Looking Within

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 6+ years of marriage, it’s this.

Most issues in a relationship are better solved by looking within than by looking without.

Yet, something inside of us always wants to go against that better judgement and fix the external. It’s someone else’s job to change, or it’s someone else’s issues to fix, or it’s someone else’s viewpoint that’s wrong. What is it that constantly derails us from ever looking within when we know we should be? It’s simpler than we might think.

It’s…ego.

When issues arise in a relationship – whether that’s a significant other, a family member, a friend, or a colleague – rarely do the parties involved stick to the facts in trying to come to a resolution. Almost instantly, the ego jumps in to protect itself and any actual details of the argument become a moot point. A conversation about X, very quickly moves to a conversation about Y, with Y being a superficial mask for finding an answer to X.

I have struggled with this my entire life. Conversations are whittled down to who wins, which is oftentimes very different from who’s right. The internal protection of the ego, most of which happens subconsciously (or more appropriately – so mechanically as to not even notice), takes priority over the relationship at hand.

It is our mindset’s version of fight or flight, yet nowhere in the scenario is survival ever at risk. A confused and inappropriately applied reaction to scenarios that don’t dictate the need for this fight or flight protection.

The counter to this, which is and will always be a work in progress for me, is simply the awareness of its presence. The ego thrives when hidden, but diminishes when brought into the light. When we can confront ourselves with the reality of our ego taking precedence over the other person in the relationship, logic allows us to melt that ego away.

To get to that point, there has to be a conscious moment of pause. A moment where instead of reacting, we go inside and ask ourselves “Am I seeking to win or am I seeking the truth?” Or better yet “Am I seeking to win or am I seeking to get back to harmony in this relationship?” Because oftentimes, who’s right doesn’t even matter. It’s moving past the disagreement, by removing the ego and the need to be right, that gets us to that harmony again.

Like so many one-liner lessons we learned as kids that wind up being painfully valid as we get older, the wisdom “think before you speak” is an apt summation of letting logic, truth, and ultimately love win.

Though tough to do in practice, like a muscle it strengthens with use. The more I look within in any type of relationship, the easier that introspection becomes. And without that introspection, the ego wins every time.

Habit Stacking

HABIT STACKING

With the new year a full week under our belts, there’s likely a lot of us already falling short of achieving resolutions we created. Maybe it was a health related resolution and we’ve already skipped a workout or binged during a meal. Or maybe it was a “no drinking” resolution and we’ve already had a few drinks to unwind from the workday. Or maybe it was a resolution of writing more and we’ve yet to pick up the digital pen. If we haven’t fallen short of our resolutions yet, statistics tell us that we likely will soon.

Why do we jump on the same hamster wheel every year knowing we will wind up in the same place?

I don’t believe it’s for a lack of effort, and I honestly don’t believe it’s for a lack of willpower. Simply put, most of us have never been taught how to achieve goals or build habits, so instead we take our best guess at achieving them and throw our hands up in the air when that guess is wrong. The solution to this problem has been hiding in plain sight all along, and it’s called habit stacking. In a nutshell, habit stacking is exactly what you’d guess it is – stacking, or attaching, a new habit to an existing habit. Put another way, it’s taking something you already do out of habit everyday and adding something else to it. Simple as that.

There are a couple ways I like to think about habit stacking, the first being horizontal habit stacking and the second being vertical habit stacking. Both operate the same way but achieve different things.

HORIZONTAL HABIT STACKING

Horizontal habit stacking is when you stack a new and entirely different habit on top of an old existing habit. For example, the vast majority of us have been in the habit of brushing our teeth in the morning for most of our lives. This habit is second nature to us, and thus is the perfect place to stack a new habit on top of, say for example, taking a daily multivitamin.

Traditional Approach

Historically you may have purchased a bottle of multivitamins with full intention of taking them, then placed them in your cupboard and completely forgotten about them until weeks later when you stumble upon them again. Habit failed.

