How to Cultivate Your Aura

“Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think about that a lot. This points to a bigger idea that people, places, and situations can sense who we are and what we stand for just by being in our aura. All these little visual and energetic cues allows people (who are in tune with themselves) to get a “vibe” from us without hearing us say anything. I know it sounds woo-woo, but we all have the experience of meeting a person and being immediately off put by them without knowing exactly why. Or being very drawn to a person without a conscious reason. Whether we realize it or not, the world responds to us based on our energy. 

Our Knowledge, Skills, and Experiences Create our Aura

My wife and I always joke that we can tell when someone is rich. There is a certain quality that shines through. Even nasty rich people. They walk differently, smell differently. It’s rather uncanny. Also the expensive clothes give a clue too. 😉 Or think of a professional musician. You can sense power in someone who has attained a certain level of mastery. 

In my estimation, our aura is the result of our knowledge, skills, and experiences. When you take time to learn skills, study, and provide yourself with meaningful experiences, you cultivate an aura that others can sense. Even if you are having a bad day and your clothes are tattered, most self-aware people can see through those surface level things to your essential core. 

Imagine someone with little to no knowledge, skills, and experience. We probably know people like that. They are super uncomfortable to be around. We can sense that something is amiss. That doesn’t make them bad people but it limits them. Here’s why: 

People, places, and situations respond mainly to who we are not what we do. 

Bill Harris at Centerpointe Research Center would say:  “We have control over what people, places, and situations we attract”. We attract people, places, and things based on our energy. Of course time and chance happen to us all, but most of our life results come from what our energy has attracted. 

So how do we increase our energy or aura? Once again, I would say that we need to seek out knowledge, skills, and experiences. These three ways we can develop ourselves will build instant equity to our energetic vibe. Imagine someone who is a scholar of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. They are a concert pianist, and they have traveled the world. They have raised beautiful children and have a loving wife. They are kind, strong, and principled. Imagine the immense energy they would bring anywhere they go. How nice would it be to be around such a person? Whenever we take a chance to improve our energy, life responds. 

Thanks for reading!

How to Eat Enough Protein

If there were one single habit that I feel produced the biggest fitness results, it would be eating enough protein to support an active lifestyle. Notice I am using the word active. The average active person will need about 0.8 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This means that a 180 pound man would need about 144 – 180 grams of protein each day. 

Now consider his sedentary counterpart. He would need about 0.4 grams per pound or about 72 grams of protein. An amount very easy to get with normal balanced eating. Bodybuilders often say the hardest part of bodybuilding is eating. Training is fun. Eating (especially healthy foods) is often a chore. My point is, the average active person has to make a concerted and well planned effort to meet their required protein intake. This will not happen by accident. 

I guarantee that if you never tracked what you ate, you will be nowhere near 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. You wouldn’t want it. You would rather eat buttered pasta. Carbs and fats are super easy to find and eat. Walk into any convenience store and you have an unlimited array of food choices that are high in carbs and fat (usually both in the form of junk food). Ever try to find some lean protein? Very hard! (Although I must admit that food choices are trending healthier these days. I can now get protein shakes in almost any convenience store.) This brings me to my first point…

Eat Protein at Every Meal

In order to hit your protein targets for an active person, you must eat protein at every meal and snack. If you decide to have chocolate for a snack, this sets you back from your total. Remember, the average sedentary person has a need for protein that is half or less of what an active person needs. So when you are out at breakfast and your friend orders pancakes and a piece of fatty sausage, they may actually be getting the amount of protein they need (but you don’t have sedentary friends, do you?!?!?). 

At first glance, it seems reasonable to say eat a decent amount of protein at every meal, but once you try you will realize how difficult it is to get whole food protein sources at most places. You would be hard pressed to piece together a meal with 40 grams of protein at McDonalds that doesn’t smash your calorie intake for that day. 

You have to plan ahead and make sure that every meal you have contains some protein (ideally from a whole food), and some fruit and vegetables. Protein is slightly acidic, so fruit and vegetable intake will help to keep your body balanced and healthy. This is important because you must remember to still eat balanced. Just because you are eating more protein doesn’t mean you can eat junk otherwise. 

