"Put aside the Ranger and become who you were born to be."
Elf Leader to Aragon on the eve of reclaiming his thrown as king of Gondor.
Taken from Lord of the Rings III - Return of the King
New Years Eve is easily the most popular time of the year for people to set goals. It seems the one time of year that people stop to assess their life and say, “What do I want and what do I want to do?” For this reason, New Years resolutions are great – in theory – but in reality, they have a few serious shortcomings:
Follow-through (a.k.a. ACTION)
While many New Years resolutions are made with the greatest of intentions, usually by the time we hit about the 17th of January, most of these intentions have faded to the backs of our minds along with the sweet taste of the champagne we were drinking when we set them. If people followed through with even 50% of the things they say they are going to do, this world would indeed be a different place. But the truth is that most people lack the consistent follow through needed to truly turn their dreams into reality. Since this is the case for most people, it is usually easy to settle back into the crowd – into “what’s normal” – and let the extra stuff (the stuff we REALLY want) wait until next New Years Eve. Persistent ACTION and strength in follow through will be explored in detail later in this series, but it can almost always be traced back to numbers 2 and 3 below.
. One of the biggest differences between those who dream/set goals and those who transform those dreams into reality is a sense of purpose. "WHY must I do this thing?" Indeed, many dreams and ideas sit on the shelf and dry up in the very early stages as people try to figure out HOW to get them done, often searching for the best way to start. But the real power in any pursuit comes not from the HOW but from the WHY, the sense of purpose that drives us. The WHY of something will always outweigh the HOW – by a lot. According to Tony Robbins, one of the world’s most renowned coaches and catalysts of change in people, the ratio of achievement is actually about 80% WHY and 20% HOW. You may have all the instructions and a perfect map laid out before you, but if you don’t have a compelling enough reason, if you are not driven by some deep seeded purpose to travel down the path before you, chances are it won’t be done. On the other hand, if you truly know and connect with why you must do something and are driven by a strong enough sense of purpose, you will always find a way. Unexplainable miracles and world record achievements – large and small – occur daily all around the globe to support this notion. Purpose will also be explored in more detail later in this series, but ultimately, it can almost always be traced back to number 3 below.
. In the rapid-fire pace of today’s world, we often set our goals and dreams and then fill our subsequent "to do" lists based on the various roles we play in life. It is easy to fill our list of goals based on often-urgent external needs (“Increase client base and revenue by 30%…”), and if we can conjure up a strong enough reason/purpose (…so that I can cover the cost of the studio I just leased!), we may actually find ourselves catapulting down the path toward achievement. But seldom do we really look beyond the various roles we play in life at the “setter of the goals” inside and ask, “Who do I want to be?” Rarely do we ask ourselves, “Am I being the person I really want to be? Will the achievement of these goals fulfill who I came on this planet to be?”
As fitness professionals, we would never (or should never) design a fitness program and throw someone onto the squat rack before we take the time to assess them as a person (physiologically, biomechanically, posturally, emotionally, etc…). Likewise, we should not design our own "life/career program" and launch into action before first taking a look at who we are and who we want to become. Alas, we arrive at the topic of this first part in the Functional Integrated Life series: IDENTITY.
Working from the bottom of this list up and from the inside out, this series is designed to help individuals awaken to their own true IDENTITIES or real PURPOSE to fulfill their highest calling through consistent, empowered action – so that they can in turn help others do the same. It is a highly interactive series that will allow you to fully engage, to ask and answer some "soil churning" questions and to lay the foundations for moving forward with more clarity, focus and fire into all areas of life.
As a fitness professional, you no doubt spend most of your time focused on the wants, needs and desires of OTHERS. Now is a time for you to stop and turn some of that good mojo back onto yourself – refuel and refresh your own perspectives, so that you may be a more powerful "giver of the good stuff" in the year to come. There will be a time for you to consider your various clients and how they may benefit from exploring some of the same concepts and questions in this series, but for now this is for YOU. You deserve it, and you may need it. If you’re going to lead the caravan across the desert, you’ve got to know the camel you’re riding!
