Everything You Know About Motivation is Wrong & Here’s Why

Time.

It’s one of the most common obstacles for people when they’re struggling to get into a fitness routine and start taking care of their health. Now that most people are at home, many with an overabundance of time, it’s obvious that time isn’t the real issue. From the countless conversations I’ve had with people during quarantine, it seems that motivation is the largest issue when it comes to starting or maintaining a fitness and nutrition regiment.

Learning to motivate ourselves and others has long been a point of focus as we’ve tried to grow as both individuals and societies. Questions like, “how can I motivate myself to start working out?” or “how can I motivate my coworkers/employees to complete a task?” are commonplace and have shown up throughout history in various ways. Because of this, a large focus of scientific study has turned to motivation and how to use it to harness human potential both on the individual and group scale.

Why then, with it being woven into societies throughout history and given ample attention in scientific communities, is motivation so difficult for people to come by?

In large part, it’s because the majority of us don’t truly understand what motivation is, how to properly use it to achieve our goals, and are stuck using outdated, self-sabotaging methods. Luckily, you’re in the right place. I’m here to show you exactly how you can avoid the common motivation pitfalls and harness the power of motivation so you can start making progress, continuously check off your to do list and never feel run down again.

What is motivation?

Motivation is the general desire or willingness to do something. It’s the drive for taking action, performing a duty or completing a task. Many believe action is the product of motivation, that without motivation your vehicle for action won’t budge.

This is the first and most fatal mistake when it comes to motivation: believing that motivation precedes action, when in reality there is no true motivation without action.

If you wait for motivation to take action, you’ll be waiting for a while and many opportunities will pass you by as you wait. It’s like waiting for a bus in a foreign, third world country; you don’t know if the bus will actually show up, and when it does it may take you to a completely different destination (this actually happened to me while traveling solo in Costa Rica). Stop believing that you need to be motivated to get started and you’ll avoid the largest pitfall when it comes to motivation.

How do you build motivation?

Motivation is a product of momentum built from action, and the belief in the possibility of a better future because of your actions. In other words, you must take action to build motivation and build belief in that action as having the power to change your situation. Otherwise you will eventually burn out on the feelings of pointless action.

Someone looking to lose weight needs to believe in their ability to lose weight and the actions they’re taking toward it, otherwise when they hit a plateau, or if the weight doesn’t come off quickly and early, they’ll give up because they don’t have the deep belief in what they’re doing and why.

The 3 Levels of Human Motivation

To dive deeper into understanding and using motivation, it’s important to discuss the 3 levels of motivation that drive all of human behavior. Gaining a deeper understanding of the different motivation levels will allow you to harness the ability to self-motivate and become the absolute best version of yourself.

First Level Motivation: Primal Motivators

The first level of motivation is the most basic of the 3. It’s built around our most basic biological needs like food, water, shelter, sleep, reproduction, etc. These are primal motivators that are the foundation for much of what we do. For many of us these needs are largely taken care of and almost an afterthought, so motivation from this first level is low. Ensure that your basic needs are met and you won’t need to worry about level 1 motivation.

Second Level Motivation: Carrot & Stick Rewards/Punishment

The second level of motivation is the carrot and stick, reward and punishment style of motivation. It’s what the majority of the 20th century was built upon and the way that many businesses, parents, teachers, and society members focus on as a way of motivating themselves and others. Punish the bad behavior, reward the good behavior, and over time you’ll prune your behavior garden so that only the good behaviors grow, and all unnecessary behaviors are weeded out. This is great in theory, and for certain situations it works wonderfully, but in many instances this sort of motivation is severely lacking and can even negatively affect motivation, especially over the long haul.

The Problem with Reward-Based Motivation

External, reward-based motivators, like overtime pay and are carrot and stick style motivation. They dumb people down to basic beings who wouldn’t accomplish much without the threat of punishment or the allure of reward. They can be extremely useful in certain situations and for specific types of motivation needed, but they can also destroy the intrinsic motivation and derail your progress long term if used inappropriately.

External rewards are great when used for a task or habit that you haven’t started and/or aren’t interested in or excited about starting. By rewarding yourself at the beginning, you can make the process of starting easier, hopefully build interest and help solidify the habits that you may not enjoy. This will work effectively in the initial stages, but over time you’ll need to move those rewards internally as rewards lose their power and effect over time and exposure.

External rewards have a negative, motivation draining effect in situations where you enjoy the tasks. This is because of something called the overjustification effect where instead of focusing on the task itself, we focus on the reward and almost detach from the task. If you’ve ever enjoyed something and then moved into a position where it became your job and you were paid for it, over time the joy you found in that activity likely faded until you lost all joy entirely. This is the overjustification effect in action and can destroy the internal joy and motivation that is necessary for long term success.

External rewards also have a negative effect if used too frequently or for too long. Rewards are most effective when they’re sporadic and randomized, as this works on a process called reward prediction error. We receive a bigger bolster of motivation and feedback from unexpected or unpredictable rewards rather than those that we know are coming. Receiving an unexpected cash bonus at work has a more powerful effect on your motivation than the annual bonus you receive at Christmas. One is unexpected and reinforces the hard work you’ve done, while the other is expected and taken for granted.

Use external rewards to build initial interest in a task to help you get started and sporadically during the beginning phases of building a habit or changing behaviors. Over time move those motivators internally and focus on intrinsic factors, like the grand purpose of your goals, the impact your actions have and the control you have over them, and working towards daily mastery, to ensure that motivation doesn’t wane and progress continues.

