how presence can be strengthened (plus six other muscles you never knew you had)

HowPresenceCanBeStrengthenedTo tell the truth, I have a pretty random desired outcome on my life goals list (yes, though I don’t take goals too seriously, I do have a list that I put some fun things on from time to time): To be free of dental work until I’m 70. 

Why you ask?

I’m not really sure. I just decided that it’s something that might be possible if I’m diligent about brushing and flossing regularly.

Having this vision now inspires me to be more proactive about flossing than I might otherwise be if I didn’t have this super specific outcome in mind.

By committing to the simple act of flossing regularly, I know I’m likely to strengthen my dental health compared to flossing infrequently or not at all.

Though it is easy to see the connection between physical habits and physical strengths in our lives – like flossing our teeth to keep them healthy or lifting weights for muscle tone – the same is true for other less tangible strengths, as well.

A few months ago, Jeff Goins mentioned that gratitude is a muscle and I am beginning to believe that far more than just gratitude can be strengthened in our lives if we devote ourselves to consistently exercising the traits we want to strengthen.

This, I believe, is the biggest divide between those who want to improve specific traits “one day” and those who feel like they are making substantial progress in their lives.

It’s the difference between talking about flossing and actually doing it.

Consistent action must be taken. 

The good news is that the intangible muscles like creativity, spirituality, communication, focus, patience, gratitude, and presence can be strengthened without a ton of extra work

Common daily activities can be altered to accommodate “strength training” and other rituals can take as little as thirty seconds.

But the biggest key is that these exercises must be done regularly – not just read about, tried a few times, and abandoned.

Of course, we don’t have to do the same exercise or ritual over and over again forever. We can change things up. We can even do “interval training,” if you will.

Building these muscles can be a fun experiment with different methods.

Below this post I have shared a few easy ideas – most of which take under five minutes to complete – that can help help you begin your “intangible strength training routine.”

As you will notice, there is a fair amount of cross training between these exercises. Some of them build multiple strengths at the same time.

But remember, the important thing is not to do several of these actions and then fade away.

Pick a select few and incorporate them into your life consistently to reap the rewards.

Perhaps you could choose to focus on adding one new mini habit or ritual every month. By a year from now, you will have 12 new mini habits incorporated into your life.

Your intangible strengths would be much stronger with this slow and steady approach than had you tried 12 habits all at once and abandoned them after a week or two.

As Zig Ziglar said,

“Only floss the teeth you want to keep.”

Which muscles are you going to strengthen?



Intangible Strength Training Routines


Muscle: Gratitude
Strength Training Activities:


  • Create a gratitude journal. documenting five things you are grateful for everyday.
  • What was the best part of your day? Ask this to your partner every evening before bed to recall a moment you are grateful for each evening.
  • Gratitude alerts. Twice daily reminders on your phone can help you remember to stop and give thanks for the blessings in your life. (Bonus! This one also strengthens your presence muscles, too.)


Muscle: Patience
Strength Training Activities:


  • Reserve email to specific times. Not always easy to do, but definitely requires patience.
  • Enjoy your time in traffic. How you could add more patience to your commute is up to you and your unique situation, but the rewards could be profound.
  • Wait while the browser loads. I know the urge to open a new tab and look at something else while a webpage loads can feel like a compulsive itch. Try to sit with that feeling rather than act on it.


Muscle: Presence
Strength Training Activities:


  • Meditate. Even if it’s for five minutes a day. The Calm app is great for this.
  • Yoga. This is an obvious one, but it’s worth sharing none the less.
  • Gratitude alerts. Twice daily reminders on your phone can help you remember to stop what you are doing, return to the present moment if you happen to be future tripping, and give thanks for the blessings in your life. (Bonus! This one also strengthens your gratitude muscles, too.)
  • Qigong. This is my newest habit I’ve incorporated into my routine (and the one I’m enjoying the most). Right now I enjoy this simple seven minute video at some point in the day (usually in the morning).


Muscle: Spirituality
Strength Training Activities:


  • Read spiritual books. This is a great way to expose yourself regularly to spirituality, but be sure to weave the teachings into your daily life for best results.
  • Join a spiritual group. A church, temple, center, or study group can help enhance your awareness, but be sure to do solo spiritual activities too to make sure the concepts are applied in your life outside the group as well.
  • Pray or chant. Depending on your spirituality, this may be a good place to start.
  • Journal. In my own life I’ve found the most powerful way to connect with my intuition is to write my gut and ask it questions about things I’m struggling with. This inquisitive journaling allows me to access wisdom I don’t even realize I have if I simply go through my day thinking whatever thoughts happen to pop into my head (usually from my ego). 


