Are there really any true bona-fide secrets to shedding unwanted body fat, getting fit, and improving your health? There will be those who disagree, but after twenty plus years in the personal fitness training industry, I believe the answer is unequivocally no. Now this isn’t to say that we don’t uncover and learn new things on an on-going basis with exercise and nutrition science, but I will go out on a limb and say that you shouldn’t expect a pill anytime soon that will get you in exceptional shape or health without any effort.
Still, it seems that it’s part of human nature to desire the shortcut, the quick and easy way, the path less demanding. The first step towards success is recognizing that pull and not trying to deny it. You see it’s not like you’re going discover one day that you find if more pleasurable wearing yourself out with a workout than putting your feet up and taking it easy. It’s more like, you’ll associate the working out part more with your desired outcome (being lean, fit, strong, etc) and it will be more congruent with that goal.
In short, it's not emotions that drive this train, it’s your associations and beliefs. In your heart, I bet you already know that a life led by emotions and impulses doesn’t lead to long-term fulfillment and contentment.
Kick to the curb the way of always surrendering to your emotions, and instead let’s dive into a life of aligning our habits and actions with our beliefs and goals while embracing the idea of delayed gratification.
Let me ask you something, how many worthwhile goals or objectives have you ever achieved in your life without sacrifice, focused effort, and discipline? I’ll bet if you’re honest with yourself you won’t be able to name much.
If there’s anything in our hands that really plays a factor in determining our success, I’d say its discipline. And discipline is the result of habits and behaviors, which are the result of beliefs. This isn’t to discredit the importance and value of the right information, a solid plan, and visualization. These things are all extremely beneficial, but let’s be real, if you’re not disciplined to take regular and consistent action, these things won’t matter much. After all, nobody wished their way to a better body, they worked their way to it. As with most things in life, discipline is the driving force behind repeating a certain set of actions that take you closer to your stated goals.
From a physical fitness and body transformation standpoint, it’s not about a genetic advantage, superior knowledge, or anything like that. In all the years I’ve been coaching people, the most successful individuals have always been the ones who were consistent, in other words they kept showing up. They didn’t major in the minors or let little bumps in the road derail them. They grasped the most important concepts on what would work to help them reach their goals (they got their belief systems right) then worked at them on a consistent basis (habits).
When set-backs occur, as they always will at some point, they chalked it up as part of the process and kept pressing forward. I really do believe it all comes down to priorities and timing. If I’ve heard one excuse over the years I’ve heard a thousand. I guess this is human nature to some degree, but the truth of the matter is most excuses are either the result of a faulty belief system (ex. “I can’t lose weight because everyone in my family is overweight”) or an issue with priorities (ex. “I can’t exercise more than once or twice a week as my schedule is simply too busy”).
Now granted there will be times in life when a priority issue is a legit excuse. Take for example a health issue, either with yourself or a loved one. There are certainly things outside of our sphere of control that play a factor. I’m not talking about this; I’m talking about the things we do have control and influence over. For example, saying “I don’t have the time to workout,” is a priority issue if you’re not willing and able to go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier.
A lot of times I find an individual’s stated goal or objective simply wasn’t high enough of a priority for them at that specific point in their life. And you know what…I won’t judge anyone for that. The timing just wasn’t right, they weren’t ready. As a coach I’m here to simply provide instruction, encouragement, guidance, and yes accountability when fitness, health, and body transformation is a top priority in a person’s life.
Sometimes people aren’t ready for a host of reasons. Sometimes things come up that take a higher priority. We could all stand to be a little more understanding and forgiving of each other in this world. As a servant minded coach, I don’t believe in bashing someone who’s not following through; but rather find it more beneficial to “hold up the mirror” and remind them of what they stated was important to them and then ask them if they want to be held accountable to it.
Just for the moment, let’s take off the table the instances where issues outside of our control affected our priorities, as I believe that speaks for itself.
Personally, I think prioritizing things in our control that compromise our health and wellness is a poor trade off as health is one of our most precious assets. I can always remember hearing my father say, “take care of your health son as without it, the other things you’re putting in front of it won’t matter so much.”
