“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” - Chaos Theory
We make hundreds of simple, seemingly small decisions every single day. While some are clearly life changing, the majority of our decisions and actions seem to have a direct, small effect.
Today as I was telling my 3 year old son that I had to leave for work, he asked me to play with him. I was trying to get to work just a few minutes early, but I chose to spend four extra minutes playing with him before I left. We didn’t accomplish anything significant in those four minutes. We didn’t have some life-changing moment that he will remember for the rest of his life. I also didn’t miss anything significant in my work by getting there four minutes later. But that decision is one of thousands that I try to intentionally make so my son knows that his father cares deeply about him; that being a father is far more important than any job I get paid for.
We make choices like this every day. Whether we realize it or not, we are adjusting the trajectory of our lives, and more importantly, the lives of many others. Every. Single. Day.
Our Fitness Team and Clients Making A Difference
2 weeks ago we hosted a blood drive at our facility, Progressive Health & Performance. It was a booming success! We had 58 donors come to donate blood on a summertime Saturday. According to LifeStream Blood Bank, those 58 donors saved over 150 lives; those people made an intentional choice to care for others. But this story goes much deeper. We had one donor in particular whose story really stands out to me. This donor, Mark, has been a client of ours for over a year. In the weeks leading up to the blood drive, I approached him asking if he was going to donate. While he was willing, he explained that he had tried to donate blood numerous times in his past and had always been turned down due to his blood pressure and medications. He signed up (somewhat reluctantly) for a donation appointment anyway. I imagine he feared the feeling of rejection and failure if he were turned down again. It should be noted that Mark is a model client. He shows up consistently, works hard every time, and buys into every bit of advice we have for him.
Not surprisingly, Mark went through the blood donation process as smoothly as anyone. His blood will potentially save three lives ‒ not just because he was willing to spend some time on a Saturday to help others, but also because he committed his time, effort, and finances to improving his health through his fitness and nutrition habits.
These kinds of stories fuel us as health and fitness professionals. Knowing that we not only improved Mark’s quality of life, but that together with Mark, we positively affected others we know nothing about. This kind of impact is what lights that little fire in us. In fact, as I was soaking in this story about Mark, it reminded me of how and why I got into this field in the first place.
I grew up an overweight kid. We’re not talking just baby fat. We’re talking husky, 34” waist, pre-teen big. My family tells stories about me ordering two adult meals at restaurants and still saying “I’m hungry.” In fact, I still have some of the clothes from back then and they fit me more loosely now as a 30 year old man. What rescued me from continuing down that path towards chronic disease and obesity were parents that made going to the gym a regular part of our lifestyle. I started working out when I was 12 years old. While I cringe at some of the workouts I was doing at the time, they were more than good enough to impact my body in a positive way. I could write at length about how this experience changed my self-esteem, self-confidence, and of course how my physical health and appearance changed my life, but that’s really missing the biggest effect. My experience with fitness and health as part of my lifestyle led me down this path into making it a career. This led to me directly influencing hundreds of clients, and indirectly thousands of others when you take into account families, friends, and the impact of our team at Progressive Health & Performance.
Mark’s story gave me a glimpse at that impact because I saw the next level of compound interest, if you will. Mark’s blood may very well save the life of someone who is on their way to becoming a heart surgeon that saves lives, a teacher who works with special needs kids, or a single mom of four kids. Do you see what I’m getting at? We need to understand and be aware of how important the decision is to be physically active. That’s not to say it’s the most important factor in health, but in my completely biased opinion, it is definitely near the top. It’s about so much more than looking good in a bathing suit or at a high school reunion. The butterfly effect of each and every one of our decisions to be physically active and live a healthy lifestyle has the potential to improve literally hundreds of thousands of lives within our lifetime (not to mention after we are gone).
