STATE

Our moment to moment emotional state is the driving force in our life. It is the engine that propels the ship. Our emotional state dictates our perception about what is happening (the meaning we ascribe the external stimuli) and what we should/ how we should respond. Have you ever had a time where said something or did something so stupid and foolish that you thought to yourself “How could do that?” It wasn’t your intellect, it was your state. Out of a shitty emotional state- we do stupid things as humans. We hurt people, act irrationally, become enraged and lose control. 

The quality of our overall life is determined by the quality of our emotions that we consistently live in. The moment I understood this, and I mean REALLY understood it at the gut level- my life changed. I no longer stayed chained down to negative emotions. While the negative emotions still would show up, I refused to stay with them for an extended period of time. I intuitively knew that if I could spend the majority (90-95%) of my waking existence in states of love, peace, joy, curiosity, passion and playfulness, I would have a hell of a life and attract everything I needed in the world. Funny enough a year and half later- the shit I set out to get- came to me. I had an entirely new career. Met the love of my life. And have been more financially and emotionally prosperous than I ever had been in the past. And this didn’t come about because I micromanaged every action step along the way. It came to be as a result of who I had become and am still becoming. I raised my emotional vibration. I literally tuned into a different emotional “radio station”. This higher frequency is about having a different posture in your life- emotionally. 

People want to focus on what behaviors they need to change in order to reach their goals. Behaviors alone will not get you there. It is the quality of those behaviors that will determine your success and fulfillment. And the emotion is what drives and dictates the quality of your actions, behavior and experience. Without the right emotion, you’ve got nothing. Now with the right emotion, you can anything. Whether it is being creative, playful, determined or certain- you will find the way. And if there is not a way, you will make the way. Resourcefulness is the ultimate resource.

 When it comes to managing your state it comes down to 2 basic things.

1. Physiology. 80% of the way we feel can be attributed to the way in which we move our body. If we are stiff, rigid, breathing shallowly and frowning- you will be depressed. However if you master your physiology and condition yourself to smile, breath, relax and be energetic in your posture and gestures- you’ll be amazed at how good you feel. The quality of your life will be different. We tend to think that somethings that happen to us make us mad, sad or feel bad, when 80% of the time, our negative feelings are just a result of shifting into a shitty physiology. We just make the colossal error of attributing it to an external stimuli/event.

2. Focus. Our focus and attention determine our reality. And our focus is determined by our questions. We are unconsciously asking ourselves questions at every second of the day. We ask ourselves, “What does this mean?” and “What am I going to do?” This is how we make meaning of our external circumstances. The problem with our unconscious questions is that they tend to be looking at the problem and what’s wrong (in order to protect us and keep us alive). Therefore it is time to consciously take control of our focus and begin to master the questions we consciously ask ourselves. If we just ask our self a good question one time- we will get a temporary shift in focus. However if we repeatedly ask ourselves these empowering questions over and over- we will sustain a more lasting change in our focus. Focus is power. We get what we focus on. When driving your car, if you’re focused on hitting the wall- you will hit the wall. in order to direct our attention, we must master our questions. And here is a list of a few empowering questions that if asked (consistently) will shift your focus and ultimately your emotional state

-What is great about this?

-What am I proud about?

-What is the opportunity here?

-What else could this mean?

-How could I make this experience more enjoyable?

These are just a few questions. Mastering these questions in and of themselves will entirely change the complexion of your life. Now to the second thing that will change your life.

2. OUR MODEL OF THE WORLD

 This is the set of glasses you see the world through- your personal paradigm. This also includes your beliefs about who you are and what you believe you’re capable of (your identity).  Additionally it is also the beliefs you hold about the world as a whole- how the world works, your beliefs about other people and the meaning of life. If our moment to moment state is the engine of our ship. Our model of the world is the steering wheel. It directs and guides us and really determines our ultimate trajectory and destiny. Because if you have a belief that people are rotten. It is unlikely you will have fulfilling relationships, a successful business and a happy life. Yet if you believe everybody has something to offer you, you will be amazed at the opportunities that will be available in your life. Our model of the world effects us the most long term. If we have a limited model of the world- we might have a good year or 2, but our ceiling will ultimately be low and we will be entrapped by our limiting beliefs- just as an elephant is to the flimsy stake in the ground. 

