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The road to massive change can begin with one keystone habit

There are people, not all, but some, that want to make massive changes in their life. Some don’t. Some want the world to just accept them as they are and maybe even give them a participation medal.

But some (like you and me), want to get better. We want to get much better. And it seems overwhelming. To tell you the truth, that’s one of the biggest reasons so many have opted to settle for themselves the way they are now.

Massive change is hard. It is. I know. I’ve tried.

And I’ve failed.

But that’s not the end for me. I’m going to keep trying. And keep on looking for ways to get better at getting better.

Here’s one of the ways I’ve discovered to succeed at making massive change.

Start with one keystone habit.

One thing that I can win at and get some momentum. One thing to build on and add to the progress of other changes.

I got a notification today that my computer’s Apple software had some updates available. So I said yeah, go ahead and update. There were two things, iTunes and iCloud that needed to update. I clicked update and off it went.

I went back to what I was doing on the computer. Then I noticed that there were three lines in the updates area. I looked closer and saw that the second and third items were iTunes and iCloud. The first was “files shared by these updates”.

So since both features needed some of the same things, the update script just went ahead and installed the common files first and then worked on the two updates with a foundation to start with. They both get to update faster than if they were worked on separately.

That’s the way we should update ourselves.

Update some common things first.

So what are some common things?

I don’t know. It’s different for different people.

But here are some examples that I’m going to try.

I want to learn to play the guitar and the piano. So learning to read music may be a good first step.

I want to increase my fitness and I want to read more. Easy. Listen to audio books while I run. But I’m not running now… OK. What about if I work on a habit of getting up 1/2 earlier every day. Boom. I use that time to run and listen to a book.

Getting up earlier is the habit that makes the fitness and the more books actually happen.

So it’s not the combining of habits (running and reading) that’s the big idea here. It’s the getting up early to get those two things done. That’s the common thing.

James Clear says:

“when you make a change to one behavior it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.”

So what do you do now? How do you start using this?

Here’s what I suggest. Make a list of the things you want to change. Just a big list to begin with.

Then start to group them together. Look for things that go together. Look for concepts that tie two or three together.

Then start to see core habits that each group shares. Little things that would make each thing in the habit group closer to getting done.

What one thing will be the start of many other things?

Do that thing.

One awesome phenomenon about habits or success or whatever is that it acts and grows exponentially. If you can just start… If you can start with something that starts a few things at the same time…

You’ll be amazed at how fast it builds.

And that feels good.

So get started. Make a list. Group some things together. Start some core habits.

And watch the massive change begin.


Most diets work – if you actually do it

I was eating something the other day and when I finished, I thought to myself “I don’t even remember taking that last bite.”

What a waste. I don’t remember what it was that I was eating at the time, but I remember that it was something that I really like.

And THAT is the problem. Today I’m going to talk about mindful eating.

Mindfulness is when you are consciously aware of the things you’re experiencing. Mindful eating is, obviously, when you are consciously aware of the things you’re eating.

I think most of us get in the habit of eating without paying attention to the taste, the texture, the temperature, the amount of the food we eat.

There are at least two things wrong with this.

First, we don’t get to enjoy our favorite foods. How often do you finish eating or drinking something you love and then realize that it’s gone and you don’t remember it? Tragic.

Secondly, we eat foods and amounts that are not good for us.

So like I stated in the title of this post, I really believe that many of the “diets” out there will actually work, if we really do it.

One of the most important things that most diets do for us is make us aware of what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat.

For example, most diets don’t allow for eating a bunch of sugary, processed junk food. So any diet you’re on will cause you to eat a lot less junk food.

Being on a diet that allows for some and restricts some types and amounts of food will make you healthier. Mindful eating is actually one of the keys to any diet.

So I guess if you just focused on mindful eating, you’d probably get much better results than any other diet that you didn’t really stick to.

So here’s my action item for you.

If you’re looking at trying some kind of diet, to lose weight or just feel healthier, do these two things.

  1. Think about and/or do some research and come up with a list of good foods and a list of bad foods.
  2. Pay attention to what, when, and how much you eat with eating better in mind.

Try this and tweak it according to your results.

I think you’ll find that mindful eating will take you a long way toward your weight loss goals.


The higher law of balance

So, the other day I was watching a video of a martial arts master. He was a Shoalin monk doing kung fu. It was beautiful and powerful.

But I noticed something that I thought was off.

Some of his stances had him on only one foot.

I’ve been teaching for over twenty years that to have a solid stance, both feet need to be on the ground.

I thought either Shaolin monks are doing it wrong…

Or my understanding is incomplete.

Let’s look at this a bit more.

Why would they stand on one foot if that will not secure them to the ground as well as two feet?

Maybe they don’t want to be secured to the ground. Maybe their balance is self contained. Maybe their stance is not relative to the ground, but relative simply to themself.

