The Stress of Not Being Stressed

The Stress of not being Stressed


We spend our entire lives avoiding stress.  We avoid negative events and are conditioned to avoid or even prevent pain to ourselves and the ones that we love.  I would like to explore a theory this week that we may not be stressed enough, at least the stress that we need to feel alive.  




The literature explores “good” stress, like the stress that helps you to work towards a productive goal like graduating from college.  Or the physical stress that you put on your body when you exercise, releasing hormones such as endorphins that help us to feel good.  This type of stress, called eustress, is supposedly good for us.  Of course, logic would dictate that if we have positive stress, such as eustress, we must have negative stress.  My opinion is that this is not the case.


Stress and Perception


Stress is just like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it.  If you look at stressful events as being negative, then they will be.  If, however, you change your perception of the event (this is very difficult in certain situations) and focus your mind into the present moment, then the stress melts away and you are left with…existence.  Being present.  Being mindful.  Being truly happy and grateful.


Stress as Challenge


We all crave real things.  With real things comes “real” stress.  The literature calls this stress acute stress.  Acute stress is a stress that is associated with something kinetic or in motion.  Something that is in the world around you.  This can be another person (human interaction), a sport that you play, giving a speech, acting, singing, fighting (as a sport), having a healthy argument, helping someone, etc.  These stresses, in my opinion, have started to escape us the more we transition into a faster paced, technologically dominant, and less human way of life.  We crave acute stresses but can’t find them, other than on television, through video games, looking at social media, and similar non-human and unnatural interactions.  The days of spending time talking on the front porch (what’s that?) and actually interacting (both good and bad) are being replaced with one click purchases from Amazon.


Chronic Stress


The non real stresses are the artificial stresses that we self impose on ourselves.  Stress that cannot physically and immediately kill you is called chronic stress.  That is the stress of feeling inadequate at work or at home.  The stress of not doing enough for others or for yourself.  The stress of not being good enough.  The stress of not making enough money.  These stresses are not real and should be avoided at all costs.  In fact, these stresses cause our bodies to become sick and tired, the details I will save for another time.  Suffice it to say that the chronic stress is what people suggest that you avoid.  However, the jump I am about to make is something that I am investigating and begs further discussion… not having enough “real” stress in our lives can become a chronic stressor.  The absence of real stress can be stressful in a chronic way.  Enter flow. 




The concept of flow is fairly simple.  Flow states exist when our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions are firing at maximum effectiveness and intertwined together to give us feelings of challenge, accomplishment, domination, fear, excitement, and fulfillment all at the same time.  If you have experienced a flow state, and most of us have, you know what I am talking about.  You could sell flow states for a lot of money.  But flow states can not exist without “real” stress.  I remember being underneath a ship in Pearl Harbor at night on a training exercise on a closed circuit (no bubbles) rebreather.  We swam through what appeared to be something out of the movie Avatar; streaks of what looked like paint in the water, lighting up the ocean like Christmas lights.  I remember the euphoria that I felt and how the limpet mine felt on my back and the subtle sound of my breathing apparatus firing and giving me oxygen (rebreathers use oxygen not, air).  This is an example of a flow state; but you don’t need to be underneath a ship in the middle of the night to experience it.  Some people experience flow states when they cook, surf, attend church, or hike in the woods.  Flow states need real stress in order to trigger them.


To Be Human Again


How much time do you spend doing real things?  Do you spend a lot of time dreaming about being active or taking up a real hobby?  How much of your time is spent using technology or mindlessly doing something that you don’t want to do?  Helping others and doing real things should be your mission.  This mission will help you to ignore or brush aside chronic stressors and allow real stress to drive your missions.  We all crave to be human.  Time to take back our humanity and control our technology and the chronic stressors that are linked to it.  




Identify the real stresses in your life and cut back on the chronic stresses.  Remember that real stresses are associated with flow states and chronic stresses are associated with disease and stagnation.  Avoid chronic stresses.  You can do this by writing down the top ten stresses that you have right now.  Chances are, they all will be chronic stresses.  If you have some real stresses, good for you.  These are the precursors to flow states.  Identify the real stressors in your life.  Remember that real stress is the stress that you get from doing things in the real world, not self manufactured stress that exists in your head or as a result of an unrealistic expectation or artificial desire or vision of something.  Find something that gives you real stress and execute it, especially if you don’t want to do it.  Make sure it’s something productive and hopefully helps someone else in the process.  As always, be grateful for the process of introspection and helping yourself become a better version of yourself.

