There’s a group of people who pride themselves in the frantic nature of their days. When they’re in a meeting at work they’re also checking their email; when they’re checking their email they’re also walking to their next appointments, precariously navigating the work hallway or the streets outside; and when they’re driving to their next meeting, they’re clocking 45 miles per hour on Interstate 75 because they’re reading responses to the email they sent during their previous meeting; and on their way home they’re tapping out responses to those emails while swinging through the fast food drive thru because they forgot to prepare something for dinner.
Any of this sound familiar? If so, you might not be busy. You might just be disorganized and chaotic. While this might make you feel like you’re a hard-charging, go getter who’s making things happen, what’s really going on is you’re allowing life to happen to you and wasting energy that could be used to enjoy life, fall in love, make love, learn a skill, serve your community, or explore a new neighborhood.
Chaotic people come to me all the time seeking personal training. Their calling card is rescheduled sessions, questions about things we clearly discussed in an email, and last-minute cancellations. It’s not that they don’t value my time or that they’re bad people. They just don’t have a firm grasp of their own time because they never slow down enough to take inventory. They live in a constant state of anxiety bubbling just beneath the surface because they’ve overbooked themselves, leaving too little time to get from one appointment to the next and not enough energy to be fully present at any given moment.
Training sessions with people addicted to chaos can be difficult because their minds are racing and I have to corral their energy and push them to focus. “Tell me that story after this set,” you’ll often hear me say. Or “PAUSE. Pay attention to what you’re doing here.” These sessions require more of my energy because these clients lack focus. One moment of me not paying attention can lead to a herniated disc, pulled muscle, or a dangerous fall.
Sometimes people will ask me why my business is called “Present Tense Fitness,” and at least part of the answer stems from my experience with clients addicted to chaos. In my gym I don’t have any clocks, and I quietly encourage people to store their phones out of sight (as I do with my own). Pay attention to what’s going on in your body RIGHT NOW. And if we can learn to do that in the gym we also can learn to do that outside of the gym. More people would eat well–or at least not eat so poorly–if they stopped for a moment or two to pay attention to the way that lunchtime fast food run actually made them feel.
If you are addicted to chaos, here are some simple ways to begin to live a life more deeply connected to the people and moments that ought to matter.
1.) Use a calendar: I can’t stress this one enough. You need a calendar, electronic or otherwise. Start by blocking off seven to eight hours of sleep every day, schedule in when and how you’re going to eat, and then schedule in workouts. Only then do you fill in the rest. (“But Jason, if I filled out my calendar that way, wouldn’t my entire life be structured around wellness?” Why yes. You are on to me.)
2.) Put your phone away. Get your phone out of bed. Get your phone away from the dining room table. Keep your phone in your bag at the gym (unless you’re taking evaluative video of an exercise). For the love of god keep your phone away when you’re on a date or having dinner with someone you love.
3.) Give yourself enough time. One of the things I say to personal training clients about working out on their own is if you don’t have time to warm up properly then you don’t have time to work out. One could alter this slightly by saying if you don’t have enough time to get to an appointment without speeding or rushing, then you shouldn’t have made that appointment in the first place. Rushing to an appointment is the surest way you can bake anxiety, inattention to detail, and wasted energy into your day.
4.) Value relationships. This is strongly related to the point about putting your phone away, but be mindful of where your attention is when you’re talking to someone. Are you listening to what they’re saying or are you planning your next meeting? What can you do to be present and make the most of the time you’re spending with this person? This can be more difficult at work than in our personal lives, but even in that command performance work lunch you couldn’t avoid, you’re still sitting in front of another human being. Connect with them. Listen to them. Exhibit empathy. You have to be there, right? So why not make it as authentic of a meeting as possible?
In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t just the chaos-addicted who inspired the name Present Tense Fitness. It was also the Pearl Jam song, “Present Tense.”
“Do you see the way that tree bends?
Does it inspire?
Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays
A lesson to be applied”
If your nose is in your phone, you can’t lean out to catch the sun’s rays, because you won’t notice them. If you’re rushing around, you won’t feel the warmth of that sun, nor will you feel the warmth of the people around you who want nothing more than to be with you because they care about you. If you’re not sleeping enough, eating well, and moving well, you won’t be able to reach for anything at all.
Aim in your life to be present.