Level 3 Motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, & Purpose

The third level of motivation moves away from the externally motivating factors like rewards and punishments and turns motivation inward. It focuses entirely on intrinsic motivation, the internal drives for why you do something, and uses that to create lasting, overflowing motivation. It focuses on 3 primary areas that define and drive motivation: purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Understanding what these 3 areas encompass and learning how to use that information on yourself and the world around you will give you the ability to manifest motivation nearly at will.

Autonomy

Autonomy means self-government. It’s the idea that we are driven by a need to feel in control of ourselves and the choices that we make. It plays a major role in motivating individuals, but beyond just feeling like we’re in control of our lives and the choices therein, we must feel like the choices we make and actions we take have the power to make change. It’s this belief, this feeling of hope for a better future based off our actions that provides us with the motivation necessary to make change.

To use autonomy for yourself, it’s important that you decide what goals to pursue and how to pursue them. This doesn’t mean that you need to go at it alone, but rather that you should be the one guiding your journey. Realizing the control you have over your situation, coupled with the belief that you can make a change, is one of the most empowering and motivating feelings you will experience.

As a health and fitness coach I approach goal setting, as well as individualized fitness and nutrition components from this same perspective. I act as a guide to help people in achieving their goals, but ultimately the goals that they choose to pursue and the ways in which they pursue them come down to their own needs, wants and drives. I could outline exactly how to reach a goal for every client, but in doing so would remove a large degree of control they have in the process. The lack of control and personal input in the process would drain motivation and derail progress swiftly. Instead, I focus on ensuring that the client retains control, autonomy, over their health and fitness journey so that they stay engaged and motivated.

Mastery

Humans have a desire to work towards mastery of themselves, and their lives. This eagerness to work towards mastery provides us with a challenge and the feeling of “play” which can take mundane tasks from boring and uninteresting, to intriguing and enjoyable. Pursuit of mastery provides a video game-like experience that allows you to continuously face and overcome challenges, providing reoccurring motivation.

The key to using the component of mastery properly is to set up adequately matched challenges. Using the Goldilocks Paradox and finding a challenge or goal that’s not too hard (which feels overwhelming and pointless), or too easy (which gets boring and repetitive) builds engagement and energizes you toward your task. Figure out what you want to achieve over the long haul, take note of what you’re currently capable of, and then set goals that are just a step or two above where you currently are. This will allow you to feel empowered to succeed in achieving your goals without becoming overwhelmed or bored.

I know it’s not glamorous to take mini steps and make small progress towards your goals. It doesn’t garner the attention or excitement that a major life overhaul and grand goals might, but it leads to far more success. Anyone who seems to have achieved “overnight success” is actually the product of consistent, small achievements that culminated in a massive amount of success over time. Start with your overarching goal(s) as guidance, but then focus on breaking them down into manageable, bite-sized pieces that are appropriately challenging.

Purpose

Purpose is your “why”. It’s the reason that you ultimately do something. It’s at the deepest level, the “something bigger than you” level, where it connects us to the process in a way that goals themselves cannot do alone, especially ill-formed or misguided goals. When you start to figure out the goals you’d like to achieve, you need to dig deeper and figure out why you have a desire to achieve them.

Why do you want to achieve this goal? Why does it matter to you? What need does this goal satisfy for you and why is that important? How does this connect to a larger purpose than the goal itself?

In answering these questions you’ll gain a clearer picture about who you are and what drives you, and figure out if the goal you’ve set out is something that truly matters, or if it’s just another goal that you’ll pursue for a short period and eventually give up on. Figure out the purpose of your goal, build belief in the reason why you want to achieve that goal, and fuel your motivational fire from within.

If you want to lose weight, why? What purpose does it serve?

Maybe you want to feel more confident about yourself, improve your health, or be able to challenge yourself physically by running races. It’s important to dig deeper than simply wanting to lose weight, because at some point that alone won’t be enough to keep pushing you forward when the journey becomes difficult and your dedication wanes. Figure out why you want to achieve your goals, and focus on that purpose, especially when the process becomes difficult or progress becomes stagnant.

Motivation is Internally Driven

To truly motivate yourself, not just to get started but also to continue in pursuit of a goal, you need to move your focus away from external motivators, like rewards and punishments which can negatively affect motivation, and turn it towards internal motivators. You can use external motivators to begin a task and build interest, but eventually the power from those rewards and punishments will fade, so finding internal motivation, or a drive and reason within yourself for what you do, is the ultimate goal. Harness the power of internal motivation by finding purpose, retaining autonomy over the process, and creating challenge through mastery. In doing so you will find that you never have to wait for motivation to strike again and your ability to achieve goals will never be an issue.

Many of these ideas are based off the work of E.L. Deci and R.M. Ryan, the pioneers of Self-Determination Theory, and the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink. For more information, check out selfdeterminationtheory.org, or read Daniel Pink’s book. And if you need help implementing this new style of motivation into your life, so that you can live a happy and successful life, send me an email at achievefitllc@gmail.com to learn more about the coaching process I’ve used to help people turns dreams into reality and make life-altering changes.