This is what Tom Bilyeu calls “breaking out of the matrix”. I love his terminology because life is played on the 6 inch battlefield between our ears. As humans we like to imprison ourselves with our limiting beliefs. Therefore by understanding your current model of the world and its limits- you can break out of the prison of your mind and expand yourself and your life. 

A great book that will drastically shift and challenge your current model of the world is A Course in Miracles. The daily workbook exercises are also hugely beneficial for keeping your on track and helping your break out of the matrix. 

When it comes down to your own personal journey and transformation. We don’t need more knowledge. We need more insight. Most of self help and personal development focuses on knowledge and information. While insight is the process of challenging and expanding one’s model of the world and exposes their beliefs that keep them chained in the prison of their mind. 

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The Most Important 15 Minutes of Your Life

In my practice of the martial art of Aikido, I learned a valuable lesson the other day that applies to all areas of life.  If applied, this one lesson might be the single most important principle for changing one’s life- in any area- financial, career, relationships, emotional, spiritual and physical. It is a universal law and people tend to do the opposite and therefore get adverse results in their life. 

About a week and a half ago, there were a bunch of white belts and few black belts training together. it was towards the end of a two hour training session. We thought we had really learned this particular defense. Hell, we had been working on it for almost two hours at that point. Then out of nowhere, the Sensei stops our practice and calls our attention to a very specific focal point. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like, “what seems to be getting overlooked here is the opening movement. If you don’t take the attackers balance on the opening movement- the rest of the defense is near worthless. A great opening move, sets up for an easy throw and pin. However, without taking your opponents balance, you will never submit your opponent- I don’t care how good you are at the throw and the pin.” 

When I first heard it, it seemed simple and boring instruction. It was just about to come in one ear and go through the other, before I caught myself being lazy. Then I asked myself a better question: “What applications could this have for life?”- because I have found that Aikido is truly a metaphor for life. I have seen that all the lessons I have learned on the mat carry over to life, and this lesson was no different.

Aikido defenses typically have 3 or 4 steps in them. The opening movement a lot of the times is about “getting off the line of attack” (in order to protect yourself) as well as trying to take your opponent’s balance so they are now at a disadvantage. There is nothing sexy or exciting about the opening movement- EVER. The rest of the defense is where the exciting Steven Seagal stuff occurs. But if you don’t set your opponent up in the first step, the later (and more thrilling) movements won’t work. The opening movement sets the tone for the rest of the progression. You’ll commonly hear people say, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”. Maybe  so, but the greater truth may be that a poor start sets such a terrible tone that the rest of the process often times will never fully recover. And hell, why would you want to live by that motto in the first place- it’s setting you up for a life where you’re constantly digging yourself out of holes. 

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed and that bad mood just carried on with you for the rest of the day? It was like you were doomed to have a bad day. Everything seemed to go wrong. I’m sure you’ve had days where the opposite was true too. This case of one’s mood and emotions is great place to start when talking about setting the tone. Opening your day with a practice that gets you physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to face challenges optimistically, feel confident and assertive and overall be in a positive state is crucial. Do you think a pro football player is going to show up to the Superbowl and hope to feel good? Hell no, he is going to get himself into a resource state irrespective of the circumstances and external factors. It could be -20 degrees and snowing, his dog could have died, he could have lost his starting job to a rookie. It doesn’t matter, a true professional brings the state of certainty to the field. He isn’t there looking for external feedback to tell him how he should feel or how he should play. 

