Dad Bod? Really?

I was sent an email by fitness expert Rusty Moore this week. In the article, he mentioned something called the Dad Bod. This relates to an article that went viral earlier this week on social media. The premise behind it is that women are attracted to a particular look where the man’s body is basically overweight. Some of the reasons listed include these men being more cuddly, more relaxed about their eating and fitness pursuits, and someone more likely to skip the gym and sink a few beers with friends.

Now let me preface the rest of this by saying that I have no issue with someone being overweight. I have been overweight in the past and I am not judging. However, the person who wrote the article clearly has insecurity issues because the reason given for finding this particular type of person attractive were very shallow and were more about how someone who had a better physique would make her feel.

From the article: ‘We don’t want a guy that makes us feel insecure about our body. We are insecure enough as it is. We don’t need a perfectly sculpted guy standing next to us to make us feel worse.’

‘we still like being the center of attention. We want to look skinny and the bigger the guy, the smaller we feel and the better we look next to you in a picture.’

There are other nuggets of non-sense in the article that expose the authors immaturity and lack of confidence. Basically, she is saying that she finds the dad bod attractive because of the way that person makes her feel about her own body. I don’t usually talk about relationships on here, but I have been with my wife for near 11 years so in this area I know what I’m talking about. Physical attraction is essential for a healthy relationship to thrive. There is no doubt about it. However, the physical attraction needs to be genuinely about that person. A relationship has next to no chance of surviving if your attraction to others is more about what you can get out of the other (money, confidence or status and the list goes on)

In the case of the author, she clearly is looking to get her sense of confidence from the appearance of her partner. This is a shaky foundation for self-esteem and will not work. What if Mr Dad Bod decides he wants to get into awesome shape? How would that work for the relationship from that point?

I am also slightly puzzled by the phrase dad bod. I think what she is really describing is sedentary bod or can’t be bothered bod. This does not represent the best fathers and what they show the world through their physical pursuits. I know many dads who treat their bodies with the care and respect it deserves because it is the foundation of their good health and energy levels. Great dads serve as role models for their children and pass on worthy virtues including having good health and vitality. I perform some of my strength training in front of my son deliberately so that it sparks his interest and so that he sees working out as a normal part of life.

I don’t intend on saying too much more about this, it worries me how something like this could go viral, when I see so many more worthy articles that deliver far more wisdom that many people never get the chance to read. Obviously, the subject matter touched a nerve with the public. It certainly did with me. Or maybe it just got on my nerves I haven’t quite decided.

Live and let live is what I believe, but sometimes you have to call someone out when you detect the smell of bulls**t in the air. To all the guys out there, being the strongest version of yourself will lead to the relationship and partner that you want. Whatever your body looks like, if we develop our characters and have a positive aura about us you will be attractive to others.

I wish you the best.

Appreciate WHO you have

If you are reading this, you are awesome! You’ve taken the time to write something that I have written and you are going to take it all in and hopefully apply it (aren’t you?)

smiley face

I clearly appreciate you, and I am making the choice to tell you that. Why is that so important? Here is what I think.

When I read people giving advice on gratitude, they always talk about being grateful for what you have. This is hugely important, but it can sometimes make people forget about showing gratitude for WHO they have in their lives.

I heard this morning that Rio Ferdinand, ex Manchester United footballer, had lost his wife to Cancer. He must be absolutely devastated, and no words will fill that hole in his life for a long time. In such times of grief, it is so obvious to see how much people mean to us.

I remember when I lost my good friend Ziggy in such tragic circumstances. He was great friend to me in Liverpool for many years, and when he died , I was crushed because of what he meant to me. I was also devastated because when I looked back, although it was so obvious, I don’t think I had ever said to him how much of a friend I had considered him to be.

Each one of us is completely unique and special. No-one will ever be able to replicate who you are and the impact you have on others. All too often we forget that it is the relationships we have in life that make us truly rich.

In a consumer driven nation in a time where consumerism is promoted on a regular basis, I wonder if at times we lose touch with the human connection that really gives life true meaning. I have seen people who are so in love with their new phone that they miss the world around them.  We need to do better. I have been guilty of this myself at times, and used  to play a lot of computer games when I should have been spending that time with my wife. None of us are perfect, but we can all be more aware. I see training programs online that try and appeal to people’s dreams with visions of fancy cars and huge houses. Good things to have, no one would argue, but make sure you have your priorities in order.

