How Long Can You Focus on Something?

March 21, 2023

I suspect that most of you will say something like, “Oh, 15 or 20 minutes”.  Let’s do an experiment.

Choose something you can focus on. It could be as simple as looking at a picture or watching the second hand on the clock. Start your clock function on your phone and choose the stopwatch function. Now focus means concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of any other thoughts. When a thought other than what you are concentrating on appears that is the end of your focus. Start concentrating on what you are focusing on and start your stopwatch. When you get that stray thought in your consciousness, like, “I’m thirsty or I’m hungry. I could use a coffee” your focus is broken. How long did it take?

For most people it is between 5 and 10 seconds. It is almost impossible to focus for more than a few minutes without training and practice. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have great powers of focus. Measure it and be aware of your distracting thoughts and distracting things in your background.

The ability to focus for long periods of time is the heart of genius. Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist, often said that the reason he was so good at what he did was that he had learned to concentrate for long periods of time.

The point is that it is necessary to learn how to focus well and not be distracted. Even if you get distracted for a few seconds go back to focusing on what you were working on. Push your limits every time you work on something. Develop a kind of reflex that shunts distracting thoughts to later. When a distracting thought pops up say “Later” and go back to your focus. Gradually your focus will improve.

Remember you have 2 to 3 thousand thoughts per hour that are trying to invade your consciousness. Learn to shunt them elsewhere. Especially minimize the thoughts that say, “I need a break. I’ll watch some TV.” Those seconds you can focus on are precious. It only takes a second to decide and start a monumental task. Cherish your focus times and cultivate the skill to focus.


For even more help in your transformation from pain to a pain free life, you can go here.



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March 14, 2023

I assume that you did the exercise I gave you last week. You should have a list of phrases that popped up while you went through your day. And I hope you have some patterns you’ve identified. What I mean by this is things you say to yourself when things are hard, like at the beginning of a task.

Let’s list some common phrases you might meet under pressure.

  1. This won’t count -it doesn’t matter.
  2. This is just too hard.
  3. You aren’t good enough. Let’s relax.
  4. If I fail in this people will think I’m not good enough.
  5. For all this effort I won’t get much.
  6. Don’t let anyone know I can’t do this.
  7. Do it later. Let’s play now.

These are common thoughts our minds kick out for most humans. You probably have more but I bet you have some of these, especially 1,2,3 and 7. If you don’t have any of these kind of negative thoughts then you aren’t the usual human. If that is the case then understanding motivation may not be a necessity. If you do have motivation issues that is if you want to do something and you are being frustrated then I suggest you haven’t heard that voice in your head. Monitoring your thoughts is a skill  that requires effort and honesty. Keep monitoring yourself. If you do this regularly you will become sensitive to these negative thought and will hear them without the alarm.

If these thoughts exist for you what do you do about them.

I suggest simple counters that are rational and deal with the negative thoughts which are really negative emotions. Here are some counters.

  1. Counter: Remind yourself that power of will is generated by working with small units of time and effort. One small step is all you need take to multiply the power of your will.
  2. Counter: Something being hard is just a judgement not a truth. The hardest task starts with one small step, one small task. Focus on the now.
  3. Counter: When this pops up remind yourself that the average person can do extraordinary things if he breaks it down to small tiny tasks and focuses on them.
  4. Counter: No one can discredit me except me. Just focus on the task.
  5. Counter: Worrying about the reward is putting the last step first. You define your goal, break down the goal in bite size pieces and concentrate on the pieces.
  6. Hiding your lack of skill or knowledge or pretending you have knowledge prevents you from getting the knowledge. Learn to say to this thought that I don’t have this skill, but I can get it!
  7. Probably the worst negative tape of all. Remind yourself that all you have is time and energy. When this tape pops up say, “If I get my task done, I can do this other thing that I love with no guilt. My future relies on me using my time productively.”

There are other counters that work better for you. Try to come up with them. It is fun. Remember; you are trying to multiply your will power by using your energy and time intelligently.

Learn to Monitor your thoughts. It will change your life.

To a life of awareness.


For even more help in your transformation, you can go here.



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Now, let’s get back to obtaining the motivation to exercise daily.

We all have peaks and valleys in our days and weeks. Some weeks our energy is high and all the things we want to accomplish flow easily.  Some weeks our energy is low, and we have to rely on our will to push us through towards our goals.

When we are in the low energy state or even medium energy it just seems harder to get things done. What is the solution to handling these states?

What do most of us do in this situation? The usual solution is to ingest more caffeine. Coffee or tea gives you a bit of a rush and is often enough to spike your energy enough for you to do what you need to do. Sometimes we distract ourselves with a video or a video game that tends to wake up our brain. The modern solution is to use our phones to talk to others and get a ‘high’ out of that.

The issue with these solutions is that they are short term fixes that don’t address why our energy state is lower today than yesterday.

