I was recently watching a George Carlin clip on Youtube in which he rails against people who use soft language to hide the truth and pain of a situation. Most notable is the term ‘shell shock’ from World War (WW) 1. Shell shock is defined as, “a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness appearing variously as panic and being scared, or flight, an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk.”
Carlin states with each new generation, truth and pain become buried under jargon. The condition of shell shock in WW1 morphed into ‘battle fatigue’ that morphed into ‘operation exhaustion’ and by the time Vietnam was happening, the very same condition was called ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ (PSTD). With each evolution of the condition it became more complex with less humanity. The original pain of the situation became lost in vague jargon.
My dad was a Vietnam Vet. In fact, he served in DaNang during the worst time of the Vietnam War. To this day, I have never heard my dad speak openly to my brothers and me about his experiences during war-time. Only my oldest brother was privy to these experiences. Why so? My brother was in charge of preparing the case against the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) about the horrors and acts against humanity, that my dad witnessed during war-time. His accounts of these horrors were over 300 pages long. After preparing that case-study, my brother never looked at my dad in the same light again.
This case started because my dad was unable to continue working as a correction officer for the state of MA. My dad’s “inner demons” were rearing their ugly heads again and he was unable to return to work because of doctors’ orders. It put him in the position of having to resign from the state job and apply for disability with the VA. During this time my dad supported himself and the three of us with savings, home equity line of credit and maxing out all of his credit cards. It was the most stressful and often, most dire, time of my family’s life.
After 3 years of battling with the VA and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that my dad’s condition was caused by inhuman acts of war and not from psychological make-up, the VA relented and awarded my dad 100% disability due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused during war-time.
You might say, “Awesome! Your dad deserves that compensation for the risk he took defending our country. Now he has the time and money to travel, work in the garden or pick up a hobby he’s always been interested in. No more worries about retirement, medical bills or even burial plots. The VA is picking up the tab for all of it.” I originally thought the same thing, little did I know about the iron-claw that PTSD would have on his life.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Many people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five.” My dad’s ‘death’ happened when he left the Marine Corps at age 23. His life became a 15-year drunken stupor of eating out of garbage cans, fighting at local bars, working back to back menial, low-paying jobs and black-outs that lasted days. During his misery and pain, he stumbled into a relationship with my mom and had two boys with her. Ten years later, I was the lucky little surprise my parents had after falling out of love and into divorce.
My dad was ‘awarded’ his 100% disability status in 1996. One could imagine the past 18 years being filled with travel, gardening and hobbies but not so. CNN or History Channel play on TV around the clock, he sleeps at all hours of the day and night, eats only processed foods, moves his body very little, and still smokes like a chimney with filter-less Camels. Besides downing chocolate glazed donuts and 12-inch steak and cheese grinders from Papa Ginos, he’s on anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-high blood pressure, anti-high cholesterol, and anti-quality of life medications. Why? Simple…medications are free from the VA and popping pills require no change on his part. The pills keep him alive, but not enlivened.
My brothers and I have tried to urge, conj-ole, even threaten him to go out on a date, see a therapist, start juicing, walk around the neighborhood, quit smoking, go on a day trip to the Cape and any number of things that we KNOW will improve his physical and emotional well being. Even a friend blogger, Mans at theHackedMind, suggested the nootropic, aniracetam, which has been shown to help with depression and anxiety. But the old adage, “Nothing happens until someone sells something”, applies to my dad as, “Nothing happens until he sells himself.”
He has to be willing to change.
Its a humbling experience to help complete strangers greatly improve their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being with a complete overhaul of poor lifestyle habits yet I’ve been unable to help my dad drink a glass of fresh carrot juice. What I know about habit change and behavior modification, its best to insert a new behavior immediately after an established habit…the challenge is, my father has almost no established habits. Not in sleep, not in eating, not in tv viewing, not in socializing or anything I can think of at the moment. I guess I’m gonna have to look into his micro-habits.
For the record, I love my father with all my heart and he has accomplished some amazing things despite his shortcomings with alcoholism and PTSD. He was able to get his life together enough to be able to accept my two brothers and I to live with him after leaving our mom. He worked 80-hour weeks for years in order to provide food, shelter and a down-payment for a great house in a great town. All those who know my dad respect, admire and adore him because of his tremendous heart and willingness to sacrifice himself for the benefit of his three sons.
For 14 years he was able to keep his emotions under control and work ethic in check long enough to provide my brothers and I with stability. Then in 1993, he could no longer keep it together. The ‘inner demons’ could no longer be silenced, that is when he applied for disability.