Is it worth working to the bone for a family you don’t spend time with and see?

Is it worth getting to the top of the career ladder, if you kicked everyone else off on your way to the top?

I absolutely want success in my life and that does include some selfish consumerist type goals and targets (I’m a victim of my times ) but I also want to have rich and deep relationships with my friends, my family and anyone who works with me in the near future.

When I lost my father, for years I almost denied the impact he had on my life, but looking back at old photos reminded me that we spent lots of time together in my formative years, and spent countless hours when I was older talking in the car, and listening to hours of amazing music that my dad was into. There’s no wonder I am such a lover of music today.  I miss him, and I miss our relationship because I will never be able to replicate it with anyone ever again. That’s how special your connections with others are. Because we are all unique, each pairing or group is unique as well due to the collective of people in that group.

Appreciate who you have in your life and let them know you appreciate them. How will they ever know what they mean to you unless you tell them? I need to take my own advice here because there are people in my life who make my life better and I haven’t really told them that.  It won’t take much, and it doesn’t have to be over the top, but it will be meaningful to them. That, I can guarantee.

Life’s too short to take for granted the important people in our lives. Appreciation is the currency that we as people thrive on because we realise the impact we are having on people is helping them.

You could do this by sending them a message, giving them a call, going to visit them or just telling them every now again if you see them on a regular basis. Be clear about why you appreciate them. Big them up they deserve it.

Thanks for spending some of your time to read this. I appreciate your time and I am so grateful that you read this far in my post. You are helping me achieve my dream of spreading good ideas that help people reach their potential and improve their lives.

I wish you the best.

Unleash your Power!

superman

One of my goals for the new year was to find an outlet for my singing. I was blessed to find a gospel choir in my local area  http://hcgchoir.org/   I have been attending the choir since February, and it has been an amazing source of spiritual energy in my life. What I love about it, is that when we sing songs about God and Jesus, the power of the belief and spirit shines through us all as a collective voice. I feel so inspired to sing my best and really bring through the emotions of the songs we are singing. To me, it feels like my weekly worship. I feel a connection to God when I sing these songs and a deep sense of satisfaction.

I also love the power the choir has when we sing in unison. During the very first week, when we started to sing in harmonies, I realised that it was the perfect place for me. Everybody there is so warm and friendly and I instantly felt at home in the choir’s atmosphere.

Doing this has reminded me that our lives are anything but 1 dimensional and we have to try and honour the parts of us that want to be expressed. If you are an musician at heart, you must find a way to express your musicality. It is part of who you are. Without honouring that part of your life, you will not feel complete. That completeness was missing from my life for years because I wasn’t using one of my gifts.

Sometimes, because something doesn’t pay the bills or is not a source of income, we can dismiss that passion as unimportant and not productive.  This is a mistake. Expressing who you really are is what gives life its true richness. Burying aspects of your character will never make you happy, even if you have all the money in the world. What is the point of chasing just the material form of success? It won’t make up for the joy you would have felt doing whatever it is that lights you up and awakens your power within. This is what inspires people the most and is a way you can give back to the world.  It also puts you in a better place psychologically which can only help when striving for success and building your personal empire!

It’s taken me years to realise that the people I admire the most don’t fit the mould of normal. They are all unique in their own way as everyone in life clearly is. The difference though was their willingness to embrace who they were fully without apology and without concern for popularity. This is still one of the biggest challenges I find in my life. It is challenging to be myself when it is so much easier to just put on a mask and embrace the rat race lifestyle.

I wouldn’t call myself an anti-conformist, as I’m not that extreme about it and this isn’t a black and white issue. I have taken the time to sit down and write what my values are, and I use these to make decisions and work out the path of my life. Without my own values, I would be relying on others to give me values and that is a scary proposition that I do not want to entertain. No government, boss, family member or friend is going to decide my values for me. This is my life, and I need to be responsible for my own decisions and actions. This, I believe, is a true expression of personal power.

