Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Be Grateful for the Center Circle

As I often do, I take soccer concepts and relate them to life. This may be the most important metaphor that I use. The center circle is a part of the field that can be easy to overlook. If you draw a soccer field with all of the other lines but leave it off, someone might not even notice. Despite the fact that it may not be the shape that defines a soccer field, it is guaranteed to be used at least twice in a standard game. The other important characteristic of this piece of soccer geography is that the opponent is not allowed inside the circle when your team is kicking off. These are the important aspects of the center circle. It is crucial but under-appreciated.

Much like the center circle is a practice that I adopted years ago. At least twice per day, I take the time to shut out all other distractions and give thanks. It is quite possibly the most important thing that I do each day. Every morning when I wake up and right before I go to sleep, I say thank you for all of the things that I have in my life and list several specifically. It only takes about a minute on each occasion. Despite the small amount of time that it takes, it has been an absolute game-changer. The reason that it is so extremely important is that it is a protected space where I focus on the good that I already have.

So many people are spending their lives chasing the things that they don’t have. There is nothing wrong with pursuit. I am a huge fan of going for the things that you want from life. My company’s tag line is “Persistently Chasing Excellence.” The problem is not the desire for things that you don’t have. It is not being grateful for the things that you do. There are two sides to this sword that can cut you.

The first cut comes by not taking stock of all that you have in this moment. No matter who you are, there are great things going on in your life that you may be ignoring. By practicing gratitude, it brings these things into focus. Our brains need to delete so much of what happens throughout the day. Therefore if we do not consciously focus on that which we are grateful for, it will be taken for granted.

The second cut is connected to the first. If you do not practice gratitude on a regular basis, when you finally get the thing that you’re chasing, the joy will be short-lived. You’ll celebrate for a little while but eventually the novelty will wear off. That new thing will become just another thing. A new unique desire will catch your eye and you’ll pursue it. All the while you’ll feel empty because you’re not content with what you have. The source of your happiness is located someplace outside of yourself. Therefore you are the dog chasing its own tail. You already possess what you pursue but exhaust yourself with the futile exercise.

So take the time. The minutes are insignificant but the impact of the exercise is huge! By doing this every day, you’ll get in the habit of noticing all that you have. It will energize you to go after the things that you want. That pursuit is one that you can feel confident won’t be in vane. No matter whether you get the new or not. You’ll be grateful for what you have and appreciate the new if you get it.

Draw the center circle and don’t let the opponents in. Remember though that you can bring people from your own team in to help you kick things off. My guess is that they’ll be happy to help you when they know how grateful you are for them.

Game on!


self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Soccer Life Balance – The Defensive Half

This video explains the “boundaries” of the defensive half as they relate to life. The dimensions of a soccer field matter. While there are parameters for the boundaries in soccer, the parameters in which most of us live are determined by us. Showing up to a field that was too short or too wide or too narrow would cause an uproar by players and coaches. We all set up the field that we are playing on. Many of us do so in a way that guarantees that we will struggle and/or lose. If you want to understand completely what I’m talking about, check out the video below. Or read the description. Both have their value but the video has the visual representations of the content.

The life that each of us leads has boundaries. A standard life does not exist. We all have advantages or disadvantages based upon our organization or lack in our life. There are places that some people can reach that others cannot. With that in mind, each of us can do things to make our playing area to our advantage. This particular set of boundaries deal with the “Defensive Half.” These are adjustments that can be made to your personal “field” that will help protect your goal.

The Sidelines

Breathing – It’s a concept that I cover with individuals quite often. The question “What is the most important thing that you’re going to do today?” get s a variety of answers but it is the same for all of us. Breathing is the most important part of our survival. Yet we overlook it regularly. This is not a call for people to start paying more attention to their individual breaths. It is a call for a breath practice. Most of our maintenance oriented activities are done, once, twice or thrice per day. The same should be happening for a breath practice. My personal preference is the Wim Hof technique. It’s not for everyone and NEVER DO IT AROUND WATER! But it gives you a place to start. Once or twice per day for about ten minutes is all that it takes. The benefits of a breath practice are multiple but the main component deals with your ability to bring yourself from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system. Getting from your “fight/flight/freeze” response to “rest/digest” is a skill that needs to be developed rather than hoped for.

Hydration – YES! I am aware that these first few are simply survival necessities. Unfortunately (or fortunately) due to our overwhelming success as a species, we rarely have to consider our survival. Therefore we need to consider these for their optimization. Getting more out of your body and mind is completely dependent upon the ingredients and predispositions that you give your body to work with. In the realm of hydration, you are looking to consume half your body weight in ounces. The math is not overly difficult. It is simply about finding the right container to use for measurement. The 8 glasses per day rule is a bit too arbitrary. A 12oz glass x 8 glasses would be 96 total ounces. This is fine for someone around 190 lbs but might be a bit much for a 140 lbs kid. Finding the right container in order to track your hydration is really almost half the battle.

Diet/Fuel – The word diet has been mangled for decades now. It does not mean a weight loss program. More than anything else it is the food that you habitually eat. There are so many possibilities out there that could work for you. The only suggestion that I will make on this subject is to see what actually works for you, not what you want to work. I’d love for an ice cream and pizza diet to get me into optimal shape but it’s just not going to happen. So find something that balances both your nutritional needs and the reality of your life. Choosing to be a vegetarian could be the answer but if it is only going to make you miserable, don’t do it. Fuel your body with food, don’t feed your cravings at all times. The food industry has spent decades making things delicious with barely a scrap of nutritional value. Craving those foods is not an indication that you are a bad person. Give yourself a break and take time to figure out what truly works for you.

