Focusing on Fitness

June 18th, 2008  |  Published in Goals

Welcome to Above Yourself, a blog about self-improvement and faith. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe in a reader or subscribe by email. Many of the topics here are related to my faith in Jesus Christ and Mormonism, but all are welcome to share their own beliefs. Thanks for visiting!

Physical Fitness didn’t used to be an area in which I really had to put extra effort. I played team sports from early elementary school and into high school, and even in college there were always people looking to play a pick-up basketball game or to throw a baseball around. After I started dating more (and especially after getting married) it seems that I must take more initiative for myself to stay physically fit. This is no fault of my wife’s - she’s actually been quite an inspiration for me in terms of wanting to get into better shape. I’ve even lost significant weight since our first child was born, but my weight seems to have reached a plateau that gradually increases or decreases depending on how long it has been since we last went on vacation.

What does this mean? I’ve got to kick it up a notch and take ownership of my own level of fitness. Although I don’t use them every day, sites like fitday.com have helped me recognize how many calories I burn and how many I take in. This resolve makes it easier to say no to myself when I want an extra slice of pizza, or when choosing between soda and water with my meal (especially when it’s pizza).

Next, I’ve started to work exercising into my routine. It’s not firmly established yet, but today I ran for twenty minutes on our elliptical trainer before work and began a program called One Hundred Pushups that I found through the blog Get Fit Slowly. The one hundred pushups routine is simple, free, and challenging. I’m just starting out so I can’t comment on long-term results, but I definitely feel a burn in my chest and shoulders already. It’s humbling to try to do pushups these days considering how many I could do ten years ago, but I’m committed to do many more than I started out with.

Finally, I’ve decided to seek out support. I’ve informed others that I want to eat healthier and make better food decisions, and I’ve found support in the community at Get Fit Slowly in the form of reminders and the knowledge that I’m not alone in my goals. I’m even telling you so that I can publicly commit myself to these goals.

President David O. McKay stated: “The healthy man, who takes care of his physical being, has strength and vitality; his temple is a fit place for his spirit to reside. … It is necessary, therefore, to care for our physical bodies, and to observe the laws of physical health and happiness” (“The ‘Whole’ Man,” Improvement Era, Apr. 1952, 221).

“Lesson 24: Keeping Physically Healthy,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, 177

Pruning Our Goals

June 11th, 2008  |  Published in Goals, Habits

We just got back from two weeks away from home, which means that a lot of the things we usually do haven’t been done. There is grass to mow, groceries to buy, clothes to wash, and plenty more items like that on our to-do list. Does this mean we’re stressed about all that we have to do? Not really. We’re excited to get back into the swing of things and we’re looking at today as sort of a fresh beginning. Looking at our back lawn (which is really more weeds than grass, but we’re working on that), I think of these few days of “back to normal” before a routine sets in as an opportunity to prune back the things that have crept up on us and kept us overly busy.

It’s been almost two months since my last blog post? No problem! This post as an opportunity to redefine my goals for this blog. I’m not going to commit myself to posting here every day- a few times a month sounds more like it. I’m planning on taking the same strategy to fix the other things that are left undone.

Some things that went undone over the last few weeks will definitely stay that way, getting pruned off and out of our lives in the process. For me, that list includes a few TV shows I recorded to our DVR but were really more of a time-waster than entertainment, RSS feeds that I didn’t really read anymore, and other similar goals. Now the only trick is to make sure that other time-wasters don’t creep in to fill the void- there are plenty of other worthy goals worth tackling.

Celebrating Easter

March 20th, 2008  |  Published in Goals, Mormonism

I was talking with a coworker today, and we seemed to agree that Easter shouldn’t be all about hiding candy in eggs and wearing our fanciest clothes to church. It’s a great time to think of Jesus Christ, his Atonement, and the Resurrection of Christ. I’m not planning on locking out the Easter Bunny from our house, but that conversation did make me think about how I can establish traditions that bring more thoughts of Jesus Christ into our family’s Easter traditions.

In Elder Richard G. Scott’s devotional at Brigham Young University this week, he highlighted the importance of learning about the Atonement. Here is part of BYU NewsNet’s recap:

“The Atonement is that essential ingredient of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness,” Elder Scott said, “without which that plan would have no significant meaning.”

Although this challenge applies specifically to students at BYU, we can all learn from studying about Christ’s Atonement. As part of our Easter celebration this year, my wife and I are participating in part of our church’s Easter pageant, specifically in a scene that takes place at Christ’s tomb. It’s a very moving scene, and I’m glad that it has helped us remember our Savior this Easter season.

Elder Scott then challenged students to “establish a personal plan to better understand and appreciate the incomparable, eternal, infinite consequences of the perfect fulfillment by Jesus Christ.” He testified as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ that one’s understanding of the Atonement will enhance the knowledge and skills learned at this university.

Doing it Now

March 19th, 2008  |  Published in Goals, Habits

I’ve had to work on my mental mindset recently. We all often experience setbacks in accomplishing our goals, and it isn’t until we do something about it that things really start to change. I’m working to try to establish regular goals for writing, but other things like schoolwork sometimes get in the way for a day or two and derail those plans. Even though I’m on spring break right now, I haven’t been focused on getting those goals back in order like I should. So here’s my plan: get back up, start up on my goals again, and continue forward!

Until I can turn my goals into habits I may have to get up over and over again, but it’s much more important to work on my goals right now as much as I can instead of using excuses like “I’ll start doing that after I graduate” or “I’ll wait until I have some free time”. Those aren’t very good reasons to delay goals, and the end result is that we lose out on all the progress we could have gained in that time. I love this quote from Elder Bednar:

A spurt may appear to be impressive in the short run, but steadiness over time is far more effective, far less dangerous, and produces far better results. Three consecutive days of fasting ultimately may not be as spiritually effective as three successive months of appropriate fasting and worship on the designated fast Sunday. An attempt to pray one time for five hours likely will not produce the spiritual results of meaningful morning and evening prayer offered consistently over five weeks. And a single scripture-reading marathon cannot produce the spiritual impact of steady scripture study across many months.

David A. Bednar, Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, September 9, 2003

Baby Steps

July 9th, 2007  |  Published in Goals, Mormonism

Reaching our goals in life often takes baby steps. Goals should be worked on as part of a series of events, and they shouldn’t be dependent on just one major event happening.

Think of it this way: If your goal is to retire with a million dollars, there are two types of ways you can do it. One way to get a million dollars all at once at the last minute, by winning the lottery or having a really great idea come to you out of nowhere. Winning the lottery is something like trying to hit a home run in baseball with every swing. This strategy might win one or two games through the whole season with a lot of fanfare, but Major league coaches know that consistent winning comes through stringing together a few hits and good strategy rather than trying to have every player hit a home run every time up. This is the equivalent of saving up smaller amounts all throughout life in order to reach the million dollars. It suggests that we should leverage the power of interest and savings in our investment plans.

As Seth Godin has said, “the home runs you almost hit don’t count“. Each time we swing for the fence, we don’t have anything to build on when we miss.

Success in spirituality is achieved through the same means that it is achieved in our daily life, through regular and consistent achievement of smaller goals. No one act can get us into heaven. Achieving our goals through baby steps lets us build on our previous successes, and we can start to achieve forward momentum in a world that is constantly pushing back on us.