How to Form the Decisiveness Habit

By Leo Babauta

I’ve had several people ask me lately about what they can do about indecisiveness, and it made me realize that this is actually something I’m pretty good at: being decisive.

Making decisions can be difficult, especially when there’s no clear choice. But being indecisive, when you’re at the cusp of one of these tough decisions, can come at high costs:

  • Not taking action can cost you an opportunity, or cost money and time as you delay.
  • People waiting on you to make a decision can get frustrated.
  • You can feel stress about your indecisiveness, and stress about how you’re making people wait.

People who are plagued with indecisiveness generally know they don’t want to be that way, so I won’t belabor the point. It’s not fun, and I feel compassion for those who have this difficulty.

So how can we form the habit of being decisive instead?

It’s about recognizing what’s going on when you’re stuck with a decision, as it’s happening. And then deciding to go with a new set of habits around your decision-making.

Recognizing What’s Going On

Why do we get stuck making decisions? It’s one of our mind’s most common habitual reactions around uncertainty.

Let’s say we have a choice to make, about hiring Contractor A or Contractor B. It can be very tough, because we honestly don’t know which one will perform better, is more trustworthy, or who might screw things up for us.

So we have a lot of uncertainty. Our minds don’t like this uncertainty, so there are some things we might do to get away from it:

  • Do a bunch of research. This is one of the most common things we do when we feel uncertainty. We do an online search, read all about it, try to gain more certainty by gaining more information. There’s nothing wrong with this — in fact, in this decision, it’s probably a good idea — but it’s still important to recognize that we’re trying to get more certainty because we’re feeling uncertainty. At the end, we might have more information, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty.
  • Write out a pros and cons list. Or a cost-benefits analysis. Or some other kind of rational decision-making tool. I’ve made spreadsheets where I list different factors/criteria, then give a score for each one, and weight the factors so I can come up with an overall score. It was great. I still had uncertainty. These tools are helpful, but just recognize that they are a way to get away from uncertainty, and at the end, you’ll still have uncertainty.
  • Ask a bunch of people about their opinion. Or read a bunch of reviews. Again, this is not a bad idea. Just recognize that at the end of the day, you’ll still have uncertainty.
  • Put off the decision. This is the classic response to uncertainty — get away from the uncertainty, don’t think about it, delay. This often comes after some of the above strategies. And it doesn’t get you away from the uncertainty, because it stays with you, giving you stress.

These are some of the common ways we habitually deal with the uncertainty of a decision. But none of them solve the problem for us (even if the first few can be helpful tactics).

We are uncertain about:

  • What the best choice might be
  • Whether there will be negative consequences of the choice
  • Whether we’ll look dumb to others if we make the wrong choice
  • Whether we’ll feel dumb, or ripped off, and regret it for years to come
  • Whether we’ll be OK if we make the wrong choice

This last bit is the real heart of the matter. There is no “right” choice, but we worry that if we make the wrong choice, things won’t be OK. We might dream up disaster scenarios, and then get a lot of anxiety about those possibilities. But the truth is, for most choices, we’ll be perfectly OK. Let’s talk about how we might see that, and what new set of habits might be more helpful.

Creating a New Set of Habits

As we saw in the last section, we can’t get rid of the uncertainty around making a decision. We can do everything we can to research, delay, come up with a decision-making system … and we’ll still be unsure of what choice we should make. We’ll still feel anxious about it.

So we might just learn to be OK with that uncertainty, and get into the habit of making decisive decisions.

Yes, there will likely be a cost to whatever choice we make. That’s true if we make no choice as well — that’s a choice, and it has costs. Over the long run, the cost of indecision is usually worse than the cost of making a wrong choice, because we stress out about the indecision for a long time. The stress doesn’t make the choice easier, it doesn’t make us happy, it affects our health, it affects our relationships.

Instead, let’s just make a decision, and move on. Let go of the stress about whether it’s the right choice (there’s no such thing) and instead deal with whatever consequences we face. And learn to trust that we’ll be OK.

Here’s a possible set of habits around decision-making that will lead to greater decisiveness:

  1. Recognize that you’re feeling uncertainty. As you start feeling your habitual indecisiveness, notice that you’re feeling uncertainty , and that you’re chomping at the bit to get away from it. You want to get some certainty, or failing that, put off making the decision. You’re feeling some stress from this as well. The earlier you can recognize this, the better.
  2. Deal with the uncertainty with curiosity. Once you notice you’re feeling uncertainty, drop from your head into your body — notice the physical sensations of uncertainty in your body. Where is it located, and what is the texture of the sensation? Often it’s a tightness in the chest. Stay with this feeling for a moment or two, not worrying about the decision you have to make, but instead being curious about the physical feeling. Does it change? Does it move? Is it unbearable, or can you stay with it for a bit? Can you relax around the physical feeling?
  3. Get the info & evaluate as best you can. Now that you realize the uncertainty isn’t something you need to run from, you can just make the best decision you’re able to make. That might mean doing some research, gathering information, even asking for others’ opinions if you have time. Don’t let this delay your decision, but a bit of information doesn’t hurt. Just don’t procrastinate by trying to gather every single bit of info you can. Sometimes it’s just 5 minutes of research, or a bit more for a bigger decision. Evaluate the costs and benefits — what are the possible costs of making the decision? Are the potential benefits worth it? In the worst-case scenario, is it the end of the world? Can you deal with these consequences? Again, don’t take forever evaluating all of this, just give these things some consideration. Again, it could just be 5 minutes of weighing risks and benefits.
  4. Just dive in. Instead of staying at the edge of the water, wringing your hands and fretting about the uncertainty — dive in! You’ve already given it enough thought — make the decision, and take action. Pull the trigger. Let loose the bowstring. Get in the habit of saying, “Enough thinking, time for action!”
  5. Don’t look back — deal with what comes up. Now that you’ve made the decision, get out of the habit of second-guessing yourself, worrying that you made the wrong decision. Just follow through with it, until you can see the consequences — both negative and positive. Cherish the positive consequences, and take the negative consequences in stride. It’s no big deal — you can deal with it. It’s like surfing: are you going to bemoan the fact that the wave didn’t break exactly as you’d hoped, or are you just going to flow with the wave?
  6. See that you’re OK. Whatever happens, ask yourself, “Am I OK?” The answer is almost invariably “Yes.” With time, you’ll see that this habit of decisiveness isn’t so bad, that things generally turn out OK, and letting go of the worry is actually a relief.