You Must Plan Ahead

As I said before, finding carbs and fats, even healthy whole food sources, is super easy. Most of us can find fruits, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, etc. almost anywhere. Protein sources (especially lean ones) are much harder to come by. As a result, you must plan for this. This usually means meal prepping and assuring that you have whole healthful protein sources ready for the whole day. 

I think you would be hard pressed to find a fit person who is not meticulous about watching what they eat. And they will probably say protein is the one macronutrient that you must plan for. If you leave the house for work with no prepared meals, you are going to have a really hard time hitting your desired macros. 

Here is what my days worth of protein looked like for me. I am aiming to get 180-220 grams per day. 

Breakfast:  Egg White Grill (25 grams) and Core Power Shake (45 grams)

Morning Snack:  Cheese Stick, Turkey Slices, and Carrots (25 grams)

Lunch:  Chicken and Rice (40 grams) 

Afternoon Snack:  Turkey Wrap (25 grams)

Dinner: Pizza 🙂 (30 grams) 

So hopefully you got some insight on what types of things you can eat to make sure that you are getting enough protein each day. Thanks for reading!

How Long Will it Take Me to Build a New Habit?

I have built and broken a number of habits. It seems that when we think of habits, we think of something big such as “working out 3x a week for 1 hour” or “having a spotless house”. But as I said before, smaller habits in almost all cases but be the building block of these larger habits and goals. 

About a Month

To my credit (and demise depending on the situation), I love to learn new things. I highly value my freedom and ability to learn and experiment. As a result, I have spent a lot of time doing both effective and ineffective habits. In most circumstances, I am able to instill a new sustainable habit in about one month. Habits like these include:  

  • Eating enough protein
  • Eating a vegetable with every meal
  • Tracking all workouts 
  • Making sure I don’t wear my shoes in the house
  • Gratitude journaling before bed

As you can see, these are not huge life-changing things in and of themselves, but aggregated they turn out to be the building blocks of a much healthier and happier lifestyle. 

There is no One-Size-Fits-All

I don’t want to deceive you into thinking that every habit will take exactly one month to form, but it’s a good starting point. The next habit that you try to instill will certainly come to fruition faster if you assess how reasonable it is and then just begin. And remember that it doesnt matter how long it takes, it will be worth it. 

Some people may feel that one small habit isn’t enough to make the big changes they need to make. That’s like arguing that compound interest isn’t fast enough. Or that the sun doesn’t rise fast enough. Arbitrary, and completely unproductive. As Brain Tracy says, “Get in line and stay in line”. The patience we learn from staying the course is an invaluable life skill in and of itself. Now obviously, we are all starting from different places and with different levels of resources, but no one ever became a worse person by setting and staying the course to achieve a goal. At the very least, you will have gained discipline and perseverance which are worth their weight in gold. 

I guess I am trying to say, just begin and give it a month. See what happens. Most reasonably sized goals will become a part of your everyday routine within about a month if you can stick to it. 

Thanks for reading! 

How to Plan for your Habits

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Although this saying is “played out” in a lot of ways, it still remains a truth in almost all areas of life. Planning is vital to achieving any level of success in almost all endeavors. Planning needs to have a structure and philosophy to produce results. Otherwise, it is just planning in vain, and that sounds like one of the worst ways to spend your time. 

Do your Research

Before we begin planning a path toward any particular goal, we must decide what is worth planning for. Let’s say you decide to plan a fitness goal. It would be helpful to have a teacher or trainer guide you through the process. If you are a rebel, perhaps you want to figure it out on your own. But in any case, you need to gather the necessary information to know what reasonable steps to take. As was stated in my earlier article on making small habits, be sure to start small and build slowly. Okay, so now you know that you are going to start your journey by walking for at least ten minutes a day. The next step is to take that small goal and create a reasonable and visible plan. 

Have a Reasonable and Visible Plan

If a beginner to fitness made a goal to begin running 30 minutes each day they would likely fail. Not only is the goal not reasonable, it is unnecessarily hard. Now, if I go from being sedentary to walking ten minutes a day, that is a reasonable goal. Big enough to begin producing results, but small enough not to set off my body’s resistance patterns. 

