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Amusement vs. Recreation: Why You Need to Know the Difference

In a recent podcast interview, author and productivity expert Michael Hyatt shared an experience taking his three daughters to Disney World in the middle of summer.

“It was hot, crowded, and miserable,” he recalled. “When I came home from that vacation, I was totally exhausted.”

Michael went on to make the point that amusement and recreation are not the same; in fact, they have completely opposite effects on your sense of well-being.

Since we live in a culture that values productivity, accomplishment, and personal drivenness (see my last post), cultivating healthy rhythms of work and recreation into your lifestyle, while minimizing mindless amusement, can be a real difference maker.

by Ilham Rahmansyah via Unsplash

When it comes to amusement verses recreation, here are four simple tests to discern the difference:

1) Amusement often tires you out, while recreation restores you.
Look at the etymology of the word “recreation.” It literally means ” to re-create,” implying an active engagement of the mind and body that is fun, focused, and restorative. But as Michael Hyatt discovered, even well intentioned activities like family vacations can leave you mentally and physically drained.

2) Amusement can be mindless while recreation makes you feel more connected to yourself and to the world around you.
Have you ever sat in front of the TV for hours, remote in hand, flipping through channels without watching anything? How does it make you feel? If you’re like me, I feel unproductive — even anxious. We use language such as “vegging out” to describe such behaviors, which implies disconnection; we’re acting like vegetables — living organisms but with no brains.

3) Amusement is usually unplanned; recreation is intentional.
Think about the things you truly enjoy doing, that when you’re doing them you lose all sense of time. Examples may include fishing, playing a musical instrument, exercise, painting, reading, writing, prayer and meditation, gardening, etc. In most cases, activities like these need to be planned for. Amusement, on the other hand, tends to be spontaneous, flowing out of unscheduled or “idle” time.

4) Amusement plays to your weaknesses while recreation enhances your strengths.
I remember the years I spent playing football in high school and college. During the season, when my daily schedule was filled up with classes, practice, and homework, I would tell myself how much harder I will study when the demands of the season are over and my time frees up. But invariably, I squandered most of that “free” time with unproductive things and, instead of improving my grades, they would usually decline. I think this is true for most people — unscheduled, unplanned time frequently flows to our weaknesses. Meaningful recreation, on the other hand, because it contributes to our growth, sharpens us, making us better equipped to handle the stresses of our lives.

Of course, there will always be times when you have to put your own needs aside for the sake of your family or for others. (I’ll bet Michael Hyatt’s daughters felt differently about their Disney experience than he did!) After all, life is not all about us.

Learning to incorporate intentional and repeatable rhythms of recreation into your life while minimizing mindless amusement and idleness can be a game changer, enabling you to inject a fresh sense of passion and purpose into your work and your life.

How do you spend your free time? Have you ever experienced any of these four distinctions between amusement and recreation in your approach to leisure? What would it mean to your life to discover one or two pursuits that energize and restore you?

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Use Keystone Habits to Launch a Lifelong Winning Streak

“You’ll never change anything in your life… until you change something you do daily.”
– John Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the transformational potential that simple, repeatable disciplines (or habits) can have on your personal brand — your ability to present the best possible version of yourself every day.

In 2012, NY Times columnist Charles Duhigg published an enormously popular book, The Power of Habit, in which he introduces a powerful tool: Keystone Habits.

A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. I call it a ‘habit of disproportionate impact on your life.’ To identify a keystone habit, ask yourself: What is a consistent discipline I can develop that will make the rest of my life easier and more productive?

Image: Jordan McQueen via stocksnap.io

The Keystone Effect of Exercise

For me, exercise is a keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a ripple effect in other areas of my life. Not only do I get the benefits of working out, I focus better after the workout. I tend to eat better when I’m working out consistently. I sleep better at night and wake up with more energy in the morning.

Notice that I didn’t try to build better habits for my focus, my nutrition, my sleep, or my energy. I just practiced this one keystone habit (exercise) and those other areas were improved as well. This is why keystone habits are powerful. They cascade into other areas of your life!

If you recall from my earlier post, Roald Amundsen’s keystone habit was the 20 Mile March. What are yours?

For some people I know, it is drinking a large glass of water when they get up in the morning, alleviating dehydration from a night’s sleep and creating more energy and a stronger immune system. For others, it is prayer and meditation, or budgeting and spending quality time with their spouse.

Imagine how much easier and more fulfilling your life could be if you discovered one or two keystone habits that naturally put the rest of your life in place.
Personal development icon Earl Nightingale famously said, “An hour a day is all it takes; one hour of study in your field will put you at the top in three years, five years of learning and improvement will make you a nationally recognized expert and seven years makes you one of the very best.”

What would it mean to your life if you could identify and consistently practice one or two keystone habits? What is keeping you from starting? Leave me your comments — I’d love to get your feedback.

