When I was in 6th grade, the world was supposed to end. Across the world, people were searching for prophets and profits to understand how to avoid the impending doom. At age twelve, I wasn’t exactly mature enough to understand the implications of the world ending, but I remember laughing with my family when we realized it was just like every other night. The same thing happened on Saturday, but I suppose we don’t really know what’s going to happen until October 21st, 6 months from now. I’m just a little upset that the fanatic who predicted the Rapture is also named Harold. We’re supposed to be a classy bunch!
Take some time to ponder those questions, then I have one of my own for you: How much time and effort do you dedicate to improving yourself? (Insert Jeopardy theme music here.) Obviously, you’re going to say, “Hey, I do a lot for myself!” Good for you, but can you do more? No matter what, that answer is should be yes. There is always an opportunity to improve yourself, whether it be your understanding of your brain, your body, the society you live in, your efforts to improve those three things. When it comes to personal development, I think that it’s an ongoing process, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die. Harold Camping was wrong, but the Mayans might be right, so you have until 12/12/12 to make yourself as intellectually and physically educated as possible. Here are a few considerations on the matter:
I spend anywhere from one to three hours in the car every day, either driving to school, work, or my girlfriends house. My schedule is busy, and I assume that you have the same variance in commute time as I do. You may turn on the radio when you drive, or call your friends, and have a lovely old time. Sure enough, I do that on occasion. But, if you think about those hours adding up over weeks, months, and years, you can use that time to accomplish a lot more. What’s the answer? Podcasts and Audiobooks. Listening to audio is probably one of the few things you can do while you drive that won’t leave you totally distracted, and it allows you to take advantage of all the time ‘wasted’ moving from point A to point B. 1-3 hours daily becomes 7-21 after a week, leaving you with enough time to listen to a read book, listen to bevy of interviews, or educate yourself on the workings of the world. I’ve written before about the 15+ podcasts that I listen to, ranging from The FitCast and The Strength Coach Podcast, to Freakonomics Radio, Stuff You Should Know, and Learn Italian Podcast. Some of those I listen to more readily than others, and I’m working through a backlog of some. Find an assortment of podcasts on topics that you are interested in, and try to listen to one every single day. You’ll hear from a variety of people, learn new information, and reinforce what you’ve learned in prior experiences.
In addition the podcasts, I’ve become a fan of Audiobooks to use for when I don’t have my iPod in the car with me. The most recent book I’ve taken out of the library is Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, read by Dawkins and Lalla Ward. Dawkins’ writing style may be more verbose than Dickens, but the British accents are more than worth it. After I finish this 14 CD set, I’m going to pick up one of the Malcolm Gladwell titles, or maybe a classic novel. All I know is that podcasts and audiobooks are great resources for helping you educate and improve yourself during times when you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do so.
The following recommendation about exercise might not be applicable to some people, as they don’t have an exercise program in the first place. If you’re one of those people, start exercising dammit! If you’re already heading to the gym, consider some ‘bonus workouts’. Last week I mentioned that I was going to include full body movement sessions right after I wake up, that are so short they don’t even deserve to be called workouts. (You can reference THIS post to see what I wrote.) The idea is to wake me up, stoke my metabolism, and have an ‘insurance policy’ in case my busy summer prevents me from training on any given day. The morning sessions will involve full body workouts, every day; a little different than your typical programming. The volume is relatively low, and I’m really focusing on addressing mobility deficits that I may see in a typical training session. Applying that idea to what you can be doing, do the last thing that you want to do: Find something that you suck at, and work on it every chance you get. Can’t do that many chin-ups? Do a few reps every time you walk underneath a chin-up bar. Suck at push-ups? Elevate your hands on some stairs and do a set every time you head upstairs. Can’t sit back on your box squat? Practice the technique each and every time you sit down on a toilet. I’m not kidding on that last one, it really works! Any chance you have to address your fitness should be taken, from purposeful stretching for a few minutes to a full-length workout. I’d much rather have somebody spread their activity throughout the day, then think it’s a good idea to strength train, play basketball, go for a swim, and walk their dog all within the same 3 hour window. You’re made to move, so move around more!
Here’s a quick rule that can pretty much eliminate the crap from your diet: Can you tell that it was alive at some point? That is, make sure you see where the plant was cut from the root, or see the muscle tissue in the animal you’re eating. If you can’t, then it’s probably more processed than you’d like to eat. You should know that the lettuce in your salad was once alive, and be able to figure out which way the muscle fibers in your steak oriented in the animal. Why? You’ll eat better! Take every chance you get to identify your food, and consider what you’re eating. Taco Bell and Cheese Doodles are obviously disgusting foods; nobody really tries to justify eating them. It’s the faux health foods that are more dangerous, because people will go to any length to justify eating it. You know that whole-grain, gluten-free, flax enhanced, high protein, low glycemic index bread you found in the ultra organic premium section of your 5-star Whole Foods? Yea, it’s still bread, and bread was never alive, so you can make do without it. Every meal should include a recognizable vegetable and animal, no questions about it. Eat real food, and you’ll develop a healthy body.
If you plan accordingly, you can improve your person and the quality of your life every chance you get. It comes down to planning. Allot time for these important things, and you’ll be able to get them done; procrastinate, and you’ll be uneducated and unhealthy. When you strip away all of the problems people claim to have and difficulties, it’s about one thing; are you choosing to improve yourself or not. Choose to improve, every chance you get.