So here is my call to action for YOU:
If you’re already physically active: REFLECT ON WHY
We live in a world that is predominantly self-serving. As a whole, we think about ourselves too much, and get so wrapped up in our own world that we often don’t realize how much we affect others. This isn’t to say that working out to look better at the beach is a bad thing. I’m saying that if we only frame our fitness and health routine to be beneficial to our physical appearance, we are missing out on an exponential amount of joy that can be extracted only by reframing—broadening— our perspective.
If you’re not physically active: THINK ABOUT YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
Many people forego exercise and proper nutrition because, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of work. It takes commitment and it’s uncomfortable. Because of this, many people have no problem not following through with something they know they should be doing. In that narrow view, it doesn’t negatively impact anyone but themselves. However, when we are aware that our decision negatively impact others, things change. We are much less likely to knowingly hurt someone we love.
This will hit those with children the most: As parents we have the opportunity and responsibility to set the trajectory of our children’s lives. One in five kids between the ages of 6 and 18 are obese. Are you setting up your child for a healthy, thriving adulthood? This starts with modeling! Don’t just throw your kid into some activities hoping they will stick it out. Show your kids through your actions, that being physically active is a normal part of your family’s lifestyle.
For those whose kids are already grown, consider the burden you might become if you continue to let your health deteriorate. It’s never too late. I promise that you’ll enjoy your later years more with a body that still allows you to be mobile and do the things you love.
This isn’t about shaming anyone. This is about being aware of the full impact of our decisions surrounding health and exercise throughout our life. For 17 years I have experienced the butterfly effects of being physically active. I am blessed to have played a small role in many stories just like Mark’s. I wish that for everyone, and if there is any way I can help that come to fruition for you, I would be honored to be of service.
Since the advent of the internet we live in a world where information is just a click away. If you want a new workout routine you can just find one on Pinterest. You want a new diet you can get one from the hundreds of fitness sites that will give you the low down on anything from Keto to carb cycling. Yet, why do so many people find it so hard to achieve a fit body and establish healthy lifestyle habits? Is it a lack of information or is it deeper than that? The following are three reasons why I believe most people fail at their fitness journeys:
1. Identity: One thing that separates humans from animals is that we have the power to choose whom we want to become at any moment. So often when embarking on a fitness journey you look at yourself through the lens of your current body or health state. You may say things like, “I am out of shape” or “I am diabetic”. Yes, those things may be part of your current situation, but they are not who you are! By simply seeing yourself as a fit individual you will start to try and align your actions to meet your new identity. When you’re out to dinner you may find it harder to over eat or skip on workouts because doing so will not align with your new identity.
2. Burnout: Anytime we start something new we tend to overestimate our abilities and level of motivation to see things through. I see it all the time. A new client will want a five-day workout routine, a structured meal plan, and a supplement list. At times, this works in the short run, but it’s very likely to cause burnout in the long run. Although you may be motivated to start, life will ultimately chip away at your desire to workout five days a week and follow a rigid meal plan. For this reason, starting off with short term wins will give you the positive reinforcement you need to keep the motivation to continuously optimize your fitness goals. For Instance, committing to two days a week at the gym and removing sugary drinks may be a good place to start. Once you get the hang of that, add something else. Remember, motivation is limited and stress is cumulative. Not overloading to start will establish the foundation of habits you need to be successful.
3. Lone Wolf Mentality: Today it is so easy to try and do everything on our own. We get in the state of mind that I can just download this app or go to the gym on my own and I will be alright. Nevertheless, this way of thinking will ultimately hinder you. Most people who achieve success will attribute their success to the help of others. Finding a community of like-minded individuals will allow you to grow and to contribute to the group. Additionally, your community will keep you accountable and motivated. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with others. Whether it be hiring a fitness coach, going to group class, or simply finding a workout buddy, GET CONNECTED!
Lastly, health and fitness is a continuous journey. Aim to get just a bit better each day. There will be times where life will throw you a curve ball, but you can choose to react differently by adopting a new identity, take it one step at a time, and rely on your community. Enjoy the process, because in the process you will learn commitment and perseverance!
