If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve spent the last 7 years really working on and focusing on my mental and emotional health.
I won’t say I’ve magically arrived (and hope I never think that), but I’ve learned a lot and integrated so many positive habits and strategies and ways of life into my life that I’m so thankful for. My life has thoroughly changed and improved through that focus.
But recently I finally came to terms with the fact that a critical part of that is something I’ve terribly neglected the past couple of years: my physical health.
I think the shock, and final straw, was getting weighed last week at 241, the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.
But there’s also my elevated blood pressure, lack of energy and poor sleep, not being able to fit into some of my clothes and, well, frankly, the desire to live longer so I can savor more quality time with the people I love (my wife and children in particular).
I can give all the excuses you’d want for how I got here. But that’s not what this post is about.
The goal of this post is to clarify what I’m doing for myself …. and to simply document what I’m learning … and also to share it with others, who might be benefited from it.
My hope is I can continue to post updates like these about my new adventure.
So here goes:
1. Transforming goals into learning adventures
I feel like this could be a whole blog post or series in itself. It’s a complete paradigm, mindset shift for how I’ve approached goals.
It started with reading this quote:
“When we express our goals in terms of how we will learn and grow, it opens us up to a whole new level of insight and achievement.” —Tasha Eurich in her book Insight.
That one quote was a life-changing lightbulb moment for me, especially in regards to a topic I have loathed even thinking about.
But I LOVE LOVE LOVE learning.
Additionally, a core value we have at iThemes is: Learn and Grow, Teach and Share.
The way I’ve always approached goal setting doesn’t really inspire me to action … they would traditionally read like this: “Lose 20 pounds in 8 weeks,” or ” Grow my company to $10M in 3 years” or “Plant a garden.”
Just reading those goals like that makes me instantly think about all the reasons or excuses I don’t want to do them.
HOWEVER …. goals framed as learning adventures do excite and inspire me.
So for instance, if you take those traditional goal statements and reframe them like this … they pump me up:
- (Small spoiler alert) To learn what physical health really looks like (nutrition, cooking, exercise, key metrics to watch) and to discover how to maintain that lifestyle for the next 50 years; or to simply learn how to reprogram my mind and habits
- To learn how to become a better leader and manager, to explore the area I loathe and master it (financial), or to learn how to scale a business like the pros without sacrificing people and values we hold dear in the process
- Learn how plants grow and why and experiment with them (something I’ve done recently with my kids)
So I’ve dove in with this mindset around my physical health journey, but it’s also transforming my thinking about every other goal in my life.
Learning just makes it more exciting to me. It maps to my strengths, passions and interests. And it transforms what would be a struggle to something of interest for me. And historically, that means success for me.
So now with every goal I ask myself … what could I learn from this adventure that is of interest to me? How can I turn this into a learning process?
It might seem novel … but framed in that light … I get the motivation and plan I need to attack it and achieve it.
2. My simple, starting goal
So …. here’s my new goal aka learning adventure:
To learn how to live a sustainable, consistent healthy lifestyle SO THAT I can live longer, better, for myself and for those I love.
In reflection, I’ve never learned or been taught how to eat, or how to live a healthy lifestyle. Yeah, I’ve picked bits and pieces up in my 41 years, but it’s mostly very bad habits ….
And so I’ve never been intentional about LEARNING what a healthy lifestyle is, like:
- How much food can (or should) I eat a day and not balloon up?
- What kinds of food are healthy and will give me energy and health?
Let me be clear: The goal isn’t start a new diet or a new tool, but I’ll mention things I’m using in my learning.
It’s simply to learn a new and different, yet lifelong lifestyle.To learn a system and process and new habits that prolong my life and happiness, and yes, I’ll use some tools to teach myself that along the way.
Update: My friend Peter Chester’s story sounds so similar to my own and have drawn some new inspiration from it.
The first key priority area I’m learning is nutrition …. how to eat, what to eat and most importantly why.
I’ll share throughout this post that I’ve used a lot of core values, principles and strategies that have made me successful in business and how I’ve applied them to this.
The first is asking myself: How can this fail?
The basic idea here is to identify the obstacles and challenges to my goal and to take them off the board so I achieve my goals.
So here the key obstacles and challenges I found, with some commentary for how I am attacking them:
- Lack of motivation and inspiration — I gotta believe in this for it to work. Looking at this goal as a learning adventure has been the first key for me. The next is leveraging my Futuristic strength to see my lifelong goal, what it looks like at 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. For me, my wife, my kids. That’s pretty solid motivation and inspiration.
- Lack of knowledge and understanding — knowing what to eat and why, how to cook them, how to make good decisions in every situation.
- Lack of preparation — particularly not having foods readily stocked in our house, or for lunch at the office as well as weekly set meal plans. I’ve also spent a good amount of time preparing for all the disruptions that can derail me.
- Lack of good decision making in all situation — this goes to disruptions, but also planning. If I don’t plan ahead and make decisions for myself ahead of time, I know I’ll fall into my bad habits.