5 Steps to Make a Life Changing Transformation

Change is going to happen. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, or what you do, change is inevitable. Many people struggle with change. The struggle occurs because the change happens to you, rather than for you. You are forced to change, rather than choosing to transform, and that lack of control can be uncomfortable, unnerving, and frustrating. It’s like being pulled by the undertow in the ocean; Fearing that you may never regain control and reach the surface again becomes very real.

The issue lies in the fact that we’ve never really been taught how to create positive change; We’ve never been taught that it’s a process that we can take control of it. During your schooling years from preschool all the way through college and post graduate studies, much of your self-development and growth occurs as a result of others guiding you through the learning and transformation processes. It teaches and conditions you to that change is done for you, rather than by you, making you feel like a passive participant in your own growth and development.

As you work your way out of school and into traditional life, the responsibility of personal growth and learning falls squarely on your shoulders. No longer are people intentionally guiding you to acquire more knowledge, build your skills, and develop yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is where most people stop developing almost completely and become stagnant in their life. They no longer consistently learn and grow, struggle to create positive change, and find themselves merely treading water. This is a scary place to be because it goes against our natural human desire to stay in motion and work to grow and achieve more. Even though change is scary, being stuck feels worse. Without that growth, without the positive motion moving us forward, we feel lost and struggle to find ourselves.

That’s where Intentional Change Theory can play a pivotal role. It’s a structured approach to self-development and personal transformation created by Richard Boyatzis. It was theorized and designed for use in the development of employees and growth in the business sector, but can work for everything from career improvement and emotional development, to physical transformations, relationship building and skill acquisitions. It helps guide you from where you currently are to where you want to be through 5 key steps:

  1. Connecting to Your Ideal Self
  2. Understanding Your Real Self
  3. Creating a Learning & Growth Agenda
  4. Implementing and Experimenting with New Behaviors &Habits
  5. Developing & Maintaining Close, Personal Relationships

With these 5 steps you will discover important things about yourself that will help you achieve personal growth and transform your life. Diving deep in the questions below, you will begin to uncover the truth about who you are; Your strengths and weaknesses, your dreams and aspirations, and your fears and personal obstacles will all be brought to the surface . This insight will guide you through building a structured transformation process and help you grow into the person you have always wanted to become, to develop the life you’ve always dreamed of living.

If you’re ready to take control of your life, seeking out and creating change intentionally rather than waiting for it to happen to you, continue reading this guide that will have you on your way to living your best life and becoming your truest self. 

Ideal Self:

What do you want out of life?

Don’t think about what you’ll tolerate, or what you think is possible; what do you truly want and desire out of life?

Who do you want to become? What does the very best version of yourself look like?

Most of us tend to live small. We plan small, dream small and live small. It’s safe and it keeps us from feeling the anxiety and fear of being truthful about our dreams and goals and chasing them feverishly. It keeps us from being let down if things don’t work out.

But living safe isn’t living life to it’s fullest. It’s living below your potential and accepting less than what you truly want and deserve. It leaves you always wanting more, left with feelings of dissatisfaction and irritation.

Your ideal self breaks through these societal and self-imposed limitations, smashes through the idea that you’re not worth the effort to go after want you want. It helps you tap into your deepest desires for yourself and the life you live. This is the part of the vision building process which works on something called “Positive Emotional Attraction” to create hope and inspiration for individuals to create change. Rather than focusing on external limitations and factors that can lead to feelings of negativity, visualization allows you to look at yourself and your situation in the most positive possible light.

When going through the questions above, it’s important to be aware of any of the limiting stories or ideas that come across your mind. These are the stories that the world around you has told you for years, driven by their own fear and limitations, that you’ve adopted as your own. If you start thinking, “I can’t achieve that”, “I’m not good enough for that”, “I’m not X, Y, or Z type of person” or anything sounding remotely similar, understand that’s not your own true thoughts and feelings, but rather the thoughts and feelings you have absorbed over a lifetime.

This section is where you let those feelings go, be truthful with yourself about what you want and need out of yourself and your life and start visualizing what that would look and feel like. Put aside your preconceived notions about what’s possible based on your current skills, characteristics, attributes, etc.; Turn your focus to what you want your life to look like if there were absolutely no limitations and anything was possible (hint: in many ways, it is possible).

Real Self:

This is who you truthfully are right now. How do you act? How do you see yourself? How do other people see you and feel about you?

Your real self is the person that you currently are. It’s the way you act and respond, the characteristics you embody, the skills you currently possess, and the life you’re currently living. This is a difficult area for people to dive into because we all have our own biases and protections for our egos. We struggle to see ourselves honestly, without outside influences or personal opinions distorting the truth about ourselves. However, if we are afraid to look in the mirror, we can never change the things we don’t like. Embrace the “ugly”. Be honest. Put aside your ego and take this dive into who you truly are as an opportunity for reflection, self-awareness, and growth.

As you work through the questions above, it can help to reach out to other people to gather their opinion on who you are. Choose people who know you well but aren’t afraid to speak their mind and be honest, without fear of hurting your feelings. You must also be open to the constructive criticism these people may provide and welcome it as a self-performance review. It will show you where you excel and show you where you can improve. if you adopt a mindset that sees honesty and growth as a positive opportunity, the ability to improve is invigorating and energizing. These people will play a pivotal role in your growth and development over your lifetime, so getting them involved early and often is important.

Ideal vs Real Self: Your Personal Balance Sheet

Compare your ideal self to your real self. Where do they align? Where are there gaps and differences between the two?