Choice. Something we were given and are repeatedly given every single day. Choice. From the most valuable moment in our lives to our most fundamental needs as human beings, we are impacted by the choices we make. When we open our eyes as the sun begins to greet us, we have the choice to turn off that alarm clock to begin our day or hit snooze to rest just a little bit longer. We have the choice to start our mornings off by integrating movement, whether it’s yoga, running or weight lifting. Or we can choose to save our fitness regimen for an open slot later in the day. We have the choice to grab a donut (or two) and rush out of the door or we can choose to reach for the piece of fruit and protein bar as we take on the day. We have the choice to be angry and anxious as we wait impatiently in traffic or we can choose to simply accept where we are at in that moment and realize that the traffic is out of our control. We have the choice to ignore the pain we feel, or we can choose to start overcoming the pain through healing. The point I’m trying to convey is a simple one. Choices, whether they seem major or not, influence our lifestyle, our habits, and our next choice following the last. The choices that seem mundane and minuscule are typically the choices that will become habitual and affect us long term. For example, if I chose to eat one donut every morning starting today, the likelihood of just one (sugary) decision would begin to wreak havoc on other areas of my life as time goes on. My cravings for sugar would increase, causing me to want and/or eat more sugary commodities during the day, which would cause my blood sugar to increase, eventually leading to insulin resistance, and ultimately leading me to develop type 2 diabetes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “This chick really thinks that if I eat one donut a day I will develop type 2 diabetes?” To which I respond by saying, “No! Well, kind of.” I firmly believe that our choices, especially health related decisions, are influential on our overall wellbeing, which determines the quality of life we will be living. “But what if I make the wrong choice!?” you may ask. The greatest realization when it comes to the choices we make, is that we always have the choice to choose again and choose differently. Sometimes we don’t always have a clear indication of which choice is the right one; however, each day in every moment is a new opportunity to learn from the past choice and make a better decision moving forward. Being mindful about making healthy decisions or even just choosing the healthier option for what is available to you in that moment, is a simple way to begin creating healthy habits and self-discipline that end up being a beneficence to our health, wellbeing, and overall experience. Here are a few tips that can help you begin making healthful, impactful, and mindful choices:
1. Choose to prepare your belongings the night before, so you can wake up the next morning without feeling rushed and anxious, but rather content and energized which can lead to more mindful choices as the day progresses. That 5-10 minutes the night before can often turn into 15-20 minutes of spur of the moment decisions when rushed.
2. Choose to ingest a tall glass of refreshing water first thing in the morning to rehydrate your body after it worked so hard to heal you as you slept.
3. Choose to make the healthier decision when it comes to that moment where you don’t have time to eat lunch, but you know you need to eat something, and your face-to-face with a vending machine, and you only have $1.50.
4. Choose to avoid taking things personal, but rather, maintain composure and a sense of peace knowing that you don’t have to be affected by outside negativity. This change isn’t just mental. Your body will literally produce less stress hormones and more happy neurotransmitters by this changed thought process.
5. Choose to prioritize your health so you don’t have to sacrifice your time later in life dealing with the consequences of what initially seemed to be harmless choices that turned habitual. Bad choices in the present tend to lead to exponential increases in time, money, and effort to undo later.
6. Choose to give yourself permission to take care of what you need. That might mean saying “No” to plans with friends and saying “Yes” to plans with you and yourself (or vice versa).
7. Choose to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Growing pains typically precede major life changing experiences.
8. Choose to move often. Try new forms of exercise to challenge yourself and tune into how your body begins to feel the more you take care of it through frequent movement. Maybe it’s lifting weights, running, tai chi, yoga, sports, walking, or chasing your two -year-old around the park.
9. Choose to be grateful for at least three (preferably more) different things each day. Gratefulness leads to mindfulness and mindful choices benefit your health, ultimately leading to a quality life for you and those around you, and help you prepare for the next opportunity to choose again.
