4 Years ago, I joined a company as a Fitness Consultant. 3 Months ago, I started my own business as a Personal Trainer - on top of starting school again to earn a degree in the field I've worked in for the past 4 years.
I've never owned a business before. I don't have a business degree. The only experience I have has been gained by learning from past failures, fixing them, and eventually hiring on a business coach.
Everything I know, I learned by asking A LOT of questions, sometimes following through on the advice, making the mistakes they told me I was going to make when I didn't follow through, and re-adjusting my course from there.
The past 3 months have taught me a lot of things about perspective and I want to share them with you today:
There is no right path to success, just like there is no one right path to becoming healthier
Along the way, I kept asking myself, "what is the right thing to do here? what is the next right step to get me from struggling to make an income to sitting pretty with no financial worries?".
I stressed, and I mean stressed, when I couldn't find the answer.
That's because there isn't one right answer.
It honestly didn't matter whether I did A or B first as long as I just did one of them. They both needed to be done, so I just picked which ever one I could knock off first. From there, I moved onto the next step.
In the process of doing all this, I came to realize that my process wasn't going to be just like the process of some of my former co-workers - and that was okay. There are many paths to success. One of them being how you define success.
For me, success is not stressing about money, being able to enjoy the fact that I'm my own boss and don't have to answer to anyone else. I define what the company believes in and I decide which direction I want the company to go in. That's my success.
Yours may be something completely different. Yours may be having a stable income, being healthy enough to play with your kids, complete a tough mudder, or simply show up to the gym consistently during the week. Whatever it is, keep that in my mind when you start to feel guilty for not looking like those magazine folks. Don't worry though, most of them don't even look like that anyways ;).
Change is stressful, initially.
A lesson that's sinking in lately is "this is stressful, stop adding more onto your plate when you're barely handling this".
Change in and of itself is stressful. That's exactly what stress is. An adjustment from your regular routine that causes you to have to think, work, and modify your set
behaviours to accommodate the stress.
This is a normal process. It takes us a while to get it right; to set a new habit in place consistently.
Look at this behaviour model of a rat in a maze:
Source: Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The example goes like this:
The mouse is placed behind a barrier in the dark where it can small chocolate on the other side of the wall. It doesn't know which way to turn when it gets the end. The barrier is lifted, a click is heard, the rat starts sniffing its way down the maze corridor. It's looking for the piece of chocolate at the end. The chocolate is on the left side of the T. Occasionally it turns right instead of left. Mistakes are made, but the mouse is working very hard to find its delicious treat. Eventually the mouse figures out that the chocolate is on the left side of the T consistently.
So the researchers conducting the behaviour experiment took away the chocolate on occasion to see if the mouse still travelled to the left side of the T. It did. It did this because going through this "maze" became second nature and it's brain activity told it that's where the food was. Its actions naturally followed suit. They moved the chocolate to the right to test it again. The mouse initially went left a couple times, brain activity spiked, and then the mouse figured out the chocolate was now on the right.
Here's the brain activity report to reinforce their findings:
Source: Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Initially, the mouse's brain had to work rigorously whenever a new stimulant (the chocolate being removed or changing position). After a couple times, the brain activity came a lull again.
In essence, hearing the button, travelling the corridor of the maze, and turning left to end with a chocolatey reward was commonplace. Changing the habit it set required a lot of brain power.
Long story short: This is how habits are formed.
Jumping back to me opening a business.
I want to train around 10-15 people per week in-person and 20 online, but right now I train 0 in-person clients because of the issues I've been working to get my business going contract set up with the gym I'm trying to work out of. I do train 8 people online and have 12 more to go. Now I can't just jump into training 15 clients in-person overnight.
A) because of the business issues
B) it would be very stressful to jump from 0-15
C) I don't have 15 people waiting at the moment
I can take the next step in getting my business running in-person so I can start training people in-person.
While trying to run a business I've made tons of mistakes so far. It took me 3 months to do what a perceived competent should have been able to do in 2 weeks. Unfortunately, I didn't know what I was doing (I.e. I didn't have the skill set or experience), so I had to work at it and make mistakes on the way to where I want to end up.
The learning process continues and I continue to become better at running a business, but more mistakes will be made along the way and I will work hard to fix those too.
Here's how that affects your fitness:
When you're trying to set a new habit in place, expect resistance (from you). You've spend years instilling habits in your life that don't necessarily align with what you're trying to do now and you don't necessarily have the skill set to do what you want to do right now. But. You're going to learn those skills and become more competent at it as you go.
Trying to get healthy, fit, or whatever you want to call it takes a lot of work.
The good thing is, the more you practice these habits, the better you'll become at them and the less you'll have to do to keep them in place.
You set yourself up for success by recognizing the habits you have in place and working to change them out for new habits. One's that reflect the lifestyle you're trying to achieve.
You want to go the gym more regularly? Bring your workout clothes to work with you and go directly to the gym after work.
Cue: Gym clothes in bag
Routine: Go to the gym
Reward: Feeling good about yourself and making progress towards your goals
This is how you initiate a new habit. You analyze the habit you have now (going home directly from work and watching Netflix) and replace it with the new one (going directly to the gym)
Source: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Take your lowest hanging fruit for example. Your lowest hanging fruit is the one you grab the easiest, right? It's the same with your habits. You tackle the habit that's holding you back that you can change with minimal resistance.
Drinking another glass of water per day, eating some vegetables with lunch, having lunch in general, getting to the gym a couple times per week. Whatever it is, it's got to be the one you can input tomorrow with intention.
If you're goal is get to the gym five days a week, but you're only going once a week, don't jump to five. Move to two or three and get that habit in place for a while. Once you've established you can do that on a consistent basis no problem, then move onto four or five days per week.
Then start developing another skill. Nutrition for example. Have protein with every meal.
Aim for three out of seven days initially and work at until you get it consistently. Eventually aim for seven...but you get the point.
Change is not instant. Progress is not instant. Make mistakes, learn from them, treat fitness like a skill set. The more you practice, the more you master that skill. There is no one right way to get there, so don't stress about it. Focus on what you can change today and work on it until you get it, then move on, and repeat.
James Harris is the founder of Titanium Strength Systems, as well as the head writer and coach. He trains online and in person in Chilliwack, BC. You can find his writing around the internet on websites such as Muscle & Strength, The PTDC, Fitness Pollenator, PTBIZ, and Deansomerset.com.