That might seem like a lot of steps, but actually it’s just recognizing the uncertainty, dropping into your body and staying with the feeling in curiosity, gathering info and making the best decision you can, and then taking action and dealing with what comes up. And seeing that in the end, everything is just fine.

How do you build the habit?

By keeping this habit at the forefront of your mind for a month. Noticing as often as you can when your old habit of indecisiveness comes up, and then putting this into action as best you can each time. Replace the old habit with the new one. With joy.

And in the end, notice that you’re moving faster, you’re learning to trust your gut, you’re becoming more trustworthy to yourself and to others, you’re learning that you can deal with whatever consequences come up. That’s worth putting in some extra effort to form this new habit.

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Resting in the Open Nature of Life

By Leo Babauta

So much of our days are filled with an underlying feeling of difficulty:

  • Procrastinating when things seem difficult or overwhelming
  • Distracting ourselves and doing small tasks
  • Feeling like we’re doing things wrong, and searching for the right answers
  • Trying to get things under control when they feel chaotic
  • Trying to comfort ourselves when we feel tired or stressed

And so many more examples, I can’t even list them all. Underneath most things we do is a feeling that we should be doing more, that we should be doing things differently, that we don’t want to be doing what we should be doing, that we’re failing in small ways.

It’s stress, worry, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction.

But it’s all unnecessary. We can come to rest in the basic, open nature of our lives.

Why We Feel Stress & Anxiety

The thing that we don’t like is that everything feels unstable. Everything feels uncertain, shifting, not solid. Everything feels unsettled. And this is completely true, and it makes us feel nervous, angry, dissatisfied. We don’t like the unsettled nature of life.

We want certainty, control, plans, a system. Order. Unfortunately, we don’t get that, because that’s not how life works.

Life is unsettled, always shifting, like the waters of the wide open ocean. And that is both scary and beautiful.

Scary because we want order and want to know how things are going to turn out, and we don’t get that, not even a little bit.

But beautiful because open waters are fluid, not fixed. Surprising, not boring. Completely undetermined, which means so much amazingness can emerge.

Coming to Rest

Life’s basic nature is to be open and fluid, like the blue sky. We can either try to box in the blue sky, or we can rest in its openness.

Imagine if you could learn to rest in the open, fluid nature of life — you’d no longer need to get everything under control. You could learn to trust in life, be less anxious or worried, find beauty in each open moment.

It’s possible, if you practice mindfulness.

Try this:

  1. Notice the sensations of this moment. Place your attention on the way your body feels. On the light and colors of the room. On sounds all around you. Without judgment, without needing to reject any particular sensation, just soak them in. Stay with these sensations for a few moments.
  2. Notice that life is open, fluid, shifting. Nothing stays the same. Nothing is fixed. We can try to create order by creating thoughts about things, a narrative, a mental construct about the reality around us. But in truth, life doesn’t need order. It is inherently shifting, open, dynamic. Just notice this fluid nature of all that surrounds you — and include yourself in that.
  3. Allow your mind to come to rest. If you don’t reject things, don’t cling to any one sensation, just allow sensations to come to you, one moment after another … you can actually just come to rest with the open nature of the sensations in this moment. Just rest in the vast openness of the moment.

It can take some practice, as it’s easy to have your mind be very active, or reject certain parts of the experience, or get caught up in a chain of thoughts. That’s OK. Just notice that happening, and think of this as a part of the experience. Just keep practicing.

If you do find yourself able to rest in the openness, this is something you can access at any time. Notice yourself feeling uncertainty, notice yourself getting worked up about the instability of life … and then come to rest in the open nature of the moment, finding trust in it. I wish you nothing less than the deliciousness of that experience.

The Beginner’s Guide to Body Types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph

We are all unique.  

Yes, even you. Your mom was right!

And you’re here because questions about your body type and genetics:

What body type am I?

How does it affect my training and diet?

I have bad genetics, how screwed am I?

I am a [body type]. Does that mean I shouldn’t do [activity]?

We all have different bodies, genetics,reactions from certain foods, strengths, and weaknesses, and thus we each have different activities and behaviors that we’re predisposed to be good at (or struggle with!).

The standard way of thinking tells us that we have three main “body types”:

  • Endomorph
  • Ectomorph
  • Mesomorph

(Don’t worry we’ll get into each of those below too.)

HOWEVER, when it comes to your genetic benefits and shortfalls, there is way more to it than just which category your body fits in.

As you’ll soon learn, just because you’re predisposed to be good at one thing or terrible at another doesn’t mean you should be pigeonholed or limited with what you can do.

With a bit of help from our favorite Role Playing Games, we’re going to dig into body types, character classes, and ways to buck the genetic lottery.

Whether or not you know your body type, or you have never heard those terms above before, I got you covered!

The three main body types

body shapes

Back in the 1940’s, an American psychologist named William Herbert Sheldon tried to classify us non-superheroes into three neat categories called “soma types”:

  • Endomorphs
  • Ectomorphs
  • Mesomorphs

Over the years, these three body types have become widely accepted as three solid classifications for how our bodies will generally react and grow based on our training and diet.

We’re going to ignore the parts about Sheldon trying to equate people’s body types to wildly generalized psychological traits, or the fact that he obtained the photos for his study under shady circumstances.