“Lean into it!”


Dr. N

Drink Up!  Talk Less and Listen More

Drink Up!  Talk Less and Listen More


Have you ever said something and wanted to take the words you just said and put them back into your own head?  Has anyone ever told you to listen more and talk less?  Do you feel that sometimes your words fall on deaf ears?  Chances are, if you answered yes to these questions, you may need to talk less and listen more.  


My Flaw


This is more than some self-deprecating way for me to connect with you.  I actually have a huge flaw of talking too much and not listening enough.  It stems from the fact that my weakest pillar is Emotional Resilience, and I work on this pillar daily.  In middle school, I got in trouble for speaking in class out of turn; my parents were informed, which made matters worse for me.  I ended up spending the rest of the year not saying anything to anyone, while in class, unless I was called upon or I raised my hand.  Not many people know about this monk like punishment that I imposed on myself, but it is true and I deserved it 100%. Perhaps I was trying to fit in and be part of the crowd?  Doesn’t matter, I should have taken a cup of you know what.


Work/Life Balance


Perhaps you are a teacher or trainer like me.  You spend your day talking to people and conveying your ideas and even orders.  The key is to disconnect from your job when you get home or are around friends.  Take a break.  Listen more.  Let others take charge and take a back seat.  You will be OK, promise.  It may feel uncomfortable to relinquish control, but try and do it.  Your friends and family will thank you for it, and you will give your voice a break at the same time.  Drink up.


You Can’t Talk and Listen at the Same Time


Drinking from the cup allows you to listen more.  Talking and listening are impossible to do at the same time.  People want to be heard.  Listen to them without any thought of responding until they are done talking.  This takes practice and empathy.  Empathy is the key to leadership and to Emotional Resilience.  Empathy is the cornerstone of listening and shutting up, because it puts the ball in the court of the person who is talking.  Trying to think about a response before a person is done speaking to you is insulting and they will see you doing it.  People are very tuned in to whether or not you are paying attention to them or not.  Don’t underestimate the power of others to read you emotionally.  Humans are programmed from thousands of years of evolution to read these signals, leave your arrogance at home on this one. 


Sometime the Simple Things are Both Difficult Important  To Implement


Why is talking less and listening more so difficult to implement?  I am not sure, but I have my theories.  Perhaps we are surrounded by technology that is constantly talking to us and we talk on.  Think back to a couple of hundred years ago.  Life was much quieter.  Unless someone was standing in front of you, you did not hear them and you did not talk to them (unless you talked to yourself which it entirely possible).  We are inundated with sounds and constantly sought after to communicate, even when we are “alone” doing an activity that we love to do.  Most everyone carries a cell phone, whether you are in your car, hunting, paddling, or with your friends.  Perhaps that is why it is do difficult to stop talking and listening?  I am open to suggestions but the bottom line is that you will be happier if you listen more and talk less.  You may even learn something new from individuals, simply because you are giving them a chance to truly communicate with you for the first time.




Spend the week talking less and listening more.  Make a conscious effort to count the number of times you are on transmit and the number of times you are on receive.  Do you talk more than you listen?  If so, reverse the trend and see how you feel this week.  When someone talks to you, force yourself into a position of purely listening and not waiting to respond with your own words.  That is going to be difficult, especially when you are in a situation where you need to get things done quickly.  However, like my SEAL buddies used to say, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast…so…slow is fast.”  This applies to shooting just like it applies to interacting with humans.  Rush things in communication and items are not transmitted, leading to misunderstandings and lost time.  Remember that you are in control of drinking from the cup, so the next time you get the urge to talk, take a sip from the listening cup instead.


“Lean into it!”


Dr. N 


Healthy Eating, Spartan Style

*For those who need to lose weight or to be more exact, body fat, the process may end up being more of a challenge than expected. What follows are the 10 Tenets of Spartan Nutrition, placed from most important to least important:

1. Think fit and healthy. Attitude, mindset, philosophy is everything! These must change in order to progress toward a goal. These are the places where the drive and will must come from, this being the number one; all others will flow from this tenet. 