With this I recommend implementing a ritual that gets you into a peak emotional state during the first 15 minutes of your day. Maybe it is going to the gym. Maybe it is jumping on a mini trampoline while listening to your favorite music. It could a could shower or meditation. Whatever gets you into a positive emotional state and gets your body moving is going to be beneficial. It’s amazing the carryover that will take place throughout the rest of the day. Momentum is an underrated characteristic within human beings. Why is it that we are blind to the fact that the littlest shit always builds to create bigger shit, an eventually monumental shit in our lives. Jim Rohn always said, 

 

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

These tiny errors in judgment that get repeated everyday typically stem from our unconscious emotional patterns that habituate in our daily lives. We wake up tired and hit our snooze button 3 or 4 times. This passivity then creeps into every aspect of our existence and compounds into the failure we inevitably face. But if you change the opening movement and consciously choose to set the tone differently each and every day- it’s amazing the kind of momentum that will start to build. You will start to feel better, more energized, more assertive, more confident. These qualities will start to reward you in your work, your relationships, your finances and all aspects of your life. Pretty soon you will start to believe yourself to be a winner, a champion and someone who is a master of their own experience. It is at this point where the Tony Robbins, Richard Branson’s and Marc Benioffs built their success. They became a success through these small rituals, which ultimately created their character. The outside world loves to view their success in terms of their public accomplishments. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Stephen Covey avowed this by saying,

“Private victories always precede public victories”.

The first 15 minutes of your day is the most important. It will set the tone. If you enter your day from a place of uncertainty and passivity, are you just hoping that something will click with you and you’ll all the sudden get some pep in your step? No it’s time to consciously create the life you want. And you do this by a simple ritual in the first 15 minutes after you wake up in the morning. I suggest doing something that radically activates your physiology. Because the quickest and the most surefire way to change the way you feel is to radically shift the way you move your body. The power of physiology is a topic that has been discussed in past posts and will be discussed in the future. It is a crucial linchpin to mastering your emotional life. 

Here are some possible rituals to start your day with:

-Jump on a mini trampoline (rebounder) while listening to some music (you could turn this into a formal anchoring practice with a vision board/mandala). {This has other healthy effects, as it pumps the lymph in our bodies}

-Go for a run or bike

-Take a cold shower or contrast shower (hot/cold- back and forth)

-Yoga

-Martial Arts

-Lift weights

-Go for a brisk walk

Physiology: A Launch Pad for Personal Transformation

 

If there is one lesson to take away from the mainstream self help industry- this is probably it.

Tony Robbins- likely the most famous personal development figure of all- is one of the pioneers when it comes to the power of physiology.  Throughout his various books and audio programs, he affirms that our emotions are a product of 2 things.
1. Our physiology (the way we move our body)
2. The questions we ask our
self (either consciously or unconsciously).

 

For the sake of this conversation, we will focus on purely the importance that physiology plays in our emotions and our subjective experience.

 

Ironically when I started reading personal development back a few years ago I started with the topic of body language and appearance. I was completely focused on my external appearance, posture, gestures, outer confidence and the reaction that I was eliciting in others. Though this approach does not deal with the inner world that we know to be so important, it is ironic how my journey has come full circle. Now years later I see the incredible value in focusing on our physiology, but for different reasons. Adopting Robbins’ belief that 80% of the way we feel (emotionally) is a product of the way we move our body (our physiology). I have spent the past 9 months working with my physiology extensively and I can attest to its effectiveness. Prior to focusing on my physiology, I have spent hours trying to think my way out of anxious, depressive and unresourceful emotional states, only to find that they get worse and spiral way out of control. Now I can get out of these negative states by simple breathing deeper and more fully, or putting a big smile on my face, or jumping up and down, or by relaxing and dropping my shoulders back and down. Overall, I have found that physiology is truly the control panel to our emotions.