The 3 body types that Sheldon created managed to endure and have found a place in fitness, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Sure, there is this complicated math formula that you can use to calculate your “soma type,” but we’re going to skip the formula and go right into the stuff you actually need to know. [1] .

These are the three types and how they’re characterized. I bet you’ll find you fit into one of them:

Ectomorph (thin)

Ectomorphs are characterized as having long, slim, and thin muscles/limbs and low fat storage. Ectomorphs are not predisposed to store fat nor build muscle.

These are the “hardgainers” that can’t gain weight even when they “eat so much.”

I am an ectomorph, and fought my genetics for 10 years – I also used this “diagnosis” as a crutch before finally overcoming it – I’ll talk more about this at the end of the article.

Mesomorph (muscular)

Mesomorphs are the “lucky ones.” They have medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist.

Mesomorphs are predisposed to build muscle but not store fat. Aka “lucky AF.”

You might know somebody that can just look at a weight and seem to get bigger and stronger: that person is a mesomorph.

Endomorph (curvy)

Endomorphs play the game of Weight Loss on extreme difficulty. These are people with wider waists, large bone structures, and are predisposed to storing fat instead of building muscle.

If you struggle to lose weight, or you put on fat easily, you MIGHT be an endomorph.

Again, I’ll explain why the diagnosis isn’t as important as how you respond to it!

IMPORTANT NOTE: These body types are not to be confused with the fourth classification: Animorphs, who possess the ability to change into any animal they touch.

Animorphs are necessary for the defense of Earth against the secret alien invasion.

Which BODY TYPE am I?

butterfly

Although the three categories give us a decent foundation on which to build, there are a litany of other factors that are at play here.

For starters, instead of us fitting neatly into three categories, it’s more like a massive 1-1000 scale.

Imagine there is a triangle with each point representing one of the three body types.

We humans can exist at any point inside that triangle, from storing fat easily to not gaining weight easily to building muscle well. The reality is that we all have some parts of each of those.

What it really comes down to:

  • Some bodies are efficient at burning energy for fuel.
  • Some bodies are less efficient and tend to store more energy as fat.
  • Some bodies are really efficient at building muscle.
  • Some bodies are inefficient at building muscle.

Despite our genetics, our lifestyle choices, the foods we eat, and how we train will ultimately determine our body shape!

Where the problem with “soma types” begin: It’s very easy to use one’s classification as a crutch for being unhealthy or weak. 

Let’s use a different example: have you ever taken a personality profile for work (“I’m an INFP! You’re an ENTJ!”), and then used that as an excuse: “Sorry, the test said I’m an introvert, it’s not that I’m an ass. Deal with it!”

Just like with personality tests, our Soma Type should be a starting point for us to put a plan in place.

We are not going to use our genetics as a crutch anymore. I did it for a decade until I finally allowed myself to create a different identity!

  • “I’m an endomorph, so I’m screwed and that’s why I’m overweight.”
  • “How lucky is he? He can eat whatever he wants and not gain weight!”
  • “That dude just looks at weights and gets bigger. Must be nice.”

Here’s the truth: We have all rolled a random character in this Game of Life. We don’t get to pick our parents, we just have to play the hand we’re dealt to the best of our ability:

Some people hit the genetic lottery and get to play Life on Easy difficulty.

Some people have really crappy genetics and have to play on Legendary difficulty.

Your genetic makeup isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility.

And this whole concept of dramatically different metabolisms due to soma types is overblown, which is GREAT NEWS:

Studies have shown that most people tend to fall within 200-300 calories of each other on the “metabolism speed scale.” [2] .

Your genetics can only help or hinder you so much – it’s the decisions you make after your character has been rolled that determines how quickly you progress through the game.

What this means: 

  • If you are really overweight, you don’t have as slow of a metabolism as you think. In fact, your metabolism is FASTER than somebody who is thinner than you (your body burns more calories to fuel your extra mass). What it really means is that you probably eat too much compared to how many calories you burn.
  • If you are really underweight (as I was), you don’t have as fast a metabolism as you think. Although you think you eat “so much,” I bet if we tracked it, it’s significantly less than you are estimating.

I’ll address each body type below with specific instructions on how to react!

This is great news, but it means you’re going to need to work for it!

Now, in addition to body types, we also get a lot of questions about muscle fibers and how they affect your physical fitness…

Twitch Muscle Fibers: Fast and Slow

punch

To further emphasize that we are all unique snowflakes, our muscles have different types of qualities as well.

Based on your genetic makeup of what percentage of each type of muscle fiber you have, you might have a higher athletic ceiling when it comes to certain activities.

Again, this is just a starting point; I’ll get to how we can change our fate later.

Our muscle fibers can generally be classified as fast-twitch or slow-twitch:

  • Slow twitch fibers (Type I): These muscle fibers can carry more oxygen and sustain longer periods of aerobic activity (activities that require your muscles to use oxygen) than other types of fibers, using fats or carbs as fuel.  They can contract for long periods of time, but are weak.  Think: long distance running or hours of cardio.
  • Fast twitch fibers (Type IIb): These muscle fibers can carry less oxygen and only work with short periods of anaerobic activity (activities that require your muscles to burn glycogen) before becoming exhausted.  They have the greatest potential for strength and for gaining size. Think: sprinting, power lifting, strength training.
  • Fast twitch fibers (Type IIa): These are a mix of Type I and Type IIb fibers, and thus can be used for either aerobic or anaerobic activities.

So, if you are somebody that genetically has more slow twitch fibers than fast twitch, you’re genetically predisposed to be a better distance runner.

If you have more fast twitch fibers than slow twitch, you’re genetically predisposed to be a better powerlifter or sprinter.

Either way, we have some of each: as we age, our Type I fibers remain generally unchanged, while our amounts and sizes of our Type II fibers will decrease.  [3] .  