2. Make a realistic eating plan. Being realistic allows the mind not to feel so much pressure. Anyone wanting to lose fat makes it so much harder by not creating realistic goals, more so, a realistic eating plan. A realistic eating plan seems to let individuals remain in somewhat of a comfort zone. Click here for the link to the Spartan Nutrition Plan. 

3. Scheduling appointments for exercise is another in the top five because being active is extremely important for weight loss as well as overall well being. Schedules help to create routine, which stimulates habit. A good habit of making time to exercise is an enormous boost to a weight loss goal. 

4. Making sleep a priority is number four. Lack of sleep stimulates weight gain, fatigues the mind and body, and allows no time for recovery. It is important to create a good sleep habit along with the other previous three. The optimal amount of sleep will be a great fat loss tool and will aid in feeling more energized.  The average Spartan sleeps between 6-10 hours.  Remember that back in the day ubiquitous stimulation such as televisions and iPhones did not exist.  When darkness came, Spartans usually slept, unless they were training.   

5. Write it down is number five. All seems clearer if it is in front of the eyes. It is visually stimulating, which allows an individual to have more of an attachment with the goal. This is the start for most, however, if number one is not in place the task of writing it down becomes overwhelming. 

6. Eat slowly. For most, it takes a conscious effort to chew slowly. Today fast pace life style seems to make people eat on the run and not take the time to chew food. Chewing food, mastication, stimulates the brain in satisfying that “food fix”. Fill full with less food.

7. Avoiding temptation takes seventh. For those who like to eat, food can have the same tempting affect as any drug or alcohol. Foods with no nutritional value, otherwise empty calorie food, are usually the ones that tempt individuals. By being able to avoid the wrong temptations and create new healthier ones, it will help toward reaching that weight loss goal. 

8. Front load calories. Eating more in the morning will provide energy early on in the day. As the calories taper throughout the day, not only does it allows for calorie expenditure but also it buffers overeating at night. Eating before bed or overeating at night allows no time for true calorie expenditure, and therefore makes it harder to shed inches. 

9. Eat your favorite food. This ties in with thinking fit and healthy, being realistic, and avoiding temptations. Use favorite foods as rewards and make them have a place in your nutrition. Create a plan that places the food in optimal times. Do this and it should help with the guilty feeling of maybe not sticking to the plan; if it is already in the plan it is a choice that you have made and not a mistake.  Of course, eating chocolate all day long will not work.

10. Keep a list of nonfood activities.  When all the previous steps have been accomplished, this is a good finisher. This tool provides outs for the food temptations that sometimes follow the lull that takes place. This list is just that, a tool that aids in achieving the goal.
One final parting shot on nutrition.  What I like to do is to think about eating like I am fueling a high performance sports car.  If you owned a Porsche (hopefully some of you do), you would not put crappy gas in it since it is worth a lot of money and you want it to perform at its optimal level.  You should do the same with your body (which is worth much more than that Porsche.)  Eat to performance and you will do just fine.  Before you know it, that cookie will not even register as a fuel source since your body will instinctively know that it provides only empty calories.  Try the above plan out for a  week or two and see the results for yourself!

"Lean into it!"

