My job as a trainer is an interesting one. What I do, in a nutshell, is attempt to help people achieve a better level of strength, health, and happiness. Something they are wanting very badly, but clearly having a hard time getting started on.
They come to me because they feel I’ll help them to be more responsible for their health, and stick to a consistent program of diet & exercise. By training with me, a much higher percentage than the average will reach both their body-composition & fitness goals but that’s not enough as far as I’m concerned, and I am constantly working to make it better!
Here are some interesting facts:
- About two out of a thousand Weight Watchers participants who reached goal weight stayed there for more than five years.
- Just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.
- Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.
These are just a few of the unfortunate truths when it comes to reaching our health goals.
Now, this could be seen as quite discouraging, but I’m going to offer another take on it.
It is good to know the cold hard facts, especially as this allows us to look realistically at what we have been doing to reach these goals, and how what we consider to be the accepted methods do not seem to work very well.
Of course, on paper, all of the above “should” work! Communism works very well on paper too, but like healthy goal-oriented diet and exercise, falls victim to that ultimate spoiler, Human Nature.
One of the hardest battles you will ever have to fight is between who you are now and who you want to be!
Think of all the things you have achieved because you had to for the sake of your future survival and enjoyment of life. Like crawling, walking, talking, reading, writing, Grade School, High-School, University, a multitude of job skills, computers, smart phones, music, dance, sports etc.
All of these things took discipline and time to learn how to do well, and things like job skills HAD to be learned, if your goal is to have a successful and rewarding life.
So why do so many people fail when it comes to reaching their goals?
The reason, on the surface, is simple.
They are not consistently doing what they need to do to succeed.
In the case of health & wellness, consistent portion-control and a whole food diet coupled with regular exercise, will create a calorie deficit for those who are looking to lose weight. Once the goal body-composition has been reached, a few small adjustments will allow the person to stay within a few pounds of their goal forevermore.
Again, if it’s that simple, why does this not work for most of us?
One big reason is that the cost of not reaching this goal is so far off in the future, we do not attach enough importance to it. After all, one or two missed workouts will not result in any appreciable loss of the body’s basic abilities. In fact, with years of poor-eating and a total lack of physical exercise we can still stay alive, go to work, get married, have kids, drive a car, go on vacation, and so on. Not living towards our utmost dreams, but still able to survive.
Not being willing to learn the new software system at work could lose you your job, your home, and your ability to feed & clothe yourself.
You can still always perform the basic acts of day-to-day survival, even if you are not taking care of yourself physically.
So as we can see, in the hierarchy of our needs, personal health and fitness will often be sacrificed for one of the more immediate ones. Of course, we know that with better health we will have the ability to reach higher, and better sustain these most basic of needs, but as it is easy to get “busy” and comfortable, we sadly often don’t.
For those of you who are reading this and seeing a bit of your own struggles here, I’m going to introduce you to a simple method I have found to be effective in fulfilling people’s goals and dreams, whatever they may be.
Now, before I get started on explaining this simple method, I want to make it very clear that these are EXACTLY the same types of struggles I personally face every day. My intention is simply to share some of the ideas I have learned while researching the best approaches to take for people wanting to get more out of life.
A goal is a goal, no matter what part of our lives it deals with, so this method really is universal. I do not in any way purport to be a sage with a perfect life and all of the answers; far from it. Like you, I’m slowly chasing perfection, but happily knowing it will never come. In the meantime, whatever I can do to make the impossible happen a little faster, I’ll try it!
The simple method I want to share is what I call the Self-Development Circle.
This, in one form or another, is an age-old teaching of how to best attain something.
First, we need the Self-Discipline to actually get started on the task. Notice I did not mention motivation or willpower. These two states are what we’re always promised will come in abundance if we just “want it badly enough”. Think right now of something you have wanted to achieve for a long time, something you think about almost daily. How long have you wanted this? Why have you not started on your path to achieve it? Are you waiting for that “perfect day” and exactly right set of circumstances to get started on it? Well, you are not alone, not by a long-shot!