So, are we born with muscle fibers that have cemented our fate, and we can either be marathon runners or sprinters?

Hell no!

We can actually change our muscle fibers based on our training!

A study performed on males who were tasked with “sprinting” all out on a bicycle with a specific training regimen for 4-6 weeks resulted in decreasing their slow twitch fibers from 57% to 48% while increasing their Type IIa fibers from 32% to 38%.[4] .  

In another study performed on females who went through a rigorous endurance training schedule, Type I fibers did not increase, Type IIb fibers decreased, and the Type IIa fibers increased significantly.  Type IIa fibers are the “switch hitters” that can be used for increased power or endurance.[5] .  

Although more studies should (and will) be done on muscle fibers and how they’re affected by training, and how it differs between men and women this is the conclusion I’ve drawn:

Genetics be damned.

It might be an uphill battle, but we can change our fate. Body type, metabolism, muscle fibers, they are merely a starting point for discussion.

We can change our size and the percentage of our muscle fibers with the right training, just like we can change our body composition with the right diet.

Yes, at the upper echelon of elite world class athletes, those with a higher genetic ceiling might have a physical advantage over those who have less of the beneficial muscle fibers.

But for regular muggles like you and me, there’s no reason why we can’t be who we want to be, and look how we want to look.

To hammer this point home, we’re gonna dive deep into online role playing games.

Even if you’re not a gamer, I guarantee this analogy will make you go “I get it, and damn Steve you are both clever and smart and really good looking and also modest.”

Thank you!

Role Playing Games and Body Types

Wizard

I remember playing Everquest (the game that paved the road for World of Warcraft) back in 2001.

I spent hours reading the official strategy guide in order race for my character, Morphos Novastorm, who was to be the most kickass wizard in all of Norrath.

Why wizards? Because they always start scrawny and weak and end up really freaking powerful. Duh.

According to the guide, my best choice was to select the Erudites: they possessed the highest amount of intelligence to start (INT), and thus would give me an advantage over against non-Erudite wizards.

I agonized over this decision and spent hours before even starting the game because I assumed this decision that would forever haunt me if it was the wrong one!

And then I started playing.

As I watched Ogre Wizards, Gnome Wizards, Elf Wizards, Halfling Wizards kick serious ass in the later levels, it made me realize that although my character’s skill potential was slightly affected by my race….it had NO impact on how good I was at the game!

There were so many other factors that were more important:

  • My style of play.
  • The equipment my character is wearing
  • Who is in my group.
  • Was I having fun and challenging myself in a certain way?

Do you see the point I’m trying to make here?

YOUR BODY TYPE IS NO DIFFERENT.

Genetically, you might fit into one of the soma types above: ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph (animorph? call me).

Ultimately, think of your body type as your character’s “race” in a role-playing game:

How you choose to PLAY that character in this game of life makes all the difference in the world.

OKAY!

SO we’ve established the 3 soma types. We’ve discussed muscle fibers and genetics. And then we learned that the difference between the body types is minimal and that you can change your muscle fiber composition with training.

I have a few final points to make, but you might be looking for some recommendations:

I am an Ectomorph, Endomorph, or mesomorph. What do I Do?

Okay okay okay, you’ve read all this way, and now you’re wondering what you should actually do.

Let’s say you firmly believe you are an Ectomorph, Endomorph, or Mesomorph, and you want to know the best steps forward. This assumes that you REALLY are the soma type listed below.

Just know that I bet a LOT of people who think they gain fat easily are actually not an endomorph, they just have a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits! I’ll cover that below though:

I AM AN ECTOMORPH: Congrats, you are somebody that can’t put on any weight or muscle! I am too, and assumed for a decade that I was doomed to be thin as a rail. The reality was I just wasn’t eating enough. I had to break my own identity to go from Steve Rogers to Captain America.

If you are trying to get bigger, you should minimize cardio, maximize strength training, and whenever in doubt eat more calories!

I’d also recommend reading the following articles:

I AM A MESOMORPH: Congrats, you get to play life on easy difficulty! You’re more likely to build muscle and not store fat, but that doesn’t mean you get to rest on your laurels!

You’ll want to strength train, and depending on how old you are, you’ll have to become more disciplined with your diet. You can get away with it when you’re younger, but building healthy habits at a younger age and keeping your nutrition on track means you’ll keep a good physique as you get older!

I would recommend reading the following to help determine HOW you want to train: How to build the physique you want.

I AM AN ENDOMORPH: Congrats, you are playing life on a higher difficulty level. For starters, I want you to remove the stigma from your mind that you are a lost cause.

For starters, your metabolism isn’t slow, I PROMISE. The truth is that you most likely eat more than you realize, and you don’t do enough strength training to combat it.

You might also eat unhealthy foods (and/or consume a lot of sugar) that lead to physiological responses in your blood that promote fat storage!

What this means: you can’t use your genetics as a crutch or an excuse. It just “is what it is.” This means you’ll need to address both the quantity, and the quality of your food. I would focus on eating protein and healthy fats and try to minimize carb consumption.

As you start to strength train and make better food choices, you can affect HOW your body processes the calories you consume and start to change your body’s make-up. You can change it from “store fat” to “build muscle,” but you need to be disciplined about it!

May I recommend:

Regardless of what you THINK your body type is, and what your ACTUAL genetic make-up is, it is a tiny tiny tiny piece of the puzzle.

The rest comes to how you want to play the game!

What happens if I don’t like my category?

pipe muscle

You might have a few final questions, and I bet they fit into these categories:

Steve I’m kind of an overweight guy but I hate strength training, can I still run?

I’m skinny and I hate running, and I want to strength train, is that cool?

Here’s what to do if you don’t line up with what your genetics say you’ll be good at: acknowledge them, and then move on.

Write your own destiny.

Become the hero you want to be, not who you’re “supposed” to be.