Are there any goals, dreams or little actions that you have been holding back from doing?

What gains (financial, spiritual, intellectual, love, happiness, peace, health) could this action bring?

Isn’t it worth trying if it makes your life richer?

I tried just one, and it has made a world of difference.

Show the world who you really are and claim back your power!

I wish you the best

It’s been a while………………..

It’s been a long time, but I’m back and will hopefully be posting articles at least once a week for the foreseeable future.

I guess I needed some time away from the screen and felt like I wanted to think carefully about what to put out there through my blog. I have been doing a lot of introspective work over the past few months, and in the near future I will probably share some of the things I have been reading and doing, but I  felt mentally drained, and believed I didn’t have the energy to muster up blog posts for  a while. I’m back with the bit between my teeth and hoping to motivate and inspire at least one person to take action and make their lives better.

The subject of energy is a good one to start with as I think it is something that is regularly mis-understood.

People like to think of energy as something that can ebb and flow due to lifestyle factors, and I believe there is a large portion of truth to that. But I have a bit of a paradox from my own experience that does not correlate.

In theory I should have the least amount of energy now than in any other period in my life. I have two children under the age of four, and I work in one of the most stressful environments there is to work in (teaching and education) I should be destroyed every night.

But, it’s not working that way. In fact I would say that the opposite is true. The more I try to fit things in and tend to all my responsibilities, the more energy I have.

How is this possible when I a running on less than optimal sleep and have spent many nights praying to the God of sleep to come and sort it out?

I believe the answer lies in perception.

Do you see completing tasks as draining or empowering? Do you look at your work and feel overwhelmed or do you feel motivated?

One little trick I have learnt that seems to help change my perception of workload and increase my performance is to break down a difficult task into smaller chunks.

Take for example marking a set of books. If I think of the task as marking a whole set of books from start to finish, then I can’t muster up the energy to get going on the task. What I started doing instead was to think of the task of three sets of ten books. This seemed much more do-able. I would just start with ten books and see how I felt after that. Most times, I would then have the motivation and momentum to tackle the other 20 and get all the work done. The task was not any different, but my perception of the work load was greatly influenced by seeing the task in smaller chunks.

I got this idea of chunking from my workout regimen.

I was not having great success with my training programme. I seemed to be moving heaven and earth in my sessions but had nothing to show for it. This was discouraging and was really getting me down. I was close to giving up on my sessions, but I decided to not do that, but change my approach.

Using the format championed by Pavel Tsatsouline, I decided to reduce my workout to the bare essentials and really drill down on only the essential parts. He said something in his book “Simple and Sinister” that really resonated with me. “Training should give back to you and should never be taking away from you” I took that to mean that I should be benefitting from my workouts in my strength levels, fitness and in how I was feeling. I now use that rule of thumb with tasks in my life as well. Is what I am doing going to result in gains in my life, or is the activity literally a waste of energy.

With this approach, I almost treat my energy level like a budget to be spent wisely on activities that are an investment of my time.

Because I view most of the activities I take part in with this perception, I am usually highly motivated to perform tasks and activities to the best level that I can.

Where I can have energy dips is where this budget is not properly balanced. If I hammer one aspect of my life to the detriment of other areas, I then leak energy and feel less effective in my day to day life. Balancing all your responsibilities is difficult and challenging, but the pay-off is better than feeling overwhelmed and stressed because things are not as they should be.

Think carefully about how you are spending your time. It is the one resource you can never get back once you have spent it.

Have you thought carefully about the things you are doing and what impact they have on your energy level, mood and state of mind?

What is one simple change you could make today that could make a huge difference in your life?

Have you ever tried looking at a difficult task in smaller chunks and tackling them one chunk at a time? It could make all the difference when completing that challenging project.

I wish you the best

Shaun

Get Help!