Paul Chek often talks about the difficulty of “firing a cannon from a canoe” with regards to the need to develop functional stability and strength in our "core musculature." In life, our identity is our "core." It is the power center of our being, from which all movement emanates. A clear and powerful sense of identity leads to a clear and powerful sense of PURPOSE and ultimately clear and powerful ACTION. Without a strong sense of who we are, we vastly increase the risk of “dysfunction” in the way we think, stand and move in life. Thinking and moving from a false or limiting sense of identity is like performing exercise from a faulty or limiting posture base – the subsequent range of motion and power of the movement is limited, therefore creating limited results and ultimately leading to greater dysfunction! On the gym floor, we ask our bodies to play many different roles – to push, to pull, to twist, to squat, etc… and the effectiveness of each of these movements often comes down to the strength and versatility of our core. Likewise in work and in life, we play many roles (trainer, friend, manager, accountant, parent, cook, etc…), each of which is dictated by who we are as a person. While it is usually what we DO (achieve, accomplish, create, etc…) that gains public recognition, it is who we ARE that makes all actions possible.
To fully penetrate the topic of personal identity (where it comes from and why) we could dig very, very deep indeed. Our perception of who we are is based on so many influences in the world around us – family, society, religion, science, etc - not to mention (for those who believe in any form of afterlife or reincarnation) what elements of experience and identity we may have brought in with us from other realms and lifetimes. In terms of the world around us, one need only glance at the unsettled state of affairs in the family unit, science, religion and society itself to see that we are in fact in a bit of a global identity crisis. This is a wonderfully rich subject worth intense exploration well beyond the scope of this article, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to some of the basics, and look at what we know we actually can control in this lifetime – our OWN attitude and approach.
FINDING A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
The following sections are designed to help you assess your identity from a few different perspectives. Kind of like the Reebok Movement Screens, they will let you see yourself from multiple angles, and ultimately pull out the truth. Role your sleeves up, dig in and have fun!
Before reading on, take a moment and complete the following description.
How would you describe yourself now? Describe your strengths and weaknesses and the roles you play. One way to do this might be to write it down in the same way that you would write assessment notes on a new client.
Cart Before the Horse – A Modern Epidemic
The pursuit of great dreams often requires tremendous sacrifice and effort. Great challenge can certainly expose our great strengths as individuals and groups and can also pull us into some strange and dark places of our own personality. As we churn through our jobs, responsibilities and duties, moving from client to client and appointment to appointment, it is quite easy to get sucked into patterns of thought and behavior, often without realizing it. Especially when things get busy or the pressure is on, we can slot into a sort of auto pilot mode that revolves around simply getting the job done, getting by... surviving. We organize our goals in reaction to situations around us and let our externally lead actions dictate who we become (tunnel-vision focused, determined, impatient, competitive, stressed, etc…). These modes of behavior can slip in undetected and remain for months, years or even a lifetime. Like single plane exercise, they can be useful in certain instances for limited amounts of time, but eventually they cause dysfunction and pull us way out of balance! God bless our partners and loved ones (our “spotters” on the gym floor of life!) for the ability to pull us up occasionally and say, “Excuse me, but I don’t like the person you’re becoming.” We’re quick to say, “It’s not me, it’s just this situation! I’ve got all these obligations, responsibilities and expectations placed on me, and blah blah blah…” From the inside, we can see that the person we’re “being” on the outside is not actually who we are - it’s just the role we’re stuck in as we plough through this phase of life. But as the old saying goes, “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” This may be just a phase, but to others, this is the person you are.
So here’s the question – Is it who you WANT to be? Are you BEING on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis the person you want to be? Are you living the life you came to live, or are you stuck in the mode of surviving? Do your current thoughts, feelings and behavior serve your highest vision for life? Are you genuinely happy and fulfilled? As leaders in an industry that revolves around assessing and improving people’s state of health and being, it is so key that we stop every once in a while and “assess” our own approach. This is as much for our own fulfillment as for our ability to help and inspire others. And who we are speaks louder to our clients than anything we will ever say!
How would a client or someone else who knows you or spends time around you describe you if you were not there? How would they describe your strengths and weaknesses and essence as a person?
Understanding that different people see different sides of who we are, let’s take a slightly different approach. If you could look your name up in the dictionary and get an objective, bird’s eye summary of who you are in the world in one sentence, what would it say?
“I Am What I Do” – Identity Dyslexia
What’s the first thing people ask in the awkward silence after exchanging names at a cocktail party: “So… what do you DO?” As a society, we have become so obsessed with productivity and achievement that our automatic initial assessment of people is often based purely on their performance in life. If they pass a certain initial screen (we may as well pass out an SAT exam!), then we let them in a little further into the circle. The pressure to perform can indeed have a positive influence, but it can also have a severe hindering and even paralyzing effect. In my experience with elite level athletes (especially in judged sports), the biggest challenge for most individuals at the top level is simply to perform in competition with the same fluid expertise that they exhibit in an unpressured environment. In the sport of surfing, there is a whole group of individuals who now make a substantial living as professional “free surfers,” because sponsors and photographers finally realized these individuals shined brightest when they weren’t out there trying to beat each other, when they were just having fun. Interestingly, the sports of skiing and snowboarding have also followed suit in recent years. Action and productivity are indeed vital forms of expression and often key to fulfillment in life, but the truth of the matter is that we are more than what we do. The roles we play in life and the specific things we achieve are important, but they are not who we are.