New Approach

Now instead, with the process of habit stacking to operate from, you place the bottle of multivitamins next to your toothbrush. Each and every morning you see your new habit right in front of you, and it’s as simple as grabbing the bottle. Habit succeeded.

VERTICAL HABIT STACKING

Vertical habit stacking is similar in practice to horizontal habit stacking except that it’s focused on going deeper into a habit as opposed to creating a new one. Take, for example, a common resolution – waking up early each morning.

Traditional Approach

The usual resolution goes something like this. You approach that first week of the new year with full intention of waking up at 6am each morning. You’re used to waking up at 7:30am but this year will be different. So that first morning your alarm goes off at 6am and you promptly hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. If that scenario doesn’t play out the first morning it likely will soon. It simply is too dramatic of a habit shift to make at once. Habit failed.

New Approach

Now instead, with the process of habit stacking to operate from, you set your alarm for 7:15am that first morning. And wouldn’t you know it, you successfully achieve it! After a week of this, you set your alarm for 7am, and wouldn’t you know it again, you are successful. This repeats each week until just a short six weeks later you are waking up at 6am each day. You’ve used the power of small changes applied consistently over time to your advantage, and because of it you’re successful in your resolution. Habit succeeded.


CONCLUSION

When it comes to resolutions and building new habits, first and foremost we need to allow ourselves some grace. We aren’t perfect, and we don’t need to hold ourselves to perfect standards. From there we need to realize that our previous failed resolutions have been from a lack of process not a lack of ability. When we implement the appropriate process, like habit stacking, we allow our ability the chance to succeed. Habits are not about reinventing the wheel. They’re about looking at the existing wheel, seeing what’s working, and improving upon that which is already working.

Rinse. And. Repeat.

 

2015: Rose Thorn Bud

2015: ROSE THORN BUD

It is officially that time of year again. The time to reflect on the previous year in anticipation of improving upon it. Not improving in the sense of being ungrateful for our last 12 months, but improving the way an athlete or an artist would improve each year – focusing on the good and getting better at the not so good.

I call it “watching the game film” and I love to use the game Rose Thorn Bud to do so; Rose being the good, Thorn being the not so good, and Bud being the anticipation and excitement for what’s next.

Without further ado, here’s my personal RTB for 2015.

ROSE

My without-a-doubt-not-even-close-cant-stop-smiling Rose from this year was the birth of my daughter, Berkley.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 9.00.27 PM

Being a dad has been something I’ve looked forward to for as long as I can remember, and raising this little girl has brought more joy into our world than I thought possible.

2014 was the year of Cade, our first born son that passed away a couple days after birth. The addition of Berkley into our life doesn’t replace that pain, but it without a doubt enhances the joy we feel on the other side. Now nearly nine months old, I can’t wait to see what the next nine hold.

I’ve had a couple other major life changes that have been Roses for the most part. In February I began building entrepreneur communities across the country with Galvanize, and in September we moved to Kansas City to be close to family. I’m grateful for both for what they’ve added to our lives in terms of people and experiences.

THORN

Just like my big Rose, my big Thorn is also an easy choice. After three years, a half million users, and countless millions of workouts, I’ve officially shut down Bodeefit. I will continue providing great health and fitness content on AdamGriff.in and use some of the Bodeefit content for that, but the mission, workout apps, and advancement of the company is without a doubt shut down. I had spread myself far too thin for far too long, and something had to give.

It wasn’t easy to do, but in hindsight the decision has also been a catalyst for what I hope to be a big year in my writing. Not running a side business allows me to go even deeper into writing content that resonates with people in an impactful way.

BUD

My Thorn for 2015 is a great transition into my Bud for 2016 – writing. This is the year of going deep, not wide, and that means writing more, writing better, and building a bigger community inspired to become Better Than Yesterday. That begins and ends with one article and one reader interaction at a time. Author Steven Pressfield says we turn pro in our lives when we remove the resistance and excuses that are in the way of becoming our ultimate selves. This is the year I turn pro in my writing, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

If you’re reading this, it means you’re a part of the community I’m building at Better Than Yesterday. And for that, thank you. Thank you for being a part of my world in 2015, and thank you for being my inspiration to go deep into my writing in 2016.