The ultimate solution is raising our state to one of high energy. So how do you do that? You must ask some questions of yourself. Did I get enough sleep, and did I sleep well? Did I drink a lot of caffeine before bed? What kinds of things have I been reading or watching? Are those things inspirational and positive or are they violent and negative?

There are many ways to raise your energy but the first thing you must do is learn to listen to the voices in your head!  What goes through your head when you are working or starting to work on something? Or what does that voice say when the alarm goes off to do 30 minutes of exercise? Most of us don’t hear that voice but it is there, and it is either spurring you on or dragging you down.

The first skill you need is monitor skill. One of my first teachers on this used to say that you should pause and check in with yourself at least once an hour.

Here is an exercise you should try. Get yourself a small notebook. Set your smart phone to give you an alarm every hour. I use an app called BlipBlip that lets me choose a sound that I hear every hour. Take a moment when the alarm goes off what are you thinking? Write it down! If you do this for a few days two things will happen. 1) You will be amazed at how much negativity is in your thoughts, 2) you will start becoming more aware of that voice in your head, and 3) you will start identifying patterns of things you say to yourself – most of them negative.

Monitor skill is the first skill you need to create a mindset that lets you do what you want all the time. Please do this. You will be amazed at what you find as you learn to hear the voice in your head.

The next time we meet I’ll detail some of the more common messages that we hear in our heads that keep our energy low and ways to handle those negative messages in a constructive way.

To a good week and a life of movement.


For even more help in your transformation, you can go here.



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Can a Simple Exercise Change My Life?

February 28, 2023

We’ve been talking about motivation to exercise. For many of you the question pops up, “Can a simple set of exercises really affect my life and pain?” Here’s a personal story that shows that it can.

My father died at the age of 94 in 2019. This was longer than most people expected him to live. When he was 65, he had a big heart attack. A few months later he had a quadruple bypass surgery. His recovery was slow, and he was in a lot of pain. He was weak. Before the surgery he’d walked but didn’t do much else. When he was younger, he had exercised but it was sporadic.

By this time, I’d been doing martial arts for a long time. I went to visit him at one point, and we discussed his situation. “I’m so weak,” he said, “and I’m afraid I’m going to die soon.”

“Would you like to try something else?” I asked.

“Anything,” he replied.

I started him on a diet that he followed for the rest of his life. And I taught him a simple QiGong exercise called Swimming Dragon. It’s a simple exercise, subtle, but simple that came from the Shi family in Shanghai. I learned it from Dr. Shi and his daughter Melanie. I still do it to this day. For my father, I taught him the exercise and critiqued it until he did it well. I told him he needed to build up to 20 rounds a day (Each round takes 1 minute). He did this and for the rest of his life he did it every day.

When he would have a hospital trip he’d recover and then build back up to the 20 rounds a day. The other day my brother told me a story about my father coming back from a hospital trip where his weakened heart was causing problems. My brother called him on the phone and asked how he was doing.

“Pretty good, ” my dad replied. “I’m up to about 1/3 of full strength.”

“How do you know that?” my brother asked.

“Oh, easy. I normally do 20 rounds every day. Today I could do 7 rounds. So, I’m about a third of the way to full capacity.”

My brother was really impressed.

Now you are going to say that one exercise couldn’t do all of that. In fact, this is a very powerful though subtle exercise. It makes the spine more flexible. It teaches and creates good posture. It strengthens the legs and instructs you how to move with ease and grace. My father never had the problems with postural problems after using the Swimming Dragon.

I’m not trying to sell Swimming Dragon to you. I’m showing you that if you pick a good routine that strengthens posture and breath that joint and back pain will disappear.

My father came from the WWII generation. The life expectancy of guys who went through the war was bad. His four best friends all died a lot younger than Dad. His best friend died at the age of 52. All of them went through the war and they all had bad experiences that cut their lives shorter. My Dad had decent genes but the damage he did his heart was decreased by the daily exercise and diet he followed.

Pick something good that will sustain your posture. There is yoga, qigong, tai ji or other gentle martial arts. But do it every day. If you need help finding good teachers in these domains write me and I’ll send you to good people.

To your health.


For even more help in your transformation you can go here.



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Do You Dream about your goals?

February 21, 2023

“Friday night. I’m in the Air France departure gate at JFK. I don’t want to read so my head is back on the chair, my eyes closed. Behind me a couple are whispering in French. At first, I’m translating then like a switch suddenly I’m hearing and thinking in French. It’s been so long. A tear of joy rolls down my cheek. My senses open and I relax for the first time in 2 years. I rejoice and my heart opens. Eventually we board and I sit happily in my seat, anonymous, dreaming of France.”

This was a ‘dream’ I had before I returned to France after a long hiatus. I’d forgotten what I wanted and missed. When I realized I wanted to go back I wrote about it. More importantly I started dreaming about my return. Those dreams became part of the fuel for implementing my desire. If you wish my motivation.

Did all the dreams come exactly true? Of course not, but I sat in my cafes and bistros. I took classes. I spoke French every day and forgot English. I wallowed in my desired reality. But I dreamed first.