Motivation and willpower actually come as the result of what I like to call “Grit”. As you have seen in your life time and time again, once you get started on something, and achieve even the smallest level of success, you start to feel more motivated to keep going. The willpower to get down to it suddenly starts to flood your brain, and you can’t believe how inspired you now are!
Of course, this takes the Self-Discipline to just take that first step, like opening a blank word document and typing some ideas, putting your cycling gear on and going down to the bike storage, choosing a salad over fries, and so on…
Deep down, we all know “why” we want to achieve these things, and it’s very important to know and articulate these reasons, but after that, is it’s the “how” we actually must work on the hardest!
Self-Discipline is the absolute master-quality in the Self-Development Circle, for without that first action, nothing else can happen!
Next, we need Self-Honesty to tell us if what we are doing is actually working. Once we have applied the Self-Discipline and actually taken some steps towards our eventual goal, we must pause often to ask “How’s this approach working?”. If the steps we are taking are moving us towards our goal with measurable results, then we can just keep on trucking. Of course, we can always refine these successful methods in order to make them more efficient!
However, if the steps we are taking are not moving us towards our goal, we absolutely must be honest with ourselves that it’s not working and TRY SOMETHING ELSE!!!
Too often, we continue with ineffective strategies hoping they will eventually work. Here it pays to remember the famous definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If it is not working, it is not working, and no matter how wedded we are to the brilliant solution we’ve come up with, it needs to be discarded (or at the very least re-worked) and replaced with another strategy.
Finally, we come to Self-Forgiveness. This is a most vital place where we forgive ourselves for the fact that we tried and failed, as failing means we at least tried!!! Every single person who has achieved great success has failed more times than they succeeded. This is an irrefutable fact, and in fact a joyous relief to us when we have not been successful!
We learn from our failures, re-tool our approach, and try again. We all learned to walk, to talk, to read, and to write! We absolutely had to in order to make it in the world, so failure was not an option. We tried, and tried, and tried, until we mastered these most essential skills, and any skill or task or result we want now can be done in the same way. We just tend to forget this, as these skills were learned so long ago, perhaps when we had more youthful energy to do so!!
Now, once we have forgiven ourselves for failing, we adjust our approach and go full-circle back to Self Discipline, starting the Self-Development Circle once more, doing this over and over again until we succeed!
And, even if we don’t make it to 100% of our goal, would 75%, 60%, or even 50% not be better than no progress at all? I think it would, as that’s really how life works. This 100% perfection we want would be pretty boring to actually achieve as then you’d have nothing else to aspire to!
Now, here’s a quick real-world example of how to use The Circle.
1. Self-Discipline: You decide to get a handle on your body-composition, and start by simply trying to replace starchy carbs in your breakfast and dinner with some green leafy vegetables. It is your goal to lose a very safe and do-able two pounds per week.
2. Self-Honesty: After four weeks of this, you re-test your body fat. It hasn’t moved much, in fact you’ve only lost one pound. You ask yourself how the move to more green leafy vegetables is going, and answer honestly that you had a great first week, but then failed to plan your shopping properly, went back to your old habits, and ate mostly starchy carbs at your breakfasts and dinners in the past three weeks.
Now, you did lose a pound, so you did something right, just not enough according to what you wanted to achieve!
3. Self-Forgiveness: This is where we accept that our initial green leafy vegetable plan did not work, congratulate ourselves for at least doing enough to lose one pound, and forgive ourselves for failing to reach our two pound per week goal, knowing that we have the wonderful and exciting opportunity to try again.
And, with a new commitment to plan meals and write a grocery list every Sunday evening, we go back to using the master-quality of Self-Discipline to enact this new approach, and so on, until we achieve success!
I encourage you to try the Self-Development Circle as one of your methods to achieve whatever goals and dreams you have, and I guarantee you’ll see great results!
Also, I’d love to hear from you in the future about any successes you’ve had by using this method. It’s nothing new, but I hope it is what some of you have been looking for.
Wishing you all the best in the shared journey of getting closer and closer to the “Real You!”.