Where does your real self live up to your ideal self? These are the strengths that you’ll continue to build on and use to your advantage.

Where does your ideal self outpace your real self? These are the weaknesses or shortcomings where you will focus your attention and put energy into improving.

This works as a personal balance sheet designed to compare where your strengths lie, and where opportunities for growth can be found. It’s important to approach this process entirely judgment free, focusing on unconditional acceptance of self. Look at is as a chance to improve yourself and your life, rather than beat yourself up over your weaknesses or areas in which you aren’t living up to your potential.

It can be helpful to set up a Venn diagram comparing your real and ideal self and putting the overlapped areas in the middle to show where they align. You can then move onto the next section and start building a plan to bridge the gap between your ideal and real self, using your strengths to get you there.

Learning Agenda:

Your learning agenda is the plan you develop that guides you step by step from where you currently are, to where you want to go. It’s the map that leads you to the treasure chest of wealth that is your ideal self and life. It’s important to build a clear outline with goals that are broken down further into skills and practices/habits. This ensures that you’re giving yourself the best chance to succeed in transformation.

What do you need to learn to become your best self? What skills do you need to develop?

In what areas to you need to grow physically, mentally and emotionally to become the best version of you?

How can you take the information from above and break it down into manageable steps that can be achieved through daily action (habits and behaviors) over the course of weeks and months or even years?

The learning agenda is a guide; it’s the Yoda to the Luke Skywalker that is your personal growth and development. It acts to not only show you the path to your highest self and form of living, but also to motivate you by proving that it’s actually possible to achieve. Focus on the key aspects of your personal growth, the areas that will bring you the most drastic change the quickest. Then, narrow your lens view as you achieve those major changes.

A large portion of your focus will be on bridging the gaps between your ideal and real self, but attention should also be paid to strengths and areas in which you are already succeeding. This works to reinforce those strengths and to ensure that you continue to maintain them as you move forward. This gives you a boost of motivation by working in an area where you already excel. Working on weaknesses and constantly struggling to build upon them can become a grind, so it’s necessary to affirm your strengths.

But while it is important to focus necessary attention on those areas, don’t become lost in that. It can be easy to be absorbed by the good feelings and comfort of the “pat on the back”. Acknowledge what you’ve done well, and what you will continue to do, but don’t let it take you away from the process of transformation.

Practice and Experimentation with New Habits and Behaviors:

This may be the most important step in this entire process. Without the previous three steps, however, it will fall far short of its potential. This is where you take the planning, motivation, and insight built over the first three steps and put them into action.

What habits and behaviors must you adopt if you wish to become your ultimate self?

How can you implement the practice of those behaviors into your current life?

How will you ensure that failure in practicing or creating a new behavior doesn’t end up in you quitting the improvement process entirely?

It’s important to understand and accept that change doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just decide to become a better person, to live a better life, and then wake up expecting it to happen. It takes hard work and a level of dedication that gets you through the low points. But if you keep your eyes on the end goal while believing in your ability to achieve it, the work will come naturally. Though difficult at times, it will be well worth it. Focus on what you do daily as a way to weigh your success in the process, working for consistency rather than perfection. Measure those habits up to the check points you’ve set for yourself, and continue to do this process over time.

It’s also necessary to remember that your ultimate self is probably unattainable– meaning, perfection is something that will never happen. You will never do every single thing you set out to do daily. It’s about a majority win. When good habits prevail 90 percent of the time, you’re winning. The idea that your ultimate self won’t be 100 percent achieved shouldn’t dampen your emotion but rather keep you level headed as you work towards it without ever truly achieving it.

Development and Maintenance of Close Personal Relationships:

Picture of friends smiling and sitting in a cafe having coffee together.

Humans are built for connection. It plays on our need for survival. Those who are connected with others and work well in groups typically survive better than lone wolfs. It also works with our desire to reproduce, as connection is a vital component to create relationships and families. Though our needs for survival have drastically changed throughout human history, there is still a large need for human connection and support in achieving anything of worth, especially a massive transformation. You can go at this journey alone, but your chances of success and the speed at which you succeed will fall greatly without the assistance from people close to you.

The relationships that we have with individuals and groups work two fold. They work as a support system, providing feedback on your progress, and helping you through your struggles so you don’t revert back to old behaviors. They also help develop your identity. Because of this, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will be honest and challenge you, those who believe in your vision for your life and live their lives in a similar manner. Working toward personal growth and aiming to live the best life possible is so much easier when done together.

Your personal relationships include friends and family, but expand outside of that small circle to encompass people you wouldn’t normally expect. Bosses and mentors, coaches who have already achieved what you wish to work for, and anyone else willing to invest in your process of change are all people you should keep close to you. Start looking within your life to find people who fit the criteria of being a supportive member on your journey, and then expand outward searching for coaches or mentors who can help guide you where others cannot.

Remember that the relationship should be mutually beneficial. You will be gaining something from them, and giving something in return. Enter the relationship in such a way that ensures you’re not simply taking.

Change is Your Choice

Change is going to be tough no matter how it happens. Whether you change as a result of difficult times that force change, or simply decide that you’re going to dedicate yourself to the betterment and improvement of your life, it’s going to be difficult. The difference between intentional change and the change that happens to you and is forced upon you, is that the former makes you feel empowered with the ability to create change, while the latter leaves you feeling out of control and at the mercy of life. It’s your choice and responsibility to decide who you want to be and the life you want to live, and it starts with your approach to your own development and growth.