One thing that has become really clear to me this year is just how important other people are in our lives when it comes to anything we want to do. There have been a few things that have happened recently that powerfully demonstrated this to me. One thing that happened was my wife getting sick. She had a urine infection that got pretty serious and it was a really worrying time for us. She is much better now and we are getting back to normal. When I reflect back on that time, the number of people who helped us directly or indirectly was staggering. My mother in law was amazing in supporting us and really helped me support the children and Annemarie as best as I could. My mum did an awesome job as well and came over to help us when we needed it. My boss at work was really helpful and put my mind to rest about being away from work to focus on my family. All the doctors who saw Annemarie did their best to help her recover and get well. The list of people is so long that I was taken aback with the level of support. So it is with great gratitude that I write this post.
It also allowed me to realise even more what an awesome job my wife does in looking after the children and making sure they are getting all they need. Without Annemarie doing that, my life would be utter chaos. I would have no time to pursue work goals effectively or have quality time to do things like writing this post. She is a wonderful woman and she doesn’t understand just how vital what she does is for the children and for me.
When I look on things that have turned out well for me, almost all of them have been the result of getting some help along the way. Now, I’m not discounting my own efforts, but the help of others can accelerate the rate at which you achieve what you want. In the past I have been guilty of seeing getting help as a form of weakness on my part. I now realise that is my ego speaking and I am open and massively grateful to all the opportunities and help that I am lucky enough to receive in life. When you close yourself up to help, you are stopping yourself from growing and developing. If you can relate to the feeling of being reluctant to help, then this could be a huge breakthrough for you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be resourceful and independent. I now realise that asking, receiving and benefitting from help actually increases your level of independence, because you can solve many more of your own problems and help others to solve their problems as well. Who doesn’t want the ability to solve problems and achieve peace of mind.
When looking at getting into my ideal shape and reaching my health goals and targets (That will NOT involve endless weighing of myself) I am going to recruit a team of bad-ass trainers who’s help I can rely on. There are support groups, forums and sources of help that can make reaching any goals possible because you have surrounded yourself with others who know it’s possible and could also show you the way.
Don’t cut yourself off from the abundance of help there is out there waiting for you. Get other people involved in what you want to do and the value for all involved is immense.
I wish you the best
Shaun.
P.s If any readers would like some help from me in the form of answering questions, doing guest blogs, writing on my blog or anything that you can think of. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I would love to start writing blogs in response to people’s questions and concerns rather than just my own. Let me help you get what you need.

My greatest teachers Part 1: Primary school

My greatest teachers (and what made them great) Part 1: Primary school
We can all agree that teachers are very important people in our lives. Some of us had teachers that inspired us to want to become better, and some of us had dire teachers that we couldn’t stand. I think in our lives we do encounter both and you can learn from all experiences. I was lucky to have some amazing teachers in my life in education. They really helped shape my character in different ways. All of these teachers offered something different perspectives and paradigms. All of these people will always be special to me, and I will remember them always. What’s really funny is that looking back, it wasn’t their lessons that really made the most impact on me, but it was the way that they treated me and made me feel that I remember most.
Primary school: Mr Sale
Mr Sale was great because he had high expectations. I remember quaking in my boots the year before entering his class because every now and then you could hear him giving someone a serious ear bashing in the corridor. It always sounded brutal because you could only hear impressions of what was said, and his voice sounded so guttural and deep.
My first day in his class filled me with dread. What was he going to be like? Very quickly I realised that although he was strict, he was also kind and thoughtful. He loved the things that I loved. He was a huge football fan and he loved stories. One of my most memorable experiences was listening to War of the worlds on tape cassette in his class. It scared the life out of me, but it was one of the most exciting story experiences of my life and I spent six months checking the skies at night to make sure the martians weren’t on their way.
He made me the captain of the school football team and had faith in my ability to carry out the role. I was so proud when we beat our local rivals three nil and I smashed in a hat-trick.
He talked to us about our interests, and made us all feel important. He had the same high standards for everyone in the class and did not tolerate excuses.
I know that Mr Sale still works in the school today. He has been there twenty years since he taught me, so he also has immense experience on his side. He has committed himself fully to St Malachy’s primary school and that is really commendable.
Thank you Mr Sale. You had belief in me and had the ability to make all the children in the school feel important and valued. I wonder if he still makes the kids listen to war of the worlds? I will have to go back and ask him.