My heart goes out to every veteran who has ever served our country. I do not agree with the military/industrial complex and how it sees human beings as machines rather than men. It sickens me how the men and women of power can sacrifice the lives of others to move their own agendas forward. There is nothing sexy, macho or admirable about war. Killing only begets more killing. If that wasn’t the case, we’d have peace. On the flip side, these men and women enter the military under their own free will because the draft is no longer in affect.
While most veterans do not lose their physical lives during a Tour of Duty, countless others have lost everything else in mind, motivation, and meaning, becoming the walking dead waiting to be buried.
I salute you.
>ping< “I can’t believe he said that.” >ping< “Cool. She liked my comment.” >ping< “Hmm, that looks like an interesting video.” >ping< “Oh yeah, let me email him back.” Every >ping< in your life; email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, txt message, or cell phone ring is pulling your valuable mental resources and splattering them across the ethers like a shotgun splattering brains on a freshly painted kitchen cabinet door.
In order to accomplish anything significant requires good ole’ fashion focus. I challenge you to name one person whether spiritual, business, medicine, or entertainment who accomplish significant things in life who was not focused. Go ahead…I’ll wait.
Ok. Enough waiting, I have this article to write.
Its been said, with every little distraction we face each day, it requires approximately 20 minutes to get back into the flow state we previously had before the distraction. How many >pings< do you experience every day? At least 10? That’s 200 minutes of wasted focus time each day! The reason steam can move a locomotive is because the energy is contained in focused not scattered. Power comes by focusing.
There’s a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. This chemical is released mostly by nerve cells in your brain and motivates you to act. Each time a >ping< happens in your awareness and you response to that >ping< it depletes your dopamine. The more depleted your dopamine, the less motivation you have to accomplish important tasks or engage your willpower. Think about next time to respond to txt after txt, email after email. The goal is respond with intention rather than out of reflex.
In their book Switch, brothers Dan and Chip Heath talk of three factors to create a long term habit. The three factors are 1. Direct (Rider), 2. Motivate (Elephant), and 3. Shape (Path). In dealing with focus, reducing distraction, and preserving dopamine lets use factor number 3, Shape. We can know what we want, we can be motivated to get what we want, but if our environment is constantly distracting and derailing us than it can be near impossible to accomplish our goal. For instance, a smoker who is truly committed to giving it up once and for all, will have a very hard time quitting if continues to surround himself with smokers, has cigarettes in his house and car, while not removing the psychological triggers causing him to smoke. Likewise if you are looking to focus and achieve more in your life, it helps to create an environment that is supportive of the new habit.
Therefore to protect your brain, dopamine levels, and to get important items done…simply shape an environment that is conducive to having focused, one-pointed attention.
6 Tips for Shaping the Environment to Focus:
1.Turn off all >pings< email and text alerts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
2.Limit the channel of ways people can interupt you i.e. only meet face to face at 1:00pm
3.Close the door to your room or office and create quietness
4.Determine a set period of time to focus i.e. 9:00am to 11:00
am, break 30 minutes, 11:30am to 1:00pm.
5.Pre-determine when you will check all >pings< i.e. during lunch, after 4:00pm, after this project
6.Focus on the task at hand. The zen method of when walking, walk. When eating, eat. When listening, listen. Multitasking is overrated and is not efficient or effective.
Hope that helps you establish more focus to accomplish what you want in life and keep your brain from >ping< burnout.
For those looking to live a perfect day, I offer 30 minutes of free coaching to assist you in creating your perfect day. During the free session you will gain clarity on how to live your perfect day, identify challenges in creating your perfect day, and feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and vigor for your life. Contact me at ChristianRLong.com or 347-879-0764
As long as I can remember I have had a horrible daily routine. Some days I would sleep 14 hours and wake up feeling exhausted with a severe headache. Other days I’d be running on 6 hours of sleep and accomplish more in that day than in some weeks.
Eat times and amounts were always a hit or miss with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would skip meals because of my work schedule or I would gorge at 11:30pm at night after a group meditation with friends. I ate processed foods because they were fast, cheap, and tasty never-mind the addictive qualities.
Exercising was a complete joke to me. God blessed me with the good genetics that kept my muscle mass high and fat mass low consistent throughout my entire life. I would workout in spurts, on and off for years. I was never consistent because my body worked great whether I worked it or not.
The term job dissatisfaction I think was actually coined by a friend who was helping me restructure my mess-of-a-resume. She became overwhelmed by the sheer volume and types of jobs I had over the past 15 years. I’ll bet you right now, you haven’t had anywhere near the amount of jobs I’ve had in my life.
