As you're probably aware I've been busying myself over these last few months with all things to do with stand up paddle boards and mountain trekking. With this being the case, I have completely missed the phenomenon that is: Pokemon Go, a mobile phone application/game that sees the player wander around the streets finding and capturing Pokemon characters. Being that I was an 80's born child then I'm aware of what Pokemon is even though at the time I barely took any notice. Being of University age, I had other things on my mind then cartoon characters! However, I'm not completely out of touch to know that this new game has swept the world like wild fire. There are stories of people so transfixed with the game that they are putting themselves or others in dangerous situations. The extreme ones include a man who almost stood onto a live railway line but realised before it was too late; and, a couple in America who left a toddler home alone whilst they went driving around the local neighbourhood in search of Pokemon characters. Thankfully these stories are the extreme and are few and far between with the vast majority of people playing with an awareness of what is around them. As with a lot of new trends or fads I was quick to dismiss the idea and barely gave it a second thought. However, I was sat in a pub earlier this evening chatting to a friend (who is somewhat obsessed with the game) about the positives that it can have. Some of what he said actually did make sense and did give me food for thought.
"...childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st Century..."
In July, I took part in an expedition to stand up paddle board from Bristol to London to raise funds for the Youth Adventure Trust and to help develop Explorers Connect founder Belinda Kirk's initiative to create a dedicated day of adventure once a year, aptly named: 'Wild Night Out'. The idea behind this initiative is to encourage as many people as possible, adults and children alike, to turn off there electronic devices (whether that is TV, smart phone, tablet etc...) and to explore the great outdoors. It could be a new walking route, a wild swim or just a camp out in the back garden, anything that involved getting out and about and, hopefully, re-discovering the local area.
During the preparation for the paddle board expedition we were astonished to hear that those numbers who actually spend time exploring the great outdoors had dropped drastically over the past couple of decades. When I was a child we used to play from dawn until dusk whether that was climbing trees, exploring new areas of the village/town, building dens and general exploration and adventure on a local scale. It saddened me to hear that fewer children are doing the same and are choosing to consume content on digital media platforms instead of making use of what is around them. This is leading to more and more children battling weight issues than ever before. The World Health Organisation 'regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century. Obese children and adolescents are at an increased risk of developing various health problems, and are also more likely to become obese adults'. This can only really be put down to our somewhat sedentary lifestyle and our addiction to the digital world.
The only way to reverse these obesity figures is to encourage more and more people to ditch this sedentary lifestyle and to encourage activity and fitness. I hadn't realised before but games like Pokemon Go may actually help to achieve this, The whole essence of what the game is about is to get the player to explore the world around them by searching and capturing Pokemon characters. It does this by mixing the virtual and the real world. It encourages players to walk many miles in order to incubate new Pokemon and challenges them to go further to find rarer breeds. On top of this, it is encouraging a social aspect as people arrange to meet up in groups to search for Pokemon characters together, thus encouraging social relations and group exercise. It may only be scratching the surface of what is now seen as an obesity epidemic but it is a start. This maybe the small step that people need in order to get active, lose some weight and become fitter. If by playing a mobile phone game can help an individual realise that by keeping active can have a positive affect on the body and mind then it may spur on future positive changes. We didn't get into an obesity crisis overnight and there is going to be no quick fix. If we can find small steps in the right direction, even in the most unusual places, then that has to be a positive. An active body is a happy body. So, the next time you see someone walking around the streets holding there mobile phone aloft in front of them, don't judge, see it as a positive (yet small step) to making the nation fitter and hopefully, in the long term, reducing the obesity rate the world over.
Everyone has dark days, those days where getting out of bed in the morning takes all your effort; and, for who, for what, why do we do it? We do it to live! We do it because we want to, we motivate ourselves in someway to get on with our daily lives. We are always working towards something: a goal, a milestone, our futures. Sometimes it is easy to lose track of what it is we are working for, why we push ourselves to breaking point and get withdrawn, blue and unmotivated. Sometimes all it takes is a few words of wisdom, someone to remind you that living is such a privilege and that we should strive to do as well as we can for the short amount of time that we are on this planet. Life is too short to worry about the choices, the ifs and buts of our decisions. Make the choice, move on and carry on climbing that tree of life. At some point we in evidently fall but this doesn't dictate failure, quite the opposite. You cannot succeed without failing. Failure is on the journey to succeeding. It's through failure we grow. Without failure how would you know when you succeeded? It's about building from the foundations up. A house isn't built any other way, why should life! Think positively, if you are aiming to climb a mountain, believe you can climb that mountain. There maybe people more skilled or talented then you out there but all you need is hard work and effort and you can out pace, out climb, out manoeuvre anyone. It takes persistence and a determined mind. Keep pushing and soon you will be able to break through that barrier, succeed at your chosen career, outdo all your rivals. All it takes is belligerent motivation, a strong mind and a willingness to succeed. Even though it is hard, it's worth it in the end. Live those dreams, you only get one shot at it, make it count!
Even the happiest people in society can have days when they feel deflated, under-motivated and find that they are questioning what they are doing with their life. It doesn't help when you are confronted with critics of your choices or work, which can make these 'low' days feel even more daunting. Even the nicest of weather or location can go nowhere into bringing you out of this 'blue' day. Then all of a sudden, when surfing the internet, you come across a quote that not only lifts your mood but completely flips it into a positive direction. This is the quote that I stumbled across this morning that did just this:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. He who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." [Theodore Roosevelt]
I read and re-read this quote a few times and with each passing it became clearer in my mind and re-ignited the fire in my belly. The psychological clouds had lifted and I am beaming with energy that had been suppressed by this 'blue' day.
It suddenly dawned on me this morning that in these modern times we expect too much for little or no work. I know I'm in danger of sounding old but everywhere I look or whoever I speak to just reinforces this feeling. I lose track of how many times I have heard people say: "I wish I could be like them", "I wish I was dealt a better hand", "I wish I had those chances" because they can if they put in the time and effort. The successful people are only noticed once they are successful. Take an athlete, they are only really shown when they are at there pinnacle of there fitness when competing at some kind of games. A writer is only recognised when they have a book that has become a success. A film maker once they have made a movie seen by millions. It is very rare that you will see these people until they have actually succeeded at something, so you never see there struggles. Nobody knew JK Rowling until after the Harry Potter phenomena, nobody knew Brad Pitt before 'Thelma and Louise' put him in the spotlight and nobody knew of Usain Bolt until he managed to win in the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. Nobody sees the struggles it takes to be at the top of their game, the many knock-backs along the way, the disappointments, injuries even. People just see the successes and want a piece of that fame and fortune. The sad thing is many people will just sit back and wonder or, worst still, blame everything and everybody for there lack of success. It's like they are blaming other people for not giving them these opportunities in the first place. It doesn't work like that opportunities are earned. It's about going out there and giving it a go. You may find out that after trying to be the next Usain Bolt or JK Rowling it's not for you. In which case at least you have given it a good go and you will probably now have even more respect for those who have broken through and made it. On the flip side, you may find your calling. Again, how are you going to know if you don't give it a go and instead moan about the 'hand you have been dealt in life' because I have news for you: at birth we are all dealt the same hand. Yes, it is true that for some people opportunities are more freely available but that doesn't mean anything in the big picture of life. If you have the will and drive to push out there, breaking the barriers that you face as you go, then I bet that you will be much more successful then someone who has it laid on their plate. It's about going out there and getting what you think you deserve, it's about bouncing back after every fall, it's about persevering when most other people would have quit. Only then, will you start seeing the fruits of your labour. It took Michael McIntyre 10 years of pushing to get known as the comedian he is today. That is 10 years of knock backs, hard work and belligerent motivation but he eventually made it.
What I am trying to say is: stop these expectations that you are owed a break in life and start working towards what it is that you want. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, dedication and an unwillingness to fail. We all fail at some point in our lives at something. It's about what you do after that failure. Will you bow over and get defeated by that failure or will you learn from what went wrong and continue pushing. Through our failures we grow. Through inaction we die.
You must have heard the phrase: “Superman Syndrome”? It describes a person who keeps taking on more workload, more responsibility and more challenges into there daily routine. Someone who is incredibly ambitious, driven and motivated by opportunities that life presents itself with. This isn’t limited to the workplace but to everyday life as well. It is the blinkered, ambitious attitude of:
“I want to do this so I’ll just fit it in…”
This is a great attitude to have to a certain extent; however, it can have negative effects on a person’s well being. You can only keep up a punishing schedule for so long before your body will throw its tools down and drive you to a stand still. Your brain will want you to continue but your body will not. This is where the phrase “Superman Syndrome” has come from. Superman is someone who is strong, fit, super-human and has a un-defeatist attitude. The human body needs time to recover and to re-build to strengthen and adapt to the extra strains that you are giving it. By refusing to let up the pressure and to doggedly continue then eventually you will crash and become ‘burnt out’. This must be avoided at all costs. If you burn out then all that work would have gone to waste because by the time you can fully recover (which dependent on the severity of the burn out could be from 1 day to 12 months, if not longer) then you could, potentially be starting again from scratch. It could become a vicious circle over and over again if you do not learn from this mistake.
It is easy to fall into this syndrome in these modern times with the accessibility of so much information at your fingertips. Just with a smart phone you are connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with emails and social media alerts being pushed to your phone as instantly as they were sent. You are traceable, contactable and held to account as easily as it is to breathe. Being this connected can add to the tendency to fall into a spiral of doing too much. The positive of this over connectivity is that your successes are praised almost instantaneously. On the flip side of this, your failures are broadcast at the same astonishing rate. As a result the stakes have never been so high resulting in the over-exertion of oneself to succeed at all costs. The merits of failure are overshadowed. Failure teaches us a valuable lesson and can also give us the drive to succeed next time round:
“It is better to try and fail then never to try in the first place”
However, failure is seen in this society as all time low, something to avoid at all costs, a life-crushing philosophy. This drives people to keep pushing, pushing, and pushing until they succeed what they set out to do. Although a great trait to have, the eventual detrimental effects on the body and the mind could be long lasting and severe. My advice: push as hard as you can but allow time for your body to catch up with your mind and recover. Yes, we are only on this planet for a short period of time but you don’t want to spend a large proportion of it laid up in bed recovering from your over-punishing schedule. Push for your goals but not at the detriment of your health.
I bring this to you from personal experience; I am a sucker for a blinkered response to life’s challenges. If I set my mind towards a goal, I will achieve it. However, I have also burnt out more times then I can remember. The recovery time from burn out is one of the most demoralising, energy sapping and time wasting period I have ever experienced. Take my advice, take on the challenges, the extra workload, and the additional social events but do your self a favour: build in some rest time. You will be grateful for it in the future. You have the time to achieve your goals and ambitions but do it sustainably.
The “Superman Syndrome” is not a compliment from another person concerning your ability to keep going. It is a warning and one that you should take seriously. A balanced life is a happy life! Superman is only a fictional character after all.