Tag Archives: poi

I Don’t Want to Do What I Want to Do

I’m currently experiencing some cognitive dissonance. You know, where you thoughts, beliefs and actions are not in harmony. Usually this is done after-the-fact, like the old fable of the fox and the grapes. The fox wanted some grapes, but they were hanging from too high a branch. The fox could not reach them, so he shakes his head. “Meh, they’re probably not ripe yet anyway,” and so he slinks off.

Incidentally, that’s where we get the phrase ‘sour grapes’ from.

My current problem has nothing to do with grapes, sadly. No, it has to do with my life goals. Being somewhat of an optimist, I have a lot of life goals, some big, some small, some life-altering if fully achieved. I want these things, and not in a wishy-washy, only-sorta-want them type of want. This is more of ‘give me a magic lamp and I’d wish these into existence almost instantly’ type of want.

If you ask me what I want to accomplish in this life, I could give you a pretty neat list, and I 100% mean it. Really and truly. It’s strange, then, that I’m not doing anything to inch closer to any of these goals.

I’m not alone in having this problem, by the way. “I need to lose weight,” a person might say, meanwhile not making any changes in diet or lifestyle. We can change that to, “I really need to lose weight,” or even, “If I don’t lose weight I’m on the fast-track for heart disease, diabetes and death,” and only some people make changes.

It’s strange, is it not? We want something, and we know to get it. There’s rarely any mystery with losing weight, or even anything else. We know what to do, or at least where to go for advice on what to do. Losing weight is the easiest, because we all know the magic ingredients: eat less, exercise more. We know this. There’s no doubt. You could take a test on it and get 100% every single time… and still we don’t do it.

My goals have nothing to do with losing weight, but the structure is the same. I want to get in the best shape possible, I want to get the splits, I want to be a writer, I want to be a chess master and a poi spinner and a karate expert and the list just goes on and on… and in every case, a roadblock, either real or imagined, but definitely halting progress.

I feel like a Balrog in the mines of Moria.

Chess may be the best example. I love chess. I can talk about it or write about it or play it all day. It’s perfect, just a perfect game. I used to get upset about certain things, usually opening choices by my opponent, but as I’ve improved those concerns have faded. I’m inching closer to my goal of mastership, and when I analyze the games of GMs and other top players, I can find the right move 80% of the time and the other 15% I’m close. The last 5%? Well, that’s why I’m not a master yet.

I have a roadmap to get there. GM Smirnov has a course Self-Taught GM, which is a complete training plan. Do that and I’m master level, more or less. Cool… so why aren’t I doing it? Why aren’t I studying? Why am I washing the dishes, cleaning the house, making grocery lists, writing trivial things and just plain doing everything else but this?

“Hey, Smithy, do you want to be a chess master?” Yeah! “Then let’s go study.” Meh, I’d rather not. “But don’t you want to be a master?” Definitely, just not this exact moment. Or later, apparently, as I keep finding ways to not study. True, studying isn’t very fun … but actually, that’s not true. Sometimes it’s great fun. Sometimes it’s dull. All the time it’s work, and that seems to be holding me back. Consciously or unconsciously, I don’t want to do the work necessary.

For the record, that nearly always separates the top performers from the rest, the ability to do the work necessary. Not that you want to do that, but that you do it. Do the work, you get the results. Do more work than average, get better than average. That’s it, that’s the secret. Applying it, though, isn’t that easy.

My poi spinning is very similar. I like doing it. I really want to get better at it. I have a training course, plus multiple DVDs, all showing various progressions and practice habits. I have a wonderful park just down the street with ample room to practice. I have literally no excuse … but I somehow keep putting it off. For some reason, practicing more (or even at all some weeks) is an incredible struggle.

And nothing with the flow arts should be a struggle.

In both of these cases, chess and poi, I want to get better but I’m not willing to do the work, or more accurately, I’m currently avoiding all the work. I know what I need to do, but I don’t do it. There’s also the opposite happening with my fitness training: I’m putting in my time but getting very little benefit. Rather than change something, though, I just keep doing the exact same thing.

I have two competing ideas battling inside my head. I want to get strong. That’s it. I’m already lean, I’m in great shape, I can run forever, I have agility and speed for days, but I’m not strong. I’ve never been strong. I was the scrawny kid, and arguably I still am. Starting high school, I weighed less than 100lbs. I finished at 140lbs … and over six feet tall. I gained 40lbs and somehow looked skinnier.

