“What a man can be, he must be.” – Abraham Maslow. Female readers might have preferred me to amend this quote so it included them, but gender neutrality wasn’t a
In last week’s post about the importance of paying attention to your fundamental practices, I made passing mention to a song that I listen to almost every day. Are You
When times get tough or things get busy we’ll reap the rewards if we have paid attention to our fundamentals. Like the solid foundation of a building, our fundamentals will
Why did one of the toughest Australian Rules footballers of the modern era spend time alone in a darkened room before every match he played? North Melbourne Football Club’s Shinboner of
How much consideration do you give to making choices that are aligned with your character strengths and virtues? Hopefully a lot, because Martin Seligman and other leaders in the field of positive psychology have identified
Following on from last week’s post about Emotional Resilience, I wanted to focus on a champion Australian athlete who embodied this important quality throughout her career. I recently had the
Anyone who has read Sizzling Hound Coaching’s Mission Statement will know that one of my aims is to inspire people to live fit, healthy and fulfilling lives. One of my
There are many factors that contribute to the attainment and maintenance of mental health. Relaxation, moderate physical activity, connection with other people and cultivating a practice of gratitude are some
Our mental health is incredibly precious and vitally important to how effective we are in our lives. But how well do we understand mental health? Most of us can name
How often do you give into temptation? Do you find yourself eating unhealthy food, even though you really want to stick to your sensible eating plan? Do you find yourself
“What a man can be, he must be.” – Abraham Maslow.
Female readers might have preferred me to amend this quote so it included them, but gender neutrality wasn’t a priority when Abaham Maslow’s book, Motivation and Personality, was released in 1954.
Maslow is regarded as a pioneer in the field of humanistic psychology and even though the quote I’ve used above doesn’t apply to women, his theories certainly do.
In fact, Maslow’s work is relevant to anyone who wants to live a rich and fulfilling life.
Maslow is most famous for creating his hierarchy of human needs.
As you can see in the diagram below, the most advanced human need identified by Maslow in this hierarchy is self-actualisation.
Self-actualisation refers to the identification and realisation of a person’s full potential and involves the qualities of morality, creativity, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts and ability to solve problems.
Maslow summed self-actualisation up best by describing it as the desire people have to accomplish everything they can and to become the most they can be.
However, Maslow believed that for people to truly understand and pursue the level of self-actualisation, they must first achieve and master the needs that underpin it: esteem, love and belonging, safety and basic physiological requirements.
The necessity of of cultivating these areas of our lives ties in with the importance of paying attention to our fundamental practices, which I wrote about in a recent post.
Unless we pay attention to our fundamentals, we can never hope to achieve higher levels of development and fulfillment.
Maslow also believed that people can meet their need for self-actualisation in ways that are unique to them.
Some people are able to achieve this in their role as a parent or spouse. For others, their profession, the arts or athletic pursuits provide the perfect vehicle for them to pursue self-actualisation.
And if you are worried that focussing on your needs might be perceived as a selfish exercise, think again.
So taking care of your fundamentals and aiming to be all you can has wide-ranging benefits.
If you have comments, questions or feedback of any kind about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and self-actualisation, please enter it in the Leave a reply section at the end of this post. Your contributions are always welcome.
In last week’s post about the importance of paying attention to your fundamental practices, I made passing mention to a song that I listen to almost every day.
Are You Ready by Creed has become part of the soundtrack to my life.
I listen to Are You Ready every time I start my day with a walk around my local neighbourhood.
I couldn’t find a particularly good film clip for Are You Ready on YouTube, but the one I eventually embedded in this post does have the lyrics, as well as the best version of the song.
Play the clip below and then I’ll tell you why I like Are You Ready so much.
Song lyrics, just like any other artistic creation are open to personal interpretation, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t share my opinion that Are You Ready is a call to action.
When I listen to Are You Ready I’m inspired to keep working towards the things that I value the most.
This is particularly important when other people doubt what I am doing, the rewards for my efforts are not tangibly obvious or they are slow in coming.
Are You Ready is also a reminder that it is far more empowering for me to think of myself as the hero in my life’s story and not someone or something else.
Coupled with that is the importance of maintaining my integrity and connectedness with other people as I continue my hero’s journey and pursue my dreams.
Finally, listening to Are You Ready inspires me to do everything I can to be fully prepared for the day ahead, so that I can be open to opportunities and make the most of them as they arise.
How do you interpret Are You Ready’s lyrics? Do you also feel that the song is a call to action? Do you have another song that has become part of the soundtrack of your life and a source of inspiration?