The Truth: Your body will store fat and burn energy in a certain way.  Depending on your genetics, sex, hormone balance, age, and medical conditions, you might need to be more careful with your consumption of sugar and processed foods than other people, as you might be genetically more likely to store those foods as fat rather than burning them as fuel.

I’ve come to learn there is so much more to being healthy than just “eating less” and “moving more.”  It’s a complex topic involving dozens of variables that we still don’t fully understand yet.  Your genetics are the opening act, and your diet is the main actor in this story.

It sucks, but that’s the truth.

Your diet will be responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to weight regulation.  So the BEST way for you to change your fate is to focus on eating the right kinds of foods.

How you chose to exercise makes up the other 10-20%. Ultimately it comes down to one big rule with exercise:

Enjoy it.

We’ve already covered the different “professions” and how you can be whatever you want in real life, be it Warrior, Druid, Assassin, Monk, Scout, Ranger, or any combination.

Hell, we even built a free character creation system here at NF so you can ACTUALLY treat life like a role playing game!

I can’t think of a better example of somebody deciding to Write their own path than Staci on Team NF.

She recently got her genetic testing done as well, and discovered that she’s supposed to be terrible at powerlifting based on her genetic makeup. Luckily, she didn’t listen to this, and now consistently deadlifts 400+ pounds:

A post shared by Staci Ardison (@staciardison) on

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I’m definitely an “ectomorph.”  I have thin wrists, skinny legs, skinny ankles, and have struggled to put on any weight, be it muscle or fat, for most of my life. I’m genetically predisposed to be a good distance runner, and I’m not built for strength training.

On top of that, I have a genetic spinal condition that will severely limit my potential when it comes to getting big and strong.

I don’t care! 

I love strength training, so I strength train.

I don’t like distance running, so I don’t run. I train the way I want to because that’s WAY more fun for me – I don’t care what my peak genetic alignment says – I want to do the stuff that makes me feel alive. And that’s gymnastics!

A post shared by Steve Kamb (@stevekamb) on

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You might be an overweight guy or gal and want to become a Parkour Assassin or Martial Arts Monk or Elite Scout.

That is amazing! Freaking go for it.  Yes, you might have an uphill battle on your hands, but there’s no reason you can’t get to a great level of proficiency with your desired profession and HAVE FUN WITH IT.

We have a community full of characters of all races who are playing the game of life on different levels of difficulty….and having a damn good time doing so.

I want to leave you with one final public service announcement.

While we’re at it, comparisons are silly.

apple orange

I once wrote about why comparing ourselves to our celebrity heroes in movies is silly: their lives are so different, their motivations are different, and their situation is different. 

It’s not a fair fight.

The same is true on comparing yourself to others in the gym or those you see in magazines.

You might walk into the gym and see a level 50 guy or girl, absolutely jacked/ripped/toned/thin/whatever in the weights section and think, “Wow! If I only had their genetics! Must be nice…”

“Must be nice” is one of the most dangerous phrases in the english language. Followed closely by “Hold my beer, watch this,” and “trust me, they don’t bite.”

The truth of the matter is, the people you wish you were like, no matter how good their genetics are, achieved their high level of fitness through consistent dedication to regular workouts and a healthy diet.

No matter watch edge you might possess genetically, you won’t see results without hard work.

Don’t let the fact that everybody is at different points in their quest be an excuse to blame genetics! You have NO idea what somebody’s genetics are like – it’s just easier to say “it must be their genes” rather than “they work WAY harder and are way more disciplined than me.”

We have different genetic makeups: different amounts of fast twitch or slow twitch muscle fibers, different bone densities, different levels of efficiency when it comes to fat storage and fuel consumption.

For these reasons, don’t compare your “reality” with somebody’s highlight reel:

  • If you are a Night Elf, comparing yourself to an Orc when it comes to being a tank/warrior isn’t going to be a fair fight.
  • Conversely, comparing yourself as an Orc to Night Elves on the topic of quickness is a losing proposition.

Just because somebody is muscular or skinny doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Just because somebody might be overweight compared to others doesn’t meant they aren’t in great physical condition.

So, the only comparison you should be making is to who you were yesterday.

Go. Level up.

mushroom

And that concludes today’s World of Warcraft lesson on Genetics.

Remember, there is only one thing we say to our genetics: Not today!

To recap:

Like in any role playing game, your character has strengths and weaknesses in the game of life, but it shouldn’t determine how you play the game. 

So regardless of your soma type (ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph), or your muscle-fiber composition, you can do whatever the hell you want. Training and the correct nutrition can fix nearly any genetic shortcoming, it just might require a very strict regimen and discipline and assistance.

If you want to be an elf warrior, or an ogre wizard, go for it.

I’d love to hear from you:

And what “soma type” are you, and have you changed your fate or decided to do so?

Leave a comment and let me know!

-Steve

PS: While we’re talking about the Game of Life, I wrote an entire book on this subject that is available in bookstores nationwide: Level Up Your Life.

It’s currently a Kindle book of the Month on Amazon, which means it’s on sale for only $2.99!

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Photo Sources: Wizard, World of Warcraft Minis, apple and orange, punch, mushroom, pipe, butterfly, Oky – Space Ranger Inside Out minifigs

How We Lose Sight of the Profound Awesomeness of Life

By Leo Babauta

There are moments when we are able to soak in the incredible beauty of life, the preciousness of it, the awe-inspiring power of the world around us.

It is breath-taking, gorgeous, deeply moving.

But most of the time, we forget.

We move through our days like we’re in a daze, checking email and messages, saying hi to our fellow human beings without love in our hearts, jumping from one task to another, one distraction to another.

It’s like we’re in a dream, not fully aware of the life in front of us. Not fully awake to it’s immense beauty.

How do we lose sight of the awesomeness of what’s right in front of us?