It’s incredibly difficult to obtain your desire; a pain free body and a body you like, without dreaming of it. Why is that? Because dreaming automatically gives you the emotion that is needed for action. You feel yourself being happy. You feel yourself excited to do something new. If you can’t dream about it with feeling the goal becomes static, without color. It’s the color and emotion in our lives that brings us joy.

Learn to dream about your desire.

As always there is help available if you need it.



If you are in pain or need some help, please contact me for classes or one on one help. All the best.


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Will You Will It?

February 14, 2023

We’ve been discussing the role of motivation in learning to exercise daily. We discussed the what, the why and the how of motivation. Part of the how is the emotional content. One of the problems of humans is believing that everyone is rational and just providing good reasons is enough to motivate you to do something.

But we know that isn’t true. All you must do is remember the last time you didn’t want to do something. Someone said to you, “We need to do this now!” and your response was, “I just don’t feel like it. I’ll do it later.” In certain situations, this can lead to shouting matches. If you are just dealing with yourself nothing happens. I mean NOTHING happens. The task doesn’t get done and either it just gets added to your list or gradually it gets dropped.

Goals are necessary but they must be fueled by emotion. The body needs emotion to express itself and to connect. This is the role of will. I could define will, but a story does it better.

In my book I tell Olivia’s story. I retell it here. Olivia was a young professional working in the medical field. She was 28 and had a one-year-old son. She was smart, ambitious, and hardworking. One day she collapsed. After a lot of medical tests, she was diagnosed with MS. At the time of diagnosis, she was in the hospital. She was in a lot of pain and was having trouble controlling her arms and legs. 

Her doctors said, “You’ll probably have to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.” They looked at her with pity.

She literally glared at them and said, “That’s not going to happen. I will be back in your office in one month and I’ll walk in.” She spent the next month working on her body and her mind. At her next appointment she walked into her doctors office. They couldn’t believe it. And more than 20 years later she still walks, runs and bicycles. She teaches taiji and qi gong and practices things that I’ve discussed. She still has pain but to her it is irrelevant. Some-days she struggles but it doesn’t stop her.

What was the fuel for her success? Her will. Will is a combination of the goal you desire and the emotional commitment for that goal. It is a decision you take. There is no alternative to what you will. Decision means cutting off. You decide by ignoring all options but the one you desire. It is emotional as well as rational. Without will you don’t have the energy to accomplish your tasks.

So, whatever you want emulate Olivia. Write it down and post it where you see it all the time. Burn it into your brain. I will…..

We will be talking about this more and the other components of getting your desire.

If you need help reach out.



If you are in pain or need some help, please contact me for classes or one on one help. All the best.


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Why Motivation is a Daily Thing

February 7, 2023

Let’s recap what we’ve said about motivation.

  1. We showed what it is; the energy to carry through an action to a goal.
  2. We talked about the why behind the motivation.
  3. And last week we talked about the how of becoming motivated.
  4. We also, discussed that posture is the cause of pain and designed exercise is the path to pain relief.
  5. Lastly, we showed that getting started occurs by designing little ‘tricks’ to jump start your actions.

But there is a problem. How many of you have joined a gym? You started with a lot of enthusiasm. You made some friends to talk to as you worked out and after the first week you feel great. Sore but great. But by month two you are only going twice a week and soon you stop altogether. What happened?

Our brains are goal machines. It isn’t enough for our brains to say my goal is going to the gym every day. It wants a feeling of accomplishment. That is what releases the dopamine. The problem is that you can get the dopamine rush by playing games on your smart phone. But that won’t get your posture correct or help your pain.

You must go back to the deeper goals behind the motivation. I recommend writing down your goals for health and fitness. Did you know that only ten percent of the population writes down their goals? And the studies show that if you write down your goals and actions that are associated with the goals, you have an 80% chance of being successful. How to do that?

Also, goals are a daily activity. Getting in touch with your goals every day guarantees that you have some motivation every day. If then you couple that activity with a particular daily goal your brain is really turned on!

Here is your task to keep motivated. Every day write your goals. In our case be specific about what you are striving to achieve. For example, “My goal is to be able to walk at least two miles with no hip pain”. With this goal you have specific actions you define to do that. In this case you may have a routine from my book that will lead to that goal. Then, for your daily goal you may say, “I will increase my deep squat hold by 10 seconds, at least.” You’ve now done several things. You’ve reminded yourself of your long-term goals for health. You’ve reminded yourself of what actions you must do daily for success. Lastly, you’ve given yourself a small daily goal. These little goals give your brain a shot of dopamine which helps with the energy of motivation.

In summary, motivation is a daily activity. Trying to rely on being motivated by something you thought about two months ago doesn’t work. What does work is the following.

  1. The daily practice of reviewing and stating your goals
  2. Reviewing the actions needed to get to your goals and
  3. Giving yourself a daily goal for today

Pick up your notebook and do it. If you need more help from me try these resources.



If you are in pain or need some help, please contact me for classes or one on one help. All the best.

To your improving health.


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