So, I’m not that obsessive about the gym and my fitness regime.
Now, those who know me may say different, I grant you. And perhaps I am nudging obsession more than I’d care to admit. So let’s compromise and say: I’m a reasonably serious amateur.
And as I’ve trained over the last 20 years, it’s taught me a few key lessons that apply beautifully to personal and professional development.
And it’s a useful analogy to draw. Because like getting fit, personal development isn’t something you do once and then: that’s it, you’re done. You’re “developed” – as in: can be developed, no more.
We don’t go to the gym, get fit and then say: that’s that sorted. I’m now “fit”. And can stop going to the gym and eat all the processed food I want. It’s a work in progress.
So here are a few key lessons from the gym: to make your development a natural and ever-present feature of your day.
Have razor-sharp goals.
- Everyone in the gym has the macro goal to “get fit”. But how much fitter? Compared to what, whom or when? What kind of fit? Strength? Stamina? Endurance? Power? Size? Definition?
- Without a razor-sharp goal, your efforts will be all over the place. And what you need is focus. So set a razor-sharp goal or goals.
- Now you have your goals, it’s crucial to work on the right things. If you want a six pack, it’s useful to know that’s about lowering fat percentage, not building stomach muscles. Else you’ll be doing endless sit-ups when you’d be better of going for a run. So: educate yourself.
- A caveat here: in our cognitive-overload of a modern world, it’s easy to drown in information. And so we end-up doing nothing. So no endless browsing learning everything ever. Set your goals first. And then go looking for the very specific information that will plug the gaps in your knowledge.
Form. Variety. Intensity.
- For years, I’ve worked through hundreds of different workout programmes. And if I had to whittle them down to the bare essentials, it’s these: Form. Variety. Intensity.
- Form: Ensure your development doesn’t merely scratch the surface. Do the work. Do it right. And do it completely.
- Variety: Is the spice of … development. Find new, novel and different ways to stimulate your thinking. To keep your interest levels high. And to make new connections around the same development topic.
- Intensity: Work hard. Continually stretch yourself to promote new achievements.
Pre-install a routine.
- One of the things that makes it easy for me to work-out every day is my routine. I don’t get up and think: Shall I go today? But I need to get my gym stuff out. And I’ll have to decide what routine to do. And do I have time enough to get ready and eat, then fit it in routine. And so on. That’s all too big a wall to climb.
- Instead: I have a routine, pre-installed and ready to go. And that makes the gym a natural, flowing part of my day-to-day. From the moment I get up, it’s frictionless autopilot. So think what routines you can pre-install to support your future self in its development efforts.
Trust the process.
- The final piece of the puzzle is process. Results only happen over time. And with consistent work. You have to trust your process. And stick to it. To act and work … until.
- Process is a structure to support and enhance perseverance: a much-needed ingredient to any goal or success. So in addition to your razor-sharp (end) goal: have a process goal. Define, in crystal-clear terms, the work you’re going to do to get you to your (end) goal.
Ongoing effort to frictionless habit
If the gym has taught me one thing, it’s that lasting change takes ongoing effort. But also that if I have to think of it as “effort”, it’s probably not going to happen. Not consistently over time, at least.
I need to turn the idea of “ongoing effort” into “frictionless habit”. Employ the strategies above to leverage your brain’s preferred ways or working and learning. And make your development an element that seamlessly intertwines with your day-to-day.