Please share your thoughts and opinions with me in the Leave a Reply section at the end of this post.
When times get tough or things get busy we’ll reap the rewards if we have paid attention to our fundamentals.
Like the solid foundation of a building, our fundamentals will keep us standing tall when the world starts demanding more of us.
However, if we have neglected our fundamentals, don’t be surprised if we come crashing down just at the moment we need to step up.
Johnson describes our fundamentals as the core practices that enable us to be the most effective we can be in all areas of our lives.
Our fundamentals are unique to us, but they are what we need to consistently do to bring out our best.
My fundamentals at the moment and for some time now are:
- Starting each day walking while listening to Tony Robbin’s Daily Magic and Creed’s Are You Ready?
- Daily meditation.
- Following a Primal influenced eating plan.
- Doing strength training twice a week.
Brian Johnson’s daily fundamentals are meditating, rowing 5k, stretching, working on his business, eating a huge salad and reflecting on what went well before bed time.
Johnson says one of the big ideas in Robin Sharma’s book, The Greatness Guide, is that the top performers in any field demonstrate consistency with carrying out their fundamental practices.
It is worth keeping in mind that our fundamentals don’t have to be anything fancy or ground-breaking.
They are simply what we need to do, time and time again for us to be the best we can be.
I have no doubt that my fundamental practices have helped me to effectively handle increased professional responsibilities during the past couple of months as well as my normal family and personal commitments.
Take a moment and think about what your fundamentals are, have been or should be now.
How do they, have they or could they make a positive difference to your life?
Please share your insights with me by posting a comment in the Leave a Reply section below.
Why did one of the toughest Australian Rules footballers of the modern era spend time alone in a darkened room before every match he played?
North Melbourne Football Club’s Shinboner of the Century, Glenn Archer, addressed this topic and many more during a presentation he gave recently at the 2013 Moonee Valley Leisure Challenge Motivational Speakers evening.
One of the themes of Archer’s presentation was his endorsement of visualisation as a practice for us to use in our pursuit of peak performance.
Archer said that before games he would spend 15 minutes visualising himself playing for the Kangaroos.
“For me, visualisation became just as good as physical practice,” Archer said.
“I tried to focus on the one percenters. The tackles, the smothers and those sort of things. When I did that I usually played a better game than when I visualised taking big marks or kicking goals.”
Archer said he was so convinced of the benefits of visualisation that he had continued the practice since retiring from football and it had become part of his daily preparation for his business pursuits.
Archer also addressed the importance of selflessness during his presentation.
“Selflessness is everything,” Archer said.
“You have to have the mindset of wanting to do something else for other people.”
In addition to the selfless acts he was renowned for performing on the field to help his teammates, Archer has also been mindful of doing what he can to make a difference to the lives of people in other settings.
This has included becoming an ambassador for World Vision Australia, for whom he helped make a documentary in 2005 to raise awareness about living conditions in parts of Africa.
Archer said the biggest killer in the area of Africa he visited was a lack of clean, running water.
He outlined how a section of the World Vision documentary compared villages that received support from World Vision with villages that didn’t.
Archer said that the difference in facilities, standard of living and mortality rates were huge, even though the geographic separation of the villages was only small.
He urged everyone to support World Vision or a similar charity, so that greater numbers of underprivileged people can receive the help they need to enjoy a better quality of life.
The third part of Archer’s presentation that stood out for me were three questions he regularly asks himself that help him consistently live up to his own high standards and values.
The questions are:
- Who’s watching you?
- What sort of role model are you?
- What example are you setting?
Archer said these questions help to raise his awareness of the impact his actions can have on other people and have influenced many of the choices he has made during his life.
For a further insight into Glenn Archer, the footballer and the man, watch the clip below. It was part of the ceremony that recognised Archer’s induction into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2012.
If you would like to leave a comment about North Melbourne Football Club’s Shinboner of the Century, feel free to do so in the Leave A Reply section at the end of this post.
How much consideration do you give to making choices that are aligned with your character strengths and virtues?
Hopefully a lot, because Martin Seligman and other leaders in the field of positive psychology have identified that people who cultivate their strengths and are regularly able to use them in all areas of their lives experience greater happiness.
Years of research have gone into developing The Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) Handbook, which identifies six core virtues and twenty-four measurable character strengths.
The CSV Handbook outlines these strengths and virtues in the following way:
Virtue: Wisdom and Knowledge
- Creativity (personified by Albert Einstein).
- Curiosity (personified by John C. Lilly).
- Open-mindedness (personified by William James).
- Love of learning (personified by Benjamin Franklin).
- Perspective and wisdom (personified by Ann Landers).
- Bravery (personified by Ernest Shackleton).
- Persistence (personified by John D. Rockefeller).
- Integrity (personified by Sojourner Truth).
- Vitality (personified by the Dalai Lama).
- Love (personified by Romeo and Juliet).
- Kindness (personified by Cicely Saunders).
- Social intelligence (personified by Oprah Winfrey).
- Active citizenship / social responsibility / loyalty / teamwork (personified by Sam Nzima).
- Fairness (personified by Mohandas Gandhi).
- Forgiveness and mercy (personified by Pope John Paul II).
- Humility and modesty (personified by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous).
- Prudence (personified by Fred Soper).
- Self-regulation and self-control (personified by Jerry Rice).
- Appreciation of beauty and appreciation of excellence (personified by Walt Whitman).
- Gratitude (personified by G. K. Chesterton).
- Hope (personified by Martin Luther King Jr).
- Humor and playfulness (personified by Mark Twain).
- Spirituality, or a sense of purpose and coherence (personified by Albert Schweitzer).
(Sourced from Wikipedia)
For people wanting to develop a greater understand of their strengths and virtues, Martin Seligman and his colleagues at Pennsylvania University offer the VIA Survey of Character Strengths on their Authentic Happiness website.
This questionnaire is free to take after you register, again for free, with the site.
The answers you give to the questions in the VIA Survey of Character Strengths will rank the 24 strengths from your strongest to your weakest.
Seligman and his colleagues recommend that people who do the survey use the book Authentic Happiness to effectively interpret their scores.
However, they make it clear that our top five strengths are the ones to which we need to pay attention and find ways to use more often.
Here are my results from the VIA Survey of Character Strengths:
Top Strength: Industry, diligence, and perseverance
According to the survey, I work hard to finish what I start. No matter the project, I complete it in timely fashion. I do not get distracted when I work, and I take satisfaction in completing tasks.
Second Strength: Self-control and self-regulation
According to the survey I self-consciously regulate what I feel and what I do. I am a disciplined person. I am in control of my appetites and my emotions, not vice versa.
Third Strength: Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
According to the survey, thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who I am. I do not jump to conclusions, and I rely only on solid evidence to make my decisions. I am able to change my mind.
Fourth Strength: Leadership
According to the survey, I excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. I do a good job organising activities and seeing that they happen.
Fifth Strength: Perspective (wisdom)
According to the survey, although I may not think of myself as wise, my friends hold this view of me. They value my perspective on matters and turn to me for advice. I have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to me.
I found it an empowering and reaffirming experience to have my strengths clearly identified and articulated by the survey.
The survey’s results are very accurate and they have helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for what I am good at.
The survey has also reinforced that many aspects of my life regularly give me opportunities to exercise my strengths.
If you are looking for another way to enhance your happiness, I encourage you to identify your character strengths through the VIA Survey and do everything you can to make choices in your life that put you in alignment with them.
Following on from last week’s post about Emotional Resilience, I wanted to focus on a champion Australian athlete who embodied this important quality throughout her career.
I recently had the good fortune to meet the greatest aerial skier of all time, Jacqui Cooper, and hear her presentation at the Moonee Valley City Council Leisure Challenge Motivational Speakers Evening.
In some sectors of Australia, Jacqui hasn’t received the level of recognition she deserves.
Jacqui was the first female to represent Australia at five Olympic Games (winter or summer) and she holds the record for the most aerial skiing world titles with five.
These and Jacqui’s other achievements during her 20 year career are incredible, but what is even more incredible are the setbacks she overcame along the along the way.
These setbacks included severe injuries to her spine, face, knee and other parts of her body, which in total required 25 operations to repair.
During the months leading up to her last Winter Olympics in 2010, Jacqui spent a considerable amount of time in a wheel chair as she rehabilitated from hip and knee injuries that required her to learn how to walk again.
Jacqui said her achievement of competing in the 2010 Vancouver Games and finishing fifth in the women’s freestyle aerial event gave her closure on her career.
“I won my battle with my failing body and I won the respect of a lot of other people,” she said.
Jacqui believes the defining quality that helped her enjoy so much success and repeatedly bounce back from adversity is the attitude with which she approaches all areas of her life.
“A champion attitude brings fantastic results,” Jacqui said.
Part of this attitude involved having the discipline to read her goals 20 times a day and a willingness to try any legal means to recover from injury.
At one point during her career, after advice from a Chinese medical practitioner, Jacqui drank regular doses of the liquid that remained from boiling dried cockroaches in water.
“It helped me recover from a back injury,” Jacqui explained.
“There’s something in the cockroaches that moves stale blood in the injured area and gets new blood in.”
Four weeks after employing her alternative approach to recovery, Jacqui won one of her five world titles.
Have a look at the clip below which shows Jacqui in action during her career and leave a comment to let us know what you think about one of Australia’s best and most resilient sportspeople.
Anyone who has read Sizzling Hound Coaching’s Mission Statement will know that one of my aims is to inspire people to live fit, healthy and fulfilling lives.
One of my favourite sources of inspiration is a scene in Rocky Balboa, which is the sixth and most recent instalment in the famous series of movies that stars Sylvester Stallone.
The scene doesn’t involve Rocky training or fighting courageously. It just involves him openly and honestly communicating with his adult son.
Watch the scene, read the transcript of Stallone’s dialogue and then I’ll unpack why I find it so inspiring.
“Let me tell you something you already know.
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
“It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
“But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.
“That’s how winning is done!”
The World Ain’t All Sunshine and Rainbows
You and I know that life is often filled with moments that cause us emotional pain.
This pain might be the hurt we feel when our words or actions are misunderstood by others. It could be the sense of helplessness we experience as we watch a loved one struggling to adjust to a new stage of their life. Or it could be the agonising sense of loss that comes when someone we cherish passes away.
Like us, Rocky has experienced emotional pain many times throughout his life. He is being realistic, not pessimistic, when he says that the world is a “mean and nasty place.” He acknowledges the world for what it is.
It’s About How Hard You Can Get Hit and Keep Moving Forward
Psychologists describe this mindset as emotional resilience and they believe that is one of the cornerstones of mental health.
Emotional resilience is a key part of the You Can Do It! program that my school and many other primary schools throughout Australia include in their curriculum.
You Can Do It! defines emotional resilience as:
“Being able to stop yourself from getting extremely angry, down or worried when something bad happens. It means being able to calm down and feel better when you get overly upset, and bounce back from adversity. Emotional resilience also means being able to control your behaviour when you are very upset.”
The You Can Do It! program provides resources and activities that are aimed at helping children to replace negative habits of mind with ways of thinking that are more likely to help them develop their level of emotional resilience.
You Can Do It! is just one of many programs which schools, businesses, other organisations and individuals can use to develop their understanding of and capacity for emotional resilience.
That’s How Winning Is Done!
Rocky’s exhortation speaks to one of our deepest desires.
Everyone wants to do something special in their life.
For most of us, our victories won’t take place in a boxing ring, or be acknowledged on a scoreboard.
It’s even unlikely we will read about them in the local newspaper.
Our achievements take place in our homes and workplaces, but are no less significant than a victory in the sporting arena.
We win when we lovingly prepare meals for our families, selflessly support our friends during a crisis, or show our effectiveness at work.
Like Rocky, we know that our greatest victories come when we do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, even when it feels like the world is against us.
There are many factors that contribute to the attainment and maintenance of mental health.
Relaxation, moderate physical activity, connection with other people and cultivating a practice of gratitude are some of the more well known factors.
However, one area of our life that is seldom recognised as being crucial to our mental health is our nutrition.
It wasn’t until I was searching for ways to recover from a bout of depression in 2011 that I started to understand the impact what we eat and drink has on our mental health.
I started viewing depression in a different light when I discovered considerable evidence that is helping to reframe the illness as an inflammatory condition.
Research has shown that people who suffer from depression have elevated levels of inflammation biomarkers in their bloodstream and they often benefit from using conventional anti-depressant medication because it has anti-inflammatory effects.
I knew that my training for the 2011 Melbourne Marathon was causing physiological changes, but I didn’t understand or really care at the time about the acute inflammation intense exercise causes.
And it wasn’t until I read the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, that I understood how the diet I was following at the time compounded those inflammatory effects with its overabundance of refined carbohydrate foods.
Sisson believes a diet that supports mental health should do four key things:
1. Limit inflammation inducing foods and beverages, such as breads, cereals, pastas and soft drinks.
2. Include anti-inflammatory substances, such as green leafy vegetables and fish oil.
3. Prioritize antioxidants, such as berries, olive oil and dark chocolate.
4. Contain adequate protein, which in turn facilitates the manufacture of neurotransmitters, chemicals that carry signals from one part of the brain to the next.