It’s simple: we become acclimatized to our lives. Accustomed to our world. It becomes our “normal,” the background noise that we tune out.

When we see things every day — sunlight, trees, beautiful faces — we start to think we know it already. It’s normal, even boring. Nothing to be noted.

We walk by the deep blue flowers, the bright yellow leaves, the fresh green grass, the honeylike sunlight, and don’t even notice that it’s there.

We take for granted things that are truly magic: flying in a plane, the miracle of electricity, the instantaneous communication of the Internet, the unlimited knowledge at our fingertips, the loved ones in our life, chocolate.

We become accustomed, and then walk through life as in a dream.

This process of becoming acclimatized is normal. We all do it. As toddlers, we find wonder and delight in everyday things — have you ever seen a child chase after a bubble or butterfly, or laugh in delight at a bouncing ball? Then we get used to it, and ignore it all in favor of our phones.

I’m not criticizing any of us — we all do it, and it’s natural. But it’s good to know that we’re taking our world for granted. And then take actions to reverse it when we can.

Here’s how:

  • Develop a practice of looking all around you with childlike eyes, seeing everything afresh, as if you’ve never seen it before. See the wonder in the everyday.
  • Look around you, several times a day, and find small things that you’re grateful you have in your life. A cereal bowl to hold your oats and berries. A podcast. A window that gives you a beautiful view.
  • Try to look at one person a day as if they were the most beautiful being on Earth. As if they were worthy of your love, of looking into their soul and understanding the depths of their being. As if they have a gift to offer the world, and your gift is to witness it. As if they have a tender heart that wants to be loved, as if they have pain worthy of your compassion.

Open your heart to the world around you, and behold its truly magnificent nature. We have been given a powerful gift, of being alive and witnessing this world. Let’s not forget it.

Zen Productivity: SF, LA, San Diego

Hey guys, I have a few spots left in my San Francisco workshop this weekend, as well as for L.A. and San Diego next month.

I would love to have you come and work with me.

Zen Productivity Workshops

I just did my first one in NYC this past weekend, with a group of fantastic human beings. It was life-changing, for me. I really look forward to having my life changed by all of you. Come play with me.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

I LOVE spaghetti. 

Growing up, I would get made fun of by my family for how much of it I would eat (seriously, two or three massive platefuls in one sitting).

Not enough of a visual?

How about this: as a toddler, I’d run into the dining room struggling to rip my shirt over my oversized head so that I could eat my spaghetti as fast as possible without getting sauce on my clothes.  After dinner my parents would have to practically hose me down in the backyard I was so messy – totally worth it.

Now, in my quest for a healthier lifestyle over the past few years, I’ve learned that…gasp…gallons of pasta at each meal isn’t the healthiest thing in the world!  So, I’ve cut back drastically on my pasta intake – I probably eat pasta once every few months now, when I’m out at an Italian restaurant with friends and feel like letting go for a meal.

If you are a paleo person but love pasta, I feel ya.  This could help.

Maybe you’re not paleo, but you’re looking for an alternative to carb-heavy pasta.  This will help you too.

Today, you’re gonna learn how to cook Paleo Pasta.  Now, this recipe takes a little longer and is a little bit more complex than the easy Chicken Stirfry I taught you how to cook before.

If that was level 1, this is level 2.

Yeah, eating a small portion of regular spaghetti every now and then ain’t gonna kill ya, but I found preparing paleo spaghetti and meat sauce to be a fun challenge, it took me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen by making me do new things, and actually turned out to be freaking delicious and nutritious.

Let’s level up your cooking.

WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY POST!

Ingredients

Mmmm Spaghetti Squash Goodness!

  • 1lb. of Grass-fed Ground Beef (my grocery store didn’t have grass-fed, so I went with regular)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 2 Small Cans of Organic Tomato Paste (check the ingredients – it should only contain organic tomatoes…though look for JARRED tomato paste or make your own.)
  • 1 Garlic Clove (it’s the small part that you’re breaking off a garlic bulb. i’ll explain more later).
  • Pepper…and salt if you want some.
  • Italian Seasoning (it’ll be in the spices aisle – pick the one that’s labeled “ITALIAN SEASONING.”  To be sure, open and smell – if it smells like ITALIAN SEASONING, you’re on the right track.  If you can’t find it at this point, you should probably just sit down and give up).
  • 1 Medium Spaghetti Squash – will make enough for two people.
  • Olive Oil – I like extra virgin olive oil.

Supplies

  • 1 Iron Skillet/Pan
  • 1 Medium Sized Pot
  • 1 Cookie sheet
  • 1 Sharp Knife
  • 1 Spatula
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • Tin Foil
  • Oven and Stove

If you’re like me (a nerd who generally stays away from the kitchen), half the stuff on the grocery list will be new to you.  I can certainly say I’ve never purchased a spaghetti squash before.  Honestly though, I found it fun to go exploring in new parts of the grocery store and track down these items.  Just keep the ingredient list with you, ask people for help if you need it, and pretend like you’re a contestant on Super Market Sweep (not that I do that…every time I’m in a store….).

Preparing YOUR SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees.  This will take a while to get warm so it gives you time to chop up your veggies and so on.

Chop your onion in half, and then peel off the outside layer – we only need half of it.  Put the other half in a plastic bag and stick it in your fridge.

After that, start slicing and dicing like a mofo until the onion is all chopped up.  Yeah, you might cry – suck it up.  If you have a food processor or a Slap Chop (you lucky bastard), this will be way easier.  I don’t have either of those, so I did it the old school way.

Next, rip off a clove of garlic – we only need a little bit of it.  Hang the rest of the garlic bulb around your neck to ward off vampires.

