Taking ownership of your life, your body, your habits, and your results is the most important thing you can do in life.
This will be the most important blog post I write.
More important than any technical info, any recipe, or any magic secret. Taking ownership gives you freedom, control, and means you can get what you want.
Note: the concept of taking control of your life is one I have preached for a long time. (If you don’t control your life, how can you change it?) The word “ownership” and the concept of owning your decisions is one that Jocko Willink espouses. Thank you to Jocko for stating this more eloquently than I have ever even dreamed of.
Did You Workout Yesterday?
Did you workout yesterday? If not, why not? Did you get your workouts last week? If not, do your reasons sound like this:
- I was so busy.
- I had an unexpected meeting thrown at me.
- I was so tired. I got to the end of the day and just couldn’t do it.
- I forgot my gym bag. Or sports bra, or shoes, etc.
- My kid got sick and it threw off my whole day.
- I got roped into a lunch with coworkers.
- I had a going away meeting with a friend who’s moving. She’s moving, I couldn’t miss that.
- Oooh, I had a last minute date. Surprise happy hour!
Some of those are legitimate issues. If your kids get sick, you have to take care of them. Getting your job done means attending a meeting you didn’t know you had and working late to meet a deadline you can’t control.
Assess Your Life
You probably don’t have control of every aspect of your life or schedule, but you have control of enough things to be successful. Your responsibility is to identify your weaknesses, your challenges, and how you can overcome those things.
You also need to let go of your excuses. You need to know you can get workouts, plan your food, lose weight and increase strength even with your work and family responsibilities.
Don’t believe me? Look around. Many people in your situation are working full time, volunteering, driving kids around, and still making their health a priority. Somewhere among the 7 billion plus people sharing this planet are many people who have the exact, or almost exact, same scenario as you and overcame it.
They aren’t super moms and dads, uber successful people who get an extra 2 hours a day. They are people who encountered a problem, studied it until found a solution, and planned for it next time. This is all trial and error. They might have missed a workout or two until finding a workable solution, but you can get someone in your situation found that workable solution.
Consider again the reasons you had trouble getting in your workouts last week. Look at those reasons/excuses/roadblocks and be very honest with yourself about them. Are you actually too tired to exercise, or do you just hate your chosen exercise? Honestly identifying these reasons is key. From here, look for patterns. Are you raring to go Monday morning, weekend indulgences fresh on your mind, but tapering off by Wednesday?
Give this real thought. There aren’t right or wrong answers. Don’t feel shame about them. It’s not whining about excuses if you’re actually identifying roadblocks with the goal to eliminate or manage them.
Make a Plan
Take the “I’m too tired” reason for not working out. Perhaps you are so tired and this keeps you from working out 4 days a week. It might not even be an excuse because you are legitimately really tired!
Instead of telling yourself you must just barge through the fatigue, look at other areas in your life. Can you improve your sleep habits so you are more well rested? Perhaps your company treats you to a giant food fest at lunch that makes you crash in the afternoon. Work on feeling rested and it won’t take so much willpower to do your workout.
Knock Down Barriers
Let’s look at another. You forgot your gym bag. Guilty! I used to do it all the time. I’ve started carrying extra clothes in a bag in my trunk, and an outfit that’s nice enough for happy hour or dinner. I can get a workout and go straight from the gym. I don’t have to go home, skip my workout, get ready and then go.
That is preemptively planning for success. I don’t have to refuse last minute invites unless I want to! (Let’s be real; I’m a planner. I am SOOO down for dinner 2 Thursdays from now, 7:15pm).
In a more difficult scenario, you might find yourself at work, facing a deadline when you get a call about a sick kid. It’s hard to leave because you have bosses to whom you are accountable and you’re accountable to your team.
What do you do? You get your kid.
You miss your workout. Thats fine! It’s one day!
If having to leave work to pick up your child was a rare situation because he isn’t often sick and your spouse was out of town, then you don’t have to handle it differently. Take care of your family, eat a good dinner and get your next scheduled workout.
