Show me how you spend your time, and I will tell you what is important to you. Show me how you spend your time, and I will tell you where you are going to be in one year, or five years. Show me how you spend your time, and I will tell you who you are. Everyone has the same 24-hours a day to accomplish their goals and grow as a person. The couch potato and the fitness fanatic both have 24-hours each day and so do you. That is the one thing we all have in common. The difference is how we spend our time.
The most important decision we make each day is how we are going to spend our time. Each day is our life in miniature. If something isn’t a daily priority, it won’t be a priority. How much time do you spend taking actions to improve your situation? How much time do you typically devote to self-improvement each day? Each week? Are you investing in yourself? The one thing that universally makes us happy is personal growth. Progress makes us feel good. It releases endorphins and builds self-confidence. No one can build our self-esteem. We must earn it through effort and achievement. Consistent motivation is born from consistent action. Don’t make the common mistake of waiting for motivation to strike before you take action.
External motivation can fire us up temporarily, but sustained motivation must be manually coaxed into existence through disciplined effort. When your workout alarm goes off a 5:00 AM in the morning, don’t wait for motivation to get you up. You’ll learn strategies that will make getting up easier, but ultimately, you’ll have to push yourself. You set that alarm for a reason. You don’t need motivation to get-up. You need discipline. Each daily workout will be another small win that will provide a little more inspiration. As you begin to feel and look better, you’ll become even more motivated. After you have pushed yourself enough times to make daily exercise a habit, you’ll need less and less willpower to get-up each morning. You will begin to crave the way you feel after your morning workouts. It will become a positive addiction.
If getting in shape is important to you, you will find a way to work out each day. If getting in shape is important to you, you’ll take time to plan your meals, prepare your food, and log what you eat. A lack of time is a common excuse given by people that spend three hours a day watching TV and one hour a day surfing the internet. We make time for our priorities. We make excuses for everything else. It is not about having more time. No one has more time. Everyone has the same 24-hours. Our success is dependent on how we spend our 24-hours. It is our responsibility to use our time to achieve what is important to us. Time is our most valuable resource. Show me how you spend your time each day, and I will tell you what is important to you.
In the book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, the core concept is that you are responsible for everything.[i] That’s it! Ownership is a powerful concept to embrace. It is extremely empowering to acknowledge that you are responsible for everything good or bad in your life. When you take ownership, when you assume responsibility, you take control of your life. You are no longer a victim of circumstances. You no longer let yourself off the hook with excuses. You realize that everything is within your control. You reclaim your power. Action is the cure to unhappiness. The catalyst for action is the removal of excuses. The standards you set and the standards you achieve. It does not matter if these standards are for yourself or someone else. A manager that accepts substandard work from an employee has essentially made that performance the standard. It is not what you preach; it is what you accept. It isn’t what you say you’ll do, it is what you do. When you take ownership, you raise your expectations for yourself and others. You do not tolerate poor performance or behavior. You do not shirk responsibility with excuses. You find a way to correct the situation. You find a way to win. When you accept responsibility for your life you go from victim to victor. The best way to achieve success is to become someone who deserves success.
Success at anything is based on three things; talent, effort, and attitude. Luckily, we have complete control over our effort and attitude. Getting in shape does not require talent, but it does require effort. Consistency of effort is more important than intensity of effort. The intensity of your workouts will naturally increase as you get in better shape, you don’t have to force it. The key is to start small and build momentum. Avoid the mistake of pushing too hard to fast and becoming so sore you cannot train the next day. Ease into the program. Focus on consistency.
I don’t know how long it will take for you to get in shape, but I know that if you work out five days a week, you will get in shape. Small daily efforts produce much better results than the spasmodic efforts of a weekend warrior. Short, frequent workouts are superior to long, infrequent workouts. Too much emphasis is placed on long workouts. As you get in better shape and are gradually able to push harder, you’ll find that short, intense exercise sessions are all you’ll need to get in shape. Even in the beginning, lower intensity workouts are going to produce a training effect because your body is unaccustomed to the stress. Don’t focus on doing more. Focus on doing less, but better.
The strategies on my blog will increase your likelihood of success, but they are not magic. They make change easier, but not effortless. You’ll learn to boost and conserve your willpower, but breaking bad habits is still going to require willpower. Getting better is a campaign of discipline, and it is a daily battle against temptation, procrastination, and laziness. You must establish a sense of urgency around transforming your body. You cannot let a day slip by that you aren’t working toward your goal. How do you feel about your body now? What do you wish was different? Think big. The more compelling your vision is, the better you will do. The more motivated you will be to start doing the hard work required. Nothing works better than hard work. Nothing sustains our motivation like progress. Rituals reap results. Focus on small daily improvements, and you’ll be amazed at the results that follow.
Imagine how great you will feel when you get the body you have always wanted. How will it change your life? How much more confident will you feel? Motivated individuals take ownership of where they are, and what they need to do to get where they want to be. They are willing to do whatever it takes. They do not let setbacks deter them. They do not place any value in excuses. They never quit. The harder you work, the more invested you are in the process, the harder it is for you to surrender. They stay motivated by showing-up each day and focusing on making whatever progress they can.