Reflection time 23.11.2014

Gratitude.
I got the chance to spend all Saturday with my two children alone because my wife started her new job. I had so much fun and really enjoyed my time with them. It was tiring physically, but energising spiritually because they made me feel so young. We had fun, watched movies, ate good food together and Ava had a nice nap as well. Great times.
Annemarie and I got the chance to have a second date night of the month. We had a great time and ate a lot of Mexican food that was really tasty. I wanted to show gratitude to Julie A.K.A Iron fist because she is crazy strong. She is Annemarie’s mum and looks after the children when we are out and about or really busy getting something done. She has also given me many lifts to and from work when I need one.
Big up to the following virtual mentors who have contributed to my understanding this week: Robin Sharma, Eric Thomas, Zig Ziglar, The Hodgetwins, Charlotte Ord and Jon Gabriel.
Health.
I’ve been trying to abandon my ideas of being on a diet and have focused on adding in as much healthy nutrition as possible without depriving myself or having thoughts of deprivation. This has been going quite well, but I am only now realising just how broken my signalling to my body was. My eating is starting to slow down, and I hope my intuition will kick in far more with eating and I will be able to get to the point where my eating is effortless and natural rather than forced and mentally draining.
Achievements
Not mine directly, but one of my athletes qualified for the next round of the cross country championships. She performed really well and I was really proud of her and all the runners from my cross country team.
What memorable things have happened in your week?
I wish you the best
Shaun

Fluid form.

I have been writing a journal now for a few months and it has brought up lots of lessons for me to go away and reflect on to help me lead a happier more effective life. One really damaging trait that I found was just how often I criticised myself. I have been aware of this for some time and I do better at times than at others. But I believe it is a vital aspect of my character that I want to change.

Let me describe what happens. Say for example, I want to stick to a diet to lose some fat. What I found I was doing was attaching my happiness and sense of success to whether I stuck to the diet or not. If something went wrong, which is inevitable because I am not perfect, I would attack myself and beat myself down. This thinking at it’s worst would spiral into a deep analysis of what I was doing wrong and lead to the conclusion that I will never be good enough to attain it. This would mean giving up or starting all over again. So I would get the first part right, because I was setting worthwhile goals for myself and that is important. However, I was emotionally attached to my goals so much that my self-worth was defined by attaining them. I was fixated on a future self and negatively comparing where I am to the future projection. Visualisation of the future is important, but I do not want to keep all my happiness waiting for me in the future as the future doesn’t physically exist. All we have and all we will ever have is the here and now. The present is where our attention should be.

 Letting go is an act of observation without emotional reaction or outburst. This allows you to be objective and see the truth behind your results.

Perception is everything. Should someone really be judged as a failure if they don’t reach a target?

The only person who can create the idea in your mind that you are a failure is you.  It is just an idea. Yet another story that we tell ourselves based on our interpretations of our circumstances. Imagine how empowering it is to go through your life with the belief that you are good enough in this present moment. You are good enough now and will always be. It’s a case of perspective.

I am a Manchester United fan, but I am passionate about all high performers in football. I like to study their philosophy and mentality. One person I studied was Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. On the subject of failure he responded by saying I do not fail. On the surface, this seems to be an arrogant statement, but it is his reality. Therefore to him it is true. Our perceptions create our reality because there is no true ‘reality’. When someone says ‘the reality is’, what they should really say is ‘my reality is.’ Mourinho’s statement is empowering because it allows him to see every setback objectively and learn from it. He doesn’t get attached to it and carry it like a weight on his back. At the same time, this attitude would allow for someone to stay humble when things are going well and not attach their identity to their success or possessions.

Another powerful statement linked to this idea is the famous Bruce Lee quote where he describes the nature of water and the importance of replicating it:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

My interpretation of this is that water is a close reflection to our true nature in that we are a mixture of things that are transient. Our beings flow and have the ability to transform and evolve. Within any given moment, you can become whatever you want to be. When you let go of the stories you tell yourself in your mind, you can become a shape shifter.

You have the ability to become strong.

You have the ability to become love.

You have the ability to become excited.

You have the ability to be (insert here)

I am by no means an expert in this field as this idea is quite new to me. But I see the value in reducing my attachment to the external parts of my life so that I can have more control over my emotions.

The next time I set a goal, I’m going to set it, create a time frame, and then get to work on the process. I will track my results, but will in no way identify who I am with the results I get. This will help in all areas of my life and should lead to me being in much better control of my state on a day to day basis. If I am to truly be like water, I should have the ability to choose the best way of being to deal with all of life’s challenges.

Don’t be so rigid in life.

Let go and be like water.

I wish you the best.

Self-acceptance is more important than self-improvement?

I have always been very passionate about the role of self-improvement in my life. The name of my blog shows that I believe in a holistic way of life. Self- improvement has served me well in that capacity because I believe I am more effective now than I was in the past.
However, there was always an idea that puzzled me. It was a paradox in my thinking.
If I’m always striving towards new goals, when will I get the feeling of being successful? When will I enjoy the fruits of all the work I’ve done on self-improvement?
The missing piece between success and self-improvement is self-acceptance. I now realise that without self-acceptance, there is the danger that you will never be happy with your success. Success isn’t a tangible thing. It’s a feeling, and that feeling is relative. If you took two people with the exact same circumstances in life, one could be the happiest person alive and the other person the most miserable. The way they perceive what they have and their level of identification with those things, will determine whether they feel successful.
When I have felt successful in life has been when I have cultivated that state internally. It is the journey towards the goals as well as the end point that can create a feeling of success.
I am working on self- acceptance because I realised I was playing a dangerous game where I was losing the ability to be happy in the present moment because I was forever chasing goals. The goals were not the problem, it was my identification with the result of attaining them. In short, because I was obsessing over achievement, I would have been dissatisfied with my level of income, health, relationships or career. I was making the false assumption that those things are who I am. I cannot wait for the ideal of everything before I become happy. That is not true living.
Self-acceptance is the subtle art of knowing yourself internally so that you don’t have to rely on the external things around you for identity. I understand why people chase success symbols like cars, huge houses and other similar things. It is almost a way of measuring your level of success in the world. However, this measurement system is fundamentally flawed because it does not go deeply enough. It also cannot measure the intangible elements that really make us who we are. Here are some of them.
Our core values
Our purpose
Being happy
Having the ability to immerse fully in the present moment
Love.
A connection to a force that is greater than our-selves.
These things are the timeless.
Let go of the idea that your external possessions are who you really are. Become in tune with the concept, that everything you need for life you already have inside of you. Look within. Here is a resource to help with this.
http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-Self-Acceptance-Can-Crack-Open-Your-Life This is a ten day programme of activities that are designed to help you start thinking about self acceptance. I have found some of them useful especially day one. It was really challenging to think that deeply about myself and it did give me some perspective on who I really am. I really liked this paragraph to explain what self-acceptance means:
Self-acceptance is the process of befriending the Unconditioned Self—the part of you that is more than just your name, your history, your story, your failures or your successes. You are more than just your experiences or how other people see you or the clothes you wear.
I wish you the best.

Count your blessings

I took this idea from the business and lifestyle coach Craig Ballantyne and have been doing it consistently now for about two months.

He talked about how he writes a gratitude journal. I liked the sound of the idea and wanted to see if it was a worthwhile activity for me.

In my journal, I try and include some aspect of gratitude for every day. This is a great way to end your day or start a new one. I’ve started to appreciate on a deeper level all of the people who help make my life better either directly or indirectly through their work or their art.

I also have mantras in there that I study and say over and over to myself. These statements are designed to help me to stay present and engaged with the world, and allow me to be more in charge of how I feel and my reactions to the unpredictable nature of life.

I use to set myself little targets for the day, and also to reflect on my longer term goals. In short, this book has become invaluable to me. I would encourage everyone to journal in some way or other. It allows you reflect on your days and becomes an account of your success and areas for development. It’s easy to forget some of the little lessons that life can give you if you have no awareness. Using a journal allows you raise your awareness instantly. Focussing on gratitude is a very good practice as well. It leaves me feeling blessed, grounded and wanting to do more for others.

Action point: I would invite you to list at least five things that you are grateful for that have happened today. I have managed to come up with at least five things every day without fail. See how you feel after this activity, and I’m convinced you will feel that you want to continue. It allows you to see the bigger picture and realise all the things that other people do for you in your life.

I wish you success

Shaun