Runner's Ravings http://sett.com/runnersravings A blog about health, fitness, happiness, creativity, and personal growth. Written by a student and wannabe minimalist named Steven. en-us Wed, 26 Jun 2019 16:21:30 +0000 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator Mistakes of 2013, and How to Get Fit in 2014 http://sett.com/runnersravings/2014 2014 here we come. What’s your resolution?

The turn of the year is a fascinating time of great optimism, when everyone and their mother decides to toss their bad habits aside and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Gym memberships soar, goals are set, and the flood gates are opened as people begin their lives anew.

Or that’s what we think.

My own optimism is accompanied by a knowing sense of melancholy as I wait for the inevitable. A month into the new year, as our motivation wanes, we look out windows and see a world not so different from the year we had hoped to leave behind. New memberships are cancelled as we succumb to the possibility that we will never change, that our muffin tops are here to stay. We are destined for lives abundant not in joy but in ailment.

You might as well cancel your holiday plans. This is the beginning of the next worst year of your life. Why celebrate? Okay, so maybe there’s a more constructive conclusion we can draw from this.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this:

How can we harness the motivation that comes with 2014 and use it to form habits that will stick with us? How can we actually get into shape so that we live to make another few decades worth of resolutions?

Whatever we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. Let’s take a look at two common culprits:

Sprinting out of the gates

After some oral surgery earlier this year, I was forced to forgo my running for a few days so that I didn’t, you know, bleed out. This bothered me, but when I hit the pavement I pretended I hadn’t skipped a beat and ran my usual six mile course. I did well. Go me!

The next day, I got to it again. Less than a mile in my ankle was throbbing; it was clear that I wouldn’t be going the full six miles absent the appearance of a rabid dog. I tried again the following afternoon to no avail. This trend continued for a few frustrating days as running a mile became a task of Herculean endurance.

Mentally, I was prepared to run six miles. Probably more. Physically, I was more prepared for two. I ran six, hurt my ankle, and was forced to forgo running for an even greater period than had I just eased back into things.

This is the mistake we often make at the beginning of the year: Our minds get doped up on dopamine and we pretend as though as can run a marathon without any preparation because, honest to God, we feel like we can.

Instead you’ll overwork yourself, pull something, and falsely come to the conclusion that running is the worst thing that has ever happened to you. Truth: Running is as enjoyable as the runner is realistic. There’s a difference between pain and discomfort. When you experience the former, change something.

This year: Don’t run an ultra-marathon on day one. Start with a mile, three times per week. Run as much of it as you can, and walk the rest. Push yourself for that one mile. When that becomes less of a challenge, increase your speed or distance (or both) until the challenge returns.

By taking things more slowly, and allowing your body to adjust to new activity levels, you might find that running is something worth raving about.

Obsessing over Numbers

We live in a world of the ubiquitous tracking app. On iOS, there are hundred of apps that promise to get me into better shape: They can track my pace, my distance, the amount of calories I burn, the amount I consume, the number of steps I take, my heart rate, and even the way my foot hits the ground. All the while the NSA is storing this information in a database somewhere.

Just as the Internet’s abundance of knowledge hasn’t made everyone’s IQ shoot up fifty points, the availability of low cost tracking applications doesn’t translate into a healthier society. The problem is that they often become more of a distraction than a tool for success.

For example: If you’ve been eating a poor diet for years, you shouldn’t download a calorie counting app so that you can track your calories down to the third decimal point. It would be like trying to give a detailed report on the subatomic architecture of plants without knowing the first thing about botany. You’re skipping the essential basics in favor of the less important specifics.

Save yourself a couple of bucks and do this instead: Strive for a diet plentiful in fruits, vegetables, fist-sized portions of lean meats and poultry, and healthy fats from nuts and oils. If you create a diet that looks like this you will lose weight, at a healthy rate, and without having to count a single calorie.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

The 2013 Fitness Word of the Year is: Complication. This year, we spent money on applications that wasted our time, hurt our eyes, and impeded us from establishing new, healthy habits. All the while we could have simply eaten more fruits and veggies, and less junk food.

We also got a little cocky at the beginning of the year. We thought we could do it all, that we could change overnight, and so we burned ourselves out before really getting started. Instead, we could have worked a little less, but over a longer duration. That would have made a huge difference.

In 2014, resist the urge to make getting into shape a complicated effort. Eat healthier foods, control your portions, and exercise more frequently. Maybe then we can all make a different resolution in 2015.

Steven is the founder of Runners Ravings, who has a love of fitness, reading, politics, family, friends, and an awkward mix of mainstream and classical music. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_chaffin.