I love being a dad. I've always known I would enjoy it, but I never imagined how much love I would have for my little boy. I grew up with babies constantly around me as I have a dozen nieces and nephews ranging from 2-20 years old. It's true what they say. You just can't understand the love until you have your own. Being in the health and fitness field, it always felt like my son would be my own personal experiment. I can finally take someone, literally from the first day of life, and implement everything I've learned to create the optimal human being. I think we all do that in some way or another. If not in relationship to our child's physical well-being, we often make vows to make sure our child is raised in a way that gives them advantages in other areas of life. Advantages that we wish we would have had. We make vows to make sure they never go through what we went through. To let them learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments.
I made it my mission to give my son the best possible chance of having a healthy physical body through the nutritional and fitness knowledge I've gained over 28 years of life. I'll have to write another blog on exactly what my wife and I have done and why we have done things this why, but that's not what I want to share this time. For now, I will just say that we have walked the perfect line (to our knowledge) in terms of nutrition and movement. And after 10 months, this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned:
You can never 100% control the outcome of another human being.
Here's what I mean. As health and fitness professionals, we strive to improve the lives of others. Sometimes that means helping someone lose weight. Other times that means helping an athlete reach peak performance. Yet other times, it's helping someone learn how to walk and feed themselves again. We fitness professionals pin our reputation, our self-worth (for right or wrong), our livelihood, and even our measure of life success (again for right or wrong) on helping others achieve positive outcomes. This, at times, is incredibly rewarding. It feeds our soul to serve others.
But the reality is, not everyone reaches their goals. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes commitment levels aren't high enough. Sometimes people can't afford the type of service or care that they need to truly reach their goals. Shoot, sometimes goals just aren't realistic. This is a true day in the life of every health and fitness professional you know. For various reasons, we can't always get people to their goals and it crushes us when we don't. It keeps us up at night. It racks our brains and drives us into hours of research searching for an answer. It causes us to question nearly everything we know and do at times.
But after 10 months of fatherhood, with a seemingly perfect setting with nearly every health related variable controlled, my son still battles regular skin issues and digestive irregularity. Now, there is of course the reasonable possibility that we are missing something. He's eating too much of this or not enough of that, or whatever. Say we're even off by 10%. Really? So 90% "perfection" isn't enough to keep his skin clean and his poos regular? C'mon! Herein lies the lesson; you can never control the outcome 100% and we should be okay with that.
We fitness professionals should be satisfied with the fact of doing everything in our power to help someone. That's all we can do.
I think this message is most valuable for every parent or future parent out there. Especially all you moms who often carry the heavier load. Please listen to me on this. Not everything that your child struggles with is your fault. Should we question our actions in the event of struggles? Of course. Educate yourself. Ask more questions. Try everything you can. But don't carry the burden of guilt or shame for your child's struggles. I can't tell you how many parents have come to me heartbroken because of various health issues in their children. You can feel when they blame themselves. They've tried to live up to a standard that they were never built to uphold. If you've done everything in your power and ability then you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Life happens. We must accept that we are not perfect and parenthood is quite an easy reminder of that.
In a day where every kid gets drilled in their head that life's success depends on a 4.0 GPA, a college athletic scholarship, or worldwide fame, we need to accept and teach the reality that: 1) Not achieving those things doesn't define you and 2) Achieving those things doesn't necessarily equate to the "perfect" life they sometimes envision. You can do everything you think is right and still not get what you truly want. It's not always in your hands.
Parents, health and fitness pros, children, and well, everyone; Can we stop beating ourselves up with impossible expectations? Can we strive for perfection while being prepared and satisfied with nearly missing the mark? Perhaps that's "unamerican". Or perhaps we need to redefine what it means to be American in this sense. I think the happiness and health of the younger generation may depend on it
If this has reached you on a personal level we would love to hear your thoughts!
Progressive Health & Performance resides in the Temecula and Murrieta area of Southern California and also serve the surrounding cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Canyon Lake and Wildomar, but we work with clients nationwide. Whether it's your toughest health challenge or your next fitness goal, we are here to serve you.
39400 Murrieta Hot Springs Rd
Murrieta, CA, 92563