I’m a firm believer that our mental and physical health are not separate from each other.
I also believe that physical activity is a requirement for humans to be healthy, mentally and physically.
Many people have found, as I have, that training makes us stronger mentally as much as physically. Through my many successes in the gym and even more failures, I have learned some important lessons that have helped me achieve more in all aspects of life.
Here are some things I’ve learned.
Build a Foundation
You know the saying, a building is only as strong as its foundation. The same goes for everything in life.
Master the Basics FIRST
Even though I had been working out for years, I realized I didn’t know what I was doing.
I thought I did, but my results did not reflect that. Once I decided to revisit the basics, I realized that I wasn’t very thorough in my research when I was 16 like I was at age 24.
Take a look at yourself and your goals.
Is there something you might have skipped when you were first getting started?
There almost always is.
Maybe you were overly ambitious and didn’t think the details mattered. I tried to create blogs in the past and they sucked. This time around I spent months figuring out how to do it right from the beginning.
Pay Your Dues
Once you have a firm grasp on the fundamentals – put in the work.
When I set out to master the basics, I reset all my major lifts to well under half of what I was currently working with. I wanted to be certain I had my form down and that I had time to work through any mobility issues or strength imbalances that I had developed from bad habits. It wasn’t fun, but it allowed me to advance further then I ever would have without doing that.
When I graduated from college I didn’t seek a safe job in the corporate world. I did freelance work that required me to live in a remote town (less than 10k people) because I had an opportunity to learn. More importantly, I was paying my dues in an industry that still respects that sort of thing.
The downside, besides having no social life of course, was that this “job” could end at any given moment. My friends thought I was crazy. However, I got to see that industry from a different angle, stumbled upon opportunities that allowed me to learn more in a year than most will in 10 years.
On top of that I made more money than I ever would’ve if I had played it safe.
Paying your dues will pay dividends to your income.
Learn From the Best
When you want to learn something new, find the people who are the absolute best at that.
If that person hasn’t accomplished what I want to accomplish, then they had better be well-versed on that subject with a track record of successfully training others to reach that goal.
Otherwise, I’m not interested.
If you want to accomplish what they have, look for common similarities between yourself and them. Most importantly, find the strategies that these people have used that you are already good at. This will give you a competitive edge quicker.
Track Your Progress
“What keeps me going is goals.”
– Muhammad Ali
To achieve success we must first define success.
You won’t get anywhere working hard, aimlessly, trying to be “successful.”
I’ve always noticed that when I have a goal more specific than just gain muscle or lose fat, I accomplish more. I have to have a specific number, whether it be a bodyweight number or a strength number on a certain lift.
We need specific goals to not only know where we are headed, but to see where we stand.
Tracking progress towards all goals in life is vital.
When we set out to accomplish something we usually have a burst of excitement and motivation that eventually wears off. At this point when reality sets in and we realize just how hard it’s going to be, it’s easy to feel discouraged. This is why we need to take notes of our progress along the way.
When you track your progress you can always look at what you’ve accomplished when you feel discouraged.
Short-term and Long-term Goals
Also, I think it’s important to have short and long term goals. So with my fitness strategy I have big goals that I expect to accomplish over the course of a year and then I have small goals with 1-3 month deadlines.
I do the exact same thing for work, whether a sales goal or client number goal. I was doing some work for a BIG client that required me to spend my entire day in a courthouse locating, cataloging and summarizing legal documents.
I started tracking my daily production and then after a week I calculated my per hour production. Then every hour I experimented with different strategies to produce more than the previous hour. I was so caught up in creating a system that I barely noticed the other people working in the courthouse, but they noticed me.
Most of these people were competitors in some fashion. I definitely noticed there were only a few people who seemed to know what they were doing.
Eventually, the most productive guy of a group of several people working for a competing client worked up the nerve to ask me how many documents I was completing a day. I was producing over 3 times what they were. Not only that, but in that same amount of time they only did 1 part of a 3 part process and sent it to someone else to do the other 2 parts.
To add salt to the wound, my process had 4 parts because I found a way to add more value to my product that none of my competitors did. Needless to say, these guys didn’t have goals other than to do enough to justify their day rate and per diem.
I want to add one last thought about goals. Don’t be afraid to change your mind about something. You should never have to force yourself to complete a goal you no longer want just for the sake of not giving up.
Always be on the lookout for new opportunities and be flexible. There’s a difference between giving up on what you truly want and knowing when to change your focus to something more important.
Dealing With Failure
- Have a plan for potential plateaus
- Always learn from failure
In the gym and in life, we experience plateaus, or periods of stalled progress.
Through the peaks and valleys of life, we experience many plateaus.
These temporary setbacks can actually be a good thing. When we are increasing strength week after week there comes a point where our form starts to break down. So when you reach the point where you stall on a lift, it’s probably a good time to drop the weight a little bit and focus on improving form. Then when you get back up to the weight you previously stalled on, you should cruise right through it.