I now need to make this plan visible. This is a minor, but crucial process in creating a good plan. Let’s say you open up your Google Docs and create a weekly meal plan. The next morning you get up and go to the fridge to begin prepping your meals for the week. What was your snack supposed to be? How many cups of rice go in your lunch? Now imagine that you printed that document and placed it on your fridge with a magnet. Now you get up, go to the fridge and know exactly what to pack to meet your goals for that day. In my experience, this small habit of making the plan visible is indispensable to 100% compliance. 

I am a teacher. When kids don’t do their homework, I make them verbally tell me they didn’t do it. I don’t do it to be vindictive, I do it to provide accountability. If I just walk past and they can look the other way, they don’t have to admit their failure (albeit insignificant) to me or themselves. Going back to the fridge example, If I have to look at the document on my fridge and willfully put something else in my lunch bag, I must admit that small failure to myself in that moment. Of course we forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, but knowing that you have to confront them soon afterward makes for a good accountability measure. 

Be Ready to Tweak

Jack Canfield has a lot of great little sayings that I remember. One of them is “ready, fire, aim”. Basically the concept is to “just begin” and then take stock of the results to make tweaks as you go. This is exactly what we must do with our plans (unless we are under the guidance of a professional). It sounds like a contradiction to tell you to make a plan, and at the same time be flexible, but that is exactly what we must do if we are creating unique goals for ourselves. Just let the idea settle that achieving your goals will require flexibility on your part. 

So remember, do your research, have a visible and reasonable plan, and be ready to tweak your plan as you go.

Thanks for reading!

Habits are Investments

In a previous post, I discussed the idea that you should focus on building habits one at a time. When we commit to smaller habits that are easy to form and sustain, we grow our ability to achieve more and more. If we try to do too much too soon, we quickly encounter our body’s natural resistance mechanisms. A good way to think about a habit is as an investment. 

Results Take Time

Depending on how big the goal, the subsequent energy required to reach it is proportional. For example, if your goal is financial independence, you can expect to spend several years in that pursuit. If your goal is to become fit, you can expect to achieve your goal after several months (maybe even a year or two).  

But what if instead of setting a big lofty goal, we set a more reasonable one and think of it as an investment? A few dollars a day over the course of many years can lead to financial security very quickly. For example, if our goal is to become fit, perhaps we can choose the small goal of eating a piece of fruit every day. It seems inconsequential, but once that habit is solidified, the door opens to add another small habit (maybe eating adequate protein to support an active lifestyle). Then we add another habit…and another…and, before you know it, you reach your goal. 

Patience is required in this process. If we eat our piece of fruit and then expect to see results after a day, we are delusional (you might feel better, but you won’t look any different). But we can eat our fruit knowing that this habit is the step to begin a journey that will lead us to bigger and better (and more noticeable) results. Think of each small habit built as a deposit into the account that will soon pay dividends much larger than the original investments. 

Compound Interest

Achieving a goal is the end of an exponential process. Much like compound interest. You put in $1,000 and earn $20 interest. The next year, you now have your original $1,000 plus the next $1,000 you invest, PLUS the $20 interest. Habits work the same way. Month one you decide to eat fruit. Month two you are eating fruit and watching your protein intake. Month three you are eating fruit, watching your protein intake, and counting calories. With each habit you build, you have the value of that habit, plus all of the other little habits that are grown out of that one. Does that make sense? (I am a math teach haha) The results may not be immediate, but they will grow faster than you think. The beginning is the hardest. It is against our nature to put in effort without seeing reward. But it’s just the way it is. With a little faith, we can know that these small habits will eventually bear fruit. 

Thanks for reading!

How to Not Care what Others Think

Not caring what others think at all may prove to be a fool’s errand. Of course we care (even if only a little) about what those important to us think. That is natural. What I am speaking of here is how to live our lives so that the need for approval doesn’t stunt our authenticity. 

Answers to big questions are often simple. Not easy, but simple. It may take a significant amount of time to actualize them, but the idea itself is simple. 