Bruce Lee talks about becoming like water. Water doesn’t rely on the bank of the river or the bottom of a cup for it’s power. It has it’s power independent of what is near it.

So we should also be independent of our surroundings.

Think about this. Imagine a kung fu master on one foot getting hit (or think of a movie you’ve seen where this happens). Quite probably, he doesn’t fall down. He’ll just move back or to the side and take a different stance, his body being dynamic and fluid. Balanced.

This takes a lot of practice and true mastery of your body. Most of us don’t have this kind of control independent of our surroundings. We need both feet on the ground. But the higher way is to have balance independent of things outside of you.

In our classes, we do cartwheels as part of our warm ups. I get asked regularly why we practice cartwheels to learn martial arts. My answer is that we are learning control of our bodies, which is essential to learning martial arts.

So the next time you practice your stance, focus on true balance. Be fluid, dynamic, and independent of your surroundings.

This is a higher way.



Meditation and the Myth of the Empty Mind

Meditation and the empty mindWhen people talk about meditation, I often hear some talk about emptying your mind. They say that the goal of meditation is to clear your mind of everything and allow your mind to be empty.

I see it a bit differently than that.

Now, just to let you know, for a few years, I tried the whole empty your mind thing. I never quite got it. There was always something there. No matter how hard I tried, I was always thinking of something.

And there are many experts in the area of meditation that say you just keep trying and perhaps over a lifetime, you can achieve the empty mind.

Well, I’ve thought long and hard about it and settled on some ideas that help me more than the empty mind concept.

There may be some that reach it or at least a lot of people who want to continue to strive for it. I just haven’t found success with it. I get more frustrated than focused.

Here’s what I do find helpful. Using meditation to drill in my focus on one thing.

At the beginning of a martial arts class, I sit with my eyes closed and breath. I pick one thing that I want to be laser focused on and try to shut everything else out.

That is something I can do with much success.

In fact, a lot of the people I’ve come across that teach the idea of an empty mind being the goal usually tell you to start by focusing on one thing. They suggest picturing a candle in your mind and focusing on the fluttering flame. Or focusing on your breath, in and out, lungs filling and emptying.

The difference here that I see between the empty mind goal and the way I go about it is that instead of picking something random like a candle as my object for the inevitable thing I focus on, I pick one thing that I actually want to focus on and try to laser in on that for the goal of heightened clarity on that thing.

Who knows, maybe some day I’ll reach the empty mind after a lifetime of meditation.

In the meantime, I’m going to use all that practice focusing to good use on something specific.

– Crowe SeonSaengNim




When your day just plain stinks, find the meaning

I work for the government. On some days, my day – my job – my environment just stinks. This week has been like that.

I am just frustrated with how things work (or don’t work). I am feeling very unmotivated. I can’t see how the things I’m doing really matter.

It just stinks. Well, that’s how I was feeling today.

Do you ever have days like that? With your job? Your kids? Your spouse? Your business?

We all do.

So how do we get past that? How do we get back to where we can move forward. How do we get past just wanting to quit?

Find meaning.

Find something that you can move toward. The whole thing is still going to stink. Today, it just stinks. Tomorrow you may get past that. But today, it just stinks. But not all of it.

Find one thing about it that you can see as a meaning.

Find one thing that you can focus on to actually get excited about. Not the whole thing, just one thing.

The whole thing doesn’t have to mean something to you. The whole thing stinks right now, remember?

But if you can (and you can) find one small thing that is still meaningful.

In my job as a SQL programmer, I still love the actual code writing. So today (and many days) I just forgot about all the things that stink about my work environment and just focused on the code. I ended up having a great day at work. The coding means something to me. It means learning, improving, working through logic obstacles, and producing something useful.

So as you get in a funk with something in your life, change your focus. Stop thinking about the parts that stink, which may be most of it in that moment.

Focus on the little part that has meaning to you.


The touch that recalibrates

I noticed something strange the other day when I got off the train one morning on my way to work. There was a guy in front of me that got off the train and just before it pulled away, he reached out and touched it.

“Hmmm”, I thought. I’m not the only one that does that.

Quite often, when I get off the train, I walk alongside it and put my hand or finger on it. It’s always been a thing I do.

I do it with other things too, not just the train. As I move about, I regularly run my hand along stationary objects around me.

As I’ve tried to figure out why, I’ve developed a theory.

I think it’s a way to calibrate myself in my environment.

As any martial artist knows, awareness is key. Knowing where you are and where the things (and people) around you are is essential to awareness.

When I reach out to touch the things around me, I’m updating my data about where everything is.

It’s like when a dog tilts his head back and forth when he hears something he doesn’t quite understand. He’s gathering more information, from different angles and perspectives to calibrate himself.