Do you want to accept life as it is, always at the mercy of the inevitable difficulties that life throws at you? Or would you prefer to grab the reins of change, take control of your life and grow into the person you’ve always been capable of becoming?

Ultimately the choice is yours and I can’t fault you for not wanting to put forth the immense amount of effort it takes to create change for yourself and work toward a better life. But the truth is that your time on earth is limited and you’ve already been living a small, underwhelming life, so isn’t it time to try something new?

P.S. If you’ve been struggling to make a change in your life, especially if it’s related to health, nutrition, fitness or mindset, contact me at achievefitllc@gmail.com to discuss my coaching process and how I can help you implement some of the tools from this article and ensure you make the changes you desire and start living the life you have always wanted!

COVID-19: The Ultimate Mindset Shift

I remember getting the notification about gyms closing due to COVID-19 and being both worried and upset. A place that I considered a second home, was being closed down for 2 weeks (which turned into 4) in an effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve. I felt like I had lost a best friend, something that has been a daily part of my life for over 12 years, and I wasn’t sure how I would get by.

Writing it out like that, it seems silly. The gym, my best friend? But in many ways, no matter how sad that sounds, it’s true.

The gym was the place I went to when times were good, bad and especially when they were ugly. It was the place I felt most comfortable and free. It was always open, always available, and always gave back more than I put in. When I had no one else, I always had the gym, so the loss of it left me grieving. As such, I went through the various stages of grief.

Denial, anger, depression, and bargaining.

Finally, I came to acceptance and realized that regardless of how I felt, the situation was not going to change and the change that needed to happen was in the way I looked at and approached the situation. Sure, I didn’t have the same equipment that a commercial, or even private gym has, but I did have some equipment and that was far better than nothing. I may not be able to workout in the same way or capacity that I was used to, but I could still workout and get many of the same benefits.

By changing my mindset I went from worrying about losses in muscle and strength, to focusing on the gains I would make in other areas of fitness. I thought about how this setback could be an opportunity to become a more well-rounded athlete and a better fitness and nutrition coach. I went from angry, anxious, and depressed about the situation, to excited, energized and hopeful about what could come of it.

If you want to change your mindset about your fitness and training during this time and go from complaining about what you lost to focusing on what you may gain, continue reading. If not, do your best just to “grind through” until the gyms open, whenever that may be.

The New Status Quo

The most important step in making the most out of this situation is treating these changes like they’re the new “normal”. Stop waiting for things to get back to normal, stop trying to control the uncontrollable. Instead, adjust and adapt to the situation as it is, rather than how you’d like it to be. This is not only going to be a powerful mindset shift for your training, but for your life as we learn to operate within the guidelines. It does you absolutely no good to put energy into and dwell on what was or what could be. Instead, focus on what is and what still can be.

How can you make the most of the situation as it stands? If this situation was permanent, or at least for the next 6 months, how would your approach to training, nutrition and your daily life change?

These are important questions to answer if you want to change your approach to your fitness during this time and make the most out of a poor situation.

Work on Weaknesses
We’ve all got them. That side of your body that isn’t as strong, that exercise that’s a massive struggle for you, or the area of fitness you’re lacking. Use this time to not only build awareness of your weaknesses, but attack them ferociously so when you get back to your typical gym routine you’re stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Where do you biggest weaknesses lie? What exercises and/or types of workouts give you the most trouble or do you avoid (because they’re hard or “suck”)? What have you been avoiding because it isn’t fun, sexy or doesn’t play up to your strengths?

Answer those questions and then get to work!

Get Creative
Challenge yourself to find creative, new ways to workout. Maybe you decide to use heavy objects around the house, like laundry detergent, milk jugs, or back packs loaded with books or cans. Maybe you have weights but need to find ways to challenge your strength because of the limitations of equipment or amount of weight you have access to, like using offset loads or training unilaterally. No matter what your specific limitations are, take it as an exciting new challenge rather than a setback.

What objects do you have around your house that you can use for exercise equipment?

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, turn your sights on what you do have and how you can make use of it.

Try New Types of Exercise
Is there a workout class or fitness program you’ve been curious about trying? Now is a great time to jump in and give it a go! Find free workouts online through Google of YouTube, join a live class (I run 3 each week live through Zoom, if you’d like the info comment below) or reach out to a coach or trainer you trust who specializes in the type of exercise you’re interested in. Expand your fitness knowledge and improve the way that your body moves (while working on likely weaknesses from #1) to become a more well rounded human and athlete.

There’s no better time to try something new, and the internet offers you a great opportunity to find all sorts of free or inexpensive options from the comfort of your home. Figure out what interests and excites you (or challenges you), head to YouTube or Google, and find exactly what you’re looking for (and more).

Focus on Mobility and Recovery
You probably have been meaning to get around to fixing that knee pain, improving the depth of your squat, and working on your mobility for years now. You’ve had all the right intentions and may have even found a routine that you started, but I’m going to guess that you’ve never actually put in consistent, intentional time on your mobility. I get it though. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t show as well on social media or in conversations the way a deadlift PR or longest run does, but it’s a necessary component to a fitness program and your physical health. Take this extra time (and likely lack of equipment) to focus on an area that will benefit you not only immediately, but also over the long haul.