Why do we Seek Approval?

There are many habits in life that are the vestiges of our earlier human development. Approval seeking is a great example. Think about it. You are out in the wilderness with your tribe. You cannot survive alone. Because of this, staying in everyone’s (particularly the leader’s) good graces is a matter of life and death. Fast forward to modern life, there are very few people whose approval we need to live a good life. The only exception may be as a child. As a child, we should get the unconditional approval of our parents, but that is a different story for another day. 

We seek approval for fear of being cast out of whatever group we are in. If our friends love to gossip, chances are we will too, because our brains are telling us that if we don’t, we risk being kicked out of the group (that might not be a bad thing). Now, translate this to other areas of your life that could hold you back. Maybe you want to become a writer, but the criticism from those around you stunts your efforts. You want to study a new skill, but your sister unintentionally giggles when you tell her. That is when this perfectly normal survival mechanism becomes a sabotage mechanism. 

How to not Care what Others Think

Not caring what others think comes down to values. Story time. When I was in my early twenties, I loved reading articles from Brian Tracy. One of his suggestions was to come up with a list of values. I wracked my brain and had to confront the sobering truth that I didn’t have any. I had the values that other people wanted for me, but I had not developed them on my own. I mostly forgot about that exercise for a number of years. 

Fast forward 5-7 years, and with some valuable life experiences, I developed my own set of values without even thinking about it. After years of dealing with the problems of daily living, I naturally unearthed what was important to me. 

Whenever we fear the criticism of others, it is because we have not decided what is important to us. Don’t get me wrong, the fear may always be there, but in a much less overwhelming way that won’t stop you from taking action. When you have your values in order, you will realize that the only person whose approval you desperately need is your own. Other people’s opinions matter, and sometimes we need to alter our values based on valuable feedback. But the ultimate change is up to us. Getting your values in order may take some time. Life experience will help you unearth them even if you aren’t trying to. Exercises like this one can help you start, but remember, life experience is what will ultimately set your values in stone. 

Thanks for reading!

Three Ways to Make Going to the Gym a Habit

The hardest thing (for most people) about going to the gym is getting there. Not “getting there”as in whether to take a car or bus, but “getting there” in terms of finding the motivation to get out of the house. In this article, I will share a few of my tips that have helped make getting to the gym relatively easy for me. 

  1. Plan in Advance

A good habit to instill is making sure that you pack your bags and all necessary items for the gym the day before. This is a big help for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. Obviously it saves you time when you grab your ready-to-go bag the next day, but it also makes it more likely that you’ll grab the bag as opposed to leaving it by the door. Why? Because if you don’t, you’ll have to deal with the bag anyway! You’ll have to unpack it and put all the stuff back. Sounds minor, but if your brain knows the bag must be dealt with at some point, better to make it when it will benefit you. 

2. Take Collateral 

When I say “take collateral”, I mean tie something to your gym trip that will make more work for you if you don’t go (similar to the bag idea above). If you spend time making a pre- and post-workout snack, have it in your fridge and ready to go, every time you open the fridge, you’ll remember your commitment to going to the gym. My trick is that I make a post-workout protein shake each night before I go to the gym and put it in the fridge. I remember (I kid you not) EVERY single time I poured one of the shakes down the drain. One because protein is expensive and two because I had a stark reminder of a broken commitment. 

3. Find what You Like to Do (or find a way to make what you don’t like doing fun)

I think at some point, everyone realizes that to have total fitness you have to do something you don’t like. I hate cardio. I find it repetitive, boring, and even a little physically uncomfortable. I can get hype about lifting weights pretty much any time, but cardio is another story. To solve this problem, I found “hacks” to help me enjoy doing cardio. One of them is to listen to an interesting podcast. Makes the monotony of the treadmill much easier. Another way I hack cardio is by trying to stay at a specific heart rate zone. It seems silly, but having to adjust my effort level makes the cardio feel more responsive and almost like a little game. Moral of the story, try to think of creative ways to make the less pleasant parts of your gym experience more fun.

Thanks for reading!