Why You Should Surround Yourself with the Right People

Menander of Athens, one of those old bearded Greek dramatists we’re so fond of quoting, put it like this:

“Bad company corrupts good character.”

There’s certainly truth to the snappy phrasing above. But, there’s also sufficient depth to it to make it worthwhile digging down into this statement for more of the wisdom that it undoubtedly holds.

If we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, then, while bad company corrupts good character, the reverse must also be true. 

Here are just a few of the things to look out for when examining the relationships you maintain in your life.

Begrudgers Will Drag You Down

Getting anywhere in life is hard. In business, our relationships, skills development, nothing is for free. In whatever sphere of life you care to examine, progress requires the overcoming of obstacles, time and time again.

When we surround ourselves with people who tear us down with snide comments or who throw unworthy temptations into our path to distract us, we create more obstacles for ourselves.

There are already sufficient stumbling blocks in life without willingly adding more. This is a compelling reason why it is worth the effort to seek out the right people to spend your time with.

The right people are in tune with our goals, even if they don’t share the same goals. Supportive people help us on our path to self-realisation rather than hinder us.

Welcome into your life those who will be part of your support system. Just don’t forget to return the favour!

Embrace Good Role Models to Find Your Path

A peek into the bedrooms of teenagers around the world will reveal some important insights into human nature. I’m not talking about the unholy mess or that mouldy sandwich in the corner. I’m talking posters. 

Teenagers love papering their bedroom walls with pin-ups of their idols. Stars of the big stages and screens of the world, influential political figures, and inspiring writers peer out from their perches in the bedrooms of adolescents across the globe.

See, the teens are onto something. They realise the truth of the phrase – you can’t be it if you can’t see it. As they struggle to find their way in the world, the young find heroes to emulate; role models to aspire to be like.

As adults, we sometimes expect to become the ‘hero of our own movie’ right off the bat. We forget that we can still learn from the lives of others too. We forget that we should learn from the lives of others.

While weak people often find the success of others intimidating and a reminder of their own comparative shortcomings, the wise know that they have much to learn from the efforts of others.

Share in the Lives of Others

Like anything we do regularly, friendships can become a habit. While some habits are good for us, others may drag us down. As we evolve and develop within our lives, it’s essential to take stock and examine the people we choose to spend time with and how they affect our evolution and development.

A fully-lived life requires others to share those meaningful moments with; not just the triumphs and celebrations but the hardships and failures too.

When we find just the right people, our lives become enriched. Our journey around the sun then becomes a much more meaning-filled adventure than it would have been otherwise.

The Importance of Physical Activity During Stressful Times

Nothing takes its toll on the body, mind, and spirit quite like stress does.

The symptoms of stress can run the gamut from restlessness and irritability to panic and even rage. We may suffer headaches and pain, a racing heart rate, muscle cramps, and even fainting spells. 

When stress becomes chronic, it is one of the leading contributors to the development of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

There’s no doubt about it. Stress kills.

Unfortunately, we now live in highly stressful times as the regular daily pressures of modern life are compounded by the seemingly endless restrictions and cycles of lockdowns in response to Covid-19. 

Our stress levels are understandably through the roof.

Luckily, despite all appearances, control over these swelling stress levels are still within our grasp. 

The answer lies in physical exercise.

Physical Activity and Stress Relief

If a man achieves victory over this body, who in the world can exercise power over him? He who rules himself rules over the whole world.

Vinoba Bhave

The effects of physical exercise for stress relief are well researched and documented. 

Here are just some of the reasons physical exercise has never been more critical than now in these difficult times.

1. Stabilise Your Mood

Not only does vigorous exercise reduce harmful stress hormones in the body, but it also helps the body increase production of the feel-good neurotransmitters known as endorphins. 

Though we are used to thinking of the body and mind as two distinct parts of our being, our mental wellbeing is inextricably tied up with our physical. So intertwined are they that vigorous physical exercise can trigger a more relaxed and calm mental state in us.

Psychologists are well aware of this phenomenon, and they even have a name for it. They call it The Exercise Effect.

2. Improve Your Sleep

Stress and anxiety are two of the leading causes of poor sleep. When we are worried and anxious are thoughts tend to run away from us. We propel ourselves needlessly into a hypothetical future of disasters and catastrophes, triggering our bodies to produce damaging stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the process. 

