64. From fatness to fitness one inch at a time.

Jonathan called me this week and asked if he could drop by. He had something he wanted to show me.

I don’t know Jonathan, we have never met so I was somewhat surprised by his request and, being naturally curious, of course I invited him over.

He arrived at my office some two hours later, proceeded to boot up his laptop and told me he wanted to show me a video.

The person who appeared in the video looked somewhat like Jonathan albeit a much larger and clumsier version.

The man sitting across from me was lean and athletic looking. It took a moment to realize the person in the video and the man sitting across from me was one and the same.

The video lasted about 20 minutes during which time I witnessed Jonathan transforming from a stiff, awkward, inflexible, overweight, out of shape being into the lithe, agile, confident, slim and athletic person sitting across from me.

He explained that the reason he wanted to contact me and show me the video was because last week’s blog on The Habit of Working At It was his story and he thought I might like to share it with you, my readers.

Jonathan is 58 years old and had spent his 55th birthday in an emergency room having been brought there by crippling chest pain.

He was lucky. His worst fears were not realized and he was sent home but not before “the 12-year-old doctor told me to smarten up.

Jonathan went home and took stock. At 5’7”, he weighed in at 287 pounds. Tying his shoelaces quite often left him breathless and walking the three flights of stairs to his office was out of the question.

He knew he had to do something but didn’t know where to start. The thought of going to a gym and showing the world how truly overweight and out of shape he was, was too humiliating to even contemplate so he settled on ordering a set of exercise DVDs from an infomercial.

Two weeks later when his shipment arrived, he excitedly inserted the first DVD and, less than two minutes later, found himself sitting on his couch barely able to catch his breath and feeling his heart pounding in his chest.

To say he was discouraged would be an understatement. He remembers reaching for the remote to eject the DVD from the player when “little voice in my head reminded me that this is what I have always done – quit when things get tough.”

He waited some 10 minutes and tried again. Same result – within two minutes he was on the couch gasping for air, chest pounding.

In that moment he made a promise to himself to keep trying and keep pushing no matter how long it took or how difficult it was. He swore to adopt The Habit of Working At It.

And boy did he ever.

He described the first two weeks as being everything he understood Hell to be. He quickly realized that it would take him quite a while to complete an entire workout but that he was slowly able to “stick with the program” for a teeny bit longer each day.

And so he did. And during this first two weeks he increased the amount of time before breathlessness overtook him from about two minutes to four.

He also realized that as his entire workout was over in four minutes, he could do this multiple times a day. And so he began doing four minute workouts four or five times per day and those four minutes became five minutes, then six minutes, then seven.

As well as his video, Jonathan kept a journal of his progress. He wanted written evidence that The Habit of Working At It was really working for him, so he recorded his daily activities and proudly highlighted each improvement.

His weight dropped by 30 pounds in the first three months and, on the advice of a friend he decided to add a yoga to his routine.

He told me the first few classes were beyond embarrassing. He was unable to make more than a cursory attempt at many of the stretches but was determined to work at it, for as long as it took.

On the day of his 56th birthday he stepped on a scale and proudly recorded the number 198 in his journal. In one year he had lost 89 pounds and he could reach forward and place his hands on the floor – something he had last done as a teenager – and could not remember how long it had been since last he had woken with a stiff back and pain in his legs.

As thrilled as he was with his progress, Jonathan was not satisfied. He recommitted to The Habit of Working At It and six months later, having reached his goal weight of 170 pounds he completed a certification to become a yoga instructor.

He was also working on an online certification program to become a personal trainer. Jonathan has a successful accounting practice and has no intention of changing careers, he is simply doing this to increase his knowledge and to be of help to “all my fat, old, tired, middle-aged friends.”

 Jonathan is a huge believer in The Habit of Working At It. He knows firsthand that progress is slow and incremental but he also knows that quitting leads to spending birthdays in emergency rooms.

Jonathan asked me to tell his story this week, but also to change his name. He’s not looking for recognition but to sell a message that says if we just keep working at something and relish in every small gain, we will eventually get to wherever we want to be.

The Habit of Working At It – Jonathan swears that it saved his life.

Meeting him and watching his video confirmed for me just how essential this habit is.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure.

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63. The best way to get better.

My big sister Jill is a person I have long admired.

She’s one of the those people who seems to succeed at everything she does and I was always somewhat envious of her success until one day she revealed her secret.

Jill retired several years ago from a lengthy career as a pediatric pathologist during which time she acquired Ph.Ds in much the same way others collect stamps.