Have you ever set a goal for yourself and gone through the whole roller coaster process to achieve, fully immersed and engaged in the task, only to find that at the end of the road you still don’t feel fulfilled? In fact, you feel sort of empty, or worse, depressed. This is a hugely common experience among elite athletes who push towards big events or record-breaking performances. They are driven by a deep seeded sense of purpose and exhibit incredible behavior in the “cultivation” of their dreams, but when they finally reach the end, even in victory, they feel a sense of loss. We the public see the glamour and the glory of achievement, but we don’t the see the sense of disillusionment and “searching” that often lies behind the scenes.
When we strive for something grand, we can become so intertwined in the process of achievement that we begin to associate ourselves AS the thing we are doing/seeking. We have all heard of actors who so deeply immerse themselves in a role that they begin taking on all the real life characteristics of the part they’re playing. To his friends, family and colleagues, Val Kilmner literally BECAME Jim Morrison during the filming of The Doors. Martin Sheen had a real life physical breakdown not unlike his character during the filming of Apocalypse Now. When we engage in or pursue something at the deepest level, we are able to tune in or tap into a sense of connection that enables us to achieve great things, but in the process, we may at times disassociate ourselves from who we really are. So when the thing is achieved or the “role” is finished, we are left standing there naked in the wind, dazed and confused.
The modern high achievers solution to this is to never be without a goal. To make sure that the completion of each goal or project marks the beginning of the next mission, and so on and so on until retirement - at which point we either find a damn good hobby, start investing our energy into other people’s dreams (i.e., our kids) or we DIE! And so in this sense, it seems we have become a society addicted to achievement. Not that there’s anything wrong with achievement – we and the world need it – but I believe it is also important for us to be able to stand separate from our tasks and exist simply as ourselves – nothing to justify, nothing to prove.
Traveling has a great way of doing this. When you travel off the beaten path – especially in a foreign country, especially alone – you enter a stripped back, survival mode of existence that cannot rely on the comforts, reputation or network of influence you might have at home. You are forced to exist simply as another human being, to find your similarities and differences with others at a whole new level. Amazingly, when you allow the roles and trappings of your normal world to fall away, when you stop trying to impose yourself and your pre-conditioned views on a place, you naturally gravitate to like-minded people and supportive situations every step of the way.
My wife Peta gave me a great glimpse of this truth when we first met 10 years ago. I had come to Australia to coach skiing and was spending the season up at Mt. Buller in Victoria. Peta worked in the hotel where I was living, and one afternoon we got to talking. In typical American-achiever fashion, shortly into our conversation I asked the classic question, “So… What do you DO when you’re not working up here at the snow?” She smiled without apology and simply said, “Nothing.” This answer was far from the truth, but here was a person who felt no need to prove or justify herself to anyone. She just WAS, and her un-answer to my channeled question forced me to focus on her as a person, away from her roles in life. This essence expanded as we got to know each other over the following weeks. As a competitive skier from the age of 11, my life was filled with people who knew me through my skiing and associated me with my achievements in sport. Peta had never seen snow before we met, and as a result, she had no idea what freestyle skiing was – and didn’t really care. My attempts to explain the sport of mogul skiing (my specialty) to someone who knew nothing of moguls or skiing – or the torn ACLs that come with both – left even ME laughing at the strange nature of this activity that I had poured half my life into. Because my identity as a skier meant nothing to Peta and because I knew nothing of her world outside of the mountain, we were given a unique opportunity to get to know each other without the baggage of needing to fill a role or be a certain way. We were simply ourselves. Three months later, we were married and have been happily so ever since. Strangely, when you take away the pressure to achieve or fill a certain role and fill that space with a pure commitment to being yourself, things have a way of accelerating! Indeed, AMAZING things occur and are achieved simply by BEING yourself.
STRIPPED BACK VIEW.
Put aside your current position, your current company your current obligations, contracts, paychecks, client lists and bills. Strip yourself back to the raw basics. If you were taken from your current situation in life and plunked into a totally foreign community who did not speak your language, how would they describe you? What characteristics would they find endearing? What would they want to teach you?