For my daily mobility routine that you can do anywhere and anytime, follow this link. It can be done in 20-30 minutes and will touch on every joint and muscle in the body to ensure that your body moves and feels better than every. Start taking care of you body and improving your mobility so that when you get back to your normal training, you’ll be stronger than ever before.

If you want to spend your time upset about the loss of gyms and the change in your typical workout and routine, that’s your choice, but you’re far better off accepting the situation as it is and choosing to find the silver lining. You’ll be happier, healthier and much more productive as a result.

P.S. I am opening up spots in my group coaching program to anyone who is looking for accountability and support in addition to some awesome workouts and training resources. If you’re interested, leave a comment and let me know so I can get you signed up. The best part: it’s entirely FREE! Join today!

“Brain Dump” Your Way to Better Sleep & a Happier Mind

It’s not uncommon for people to struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. For some, this may be a result of unused physical energy (that idea of your body being tired), while others may have a hard time turning their mind off and settling in. Thankfully both are (relatively) easy to rectify with a bit of action, but for today’s sake let’s focus on the mental side of things as this is where more people, in my experience, tend to struggle.

My favorite tool I have clients use to clear their mind, slow down their thoughts and find mental peace to make sleep easier to find is called a “brain dump”. It’s an unscientific term I use to describe the process of dumping everything that’s on your mind and keeping you awake, down onto a piece of paper. It acts as “save button” for your brain, allowing your mind to be at ease knowing that you won’t forget anything important that you’re currently focused on.

You see, the reason that your mind races and doesn’t allow to you sleep is because it deems the information that it’s dwelling on to be important. Things to do, bills to pay, checklists to cross off, these are all things that are important and thus your brain doesn’t want to forget them for fear of messing something up or missing something. To make sure that we reduce the fear, and simultaneously the thoughts tied to it, we use a brain dump to pull those thoughts out of our head and put them down on paper to review later. This gives our brain a bit of relief and can ease some of the mental thoughts and tension that otherwise would be there.

Similar to moving files off of your desk top (your brain) and into a folder (the piece of paper for your brain dump) brings you peace of mind, so to does the process of going through a nightly brain dump. So take all of those stressful, nagging thoughts and life’s annoyances, grab a pen and paper, and get to dumping them out to worry about later.

Here’s how you perform a brain dump:

  1. Pull out a blank sheet of paper, notebook, etc
  2. Grab a pencil, pen or other writing utensil
  3. Write down the first thought that comes to your mind, something that has your focus, then follow it with the next thought and the one after that
  4. Don’t try to work through the things you write out, figure out a solution or anything of that nature, just put it down and hit a figurative “save” button on those thoughts so you can pick them back up the following day
  5. Spend roughly 10-15 minutes doing this (less if you have less on your mind) and reap the benefits of a peaceful night’s sleep
It doesn’t have to be neat, organized, color coded or anything else, just get those thoughts OUT

That’s the basics of a quality brain dump. It’s pretty simple and straight forward and is a very useful tool to help calm down your brain, clear your thoughts, and put yourself in a good position for a restful night of sleep. Sleep is a key component of health, arguably the most largely overlooked, so use this tool frequently to build quality sleep habits and ensure that you’re doing the most you can to improve your sleep and overall health.

Getting Lost to Find Myself: Part One

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you likely know that I spent 8 days traveling alone in Costa Rica recently. On Instagram I posted an endless amount of pics documenting the natural beauty of Costa Rica and sharing all the animals that I encountered along my journey (I’m a bit of a nature and zoology nerd). On Facebook I shared my reflections on my journey and the growth that inevitably came my way as a result of that journey. What you probably don’t know, regardless of if and where you follow me, is why.

Why did I travel to Costa Rica, alone and out of the proverbial blue?

The why for this trip has been a long time coming. The past year, hell even the past few years, have been really rough on me. That’s not to say that I’m unlucky, or life’s unfair, I don’t believe either to be true, but I have dealt with internal struggles that few people know about. The culmination of these struggles was self-admittance to the psychiatric ER after a bout of depression became too much to handle on my own.

I wasn’t suicidal, but I stopped caring about life and whether I woke up the next morning. It’s what they define as passively suicidal. I got to a point where life became extremely dark, like I was living in a hole, trying to dig myself out, but every time I dug the dirt just fell back on top of me. I was hopeless and apathetic, not caring about any of the things that usually matter to me.

On the outside you wouldn’t be able to tell. I was going to work and putting on a happy face. I was keeping up with physical appearances and hygiene, which is one of the key signs they use to determine someone who’s depressed. I didn’t miss any workouts, sleep in late, or any of the normal symptoms that we equate with depression. In short, I didn’t fit the mold for depression, but inside, I felt like I was dying. Like someone had taken a heavy, dark blanket and used to it cover my mind and heart. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, and I couldn’t live on my own terms.

That loss of control in my life was nearly too much. Thankfully I had and have some very supportive and amazing people in my life and despite feeling alone in my battle, I never was. Those people helped me get through one of the darkest periods in my life and helped me keep from spiraling entirely out of control. Unfortunately, the depression wasn’t the only issue in my life.

About 6 weeks ago, my girlfriend of 2.5 years and the person I loved more than anyone outside of family, and I broke up.

A little over a week after my trip to the psych ER, something still wasn’t right. I still felt overwhelming feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. I still felt like I had lost my vigor for life and was struggling to feel like myself. Standing in the shower one day, the emotions were too much. I collapsed, sitting down, letting the water pour over me, and cried. I cried because I was depressed, but more so, I cried because I realized what was necessary for me to be able to be me again.