Travis Williams

Experience vs. Inexperience

Experience vs. Inexperience  
When I was a young lad…No, I am not going to start this week’s blog like that!  But we all have similar stories.  No matter how far we have gotten in life, we all have experiences that shape and affect who we are today.  Some of us have had great experiences, some not so great.  Some of us have had some traumatic experiences and some of us have not.  I also have found that some people define themselves by their experiences and tend to live in the past because of this.  Does experience get in your way?  If so, what steps can you take to not let your experiences define who you are?  
In the military, experience is everything.  In life threatening situations and high stress, people with experience tend to perform better than those with less experience.  That is why we hold experience in such high regard. I suspect that this also applies to jobs in the civilian sector.  Experience is something to be proud of.  However, I also believe that experience can weigh a person down, especially when new and innovative solutions present themselves that challenge and even counter one’s experience.  
Our Brain and Experience
The power of our brains never ceases to amaze me.  When we gain experience through training, our brains actually change.  The neurological pathways become more efficient after repetition or training.  That is why when we first learn to drive, we must concentrate a lot more then when we have been driving for 30 years.  A substance known as myelin coats the axons of our neurons and provides for a much faster pathway for our thoughts to travel.  Our experiences and training help us to become more effective, especially during high stress situations.  In the military and high risk arenas, we call this “muscle memory”, where the muscle we are really talking about is our brain.  
Our Brain and Inexperience
In a study of firefighters, individuals with low experience out performed individuals of higher experience with mundane or boring tasks.  Why?  The inexperienced firefighters were hungry to learn new things, and were not as set in there ways as the experienced firefighters.  After training countless individuals in resilience around the world from Oil Rig Workers to Prison Inmates, I find this to be true across the board.  Individuals with less experience typically tend to have a better attitude when learning new things because they do not have the experiences that get in their way.  In a low stress situations, inexperience beats experience in performance.
Knowing the Difference
Knowledge is power.  Knowing the difference between a high stress situation and a low stress situation is the key.  If you know that you are in a high stress situation, rely on your experience and training to get you through.  If, however, you find yourself in a lower stress situation, it may be time to open your brain to new possibilities and let your experience take a rest.  Unfortunately, many individuals think that they know best because they have been around the block a time or two. Opening yourself up to a new way of doing things, when the time is right, is a great way to improve your performance, and improve the quality of your brain as well.
Let’s make things simple.  Whether you have lots of experience or none at all, take this week with a grain of salt.  Open up your mind to new possibilities, and try and understand that the world is not all homogeneous, meaning that the solution that you think works does not work all the time to all the people.  That’s the first thing.  Second, do a self analysis of yourself and gauge whether or not you have experience in a particular activity that you are doing.  This could be at work but also can be something you do at home or a leisure activity.  For example, I recently took up fishing and have very minimal experience.  My brain is a sponge and I learn from everyone.  If you have little experience, then remember to learn all you can about the subject you are studying, especially from those that have more experience.  However, also know that perhaps there are new ways of doing things and you are going to have to find them on your own.  Don’t solely rely on the experience of others, although that is a great starting point.  

Now, if you find yourself on the experience side of the equation, you may be in for a challenge.  Look to those less experienced than you are as an opportunity to learn something new and perhaps even change the way you do business.  I’m not saying that your experience does not matter.  What I am saying is that if you solely rely on your experience, your brain will become calcified and you will never learn anything new, even if you have been doing something for a long, long time.  As you can see, the experience side of the equation is very challenging, because we are all “set in our ways” to a certain extent.  
Lastly, we need to recognize the difference between stress and non-stress situations.  A stressful situation always defers to experience.  When high stress manifests itself, it is not the time to have a brain storming session with innovative solutions to solve a problem.  Sometimes innovative solutions will happen during high stress situations, but research suggests that those with the experience have the advantage in these situations.  Conversely, when the stress is over, we need to listen to inexperience because they are the innovators of the future and have a fresh, often unbiased approach to solving problems.

“Lean into it!”
Dr. N

The Power of Words

The Power of Words


One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies is “Do or do not; there is no try.”  A powerful quote that denotes the power of words.  The words that we say to ourselves are glimpses of our subconscious minds.  Since the subconscious controls the majority of our behavior, our words are super powerful. 


Positive Thinking


If you begin the day with positive thoughts, or even a prayer, your mind will be filled with positive energy. Whether you can feel it or not, your subconscious will be fed with the building blocks it needs to have a good day.  Continue this positive energy throughout the day and your positive days will turn into positive weeks.  That’s not to say that negative events will happen to you.  They always do.  However, how you react to those negative events is what makes all the difference.  React in a negative manner to a negative situation, and you may start spiraling down a dark road of poor performance and unhappiness.


Negative Thinking: The Power of Toxic Thoughts  


Negative thinking not only affects your subconscious, but negative thoughts manifest themselves into negative emotions that affect others around you.  Toxic thoughts can also affect your physiology, specifically your immune system and gut response.  Thinking in a negative manner can activate your autonomic nervous system with an elevated stress response.  Too much negative or toxic thinking will suppress your immune system, making you vulnerable to infections and disease.  


Watching your Language


Negativity comes in many forms, including swearing.  After spending 20 years in the Navy and growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts, many people reading this may say that I am a hypocrite.  I will admit that my language needs polish, but I just want to say that negative words can come in many forms, including swearing.  It may feel good in the immediate moment, but swearing is something that should be avoided because it not only brings others down around you, but also brings you down as well.  Try objectively to describe what exactly is making you angry instead of lashing out with a swear word.  If you think like a scientist trying to describe or record the anger producing phenomenon, you will not be using an expletive.