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 16:17:45 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/2014
The Tipping Point of Physical Fitness http://sett.com/runnersravings/the-tipping-point-of-physical-fitness In my experience, there are two thresholds that someone looking to become fit needs to pass under:

First, you need to get started. Simple, yes, but it’s often the hardest part. Any barriers you have to working out, like driving to the local gym, increases the likelihood that you’ll sit on the couch and watch reruns of Lost and eat junk food instead. Us runners have a natural advantage over gym-rats in that we’re able to tie our shoes and run out the door. Even in subzero temperatures you can reduce your time freezing by running to the nearest warm treadmill. By the time you get there your body temperature will have comfortably insulated you from the cold and your body will be ready for action.

Some suggest setting up your gym at home, if you can afford the proper equipment. This breaks down all the barriers and gives you no excuses for reneging on the daily workout. That being said:

  1. Some report that a home gym can actually damage your morale. Many long-time gym goers, like my father, need the mental shift that occurs when you walk into a place made solely for physical fitness. If you’re among them, don’t waste your money.
  2. Don’t buy a treadmill. If you can’t resist, only use it when it’s dangerously cold outside.

Second, you need to fit it into your daily routine and find ways to obligate yourself to stick to it. Some ideas:

  1. Keep a food and exercise journal. When you can’t check off that you’ve worked out for the day, you’ll feel terrible. When you see that you ate an extra cookie at lunch, you’ll feel compelled to hit the pavement. It works.
  2. Find a workout buddy, and set times to meet him or her at the gym or trail. You don't want to renege on your friend, so you’ll be more likely to follow through.
  3. Post about it on social media. We’re averse to looking foolish online, and so when you commit to something on Facebook, you want to be able to talk about how much you succeeded in a subsequent status update.
  4. Sign up for a competition or event a few months off, and pay for it. You’ve now invested your money in getting into shape so you don’t kill yourself come the 5K / marathon / weightlifting competition.

Sustain your routine for as long as you possibly can. Two weeks should do it, although I would advise you to shoot for a month. Once you’ve completed it, you’ll be in better shape and you’ll feel relieved to take a well earned day off.

Except it won’t go quite as you expect. On your day off, as the time of day you used to spend running rolls around, you’ll feel strange and begin to have trouble sitting still. You’ll feel like something is missing, and before you know it you’ll be back to it.

That’s where the fun begins. For the past couple of weeks I have found myself running a 5K on a daily basis, and a failure to do so now makes me feel inadequate and as though I’m doing myself a disservice.

When skipping a workout becomes more of a punishment than a pleasure, you know you’ve crossed the tipping point of physical fitness. Now, it’s time to get that diet into shape.

P.S. — There is never a best time to begin working out. Many people put off the adoption of this habit because they’re too busy. Everything I have read and experienced as a runner agrees: Running makes you less stressed and actually boosts your mental capacity. So perhaps there is a best time: finals week.

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Thu, 12 Dec 2013 15:33:38 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/the-tipping-point-of-physical-fitness
Wasted Moments of Inspiration http://sett.com/runnersravings/wasted-moments-of-inspiration By Steven Chaffin, Jr.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take." – Wayne Gretzky

Author's note: This post is a revised version of a piece I wrote two years ago, that I believe to be worth sharing in public for the first time.

Everyone experiences those moments when they feel that they’re on top of the world. No matter how much money you have, the amount of time you have to spare, or how old you are, humans are connected in the scare, but beautiful moments when a surge of dopamine is sent through our bodies and inspires us to do more, and to do it better.

Do you know those moments? Those moments when you suddenly feel empowered to write a beautiful poem, or courageous enough to try a new recipe, to create something, explore anything? Even if we can reduce this sensation to sheer physiological reactions taking place in our brains, these are the times that enable you to make the leap you’ve never had the courage to. If you don't, look around you, be mindful, and you will find them.

A Brief Moment in Time

These moments are brief. How long it’ll last is unknown to us, and something tells me it will have passed by the time you arrive at the hospital to request someone look at your brain. It’s easy to assume, especially to those who have them frequently, that they’re too short for anything to be accomplished. Having had a number of blissful nights, I repeatedly found things to be the same as before when I woke up, returned to reality.

More and more, those moments of inspiration seemed to be a desperate attempt to escape a reality in which I had no direction.

These brief moments should not be a bridge to a goal or to an aspiration, but a stepping stone. You will not reach the goal you’ve been aspiring to reach for years if you are only now taking the first step. If you’ve been wanting to write a book, and it suddenly seems possible, your best-seller isn’t going to flow from your fingertips in one, euphoric evening. If it does, I would be grateful to meet and begin working with you on a project of my own.

Instead of attempting to take on the whole project, write one beautiful, captivating introduction. Or write the first scene, or a scene dead-center in the novel. Start anywhere you’d like. This is a step forward, a single step, and it’s the only one that matters. When you attempt to long-jump the entire journey, you will most certainly fall. When you take it a step at a time, you will almost certainly make it.

When you have taken your first step, and the inspiration wanes, let it. When you come back, evidence of your work will remain, and indeed, simply seeing the genius of your inspired masterpiece might send you on the road back to inspiration. Let a cycle be created.