 

Tony Robbins is the perfect example of how powerful of a factor physiology is in creating our emotions and the way we operate in the world.  If you watch Tony Robbins in his new documentary you will see how much he has mastered his physiology. He performs these strange rituals that get his body into state and condition his nervous system to move, breathe and operate in certain way. In one part you see him jumping on a mini trampoline. In another scene he is working on his posture while doing a breathing exercise and pumping his arms up and down. Before he gets on stage, he performs certain gestures and incantations. While on stage, his physiology is incredibly relaxed, with his shoulders back and down. This contributes to his incredible level of certainty and emotional mastery. He has been doing this stuff for the last 30+ years and his dedication to these practices is clearly second to none. He didn’t get this physiological and emotional mastery over night, he did it over day after day, month after month and year after year.  This display of mastery and the power of daily rituals, performed for weeks, months, years and decades is a theme that will be referenced over and over.

In spite of my understanding of physiology I still find myself experiencing bad moods.  I still get anxious at times.  I still get irritable. What I notice is that when I am in these states I have the tendency to go up in my head and try to think my way out of them and solve them rationally. I get super analytical and start to ask questions like “what must I believe to be feeling this way?”  A great example of this transpired earlier this year.  About six months ago, I was on my way to pick up this girl for a date and I was feeling pretty anxious. It was a shitty feeling. I was tense and my thoughts were racing and I kept trying to think my way out of it. But the more questions I asked myself, the worse my emotional state seemed to get. I had only about ten minutes left in my drive until I was going to pick her up and I was freaking out over the thought that “if I show up in this emotional state, this date is going to be terrible and will be no fun”. Then finally something that a mentor of mine has said to me a hundred times popped up in my head: “80% of the way you feel is determined by the way you move your body”. I realized my car seat was quite erect so I instantly reclined my seat back a bit, which put me in a more relaxed, laid back posture. Then I started to breathe fully and really exhaled under a 4-5 second count. Prior to that I was breathing very shallow. Then I put a smile on my face and started to laugh and think about a funny experience I had in the past. In the matter of a few seconds, my entire demeanor changed. I was now loose, fun and playful, but I didn’t make this shift by thinking my way through it. I made this shift through my physiology- mainly my posture, breathing and facial expressions. As William James said- “we’re happy because we sing, NOT we sing because we’re happy”.

The power of physiology in relationship to our emotional state is not just something Tony Robbins made up.  It is empirically supported by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research and detailed in her Ted talk and her best selling book Presence.  Mike Cernovich, a popular self help blogger, also illustrates the importance of physiology in his book Gorilla Mindset .

To add the evidence, there was a study where they had severely depressed patients force a smile in front of a mirror for 2 hours per day. After a month they were no longer depressed. It was impossible for them to be. They had rewired and reconditioned their physiology (and subsequently their neurology) so they were no longer able to live in that depressed emotional state on a consistent basis.

Different people have different triggers. Some may respond better to posture, some may be more reliant on their breathing. But all 3 facets are important to focus on. So here is the actual equation for mastering your emotional state and therefore your experience in life:

So how do you truly master your physiology and get to this level of mastery? I wouldn’t recommend implementing everything at once. You take one part of your physiology and master it for 30 days. And by master it, I mean you constantly focus on it for every waking moment of the day. Write reminders on sticky notes and leave them in your room, by your computer, in the bathroom, in your car, etc. Wear a rubberband on your wrist to remind you to focus on it. These symbols are to remind you to enact this change at every second of your waking consciousness. After these 30 days this habit will be formed and it will be a way of being. Then you can spend the next 30 days mastering another aspect of your physiology. Truly creating a new habit in your physiology has the power to transform your world. What are some examples of what I’m talking about?