If it is a common occurrence that this makes you miss your workout, make a plan around it. You can do early morning workouts before any interruption, or tougher weekend workouts with quick low intensity exercise mid workday. Many people do this, especially busy people who are accountable most of the business hours. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, or fun.
But it will be worth it!
Plan Your Food Too
Food is a huge part of your success whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or improve performance. Like you examined your workouts, look back on your diet. What did you eat for breakfast today? Did it push you in the right direction? Did the food and drink choices you made this week help you?
If not, what is the reason? Often it is just lack of preparation. You run out the door in the morning, and grab what happens to be in the fridge. Nothing in the fridge? There’s always that taco truck every day by work. (Or does that only happen in Austin? It feels like they will chase you down with food!) You have to prepare or you’ll end up making do with what aren’t the best options.
Parents often tell me it’s tough making healthy food choices with children. The kid’s tastes are fickle or they have kid birthday parties with sweets and junk food. Many parents have found success modeling healthy eating at home and including the children in the same meals as age appropriate.
As I grew up, my mom explained to me that sweets, such as those at birthday parties, are for special occasions. It made me understand that we can indulge guilt-free, but it doesn’t happen every day.
Include Family in Your Healthy Habits
As you change your habits, expect that you might get some pushback from your spouse, family and friends.
A 2014 study of data from over 2000 adults found that we are genetically more similar to people who choose as our friends than we are to strangers. Perhaps this can explain why people are sometimes threatened by the choices their friends make.
Have you ever noticed that if you decline a drink, or a dessert, people encourage you to “go ahead, have just one!”? Our friends and their habits are so familiar to us, that when we start to change, it affects them too.
However, wouldn’t you want a friend who is abstaining for health reasons to make that healthy choice? Absolutely! Is it Topo Chico in her glass? Vodka soda? As long as she is safe, it shouldn’t matter to us. Remember that this works the other way as well. You get to decide to have a salad, skip dessert, partake in dessert, drink or abstain.
Stand Your Ground
Here is where you have to stand by your decisions. Decide what your goals are and how aggressively you will pursue them. Then consider how it will affect your life and those around you (even if it shouldn’t affect them.)
If you decide to quit drinking for a month but you have a standing happy hour with your party crowd, prepare to (briefly) explain your decision if it comes up and stick with it.
Don’t Fall Into the Busy Trap
Who isn’t busy? Everybody is busy! The only people who aren’t busy are the people who planned well and worked hard to structure a life that allows flexibility. Until we achieve this, we are busy too!
Paradoxically, when you are super busy, life gets easier if you take the harder road. This means planning your workout and putting it on your calendar, packing your bag, and following through. Yes, it is harder to plan tomorrow’s dinner right now, but when dinner rolls around, it is a mental break to eat the healthy meal that is already prepared.
This also means planning your meals, and keeping in mind where you can eat healthy if you have to run out to a restaurant near your work.
To blame being busy, or blame other people’s decisions or circumstances gives those things power. It is a false power, however; they don’t truly have power of you.
Do This Now
Make a plan for tomorrow. Pick 1 thing: exercise, or food. Then, decide how you’ll succeed at that one thing tomorrow. If you pick exercise, decide today what you will do tomorrow, then plan for it! Pack that gym bag, or put your tennis shoes by the front door.
If you picked food, then decide right now what you can eat that will be healthy. Remember, lean protein + veggies + a side of carbs, and lots of water. This means you should stop by the store if you need. Make time for that. Need ideas? Some of my favorite recipes: citrus salmon & broccoli, oven baked Italian chicken & veggies, or my favorite easy breakfast.
Next week, I am going to cover what to do when life gets crazy. I mean crazy: when work owns your life, kids are at camp and every week is different, or a family member has terminal illness. Stay tuned for tips on how to manage being healthy through those times.
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.