Distractions and Waste

Is it that easy? That simple answer is: If we let it be.

Amidst a feel-good attitude, it’s tempting to become distracted. Facebook and Twitter screech your name, making you want to share with the world that you’re inspired, and doing nothing about it. We live in a world in which the most important aspect of our activities isn’t the joy they bring us, but the jealousy and joy they inspired in others. We mindlessly relinquish our ability to accomplish in these brief moments of added motivation, sharing with others and having nothing to show for it.

Thing is, when you’re inspired, nearly everything becomes fun. Break away from your normal tendencies during these times. Rather than distracting yourself—than wasting this precious moment that could be the precursor to changing your life—do something you’re passionate about, or that you’ve always been too afraid to do.

Cook something new. Write that paper you’ve been putting back. Quit your job. Talk to that girl, or guy. Whatever it is, do something. Don’t waste it.

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Thu, 26 Sep 2013 14:11:22 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/wasted-moments-of-inspiration
The Glory of Letting Go http://sett.com/runnersravings/the-glory-of-letting-go By Steven Chaffin, Jr. Sometimes, the most important ability we can have as a human being is the ability to let go. To move on, and say goodbye, no matter how hurt, embarrassed, or terrified we may be. No matter how substantial we suppose our failure to be. The dec]]> MU Columns, September 11, 2013

By Steven Chaffin, Jr.

Sometimes, the most important ability we can have as a human being is the ability to let go. To move on, and say goodbye, no matter how hurt, embarrassed, or terrified we may be. No matter how substantial we suppose our failure to be.

The decision to let go is one we face frequently, in our every day, dynamic lives:

  1. Letting go of unfulfilling relationships,
  2. Of flawed plans, and
  3. Of anything that makes us unhappy.
  4. Letting go of judgements,
  5. Of expectations,
  6. Of outdated or popular ways of doing things.
  7. Letting go of vanity,
  8. Of narcissism, and
  9. Of our fear of letting other people down.
  10. Letting go of our fear of failure,
  11. Of our exaggeration of daily struggles, and
  12. Of ubiquitous stressors that serve no productive purpose.

Facing Failure

Last night, I had my own encounter with failure when I bit into a piece of cheese pizza and proceeded to eat five more. In a few brief moments, I undid a mostly dairy-free diet, and I cannot claim any feeling of guilt, or remorse. I feel no shame.

A former version of myself would have felt differently. He would have taken this failure poorly, losing all confidence and proceeding to overeat in a fruitless attempt to forgive and forget. Instead, I see only the good in my short vegan vacation:

  • I learned that a vegan diet can provide you with al the nutrients you need to be healthy.
  • I learned to assert an irregular diet in public, no matter the reactions.
  • I found that I love soy and almond milk more than dairy milk.
  • I started eating much more fruit, and love it.
  • I expanded the narrow range of my taste buds, trying foods I never would have otherwise.
  • I came to understand my weaknesses and temptations.
  • I gained a greater understanding of what my ideal diet is.

Letting go is not an avenue to ignore your own faults, or an excuse for giving in when the going gets tough. It’s a down-to-earth recognition that our lives are not a compilation of zero-sum games in which one failure wrecks havoc. When we fail, we can continue onward happily, almost as if untouched. Very few of the issues we face actually possess the power we suppose them to hold over us.

Likewise, my failure to remain a faithful vegan does not mean I have become lazy. It means I have decided upon another course, one that will allow me to continue becoming healthier but in a more feasible manner in my collegiate environment, and that I will not stick to a lifestyle because I am afraid of what others will say if I change. Indeed, I had to overcome this fear earlier this month when I took the plunge, and I shall show no fear going back with a new perspective.

Whatever might be bothering you in this moment, that nagging thought that seems of colossal importance, will likely be washed away before the end of the week. Remember this, and the struggle suddenly becomes easier, less urgent, and more manageable.

Again: Letting go does not grant one a first-class pass to indolence. I assert the opposite. Our capacity for forgiving ourselves when we fail allows us to carry on, and to be more productive than ever before; to grow in ways we were never capable of prior. The person who learns from his mistakes, rather than being bogged down by every failure, wastes less time in pity and more time achieving, growing, and learning. His failures fuel his next journey.

Our fight against failure should never stop. We should never openly accept that we will fail before we have done so. The pursuit of human excellence predates us all, and we have that pursuit to thank for everything we have in our possession. To give up, to stop improving ourselves, would be an insult to our humanity.

But when failure comes knocking, when we are painfully reminded of our own mortality and inability to achieve perfection, we should not be stopped. We should carry on, ever-learning, ever-growing in the face of perpetual failure. Do this, and you have already made it.

@steven_chaffin

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Tue, 24 Sep 2013 15:12:57 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/the-glory-of-letting-go
On Appreciating the World Around You, and Ending Needless Behavior http://sett.com/runnersravings/world By Steven Chaffin, Jr.

