How can some people stay so committed to their goals like getting into the best shape of their life? I’m here to tell you it is possible for you using your discipline, accountability, and understanding, and want to share how!
Coming through the other side of the global pandemic, I found myself in the worst physical and mental shape of my life. A long look in the mirror while feeling frustrated with my body’s pain, my mental and emotional state, I knew I couldn’t keep living like this. Fast forward six months and I have reduced the pain in my joints, increased my confidence in my movements and in my mind, gained muscle and lost 30 pounds of fat. I am in the best physical shape I have been in for years! Now, I have had a lot people asking me “how did you do it? How do you stick with it without self-sabotaging?”.
First and foremost, no matter what goals you have; weight loss, performance, financial, relationship, or anything else, you need to get clear on one important expectation; it is going to be harder than you want it to be and you are going to mess up long the way (probably more than once). From where I was in my body and in my mind, I knew it was going to feel like shit out of the gates. The workouts, I knew were going to be a struggle. I was aware that it was going to be a fight mentally to commit to a program. The first step was that I had to accept these facts before I could decide to move forward. By doing so, I was able to move forward without any false sense of security and without too much judgement on myself on the difficult days – and believe me, there were some difficult days. We are all capable of doing anything we want. Deep down, I know this, and you know this, but when things get tough, when we often find ourselves struggling, and when things feel harder than we expected them to, it gets real easy to convince ourselves that we can’t do it, that we are the problem, and that maybe we are just not cut out for this.
Create a realistic expectation from the beginning about what the process will feel like for you and start your process without judgement.
Next up, I needed to be held accountable. I had been trying to hold myself accountable for years and it was not working (clearly). I had let myself off the hook too many times and was realizing that I needed to rein it in! I liked the idea of a difficult challenge to kick me in the butt and push me to be my best. I had thought about trying 75 hard for a few years. 75 hard is a program created by Andy Frisella and toted as being not a fitness challenge but rather a “transformative mental toughness program”. The plan was as follows:
Follow any nutrition plan designed for your goals – no alcohol, no cheat meals. Complete two 45 minute workouts, one has to be outdoors
Drink a gallon of water daily Read 10 pages a day Daily progress photo
*I added getting to bed before 11pm daily If you miss anything at any point in the 75 days, you start back at day 1. Knowing this was a daunting and unsustainable program, I contemplated…
I preach sustainability and this was really not what I preach… Why would I want to do something for 75 days, that I couldn’t do for the rest of my life? What would happen beyond the 75 days? Would I go right back to my old ways?
Thing is, I had been sitting in the back seat of life for too long, I was struggling with self doubt, anxiety, physical pain, nagging injuries that would not heal and living life frustrated with myself. I needed a jolt in the right direction. This was it. Committing to the 75-Hard program gave me something to stay accountable to. I had the awareness that it was going to be extremely difficult. Not wanting to fail and certainly not wanting to start over at day 1, I began with an intense motivation. In addition, my wife was doing it with me. This was fantastic because it gave us an extra sense of accountability and support. One important thing on that note though, is that I made a promise to myself that my success with the program would be separate from my wife’s success. We were there to support one another, help motivate each other and keep the process fun, but I was not accountable to her, and she was not accountable to me, we were accountable to ourselves and to the program. This was crucial for me because this was not about anyone else. If I made it about helping support her or about leaning on her for support, it gave me too many loopholes. I had to do this for me and only me! When you have changes that you want to make in your life, you need to find a way to stay accountable, especially in the beginning stages. There’s another important piece to keeping yourself accountable and we will touch on that in a bit.
The first few weeks felt surprisingly easy to me. The workouts felt clunky and anything from pain free, but mentally, I was motivated to make the changes. I was enjoying being back on the grind, and eating less junk food felt good to me too. I felt more aligned with who I was by taking these daily actions. However, after the third week, I started to feel disappointed. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see much change in my body. My injuries were still nagging at me (some days worse than before) and I was feeling tired from the two-a-day workouts. This is when I had to really become disciplined. I thought back to my earlier days of martial arts. Remembering this same frustration I would feel in martial arts so often. There were countless memories when I had worked so hard for many weeks to improve a technique, only to have my instructor inform me that it was still not ready, it still needed tweaks, and often that it had actually not improved at all yet. I would stay committed to the practice, focus in on the small details and continue to repeat the movements over and over again. Rarely did I ever reach a point where I knew I had perfected the movement or was praised for my efforts, but rather over time, it just got a little easier, and I’d move onto the next thing. I knew I had to do this with my program now. Have you ever heard the phrase Trust the process?
That’s what discipline means. It means sticking to the plan no matter how far away the result feels. Committing to the actions that might not be desirable now, in order to create a result that is desirable later. It’s about trusting the actions not the current result. I reminded myself time and time again that the actions I was taking were positive actions toward a bigger goal. I stayed committed to focusing on the consistency in my actions rather than the consistency in my results. I knew that even if my body NEVER changed, these actions would have a positive effect on me physically and mentally. I think we often mistake discipline for being a personal attribute, but it’s not. Discipline is a tool, a skill, and it can be developed if it is put to use. Discipline is a mindset. It’s not all or nothing, it’s not perfect, and it’s about one small step at time. When the process of 75 hard got tough, when the self-doubt crept in, and when I became afraid of the work, I tapped into my discipline and created consistency.