Take that little section, break it apart, and then carefully chop off the tiny ends of each section.  Then, use the side of your knife to smush it by pressing down hard on the side of your knife.  Peel off the outer layer, and then chop up the inside of it as small as you can without chopping off any fingers. That would result in a lot of blood, and the vampires won’t care about your garlic necklace, and you’re gonna have a bad time.  If you don’t feel like buying/chopping garlic, you can use garlic powder to add to the meat later, though it’s not nearly as fun.

Grab your two tomatoes (not a euphemism).  No seriously though, grab those two tomatoes.  Use your knife to carefully carve out the top part of it…

Then cut them in half, then chop them up into smaller pieces.  Depending on how you like your spaghetti sauce, cut them to your desired size – bigger chunks in your sauce or no?  The choice is yours, sucka.

Next, take your spaghetti squash, and use your knife to cut it in half.  Because the middle is kind of hollow and full of gooey stuff (like a pumpkin), I found it easiest to cut into the side of the squash, and then work the knife around it the long way.  Watch this video for a good demonstration.  JUST BE CAREFUL.

Love that Spaghetti Squash

Use a spoon and scrape out all of the middle junk in the squash.  Yup, it’s kind of gross. Get over it.

Scoop that Squash, SCOOP IT!

Take your hollowed out squash, and drizzle the insides with olive oil, pepper, and tiny bit of salt. 

Then oil it up, ooooh yeah. Oil that Spaghetti Squash up.

Give them a minute or two to sit and soak in the oil, and then put them face down on the cookie sheet, and stick them in the oven (which is now at 400 degrees) for 40 minutes.

Spaghetti squash down in oven

Making the Sauce

While the spaghetti squash is cooking in the oven, put your skillet on the stove, add a little bit of olive oil, and drop in your diced onions.  After a few minutes, they’ll start to take on a clear/yellowish color as they sizzle and cook.

Now it’s time to add the garlic, and mix that around for a minute or two…

And then add the beef!

Using your spatula, chop up the beef and mix it up with the onions and garlic.

Now, make it rain with your Italian seasoning and pepper.  And by that I mean “sprinkle it liberally.”

Continue stirring and chopping and mixing like a boss until the meat is a nice brown color.

When the meat is done cooking, take the pan off the stove, and place it on one of the other not-hot burners…

OR, you can strain the beef and get rid of the grease.  I chose to strain our meal for the evening.  Use a strainer, collect the grease in a bowl, and then when the grease cools down, dump it into a coffee canister or other container that you can keep in the freezer and then eventually dispose of properly.  Google “how to get rid of grease” if you need help here.

Combining the sauce AND THE SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Now, while your meat is cooking, take your empty pot, open up your two cans of tomato paste, and use a knife to scoop them out and pour in.  Then add your tomatoes.

Put the pot on low heat.  Around now, your meat should be cooked. 

Then dump in the meat, onions, and garlic into the pot and mix it all up.  If your sauce isn’t saucy enough, take your empty tomato paste can and dump in a can-sized amount of water (do one and see how the sauce looks, and then add a second if necessary).  At this point, feel free to add some more Italian seasoning and pepper.

You can leave the pot on really low heat and cover it up, while you’re finishing up everything else. Just stir it every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn.

Putting it all together

Pull your squash out of the oven after the 40 minutes is up, and using a pot holder and a knife/fork, flip the two halves over over.

Having two plates ready, use a fork to pull apart the inside of the squash…it’ll come apart very easily and look like spaghetti. 

Spaghetti Squash

Hollow out one, put it on a plate.  Hollow out the other, put it on the other plate.

This is the point where you say “OHHHH SO THAT’S WHY ITS CALLED SPAGHETTI SQUASH!”

Add your sauce on top, and BAM you have your home cooked, paleo spaghetti meal.  Finish off with a glass of water, red wine (not technically paleo I guess but hey, live a little), or some Drain-O and you’re good to go.

I’m kidding. please don’t drink Drain-O.

Any questions?

The dinner table is set.  Flower in empty wine bottle and Shadow of the Colossus on PS3 are optional.

I honestly had WAY more fun cooking this than was expected.  (thanks Jessie for helping me out and making sure I didn’t chop off any appendages).

If you’re struggling to come up with a fun date idea…nothing goes over better than cooking a meal together – and I think the total cost of the ingredients was around $15.  This meal made full servings for two people with enough sauce left over for two or three more servings.

If you don’t have anybody else to cook for, no worries!  This meal will make plenty of food for you to have for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow, and beyond.  Plus, you can eat your spaghetti WHILE playing Shadow of the Colossus and nobody will yell at you.

I’m thinking of doing some more “how to cook easy meals” post here on NF real soon, coming from the perspective of a newbie in the kitchen.  They probably won’t all be paleo/primal, but they’ll be healthy and super easy to cook.

Is that something you’d be interested in every few weeks?  If I do, anything else you’d like to see in the posts?

Any thoughts, comments, or questions?

Let’s hear it!

-Steve

PS: We’ve been adding these recipes and a few dozen more to our Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, workout plans, and the ability to complete quests and missions and level up as you get healthier. Check it out!

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thanks to Fast Paleo for the recipe inspiration.

The Key Mental Habit of Simplicity

By Leo Babauta

I’ve written a lot about simplifying your life, from the philosophy behind it to the tactical steps to getting to simplicity.

But the true key isn’t in the steps, it’s in our mental habits.

For example, I could get rid of my physical clutter and simplify my day so that I have more space in my life … but until I address the mental habits that got me to a cluttered life, it will just keep coming back.

So here’s what I’ve learned is the key mental habit of simplicity: noticing the mind’s tendency to want more, and don’t believe it.

The mind always wants more. And at the same time, it wants less — there’s a polarity in the mind that craves simplicity and craves more.

Why does the mind want both? The mind wants more because it thinks that more will make it happy, it sees possibility in acquiring more, and it thinks that acquiring things will help relieve the uncertainty it feels.

The mind wants less when it is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and just wants relief from that difficult feeling. It thinks that if it gets rid of stuff, there will be peace.