She immediately set her sights on other accomplishments and at a, hmm, mature age decided to become a proficient ballroom dancer.

It wasn’t good enough for my sister to become an okay dancer; she set her sights on international competition.

To reach this level of ability requires a high degree of fitness, flexibility and fluidity and, by her own admission, when she set out on this mission, Jill came up short on all three.

But as I mentioned above, Jill has a secret that she has called upon and used extensively to aid in her success throughout her entire life.

Jill’s secret is this: in whatever she sets out to do, SHE WORKS AT IT.

My sister understands that the secret to getting better at anything is practice; regular, consistent and recurring practice. She long ago learned that The Habit of Working At It is a sure way of incrementally making progress at whatever we set out to do.

Seldom do we experience quantum gains in our abilities. Improvements in skills are usually incremental – one teeny bit at a time – and it is the constant accumulation of these teeny bits that lead to the genius level performances we witness when we observe world-class performers ply their trade.

Jill has been dancing competitively for the past year and to get there she has spent several years paying the price of consistently working at it. Her abilities have improved, little by little, to the point where she is now “good enough to compete, just not good enough to win…yet.”

My nephew Michael recently told me he is teaching himself how to play the guitar. He’s experiencing the same results as his mom. His practice is regular and consistent and, as a result, he is now regularly experiencing tiny little improvements and aha moments resulting from his commitment to The Habit of Working At It.

I really began to understand this concept a few years ago when I bought six new bookshelves for my office.

Naturally, I assumed they would arrive fully assembled and ready to be placed in their new permanent homes.

I was wrong and so I took it upon myself to assemble them.

It seemed easy enough; all I needed to do was follow the instructions and all would go well.

Except it didn’t.

Now I have to admit I’m not the handiest person was tools and I suspect at least 50% of the time required to assemble the first bookshelf was spent swearing at pieces of particle board, the store where I bought them and myself for assuming they would arrive assembled.

It took quite a while but eventually I was done and it looked exactly like the picture. The second one was a lot easier, with far fewer timeouts for cursing.

The third one came together with hardly any effort and by the time I assembled the sixth bookcase I considered myself to be in the expert category.

Ah, the incredible power behind The Habit of Working At It.

I had transitioned from ineptitude to professional in only six short bookshelves and, with mission accomplished, I stopped working at it.

About a month ago I added one more bookshelf to my collection. I was confident that this time assembling it would be a cinch. I had forgotten that skills are a “use or lose” phenomenon and struggled with this one as much as I had that first one several years ago.

My sister has just returned from a competition in Vienna. Unlike me with my bookshelves she has never stopped striving to become better and her constant advancements as a dancer serve as a powerful reminder to us all that The Habit of Working At It is often all that stands between mediocrity and genius.

Thanks for the lesson, Jill. Why didn’t you teach me this one years ago?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

P.S. My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure

62. As we tell it, so it is.

 

 

Last week we discussed the incredible power behind the stories we tell ourselves – those things we repeat over and over again to ourselves, about ourselves.

This discussion obviously resonated with a number of people as I have spent a great deal of time since posting the blog last Wednesday talking with folks who have called in to share how their lives flipped 180° when they changed the stories they were telling themselves.

Let’s let Mike and Barb retell their stories in their own words.

Mike:

“I can’t seem to remember a time when I wasn’t constantly berating myself. For as far back as I can remember I have felt the presence of a black cloud over my head and it didn’t take too long before experience taught me to constantly expect the worst.

“No matter what happened, no matter how promising a new venture, I was always convinced of, and waiting for, impending doom.

“I grew up in an environment where the most commonly repeated conversation around the dinner table was about how tough life is, how bad the world is and how life will always be a struggle.

“And sure enough, life was tough, the world seemed bad and everything was as struggle.

“I lived my whole life that way. I always looked for fault and focused on the downside in everything. To me the glass was always half-empty and not for a moment did I believe that it could ever be full.

“One day I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, flipping through a magazine when I came across an article on self-talk. The writer was talking about how, by changing what we keep telling ourselves, we can change our entire outlook on life.

“So I half-heartedly decided to give it a try and, to my absolute surprise, I noticed that I began to feel a little better, that the world looked a little sunnier, and that the feelings I had about my future appeared a little brighter.

“And the more I did this, the better I felt. Then after a short while it struck me that my colleagues at work were spending a little bit more time chatting with me, inviting me to join them for lunch and that I was having much more success in dealing with customers.

