1 critical thing to know about improving your life. Now.

Meditate to re-enforce better habits

What is the difference between making intentional choices and automatic choices?  A lot.  On the surface, how you go about choosing between two things can often look identical.  You make a choice. Whether you think about it for a day, an hour or a nano-second, it is still a choice. Black or white. One or the other. Right?

No. Choices are instead a stream of interconnected events.

A handful of BBQ chips over an apple.  But why did you choose the chips? 

BBQ chips
Bad habits compound over time to become bad patterns that can easily trap

I don’t know, I wanted some BBQ chips. I popped a handful in my mouth and ate them.  It’s over.  Why are we talking about this?

Because, ultimately if you want to improve your life, this seemingly trivial choice is important well beyond BBQ chips, which are horribly bad for you by the way.  In life, is how you choose important to what comes next?

Yes. Very much so.

What exactly is an intentional choice?

Good question. Think of it simply. What does this choice lead to? Or instead, what ‘bucket’ does this action or choice go into? If you imagine having a number of ‘buckets’ in your life that behaviors and activities can fit into this will help. 

Here are some simple examples. Use this as a template. Spend 30 minutes thinking about this and list some buckets that are important to you. Go back and revisit these later. Feel free to modify them and keep it simple.

When creating buckets try to include buckets for work, play, physical health, mental health, emotional health, inter-personal relationships and self-improvement.

  1. Is this good nutrition or calories versus bad nutrition or calories?
  2. Does this activity or choice add to my well-being, reduce anxiety or drama versus takes away from my well being, increase anxiety or fuel possible drama?
  3. Does this activity or choice improve my self value or self worth versus takes away from my self-value or self-worth (this may include how others view you)?

Matter to who?  Matter how?

Let’s explore the chips.  It’s a snack.  Is it instead a choice that re-enforces an existing pattern of behavior? Or instead, is it a choice that helps to establish a new pattern?

What the hell are you talking about?

In life, all we really have in life are choices.  Think about it.  We choose to respond to something and then we choose what to do next.  That’s really it. 

Our life is made up of patterns our brains has logged into its operating system and those patterns run. We respond to them by choosing what’s familiar.   Those familiar choices feel safe and re-enforce the existing pattern.  That safe feeling releases dopamine in the brain, which further re-enforces the existing pattern, whether it is a healthy one or not.

That is why most people live yesterday again today and so on.  They don’t choose to evolve and grow. The engrained patterns keep us going round and round rather than someplace new.

What does this have to do with BBQ chips?

Everything.  You chose the chips and re-enforced a couple of patterns.  One.  Mid-day snacking.  Two.  Unhealthy nutrition. There are probably more, but let’s keep it simple.

Dude.  It’s just a few BBQ chips.

True, but who ate the last bag of them?

Stop it.

Each of those chips was a choice.  When the bag was empty, you chose to add a new bag to the grocery list.  You chose to open that new bag and eat the first one.  It’s now three quarters empty and when it is, what are you going to choose?  Buy another bag. 

So it’s about more than the BBQ.  It’s really about the choice you are making regarding nutrition and beyond that, the choice you are making about wellness and healthy living.  It’s not a priority.  You have intentionally chosen to not prioritize health and wellness by choosing that handful of greasy crap.

You know you are talking to yourself, right?

Right now, yes but hopefully others will read this transcript and it will cause them to think. Make different choices.

The chips were an automatic choice that was part of the larger an intentional choice you made in the past. You made the choice that because you were 30 pounds overweight, getting fit was going to be impossible.

So you chose to give up instead. Cue the BBQ chips.

These patterns are running every day you don’t even recognize it is occurring.

My point is that with your intentional choice of not prioritizing your health, you now run all these patterns that re-enforce not prioritizing your health and until you choose differently you won’t run new patterns. 

Let’s rewind and see how this might play out differently.

Ok, fine but I don’t see how this will change anything though.  Like I said, it was just some chips dude.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s unpack this.  You are in the pantry and there is the bag of Lays.  You ask yourself, “If I eat the rest of this bag, is it a healthy choice? After all, it’s almost gone. I can’t throw a bag away that isn’t empty? Right?

No.  If I grab an apple instead is that a healthy choice?

