We tend to revere professionals and experts because we feel they hold abilities we could never attain ourselves. We sometimes perceive them as superhuman while living our own lives in the shadow of mediocrity. While I don’t believe living a life obsessing over success and competition is healthy, I do believe a large part of life should be dedicated to finding the balance between ambition and contentment. For a surfer or snowboarder or climber, that can simply be our love for the outdoors and reflecting on why we are constantly pulled back to the oceans and mountains.
Great fitness professionals and coaches have a deep appreciation for the power of that “why” question. The “why” is the skeleton key that unlocks all doors to growth, progress, and even enlightenment. I am admittedly biased in saying I believe some sports are superior in promoting this search for what drives us and support a life spent looking for deeper meaning–and most all of those sports occur in the outdoors.
To help you understand how powerful your “why” is, try this three-minute exercise adapted from Stig Severinsonn’s 10-minute Breathing Meditation Exercise (the Danish world freediving champion and breathing guru). This is a great introduction to becoming more aware of your breathing and learning to control your “monkey mind,” which prevents focus and contemplation.
1. First, only do this in a place that is quiet and free of distractions. When you find this time/place, get comfortable lying, sitting, standing, or whichever position will promote relaxation. However, try not to get so comfortable you fall asleep.
2. Begin breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth.
3. When breathing in, place one hand over your belly button. Visualize your abdominal region as a balloon that you fill up as you inhale. When exhaling, create a small opening with your mouth in order to create some resistance and help maintain a 1:2 inhalation/exhalation ratio, i.e. four-second inhale through the nose followed by an eight-second exhale through the mouth.
4. Focus on your breathing. Try to hear and feel your heart rate and be aware of how your entire body feels. Continue to focus and become more aware of your body for three minutes.
5. At the end of that three-minute time block, take a few more minutes to reflect on your “why”. Ask yourself why you want to accomplish a specific goal and what value it will bring to you. Your “why” can be related to a health and fitness goal, it can be a reflection on your current job, or it can be something as trivial as deciding how to organize your living room.
After reflecting on your “why” write down physical actions you can take to help align your current life status with this newfound “why” that’s driving you.