Try this sequence of events this week to increase your positive words and decrease your negative words. The first thing you should do when you wake up is to think grateful thoughts and even write them down on paper.  Throughout the day, pay attention to the negative words that you say, as well as the negative thoughts that you have.  Whenever that happens, read the list that you came up with in the morning.  Conduct a quick after action review on why you had the thoughts in the first place.  Is it something that you can correct in the future?  If not, then replace the negative thought with a positive one from your grateful list.  This takes both self-awareness and work, but stick with it because the pay off is huge.  Above all, remember that negative thoughts spiral more negative thoughts and words, both in yourself and in others.  In contrast, positive thoughts and words boost your immune system, boost others around you, and make you happy.


“Lean into it!”


Dr. N


Prevent Injury/Train Properly

Let’s go back in time about 2500 years or so.  In battles, Spartans could not afford to be injured.  Their lives depended on it.  If a Spartan was injured during a battle, he probably did not survive to see the end of it.  Even a minor injury such as a twisted ankle or a dislocated shoulder (well those are not that minor) could prove devastating.  Thankfully, we have progressed into a more “civilized” society and we no longer live and die by how in shape or injury free we are.  However, even today, injury prevention is the number one rule for professionals in the realm of fitness. Injuries hinder any advancement toward achievable goals, diminish motivation, and in some extreme cases make the trainer look bad.

An injury is simply physical damage to an area of the body. Most do not take into consideration is the negative psychological effect injuries spawn in a once highly excited and motivated participant. Injury prevention is a continuing progression for all individuals. Understanding the commonality and root of injuries are a large part in developing plans that implement injury prevention strategies. Many of these strategies include fixing weak areas, correcting musculature imbalances, implementing proper movement mechanics, and constant engagement of correct posture. Application of each of these during a strength training session can greatly enhance injury prevention.

Posture and movement mechanics are the two most noticeable in the gym. Of course, taking into consideration that bad movement mechanics is usually do to imbalances, weak and tight areas that do nothing but win over poor mobility. It is important the focus on the chronic injuries versus the acute. With that said, acute injuries again, can usually be prevented with the above strategies and if an injury were to occur absolute attention should be observed toward the healing process. Most feel a small pain and push through the workout, WRONG!

Chronic injuries usually entail that the above strategies are a constant, successive issue. Without correction, degeneration of motor sequencing and muscular tissue are certain to transpire.

Many common injuries happen out of ego and ignorance. Both of these can and should be avoided. Proper technique requires correct knowledge. Then the individual must have the mobility to execute the movement. If the mobility is limited then the individual must make corrections before continuing with an improper movement. This is usually skipped creating poor movement patterns, which lead to imbalances. Use progression in every aspect of training!


This week, renew your training program.  If you don't have a training program, it is time to develop one.  Make sure you have a quantifiable goal and write it down.  Make sure that you have a date set when you will accomplish the goal.  Develop a training plan that incorporates strength training at least twice a week.  The rest of the week, you should be practicing events that are leading up to your goal.  If you don't have a goal, then you are less likely to practice anything since practicing for nothing is meaningless.  

Doing "whatever you feel like doing" for the day leads to doing what you like and often times, this leads to overuse injuries or underdevelopment of your weak points.  

Take care of yourself so you don't become a liability to your fellow Spartan!

Travis Williams and Dr. N


Self-Confidence or Arrogance?