Despite knowing how much it would hurt both of us, despite not wanting to in the least, I walked out of the shower and explained to my then girlfriend that things weren’t right. In my life, in my head, and in our relationship. Something was off, pieces were missing, and I couldn’t help feeling like we were going in different directions. I expressed that it had nothing to do with how I felt about her, didn’t detract from how deeply I loved her, but that we had been fighting an uphill battle, staying together out of comfort and convenience, rather than progress and growth, and it had become too much for me to bare. I wanted her to be happy and I knew that ultimately that would not and could not be with me, so I needed to let her go, allow her to grow on her own, and find happiness in herself and with someone else.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Deciding to give up something good, or good enough, for something better, great, and quite possibly amazing. To give up on someone and something that I had worked on and with, fought tooth and nail for, for the last 2.5 years, it broke me. I felt like I was quitting, and that’s something I take pride in not doing. I don’t quit, I don’t give up, especially when there’s no glaringly obvious reason for it.

We didn’t have the typical problems that plague most relationships, my previous ones included, like lying, cheating, or incessant arguing that usually precludes and makes a breakup easy to see and follow through on. We loved each other deeply, and despite that, it wasn’t enough. And that was the hardest part, realizing that despite loving each other, despite wanting to be together, it simply wasn’t enough, and it was time to move on for both of us.

I’m grateful and thankful for the 2.5 years I got to spend with that amazing person. We taught each other so much about love and life and helped each other grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had we not found each other. We supported each other through some of the most trying and difficult times of our lives, that we may not have been able to handle alone. For all of that and more, I am thankful, and I will always have a place in my heart for her and I hope that she finds peace, happiness and everything her heart desires in this life.

The most amazing part about the breakup is that it showed me that I could still FEEL. I still had emotions, I still had life and energy inside of me, it had just been lying dormant and slowly dying. Instead of just living free from emotions, or only feeling and living with anger, I could actually feel again. The world became a bit brighter, life became a bit more exciting, and the tears that I shed were not only for sadness at what I had lost, but for happiness at what I had gained: the ability to feel.

Shortly after our breakup, it dawned on me that that there was still work left to do. I had done a lot of adding and subtracting in my life, doing my best to get back to being me, but I still needed a spark, something that would ignite change and spur growth.

Less than two weeks after the breakup I found that spark, or rather, I created it. I booked a trip to Costa Rica on a whim, traveling alone for the first time. I knew that it would be difficult, as traveling alone gives you no one and nothing to fall back on but yourself, but I also knew it was exactly what I needed.

I couldn’t tell you exactly how I knew it was what I needed, but something in my gut was pulling me towards a solo trip, specifically to Costa Rica. I needed the beaches to soak up the sun and re-energize, the mountains to give me an elevated view and assess my life as a whole, and the jungles and rainforests to allow me to get lost, both in their trails and my mind.

Although it wasn’t the best time for me to be taking an international trip, or any trip for that matter, it was the right time for me. I needed to get away from the life and situations I was so used to, get outside my comfort zone, and really force myself to do some deep thinking, work on myself, and create intentional growth. And somehow, the trip to Costa Rica provided all of that and more.

It gave me an opportunity to breathe, think, and live clearly, not worrying about all the responsibilities and the life I left back home. By turning my life upside down for a little over a week, I was forced to assess my life and able to see it from a different, clearer perspective. Costa Rica will always have a special place in my heart for its natural beauty and wildlife, but even more so for the mental and spiritual journey that I went through on its beaches, in its forests, and upon its mountains.

If you’ve read this far, I want to thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about me and support me as I navigate through all the struggles and triumphs that this life has to offer. If you’re interested in reading more, I will be releasing the second and final part of the this blog on Wednesday, detailing more about my actual journey in Costa Rica, everything I learned along the way, and how I am going to use that newfound knowledge and growth to start living my life in the way that I’ve always wanted.

Stay tuned, and if you have any questions or comments regarding me, my life, or the trip to Costa Rica, please comment below as I would love to connect with you and answer them!

Make the Most Out of ANY Situation to Live Your Best Life

My heart is pumping, my energy is electric, and my ears are still ringing. I just got out of a concert with my girlfriend and had an absolutely awesome time. The atmosphere was great, the music was pretty solid, and I got to spend time with the person I love and see her completely in her element, which brings the biggest smile to her face.

Admittedly though, the concert wasn’t something that I was overly excited about. It was for a band that I don’t really know, besides listening to the odd song (or twelve) in her car, and from what I do know, the music is not something I enjoy. In fact, I’ve been know to use the hyperbole, “this makes my ears bleed” in reference to the music on several occasions. Sound a bit dramatic? Well, I never claimed not to be, so as they say, “sue me”.

In addition to not being excited about the music itself, I also wasn’t very enamored with the idea of waiting outside for nearly 45 minutes in freezing cold weather. I’m not a concert goer, and didn’t realize this was a part of the process, so while I had on a jacket, let’s just say I didn’t dress appropriately (neither did she, choosing to look good rather than feel good, but that’s her choice). During this 45 minute wait, my patience wore thin and I began to get a bit grouchy. Realizing that this night wasn’t really about me and understanding how much it meant to her, especially the fact that I went with her, I did my best to put on a good front, but by no means was it easy. It helped to be able to physically see her excitement: a beaming smile on her face, abounding energy, and the literal jumping for joy that she did as we realized the line was moving and we were heading inside.

