It the late spring of 2014.
I am the Healthy Living Director at a YMCA in Kansas City, Kansas. I am walking the facility, making sure none of the staff needs assistance and everything is in order. I’m doing a silent count of how many people are in the facility. I have already counted over 250 people.
“You don’t look like you belong here.” A member says, as he sits at one of the tables.
“What does that mean?” I asked. (I knew what he meant... I had heard this before.)
“You are just different...your clothes...the way you carry yourself. You look like you should be doing something different...bigger than this.”
“What’s wrong with this place? I’m here for you guys.” I ask
“I’ve been watching you. You won’t be here long. I can tell.” He responds.
“Well, I do have plans for something “bigger”. But I am meant to be here now.”
I wished him a nice day, and walked away with a smile.
That conversation was much different than the ones I had been having with most of my staff and co-workers. With them, the conversations were often geared toward having me adapt to my new environment...and to “stay.” I had assured everyone I had no plans on leaving immediately. But I shared (from what I had experienced in the past few years), new opportunity typically fell into my lap. I let them know they should not get comfortable with me being here forever. I promised to do my best every day. But I also warned them at some point, it would be time for me to go.
By mid July, one of my group exercise instructors stopped to tell me about a Fitness Center Director position open on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
“You are perfect for it. You have “the look”, the personality... everything. Are you interested?” He asked.
I told him I was. He got me an interview. They offered me the position on the spot.
All of a sudden, it was time for me to go.
How did that happen? How did the “perfect” opportunity fall in my lap (for the fourth time in a row)? I have a theory. It is the same theory that I am recommending that you use in creating a new identity for yourself, that includes healthy living and fitness.
We have the power to shape our lives...by changing our minds.
There are many things in life we cannot control. But we have full control over our thoughts and actions.
We have full control over how we respond to adversity.
We have full control over how we live our lives... even if we are not where we want to be.
Are you trying to stay the same? Are you sabotaging yourself with your thoughts and little actions that you take?
Truthfully, I knew I didn't “fit in” at the YMCA. I knew this primarily because people would tell me every single week. I felt out of place everyday. But, I didn't try to blend in. I didn't try to pretend. I just held strong to who I was. I held strong to who I was becoming. I held strong to who I planned to be in 5 years. I behaved as the person I saw myself to be. I did my best to encourage everyone around me, (especially my own staff) to be exactly who they wanted to be, even though their current position did not match their future identity.
I am so thankful for that experience. I am so thankful for those people. There has never been such a hard group for me to leave. On my last day,(as my last appointment left) , I came out of my office to find a number of people waiting to say goodbye to me. I had never experienced anything like it. It was very painful...I cried in the car as I drove away.
It was a very rewarding job, but it wasn't where I was meant to be any longer.
It can be much easier to stay where you are. Growth can be painful...and scary...and sometimes lonely. But the pain is temporary, and the rewards will come.
Some say “ the grass isn't always greener on the other side”. But I have learned the grass is very often greener...if we can get the courage to go. Our fear can paralyze us into staying where we are. Our fear can stop us from picturing a new life.
I think our biggest fear is failure...and a close second, is the fear of letting go of our old self.
We want to hold to that old person.
We are comfortable with that person.
My question is, what if the new person you are becoming... is your true self?
What if the stuff you are clinging to, is just holding you back from who you were meant to be?
Imagine all the good that could happen... if you let it go, and move forward into the discomfort.
The affirmation process is a good way to become comfortable with the new identity we want for ourselves...before we achieve it.
I’d like to share with you a few key rules to maximize the effectiveness of your affirmations. I learned them from the Pacific Institute.
- Write your affirmation in the present tense, using “ I ”. ( "I am ______.)
- Use words that will trigger the emotion you want to feel with that new identity. I create… I embrace.. etc.
- Review your affirmations daily in the morning and evening.
- Visualize yourself doing the activity, and feeling the positive emotions of it.
One of my affirmations I shared with you last week was, “I am a healthy 140lb Olympic lifter, with 18% bodyfat.”
I have to actually picture myself Olympic lifting. I have to picture myself 140 lbs and 18% body fat, from healthy practices.
After you have created your affirmation, you need to start lining up your habits to match. Affirmations are not a magic wand. They are a technique used to get your mind to visualize (and practice) your new identity before it’s achieved. You still have to do the work.
I recommend developing identity-based habits.
Yesterday, I met with another trainer (skilled in Olympic lifting), to check my barbell front squats and deadlifts. I have not been doing them regularly, because I feared I wasn’t doing them correctly. Proper form on barbell front squats and deadlifts are crucial to Olympic lifts. Before I get to Colorado next month for my Olympic lift training and certification, I need to do the strength preparation. I’ll be adding them now (with proper form) to my weekly workout schedule. Practicing (correct form) for barbell front squats and deadlifts are an identity-based habit of an Olympic lifter.
But I didn’t start my fitness journey here…
After the birth of my son, my first goal was to return to my “pre-baby” weight. I simply began with walking every day. Once I recovered, I added strength training twice a week. From there I have made gradual increases in amount and intensity of my exercise. It has taken me almost 3 years to get this point. But first I had to make the habit of strength training again.
Could I have done this all faster? Of course.
But...fast means nothing to me.
I want permanent.
There is no going back to prior levels of fitness. I don't belong back there anymore.
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned James Clear’s blog, and I used this picture.
Here is a taste...
“Most of the time we try to achieve results before proving to ourselves that we have the identity of the type of person we want to become. It should be the other way around…
If you want to get motivated and inspired, then feel free to watch a YouTube video, listen to your favorite song, and do P90X. But don’t be surprised if you burn out after a week. You can’t rely on being motivated. You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.”
-James Clear- Identity-Based Habits
You can achieve anything you put your mind to.
You have to change your mind...before you can change yourself.
- Figure out what you truly want for your life.
- Use the affirmation process to adjust your brain to the new reality you hope to achieve.
- Get started with those identity-based habits, that will ultimately lead you to your goal.
I know you can do it.
YOU have to believe you can.
YOU have to “see” it in your mind, lock onto it, and develop your habits.