Self-Confidence or Arrogance?
Self-confidence and arrogance are often times confused with each other.  However, arrogance and self-confidence cannot be further from each other.  Individuals who are arrogant build themselves up by putting down others.  They operate with an infallible attitude that protects their egos in such a way that perpetuates their arrogance.  Where arrogant people look for others to build themselves up,  self-confident individuals look inwardly to boost their confidence.   
Arrogance and Feeding the Ego
Arrogance is a condition where we overfeed our own egos with rhetoric, mostly from our own thinking or the praise from others.  Arrogant individuals are constantly seeking the approval of others to bolster their own positions.  I remember when I was starting my career in the military as a cadet.  I was insecure, which is one of the cornerstones of arrogance by the way.  I remember the head Marine Corps Officer in the unit having a meeting with me and letting me know that I should join the Marines instead of going into the SEAL Teams, since SEALs had a much higher attrition rate than Marines.  He also stated that if I were to fail in SEAL Training, I would be headed to a Navy ship instead of a guarantee of becoming a Marine Officer.  The answer I gave him was one of the most arrogant answers of my life, and I am not proud of it.  I told him, “Why should I settle for second best when I have a chance of becoming the best?”  Needless to say, he told me to leave his office and never had another conversation with me again.  
Self-Confidence and Killing The Ego
Self-confident individuals are humble, quiet, and get the job done not for themselves, but for the betterment of the organization, family, workplace, or team that they find themselves in.  Self-confident individuals train for their respective mission and build internal metrics that they use for measures of success.  They do not rely on the adoration of others to bolster their own egos.  Self-confident individuals have successfully suppressed, or even killed, their own egocentric views and dependence on others.  It is safe to say that we all want to work with self-confident individuals.  They are easier to work with than arrogant individuals, and perform at a more competent and lower emotionally charged level as well.  So how do we rid ourselves of arrogance?
Arrogance is something that we all fight with because we all, to some degree, have some insecurities.  In order to rid ourselves of arrogance, we must become more self-reflective and self-aware.  You can start with an After Action Review for your day.  How many times did you talk about yourself during the day?  Did you listen to others and genuinely interest yourself in other people?   Refrain from talking about your accomplishments or even thinking about how good you are at something.  Pursue excellence instead of pursuing a “win at all costs and tell others about it” attitude.  Learn everything there is to learn about something and execute with flawless excellence.  Do this without celebrating outwardly or trying to gain the approval of others.  This will bolster your self-confidence, while at the same time detracting arrogance an limiting your chances of slipping down its slippery slope.  One last thing, keep yourself in check by accepting you new confidence with a high dose of humility. Self-confidence, if left untamed, can lead to over confidence and then arrogance.  I should have simply thanked the Marine Officer and walked out of his office, without putting down the entire Marine Corps by elevating myself beyond his attainment.  I look back on that day as a lesson to improve.  I am sure we have all had days like that.
“Lean into it!”
Dr. N

Constant Change:  An Oxymoron for the Ages

Constant Change:  An Oxymoron for the Ages

The one constant that we can always depend on is change.  Change in the weather.  Change of the day into night.  Change in the way we get older.  Change in how we see ourselves after a long  and arduous career.  Since change is almost a part of our very fabric as human beings, why do we dislike change so much?  At the other end of the spectrum of change is a physiological and psychological feeling of safety that we get from consistency and routine.  We love routine because we know what to expect and everything is in our control.   Now enter change…  Change can either hit us over the head like a side of bricks or can be the welcome breath of fresh air that we need.  Either way, you are the one who chooses how you will be affected by change.  It’s that simple.  

Change as Challenge

When we see change as a challenge, we are more likely to overcome it and dominate it.  Even enjoy it.  Whenever something happens that causes you to deviate from your normal trajectory,  embrace the change and either solve the issue or change the way you see the change.  Seeing the change as something to overcome drives us into a position of proaction instead of reaction.  I remember when my life changed the day my father died.  I was 19 and had my life ahead of me.  I was in the Navy Reserve as an Officer in college and living in San Diego at the time; my father died in Massachusetts.  When I returned to San Diego after the funeral, my Officer in Charge asked me whether I was going to stay in the Navy and finish school.  I remember the feeling of pure loneliness and emptiness that I felt without my father there to offer moral support.  Obviously, this was a life changing experience for me.  My response was that I was 100% going to stay and finish school and join the Navy, my father would not have wanted anything else.  Change has a way of forcing us to either stay the course, improve the course, or quit the course altogether.  Again, you make the choice; change does not have that much power.

Change the way you look at Change

A play on words,  I know.  But truly think about this sentence.  Changing the way you look at change from a position of fear to a position of challenge puts the control back into your court.  You become the master of your own destiny.  That’s not to say that you will not be sad, angry, scared, and even depressed at times.  This is normal.  But change should not get the best of you.  You should stare change squarely in the eye and say, “You are mine.  Let’s rock!”  Put change at the top of your list and take your brain on a new adventure.  Studies have shown that as we get older, our brain’s dopamine receptors start to deteriorate.  When things don’t go as planned, and we willfully adapt to the change with energy and a positive attitude, learning new things along the way, our brains stay younger instead of being “set in their ways.”  Think about that the next time you think that you are too old to learn something new or something interrupts your routine.  


