1. Become cognizant of what you want to define you, and refine that.
Like it or not, your priorities in life will define you. Not only to yourself, but to the people that know you. Everyone knows the person that is a workaholic and lives for their career, or the soccer mom whose life revolves around running her kids to a from every after school activity known to man.
None of these things are inherently bad, UNLESS that's not what you want to define who you are. This particular issue requires a lot of introspection, and the ability to be completely honest with yourself, and not make excuses. If you've let something become the focus of your life and everything revolves around that, then like it or not...THAT is what defines you. If you're good with that, just focus on improving that thing. If you're not happy with the current state of where you are, ask yourself what you really need to do to redefine who you are. Don't be afraid to step outside the box and take chances. Failure is only failure if you decide not to try again. Otherwise, it's just falling. And we can all get up from a fall if we want to.
For me, it was becoming an even better dad. That meant finding new ways to grow with my kids, and share more of my life with them than I was. Because that was a priority to me, it was easy to do this.
2. Don't "hear". Listen.
Hearing something means you're aware of a sound. Listening is an altogether different thing. Learning to be a great listener is more difficult than you think. Because most of the time we are thinking about how we are going to respond to something before the other person is even finished talking. This is NOT being a good listener.
I really learned how to listen this past year, and honestly, it's the single greatest thing I've discovered in my adult life in terms of emotional growth. One of the best ways to make sure you are listening is to repeat back to the person what it is they said to you. "So you're saying...." This is an easy way to make sure you're wires aren't getting crossed , and that context is not lost.
But back to the original point. Don't think about what it is you have to say. Think about what it is the other person is trying to convey to you, and why it matters so much to them.
3. Don't minimize someone else's troubles.
"I don't know why you're so upset, this isn't a big deal."
We've all uttered these words. We shouldn't though. If someone is troubled by something you have done or said, and you care about them, then it's important not to minimize what it is you have done or said that caused it.
I was worlds worst about this for the longest. But one of the things that happened when I truly started listening (see point #2) is that I started understanding how my actions affected the people I love and care about. And instead of trying to justify what I had done or said, I started trying to make amends, and get better and not doing the things that caused angst and bitterness.
What all three of these things have in common is that they forced me to put my actions and words under a microscope and to be completely real and honest with myself.
I still fail a lot. I have not cornered the market at being a professional at these things. I am a work in progress and I hope by 2015 I can say that I've continued to grow in these areas and have also found new ones I can improve upon.
Don't test....train -
I had a conversation with my buddy Brandon Lilly a couple of weeks ago and I asked B if his deadlift had stalled. I asked him this because I noticed he had times where he seemed less explosive in his videos to me, and because he just didn't seem to be pulling as well as he had been months before.
B told me "yes, and no" in regards to his deadlift stalling. That he had an impingement in his back that had really been bothering him when he started getting above 90%. But he also admitted that he had broken the rule we talked about, and that was "don't test....train".
" I did break my own rules. I wanted it too much. You know how it gets." B told me.
This has happened to me many times as well. I get a number in my head that I want "out of the way" and I just want to finally hit it, and be done with it.
The problem with that is, we often get caught up in testing week after week after week, seeing if "this is the day" that the number we want so badly, can be gotten.
The problem with this is that those weeks go by, and because you're not training you actually end up losing ground overall because you're not TRAINING anymore. Even if you hit that number you've been chasing, more than likely 3, 4, 5 weeks have gone by where if you had been training, that number and even MORE would have been on the table at some point. But now that training has been negated and testing has been put in place, progress slows down, or is even lost.
Some may not understand this because they will say "well if you hit a new PR then it worked." but they lose sight on the fact that in the medium and long term range, you short change yourself. You may hit the number you want so badly, but it's a true max, and a grinder. Where if you had just kept TRAINING, it's something you do easily in a few months.
But so many times I see people test and test and test, and in a few months they wonder why they are still "testing out" at the same number they had been chasing for so long, or something just barely above it.
It's because they stopped training, and training is the lifeblood of improving.
Testing should not replace training.
In Base Building I use fatigue singles and testing your EDM for explosiveness as a way to gauge progress. This is far better in my opinion, than getting caught in the trap of testing for maxes, and forgetting your way of "training".
Testing should make up the smallest parts of your lifting, and if you don't compete you don't ever have to actually test for true maxes at all.
Be smart. Train.