Author's note: This post is a precursor to another post I will be making soon on common, accepted myths about being vegan.

Every day, we contribute to our own destruction. Here are just some of the ways we destroy our beautiful, vibrant home as the dominant species:

We kill insects using pesticides and other chemicals. Why? Because we think they’re gross, and scary. They’re strange, and unlike us. I, for one, am terrified of bees. That doesn’t mean they’re not important, and indeed, our disregard for our insect populations is beginning to show in potentially catastrophic ways.

Our honeybee population, for example, is rapidly deteriorating for unexplained reasons, dubbed by scientist as colony-collapse disorder, or CCD. Honeybees are crucial cogs to our agricultural system in the US, and are largely responsible for farmers’ ability to produce large quantities of fruits and other foods, such as almonds. The decay of the honeybee population would not starve the world, but it would put a horrible strain on the world economy and potentially clear our plates of all their wonderful colors and nutritional value.

We emit fossil fuels. A study by the US Census Bureau conducted in 2005 concluded that Americans spend an average of 100 hours per year commuting. I don’t imagine that our driving habits have gotten much better over the course of the past eight years, although I may be wrong. We know, when we turn on our engine, that we’re polluting the environment around us. Perhaps at one point we could have claimed otherwise, that we were ignorant, but it is safe to assume in this day and age that everyone realizes that the black column of smoke trailing our vehicles isn’t meshing too well with our atmosphere.

We do this anyway, of course, because it makes traveling easier, and faster amid our busy days. It also requires less effort, which seems to generally be thought of as a good thing (I disagree). This isn’t to say that the creation of electric cars and growing market for hybrids isn’t occurring — it is, and it’s a truly wonderful thing. That does not deem irrelevant the millions of cars around the world that are still contributing to climate change (including mine).

We needlessly slaughter animals. Yes, needlessly. The fact of the matter is that we eat animals because we think they taste good. A lot of people eat them because they’re convinced they need them for a healthy diet, but they’re just wrong. Sorry. Conventional wisdom isn’t infallible, no matter how withstanding the cultural customs and tastes. The common argument is as follows:

Humans have been eating meat for thousands of years.

Therefore, humans should eat meat.

This is what is called a presumptive fallacy of weak induction. The argument assumes the conclusion to be true in its premise. The fact that humans have eaten meat for thousands of years does not provide evidence that it is necessary, or healthy. Humans have also been killing one another for thousands of years for no good reason. Does that make it right?

Believe it or not, all the nutrients our bodies need can be obtained without the consumption of animals. I will make another post on this soon to describe how, and why it isn’t as outlandish as some people seem to think.

Moreover, and perhaps more surprising, is that our slaughterhouse industry is actually more detrimental to the environment than our driving 18-wheelers cross-country. According to a wonderful info-graphic put together by CulinarySchools.org, if Americans removed one serving of chicken from their weekly diet, it would be equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road. That’s astounding. Similarly, trading your SUV for a hybrid will reduce CO2 emissions by 1 ton per year, compared to the 1.5 tons you’d save a year by adopting a vegan diet.

At the end of the day, the stress we’re putting on our planet is needless. It is caused by our fear of the different, by our laziness, and by our unwillingness to try something new. I’m not here to proselytize going vegan, or giving up your car. I’m simply here to open your eyes, and to tell you that there is a better way.

By driving less, and eating less meat, and treating your environment with greater care in general, you’ll be...

  • Helping the environment recover.
  • Learning more about your diet than you otherwise would.
  • Getting fitter.
  • Getting healthier, cleaner nutrients.
  • Preserving invaluable species.
  • Becoming more mindful.

These are just a few reasons I came up with on the fly, but there are certainly more. Again, my job isn’t to tell you to act one way. It’s to suggest that there is a better way of living that you have yet to truly consider. There is a lot of false information circulating the web concerning how to get healthy, and what being a vegan or vegetarian is all about.

Stay tuned for another post in the near future debunking some common myths aimed against giving up meat and dairy products.

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Sat, 21 Sep 2013 04:13:27 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/world
A Quick Note on Living Your Own Life http://sett.com/runnersravings/distractions Author's note: This is a post I wrote last night on my Tumblr. After giving it some further consideration, I thought this might be worthwhile to some of my readers, wherever you are, if you exist. This post may seem contradictory to some of my previous posts, but it's an honest look into how I feel about this little 'ol life of ours. You can find the original post here.

I feel guilty about silly things. Playing video games, for example. In the time I’ve been in college, I’ve refrained from indulging in gaming because it makes me feel a little childish, and is a reminder that I probably have something more important to be doing.

I happily proclaim that this is of the past.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t always be productive. Even when we naïvely try to become a master of our own productivity, we get sidetracked. We become distracted by things like Facebook, blogs, news, texts, emails, and the whole package.

This is a fight we will ultimately lose, and that’s okay. We’re only human. We’re not perfect. This doesn’t mean we should blindly accept it. I certainly haven’t, hence why I deactivated my Facebook account and have no desire to return.