The crazy thing is how natural it feels and much less effort it takes to DO things when you move from your centre of BEING. Think about trying to perform a heavy deadlift without any help from your core – you may as well try to lift a house. It simply will not happen. But the same weight can be lifted with relative ease simply by “moving from your centre.” Whether this center/core is activated consciously or subconsciously is a matter of debate in the fitness industry, but what is clear and undebatable, is that it is essential. As trainers, we may at times feel the need to assess and even retrain the core muscle response in our clients. As we do so, we open up vast new channels of strength, power and mobility on the gym floor and beyond. Similarly, I believe we sometimes need to assess and retrain the core of who we are, and in doing so we open wide new channels of movement, expression and achievement in life. The “re” in “retrain” is an important distinction here, as it infers a couple key things:
- We already have within us the essence of what is needed – it just needs to be reawakened, rediscovered, renewed, etc.
- There was a time in life when we did move / act from this place.
As explored by several authors in the PTN Content Library (Chek, Cook, Gray, etc…), most of us come into the world with perfect posture, perfect gait, etc… (See Chek’s Evolution of the Core audio clinic series for detailed exploration of the phases of human development), but the repeated stress of sport and life can eventually tweak us into all sorts of dysfunction and imbalance. As a result, much of our corrective exercise work with clients involves breaking down or getting past the dysfunctional movement patterns that have been caused by childhood, injury, atrophy, etc – in order to simply reawaken and rebuild the innate, healthy patterns of movement. By reawakening/reconditioning the healthy patterns of movement, we can elevate our clients’ physical potential to entirely new levels. With that in mind, we’ll try to do the same with personal identity here.
. Reaching back as far as you can into your childhood, what did you want to “be when you grew up?” WHY? What characteristics or qualities were appealing to you about that job or identity?
If that child could see you now in your current life, what would he/she say to you? What would they love about your life? What would they want more or less of? What have you learned that you would love to teach them? What could they teach you?
- If you could see yourself and your life through the privileged eyes of an unconditional loved one or your Creator - someone who sees and believes in the true unlimited potential in you. See through the eyes of someone who knows your waking dreams and sees them as realities waiting to be unfolded... Brainstorm your TRUE POTENTIAL YOU. (A great way to tap into this viewpoint is to watch and consider the vast, unlimited possibilities of a baby or young child - ideally your own - then shift that same perspective onto yourself).
SO WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Like the many assessment tools we have developed in the fitness industry, there are a myriad of angles and perspectives we can gather from asking a few questions as we have above. But do you fit the definitions and perceptions people have of you? Do you fit the perception you’ve been carrying around of yourself for the past few weeks, months or years? What can you learn from the child in you or from a privileged parental/divine view of your life?
It is my belief that we are LIMITLESS by nature and we are born into a world of infinite possibility. Unfortunately, through the process of our integration into life, we are often boxed in to living out very specific, drilled down, limited roles and definitions of ourselves. In truth, the only real limits in life are those we place on ourselves or those we allow others to place upon us. Our identity is – and needs to be - a constantly growing, evolving and expanding entity.
In your highest vision, hope or dream for yourself and life, WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE? What would you do and who would you be if you knew that whatever you did would be a success? Describe your ULTIMATE YOU - Characteristics (adjectives - i.e. honest, bold, energized), roles (nouns - i.e. leader, healer, speaker, transformer!) and behavior (verbs - i.e. …who empowers, inspires, motivates, connects deeply with others, etc). Have fun with this and go for it. No limits allowed - don’t hold anything back. Write it down in the present tense as though all that you want to be is already in existence.
To help you begin to integrate what we’ve talked about today, here’s a simple exercise. Think of a time when you felt fully “aligned,” ‘in the zone”, “at one” – in sport, work or life. When your actions and words flowed from you with ease and empowerment. When you felt – if even for a moment – like you could do no wrong. Feel what that felt like. Breathe how you were breathing then. Move how you were moving then… Think of another time. And another. Now project yourself into the future as that limitless “in the zone” person – not just in one situation, but across your whole life. Imagine yourself doing the things you now only dream of doing, BEING the person you can now just glimpse the possibility of being. Describe this person, who is you, doing those things. Step into this vision, let it fill you and build a feeling in your body. Lift off the veil and begin TODAY being the person you came here to be!
“You came into this life with your piece of the puzzle, and this world would not be complete without you and your contribution to the whole cosmic process... Yes, you do have a mission, and you can fulfill it only by being yourself.”
- John Randolph Price
The Jesus Code