How To Convert Exercise Into A Manifestation Of Achievement
Years ago I had an epiphany. I realized that I can connect performing an enduring physical exercise (running, weight training, taking a hot sauna) to a goal fixed in my mind. I pick the most pertinent goal of the current stage of life and imagine that focusing on the exercise is a rehearsal for achieving the goal.
The science backs up the innate desire to achieve
The desire to achieve something is natural for human beings. No matter what your age, gender, social status, you always want to move on to the next level. The next level may not be in the upward direction. You can move sideways, or even down below, if it so suits your agenda. Yet, reaching a goal post is not the basis for long-term happiness. It’s the infinite string of goals that keeps us yearning to live and even functions as the meaning of existence.
I don’t claim this to be the only philosophy of life, but if the topic I’m uncovering here excites you, you know we are on the same page.
We don’t need to assume that the acquisition path is limited to material possessions. Even in Buddhism the goal is achievement, although it’s Nirvana – the ultimate state.
Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp postulates that of seven fundamental instincts in the human brain (anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and seeking), seeking is the most important. “The world isn’t fixed, it’s always changing, so that means you have to create anew in light of the changes,” Jaak states.
How to get the most mental benefit out of physical exercise
About 12 years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, I was transitioning from a wobbly career of a freelance web designer to a more professional role in a large company. Trust me, there are many things you can learn from working in a collective, the stuff you’d never know as a freelancer. Anyway, I was struggling to position myself favorably with my portfolio and resume. Around the same time I got into running.
Not having been into running before, I took it easy at first: ½ a mile around the block, then a mile, then 1½, then 2. Gradually, over the coming weeks, I became tougher. Somewhere in the middle of the process, using my imagination, I began connecting my improvements in running with the projection of getting the job I wanted, with making more money, with growing as a professional. Each lap had a theme: “crushing an interview”, “becoming a high performer”, “turning into a well-to-do man who can take care of his family and friends”.
After about a month I rocked the job interview and began working at a firm of my dreams. I wouldn’t assign the reason for achieving my goal solely to the running exercise but it certainly served as a manifestation framework.
Recently one of my mentors introduced me to the “feet in the ice bucket” challenge. The idea is to feel up a bucket with cold water and top it off with ice cubes to make sure it’s seriously cold. Then I submerge my feet up to the ankles into the water and stay in for at least 3 minutes. I can barely describe the feelings and emotions that the exercise stirs up in me. I want to scream, curse, jump out of the bucket, throw my arms up in the air. Yet, the point is to stay focused, train your body and every muscle to be still, and breathe.
This exercise even more so than running teaches me to be present, let go of the noise in my mind, stay patient, persistent and non-reactive.
Examples of enduring activities:
- hot sauna
- yoga, regular or hot
- weight training
- cold shower
- meditation (more enduring when done for 15+ minutes)
- long distance swimming
Try it next time: connect a physical or mental exercise with a goal you are trying to achieve. There are no rules on how to do it, use your imagination and see how it turns out.
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