Not only that, but we deprive ourselves of the rest and relaxation so desperately needed to help us manage the increasing pressures we endure in our daily lives. 

Have you noticed how much more reactive and irritable you are when you’re tired? Sufficient sleep is essential for effective stress management. 

Fortunately, physical exertion has been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Exercise is also credited with raising our energy levels throughout the day, ensuring we can cope in even the most trying of circumstances.

3. Enhance Your Cognitive Function

It’s one of life’s cruel ironies that it is when we most need to think clearly that it is the most difficult for us to think at all. 

Proper mental functioning is essential for effective stress management, but this can seem an impossible task when the pressure is on.

Exercise helps us gain that much-needed clarity by increasing blood flow everywhere in our body, including in the brain. 

This extra blood flow means more energy and oxygen to boost our mental performance when we need it most.

4. Increase Your Self Esteem

Sticking to an exercise routine will give you back a sense of control over your life. You will regain that essential sense of being the master of your own fate. The very thing that has been stolen from us in the current climate.

Personal autonomy is a crucial aspect of our self-esteem. Exercise can give this back to us.

Every weightlifter knows about hypertrophy. This is the process whereby muscle fibres are stressed just to the right point to force them to grow thicker and stronger. 

Physical exercise teaches you to build resilience and develop the inner strength required to emerge front these stressful times as a stronger and more robust individual.

Staying Positive in the Uncertainty of Lockdown

The uncertainty of our times is perhaps the most significant challenge we face.

The stop/start nature of the seemingly unending series of lockdowns can test the mettle of even the most optimistic among us.

So, how can you maintain a positive outlook when the cloud of ever-recurring lockdowns looms heavy overhead?

Is it even possible?

Yes. Not only is it possible, but it is essential. 

Let’s look at a few powerful practices to help keep a positive mindset in these testing times.


If you want to get your mind right, get your body right first.

Vigorous exercise releases endorphins into the bloodstream. These ‘feel-good’ chemicals act as pain relief and help produce a feeling of well-being in the brain.

The mood-boosting effects of exercise will help you avoid getting bogged down in the mud of anxiety and depression.

Get moving and keep moving.

Cultivate an Optimistic Outlook

Optimists live longer. According to recent research, up to 15% longer on average. 

A shift in your outlook doesn’t only improve your health and longevity. It makes your life more enjoyable too.

Easier said than done, though, right?

Optimism is about the cultivation of a positive mindset. Try to focus on the positives of any given situation.

Stuck in lockdown? Be grateful for the extra time it affords you to work on your goals.

Miss your friends and family? Take a moment to nurture these relationships by letting the important people in your life know how much they mean to you.

Find the silver lining in every cloud; this is the mission and the mark of the optimist.

Limit Social Media Use and News Consumption

24-hour news cycles and social media are a combination dangerous to our mental health, particularly in times such as these.

We’re hardwired to focus on danger and the signs of trouble. 

It’s an evolutionary impetus that has kept us in the game since the earliest times. However, our instinct for focusing on the negatives and the threats in our environment can also be our undoing.

Sure, you might need to know the latest restrictions to keep yourself on the right side of law enforcement, but do you really need to check Facebook every 15 minutes?

The constant torrent of information and counter-information can get exhausting and demoralising.

Consume the media sparingly – don’t be wholly consumed by it.

Embrace Nature

The regenerating power of nature is undoubted. Ideally, spend some time in the park or your garden.

However, if this isn’t possible, there are still options.

Stand on your balcony and soak up some fresh air first thing in the morning. Even open a window, sit near it for a while, and listen to the birds.

No birds? No problem. You’ll find recordings of birdsong easily online. Simply close your eyes and allow your imagination to generate the natural world for you.

Unquestionably, these are challenging times. But, as the old Persian adage has it, This too shall pass. Don’t lose sight of this simple fact.

Remember to check in with yourself throughout the day. 

If you find negativity is swamping you, take a moment to gently guide your thoughts towards those things in life you are grateful for – and there are plenty of things worthy of your gratitude.

Remember too, that it is only when faced with resistance that we can grow stronger. 

See the opportunity in the difficulties that lie ahead and seize it.

What I Learnt in the World’s Longest Lockdown

“The Obstacle Is the Way.” 

From the Buddhists of the East to the Stoic philosophers of the West, each culture has some version of this wisdom.

