We all talk about resolutions and goals. We all have something we’d like to change or implement into our lifestyles. We'd like to get fitter, faster, stronger, …... the list could go on. But is setting resolutions really the way to achieve long-term sustainable growth? As a performance coach focused on improving both myself and my clients, I realize that resolutions can be a waste of time. Goals can also be a waste of time if there is no real action plan in place to help us work towards and achieve them .
So where should our focus lie? Firstly, we should focus on self-identity. ‘ What is the identity of the person I want to become? ’ That’s the question we should all start with. For example, you may want to identify yourself as a runner. You may want the identity yourself as a healthy individual. Each and every one of us has our own identity, and if you are speaking to others you will have certain ways you identify yourself. Often, our work or what we do can be the way we identify ourselves. I identify myself as a coach when speaking to people. You may identify as an accountant, a CEO or marketing professional. The key to all of this is that if we want to create change in our lives, firstly we need to understand the identity of who we want to become.
That’s all well and good but just knowing the identity of who you want to become isn’t enough. By reflecting on and visualizing our future identities we will not suddenly become that individual. What we must do is analyze the behaviors of the individuals who have the identity we want. Personally, I believe one of the most crucial tips we are never educated on in school is emulating success. Once you have identified where you want to go in life and what it is you want to achieve, don’t waste precious time making all your own mistakes. Fast-track your success by finding others who have already taken your journey, study their success. If you can, reach out and see if they are willing to provide their tips, behaviours and slip ups.
Please do not re-frame this as not having your own personal identity and just copying someone else. You will carve your own path. You will still make your own mistakes. But if there is already a model available to become the individual you want to be, take the model and fine tune it to you. If you want to identify yourself as a marathon runner, don’t just set the goal of running a marathon, look at the daily habits and behaviors of successful marathon runners and begin implementation.
As a coach, I know that real long-term success comes through making small consistent changes to the way we live, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month and year-by-year. As a coach, I also know that optimizing your health and fitness is about more than just smashing the body as hard as possible; it’s about understanding the balance of a performance lifestyle - a holistic approach to life. This article will be the first in a 3-part series, helping you identify fundamental lifestyle, nutrition and training habits that will take your performance to the next level.
HABIT #1 : SELF-REFLECTION
Make time to self-reflect. From a young age I have always been someone who likes peace and quiet. I like having time to myself to reflect on life rather than simply rushing through. Whilst I am very active and try to cram my day with a lot of activities I always allocate at least 15minutes a day to use my journal and ask whether I am on the right path. One of my favourite self-development books ever is “The Secret:
One of the quotes that really resonates with me is “to the individual who has no clear purpose, there can not be a favourable wind”. As humans I find we are constantly being consumed - whether by work, TV, friends, food etc. We rarely spend any time focusing on ourselves. One of the most powerful tasks we can do is take a step back and ask ourselves the question: “Am I happy with the life I am leading? Am I fulfilling my purpose and living life to the full?”
What has really helped me is having a daily life planner that asks questions on whether or not I am moving in the right direction. If we apply self-reflection to our health and fitness we might look back at the end of the day and analyse whether we are happy with what we have achieved or where we could improve. On a weekly basis we could look back at the food we ate and the exercise we did, we could rank ourselves on a scale of 1-5 and make a short note on how to improve next week. Here are a couple of planners I have used to help me:
Clever Fox Planner
High Performance Planner
Start small and build, try to allocate just 5-10mins everyday and go from there.
HABIT #2 : IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
If you haven’t already, go and check out “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker. Whilst I have always known that sleep is critical for performance, the book demonstrates just how many different functions that sleep is vital for. Sleep is your number 1 recovery tool! Not only is sleep critical as a healing process for the body after training and competing, but in fact can be a key ingredient to improving our life span. Sleep plays critical roles in cognitive function from cementing new learned memories to the subconscious brain to improving creativity.
Research found that post-performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen. If you are interested in learning about the research and just how important sleep is then check out the book.
Here is a 10 point checklist to help you with your sleep
Stick to a sleep schedule
Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep.
Don’t take naps after 3 p.m.
Relax before bed. Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual.
Take a hot bath before bed.
Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom.
HABIT #3: BUILD YOUR OWN SUCCESS ENVIRONMENT
You may be familiar with the phrase “we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with” and it is a phrase that I believe has a lot of truth to it. If we are surrounded by people with a negative mindset and “glass half empty” approach to life, it will begin to find its way into your subconscious no matter how hard you try to resist. On the contrary we all know at least one person who lights up the room when they walk in. The one person you speak to and go away feeling inspired every time.
Surround yourself with problem-solvers instead of problem finders. There is a fantastic phrase “light yourself on fire with passion, so people will come for miles to watch you burn”, the idea being that people want to be around others who inspire greatness. If you want to be a great athlete, find an environment of team-mates who will go 110% and coaches that will push you and believe in you.
But our environment is about much more than just the people we surround ourselves with, it is about where we spend our time on a day-to-day basis. Being in lockdown many of our environments have changed, we are now spending an unhealthy amount of time locked in our houses.
Possible negative impacts of this change? We may have no real set up to work from, leading to distractions and lack of focus. We are losing out on social interaction with other human beings and becoming very insular. Possible positives of working from home? Having more control over your environment. Not having to spend hours a day commuting. There will be pro’s and con’s to almost everything that occurs in life, but remember the identity of who you want to become and what would be the best environment to support that journey. Here are a couple questions to help you build your success environment:
Who do you spend the most time in contact with or talking to? Do those people inspire you? Do you feel you can share your goals and be open with them?
Have you got organisation and structure in your environment?
Are you part of a community (in-person or online) that have similar goals to you?
Is your environment set up to support your habits and goals? E.g. make sure you don’t have things you don’t want to eat inside the house. Turn off your phone at night-time so it doesn’t influence your sleep. Do your exercise outdoors so you don’t spend all day inside.
For self-development and continual growth committing to small, simple and realistic habits can be key. Rather than being another individual who promises the world, but falls off the wagon after a day, remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint. Success comes through consistency not “all or nothing”. I hope you enjoyed part 1 of the 3 part series. Next I will be bringing you my top 3 nutritional habits to support your health and fitness success!
Stay safe and keep #happyhealthandstrong