“It reminded me of a really corny cliché I heard years ago that said, ‘It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that will determine altitude’, and as silly as that seems, that became my reality.

“My life is still not perfect and perhaps it never will but it is certainly a whole lot happier and that’s really the reason why we’re here, isn’t it?”

Barb:

“I have been a fairly positive person for most of my life and have always had a high level of confidence in my abilities.

“A couple of years ago something happened that completely shook my confidence and was the beginning of a series of disappointments that I now, with the benefit of hindsight, believe that I conspired to bring into my own life.

“There was a job posting my company for senior management position and I applied for it, fully expecting that the job would be mine based on my experience and track record.

“On the day the announcement was to be made as to the new VP, I was summoned to the CEOs office for a meeting. I remember feeling quite cocky as I entered his office fully expecting to be appointed to this position.

“I vividly remember the feeling of shock and disbelief I felt when he explained to me that both he and the Board of Directors felt that I was not ready for this position, would not be for several years and that they were bringing in a new VP from outside the company.

“It was in that moment that for the first time in my life I began to doubt myself and for the next couple of years that doubt crept into every decision I made. And each time I made a decision it was if I was validating to myself all the negative criticism I had been heaping upon myself.

“It was only when my husband pointed out to me how negative and critical I had become that I realized what I was doing to myself and to those around me.

“I put great effort into focusing on all the strong skills and traits I have kept reminding myself how good I am. It wasn’t long before my colleagues noticed the change and several of them took the time to stop by and say ‘Welcome back.’

“I taught myself a hard lesson, but an extremely valuable one. I learned that we are indeed the story we tell ourselves, and that if we care at all about who we are, then we need to form a powerful habit of telling ourselves really good stories.”

Their stories are our stories and I am deeply grateful to them for taking the time to share their stories and, in so doing, teach all of us a lesson we can never hear too often.

I would love to hear your story too.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Set Free The Champion Within. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure

61. Want a new habit? Start with a new story.

Last week we began a discussion on the topic of habits. We briefly discussed how our habits result from our repeated actions and that our actions stem from what we believe to be true. We also touched briefly on the difficulties in changing habits.

Results in our lives come from those very things that we do over and over and most of us have, at some point attempted to change one or more of those habits, often without success.

I believe the reason why we experience such difficulty in changing habits is because our focus, concentration and efforts are all directed at those habits – the very behaviors we wish to change – and our method of bringing about change is through dogged determination or what we euphemistically call “will power.”

In doing this we are directing our efforts and energies in the wrong place.

Yes, in trying to change habits we are trying to bring about new repeated behaviors, but if the formation of habits truly follows the formula we previously discussed

Beliefs                     Choices                    Habits  

then we are pointing our efforts to the wrong end of the formula.

If the first step in the formation of a habit lies with what we believe to be true, then it stands to reason that until we change that belief, we will struggle mightily to change the habit.

Perhaps this explains why we so commonly enjoy short-term success in our behaviour-changing endeavors only to return to our old behaviors very quickly.

Which begs the question: how does one go about changing a belief?

I’m convinced the answer lies in what we repeatedly tell ourselves. How many times have we committed to quit smoking with the full knowledge (belief) that it would be a difficult undertaking only to find ourselves lighting up after a few days? Several cycles of this behavior can easily begin the process of us telling ourselves that the goal in mind is unattainable, impossible.

How often have we dropped those unwanted 20 pounds only to revert back to our old eating habits and gain back 25 pounds.

What changes during the period of weight loss and the period of weight gain is not only the food we feed ourselves but more importantly the stories (beliefs) we tell ourselves.

And the moment the story changes, our choices change and when we make different choices, we take different actions.

If we are serious about changing your habits we must first begin by examining what we believe to be true – the story we are presently telling ourselves.

And to do this we need to create a new story – the one we want to believe to be true – even if at the point of inception we don’t believe a word of it.

And then we need to tell ourselves that story over and over again, with as much conviction and passion as we can muster.

And we must be consistent in the telling of that story. We must tell that story when we feel it to be true and we must tell that story when we don’t. We must tell that story when it is an easy story to listen to and we must tell that story when every word feels like a monumental lie. We must tell that story when it is fun to tell and we must tell that story when it isn’t.

And slowly over a period of time that story will come to represent our truth. And we will notice that we are doing different things effortlessly. And we’re doing them repeatedly and sooner or later we have created a new habit which will stay with us for as long as the story does.

And we must be vigilant for if we stop telling the new story, the old story may show up and we all know that absolutely no good can come of that.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

P.S. My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure.