In the photo above, four Punk Ropers are playing a game called Triangle Tag. Emanuel in orange is trying to use his quickness and agility to tag Elizabeth (in the blue top with grey pants) while Elena and Seitu do their best to “protect” her. While everyone is working hard I sincerely doubt any of them could care less about the outcome of the game and yet an obsession with outcomes—the bottom line, the result, the net profit, the win, the reward, etc.—dominate contemporary Western society. Maybe there’s a better way. Our friend Leo Babauta who pens the blog Zen Habits offers some alternative thinking.
Let’s say you’re starting a new jump rope or HIIT program and you feel doubt about whether or not you can stick to it, so you’re tensely doing everything you can to make sure it will turn out the way you hope.
The stress, fear, doubt and tension come from an attachment to the outcome. We want to lose weight, look great, and get fit—the results of the exercise—and have everyone think we’re wonderful.
But perhaps we could acknowledge that:
The outcome isn’t always fully in our control.
Sometimes other people get in the way or unintentionally sabotage a project, sometimes things happen that we didn’t expect, sometimes despite our best efforts things just turn out differently than we pictured in our heads. Perhaps the park where we planned on jumping rope is unexpectedly closed for renovations or our boot camp instructor moves to Thailand or the temperature soars into the high 90s for weeks on end.
There are multiple outcomes that will be okay, if not great.
For example, maybe we won’t get six-pack abs or finish the marathon we’re training for, but we might get healthier despite not meeting our desired goal. Maybe we’ll enjoy the exercise for its own sake and maybe we’ll like the people we train with, and maybe we’ll enjoy exercising outdoors. We might learn that the outcome we hoped for and possibly expected isn’t the only one we can be happy with. Sometimes the actual outcome will be better than we hoped for, if we’re open to it.
Focusing on the outcome is detrimental.
It causes us to stress out, to enjoy the process less, and sometimes leads us to quit before we start since we may think we don’t have a chance of getting the desired outcome. We give up on aiming for 50 push-ups in a minute because we can’t even do 10 in an hour. But how will you ever improve at push-ups if you give up on them right off the bat? Focusing on the outcome also causes us to be disappointed with the result when it’s not what we want and we may end up disappointed in ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations. We walk away from the experience feeling that we’re not enough or that others are not enough.
Letting go of our attachment to the outcome is freeing.
Letting go helps us to be more present with the doing, the being, the act itself, rather than what might come in the future. It can help us have better relationships, because we’re more focused on the people than the goal. It can help us have a better relationship to ourselves, as we focus on our own well-being and contentment, rather than some external source of possible happiness (spoiler: happiness doesn’t come from external things).
Instead of focusing on the outcome try focusing on:
The intention. That is the mindset that you hope to bring to the task rather than what you hope to get out of it. So as you’re attempting that next set of push-ups consider being present during the movement rather than worrying about how you want your triceps to look in the future.
The effort. Instead of worrying about the result of doing all those push-ups, pay attention to how focused you are on them and how much effort you’re putting into each rep as well as how mindful you are. How much of your heart are you putting into the exercise? How much love and care are you giving them?
The process. The outcome is a result of the process — if you’re not getting the outcome you want, focus on improving the process. How much care are you taking as you do it? How can you step up your game? Pay attention to how you’re doing things rather than focusing so much on the result.
The moment. What is beautiful about this particular moment, as you perform your push-ups? What do you notice? Is your dominant side taking over? Can you feel all the muscles working in unison? Can you be curious as you perform the act rather than having a fixed mindset? What is there to appreciate about yourself and everything around you, right now
Relationships. When you’re focused on the outcome, you often disregard the feelings of the people you’re working with including your teammates and coaches. You might even snap at them when they’re not doing things the way you’d like. Instead, you can focus on your connection with them, on finding ways to make them enjoy the process more, on being loving or compassionate.
Feel free to share your experience with us if you decide to attempt letting go of the outcome. Think about what is beautiful about this moment. Can you have fun with the effort? Try being more loving to yourself and others. Doing so transforms every act, every habit, every project, and every moment with others.
When most of us think of exercise we tend to focus on its physical benefits and especially how exercise improves our appearance. But there’s a solid body of research emerging about how strengthening your body can also strengthen your brain and improve memory, concentration, mental health, creativity, and even offer some protection against dementia. In fact, cognitive control is considerably improved after just a single session of exercise.
“Boosts in cognitive control abilities occur even after engagement in a single bout of physical exertion, as assessed in healthy children and those diagnosed with ADHD, with benefits extending to academic achievement. Interestingly, it seems that the impact on the brain is greater if an exercise program is also cognitively engaging. Similar training benefits of acute and chronic exercise on cognitive control have been shown in both young adults and middle-age adults. There is also a very large body of research on the cognitive benefits of physical exercise in older adults.”
And what, dear reader, is a cognitively engaging form of exercise? Jumping rope, of course. Your mind can’t go to sleep while jumping rope or you’ll trip. So the next time you pick up that jump rope you can feel good that you’re not only doing something positive for your physical health, but you’re boosting your mental health as well. So how much exercise do you need for optimal brain health. Research shows that some form of aerobic activity six days a week, for forty-five minutes to an hour would be ideal.
You might recall from a recent post that I was beyond psyched about my beloved Virginia Cavaliers who had just been granted the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Men’s D1 basketball tournament. And as you may know by now, Virginia became the first #1 seed in the history of the men’s tournament to lose to a #16 seed (UMBC) in the first round. Some sportswriters are calling it the greatest sports upset of all time. Even so, it was just a game without life or death consequences.
Since then, we bore witness to what I believe is one of the largest and most inspiring marches on our nation’s capital in history, along with hundreds of other impressive marches around the globe. The Washington DC march was organized largely by teenagers who survived the recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. And arguably the most powerful speech in DC was delivered by Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas. Her speech—much of it without words—lasted 6 minutes and 20 seconds, exactly the amount of time it took Nikolas Cruz to massacre 14 of her classmates as well as 3 teachers and coaches.
In honor of those who lost their lives at Stoneman Douglas, as well as the countless victims of school shootings everywhere; in honor of Emma Gonzalez and the brave survivors who have risen above the cacophony of adult voices trying to silence them; and as a nod to choosing life over death, peace over violence, and love over hate this week’s Punk Rope Challenge is:
Jump for 6 minutes and 20 seconds non-stop.
Choose whichever step you like.
Choose multiple steps if you prefer.
Whatever you do, CHOOSE LIFE.
The word “spring” makes me think about jumping rope and as the weather warms up here in the Northeast I have certainly been jumping more with the hope of jump roping another 5K in the next several months, but more importantly with the hope of getting back into decent physical condition.
But lately I’ve also been thinking about bigger and deeper questions pertaining to rope jumping. For example, what’s more important: jumping quality or jumping quantity? Should we focus more on the internal (e.g., sheer joy) or external rewards (e.g., weight loss) of jumping rope? Is it preferable to jump solo or in a communal setting? And if you have a great jumping session in the forest, but didn’t post a video or photo of it on Facebook or Instagram did it really ever happen? I’d love to hear your thoughts about these types of questions. I think what really perplexes me is this seemingly global trend to film oneself doing virtually everything and then post it for the world to see.
I certainly enjoy creating instructional videos so I can help others get the most out of jumping rope, but the idea of posting selfie videos and pics of me competing in a jump rope challenge doesn’t sit right with me. My initial thought is “who cares?” And my second thought is why are we so focused on competition and comparing ourselves with others? But obviously for many this is a fun pastime so I’d love to learn what they enjoy about it.
So if we stop striving for health and fitness ideals, does that mean we just lie on the couch, stuffing our faces with potato chips and slurping soda all day? Umm, yuck. And no.
What we can do is:
1) realize joy in who we are, where we are, and our intricate connection to the wonderful people all around us, and find contentment right now
2) in that moment of joy and contentment, we can act out of love.
What are some acts of love that we can do, in this moment of joy and appreciation for what is right here in front of us?
Appreciating the gift of our bodies, we take care of them. The bodies we have are incredible, wonders of nature, and we take them for granted. We abuse them by being sedentary, taking drugs, eating junk food, not taking care of them. Instead, an act of appreciation for our bodies is to care for them. Exercise, walk, eat well, floss, meditate.
Appreciating the gift of life, we explore the outdoors. There is so much to notice and explore, to behold with absolute wonder, that it’s a waste to be online or on our phones all day. Instead, it’s an act of love to get outside and move our beautiful bodies.
Appreciating the gift of food, we nourish our bodies. Instead of abusing ourselves by putting junk in our bodies (just to satisfy cravings of comfort), we can find joy in the nourishment of our bodies with gorgeous, healthy, delicious food. And appreciate that the fresh food we’re feeding ourselves with is a gift, grown from the earth by people we don’t know who support our lives, a miracle not to be taken for granted.
Appreciating this moment, we meditate. This moment is filled with brilliance, and yet we often ignore it. Instead, we can sit and meditate, to practice paying full and loving attention. We can do yoga, moving while we meditate. We can meditate as we go for a run, lift a barbell, ride a bike, swim in the ocean, walk in a sunny park.
There is no need for striving for fitness and health ideals. Instead, we can let go of those ideals and appreciate what’s right in front of us. And in gratitude, act with love and compassion to take care of ourselves and pay attention to the moment we’re in.
Click here to check out Leo’s Zen Habits blog.