Eating healthy and being physically active should be cornerstones for all of our lives. This isn’t the same as being super focused on a particular fitness or weight loss goal. I’m just talking about putting things in the right perspective from a big picture standpoint. If you’re too busy to eat healthy or to cut out a mere 30 minutes from your day to do some physical activity, I’ll suggest you need to revisit your priorities. You may have to get up 30 minutes earlier, take some time to pack a healthy lunch or whatever. The point is it all comes down to what you put a priority on. From there, the discipline is just about habits.
I personally learned the value of discipline at a young age, and I’ll be forever grateful for it. For those of us who were instilled with discipline at a young age we can thank our parents or whoever it was (a coach, teacher, mentor, etc) that impressed this idea on us. It’s something that has to be learned and developed, as you’re certainly not born with it.
I can remember being a kid and wanting to emulate my father. He always had a muscular build with broad shoulders and well-developed arms. Naturally, I wanted to be like Dad so I asked him what I could do to put some muscle on my skinny frame. His response was simple and to the point; he told me to do things like push-ups and not shy away from hard work.
We spent our weekends on a farm so there was always some “work” to be done with things like bailing hay, cutting wood, etc. The simple lesson I learned back then was hard work, discipline, and delayed gratification held the key. Doing push-ups and carrying things around the farm became a habit, not because I loved doing these things, but rather because I had put a priority getting stronger and believed that would help make it happen. Do you see the concepts of “belief systems” and “habits” at play here? Again, these are cornerstones for discipline.
I hope that you’re getting the golden nugget in all of this. My father didn’t push me to do these things because “he thought” I should do it (which is why as a professional fitness coach some 40 years later I won’t either). He simply saw that I wanted something and took the opportunity to teach me what to do and the value of discipline and hard work in getting it. This was a lesson that sank in, and it’s carried over to other areas of my life.
If you want something bad enough you get a good plan, then apply habits and hard work to get it.
If you’re reading this Dad, I can’t ever thank you enough. How many times today do we see parents shying away from teaching discipline to their children out of a desire to be their best friend? How well is this really working? I don’t believe a parent’s job is to be their child’s best friend, but rather prepare them to live a meaningful life as an adult. In the real word you don’t get something for nothing. If you want something you have to work hard for it.
Far too often we think of discipline as being synonymous with punishment. It’s really not. Discipline can certainly be about accepting responsibility and consequences for our actions be it good or bad. It’s not cruel or harsh to teach that there are consequences for our actions. When you do X, Y happens and vice versa. It applies to all areas of our life at any age. If we don’t get this reality, it only leads to resentment, confusion, and perpetuates the habit of making excuses.
Seriously, think about it for a second. Discipline in your life on all levels brings order, focus, and ultimately a sense of purpose and direction. A lack of discipline leads to the exact opposite, it leads to chaos.
We all need something to strive for, a target for our brain. What do you really want? What will it take to accomplish those goals? Getting clarity with these questions is the first step. After that, it all comes down to taking consistent and repeatable actions. This is where discipline comes into play. You know that it will take sacrifice, commitment, and hard work. It’s part of the game. The question is do you want “X” bad enough to do what it takes to get it?
It’s also important to remember life isn’t always fair. We look around and see a person seemingly getting a lucky break or applying little effort and getting what they want. It happens, so what? Don’t get bogged down when you see these things. It only leads to envy, frustration, and other negative emotions. Put your head down and get back to work. Focus on what you have control of and leave the rest to the good Lord.
Sometimes things take longer, there may be more obstacles to overcome than you had planned, etc. Don’t let these things side-track you from your focus and effort. Anything worthwhile achieving will require hard work and discipline
Believe in yourself and your ability to make it happen! Discipline you see, can determine your destiny.
Wishing you all the best.
If I can be of assistance as a fitness, wellness, and life coach please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a fitness professional and expert on exercise and body transformation for middle age and mature adults. He seeks to make a difference in the lives of others by providing instruction and coaching with a servant-based attitude. Since 2004 his Charleston personal training programs have helped over 3,000 Lowcountry residents.