The concert as a whole was pretty damn amazing. The music was great, the atmosphere was killer, and there are few things more enjoyable than live music. If you’ve never been to St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, or another small, intimate venue for a concert, I highly recommend it (here I go recommending concert venues when I just said I don’t frequent concerts). I even loosened up enough to do some head banging and move around a bit (I wouldn’t call it dancing, because we were shoulder to shoulder and the music wasn’t conducive to my “stripper hip” style dancing, as my older brother calls it).

All-in-all, the entire experience got me thinking about how easily I could’ve had a terrible night, and even worse, ruined her night as well, but didn’t. In the past this likely would’ve been the case. I’m headstrong, I like what I like, and I have a tendency to be a bit of a curmudgeon when in a situation I’d rather not be. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, and somewhat wiser, (those things never move at the same pace), I’ve learned how to open myself up to almost any situation or opportunity and make the most of it. As a result, my life has flourished, I’ve experienced more in the past few years than I have in most of my life, and I’ve grown immensely as an individual. I think this is a very powerful mindset to adapt, and I wanted to share some tips with you on how you can make the most out of any situation, find joy in everything you do, and live your absolute best life as a result.

Be Open to Opportunities

While you don’t have to be Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”, it’s important that you’re open to opportunities when they arise. You don’t have to say yes to everything, or get outside your comfort zone in everything you do, but you should be mindful of the mental blocks and barriers that may be holding you back from experiencing and enjoying life.

We all have those barriers. It’s a defense mechanism against change which the body can internalize as a bad thing, and does in most cases. That’s why situations outside your comfort zone make you nervous or feel awkward, your body is sending you signals to resist change, but change is growth and growth is truly the key to long-term success, happiness and fulfillment. Become aware of those thoughts, be vigilant in battling them, and remember that sometimes that bit of nervousness or fear (not the “someone’s about to murder me” type fear), is actually a really good thing. It’s a sign that you’re stepping into the next level of your self.

Embrace the Moment

Not only do you need to be open to those opportunities to actually embark upon them, but you also need to be open to embracing the moment itself. That means putting aside any preconceived notions or judgments you may have, and opening yourself up to the experience itself. It means being present and tapping into your inner child: that youthful, open-minded and excited for everything person that still lives inside all of us. Remember when you were a kid and anything could be fun if you tried hard enough? (Like going to the grocery store and playing hopscotch on the tiles). That’s how you should approach each and every moment if you want to experience new things and live your best life.

Maybe you don’t like the music at the concert, the sport that you’re watching, or the movie that’s playing etc., but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something enjoyable in the situation. There is always something to take away from and enjoy about a situation, but you will never be able to find it if you venture forth with a closed mind.

Challenge yourself to try new things and to do so with an open mind. Maybe it’s a new food, a different event, or an entirely new environment that you decide to stretch your boundaries with, regardless, make sure you are doing it free of judgment, bias, or preconceived notions. This will give you the opportunity to truly experience whatever it is you are doing/trying/seeing, and grant you the ability to objectively decide if that new experience is something you’d like to do again, or something you will pass on going forward (it’s important to say no to things, just make sure you’re saying no from a place of open-mindedness and understanding).

By opening myself up to and embracing the experience (that was going to happen regardless of if I enjoyed it or not), I was able to find joy in the moment, and even found a few songs that I liked! You never know what will come of experiences until you embark upon them, but I promise there will always be positives if you choose to find them.

“Fake It Til’ You Make It”

If nothing else works, “fake it til’ you make it”. Sometimes simply acting like you enjoy something, and buying into the process will give you a chance to enjoy something you never thought you would. In the case of the concert I attended with music that I never listen to, both the band and the genre, I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know how to dress, how to act, how to “be”. This easily could’ve put me in a place where I was closed off and unable to buy into the experience.

What did I do? I faked it. I watched and picked up on the vibes of the people around me, and did as they did. I moved to the music in a way that they did, bought into the energy they were putting out, and as a result I found myself far more engaged in and enjoying the music than I ever thought I could. It’s actually pretty amazing to think about, considering just a few hours prior to writing this I would’ve liked nothing more than to avoid ever hearing the bands music, and now, after the fact I am realizing I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect and moment of the performance.

If you’re at a concert, dance. And if you can, sing along. If you’re at a sporting event, join along in their chants and revelry. If you’re in a fitness class, turn up your energy and give it your all. No matter what you do, if you buy-in to the process, and even if sometimes you have to “fake it til’ you make it”, you’ll give yourself a chance to experience it as it should be, and you’ll find that more times than not, you find something enjoyable about the experience.

My hope for you is that you never shy away from experiences, just because of what you’ve heard or how you feel about that experience. While it’s certainly important to be able to say no and filter certain things out, I think it’s equally as important, if not more so, to be open to saying yes and trying new things. While you may not always find a new band you love, hobby you enjoy, or food you just have to have again, you’ll find more times than not that the experience, regardless of the outcome, is always worth it. Open yourself to new experiences and opportunities, embrace the moments when you’re in them, and if necessary, “fake it til’ you make it” until you buy-in to the process and experience itself. Doing so is going to open up endless opportunities for you to flourish and grow, and you’ll learn things about yourself you never knew.