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Increase Your Powers of Observation

Increase Your Powers of Observation

    My husband and I were walking down a busy street in downtown Chicago.  Suddenly, my husband gasped.

    “What?” I said.

    “You didn’t see that?”

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    “No, what are you talking about?”

    “In front of us.  A bird just swooped down and tried to grab a sandwich out of that woman’s hand.”

    “No kidding, that’s crazy!”

    “You’re really not that observant, you know that?”

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    He was right.  Even though I’m a writer and have been told countless times that keener observation makes for more interesting prose, this is not my strong suit.  When I’m out and about, I’m usually in my head too much to carefully process what’s going on around me.

    You may naturally focus inward, but when you’re at work, being a great observer is critical to your success.  You will be better able to size up what’s working and what isn’t, and adapt your approaches to fit your environment.  It’s also easier for good observers to pick up on unspoken messages and cues, resulting in stronger and more empathetic relationships with other people.

    One of my New Year’s resolutions is to practice some techniques that colleagues and friends have shared.  Maybe they will help you too.

    Be mindful

    Once a day, pick a time to relax in a quiet, peaceful place.  Close your eyes and let the tension in your muscles go.  Try to stop all of the activity in your mind, instead focusing on your breathing and the sounds and smells around you.  Acknowledge how the space under you feels.  If your mind begins to wander, gently pull yourself back to the present and stay there for 15 minutes or more.

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    Sit in a public place and journal

    Take a few minutes to sit in the park, library, or shopping mall.  Really see the people around you and pay attention to what they’re wearing, how they’re walking, and the interactions they have with others.

    Record the details coming through your senses, such as the construction work that just began one street over, or a late customer banging on the door of a closed store.  Write whatever comes to mind, including how the scene makes you feel.

    Create stories

    When commuting on the train or waiting in line, observe the strangers in the vicinity.  Take note of their characteristics and behavior and imagine what their lives are like – where they live, what they do for a living, who their family members are, etc.  You can do the same thing with photos of people you spot in magazines or online.

    Eat consciously

    Instead of wolfing down your lunch while working at your desk, have a meal with no distractions – even conversation.  Eat slowly as to observe how the food smells and tastes, and its texture as you chew.

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    Walk instead of drive

    Walking allows you to interact more with your environment, which is helpful in honing observation skills.  Note the weather, the amount of commercialization and traffic, the influence of nature, and whether the scene around you is calm or chaotic.  Guess what urban planners, residential developers, or landscape architects had in mind when they designed the locale.

    Take off your headphones

    Similarly, while in transit on foot or in a vehicle, you can better observe your surroundings and listen to interesting conversation and noises if you aren’t devoting all of your attention to your iPod.

    Consume entertainment actively

    It’s tempting to zone out while listening to a favorite song or watching a great movie.  But once in a while, it’s smart to practice your observation skills by thinking about the meaning behind a songwriter’s lyrics, or what the director was getting at when s/he shot a scene a particular way.  This may also help you enjoy your entertainment more fully!

    (Photo credit: Macro shot of a woman’s green eye via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2018

    10 Benefits of Deadlifts You Probably Never Knew

    10 Benefits of Deadlifts You Probably Never Knew

    The Deadlift. It is the quintessential weightlifting exercise. According to David Robson, a bodybuilder, personal trainer and contributor to Bodybuilding.com,

    “In my experience as an athlete, and based on the results witnessed by many of my personal training clients, the deadlift, if performed correctly, will build unparalleled mass while strengthening all the major muscles groups.

    Yes, many will argue that the squat is the King of Exercises, and will contribute to more strength and size gains than any other exercise.

    While it is true that the squat does rank as one of the best size builders (and on this basis alone should be included in everyone’s program), the deadlift, in my opinion, builds the upper and lower body like no other movement.”

    The deadlift is done by simply grasping your free-weight bar (with as many weights as you can feasibly – not comfortably – lift) and lifting up until your standing up with the bar hanging in front of you, arms extended.

    1. Increased Fat Burning

    Alwyn Cosgrove, a personal trainer and fitness author, recently wrote about a study where: “Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).

    The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn’t result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.”

    Lifting weights and resistance training will burn more fat than just dieting or dieting with cardio exercise alone.

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    2. Better Posture

    Deadlifting increases your core strength and adds to core stability, according to Robson. Deadlifting targets all of the muscles responsible for your posture and enables you to keep your back straighter during regular daily activities.

    3. More Muscles Worked

    The Deadlift works more muscles than any other exercise, including the squat. The lift engages all of the major muscle groups, according to exercise physiologist Kevin Farley. If you need to do one exercise, this is the one to do. The Deadlift works your lower and upper body, including your back muscles.

    4. Increased Real Life Lift

    When you do other lifting exercises, like a bench press, for example, you’re not doing anything you might really do in real life. When are you ever going to have the need to lay on your back and push something in the air — unless you’re giving your two-year-old “flying lessons.” The Deadlift develops the muscles you need to actually carry something, like a bucket of water, those heavy grocery bags or your neighbor’s dining room table.

    5. It’s Safe

    The Deadlift is one of the safest weightlifting exercises you can perform. You aren’t going to get pinned under the weight or have to worry about it pulling you over backwards. If you get into trouble, you can simply drop it…making for a loud bang, no doubt, but no damage. You also don’t have to have a spotter to perform this exercise.

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    6. Improved Grip Strength

    According to Outlaw Fitness:

    “Deadlifts are renowned for their ability to build massive amounts of grip strength, and for good reason. Your fingers are literally the only things connecting you to the weight of the bar. Your forearms have to work incredibly hard as you progress in weight to keep the bar from falling out of your hands. Subsequently your grip strength grows by leaps and bounds.”

    7. Increases Hormones

    Now don’t worry, these aren’t the hormones that will make you more emotional! Instead, by doing at least 8 to 10 repetitions of Deadlifts with significant weight, you can increase the amount of testosterone and growth hormone produced by your body.

    Testosterone increases muscle growth and improves muscle repair while growth hormone, which is produced by your pituitary gland, promotes tissue healing, bone strength, muscle growth and fat loss.

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    8. Cheap and Easy

    A lot of exercises require a lot of equipment, special shoes or whatever. Not the Deadlift. Just a bar with some weight. Pick it up. Simple. You can usually find freeweights and a bar at a thrift store – or being given away by a friend – making it even cheaper.

    9. Increased Cardio

    Believe it or not, doing 10 repetitions of Deadlifts will increase your cardiovascular ability. You might want to make sure you have somewhere to sit down when you’re done!

    10. Prevents Injury

    The Deadlift can help prevent injuries by increasing the strength of your muscles around critical tendons and ligaments. Supporting joints with strong muscles is crucial to preventing injury, especially in the hamstrings and lower back, according to Outlaw Fitness.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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