This week, I want you to seek out change.  Write down the things that you really like to do on a daily basis and change the way you do them.  Even something as simple as making cereal (most people pour the cereal first and then the milk).  Try pouring the milk first (make sure you leave room for the cereal) and then pour the cereal in.  This may not seem like much, but throughout the day, start to apply this simple change principle to other routine activities.  Take a different route to work, start with the end of your to do list and work backwards, etc.  Your brain will be forced into a change position that will help you to adapt to other situations that may come along that are different than expected.  One of the best ways to really have fun with this exercise is to put individuals to perform various skits that they have to make up as they go, based on certain initiating themes.  Based on the concept of improv, these programs are actually set up as therapy (
Perhaps set aside 10 minutes with your team and initiate a mini session using the improv techniques and see how you feel afterwards.  The bottom line is that can resist change or accept and thrive in it.  The change is going to occur no matter what you decide to do.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N 

Spiritual Resiilence

Spiritual Resilience


Over the years, I have had individuals ask me why I call my final dimension of Mission Based Resilience Spiritual Resilience.  Some individuals define resilience as bouncing back from adversity.  I like to take a different approach and define resilience as bouncing forward into a new an improved position from the old position.  Resilience, in my mind, implies always improving oneself and striving to understanding the world around us from different, more advantageous perspectives.  If we simply “bounce back” to our normal position after we encounter stress, we never grow.  We always want to grow and improve our Spiritual positions, hence the term Spiritual Resilience.  


Spiritual Resilience Training Plan


Your spiritual resilience training plan should be detailed enough to set the direction for your present and future life.  Remember to answer the why in his plan and develop task lists and supporting actions that will drive you in the direction of your plan and reach your ultimate goal.  Remember when you showed up to your first real job?  You most likely went through some type of training and you were given the strategic mission statement of the company or your division.  You spent weeks if not months getting to know the culture and the direction of the company before you became somewhat effective.  Having a roadmap for your life should be at least as important as your job, if not more important.  Imagine the most successful company that you know, and I assure you that they have a strategic plan in place.


Understanding the Universe


I remember walking with my father when I was still in single digits after a rare hurricane had passed through our home town of Fall River, Massachusetts.  Power lines were down, electricity was out, the wind was still blowing, and I had a feeling of a surreal power that was in the air.  I looked up at the stars and realized how infinitesimally small the planet Earth was and how I was even smaller than that.  I looked up at my father and asked him why we were here?  That question has haunted me for a long time and I still ask it today.  Spiritual Resilience is asking the question “why” and attempting to develop some type of plan where you define your place in the Universe.




Spiritual Resilience defines the direction that we are going in our lives.  If we look at our lives as a journey, all the other resiliences-Physical, Mental, Emotional-comprise the various pieces of equipment that we take with us on our journey.  The compass that defines our direction or azimuth is our Spiritual Resilience.  Knowing where you are going is very important and without some type of Spirituality, your direction is not clearly defined.  If you don’t have a clear direction, you may fall for any road and never get to where you want to, or should, go.  


Personal Creed


Your personal creed will define who you are in the moment.  A personal creed is a personal manifesto that drives your deepest desires and defines the important aspects of your personality and your character.  Write this personal creed down and have it available when the chips are down.  Memorize it.  Live it.  Breathe it.  Be it. Pretty simple but with our busy lives, the personal creed often takes a back burner.  Put it on the front burner and see how your daily life starts to align itself with your inner beliefs.




We all want to leave behind a legacy.  Even if we don’t think about it, we leave something behind whether we want to or not.  Unless you live your entire life in the mountains of North Carolina and don’t interact with anyone, you will impact the lives of many individuals throughout your lives.  The issue is that we don’t realize how much of an impact we truly have.  Sometimes the impact can be negative, and sometimes the impact can be positive.  If you have kids, or thinking about having them, leaving a legacy is very important.  I have clients right now who are still being affected by parents in positive and negative ways, and not all the parents are alive!  Leaving a legacy should be something deliberate that you think about and plan for, not something that happens by accident.  