Some days will be harder than others. Some days you will not feel like working out. On those days, you must convince yourself to at least give your workout 5-minutes before you decide to skip it. Once you start your workout, you will find it easier to keep going. Shrink the change. Take it 5 minutes at a time, one day at a time, and one week at a time until you reach your goal. Motivation isn’t something that comes to us, it is something we create by following a daily process of improvement.
Focus on developing systems around taking daily actions. Learning and planning can be a great source of inspiration, but too much planning and not enough doing will make you an expert at underachievement. Doing is one of the best forms of learning. The best way to learn what works and what doesn’t is by doing. George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” When I was in the military. I was told a variation of his quote, “a good plan violently executed is much better than a perfect plan executed tentatively.” Both principles apply to your workout program. Stop looking for the perfect program and start implementing the program you have.
Endlessly searching for the perfect plan is just another form of procrastination. A perfect program doesn’t exist. An individual that attacks each workout with passion and enthusiasm will achieve better results with a good plan, then the trainee giving a halfhearted effort on a better program. Both will do better than the person who is still procrastinating; searching for the perfect program. Transformation starts in the heart, not the head. If you aren’t executing it means you don’t want the transformation bad enough to change your behavior. Desire that don’t translate into action is meaningless.
When I was a chubby 10-year old and lost all the weight, my father knew much more about diet and exercise than I did, but information doesn’t change our lives. I didn’t know much, but I knew that eliminating desserts from my diet and daily exercise would help me lose weight, and it did. I was determined to do whatever it took to reshape my body. When I was tempted to eat dessert, I pinched the flab on my waist to connect to the pain of being trapped in a body that didn’t reflect my character. My father tried one diet after another, but none of them worked because he didn’t adhere to any of them. He wasn’t committed enough to make the necessary sacrifices. You can have the best strategy, but if you don’t have the discipline to execute it, it’s worthless. Learning is no substitute for action. No one ever got in shape by reading about it. To know what to do and not to do it is really not to know.
The program in my book is based on decades of personal experience and backed up by scientific studies. As a Master Fitness Trainer in the US Army, I helped dozens of overweight soldiers get in the best shape of their lives. The soldiers that made the best progress were the ones that consistently attacked each workout with enthusiasm and logged their food intake religiously. They were committed to losing body fat to stay in the Army and serve their country. This book has everything you need to lose as much weight as you want and transform your body. You just need to commit and execute the program.
Make a decision. In Latin, decision translates to “to cut off.” Decide. Commit. Cut off all other options. Cut off excuses. Cut off negative people in your life. Cut off procrastination. Cut off laziness. In the military, we say, a unit is decisively engaged, when it cannot retreat or advance. It must stand and fight or perish. Decide. Commit yourself. Commit as Captain Cortes did by burning the boats. After his eleven ships carrying 600 Spaniards landed on the shores of Veracruz, in 1519, he immediately gathered his men and ordered the boats be burned. By eliminating their only means of escape, he left them with only two options; succeed or die.
Read my book or blog; execute the program. Implement each of the strategies as you learn them. Every little action is a vote for the type of person you want to be. Every action will reinforce your decision to change. Every action affects every other action. Nothing is inconsequential. Every small victory helps establish the habits that will compound to change your life. Everything matters. Everything affects everything else. The least discipline leads to the next in a virtuous cycle. There is no better time than now. Tony Robbins says, “A real decision is measured by the fact that you have taken action. If there is no action, you have not really decided. With absolute commitment comes the insights that create real victory.”
Stop procrastinating. Stop waiting for the perfect time and place to start. There is no better time and place than here and now, to start becoming stronger, leaner, fitter, and more confident. You have everything you need to get started. Endlessly searching for that perfect program that will address your individual needs is just another form of procrastination. There is no perfect program. Stop planning and start executing.
Commit to taking at least one immediate action. The most productive first step would be downloading the MyFitnessPal app (Google or iTunes), creating your profile, setting your goals, and starting to log your food. Once you have completed that task, commit to another action for tomorrow and be specific about when and where you plan to execute each of the steps, as you plan them. Set a daily alarm on your smartphone to remind yourself when it is time to execute the next task. Your next planned action could be signing up for a gym membership, purchasing portion control containers, whatever it is, the most important thing is to do it.
Start small and build momentum. Put the power of momentum to work for you. That is how you create lasting motivation; though small daily achievements. Small improvements hammered out daily compound. This cumulative effect is the reason habits are so important. Good habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. You might want to make a quick list of the actions you need to take so you can track your progress. Each time you cross an item off your list, it will motivate you to complete the next item. Commit to taking at least one action every day. Keep moving forward and building momentum. That is how success happens. Now let’s get started!
[i] Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, St. Martin’s Press; First Edition (October 20, 2015)
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