Since I have learned about the link between depression and inflammation, I have changed many parts of my lifestyle, including my approach to eating.
I have consistently followed most aspects of the Primal Blueprint’s eating plan for close to a year now and feel it has played a big role in me regaining full mental health.
However, as Mark Sisson points out, a good diet is just one piece in the mental health puzzle.
Sisson and I encourage people with depressive symptoms to discuss comprehensive treatment options with their doctor, as well as adjusting their diet where necessary.
Our mental health is incredibly precious and vitally important to how effective we are in our lives.
But how well do we understand mental health?
Most of us can name practices that promote physical health and define the characteristics of people who are physically healthy.
But can we do the same when it comes to mental health?
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as:
“A state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
While this definition of mental health is straightforward, considerable evidence suggests the attainment of mental health is far more elusive for many members of our society.
According to the Black Dog Institute, 20 percent of Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness each year and almost half the population (45 percent) will experience a mental illness at some stage during their lifetime.
The Black Dog Institute says the most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorders.
Like all illnesses, mental illness negatively affects not only the person concerned, but also their friends, family and the broader community. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia study found that mental disorders were the leading cause of disability burden in Australia.
Mental illness is also considered one of the major risk factors in people committing suicide.
Depression has been an illness that has affected me at different stages during my life.
My most recent and most challenging struggle with depression came in the aftermath of completing the 2011 Melbourne Marathon.
Only a small group of people truly know the difficulties I had during that time. Somehow I was able to manage my symptoms so that I appeared to be functioning normally in the eyes of the rest of my world.
There were two big factors that helped me to make a full recovery from that bout of depression. One was getting the help I needed from other people and the other was following through on the actions that I needed to take for me to bounce back.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or another mental illness, I urge you to speak to a doctor as soon as you can.
You can also help yourself to better understand the mental illness that affecting you or the person you love by accessing the resources available at organisations such as Beyond Blue and the Black Dog Institute.
If you or someone you love is suicidal or needing urgent help, please contact Lifeline immediately.
Next week, I’ll go into detail about a change that I have made to my lifestyle during the past year or so that has contributed enormously to my return to full mental fitness and has positively affected other areas of my health as well.
How often do you give into temptation?
Do you find yourself eating unhealthy food, even though you really want to stick to your sensible eating plan?
Do you find yourself sitting in front of the television, even though you know you would benefit from being more physically active?
Do you repeatedly put off other important tasks that you know will be in the best interests of you and your family?
Do you blame a lack of willpower for your unhelpful choices?
If any of these situations apply to you, don’t give up hope, because there are two practical actions you can take to change your ways.
Researchers from Stanford University in the USA have found that meditation and exercise can profoundly increase your reserves of willpower.
I have written many previous posts about the benefits of exercise and ideas for including more physical activity in your life.
So rather than going over old ground, this post is going to focus on meditation, something I have written about only once before.
I’m not an expert in meditation, but I have practiced it with varying degrees of regularity for the best part of two decades.
I used to be reluctant to share my interest in and practice of meditation, because people often negatively associate it with religions and alternative sections of society.
However, well-known sporting identities such as NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, dual Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes, and AFL Premiership coach Mick Malthouse have helped to change the stereotype of people who meditate and have helped me to embrace my practice more fully.
I’ve meditated much more consistently since attending a retreat in June 2012 and have hardly missed a day since the start of this year.
I usually meditate for about 20 minutes first thing in the morning. This practice has played a major role in helping me to turn my mindset into one that is more focussed, determined and clear than it has been for some time.
If you are contemplating starting your own meditation practice, I recommend you listen to The New Man Podcast, Mediation and Why It Matters.
Meditation and Why It Matters is one of the best and most straightforward resources about meditation I have come across. Just be warned that the podcast has some coarse language, as Tripp and Brian take a relaxed approach to their discussion.
Meditation and Why It Matters mentions a few products that I don’t have any experience with and can’t comment on, so it is up to you if you want to investigate them further.
Personally, I occasionally use some free meditation programs I have found on the web.
The one I like the most at the moment is Darren Marks’s Deep Relax, which is available through I Tunes.
In addition I have also found Kelly Howell’s free Brain Sync programs quite useful.
However, as Tripp and Brian say in their podcast, these sorts of programs and the ones they endorse are an add-on to any daily meditation practice you establish.
Research has shown that the greatest health benefits and increases in willpower come when you develop your own practice patiently, persistently and diligently.
If you are wanting to build your willpower and stay strong in the face of temptation, meditation could be exactly what you need.