The unprecedented lockdowns that have marked the past year and a half are ongoing for many of us. Undoubtedly, they’ve thrown a huge, pandemic-sized spanner in the works for nearly all of us. 

But, these various obstacles that lie in our path have also created unprecedented opportunities for those who gain the perspective to see them.

As in Muay Thai, in lockdowns, angles are critical.

The clinch begins where boxing ends. In that tight, cramped, and claustrophobic space, the untrained struggle against a feeling of suffocation and helplessness. 

Kicking and punching are no longer options.

For the Muay Thai fighter, though, the clinch offers a world of options not available to the mere kickboxer – elbows, knees, sweeps, tosses, or the application of unrelenting pressure, to name but a few. 

In this close-quarter world, the Nak Muay doesn’t focus on what he or she can’t do, but on what they can.

So, ask yourself, what openings for attack can you spot in the 50/50 clinch of these seemingly endless cycles of restrictions? 

How can you metaphorically advance your position to the Thai plum, where you can smash this lockdown into a final, bloodied defeat?

Look no further.

First, Get Organized

Do you remember the pre-lockdown world? Did you get around to everything during those blue-skied days of freedom? 

I doubt it.

Lockdown is the perfect time to get your stuff together finally. Have you struggled with your diet but have always been too busy to set up those healthier eating habits? 

Now is the time to get the recipes and skills you need to take your diet up a level.

They say, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. With the silence that lockdown offers, get strategic. When the heavy weight of these strange times lifts (and it will lift!), you want to hit the ground running. Get organized now.

Sharpen the Blade

When a swordsmith forged a samurai’s katana back in the day, the sharpening of the blade was no joke. Many, many hours were spent honing the blade against grinding stones. Often, years were spent on a sword before it ever saw battle.

Likewise, though training with your teammates may not be an option right now, self-training is always an option.

Whatever your sport, you can improve your fitness in all areas during a lockdown. You need no special equipment or huge spaces to increase your cardiovascular fitness, strength or flexibility.

Not only will this make the transition back to the gym easier when things reopen, but you will maintain (and indeed, improve) your mental and physical help despite the challenges.

Add to Your Skillset

Learning doesn’t stop when we leave school. The real path of the fully-realised human is that of a lifelong learner.

Online learning has taken off at an exponential pace. High-level education is no longer restricted to those who can afford to pay the exorbitant prices unis charge.

These days it is possible to learn almost anything, often for free, virtually. 

While the world sleeps – master a new skill.

Create a Business Plan

If the lockdown has forced you to work from home and you’ve always had aspirations to start your own business but never found the time, this is the time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was any worthwhile business venture. This is the perfect opportunity to do the market research, sort schedules, check out the competition; in fact, any of the million and one little things required to make an ambition a reality.

But, as with so many things in life, start with a well-thought-out, strategic plan.

Don’t Lose to the Lockdown

Whatever you decide to do with this gift of limited distractions and unlimited time that lockdown offers, think like a fighter. 

Stay in the fight, exploit the openings, and when the final bell rings, you’ll surely see your hand raised.

How to Stay Resilient During Lockdown

Resilience is a key determinant of survival. 

Like so many virtues, resilience is as much a skill as it is a trait. During lockdown, not only can you maintain your reserves of resilience, you can build upon them too.

Here’s how!

1. Cultivate Positive Relationships

No man is an island, entire of itself.”

John Donne

Solitary confinement is frequently considered a cruel form of punishment for good reason. Even the most introverted among us need to maintain relationships with others.

It’s no surprise the recent spate of lockdowns has landed a heavy blow to public mental health.

Luckily, it is still possible to maintain healthy relationships and build upon them and forge new ones, especially with the wealth of technological tools at our fingertips.

This is unchartered territory for many of us. Take the initiative and check in with friends and family members. Join online interest groups. Texts, email, and phone and video calls are all great ways to keep in touch. 

Let the people in your life know you are still there, and you still care – even if you won’t be able to visit for a while. 

2. Get Your Mind Right

Your relationship with yourself is as important as your relationship with others. Take time out to get your mind straight. 

A positive attitude starts with your thoughts. Avoid watching endless hours of doom and gloom on the news. Find the time to meditate – there are a ton of available apps to assist.

Breathing exercises are another great way to calm your central nervous system. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 6 seconds to slow your breathing rate to six breaths per minute. Repeat this for five minutes per day.