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Bill’s Friday Five

Last Friday, I received an email from my friend Mary Rogers, who recently started a podcast called Experience50, highlighting Mary’s Friday Five — a fun and insightful list of items and thoughts from her week. To recap this week on a positive note, and inspired by Mary, I decided to create my own ‘five favorites’ list this Friday!

Favorite Blog Post
I read an insightful post this week from Bill Zipp, one of my favorite bloggers. He uses the analogy of sneezing to illustrate how leaders connect with their people in order to bring out their best. The provocative title — “How to Sneeze: 10 Keys to Positive Emotional Contagion”— spells out these simple but effective daily leadership behaviors:
1. Make Eye Contact
2. Smile, Smile, Smile
3. Say, “Please”
4. Say, “Thank you.”
5. Remember and use people’s first name.
6. Ask curious questions
7. Listen intently without being distracted.
8. Compliment freely and praise publicly.
9. Shake hands and give high-five’s. Hug when appropriate.
10.Laugh. A lot.

In Bill’s words, every day we have a choice about what kind of environment we create, transferring negative or positive emotions by our behavior.

Favorite Event
The Northwestern Michigan College Annual Fund kickoff happened this week and students showed me the new unmanned underwater vehicle technology (most of it went right over my head!) including the 70,000 gallon water tank. The advanced technology at NMC is amazing. What a resource for this community! I most enjoyed interacting with the NMC students in aviation, marine technology, and the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute. Their passion and entrepreneurialism was awesome!

Bill and NMC students at NMC Annual Fund kickoff

Favorite Book
Eat, Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath
My big takeaway: While most self-help books focus on time management to improve your productivity, Tom’s well documented research shows that how we manage our energy is the real difference maker. It’s the little choices we make each day about what to eat, how much time we spend standing verses sitting, and how much sleep we get that determine our real productivity and health. One tip: the extra minutes of sleep you get by hitting the snooze button aren’t really restful at all. By training yourself to get up as soon as the alarm sounds, you could go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get more real sleep.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath

Favorite Podcast Episode
I listened to a fascinating health and wellness podcast called “Fat Burning Man” featuring an interview with running coach Danny Dreyer who presented a super-helpful tip on breathing that will not only benefit runners, but also anyone looking to add energy and mindfulness to their lifestyle. Designed to duplicate high altitude training, Danny’s simple instructions include:
· Breath in and out through your nose—NOT your mouth.
· As you slowly exhale, walk as many steps as you can before taking another breath without gasping for air.
· Repeat this 8 – 10 times a day.

Recent research has shown that gently starving your lungs for oxygen like this triggers your body to produce more red blood cells to transport oxygen, increasing the capillary beds in your lungs. This is exactly the benefit that high altitude training provides.

Fat Burning Man feat. Danny Dreyer

Favorite Night Out
Debbie and I enjoyed a BIGS night out this week!  The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan Adopt-A-Match Sponsor Dinner was held at The Boathouse on Thursday night. Attendees were treated to a fabulous dinner and all-around beautiful evening for a great cause. Thank you to all the mentors who have impacted the lives of the 365 “Littles” across northern Michigan.

Bill & Debbie at The Boathouse for BIGS

As you prepare to wrap up this week and head into the weekend, what were your favorite things about this week? I’d love to hear from you.

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Change Your Breathing — Change your Life

We breathe an average of about 20,000 times per day without even thinking about it. Yet a growing number of health experts contend that most of us do it poorly, depriving ourselves of energy, mental focus, and emotional resilience.

How can that be?

via PixShark

If you’re like most people, your breathing consists of short, shallow breaths that keep you functioning throughout the day but don’t cause your diaphragm to fully contract and fill your lungs completely. So while you may feel like you’re getting plenty of oxygen, you’re really not, and that keeps you from performing at your best.

How can that be? Your lungs are designed to deliver precisely the amount of air to maintain your bodily functions and keep your internal organs operating. In our sedentary society, most of us adapt our breathing to meet this bare minimum requirement. But what this means is that there is little oxygen left over for more complex functions like mental focus, emotional control, even creative thinking.

The good news: You can change it in an instant. Here’s how:

First, check the status of your breathing by placing one hand on your stomach and the other on your sternum (the long, flat bone located in the center of your chest). As you breathe, the hand on your stomach should move significantly more than the hand on your sternum, signaling that your lungs are filling.
Second, learn a simple technique called Box Breathing, which, if your breaths have been shallow, will flood your lungs with oxygen and produce immediate positive effects, like tension release, increased energy, and emotional control. In a moment, you can change your physiology, making you feel more alert and energetic.

Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as changing the way you breathe can improve your performance? For a quick Box Breathing tutorial, check out this video by former Navy Seal Mark Devine.

And here’s a challenge: Practice this simple technique 5 to 10 times a day for the next seven days, then send me your feedback — I’d love to hear about the changes you experience!

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