It’s not easy to stay disciplined though. You are going to consistently battle negative thoughts throughout your difficult changes. That’s why I find it so important to reward myself for even the smallest positive actions. I am not talking about having a piece of cake because I hit my weekly target. When I would finish a workout, I would celebrate that workout with myself, even if the workout was not my best, I celebrated the discipline of showing up. Some days that celebration was as small as a smirk at myself in the mirror or an internal atta boy and other days it was bigger; a giant hug with my wife, letting out a big “WOO” at the end of a strong session, or telling my kids at dinner how great my workout felt that day! These small rewards go a LONG WAY in your journey to better health. It’s not silly, it’s extremely impactful and important to counter your negative thoughts with encouraging and positive ones. Don’t let your negative self win!
Now, full disclosure here, we did not do the 75 hard completely to a T. Starting this in January, in Calgary Alberta, Canada, I knew I was going to faced with some days of below 20 degrees Celsius. I also knew that for me to make the changes that were important to me – it did not matter THAT much whether one of my workouts were outside or not. So, we did as many outdoor workouts as we could, whether it be a long frosty walk on a wintery night, or whether we adjusted our second workout session to a stretching/mobility session, we stayed committed to twice a day, but adjusted the rules slightly to work within what we wanted to achieve! I talked about the importance of setting realistic expectations early in the process, and allowing for flexibility is a major part of something being sustainable over time. Flexible does not mean breakable though. We created flexibility by means of staying within the boundaries that kept us moving forwards towards the goal. Another example of this is the bedtime rule I added in. I knew I needed to get to bed earlier more consistently. I also knew that some days, particularly when I was teaching class later in the evenings, it was going to be really difficult for me to unwind early enough to get to bed before my ideal goal of 10pm. So, instead of making the rule for 10pm, I made it 11pm which gave me the flexibility to get to bed anytime before 11pm. Many days I was in bed by 10pm. But the few days that I was not, I was still within my rules I had set (before 11pm). That flexibility made it possible more me to stay committed to the overall goal, without making the process impracticable or feeling like I had failed, even though I was on the right track.
The next crucial step to sticking with the plan is the most important step of all and should be done before starting anything else. I had created a solid accountability system to succeed. I was exercising my discipline and had created a realistic expectation with flexibility in my plan. But, none of that would be possible without this first step. I had to get extremely clear on my why. I knew that I wanted to feel better in my body, I knew I didn’t want to look fat and feel out of shape anymore, and I knew I wanted to feel confident again. Those are goals - I needed to get crystal clear on my purpose! The difference between goals and purpose is that purpose is unachievable. When you start to achieve your goals, things begin feel complete! That’s when we start to take our foot off the gas and feather the breaks a little. We get comfortable. A purpose though, sets you up for the long game. When you get to the bottom of why you want to achieve those goals and move beyond the achievement of those things – we start to create lasting motivation! When I remind myself of a goal like losing 30 pounds, it is easy to remind myself that one missed work out does not impact my goal in the grand scheme of themes. But when I remind myself of the purpose I am working towards, the type of life I am striving for, and the person I am trying to be – every action counts! Please, before you commit to a program or a goal, take the time to understand your deeper why. Ask yourself why that goal is so important for you to achieve. Ask yourself what those goals mean about who you are as a person and what type of person you are trying to become through these actions. For me, it was about not living an average life. It was about being the best version of myself who pushes past the internal boundaries, and living a life that inspires others to do the same! For you, it will be different. Get to know yourself and spend some time exploring these questions. I promise you that when you can begin to understand what drives you, your drive will feel so much easier.
While the program as a whole was unsustainable and unrealistic long-term, I was able to connect my deeper why to the actions I was taking, and it made aspects of the program easy to continue far beyond the 75 days. One example was no alcohol. Something that in the past would have been extremely difficult to abstain from, particularly at family events and social gatherings, became extremely easy when I understood why it did not align with myself and my goals. Staying disciplined in the beginning stages gave me the power to feel the effects of not drinking alcohol, which provided me the opportunity to see what that sacrifice was giving me. We often think of discipline, sacrifice and accountability as negatives. Our initial thought process pulls us to things we are giving up or losing out on. But, when we can travel beyond that initial thought, we can start to see that when we create space by removing one thing, we free space for something else. Until we have made that necessary sacrifice, we are never able to see what opportunities the other space holds.
With everything I have shared here about my personal journey, I want to remind you that your process is truly unique. Embrace that fact that you will struggle differently than the other people in your life or in your feeds. Fall in love with yourself again and become your greatest supporter through the process of change. Lastly, focus in on the long game and establish consistent positive actions that take you one step closer to that purpose. Think of your discipline and sacrifices as necessary and positive actions towards your growth. Take things one action at a time and commit yourself to being better through those actions.
Reach out, I’d love to hear about what changes you are making in your life!
Kyle Craik email@example.com