I want to get strong, but there’s a problem: I don’t like lifting weights. That’s because lifting weights is hard and makes me feel weak. I’d reach for a 20lbs dumbbell for some curls and struggle to even hold it. Meanwhile a regular guy not six feet away is using twice as much for his warm-up set. Lifting weights are hard work, and I felt so weak while doing it. Better to do anything else.

I embraced bodyweight training, which is interesting because many bodyweight moves are harder than lifts. It’s easier to do lat pulldowns than a pull up, or weighted squats rather than one-leg bodyweight squats aka pistol squats. I didn’t feel weak while doing these, though, and I soon followed various different bodyweight fitness programs.

All of them have worked for a bit … and then they stop working. I then look for a different bodyweight program. I found a good one, one I really liked, one that promised to lead to the promised land … but the last six months have been zero progress. I’m in the exact same spot, but rather than changing anything, I keep plugging away. Okay. I think that’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing but expecting, magically, a different result this time.

I want to get strong. Everyone knows how to get stronger: lift weights. That’s what works. What I’m currently doing isn’t working. The obvious choice would be to drop my current program and start lifting weights. That’s what this logic suggests, and I continue to do the opposite. Why? Because I don’t life lifting weights.

But I did it for an entire week once! I’m clearly an expert on it!

With chess and poi, I know what I need to do. I just don’t do it. With this example, though, it’s even worse, because I know what I need to do and am actively doing the opposite. I make a whole bunch of excuses, like how I’m already pretty strong relative to my weight (all 165lbs of me, so strong), or how I don’t want to get big anyway. Remember that fable from the beginning, with the fox and the grapes? That’s me but with lifting weights.

I need a mindset shift. I need to stop viewing things as what I want to do or like to do but as things I just do. I’m not sure how I do that yet, but I’ve got some ideas. I’m going to brainstorm more, then I’m going to test some, and then we’ll see how things go. For now, though, I continue to wallow in my cognitive dissonance, at least for a little while.

The Year is Half Over

Today is July 1st, a very special day. Most importantly, it’s Canada Day, a national holiday.  That’s always nice.  Of secondary importance, it’s the beginning of the NHL free agency period, one of the busiest days in terms of player movement.  There may be no better day for a Canadian hockey fan than July 1.

More than that, though, today is the beginning of July, the seventh month.  The year is officially half over.  Six months have gone, six months remain.  It seems like just yesterday we were welcoming in 2016, and now it’s half over and soon it will be done.  That’s … quite sobering, really.

Most people have long since abandoned their new year’s resolutions, but not me.  I’m constantly thinking about how I can improve, where I need to improve and what I need to do to get there.  I set some pretty lofty goals back at the beginning of the year, and now is the perfect time to make sure I’m still trending in the right direction or if I need to change something. Continue reading

June 2016 Month in Review

June has been a rollercoaster, mostly in the up and down sense.  It started with grim determination … and then I immediately got sick and had all my plans thrown into chaos.  I spent two weeks getting back to normal, and once normal I resumed my grim determination to make myself the best person I can be … and so far it’s working.

I briefly experimented with using ‘themed days’ throughout the week, so one day devoted entirely to fitness, another entirely to chess, etc etc.  This lasted for about a week before I hated it and went back to my old standard of doing a little bit of everything every day, and I’m much happier for it.

Still, it’s been strange, as I’ve spent half the month basically recovering from sickness and other half trying to go full speed ahead, which is a strange dichotomy.  I don’t know if it affected me in any way, but it’s been a mental grind at times. Continue reading

May 2016 Month in Review

May has been an interesting month.  Really, it’s a tale of two half-months.  The first two weeks I was unhappy, cranky and borderline depressed … though I don’t know why.  The world just didn’t look as bright.  Then a thunderstorm rolled in, seemingly blasting me out of my funk, and May has rocketed forward ever since.

For the last six weeks or so I had been mostly existing, not really progressing.  I managed to put effort into my workouts and not much else.  That changed halfway through this month, when I got a burst of energy and have been riding it every since.  Let’s take a look.