But what if I don’t want an entire Apple?  I can have just crumbs in the bottom the the bag.  Boom.  Gone in 1 second.  An apple will take like, what?  Five minutes to eat!

You are rationalizing your existing pattern that is linked to poor health choices and keeps you in a un-virtuous cycle. 

So, cut the apple into slices.  Eat as many or as few as you want.  Put the rest in a baggie and save them for later.  A healthy shack. 

By the way, what are you thinking?

I am wondering how I missed this before.

Things often hide in plain sight. 

You are now overwriting the old pattern with a new one.  Extend it to nutrition and sleep next.  Then move on to your content choices.  Social media too.  Ditch that.  Then check off improving physical fitness.  One step at a time.  Pretty soon, you will have upgraded your brain with a new software program that you will begin to explore further.

The key here is to remember that every choice you make may not be an intentional choice, but every choice is linked to an intentional choice.   Everything is linked together to either re-enforce an existing pattern of thought or behavior to overwrite one.

The chips are just a simple, easy to understand illustration provided in order to understand how what can seem like a trivial snacking behavior is linked to other much bigger behaviors in life.

If you pay attention to the little things and actively choose what is best for you, with a little bit of time, magically your mindset will shift because your patterns shifted.

Life will not just seem different, it will be different.

Texas License Plates and Waffles

perseverance

This is story about self doubt, how it screws with you and how to beat it.

It was an interesting summer. And, reflecting back on it, it wasn’t what it seemed at the time. Few moments in time as they stand alone are what they seem on the surface, If you are paying attention.

What it seemed to be on the surface was a normal summer of family activities and lots and lots of training and more races in a three month time period than I had done cumulatively in the past three years.

I am a slightly above average middle age cyclist who found love for gravel racing. Gravel sits somewhere between road racing and mountain biking. Most of the races are endurance; 100 miles or more and often with total elevation gains of around 10,000 feet in a day. For me, these races are as much about community and perseverance as performance.

The BWR

The last big race of the season was the Belgian Waffle Ride Asheville. The BWR is billed as the hardest one day multi-surface race in the U.S. Whether it is the hardest or one of the hardest isn’t worth arguing, it’s hard.

On the drive from Indiana to North Carolina I was amused to see a constant stream of Texas license plates. I counted 23. For weeks, driving around my home town I would see Texas license plates everywhere. It got to a point that every time I would see one, I would use it as a reminder to be grateful for my life.

I had a string of 36 days of gratitude thoughts in a row up until the day I left, all thanks to cars from the Lone Star state.

Caution. Explicit content.

As I drove, I powered through podcast after podcast and audible books. I dove back into an interview Mel Robbins. She drops a lot of f-bombs. I like her. She talked about being awake and open to looking for hearts. When you become open to this possibility, you will see hearts everywhere. Her point is when this happens, you will believe in the possibility that there is more to the universe that what you think you see…or saw yesterday. So wake up. Go beyond your yesterday. Don’t let your yesterday become your tomorrow. Believe in yourself. Tell your doubt to go screw itself.

Texas license plates. Everywhere. I came to the realization as I passed across the Tennessee/North Carolina border there was a purpose in those plates. That experience began to fit seamlessly into what she was saying.

But why?…

The day of the race came early. I rode from my Air BnB the five miles to the start, leaving just after 4am with all the nutrition I could carry for the day in the pockets sewn into the back of my race jersey.

The day before I had ridden the first 15 miles, encountering what I thought was the first big climb. “Easy,” I thought, recalling that the previous week I had spent four days racing and training in the Green Mountains of Vermont. That along with the summer’s previous races had me ready.

Forget waffles, have a giant helping of terror

The race began in a misty valley as the sun was rising. A moment of fear gripped me that had never manifested at any of the other events. My brain suddenly went into overdrive, “you shouldn’t be here. You can’t do this. You are hopelessly outclassed.” My stomach roiled. I couldn’t catch my breath. Then we rolled out. The terror followed.

The mind is a funny thing. We gravitate towards the negative. We are wired evolutionarily this way. The mind experiences terror and the brain thinks ‘fear’. Fight or flight mechanisms kick in. Cortisol and adrenaline are dumped into the system. Fear originates in the amygdala. The ancient part of the brain. It can’t discern between a bike race or a saber toothed tiger. It’s just fear.

