Keeping your head high is a metaphor for all departments of life. It’s the ultimate challenge we face as humans; can you keep looking forward, and up, no matter how much your waning spirit is trying to tug your head down?
This is most obvious in the literal sense. How common is it to see people approach crowds and social settings and start displaying symptoms of withdrawal; head droops subconsciously as you second guess your place among the others. Some even try to avoid such an occasion, crossing the street when approaching a group of strangers, trying to talk themselves out of social events.
Few people even realise they’re doing it. The challenge is to keep practising the art of physically keeping your head high. Scan the horizon as you walk. Lift your phone up to eye level instead of rolling down to look at it. Keep reaching the crown of your head higher as you sit or stand. Tell yourself this will make you an inch taller – who would turn down an extra inch of height? (I’ll forgive anyone who reads this who happens to be over 6’8″/2.03m for not agreeing).
Although this seems very menial, my point is: this is the first step on the ladder to an enriched life. No ladder can be conquered if the first few steps are missing.
Posture is not only a manifestation of your habits with regards to body positioning, but an even bigger manifestation of your very thoughts……..
I don’t want to be the center of attention. My posture has changed. I walk with my head down and shoulders slumped. Suddenly I carry myself as if I’m ashamed of something. – Randy Harrison
(RELATED READING: Fixing ‘gorilla posture’ – the DEFINITIVE guide)
Exercising with your head high
Being cognisant of your head position when you’re in the gym, or exercising in any fashion for that matter, is something only reserved for the wise. The experienced. Those who do this know something; they know just how much where you look affects your strength and performance.
Let’s use balance as a primary example. One of the ‘tips of the trade’ with balance exercises is keeping the eye gaze fixated on a single point. When you do this, you simply will not lose your head alignment. Imagine walking a tightrope while looking up, down and to each side every 3 seconds as you walk. I just hope you’ve got a sound safety harness.
Moving down the exercise complexity pecking order, we’ll use the plank as an example. How many do you see planking while looking at their feet? 2 out of 3? Notice how that encourages rounding of the upper back. Considering a plank is an exercise all about alignment, this is NOT what the doctor ordered.
Ideal head positioning for planking (credit: taskercise.com)
The pull up is another fitting example. With the plank it’s rare to see anyone hyper-extending their neck (looking up excessively), but when it comes to pull ups, we get both ends of the spectrum! People being slaves to their egos and needing to claim double figures for their max rep count, while tossing their head back like they’re having an orgasm just to get their chin level with the bar. I shouldn’t need to tell you this is A) dangerous for your neck and B) compromising your strength.
Flipping it around for a second, you get people looking down as they pull up, causing the chest to collapse and thus denying yourself of a full contraction of the upper back. I’ve been there and it was a nasty habit to free myself from. But having done so has made my pull up strength not only improve, but feel much more fluent.
With exercise, it’s all about looking as strong as possible. Letting your head drop or over-extend detracts from this image. When you look strong, you feel strong – and when you feel strong you usually are strong.
The take home is this: Whatever exercise you’re doing, always keep that head up slightly and your gaze forward. Don’t look down. You’re better than that.
And by getting these first two steps right, it sets you up to handle the bigger challenges of life…..
Metaphorically keeping your head high.
Note: This will be more spiritual in nature.
How many times have you hit what you’ve perceived to be a wall in life, one that seemed indestructible or many rows of bricks too high? Where the outcome didn’t align with the image formulated in your head.
The first voice you hear is the voice of the coward:
- Maybe it’s my fate
- Perhaps I’m not good enough
- Nothing good happens to me
- Find something new
- I can’t try again and fail
- Maybe I should settle for less
- I’m entitled to feel sorry for myself
These thoughts cause problems because they conflict with the heart’s true desires. These thoughts are an example of what Seth Godin calls ‘The Lizard Brain’. The lizard brain is within us all. It’s a branch of the brain that likes familiarity. It wants us to exist in the nice, safe bubble of normality. If you take no risks, there’ll be no harm. The lizard brain is very good at seeing what could go wrong, but it’s woeful at seeing what may go right.
We can talk about the heart as an involuntary muscle that it is, or we can talk about it as the driving force of your actions. We’ll choose the latter. I see the heart as our desire cabinet. Often times the heart and the lizard brain are in combat. This opposite directional pull creates torsion in our souls. This torsion, if unaddressed or untreated, can be debilitating. It can lead to an unfulfilled life – one of regret and wonder. A pain sharper than any physical pain on this earth.
So how do we overcome this destructive cycle? How do we keep our head high despite tripping?
It’s all in the approach. How you perceive a situation determines how you overcome it. Can you find meaning in the seemingly meaningless? Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning is perhaps the most publicized example of this on a grand scale. He managed to find a meaning, a purpose, in the most dire of circumstances.
My personal approach is to see a setback as a test of your love for something. Is your desire to have something, or get somewhere, strong enough to withstand the emotion of falling short and having to find the courage to reassess yourself, and accept your faults and wrong-doings, however many times it may need?
Setbacks and falls are just signs you’re not ready for the trophy yet. Why should you have the trophy without wanting it? Everyone wants something until they see the prerequisites for having it. One of them is the ability to prove your want by withstanding being denied it. Whenever I failed in things I cared about, I didn’t wallow in self-pity and tears, I would marvel at the fact that I wanted to be back trying again because I couldn’t comprehend the idea of not having it.
Perhaps ‘passion’ is the word I’m looking for.
If the obstacle seems impossible to overcome, you just don’t have enough passion. With enough passion you can conquer anything.
As my dad used to say, “Chin up, lad. Chin up.”