The Other Centric Approach


Living your life for others and not focusing too much on yourself is the key to a life filled with Spiritual Resilience.  We are programmed to cooperate and help other human beings.  More than competition, cooperation releases a host of substances in our brains, including dopamine and oxytocin.  These substances make us feel content, fulfilled, and connected to each other.  Connection to others to serve a higher purpose is the cornerstone of Spiritual Resilience.  Remember to bounce forward and beyond your initial position.  That means that doing selfless acts for others should be programmed and an integral part of your Spiritual Resilience Plan.




This week look at your Spiritual Resilience Training Plan.  Read through it and see if it needs modifications or course corrections.  Remember that just like the U.S. Constitution, your plan is living document that changes with time.  Develop a Personal Creed and post it somewhere prominent so that you can start absorbing the creed on a daily basis.  Practice this for a week and see how you feel.  Remember to help others on a daily basis as a general supporting action for your plan.  Knowing why you are doing something is more important than knowing what you are doing.  Intention is more important than execution.  Developing your Spiritual Resilience Plan takes time.  Don’t worry if you can complete it in a week; however, start developing something.


“Lean into it!”

Dr. N


Feeling Your Present Presence

Feeling  Your Present Presence


Autism is an interesting condition.  Research suggests that the condition is the result of an overabundance of dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine stimulates your brain into action and helps you to focus on certain stimuli.  The problem is, when you have too much of it, you become overwhelmed with confusing inputs and you don’t know what to do.  Individuals with autism, depending on the severity of the condition, retract into themselves to block out all the confusion.  Speech becomes very difficult, perhaps because one’s own voice creates even more stimulation.  Your sense of smell and other senses become heightened and overloaded.  However, there is a silver lining to all of this.  A lesson that we can all learn and adapt to our own lives.  After living with my own autistic children for 20 plus years, I can make this observation and would like to share this theory with you.


The Future and the Past


Neurologically typical individuals have a sense of the past and the future.  Both situations cause us to produce cortisol, the stress hormone.  The interesting thing about this is that the future and past don’t matter because they are pure fantasy.  In reality, both don’t exist.  They are abstract concepts made up in our minds.  For example, last week perhaps you opened presents with your family.  Did you anticipate what the scene would look like before it happened?  Were you stressed in any way when you thought about guests coming over?  This is normal in the course of your day and helps you to action.  The problem is, when individuals dwell too long in the future or the past, they sacrifice their present presence.  Future events rarely turn out just the way we anticipate them; they are abstract concepts that, at times, plague us with stress and indecision.  Past events are OK if we don’t regret them but perhaps great event in the past, when compared to your present situation, can bring your grief and stress as well.  Living in the moment is the key to a happy and stress free life  


“…when individuals dwell too long in the future or the past, they sacrifice their present presence…”


Autism and the Present Moment


In my experience, my daughter does not understand about the past and the future.  The realization manifested itself to me when were at the Toy Store one day.  Playing with toys happens in the store.  When you ask her if you want her to take the toy home to play with it later, the concept is not understood at all.  Her brain seems to be only wired for present tense thinking.  The past does not exist, neither does the future.  A situation of no stress, which is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is that you are fully present in the moment, taking everything in and enjoying and being amazed by everything.  No stress.  The curse is that, if you stay in that state for too long, you get nothing done and you become self absorbed and tend to not interact with others, the main symptoms of Autism. 

Assignment for the Week:  Feeling Your Present Presence

Your present presence is very important.  It’s the way your mind, body and spirit interacts with the outside world.  Go to a quiet place and feel your body reaching out to everything around you.  The chair that you are sitting in.  The air around you.  The wind on your face.  The sound of the traffic in the distance.  Become in tune with all of those sounds and finally focus on your own breathing and see how your breathing interacts with all of the sensory input that you are feeling around you.  This is a deliberate exercise to get into the present moment.  As you can see, no stress is present in that moment.  It’s physiologically impossible for cortisol to be secreted when you are in your present presence.  However, staying in that moment will help you accomplish nothing for the day.  Know when to activate your present presence and when to turn it off.  You don’t need to be constantly doing something.  That should be your battle cry for the new year.  Take it from my daughter, it works.

Dr. N