 

1. Facial expression- live with a constant grin on your face. Determine what that slight grin looks and feels like- that gives you that feeling of joy, contentment, playfulness or whatever empowering emotion you want to cultivate more of. At every moment, hold this facial expression. Live in this facial expression. Obviously your old habitual conditioning will cause your face to return to it’s default state, that is okay, don’t get mad at yourself- be compassionate to yourself if you catch yourself not practicing the new habit. Just when you see these reminders, instantly put this grin on your face. Try to spend all day with this facial expression.
2. Breathing- breathe deeply. Inhale through your nose and exhale fully through your mouth. Feel your belly expand on the inhale then return to it’s normal position. This is what I have been doing for the past 60 days. It has completely changed my emotional experience. I have seen that this has been an incredible pattern interrupt too. Every time I have a negative thought or feeling in my gut, I have noticed that deep and full breathing instantly changes my focus and releases the tension within me. Breathing is probably the greatest tool in all of personal development and psychology. What I have seen is that when something happens either internally or externally to me that causes distress, worry, anxiety, etc, my mind starts to race and this horrible feeling arises in my gut. I begin to identify with the source of this angst and my body follows. My breathing stops and gets really shallow. But when I interrupt this pattern and I focus on breathing fully, after about 4 or 5 breaths I begin to feel unstoppable. I seem to detach from the anxious feelings and thoughts by merely focusing on my breath and deepening it.  I also found out that I come to the realization, “Wow I’m still breathing, I’m still alive. This little thing or condition can’t really hurt me. This isn’t going to kill me”. It’s truly amazing the power of breathing.  On a side note, this is also why the martial arts are so powerful.
3. Posture- relax your shoulders so they move down and back, let your head sit comfortably on top of them so it is not protruding out and jolted forward. Make sure your chest is up. Find that posture that makes you feel really relaxed and do the same thing as the above exercises. Make it point to live in that for 30 days.

The reason you should only focus on one of these little things for 30 days (rather than integrating all of it) is so that you guarantee your success and ensure you are laser focused. I also realized that the past week, though I have only been obsessed and focused on my breathing, that my posture and facial expressions have improved incidentally and “come along for the ride”.  It is almost like they are all interconnected and communicate with each other in some way. When I start to breathe more fully, I realize that often times by shoulders and posture become more relaxed, as well as my tight face begins to loosen and grin.

The real power this 30 day challenge has over your life is that by constantly adjusting an aspect of your physiology, you are performing a very strong pattern interrupt. This pattern interrupt that you are performing every minute, all day, is incredibly powerful because it is breaking you out of the trance called your life. So often we live in a trance, going from one thing to another with no awareness of our thoughts, emotions or our surroundings. We just operate on auto-pilot and wonder why we do what we do. This pattern interrupt you will repeat hundreds, if not thousands of times during a single day will make you more mindful and break yourself of  the habit of being yourself. Joe Dispenza is the author of Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, and this exercise repeated hundreds of times throughout the day is the most simple and effective tool of breaking your old patterns and rewiring your neurology, physiology (and eventually your identity). This has the potential to help you detach and not over-identify with your emotions, your reputation, your performance, and your results. 
 
I look back at everything I read and I now laugh, I read over 300 books over the past 3 years. I kept wanting more and more knowledge. I wasn’t going to stop until I found the secret. I was exhausting my brain with content and information. I didn’t need anything more going into my brain. I needed to change the way I feel, the emotions I was experiencing and the world in which I was living in. This is all through experience, emotional intensity and our physiology. This is where books can really go wrong. You live in your head- you’re dead. 
 
Try this and really stick to it. Make it your #1 priority on your to-do list everyday and see what happens after 30 days.
“The real key in life is to be able to make yourself feel good when you don’t feel good, or when you don’t even want to feel good.”
Other great activities that can really help you master your physiology (and thus your psychology).

 

-Anchoring using your whole body (will be discussed in other posts)

-Power posing- abundance pose/etc.

-lifting weights

-martial arts

-intense cardio/interval training

-jumping on a rebounder or trampoline

-dancing

-strong gestures

-meditation

-deep breathing/mindfulness training

-contrast hot/cold showers- forces your body to breath and move differently

-watching funny movies/making a point to laugh hard every day