I used to be a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I would caution people to not try to take on too many, but none the less I was a fan.
Now, not so much. I’m about to fall into the age old trap of assuming that just because something worked for me, it will work for you, but I’ve been looking for the catalyst for change for a while now, and I’ve finally found something that resonates with me on a very deep level. I’ve changed more in the past few weeks than I have in YEARS.
I have a ton of motivational tattoos. My right arm depicts the scene of Alexander the Great standing steadfast as his armada of boats burn behind him. Meaning that his soldiers had two options, fight and win, or fight and die. Maybe you’ve heard the expression “burn the boats” before. That tattoo was supposed to inspire me to go all in with my pursuit of optimum health and fitness. I also have a tattoo depicting a hand reaching for the stars. The meaning of that should be obvious. And a tattoo of my dog wearing a top hat with a journal with the words “live a life worth remembering”, which was supposed to help me remember to keep a somewhat regular journal.
I think the last time I wrote a journal entry was in 2015. I haven’t reached for the stars as hard as I could have. I haven’t “burned the boats”, I still have a beer and a burger every now and then. I don’t regret any of the tattoos though. They meant something to me and they’re beautiful. I’m still glad I have them.
The point is, I see those tattoos literally everyday, and they haven’t helped me make the changes in my life that I had hoped they would. Just because the date changes from 12/31 to 1/1, doesn’t really mean anything to us on a deeper level. It’s not going to resonate with you to the point that you affect change in your life. That’s why only 8-9% of people actually succeed with their New Year’s resolutions.
The only way that you’re actually going to make changes in your life, is when your desire to become better surpasses your inertia.
So how do you find that desire? I’ll tell you how I found mine.
I’ve read a ton of personal development, self help books over the years. All of them were good, but none of them lit a fire for me the way that David Goggin’s book “Can’t Hurt Me” did.
I also gained some really important takeaways from David Goggin’s interviews with Joe Rogan, as well as Jordan Peterson’s Joe Rogan interviews. I know Peterson can be a polemic figure and I don’t agree with much of what he says. However I feel like by listening to smart people we disagree with, we can make our own ideas sharper, and there is much Peterson talks about with regard to responsibility that I found invaluable.
Takeaway 1: “Own Your Shit”
Look yourself in the mirror and be brutally honest with yourself. I’ll do it right now. I have never given 100% to ANYTHING in my life. Not school, not my business, not my relationships. Nothing. I’ll go even further. I’ve half assed ALL of those. I did just enough to get by, and maybe 5% more. That may sound bleak but there’s tremendous power in admitting that to yourself. By admitting that, you’re also acknowledging that there is an opportunity for you to become better. By acknowledging the negative you’re also acknowledging the possibility of the positive.
Once you’ve admitted it to yourself, then you can admit it to others as well. Be prepared however that many well intentioned people will tell you that you’re awesome, and that you’re being too hard on yourself. Politely tell them thank you but that’s not what you need right now, you’re on a path and you have work to do.
Takeaway 2: Exercise is training for YOUR BRAIN.
I say “train the body, train the mind” all the time when I’m coaching CrossFit classes, but usually just as a joke when someone can’t remember how many reps are in the workout or what movements they were supposed to be doing. This was something huge that I got from Goggins, the most important results you get from training your body are mental, not physical. David calls it building callouses on the brain, or armored mind. You might not expect this coming from a CrossFit coach, but I think for this type of mental/physical training, you get the best results doing really repetitive, boring workouts, not super sexy, fast CrossFit workouts. That’s why we started doing what we call a “Mentality WOD” at our gym. 300 Tire flips, 1000 Step-ups, 2 mile Farmers Carry. No music. Even better if you do it alone. Even better if it’s cold, raining or both. Even better if you woke up at 4am to do it. The more you want to quit the better. You will be amazed at how fucking strong your mind can be.
Takeaway 3: Clean your house, NOW.
I had this epiphany that I shared with our Saturday class last week: “Strive to be the person without a drawer full of random shit in your house”. If you’re like me, you decide you’re going to organize a room, complete 95% of it, and then shove the last 5% into that drawer full of random crap. Similarly, don’t procrastinate on menial chores. When you’re done eating, clean up after yourself. Don’t wait 15 minutes, 2 hours, days etc. It might feel good in the moment to say I’ll do it later, but when you leave things unfinished, your unconscious knows it. Every time you walk by that drawer, or leave that dirty dish in the sink and see it out of the corner of your eye, it’s a little weight dragging you down. You’re also building bad habits, and shit self discipline.
Takeaway 4: Take responsibility.
None of this is going to be easy. It’s also never going to stop. Your house will always need cleaning. You will always need to own your shit, and you will always have to exercise. Life isn’t easy, but there is deep, deep meaning in being responsible for the people around us, the environment we live in and our bodies. Be the person that people know they can depend on. Be the person that leaves places better than you found them, even if it’s just picking up a piece of litter. Be the person that inspires others with your commitment to your physical and mental health. Find your fire, and be the person that you want to be.
A few years ago we came up with the hashtag #WeMakeBetterHumans for our gym. At the time it was more about lifestlye changes related to fitness, but now it means something different to me. It means you’ve had that honest conversation with yourself in the mirror, that you do what needs to be done, and you’re a rock for the people in your life.
When you tell people you’re making these changes, they’ll tell you you’re crazy. They’ll say you can’t do it. Maybe they’ll even say it nicely. Look them square in the face and say, “What if?”.