I believe that physical training can teach you a lot of things to be more successful in life. It is not just the physical strength you develop in the gym that does this but also the mental skills you develop pushing your body. The other day, I realized that I have not missed more than three days in a row of physical training in the last 20 years! This means not only have I spent the last two decades in a lot of pain, but it also means much of who I am physically and mentally were built in the gym and dojo.
Having been around fitness for so long, I have seen that it is the start that stops most people. What I mean by this is that most people know what they should be doing (i.e., exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep). They just never take the initiative to start doing it! As I have come to learn, your thoughts only tell you what you want, but your actions tell you what you get. Of the two things you must do in life to be successful in anything (whether it is training, fighting, work, relationships, etc.), the first is: you have to start!
I have seen many athletes come and go over the years and very few have stayed the entire course to achieve what they first set out to do. Even when many athletes have the power to start something, they rarely have the ability to see things all the way through. This leads us to the second thing you must always do to be successful: you have to finish.
Starting and finishing something may sound very easy at first, but think of all the things you would have either liked to have achieved or started to work at but never followed through (it could be exercising daily, losing bodyfat, quitting smoking, playing an instrument, getting a black belt, etc.). I guarantee that the list is longer than you would like to admit. Now I know you may be saying, “I can't stay motivated,” or “I need some help following through on things.” That is what this article is here to do. You will learn that knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only powerful when you put consistent action behind it. If you never start or finish anything, then that knowledge means nothing. This article is a fresh reminder to get you on track!
Give Yourself a Goal
Now that you understand starting something is the first step toward success, the next step is creating the map toward where you want to go. If you know the destination, but have no map to get there, you will probably never reach it. The map is your goals.
When I ask athletes, they all say they have goals. However, when I ask them to state them, they are usually very vague, and there is no deadline attached to it. Sometimes clients will come to me without much physical training experience and no direction in terms of what they want to achieve by meeting with me, where they want their career, relationship, lives, etc. to be going. My first step is to get them to create a map to success using goal development. Their assignment is to go home after a training session and write out all the goals they have for the future. When they come back, their goals are often still vague like, “I want to lose weight” and “I want to get stronger and faster.” Each one of these goals is missing pieces of the M.A.T. formula: M=Measurable, A=Achievable and T=Time Frame.
Measurable means that the goal has to be something specific you can measure with the results of your training. Achievable means that the goal has to be realistic and is something you can complete. Time frame means you have to give yourself an exact date when the goal should be completed. So instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” this goal would be better phrased as, “I want to lose 20 pounds by December 31." This way, clients can measure their progress toward that deadline, and it keeps them staying the course. This is very important because if you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it or coach it. Also, another thing I teach my clients it to keep their goals where they can see them. This constant reminder makes them accountable on a daily basis and inevitably helps them to reach their destination.
Answer the Scratch!
Now that your clients have properly written out their goals, they may still need a technique to get started on them and stay the course every day. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with the Arizona State University football team. While I was training there, the slogan “Answer the Scratch” was on the walls and every t-shirt. The athletes also said it to one another as they were training. After I learned what this motto stood for, it made me even better at starting tasks I set for myself. I want to share the story with you in hopes it will do the same for you.
In the 1700s in England, it was popular to breed fighting dogs. The English were attempting to find and then create and breed the toughest dogs on the planet. They did this by placing two dogs with their handlers in a pit, and they would then have the dogs fight rounds. At the end of each round, the dogs were brought back into their corners, and a scratch line was drawn across the center of the ring. The dogs that could “Answer the Scratch” (sometimes with pain, broken bones, torn muscles and more!) were kept and bred for their innate determination and persistence. The dogs that were best at “answering the scratch” were said to have the most valued canine quality of “gameness.”
This story represents that every day, we all have a scratch line we have to step up and answer to in everything we do. From getting ourselves out of bed, to eating the right food, to working out, to doing what we know is right to reach our goals, we must consistently “Answer the Scratch.” Now, during training, my athletes yell this at one another when one is slacking, and I even say it to myself daily whenever I need a little push to go to the line. By answering the scratch, not only does it ensure you start something, but it keeps pushing you until you also finish. When you answer the scratch often enough, not only will you develop your own brand of "gameness," but I guarantee you will move ahead toward your goals and aspirations.
I once saw an interview where a great American writer was asked, “What is your secret to success”? He said simply that he had only 1/7th talent but also had 7/8ths discipline. It wasn’t his talent that got him through. It was his ability to start and stay disciplined to the finish! Now, your assignment, and the assignment you should give to each of your clients, is to first take some time and write out your goals. Once you've created your road map, then you can start to “Answer the Scratch” each day until you achieve the goals you've set for yourself. Now get to work!