Tag Archives: splits

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.

Wishes and Wants

“The first step in getting what you want is deciding what it is you want.” — Ben Stein

Sounds obvious, right? Surprisingly, it’s harder than it sounds. Most people don’t know what they want. It looks like they do, but they really don’t. Sure, they want lots of money, a nice house, a healthy body … but also want lots of stuff, days off and a chance to relax, watching the game while eating some nachos and drinking a cold one.

Most of these wants are opposed. People want to have lots of money … but they don’t want to work, and would definitely prefer not working hard. People want a clean, healthy body … but they want to eat all the same foods and would would definitely prefer not to go to the gym very often, or ever even.

To get what you want, you legitimately need to ask yourself, what do I want?

Which six-pack do you want?

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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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My Ultimate Fitness End Goal

I wrote the other day about my love-affair with fitness. Workout out, stretching, gaining strength, I love all of it. Most people don’t. Most people just want the final product. If there were a way to six-pack abs without stepping foot in a gym, most people jump on it. Take a pill and have a sculpted body? Yes please, for most people at least. Well, in all honesty I’d probably do that too, but I’d still do my workouts after.

Yeah, I’m tempted to go for this …

I’m a crazy nut that enjoys the workout as a workout, not just for the results they bring. The challenge of doing 100 pushups or 100 burpees or a 5k run in 20min seems enjoyable in itself. I embrace that challenge, even if it sucks at times. Overcoming these challenges is what makes fitness in general so interesting, I think. You can always set new challenges. You can always raise the bar.

For myself, I’ve set that bar pretty high. Continue reading

Why I Value Fitness

If you asked me to name my life goals, I could give you a pretty decent list. There’s a lot I want to accomplish. If you asked me to narrow it down, say to a top five, I could do that fairly easily. I might quibble on what to include for the fifth spot, but the top three or so are pretty set. And if you pressed me even further, if you asked me to name just one life goal, if I could only accomplish one major life goal, I would still reply without hesitation.

Being shirtless. And holding an awesome bodyweight position.

It’s health fitness. No question. I desire, more than anything, to be the healthiest, fittest specimen I can be. This has been my quest for the last few years or so. I’m on a mission to master my body, to be both strong and flexible, agile and dynamic, powerful and graceful. If it’s possible for the human body to do something, I want to be able to do that. 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

February 2016 Updates

February was a MUCH better month for me, in virtually every area.

I took a fundamentally different approach this month.  In January, I bit off more than I could chew, trying to do everything at the same time.  That just led to burnout.  In February, by contrast, I started small, just doing one thing, and then the next week I added another thing, and in this way I’m building sustainable habits.

More importantly, I feel the momentum on my side now.  Last week, for instance, I added chess training to do my daily habit list, and it went off incredibly.  A huge success, and it leaves me wanting to do even more.  This week, I’m adding a small morning meditation session.  I usually meditate anyway, but now I have a set time every day, which will keep me consistent and start every day the same.  It’s simple, it’s clear, it’s easy, and life is just rolling along right now.

Splits and Flexibility

I continue to do light stretching virtually every day plus two hard sessions each week, with one day off.  It feels like it’s working, even if I mostly look the same.  At the same time, at my current range of motion, a gain of an inch would be a massive improvement.  I mean, I’m only a few inches from the floor.

Feb 2016

Jan 2016

Hmm.  I think I was lower last month, even though, judging by my expression, I’m feeling much happier this month.  It doesn’t help that my webcam decided to become super blurry today for some reason.  My hands appear as talons, devoid of form.

Feb 2016

Jan 2016

Wow!  I’m square and much lower on this, my weaker side.  It’s amazing, because that hamstring felt very tight for this photo session.

Feb 2016

Jan 2016

Even better!  Just look at the desk chair in the background.  In January, the bottom of my neck was flush with the top of the chair, while today it’s past my chin.  It’s hard to tell because of the blurriness, the shadows and the dark-pants (I won’t wear those again for photos), but I look damn close to the full splits here.  Oh glorious day!  I’m progressing again!

Nutrition

Not bad, but not great.  I’m still eating healthy meals but drowning them down with unhealthy snacks.  I imagine in the near future I’ll just use my willpower again to stomp this out, but for now it’s par for the course.

Chess

I did it!  I got my rating over 2000!  That’s another one of my 2016 goals down!  Well, maybe not ‘another,’ as it’s technically my first one, but progressing in the splits felt like a goal.

This month I completed five games, winning all five.  One, though, was due to a timeout because my opponent got his account banned for cheating.  I invested time into that game, so I’m going to still count that for my chess countdown.  I want to finish 100 games this year, and that’s five down.

One game was against someone rated 2007, but when he resigned his rating dropped to 1992, meaning I still haven’t beat anyone over 2000 rating.  That’s slightly frustrating.  My own rating, though, is 2031 right now, and I have winning positions against two high rated opponents, so maybe in March!

Also, this month I’ve begun to study GM Smirnov‘s course Calculate Till Mate.  If you read my original chess plan, I said I’d study this course later, but I changed my mind.  Calculation is perhaps my biggest weakness, so let’s try to address that now.  It’s massive, and I expect it will take me months, not weeks, to get through all the practical exercises.  I’ll have a review after I see the results.

Writing and Blogging

Another month, another month of writing.  I felt better this month, and my output showed.  I beat last month’s word total despite having two fewer days.

Crossing off another milestone: I have accumulated over 400,000 words since I started writing every day.  That’s mind-boggling.  I read somewhere once that you need to write one million words to truly get competence as a writer, to go from beginner to professional.  It’s probably even more, to be honest, but it’s right there.  As it currently stands, I’m on pace to hit that mark in less than two years, and that’s not even counting any of my school or pre-blog writing.

My blog is rolling along because of this.  February was my highest visited month, beating out both January and December.  Granted, it was by a very slim margin, and all three months were very close, but considering I’m doing absolutely no advertising, I’m pretty happy with that.

In two months of 2016, my blog has already reached halfway to my total in all of 2015.  I’m going to crush that.  I also got two comments!  Holy cow!  They were in this post, about toilets, and this post, about my cat SmithyQ, the inspiration for my blog’s name.  Hey, that’s another goal!

Skills

I said at the beginning of the year I wanted to become a speed cuber.  Well, that appears to have just been a fad, because I haven’t even touched my cube in February.  I mean, I still might do it, but it’s not on the horizon.

Similarly, computer coding is way on the backburner.  In fact, it’s so far in the rearview mirror that it’s safe to say I’m just going to forget about that.

The flow arts, by contrast, are going great.  I spent every single day practicing, at least a little, and I feel it paying off.  My planes have better control and my transitions seem smoother.  My butterfly moves, in particular, I have far more confidence in, and I’m even exploring some behind-the-back stuff.  I still have a ways to go, but it’s nice.

I also took advantage of a sale to pick up two poi DVDs.  They are advanced … and they really mean it.  I won’t be trying any of that stuff for quite some time, but if nothing else, it’s inspiring to see what is possible with this art form.

Conclusions

I really liked February, despite some of the weather, and March promises to keep going in the same way.  My commitment to doing little habits each week and building them up has been a great success so far, and I’m excited to see where it will all lead.

On the whole, I’m perhaps not exactly where I want to be but I’m definitely heading in the right direction.  I feel I’m on the right path, and that’s everything.  Now I just need to take one step at a time.  Onwards to March!