In a perfect world our businesses would have record growth month after month, year after year. However, that never happens (legally).
When your business growth stalls, this is a good time to analyze your business in detail. Are your customers and clients happy? Have costs risen significantly?
Take this time to find the problems and address them immediately. If you’re in a small niche market, you have a limited amount of customers. Could you create a new product or service for your existing customers? Could your current products be catered to a new market you haven’t thought of yet? Maybe you’re taking on too much work and it’s time to hire more employees or your first employee.
Use this time to catch your breath and regroup.
If you are challenging yourself, you will inevitably fail at some point.
I know everyone likes to say that failure is good and you should expect it, but I disagree. You should despise the idea of failing.
If you don’t believe in yourself, then you won’t accomplish anything great. However, when (not if) you do fail it’s up to you to make the most of that situation. Figure out what mistakes you made and don’t ever make those mistakes again.
The most accomplished people I’ve ever met have made way more mistakes than the less accomplished people I know.
The catch here is that successful people always have more wins as well..
I had a business mentor who knew every trick in the book. He seemed to almost be able to read the future. He ALWAYS knew when someone was trying to rip him off or what their true motives were.
He was constantly having to school his attorneys and accountants on legal loopholes that aren’t common knowledge. I once asked him how he knew so much technical information when he didn’t even have much formal education on the subjects. He told me it was because he had personally made every one of those mistakes and had been screwed over in business deals in every way imaginable. Now at over 70 years old he is sharper than any young business person I have ever met.
You never know which failure will later allow you to close your first million dollar deal. The point is, that stuff everyone says about never giving up and always learning from your mistakes is repeated over and over for a reason – it’s the truth.
Three Keys to Success
Consistency is so crucial that it can’t be stated enough.
This one element is responsible for the majority of my success in the gym. All those skipped workouts and days where you eat like shit add up.
I thought I was pretty consistent, but when I looked back at my workout logs I noticed that I was skipping several workouts a month. I didn’t have nutrition logs to refer to, but I didn’t need them to know I wasn’t consistent with that.
There’s a saying that “the best diet is the one you stick to” and I have to agree.
Find a workout plan and nutrition plan that you actually enjoy so you can stick to it. It might take a while, but keep testing until you find them. Once you find a style of exercise you enjoy it becomes a fun hobby. When you enjoy a diet it no longer feels like a diet, it’s just the way you eat.
Even when you don’t feel like going to the gym, go have a crappy workout. A crappy workout beats no workout every time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set PR’s on days where I debated not even going because I wasn’t feeling well or whatever the excuse was.
We often underestimate ourselves and don’t realize how hard we can actually push ourselves. (I’m not your doctor, please use discretion.)
Whatever your goal is, do at least one thing every day to get you closer to that goal. Even it’s something small like sending an email or doing an hour of research. Just be sure that your are putting the research to use and not just using it as a distraction.
Consistency will help you make progress, but intensity will be the deciding factor in how much you truly accomplish.
Consistent half-ass effort will eventually get you to your goal, but intensity will get you there faster. Most of us don’t struggle to get intense while working out, however you need to be intense the other 23 hours of the day.
Once I attacked my nutrition and recovery with the intensity I brought to a workout I started to see drastic changes.
When I say intensity, I’m really referring to focus and determination.
If you’re aiming for a promotion you should be focusing all your work efforts towards that goal. If you’re trying to create a business, you will fail if you don’t attack it with full force – just ask everyone you know who’s tried before.
Bursts of all out intensity really help, but realistically we can’t give 110% effort every second of every day. Which brings me to the next factor, recovery.
Our minds and body need rest.
The world seeks balance. When you work hard you need to recover hard.
That means getting enough sleep, properly fueling the body and having time exclusively for recreation. If you never take a break you will eventually get burned out.
I don’t care who you are or how invincible you think you are – all I see is naivety. (I know, because I once was invincible too)
I always overlooked this element in fitness and in my life in general. I thought sleep was overrated and naps were for the lazy.
I used to have this cycle where I took on more and more work while lowering my sleep to less and less until I finally burned out and slept for two days straight. However, I no longer do that.
Now I sleep more than ever (almost 7 hours a night) and not only produce more work, but higher QUALITY work. I know the readers here want to accomplish everything they can in life and that requires a lot of time, but you need to schedule time to unwind.
The mind and body need to fully recover so you can return to battle with your BEST effort.
The point I want to drive home is that when we take action to improve one area of life, it can’t help but spill over into the other areas.
The important part is that you take action and the rest will fall into place.
The mantra of this website is what I personally use to stay motivated, even when times get tough and it seems like I’m going nowhere. I believe we have two basic choices when we set out to accomplish anything:
“Make progress or make excuses.”
Until next time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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