3. Stay Strong

I get it. The gyms are closed, and even the public park may be out of bounds, but that’s no reason to let all your muscles atrophy. 

It’s never been easier to work out at home. You don’t even need specialist equipment. Bodyweight workouts are all the rage for good reason.

Shadowboxing, stretching, pushups, and planks are also great ways to keep your body strong during lockdown. 

You’ll find a wealth of useful resources online to help you put together your own tailored programme. Maybe your lack of flexibility has been holding you back? Check out a yoga channel on YouTube. 

When the gyms open again, you’ll be high-kicking like Peter Aerts in his prime!

4. Rest Up

Look for the silver lining. In a lockdown, you’ll likely have fewer demands on your time – take advantage!

Rest is essential to maintain optimum physical and mental health and preserve your resilience. Early to bed, early to rise, and you can’t go wrong.

These four elements will provide a shape and predictability to your day to optimise your sense of control during uncertain times. They will help you not only emerge refreshed from these difficult times but ready to get stuck back into life’s fray, all the stronger for the experience.

For more online training content follow me on instagram: @philliplaimuaythai

Lockdown Day 4 – Overcoming Adversity Part 2

Feeding your mind.

The other day, my girlfriend said to me “if it wasn’t for everything in the media, today would feel like a normal day at home.” I pondered for a while and realised how true this was. We become our thoughts, we encompass what we watch and believe what we think. Day 4 of Stage 2 lockdown, and with a steadily increasing number of cases each day, the prognosis is becoming more grim. I could spend all day at home worrying about all the bad things that may happen, or I could focus on what I am grateful for and do something useful for my own mind.

At the moment there is so much fear and uncertainty in the world. Uncertainty unleashes negative thoughts that can take over our minds and consume us. It can make us believe that we can’t change anything and feel defeated. It’s up to us to take back control of our thoughts. But how? You feed it with positivity. You can read feel-good books, listen to podcasts and watch ted talks. Feed your mind with something nutritious because you are what you eat. Get yourself an e-reader and start downloading books that you’ve never gotten around to reading. Not only will it change the way you think, but it will promote great personal development.

I always used to struggle with reading in high school. It wasn’t until my adult years where I discovered a love for reading. It was because I started exploring topics I enjoyed rather than those prescribed to me. I began reading books about communication and human behaviour. That’s where I discovered my passion for reading and a thirst for knowledge.

Everyday we get to choose our thoughts and how they are influenced; by what you watch on tv, what you read on your phone, who you talk to and who you surround yourself with. You need to stand guard for your own mind and decide what you want to let in. If you let negativity in, then the weeds will appear and your thoughts will become overgrown. In a time when it may be easy to think “why did this happen to me?” instead, ask yourself “what is this trying to teach me?”

So tomorrow morning, rather than turning on the television only to get bombarded with doom and gloom from the media, spend the first 20 minutes of your day paying gratitude to something in your life, meditate, read, or watch something positive.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn


Lockdown Day 1 – Over coming adversity

Over coming adversity starts with feeding the spirit.

The way to feed your spirit is to find what you are grateful for. There is rejuvenation in the spirit when when we stop taking things for granted. So many of us focus on what’s going wrong in our lives (including myself) and forget to see the beauty in what we already have. We focus on the 1% negatives of the day rather than the 99% of the positives in our day. If we can take time to reflect and reflect on what we are grateful for then we will have a whole new perspective on life.

Everyday we wake up and we are bombarded with the negativity in the world and constantly checking for updates, all we see on social media and hear about in public is the death toll rising, when we go to sleep at night we hear reports about how bad things are getting. Then when things get worse we complain about how bad things keep happening to us. It’s not that bad things keep happening, it’s just that we keep focusing on the negative and what keeps going wrong. I am notorious about whinging about the negatives and sometimes let it get to me. The recent events has made me realise how lucky I actually am to have a roof over my head, food to eat and people who love me

Today I am grateful for having a beautiful supportive girlfriend who has been supportive of everything I do in life, my family, and the opportunity to share Martial Arts with the community Denis and I have created at ACSA Melbourne.

Even though we are faced with physical isolation it doesn’t mean we have to go through this alone. We can finally use social media for what it was designed for and connect us in times like this. It will allow members to support each other and reach out and share problems we might have faced alone. We don’t have to go through these tough times alone.

Things are tough at the moment but they won’t last. They will probably get worse before they get better. Keep your mind positive and support one another. We can get through this.