ARTICLES MENTIONED IN THIS POST

Watching The Game Film

How Do You Measure A Day?

 

The Over-Magnification Of Ourselves

THE OVER-MAGNIFICATION OF OURSELVES

I don’t matter. Seriously.

Bear with me. No, I haven’t turned overnight into some dark, depressing writer. I just genuinely believe I don’t matter. Or I should more appropriately say…I don’t matter inthe ways we normally think we matter.

I was flying from San Francisco to Denver last week, a flight I’ve made many times, and this particular Southwest plane didn’t have wireless internet. So my normal routine of getting busy work done during the flight was gladly replaced with reading and gazing out the window as we swept above the ocean just off the San Francisco airport, then back East across the bay area, the desert beyond, and finally across the Rocky Mountains covering much of Utah and Colorado. Mile after mile of beauty from arid dry land, acres upon acres of farms, and towering peaks of all shapes and sizes. This single two and a half hour flight passed over an unbelievable amount of life from animals, plants, fish, and people, most of which I am entirely out of touch with in my corner of the world. Although part of me hates flying because of a highly irrational fear of heights, a huge part of me also loves flying because it allows me to reflect on how truly small we are. It helps me remember that I don’t matter in the ways that I often get caught up thinking about.

My job. My title. My salary. They don’t matter.
My flat tire. My bills. My 401k. They don’t matter.
My cold. My hangover. My bum ankle. They don’t matter.
My strength. My body fat. My clothes. They don’t matter.
My religious beliefs. My political beliefs. My opinions. They don’t matter.

They don’t matter in the sense that there is a gigantic, unending, amazing, beautiful world full of life, death, birth, creation, colors, sounds, textures, creatures, pain, joy, and humans of all shapes and sizes that covers the earth and beyond. Gazing out into the open ocean or soaring 30,000 feet above the literal and figurative peaks and valleys of the world screams out to us loud and clear:

“Maybe you’re focused on things that are fleeting.”

But what about the way I operate within this vast, seemingly endless world?

The attention I put into the people in my life? That matters.
The love and care I put into my marriage? That matters.
The energy I put into the world around me? That matters.
The attitude I take to my work each day? That matters.
The effort I put into creating a better version of myself? That matters.

They matter because they can’t be bought. They matter because there is no end game. They matter because they have nothing to do with the guy in the mirror, and everything to do with the world that I create and contribute to.

I do matter.

I just sometimes need a bird’s eye view of life to remember the reasons why.

The World Is A Mirror

THE WORLD IS A MIRROR

How easy is it to blame external sources or circumstances for our own frustrations and failures? Pretty dang easy. I catch myself doing it all the time. It’s our co-worker’s fault, our spouse’s issue, and our friend’s stupidity. They are the feather ruffler, and we are simply the bird. It’s them, not us…right?

The irony is that in nearly every situation, the world is simply reflecting back to us whatever good or bad we are displaying in our own lives. When we are regularly getting frustrated with others, it’s usually a reflection of stress in our own lives. When we feel like we’re under-appreciated, often times it’s driven by a lack of gratefulness in us, not them. When we find ourselves failing at this or that, it’s usually a direct reflection of our own effort and input into it.

The same is true for the opposite. When we are in flow and life is clipping along, it’s a reflection of our own positive input into it. When we find joy in our daily interactions, it’s because we’re consciously focusing on the good in our lives. When we’re readily graceful with others, it’s because we’re acutely aware of our own shortcomings as well.

The world can be frustrating sometimes.

But the world is also an unbiased observer. It’s like a shadow that never disappears, constantly showing back to us what it is we’re displaying out into the world. More science than art, and more precision than inaccuracy, the world has an order to its feedback mechanism into our lives. And that feedback mechanism is usually spot on.

The world is a mirror. When we don’t like what we see in our own lives, we shouldn’t question the mirror. We should question the person looking into it.