This is no longer fun

Focusing, I rode through it and we got to the first hill, which gave me a boost of confidence and keeping the lurking doubt at bay. The problem is that hill wasn’t the first climb. It wasn’t even its baby brother. At the summit, we turned right and began the two mile grind up across a gravel road strewn with rocks the size of softballs. The grade rose to 13%. In case you were wondering, here’s what that looks like. Hell of a way to start a race. Terror had subsided into anxiety and mild self doubt. “You can’t do this” started to ring in my ears.

Nearing the top of the climb, I experienced a mechanical issue, as I crested the climb, I tried to shift into a lower gear to speed up. Ok, my brain wasn’t working very well at that moment but I had the vague knowledge that something was wrong. I kept pushing the shifter levers, hearing the click which usually accompanied a gear change but nothing. Nada. WTF.

I limped along in my climbing gear getting passed by pretty much everyone that didn’t walk the climb. At mile 16, I got to the first rest and mechanical support stop. I gave my bike to the pro mechanic knowing everything would soon be fixed and I’d be back in the hunt.

No such luck. I had the one part failure they didn’t have a part for. A $1.50 spring in my rear derailleur had broken, which meant no shifting. Ninety miles left to go, nearly 8,000 feet of climbing on gravel roads and on occasion up creek beds. I was toast.

I’ll choose door number three

As the mechanic took my bike off the stand he said, “dude, you have three choices. You can DNF (Did Not Finish), sit here with us and drink beer till we are done or you can DNF, get a ride back with a supply volunteer and drink beer at the finish.”

“What’s my third choice? You said there were three”, I asked.

He turned to look at me, sizing me up. Which is probably why he didn’t offer the third option. Sighing he said, “you can pick a gear and that’s what you got. You can ride the rest of this thing on one gear. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

That is all it took. I looked down, and forced the chain onto the 46 tooth sprocket, hopped on and peddled off. At this point, there was no placing or PR. There was only finishing.

Wanna know a secret? You suck.

This is where the story ceases becoming a biking tale. For the following nine hours, my brain begged to quit. It ordered me to quit. It rationalized. It played games. Quit. Quit. Quit. Quit. Quit. Quit. Quit. It’ll be ok. You tried. You can’t do it.

Each time I heard this, I reached into the Mel Robbins toolbox and counted back from 5. The conscious mind short circuits the sub-conscious when you do this. It takes aware its power. Doubt is just a lower form of fear which originates in the sub-conscious ancient brain.

I began to replace doubt with grit and determination. Each time doubt spoke, I saw an overweight male spectator holding a beer standing on the side of the road yelling ‘Quit’. He began to piss me off, so I lowered my head and ignored him. I sensed his growing frustration. His heckling wasn’t working. Then he disappeared. For the first time in my life, I had not given in to this spectator. He’d been there before in my life. Many times and sooner or later he always had bested me. 5-4-3-2-1. Smile. Not today asshole.

Ignore the spectators

Having perseverance is one thing in life but having belief is another. When you believe with all your heart, mind and soul and you act with that belief, possibilities unfold. The universe conspires to work with you.

With one climb to go, with 10 hours in the rain started. It was torrential. Instead of the usual groan and thought of what else could go wrong, I embraced it. It was. Perfect. Five miles to the finish, I encountered another race who had crashed in the rain. Bleeding and battered, he was struggling. I could see in his eyes he wanted to quit. I asked him how much he believed in himself. Could he divorce himself from the pain for another 30 minutes? What was not quitting worth? Everything it turned out.

Slogging through the rain and the mud, with the sun setting, we crossed the finish line together.

That day I had beaten a previously undefeated foe. My personal nemesis…self-doubt.

Doubt wants to limit you. It wants to hold you back. It wants status-quo. It doesn’t want growth. Doubt doesn’t want you to succeed. That takes away its power.

Doubt is easy to beat. It’s just a spectator to your life heckling you. Ignore him or her and just ride on by.

The Chosen Path is all about finding meaning and lessons in stories and conversations. We will be interviewing epic people, telling epic tales full of powerful and practical lessons to inspire us all.