Even my meditation practice, my only source of intense bliss and inner peace, was just an every other day or every three-day affair.
I saw sleep, nutrition, exercise, work and meditation as events rather than a process. If this time was the deepest sleep, most nutritious smoothie, most intense workout, biggest sale or most blissful meditation….I could slack off for awhile, take it easy, have more free time to do what I really wanted to do.
I credit a lot of my inconsistency with the type of work I chose in my mid-teens. The food and beverage industry. I became accustomed to working days, nights, weekends, holidays, doubles, fill-ins, early cuts and having those hours change from week to week. These schedules made it challenging of when and what to eat. If I had plans of going to bed early and waking up early, it was usually derailed by having to work late that night then opening the next morning. Even the very income itself was inconsistent, requiring picking up shifts to pay bills, unforeseen expenses, or saving for a yoga retreat. This pattern persisted into my early 30’s.
Then the shift occurred through the help of a girlfriend, a few books, removing sugar, and a change in mindset.
I began dating this amazing girl who found me working at yet another restaurant job. In the process of getting to know me and the experiences I have had in the worlds of business, public speaking and real estate investing, she made a very strong point, “You need to get the fuck out of the restaurant business; its sucking your life away, paying you dog-shit while you have all these gifts to share.” I quickly heeded her suggestion and haven’t looked back.
The three books that have transformed my daily routine were Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, who assisted me in recognizing the small things I did do everyday could be used as anchors to attach more empowering habits. I used this very method to greatly reduce sugar in my diet and increase the amount of fruit and nuts I ate.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow which to be honest I cheated a bit by using the cliff notes by Dane Maxwell from ‘The Foundation.’ I have no problem reading an 832 page book but if I can save some time I’m all about it. The biggest take away I got from Titan was that John D Rockefeller Sr. had the same schedule for over 60 years and was vigilant about protecting it. No one was allowed to impose their schedule or agenda onto his. It helped me realize that a simple, boring daily routine practice over time through rain, sleet, or shine could make someone the richest person in the world.
The last book, The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman put my mind at ease about my inconsistencies, stating poor biology rather than psychology or neurology could be the cause of my laziness, depression, inconsistencies, and overall poor daily routine. By changing my diet and adding appropriate supplementation, I became more consistent in every area of my life.
Which brings me to removing sugar from my diet. Well, not actually removing it but greatly reducing it to my morning coffee and the occasional piece of specialty chocolate. The need to reduce my intake of sugar was one of the greatest realizations of my life within the past 20 years. I had absolutely no clue as to how much it affected my sleep, hunger, energy level, work ethic, ability to concentrate, and emotional state. The details are in an article on my website called, How My Addiction to Sugar Almost Killed Me. In a nutshell, only by removing sugar for 6 weeks then reintroducing it into by diet could I see how much it was affecting my physical, emotional, and mental health.
Now the mindset shift was primed and ready. I was out of the restaurant business, the three books gave me the know-how to create a supportive daily routine, and sugar was no longer gripping my life. I made the mindset shift to, “I’m committed to living a supportive daily routine to help me live out my purpose of coaching and healing many people.”
Fast forward to present day. I wake up at 5:30am feeling rested and rejuvenated. Meditation, breakfast, and exercise begin at 5:45am. I spend 9:00am to 6:00pm writing articles, filming videos and coaching clients. Eat lunch from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. Power nap from 2:00pm to 2:30pm.
Eat dinner at 6:30pm. Begin my nightly ritual of drinking tea, journaling, and reading at 9:00pm. Finally I’m off to the inner world of sleep and dreams by 10:00pm.
This is the basis of my daily routine with some slight modifications on Saturday and Sunday. But the whole point is to follow this routine consistently. The compound benefits of this routine are immense. My energy levels have never been higher or more sustainable. I accomplish more in a day than I use to in a week. I feel calm yet alert throughout the day. I accomplish the most important things earliest in the day. With each passing day on this routine, it becomes stronger and easier to live by. The daily routine actually drives me.
I coach my clients on developing a similar routine. The principles and reasons behind why it works are rock solid. It does require an overhaul of certain lifestyle practices but the payoff is not only immediate but the long-term benefits of greater health, inner peace, and clarity of mind are immeasurable. I came to the conclusion that these practices work, I got my life back. I felt in order to live my life’s purpose required a consistent daily routine. The key is daily.
For those looking to create a perfect day, I offer free 30 mins. to assist you in creating your perfect day. During the free session to will gain clarity on how to create your perfect day, identify challenges in creating your perfect day, and feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and vigor for your life. Contact me at ChristianRLong.com or 347-879-0764