Even though today started off nicely, an early bike ride with my 9 year-old son, I was fuming by mid morning. Road construction, busses and SUVs cutting ahead in the opposing traffic turn lane, more road construction, bickering backseat passengers, more road construction and an overturned cement mixer blocking traffic had me hot under the collar to say the least.
Then a monstrous gas guzzling Denali left me about 6 inches of room to get into my car -- in a nearly empty parking lot. I was tempted to take revenge on their tires with the pocket knife I keep in my glove box for 'emergencies'. Well, revenge can be an emergency situation can't it?
I was gathering evidence that people were stupid, they were selfish and that I was the only right thinking person in the world and my anger was justified. In short; I was being a big fat jerk.
Add to this equation that I am a business coach, a life coach and the author of The Hamlet Secret: A Self-Directed (Shakespearean) WORKBOOK for Living a Passionate, Joy-Filled Life, and I was being a BIG, fat jerk. My hypocrisy was in high gear and I was in high GRRRRRRR!
Helpless, hopeless and on the road to ruin; right? Well, not really hopeless because I was, even in the midst of this surge of joyless anger (well at least it was PASSIONATE wasn't it) and I could see what was going on. Of course I didn't flatten or slash any tires (I was tempted though) and I was both 'in it' and watching it at the same time. How does that work?
I've mentioned this book before and recommend it often (Dr. J -- yours is on the way now), The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz and is subtitled, Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.
In it I recently recognized myself, at least partially, in the example of an executive, Roger B., who finds himself suffering from "low energy, impatience, negativity, lack of depth in relationships, and a lack of passion". I hadn't hit 'rock bottom' yet, but I was aware that I was suffering more frequent headaches and was having difficulty concentrating.
In fact just the other day I admitted to my wife that I wasn't taking my own coaching. I was working irregular, long hours, not separating work into blocks of time with definite goals and start and stop times, was relying on TV for 'down time' and even on Shabbat, I noticed that I was still 'suffering' from the week.
I was being, and yes I'll say it again, 'a big fat jerk'. And coaching or reading inspirational, motivational or emotionally moving books or articles wasn't going to get the job done. That's where the 'fat' part of 'big, fat jerk comes in'. I've been eating a healthier regimen and have dropped about 10 pounds in the last few weeks but my exercise is limited (if by 'limited' you can read 'nonexistent').
Here's the news: thinking isn't enough. Believing isn't enough. Once you pass the age of 40 (I'm 52) it not only becomes a good idea, it becomes even more urgent, let's even say critical, to develop a regular form of exercise. Experts say that at my age I need more than just cardiovascular exercise, I need strength training, or I'll begin to rapidly lose muscle mass, balance and mental acuity.
The solution for me then, isn't going to a social worker, hypnotist, psychiatrist or mental health professional, to find out where this deep seated anger/frustration and short tempered behavior is coming from. The first step is to gain the balance that I'm lacking and stop acting like my brain is independent from my body. The key is to stop thinking and start living in my body. I've been in a hurry, on the verge and pushing hard; the equivalent of driving a car at top speed without ever checking the oil or stopping for gas. Eventually something bad happens.
Something bad happens like: you become a big, fat jerk. You start taking your family, friends and co-workers to task as a symptom of what you're NOT doing but if you've been NOT doing it for long enough you can't recognize it as a symptom. You become sure your right about everything and that life is tough and unfair. You look for the easy answers, blaming others or looking for excuses like a tough childhood or mean parents. While all of that could be true, I'm asking you to first take a look at the 'machine' you are and check for balance.
As you can see, I started this article off by mentioning I'd been bike riding before breakfast. I noticed the symptoms earlier and, although a bit late, have begun my recovery period, adding a new level of physical exercise and well being and can actually say to my 'head', 'nice job handling things so far, let the arms, legs and heart take the lead for a bit'.
So how about you? Are you being mean, short tempered, impatient and losing passion? Can you imagine for even just a little bit that it may not be the case that 'that's just the way the world is' and try a few alternative behaviors on? Let's do a check in:
Are you a big fat jerk?
1.Are you standing in front of the microwave tapping your foot and saying 'come on, already, how long does it take to heat leftovers'!
2.Are you cursing like your old Uncle Mike, the longshoreman, marine or truck driver?
3.Are you spending more time with cable TV than good friends or family?
4.Does the food you eat make you feel bloated and tired as opposed to energized and fueled up?
5.Do you have a list of pet peeves that gets you 'hot' just talking about them?
6.Are your kids, co-workers or peers acting like a bunch of idiots?
7.Are you more often tempted by negative behaviors like smoking or abusing alcohol or drugs?
8.When you're driving your car are you a 'weaver', lane cutter and speeder?
9.Is your attention span shorter and your power of concentration lessening?
10.Are you using a lot of sugar or salt and drinking more than 2 cups of coffee or 2 sodas a day?
If any of those are true then you could either already be a big fat jerk or be well on your way to the title. And I've limited myself to 10 items here, there's plenty more to mention.
Like smokers, there is this 'I'm the exception to the rule' mentality that can affect all of us and if you find yourself anywhere in the list above I'm calling you out. The filter we experience the world through isn't just our eyes and ears, but our mental outlook and the mental outlook is greatly affected by the machine it lives in; your body.
So I ask you to do yourself a favor, not to mention those you live with or work with, and get yourself to a doctor and get a checkup. Discuss your health and how to maximize it. Make small changes in your eating habits, workout patterns and general self-care. I ask you this because I live here too and if my big, fat jerk met yours at the wrong time . . .
I'm motivated to make a change because I'm a dad, because I'm a husband, because I'm a co-worker. I'm motivated because I have coaches all around me and just happen to be in a business where my research for work includes great books by great authors who are out to show everyone how to live passionately, joyfully and in a state of continuous improvement and personal renewal.
What are you motivated by? If you're not motivated or moved at all by the possibility of feeling better more often, of dumping stress, anxiety and frustration, you may be at a point where you need more help than a casual friend or article. If that's the case then I ask that you take appropriate action and don't put up with anything less than a passionate, joy-filled life. The consequences, my friend, are dire, and there is no truth to the 'exception to the rule' thinking. I'm telling you this from personal experience so please listen to me.
Thanks, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, for your book, The Power of Full Engagement, and thanks to the magazines, writers and to the other members of The Huffington Post Living Section for calling us all out of our 'jerkdom' so well. Thanks to my favorites, Dr. Judith Rich, Dr. Cara Barker, Anne Naylor and the others who regularly contribute to the Living Section of the Huffington Post for your calling us all out, for contributing to my life and so many others.
Thanks everyone for not settling for me being a big, fat jerk (for too long) -- no matter how hard I resist the lessons!
I welcome any comments on 'the jerk' I am, the jerk you are and the jerk in all of us. I offer any support and feedback I can deliver if you contact me directly at James@starofyourownlife.com
Be well -- and by that I mean BE well!