Both are wrong, but they come from a good-hearted place.

Why the Desire for More, & Less, are Both Wrong

The desire for more is wrong because, as we’ve all seen, you can get a bump of joy when you receive your new package in the mail … but it doesn’t even last a day, usually. Certainly not a few days. That dopamine hit of acquiring more is very temporary … and it doesn’t make us happier over the long term. It doesn’t actually give us what we’re hoping for in life, nor does it relieve any uncertainty.

Think about it:

  • If you are worried about an upcoming trip, you’ll research the destination, buy some new clothes or equipment to help you feel more prepared, make plans and have everything set in place. The uncertainty doesn’t go away, you’ve just kept yourself busy trying to get control as a way of coping with the stress of uncertainty.
  • You got into a new hobby, excited by the awesome possibilities of it. Of course you had to buy more things to enable the hobby, but that’s OK, because it’s going to give you this amazing new life, right? Actually, your life might change, but it won’t ever be what you were fantasizing about. Your mind just tricks you.
  • You got that beautiful new (outfit, bag, gadget, tool, whatever) and you think, “Oh, isn’t life grand?” But then your life returns to normal, and it’s not any better, except now you’re a little poorer and you have a cool new thing in it to clutter up your space.

So when the mind wants more, it is simply trying to find happiness or relief from stress. Neither actually results from having more, but that doesn’t stop the mind from trying.

On the other hand, the mind’s desire for less is just a desire for peace. And that’s not a bad thing. You get some peace, I think, when you reduce your possessions or commitments. Creating space is nice. But in the end, your mind still will find something to complain about — if it’s not having too many things, or too much to do, it will be boredom or tiredness or irritating people who have too much clutter in their lives.

The key is to change the mental habits.

Changing the Mental Habits

Changing mental habits is pretty tough (though we do show you how in my Habit Mastery Course, check it out!). You have to be hyper aware of your thoughts in order to change them.

Still, none of us ever let a tough challenge stop us from taking action, right?

The process is simple:

  • develop awareness of your mental habits over time
  • see what their harmful effects might be
  • stop believing the thoughts
  • make a loving effort to change them
  • and don’t expect perfection

So with the mental habit of wanting more, you might just notice when you’re online and researching something new to buy, or on Amazon or another shopping site ready to hit the “order” button. This is a good signal that your mind is wanting more in order to become happier and/or relieve uncertainty.

When you notice this, ask yourself (with credit to Byron Katie):

  1. What do I believe I’ll get if I buy this? More happiness? Less uncertainty?
  2. Is that belief true?
  3. What effect does it have on me? Is it helpful to believe this, or harmful?
  4. What would I be like if I didn’t believe it?

So if I’m trying to buy some new travel gear, I might notice that I believe it will give me less uncertainty to get this gear. When I ask if it’s true, I will answer, “No, I know from experience that it isn’t true. I’ll still feel uncertainty.”

I’ll also notice that this belief is harmful, because it’s filling my life with more stuff and emptying my bank account, and it’s certainly not helpful.

What would I be like if I didn’t believe it? I would be less intent on acquiring, more able to open up to my uncertainty and find peace by not needing to relieve it.

So I try to change it by saying to myself:

  • You don’t need this new gear
  • You know it won’t relieve your uncertainty
  • Opening to your uncertainty with a loving heart is the way to go

Then I try to fully feel the uncertainty, loving it as much as I love chocolate or laughter, and feel the awesome beauty of life in the midst of the uncertainty.

This is how we can change our mental habits. With awareness, with honesty, with an open heart, and with appreciation for the immense joy of life in the midst of chaos.

In Love with the Heartbreaking Beauty of the Discomfort

By Leo Babauta

With my body in pain, I looked up at the sunlight and kept my heart open.

And I took in the heartbreaking beauty of life.

I witnessed it, and found it to be miraculous, pain and struggle and discomfort and all. It wasn’t beautiful in spite of the pain — the pain was a part of its total beauty. The struggle and discomfort itself was heart-renderingly gorgeous, as was everything else in the moment.

This weekend I took part in a workshop on relationships and intimacy called the Art of Fearless Intimacy, by John Wineland and Kendra Cunov. There’s a lot I could write about the weekend, which was life-changing, but I want to speak to just one moment.

The moment:

I was in a standing pose, doing about a quarter squat, with my arms raised in the air. For what seemed like an eternity.

I was looking deeply into another man’s eyes, a complete stranger, and also a brother and fellow warrior. We held each other’s eyes, and matched each other’s breath, for more than half an hour.

We came to be in deep discomfort, holding ourselves in stillness in that pose. My shoulders ached, screamed for mercy, wanted nothing more or less than rest from the work. My mind wanted to get away from the discomfort.

And in this moment, I could see my mental habit: reject discomfort and pain, shut it down, get away from it, find peace from it. This is a pattern that has held me in sway since boyhood.

In this moment, I found a place where I was devoted to this brother, and wouldn’t let him down. I wanted to show him, through my gaze, my deepest soul, my devotion to those I loved, my fierce heart ready to go to battle for him, for my family, for all of you.

In this moment, I soaked in the beauty of the light around us, the sound of other men roaring, the beauty of this fellow soul right in front of me, showing me his courage.

In this moment, I fell in love with all of it.

With life, in its total grandeur.

With pain and discomfort, as part of the divinity and magic of that moment.

With my own heart, which I often shut down in fear. No longer would I allow myself to shut down. I kept it open, and saw the absolute pristineness of my glorious heart.

I fell in love with life, and had my heart broken. And I loved the pain of that heartbreak, completely.

Thank you to my brother who held me in that space. Thank you to John and Kendra, who led me there.

And thank you to my wife, my kids, my other loved ones, and all of you, who give me a powerful reason to keep my heart open to the heartbreaking awe-inspiring discomfort of being alive.