I also do things like stick my foot out behind me to locate a pole I’m standing in front of, or  back up until my backpack touches the wall I know is behind me.

All these things are a way for me to figure out where I am and where the things around me are.

So the next time you see someone touching things around them, or notice yourself doing it, think about it. Is it an awareness thing?

I think it just may be.


First I’m gonna, then I’m gonna

Think through every move.

As you practice and plan for any potential conflicts, one of the most important things you can do it break it down into steps.

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Last Samurai, you’ll remember a couple scenes where Tom Cruise goes over the upcoming battle in his head, move by move. Once the actual fight happens, he knows exactly what to do because he already went through each step and each next move.

We can (and should) do the same thing. Rather than just thinking of winning, we should think of exactly how.

By saying to ourselves “first I’m gonna, then I’m gonna” we can make a plan that actually is a plan.

As we see the details in our head, we can figure out ahead of time if one move will lead to the next, or if it will not be effective.

Sometimes  we don’t know how well something will work till we try it. And we don’t want to find out that something doesn’t work in the middle of a fight. We really want to limit ourselves to actions that have the highest chance of working.

So as you practice in the Do Jang, or just imagine scenarios in your head, make sure you list the steps. First I’ll do this, then I’ll do this. He’ll probably do this, which will set me up to do this.

Remember, the best plans are actually planned.


What goes down must come up

I went for a quick run at work today. I locked my computer and set out for just like five minutes of exercise. Just around my building.

Well, as I got going, I felt really good and decided to go around the building next door too. I was going downhill and it seemed so effortless, I thought I would get in even more than I planned.

Then the ground leveled out and it was harder. Eventually, to get back to my building, I had to go uphill.

Then it hit me. What goes down must come up. The uphill half, which was the second half was harder in a couple respects.

  1. It was harder because I wasn’t expecting it.
  2. It was much harder in comparison to the ease of going downhill.
  3. It was harder because it was at the end, after I’d already expended a bunch of energy to get that far.

There are two things I thought of that I need to do to not feel that bad again.

First, I can rearrange my workout to put the hard stuff before the easy stuff. That sounds good.

But what sounds even better is to rearrange my thinking to plan for and expect it to get harder.

When we wear ourselves down and then do hard stuff, we get stronger. And I’m not training to get softer.

So along with working my body, I need to remember to work my mind. Because strength and endurance are not just for the body. It’s also – maybe even more so – for the mind.


Find your wins, big or small, and dwell on them

Several years ago, I went to an Anthony Robbins seminar and walked across a bed of hot coals that was glowing with the heat of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tony had spent most of the night telling us how hot the coals were, how tough it should be to get ourselves to walk across them, how scared we should be, how hurt we could get, etc. He told us that he was trying to get us all to believe that we couldn’t do it.

And the reason he spent so much time trying to plant all that doubt in us is so that after we did it, we could look back on it for the rest of our lives as something that we overcame when we didn’t think we could.

There have been other things in my life that were no where near as scary or hard to believe.

Like the time I went to the store with our vacuum cleaner that we had accidentally rolled over some fishing line with.

The fishing line burned through the roller brush and ruined the vacuum.

The store we got it from had a pretty good warranty, so I took it back to them just to see if there was any chance they might be able to do something (but believing that they were just going to tell me it was our fault and we were out of luck).

Well, to my surprise, they not only gave me a brand new vacuum, but since that model was no longer sold there, we got the newer model instead. No further cost to me. Wow. Score!

So whenever I start to doubt or fear, I really just need to remember a time when I won. Big win, small win, whatever. We can almost always find a way to believe we can win again if we just look at our past and remember all the times we win.

Because big or small, they all count as wins and they all show us what’s possible if we believe – even just barely enough to try in spite of our doubt.


The power of practicing what might happen

Expect the expected.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “expect the unexpected”.

Well, to be a better prepared martial artist, learn to expect the expected.

One of the best things you can do to be prepared for the unexpected is to think about what could possibly happen and then practice what to say and what to do.

So what may be unexpected to most people is now expected to you. And your reaction is not only not a surprise to you, it’s precise and well executed. Because you’ve anticipated it and practiced it.

In Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, it points out this concept:

When U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 mounted its May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, it prepared by constructing full-scale replicas of the compound in North Carolina and Nevada, and rehearsing for three weeks. Dozens of times the SEALs simulated the operation. Dozens of times, they created various conditions they might encounter.

There are actually a limited number of things that will probably happen to you in life. And based on the environment, the people, and the situation, you can usually come up with a few things that are most likely to happen.

So spend some time each week (or each day, if you’re serious about improving yourself) and imagine scenarios. Think about what could happen and see and hear your response. Practice it. Perfect it.

You can get to the point where almost nothing is a surprise.

Like Sun Tsu said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Or Seneca. “Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectations.”