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April 2016 Updates

April’s over.  Cool.  April wasn’t as kind to me as March.  Honestly, I think a big reason was simply the weather: it snowed in April, and then it rained and got very cold and never really warmed up.  That doesn’t make for a good month, and it more or less mimicked my mental state.  I never really got going.

More accurately, about halfway through I took a break from most of my things.  I did less chess, less poi, less of everything.  Now that the month is ending, though, I feel recharged and ready to take on the world in May.  I’m getting ahead of myself, though.  First let’s look at what happened the last 30 days.

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Taking a Break

Few things in life feel as nice as simply relaxing, and this is especially true if you have just been busy doing something. Maybe you’re running around work, putting out small fires, dealing with minor crisis after minor crisis, and then glorious lunchtime arrives. You grab your sandwich, you sit down and ahhhhhhh, you let out a deep breath. The weight falls from your shoulders and all your tight muscles relax. Right now, no worries. Why can’t it be lunch time all the time?

I think changing my clock should change every clock.

This little break is absolutely critical. Can you imagine going through a full work day without any breaks, or a school day without recess or free time? You’d go insane in a week if not a day. The constant nagging pressure would do you in, sooner rather than later. I think we all realize this, but we perhaps don’t realize this is true for the big picture as well. Continue reading

Changing My Life, One Habit at a Time

There are good habits and there are bad habits. By and large, we spend too much time focusing on bad habits. “If only I didn’t do X,” we think, “I would be so much better off!” Maybe it’s over-eating or smoking or watching too much TV, whatever. We spend a lot of time focusing on what we don’t want, on what is holding us back.

A dog not eating food? I smell photoshopped!

Often, when you try to change this behaviour, you find it really tough. Bad habits are hard to break, and brute willpower only gets you so far. There is an alternative, though. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want. Create good habits. Instead of lamenting on what you should not be doing, do thing you should be doing. This change in approach has, literally, changed my life over the last two months. Continue reading

March 2016 Updates

March was … how do I put this … a fantastic month, and I’m not just saying that because it’s my birthday.  Everything that did could go right did go right.  It was like an inverse Murphy’s Law.

My workouts got better, my flexibility got better, my chess rating got better, my writing got better, everything got better.  More importantly, I’m happy.  Last week, we had an ice storm.  Roads closed, schools cancelled, power flickering off and on: it wasn’t good.  The next morning, I go for a walk, and as I see the frozen trees and sidewalks lined with icy debris, I’m smiling.  Not because I’m the Joker and like to see destruction, but just because I’m always smiling.  I’ve been smiling the whole month, and not even an ice storm could dent my spirits.

That’s pretty awesome.  Anyway, let’s take a look at what I did in detail. Continue reading

The Importance of the Basics

If you’re going to build a house, what’s the most important? Or, said another way, what would you start with? You need a solid foundation, obviously. Having three bathrooms, an expansive library, a master bedroom complete with surround sound home theatre, all of these are great, but if you don’t have a solid foundation your house will fall apart, if if even gets built.

If only the foundation of all skills looked as awesome as marble pillars.

I’m pretty sure we all understand this, at least in some vague, intellectual way. We know you can’t put a roof up until you have the walls. We know this … and yet we often don’t. How often do we try to learn something new, whether it’s a skill or a sport or whatever, and we try and rush as fast as we can to the finish line? Everyone wants to learn the advanced stuff as fast as possible, and preferably faster… and that’s the exact opposite of setting up a strong foundation.

When it comes to learning something, anything, you have to start with the basics. Continue reading

The Frustration of Getting Better

It almost sounds paradoxical, right? Why would anyone be frustrated about getting better? Getting better at something, almost anything, should make you feel better. Or perhaps, if it doesn’t make you feel good, it should make you feel less crappy. Think basic math, for instance. Perhaps learning your times tables didn’t fill you with joy, but you no longer felt dumb for staring at a bunch of symbols and needing your fingers to add up the answer. Feeling less dumb is akin to feeling better.

Less dumb is good start.

In general, if we desire to get better at something, then getting better will make you feel good. We all desire improvement, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it’s one of our main motivations to do the things we love, so we can get better. I’m not arguing against that, not at all. I’m simply pointing out that, often, getting better takes a lot more work than we’d like.

A lot more work. A stupid amount of work. As in, holy hell, I’ve been practicing for a month and I still can’t do something?? Holy hell. Continue reading