A healthy mind can only exist in a healthy body; not as an absolute but as a possibility. Making our health a priority isn’t as complicated as we often think. When we see someone on social media or in a movie that appears to be quite fit and healthy, why is our reaction often one of “Oh, it’s so easy for them” or “I wish I had genetics like that!”? Both of these reactions imply a sense of helplessness, that there’s no way we can achieve what they did, and that it’s totally out of our control. Sure, at that moment, we are likely seeing them at their very best and yet, that didn’t happen overnight. There were many small choices that made what you see on your screen possible for that person. When you break it down to that level, you might begin to see that you can create your own version of this story. You do have a say in the matter.
Growing up, I was often referred to as the ‘husky’ kid while all of my close friends were lean as can be. In the back of my mind lived a perception that I didn’t belong because my body didn’t look like theirs. I began to make up for this gap in the weight room. As a three-sport athlete, I became one of the strongest individuals to come from my hometown (literally, I could deadlift 600 lbs.). However, the strength was a mask. On the inside I was insecure and unhappy with how I looked until one day in the early summer of 2010, my best friend brought in a crumpled-up piece of paper that he had torn out of a popular health magazine. On it was the workout that solidified my desire to go to college and altered the trajectory of my life.
In the fall of 2014, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology: Emphasis in Exercise Science. From there, I spent four years as the head coach of what is now the best gym in Boise, Idaho (seriously, it was voted so by the public) and I have continued to seek, absorb, and practice how to move better and live healthier. I have carved away over 60 pounds of my body weight from 235 lbs. at 18 years old, to 170 lbs. at 28. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Undoubtedly so, and for reasons that are not obvious. See, there is so much more that comes along with taking care of yourself than looking good. Peace, energy, and confidence have all shifted in a powerful way for me. You might be thinking “Well, you did study this in university and live it as a trainer so of course you were able to achieve these results.” Here’s where I’m often reminded that knowledge alone does not produce results, action is required. No matter the size of the goal, I have found that being consistently in action is the key to getting what I want in life.
Are you aware of parts of your life where you are in action on a consistent basis? What if I said that this awareness coupled with small, executable tasks could be the first step to losing 60 pounds or buying your dream home? I also want to introduce the integrity distinction because it goes hand-in-hand with consistency. Maybe you’ve heard it described like this, maybe not but consider that integrity is doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, to the level that you know is expected. Or said more simply, you are your word. From this space, being your word, consistency can be cultivated. For example, I have a commitment to myself to brush my teeth morning and night. Prior to speaking this into creation and writing it down, can you guess how many times I met this goal each week? If you said zero, you’d be right. Now that this commitment exists and I'm tracking my progress daily, I have met this goal 68 times out of the past 70 days. Although small, being consistent here has acted as a building block to growth in other areas. Can you identify an area of your life that you feel in your gut needs improvement (e.g., getting out of bed without hitting snooze, getting a daily workout in, doing the dishes after dinner, going for a short walk during your workday, etc.)? Pick one to start with and use the graphic below as an example of what tracking progress can look like. Odds are, you will not be perfect at first and that’s OKAY. Evaluate what was missing and try again. And try again. And try again. Progress is the focus, not perfection. Note: Watch closely before reading further. This image was created from my personal journal and shows real-life examples of what it looks like to set up these goals.
In the book Overcome by Jason Redman, he shares how leading yourself first builds credibility and empowers you to show up as a leader in any area of life. In regard to the distinction made earlier, you become a person of integrity. Throughout my personal journey, I have seen the positive effects of this focused self-management and the tool I use is exactly what you see above. I begin every morning by rewriting what I’m committed to that day. Because I’m working to build consistent behaviors, it’s typically the same four to six small(er) goals for an entire month. For January 2020, it looked like this:
The following morning, I review my progress and check off each goal that I completed, strikethrough if not. If I didn’t do what I set out to, to the level that I agreed to, I examine what was missing and make that the focus for the coming day.
If you look closely at the GIF above you’ll see there are months that are nearly blank and others that are not even present. I lost focus, stopped setting up tasks and quit seeing progress. This led to a lack of integrity with myself and a disconnect between how I wanted to present myself and how I actually was showing up in life. I could have kept not creating these tasks/goals, that would have been easy, but guess what? Picking one and committing to follow through for a week was also easy AND it kickstarted the momentum that continues today. Here’s my biggest takeaway from this, you’re going to experience blockers and life is going to life you at times yet you can always choose to try again. For me, this has been the launchpad to taking responsibility for myself and creating the life I want to live.
Along the way, I have experienced nearly every barrier that you can imagine. From not enough money or time, to a lack of equipment or ‘I don’t know what to do’ (Hey! Free, 20 minute, no equipment, workout provided here) to even ‘I made it so I can back off now’. Sure, all of these are all valid reasons and, in my experience, they were also the very thing(s) that prevented me from getting what I wanted.
Consider your environment at home. If you have sweets on hand and find yourself indulging, even though you began the day focused on avoiding them, you might reason by saying something like ‘Well, I would have succeeded if my environment was set up for it’. Said more accurately from my perspective, “If there just weren’t any sweets in the house, I wouldn’t have eaten them”! That was my experience to a “T”. I put the blame on my wife, who is not typically tempted by sweets but enjoys a bite now and then, for the fact that I was eating the chocolates in the pantry. Now, writing this down it sounds even more ridiculous, but it was the reality I was living into. I was unknowingly choosing to not take responsibility and justify my behavior by putting the fault on my sweet wife (and this wasn’t the only area where this was happening, by the way). I was stuck playing the victim and life was happening to me. Through setting up small goals and tracking progress, I have restored my integrity and now see myself as a leader. I believe that putting my mask on first was the initial step to being a cause in the matter that is others in my life.
Look at this process in likeness to a mountain with no top. Improvement only ends if you so choose. One barrier we touched on earlier was the “I made it” mentality and I want to share one last bit on that. If you’re setting lofty goals and up to big things in life, you’re not always going to succeed and that’s okay. If you’re like me, you may have experienced failure, began to make yourself wrong and/or beat yourself up for not executing. From this mindset, grace is not present and there’s no space for further creation. I’ve learned that a slight adjustment to my perspective is what was missing. Looking at challenges, goals, or life from the lens of emotional attachment to the outcome (as explained by Jeet Kumar in the article titled How to Achieve Extraordinary Results While Enjoying Life) can be futile. For me, I was attached and blinded by unmet expectations and left doing NOTHING about the goals I had set for myself. Inside, I still wanted to achieve those things, yet I did not want to go through the cycle again and reinforce that I was a failure. As I reflect on this I can clearly see the breakdown of being attached to the outcome. Choosing to live from the stand of being committed to the process of living healthier, I have freed myself of the illusion of achieving perfection. If I reach a goal, great! If not, I no longer make myself wrong. I take a close look at what was missing that could make a difference next time and try again. What’s next? I invite you to download the tracking document below and use it for a week. Define your goal (remember, start with one - if it happens to be a short workout, remember we’ve got your back. Follow the link above.), write it down, and review it in the morning. If you did what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it, to the level that you set out to, mark it as complete and do your happy dance. You’re not going to get it ‘right’ every time yet if it’s something you really want to achieve, the not achieving of it will become a blocker in living a life created by you. So, take a hard look at what got in the way and try again. Then add one more item to the list and begin to live a life of your choosing.