In conversations over the years, I’ve asked and been asked this question more times than I can remember: “What does it take to be successful?” For context, my answers below are in regards to improving one’s health and fitness, but full disclosure – you can really apply this to any area of life.
There is a saying attributed to John Wooden, the winningest college basketball coach of all time, that goes like this: “Good things take time.” Surely you heard it growing up, and if you’re a parent you’ve likely said it to your kids too. So step 1 is that you need to be:
Think about your intentions for pursuing the particular goal(s) you have for yourself – what is the timeline you put into your head? Is it realistic? Having a coach help you work through the answers is really the best way to get those answers, but you know that.
Here’s a great story to illustrate my point – when I was in college, I’ll never forget learning about a phenomenon known as ‘creeping obesity.’ The gist is this – look back at the weight you were 10 years ago. If you weigh 10-20lb more than you did then, chances are incredibly high that it wasn’t a binge weekend (or three). Chances are also high that you didn’t gain all of that in one year and then hold steady for the other 9. Gaining 10-20lb over a 10-year period is what happens when you gain just 1-2 (ONE to TWO) pounds, per year, for 10 years.
If it took that long to imperceptibly gain that weight, do you think it is realistic to lose it for good, in 6 or 8 weeks? Of course plenty of people in our industry of health and fitness will sell you on that fast track model, but we all know its unsustainable. That is a blog for another day, but I digress.
Want to know something equally as crazy? The reason for ‘creeping obesity’ is probably not related primarily to your food and exercise habits. Those are just part of the puzzle; humans are incredibly complex animals.
That leads us right into the next trait you should have. Namely, you should be…
Naturally, you’re probably wondering – ‘Ok, so that person you described above sounds like me. So what is the reason for my weight gain?’ As with all answers I typically give, the same applies here: “It depends…and context matters.”
But really, what it boils down to is the interconnectedness of a lot of lifestyle factors. At CFG, we call these basic lifestyle guidelines SEMM – Sleep, Eat, Move, and Manage.
In the example given above, it is entirely possible that your nutrition and exercise habit couldn’t have been more stable. But that new job you took meant you had a commute that was ten minutes longer. That means you had to get up 10 minutes earlier…and sit in traffic 10 minutes longer than before. Sleep has gone down, stress has gone up.
Let’s take it just one layer deeper though, because it is really important that people understand this. Each element of SEMM informs and influences the other. If you sleep less, the hormones that your body releases into your bloodstream can have a direct effect for how food energy gets used. So yes, you may not have changed your nutrition one bit, but it is getting allocated differently. And what do you think that does to the effectiveness of your workouts? Then, we sit in traffic. Need I say more? If you are anything like me, even reading that last sentence made my heart rate jump up a few beats. So the recipe we’ve given ourself (wake 10 minutes earlier, traffic 10 minutes longer) has some downstream implications.
The point of being curious, or put another way, the benefit of being curious, is that it requires you to be involved and invested in the experience of figuring out where you can make improvements. It’s why a blanket statement made by a health professional (no matter how well meaning) like “You just need to sleep more” is sorely missing the mark.
Of course, the next logical question you should be asking is, “Ok, so if I can’t really get more sleep at this stage of life, what can I do?”
In a nutshell, the actions you take need to be in positive service to your goals. Then, in taking those actions you need to be…
At this point, if you understand and agree that you need to be patient and curious, then what I’m going to say next may seem incredibly reductionist. You need to be consistent in a few seemingly small and insignificant ways (SEMM), for a long period of time.
How long? Well…how about we play a game? Let us imagine ourselves as the person I’ve described thus far – I’ve put on 20lb over a 10-year period. If I have a magic wand that would make it so when you wake up tomorrow, you are 20lb lighter, what happens next? Where do you go from there? What do you do? How is your life different?
More importantly, do you want to stay that way? I can’t really answer the previous four questions for you, but I’m confident in saying I can answer this one; and in the immortal words of Burt Reynolds from the Dukes of Hazard, ‘THAT’S A BIG 10-4!”
Of course we would all love to hold onto the result that we wanted.
So if we can agree that we’d all like to at least maintain that magical result, we should probably do a bit of exploration and reverse engineer the process that it would have actually taken to get there on our own. You know, without the magic wand. Because the process that it took to get there is going to look eerily similar to what it will take to maintain.
A great place to start? Ask a coach. We’ve been around the block enough to have worked with tens of thousands of individuals to help you paint a clear picture. More importantly, a coach can help you decipher what changes work best for you, in a specific order, based on your life circumstances.
Remember, saying ‘you just need to sleep more’ is useless advice for pretty much everyone. But what if I told you that for the next month, I just want you to cover up the light from your cable box in your bedroom because it’ll promote better sleep quality? That’s doable. And in a 10-year journey, that’s probably a great first step to master in month 1 of 120.
Sustainable practice creates sustainable behaviors. The inverse is also true, unsustainable practice creates unsustainable behaviors. Which makes more sense to go after?
If you feel lost, or maybe even just a bit off track, talk to a coach at CFG. That’s why we are here! The changes we suggest on a daily basis are small, by design.
But like my pastor said at the beginning of 2020:
“Small things done over a long period of time are going to produce great results.”– Randy Bezet
(If you prefer to listen to a more nuanced answer to this question, check out the podcast here or listen above, and click to 21:30. Alternatively, you can also watch us dissect the answer here: https://youtu.be/5RjYtUwxHRE )