That said, I know distractions will pop up. Sometimes, I’ll do something that isn’t productive. Why? Because I like it. Because it’s fun. Because for a moment, I can escape from a chaotic world that is awesome in its own way, and indulge in something that is pure, simple fun. Whether this be going on a run to clear my mind amid a major workload, moronically spending a few hours watching Breaking Bad in a single day, or connecting with others around the world in Battlefield 4, I’ll do it.

At the end of the day, I’m a motivated guy. I know my limits. I have every intention of succeeding academically, and earning two degrees in the next four years. I’m ambitious, I love life, I love challenge. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to try to become productive every second of every day.

I’m too smart for that.

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Fri, 20 Sep 2013 05:19:45 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/distractions
Learn Something New http://sett.com/runnersravings/learn-something-new

"Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs."

I wasn’t the brightest student growing up. In the fourth grade, I was reading at a second grade level, and my writing was even worse. There were concerns that I would never catch up, and I would be destined to remain in special-help classes and never truly excel academically.

I got lucky. My parents compelled me to work harder, and my teachers were invaluable to my efforts as they worked with me to improve my skills. Thanks to them, I went from being a poor to an average student. For me, for everyone who had seen me grow up, this would do.

But then something else happened. Something my parents, my teachers, and certainly I never expected. I started to excel. My reading levels began to rise above the averages, and I began enrolling in what my junior high school referred to as “challenge” courses. My English teachers became impressed by my writing skills, and it was during this time that writing became a part of who I am.

Going into high school, the trend continued. I enrolled in a variety of honors courses, and was a year ahead of the general curriculum in mathematics. I earned several honors H grades (which are better than A), and earned a fair amount of college credit. None of this is particularly impressive. Many of my closest friends did far more than I during high school, and enjoyed greater academic success. But in the context of my life, it’s quite extraordinary.

The reason I am rambling about myself is because of the single change that enabled me to become an excellent student, inside and outside of the classroom. The change: I started to love learning, regardless of how difficult the course or how much I had previously disliked the subject. Mathematics became fun, the challenge of writing a journey, and history a glimpse into an interesting past that describes the present.

The moment I stopped worrying about my grades and started looking forward to each class and the lessons they would bring, my grades rose substantially and my stress levels were swept away. It was beautiful, really. My senior year in high school was largely stress free, whilst my peers were painstakingly applying to twelve different colleges and pulling all-nighters just to get by. This doesn’t make me better than them, it just meant I had a little more breathing room.

Loveless Learning

Something peculiar to me is that many of my peers, even in college, seem to hate learning. I understand the distaste for learning in early high school — you’re growing up, learning to think for yourself, and yet you’re forced to take a variety of courses ranging from biology, English composition, American history, and algebra. College would be different, I thought, because the students here are paying thousands of dollars a year in order to have these opportunities. If they don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?

The complaints I hear about exams, quizzes, assignments, and projects are innumerable. The amount of times I’ve heard students talk about how bad their professor is grows with each class I attend.

A World Free from Learning

Please consider the following:

Imagine a world of limited learning. A world where higher education did not exist, where students would attend school every day until the age of 18, and then would go their separate ways. Learning outside of the classroom is a federal crime, much like in the book I never read in high school titled Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

What happens in this world where everything learns the same things and nothing more? Consider holding a conversation with someone who knows nothing more than you, and nothing less. Is there anything to discuss, really? Consider all of the theories you’ve learned, all of the projects underway that require further thought on the part of the student. Any theory without a definitive conclusion would be void in this world. There would only be the hard facts, the certain, and virtually nothing more could ever be discovered.

Not only that, we would all be the same. We would not be unique. There would be no cellists to play wonderful music that can alter our moods and inspire us to do better. There would be no scientists to explore the reality of our world, and the nature of the human body in face of disease. In a world free from learning, nothing would get accomplished. We would be ignorant and uniform.

Of course, that is not the world we live in. We live in a world where we are encouraged, every day, to learn something new. We live in a world where we are rewarded for our ability to take new information and add our own insights, in more ways than we might know.

The Beauty of Learning Something New

Learning is what keeps us moving forward, what keeps things interesting, what keeps things colorful. Everything around you is the result of someone’s ability to learn. Your computer can be attributed to the innovations of people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak. The desk you’re at, the chair you’re sitting on, the bed you sleep in — without our ability to learn, none of these common ‘necessities’ would be possible. Learning is the most important ability we have. It governs what we create, the decisions we make, and the legacy we leave.

Here are just a few reasons to start learning something new, right now:

You’ll live longer.

Time Magazine recently published an article explaining recent studies that suggest that creativity leads to a longer life. Have you ever known someone to retire, healthily, whose health rapidly declined thereafter? I have, and it’s quite tragic. Think about that person for a moment. What changed when they retired? Did they take up any new hobbies? Did they stay nimble?

The answer, most likely, is no. Many people stop creating, stop actively thinking, after they retire. Just as our bodies notice when we don’t actively use them, our brains begin to decay more quickly when we stop thinking critically and stop coming up with new ideas.

This doesn’t mean you have to take up painting, drawing, or playing the violin. All of those are wonderfully interesting to me, but perhaps you’re a numbers guy. That works. Explore subjects that have to do with numbers. Study the economy, subscribe to The Economist. Whatever it is that interests you, indulge in it. Learn more about it.

It might not seem all too important now, but your ability to take an interest in new things and learn for the sake of learning itself will enable you to live a longer, healthier life before the inevitable decay.

You’ll make more money.

Statistically, college graduates make more money than those who only got a high school diploma. I’m not entirely convinced that college is an outright necessity for spiritual or financial success, but on average, it’s a helping hand if you’re financially stable enough to tackle college tuition, books, room and board going in. Unless you want to commit four or more years of your life to something you hate, it would be wise to begin finding ways to take an interest into your education. Partying might be your idea of “fun” in college, but the student who also takes the time to find joy in studying will accomplish much more over those four years.

Even without college, the individual who is prone to learning new things is more likely to succeed financially. My uncle, for example, has been the lead sports columnist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch for over twenty years. He never went to college. What made him successful was perseverance and an insatiable desire to learn new things.

Again: College is a tool, not a necessity.

Your life will become more interesting.

Consider the people you look up to. For me, many of these people share characteristics. They seem to thoroughly enjoy every moment of their lives, even when stressed or busy, and they are able to captivate others with their stories and experiences. These characteristics are shared not only among my role models, but among virtually every famous performer, leader, innovator, and creator.

Many of these people, it would seem, do this by learning new things. They get curious, and have the bravery to explore. Through these explorations they rack up an impressive list of experiences, and soon they have so many stories that they naturally flow from their mouths in the company of others. Learning new things will not only enhance the way you look at the world and the joy you find during the daily grind, but it will also draw like-minded, interesting people towards you.

The benefits, truly, are endless. I have taken this to heart in my own life, and have set out to explore a number of new fields of study alongside my current college curriculum:

1. Music / Composition

A former cellist, I like to think that I know slightly more about music than the average person. Playing the cello, even when I wasn’t very good, was a religious experience for me. You lose yourself when playing beautiful music. I have repeatedly had the desire to take up playing again, and plan to. For now, however, I think I would do myself good to study music in general and learn about composition. I have no intentions of making a living off of playing an instrument, but it’s a passion I have long ignored.

2. Writing

There is always more for a writer to learn about writing. It has been my passion for most of my life, and I plan to center my career around it. I am always studying and practicing, and plan to further my studies by purchasing Stephen King’s “On Writing” on my Kindle Paperwhite.

3. Programming

I explained this in a previous post, but to recap, I think programming is a valuable skill to have moving forward. Programmers are always in demand, and having a basic understanding of how to read HTML and solve basic problems will come in handily both personally and professionally.

4. Art History

There is so much to be learned in the field of art, and I feel as though I have neglected the subject throughout my life. When I go to a museum, I want to be able to make some worthwhile comments about the paintings I see. I also want to be able to make intelligent comments on the architecture around me. Again, I have no intentions of capitalizing on this — it’s merely a personal interest that I think would enhance my view of the world. The place to start? The beginning. Prehistoric.

5. Foreign Cultures

After traveling to Europe in 2011 and seeing Ireland, Wales, and the United Kingdom, I fell in love. The world outside of the United States is vastly different, and very interesting. That’s not to say that the US isn’t interesting, because it certainly is. But I’ve come to believe that an important part of the human experience is traveling outside of your homeland, and seeing how the rest of the world thinks, lives, and eats.

Learning the customs and traditions of other people will make you a better person with a clearer understanding of your own philosophy and worldview.

6. Health, Diet, Exercise

I research these topics frequently, mostly on behalf of my own health. I’m less worried about extending my life than I am about being healthy and capable during the time I’m here. I want to have the capacity for exploration and travel, and so learning about staying fit, and then putting what I learn into practice, is vey important to me. I am always testing out new ways of eating and adopting new workout regimes.

7. Minimalism

The more I read about minimalism, the more I attempt to apply it to my own life. This winter, I plan on making a huge step in the minimalist direction. Reading up on the experiences of those who have made similar life changes ensures that I do so knowledgeably, as opposed to blindly.

______________________

These are just some of my more recent interests that I will be studying as frequently as possible. If I mess up, or go a few days without touching on some of these topics, that’s okay. We all have busy lives, and so we need not demand constant intake of new information. We need rest, and to slow down from time-to-time. In the end, whether I learn plenty or very little, I will still be better off than when I began the journey.

And that’s another thing: Learning is a lifelong journey. Don’t be afraid that you’ll fail, or that you won’t learn enough. By keeping at your pursuits, you not only give yourself more time to learn (longer life), but the means to achieve your wildest dreams (increased income). And when you look back, you’ll certainly do so with a smile.

...

I apologize for the delay in having this posted. For whatever reason, I was unable to transfer this from a draft to an official post until now. I posted this on my Tumblr yesterday to remedy the situation, and am happy to see the issue has been resolved here.

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Thu, 19 Sep 2013 21:56:13 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/learn-something-new
On Music http://sett.com/runnersravings/music By Steven Chaffin, Jr.

Music is different from television, from books, from every other form of entertainment. Watching your favorite TV show, you become one with the character, the plot, and the atmosphere. For twenty minutes or more, your life is put on hold as you embark on someone else’s journey.

With books of worth, you are introduced to a world other than our own. You meet new people, learn their stories, and follow them throughout a plot as mysteries unfold, truths are understood, and conflicts are settled. You are lost in uncharted waters as your imagination meets the lines on the page for the first time, entering into a dialogue with the elaborate imagination that wrote them.

The immediate world ceases to exist.

:: What Makes Music Unique ::

Music enhances. We need not relinquish the beauty of the present to enjoy the beauty of the harmony. We need not look at a screen, or focus on the fragile turning by our hands. Walking down the street, headphones in, lends itself to limitless possibilities. Limitless perspectives by which one person can see the very same world. Music can make you angry, it can make you cry. It can make you irrational, it can make you rebel.

The danger of music lies in its ability to strike our hearts and minds simultaneously, to change our minds on important issues and govern our judgment. Stemming from this threat, from this argument to disband music forever, is the reason why music is so crucial.

Music can calm the preoccupied. It can enter the cluttered mind, and, if only for a moment, clear away the stresses of every day life and grant relief. It is an escape that can be experienced without escaping. The power to accomplish, to think, and to create, is still at your fingertips. You need not put your life on hold as you listen to a beautiful symphony, a brilliant melody.

The best tools are often directly in front of us. When you’re feeling blue, doubtful, or unwanted, remember the uplift music can so effortlessly provide. When you’re lost, or stuck, remember how inspiring a good, simple song can be.

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Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:59:26 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/music
Food Log (12) http://sett.com/runnersravings/healthy-september12 Author's Note: From now on, you will be able to find my food logs by clicking the ‘Food Logs’ tab at the top of the site. I will update it daily, and it’ll make updating you on my progress much easier and to the point. This will allow me to focus my blog posts on other subjects, rather than what I’m eating everyday.

Here is what I ate today:

Breakfast

  • Green apple

Lunch

  • Salad built with spinach, sun dried tomato dressing, onions, tomatoes, and croutons
  • Red apple
  • Fritos

Mid-Afternoon Snack

  • Handful of almonds
  • (More than a) handful of Honey Nut Cheerios

Dinner

  • Fazoli’s Spaghetti with meat-free marinara sauce
  • Caesar salad
  • Breadstick

Late-Night Snack

  • Handful of Honey Nut Cheerios

In review: My eating the Caesar salad was a mistake, and I ordered it more or less subconsciously. There were no other salads available that sounded appetizing, and my other options were limited to pizzas, which are most obviously not vegan-friendly. In the future, I will instead forgo the side altogether, or take a risk on a less familiar option. On a brighter note, I learned that the sun dried tomato dressing (or something of a similar name) is phenomenal.

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Fri, 13 Sep 2013 14:24:20 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/healthy-september12
A Heartfelt Argument for Quitting Facebook http://sett.com/runnersravings/quitting-facebook By Steven Chaffin, Jr.

This posted is dedicated to a great friend of mine named Valerie. She worked hard to convince me that I was making the wrong decision by deleting my Facebook account, and I appreciate the time she took to do that.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, I deactivated my Facebook account. I did this to the confusion of some close friends, surrounded by a world dependent and hopelessly addicted to it.

I was given reason after reason why I should keep the account, why I should stop “being irrational” and come back to my senses. Here are some popular reasons:

  • You won’t stay informed.
  • You’ll lose contact with good friends.
  • You’ll miss opportunities.
  • You won’t be able to share content as easily.
  • You won’t stick to it, anyway.
  • We won’t be able to talk all the time.
  • You’ll be bored.
  • You’ll be criticized.
  • Eventually, you’ll need it.

These are some of the responses I received, especially from one friend, whose undying effort I greatly appreciate. I understand these fears, and I have shared them. This isn’t the first time I said goodbye to Facebook. I deactivated my account a couple of years ago in an air of rebellion, and at a time when quitting Facebook seemed to be the popular thing to do.

Time passed, boredom ensued, and I felt disconnected. I wondered what people were doing, and missed the mindless scrolling of a meaningless newsfeed, overflowing with information that would better be shared and enjoyed face-to-face. I came back to Facebook, eager to rejoin the mainstream.

