So I’ve done one post about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, but just a reminder I am sharing this info to encourage myself to think about the lessons as if I was going to teach them, but also because I’m learning a lot about myself from reading the book. I recently read the section about finding your center, where Covey relates all the different things people center their lives around. I wondered about people who have fitness as their center. I wanted to reflect on my experience of having exercise at the center of my life.
This last year as my triathlon training picked up I found that exercise had become the center of my life. Well I should clarify that it wasn’t just exercise, but fitness in general. I had an ap on my phone where I obsessively put in calories, I measured all the metrics of my workouts, I read about triathlons, and very very often I didn’t do other things because I wanted to workout. I got to work late because I wanted to get the last few laps in at the pool. I didn’t go out with friends, so that I could get up early and exercise. In and of itself none of these things were a problem. There is nothing inherently wrong with choosing something like fitness or training over other things in your life. Many professional or even serious amateur athletes do this all the time. What was wrong, at least for me, was the place that this choice was coming from. It was the place of trying really hard not to screw up. It was a place of insecurity, of confusion, and that lacked what Covey calls the 4 factors: security, wisdom, guidance, and power. I only felt secure when I had done the training program. I had little access to wisdom other than reliance on the plans wisdom. I was guided by the plan and found power only when I attended to it diligently.
Don’t get me wrong there is a part of me that was and is happy that I was so one minded about my efforts. I had a great first olympic tri, my body got stronger, and I built faith in my ability to apply myself. But instead of moving into training from a strong place of vow and clarity. I ran into it out of fear of what else might happen. Fear of the space that would be left if I didn’t fill every moment of my life with training. How often do we do this in our lives? Some people fill that space with food, or tv, others with exercise or information. Some of these fillers may be more skillful than others, but if they all come from a fear of what is at the center, or what might not be at center, they are all a bit off.
Many people think that people who are fit are better than those who aren’t, especially if they are people who fill space with food and thus don’t look as ‘in shape’ as the exercise centered people. In truth many people who are fit are just as scared as you are. In the long run I think exercise has great potential to clarify the mind, but it also has potential to cloud it. It’s not about the strategy, but the center that it comes from.
When you move forward from a strong center, you greet the world with confidence. Even if you feel uncertain from time to time, that center becomes a force of gravity into which you can lean. Having a strong center is so powerful, because the worldly winds don’t hold as much sway on you. There is a sense of being able to close your eyes and know in your heart that you are doing your best, by being who you are, with integrity and authenticity. There is hardly a better gift to give to your life and the lives of those around you.
Take a moment to reflect on a time in your life, where you became centered on some external thing. What did it feel like to be so dependent on something else for security, wisdom, guidance, and/or power? Then reflect on a time where you felt like you had a solid center. Maybe it was when you were much younger and perhaps even idealistic. What was different about that time in your life? What is the center of your life now? If you don’t know what could you do to help clarify it?
Sunday Sept 23rd 3pm at Irving Park (Future meetings will alternate between NE and SE Portland)