Muscle: Creativity or Communication
Strength Training Activities:


  • Journal or blog. If your brand of creativity is writing, consider creating a journal to capture your poems, stories, or ideas.
  • Draw or paint. If your version of creativity involves illustration or painting, find a way to bring that into your day, if only for a few minutes before you get ready in the morning or before you go to bed.
  • Practice your art. Whatever version of creativity you’d like to strengthen, find a way to weave it into your life through a mini ritual that you will look forward to.


Muscle: Focus
Strength Training Activities:


  • Single task. One browser tab at a time. Eat without distractions. Try driving without the radio or podcasts on for a bit.
  • Use a timer. This is a great new habit that has helped me focus immensely during my workday. I now try to batch my days into 90 minute chunks (yours can be anywhere from 20-90 minutes) with 30 minute breaks in between. Once I set the timer and I know I’m going to get a substantial break very soon, I find it much easier to stick to one task at a time. The Pomodoro Technique might also be helpful.
  • Meditation, yoga, or qigong. Pretty much anything that helps strengthen presence in your life can also strengthen your focus.


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  1. What an amazing round-up! I love the ideas for new routines to incorporate into your daily life!

    I practice yoga and meditation every morning, 5-days a week, and I can say without a doubt that those two activities first thing help set the tone of my entire day and it’s great for your overall well-being, too!

    Journaling is something that I’ve been working to make a daily habit for quite some time, my whole life, really. I did great in February and wrote everyday; however, March only has one entry so far. Time to work that back into my daily routine!

    Great post! Thank you for the tips! 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      I love that you have your own variation of a Private Victory going in the morning! If you haven’t heard of it before, you might really get a kick out of the other aspects you could incorporate, too (though the two things you mentioned seem to already cover the physical/spiritual aspect, so maybe you’d just add something mental to the mix? Or maybe that would be journaling?).

      It’s great to hear that you can vouch for the benefits that come with flexing these muscles. : )

  2. Such a trickster you are with the title, Jess! I love it 🙂

    Do you find it takes a lot of time and energy to try to strengthen all these “muscles”? Right now, I’m working on gratitude. I recently wrote a post about my journey toward becoming more grateful ( I’d love to get your thoughts on it. I find some days to be harder than others, but the overall journey is so refreshing. I look back at my life even six months ago and I see such a difference. So while some days it might be a struggle to love even one thing, the big picture tells me it’s working.

    1. Jess Lively

      Great question, Alex. No, I don’t think that it needs to take a lot of time each day to strengthen them, as the tips I shared show, most of them are under 5 minutes and many are about just using our daily lives as pathways to muscle building (like waiting for a browser to load for patience rather than doing something else at the same time).

      I also think you might like the book The Slight Edge to go deeper in this idea of little habits over time bring big results. I think you’ll find your own journey in the last six months will be reflected in the book’s concepts, too.

      And I think you are right in your post, it is about building the momentum in a positive direction. Otherwise, NOT doing it will build momentum in the opposite direction. We are always creating habits, it’s just about whether the habit we are building is in the direction of gratitude (in this case) or not being more grateful. : )

      1. Thanks for that response. Sometimes, I get so bogged down with *trying* to be more positive so much. I guess that’s the pessimist in me. I get to that point sometimes (not so much anymore) where I just want to hate the world and shut everyone out. But then that always ends up being unhealthy.

        I’m glad to hear another person recumbent “The Slight Edge.” I had someone email me the link to it last night. I’m going to add it to the Kindle queue. 🙂

        1. Jess Lively

          Here’s an idea. Instead of trying to be more positive, what about releasing the thoughts that are negative? It’s a different approach that isn’t about creating new positive thoughts, but simply noticing the negative ones that pop up – seeing them without identifying with them, and letting them go?

          1. Jess Lively

            Awesome! Let me know how it goes. : )

  3. OMG I want to do these all, but I know you are right, I can only do a few! I choose patience, presence and focus. I will split them up and do Focus first! Thanks for this share, absolutely love!

    1. Jess Lively

      Yes! Just pick a few – maybe one or two – and start there. Some of the focus and presence ones can do double duty, so those might be good ones to start with. : )

  4. I am really working hard at single tasking… but it is so difficult! My mind wanders. I always have 5-7 browser windows open, screens on my phone open, lunch in one hand and a written to-do list… I’ve been using the Calm application to meditate and I try to practice breathing exercises too… in time. 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      Nice! Keep those up. And perhaps, when you are ready, try bringing that presence to the browser windows. Just one at a time. It will take time to get the hang of, but could help you bring it into a more active part of your day — when you are ready to, of course!

  5. Jennifer Ward

    First time visiting your site. So happy I did! Ready to share with my close co-workers who are all working moms and feel overwhelm with our current positions. Thank you!

    1. Jess Lively

      Welcome, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing with your co-workers, maybe you could all do a group ‘workout’ in one of these areas. : )

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