And then a couple of months ago, I decided to delete my Facebook account and replace it with a new one. This, I thought, would help eliminate the distractions of Facebook and allow me to start over, friending only those people whose lives I was truly interested in. This helped for awhile, until old habit set in and I began friending people regardless of how connected to them I wanted to remain.

Facebook inevitably devolved into a distraction during a time in my life when distractions are unacceptable, in a time when I can be accomplishing great things and becoming the man I’ve always wanted to be. I cannot expect everyone to understand my decision to leave one of many social networks behind, but I will provide my view anyway, in hope that I will persuade others of the sanity of my cause, of the logic behind leaving behind a murderer of focus.

:: My Rebuttal ::

Staying informed is overrated. Those who have known me for an extended period of time know that this is an odd statement for me to be making. I used to be highly informed, and am to this day a Time Magazine subscriber. That doesn’t mean that it’s necessary. I stay informed because it gives me a sense of compassion, it keeps me in perspective, and is fascinating to me. Seeing children scream and cry in the wake of chemical warfare in Syria is just one example of how staying informed allows me to appreciate the moment and have compassion for other human beings.

Reading up on global affairs from time to time does not justify the usage of Facebook, which rather informs me of what others around me are doing. Doesn’t this seem silly to anyone else? I have often posted in a Facebook group aimed at keeping residents of my dormitory in touch. We live right next to one another. Time to have some courage.

You’ll lose contact with good friends. The best of friendships will always survive. When two people want to remain in touch, they will, whatever the barrier. Any friendships that diminish as a result of my leaving Facebook were, in my honest opinion, fated to fade away.

You’ll miss opportunities. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed any worthwhile opportunities on Facebook. Even if I had, this wouldn’t deter me much. We live in a dynamic world with trillions of things happening at once. In our digital age, it is tempting to attempt to manage it all, to utilize our technology to remain ever connected in fear of missing the next big opportunity. In my experience, the real opportunities present themselves when we take a moment to slow down and look around.

I often contemplate the opportunities I’ve missed because of Facebook. I will not look back and wonder what I’m missing without it.

You won’t be able to share content as easily. A risk I’m willing to take. By being less connected, less perpetually distracted, the more time I will have to create great content. That, in my opinion, is of greater importance than being able to share it with a group of Facebook friends.

You won’t be able to stick to it. Try me.

We won’t be able to talk all the time. Yet another new mindset from the digital age. With the introduction of smartphones, laptops, and unlimited texting, it is easy to stay connected all the time. This is not always a good thing. I appreciate that I can talk to friends who live hours a way at the click of a button, and that I can stay in touch with my family, who I greatly miss, but nowhere does that imply the desire to communicate constantly.

Constant communication is, in most ways, negative. Many of my past relationships fell to pieces in large part because of a desire, either mutual or not, to be ubiquitous to one another. Tensions rose, trust diminished, and an otherwise great relationship became unbearable. I prefer to communicate infrequently, and make it count when I do.

You’ll be bored. I think the opposite. There are so many wonderful things I want to do, and it’s impossible for me to embark on all these journeys at once. It’ll take a lifetime:

  • Learn more about music, to appreciate it more.
  • Write an eBook on something I’m passionate about.
  • Have workable programming skills.
  • Read books.
  • Write essays.
  • Write a fiction novel.
  • Travel the world, primarily South America.
  • Write a screenplay.
  • Write a series of short stories.
  • Volunteer, domestically and internationally.
  • Find the woman I love.
  • Start and raise a family.
  • Reduce my possessions.
  • Become great at blogging, through practice, like this.
  • Learn a language from Europe, South America, and Asia.
  • Run a marathon.
  • Run a ultra-marathon.
  • Skydive.
  • Scuba-dive.
  • Climb a mountain.
  • Explore a cave.
  • Go sailing.
  • Explore ruins around the world.
  • Live in a foreign country for at least a year.
  • Get into the best shape of my life.
  • Become vegan.

This is what I could come up with off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are more. I will not, for one moment, be bored.

You’ll be criticized. This used to inhibit me from doing a great many things (like going vegan) in the past. When I realized how much it was limiting me, I vowed to push back. I have, and it’s been wonderful.

You’ll need it. Facebook might be gone, but I have a wonderfully working smartphone that I can reached by. I also have Twitter, email, Tumblr and a slew of other distractions still active. I haven’t set up a tent in an obscure area of the world, and have not become a hermit. I simply see Facebook as a waste of time that I am too lacking in discipline to stay away from without deleting it altogether.

As David from 37signals once wrote,

"If you want it bad enough, you’ll make the time, regardless of your other obligations. Don’t let yourself off the hook with excuses. It’s too easy and, to be honest, nobody cares on the other side."

See that long list of hopes, dreams, and ambitions? I have a lot of work to do. The question is whether or not I want them enough. I think I’ve given you my answer.

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Fri, 13 Sep 2013 03:53:43 +0000 http://sett.com/runnersravings/quitting-facebook