Shelter (Mental Safety) – The list of basic human needs continues with a slight twist. Very few of us are likely to succumb to the environment because of a lack of shelter/housing. However in a modern context we live an increasingly large part of our existence in the mental space. Therefore the ability to have mental shelter from “elements” is a crucial part of our boundaries. Much like food, water and oxygen, having a daily practice within this space that sets us up for success is important. Unlike the other survival needs, this is less apparent. Many people live in an unsafe mental space due to their focus or lack of control of that focus. Journaling is just one of the many techniques that can be used in order to get the mind to focus on things that are advantageous to the individual rather than the outside world. My suggestion would be to have a practice of not using any electronics for at least 30 minutes in the morning. That time can be used to establish a focus on the things that are important to you rather than others.

Sleep – This is another area that is of supreme importance but the needs of each individual vary greatly. So I am not going to give many suggestions here other than to say that your sleep should be regular. Length may vary based on the individual but having a regular bedtime and wakeup time can be a game changer. Also try as best as you can to avoid electronics for at least 30 minutes prior to falling asleep. It can help with falling asleep and also gives you time to set your intentions for the next day.

If you didn’t watch the video first, you might be wondering, “what is the goal that I’m protecting?” You’re protecting against drops in self-esteem. Having all of these boundaries set up correctly can create a space where it is unlikely or even impossible for the world to make you feel bad about yourself. The most important relationship that you have is with yourself. All of these daily practices help to keep others away from your goal – the way you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself.

Hopefully this discussion has been helpful. Leave a comment below with any thoughts or additions. This concept is not done. There is another half of the field to go but let me know if I missed anything on this side.




McBride It!

I was going to post this a few days ago but thought that it made sense to wait until Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!

McbrideIn the modern world, there is a certain leaning toward being self-centered.  The pervasiveness of selfies in the social media world sends the message, “Look at me, I’m special.”  While I truly feel it is important for people to believe in themselves, things that go too far to one extreme tend to become their opposite.  Too much of a lifesaving drug becomes poison.  Too much focus on weight loss becomes anorexia.  Too much focus on the self becomes narcissism.  The key to balance is a counterweight.  Brian McBride seemed to have that balance figured out perfectly.

Now I’ve never spoken to Brian McBride about this.  So I’m not sure if I am representing his thought process but here is my outside view.  Whenever he scored a goal, he would kiss his ring in a form of homage to his wife.  This is only one of many reasons why I respected him as a player.  At the moment when all eyes were on him, his thoughts were on the person who supported him.  At a time when people point to themselves, their own name or have elaborate celebrations; his were a welcome counter example.

Each of us should be striving for whatever we deem to be “success”.  That could mean so many things that formulating a list would take forever.  Regardless of your chosen endeavor, none of us can make it completely on our own.  We all require support, encouragement, love and so many other ingredients that come from our family and friends.  No matter how big you get, McBride it!  When everyone one is praising you for how great you are, take a moment to pay homage to the person or people who got you there.  It makes the victory so much sweeter when you have people to share it with.  Maybe it’s even worth it to thank them now, before you’ve made it.  You’re going to need them on the climb!

Have a great day!



The Lake House (When Less Is More)

LakeHouseGrowing up, my grandparents owned an A-frame house in the Pocono Mountains.  It remains one of my favorite places in the world even though they sold it over 20 years ago.  This place was spectacular!  It had no TV, only a radio that may have been from the 1950’s.  There was no running water, we had to fill 5 gallon jugs at the spring nearby.  The toilet was filled by rainwater that needed to be pumped into the basin after each use.  There were exactly two bedrooms and about twelve beds.  The master bedroom was on the first floor and it contained one king size bed.  The rest of the beds were set up end to end in two columns on the second floor varying from a crib up to a queen size.  At maximum capacity, the second floor could sleep about 20 people.  It was located on a gravel road about a half mile from a lake with a small sand beach.  The nearest store or other forms of civilization were at least five miles away.  It was a wonderful place to vacation.

By many standards, this might seem like the exact opposite of a vacation spot.  It seemingly lacks all of the comfort that one might look for in a week away.  However everything that was lacking was what made it so great.  The lack of TV forced everyone to find other ways to entertain themselves.  My brothers and I caught salamanders.  We raced them down the gutters on the side of the house.  My grandmother taught us to play rummy and other card games at night.  The lack of running water made us conscious of our resources.  Also everyone had to pitch in with finding firewood for cooking or carrying supplies from the car on arrival.  The communal sleeping arrangements forced people to get along and be respectful of the needs of others.  We had everything that we needed when we had nothing that most people would have wanted.

In our fast paced, consumer based world, most of us do not lack resources but rather resourcefulness.  Having more things is not particularly the answer.  Now that most Americans have most of their needs met, satisfying their wants has not particularly made them any happier.  Since more is not particularly the answer, perhaps the answer lies in better and deeper forms of less.  Rather than having 500 Facebook friends, it might be better to have 5 irreplaceable friends.  In the place of better resolution on your flat-screen, put more resolve into the relationships with the cast in your own life.

I’m not saying that you can’t have it all.  I’m saying that the key to having it all may be enjoying all that you can from all that you have.  Less will always be more if it is appreciated for what it is and not lamented for all that it lacks.

Double down on a person or situation that really deserves it.