- Lack of a routine and plan — I’m aiming for a lifelong sustainable nutrition lifestyle. I need a plan I can fully integrate, by memory and action, into my life. This also includes meal planning.
- Lack of documenting and reviewing — if I’m treating this as a learning experiment then I have to document AND review it (not particular strong disciplines of mine). But if I don’t properly document and then review those to see how it went, I’ll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again.
- Life’s disruptions — whether it’s a busy, stressful week at work, traveling, or parenthood … I started thinking about all the disruptions that will cause me to go off-track from consistent, sustainable healthy nutrition and a plan to handle them.
My next step was to prepare and plan ways for those obstacles destruction or to leverage them for success (ref. The Obstacle is The Way).
There will likely be a lot of debate about this in the comments and I’m not interested in that debate right not … but the TOOL I am using to learn basic nutrition is Weight Watchers.
I won’t link to the site, or recommend others use it. Someone I trust (my counselor) shared their story with me about it and I decided to use it as the tool to get started. Simple as that.
I needed to start somewhere and it hit all the criteria I wanted.
For me, it’s a polished system that’s been used widely with success for a long long time and has everything I want to get started. I’ve learned it’s basically food budgeting. It’s a way for me to understand what I can eat and how much, as well as recipes for doing so.
At some point I can see me not using it (I hope to learn the lifestyle I need by default without the need of a tool like this) and will likely tweak how I use it in the future (there’s already things we want to do differently). But it’s given me a great start so far.
And currently it’s just an easy way to documenting, tracking system to see what works.
Here are some things I have done so far (with the help of Lindsey) with this tool and are planning for the future:
- We went through recipes on Weight Watchers, favoriting a bunch and picked ones we liked and are easy
- We went through our pantry, did an inventory, dumped some stuff and scanned labels to see how many points they were
- Then we spent part of our Day Date Saturday going through Trader Joes and the local supermarket, like wierdo geeks, scanning barcodes to see the “Smart Points.” I wanted to go ahead and save time and buy things, but Lindsey sagely advised we look first, go out and talk and return later.
- We made a meal plan for the next week. This was tougher work, but it went fairly fast.
If you see these actions clearly, you should see it’s attacking the obstacles of knowledge, understanding and planning.
Another focus has been — learning how to cook (more, better).
Again as a learning adventure, part of that includes cooking, something I’ve enjoyed learning to do more and better in the last couple of years. And cooking is critical to my success.
In fact, I started cooking our family’s breakfast almost every morning when our son was born and have thoroughly loved it, inching out and learning regularly. A couple years ago, Lindsey and I were given a gift certificate to a “knife cutting” class at our local vocational school and we LOVED it. Now we’re reviewing classes on healthy cooking.
We recently got an Instant Pot and over the weekend, with the help again of my wife, I started learning how to use it. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s good. I love it. But I’m also branching out and learning how to use the tools we have for cooking.
The last thing I’ll note for now is a focus on Mindful Eating. The Weight Watchers tool helps me greatly with that. But Sherry shared a list of mindful eating practices in last week’s ZenTribes and it was INCREDIBLY helpful. I’ve been trying to focus on this as I’m eating.
OK, that’s all I have for now on nutrition.
The next critical area of focus on living a sustainable, healthy lifestyle is sleep.
I’ve neglected it for years. I’ve used dumb methods to help myself sleep better. And I’ve got bad sleep hygiene. But one thing I had to finally come to grips with is that … I may have some form of sleep apnea.
Talking with my dear friend Jeff, who owns a home sleep study company, and others who have been affected by and thankfully through their experience shares and strong urging … I finally went to my doctor and got a prescription to get a sleep test. It should be here in a couple of weeks!
Thinking back and noting my sleep in the past couple of weeks … I know something’s not right. I snore like a freight train (my wife is too nice to tell me … but my EO forum buddies at the last two annual retreats have unanimously told me as much).
I’m terribly excited to take the next steps and improve my sleep. By the stories I hear it could be life changing for me and my energy. I cannot wait.
The last area of my current focus is exercise.
The goal here is to learn how to consistently, sustainably add exercise into my life.
This is the area I have the least to report today, but I have been planning some things.
But first, how can this fail?
- Never starting, taking first steps
- Lack of motivation and inspiration — I hate normal routine workout crap and I don’t like to sweat when in the middle of the day when I’m going back to work
- Lack of time and energy — can I plead parenthood and toddlers and entrepreneurship here?
- Lack of plan and routine in all situations, for all disruptions
- Lack of commitment and discipline
- Lack of consistency
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of location or facilities to do so
So here are my ideas to tackle these obstacles:
How can I get my minimum 90-minutes of exercise a week?
First, being mindful and intentional about exercise in my life.
Second, starting with my daily step count. Being intentional and mindful to simply walk more. WW has a goal of 3,000 steps for me. I’m getting close to that already so now it’s simply building onto that.
Here are some ideas I’m trying to integrate currently:
- Turning playtime with my kids into exercise time too — Like running around the house (well, outside maybe) with my kids more. They are so active and I can be too and it serves dual purposes. So at the playground on Saturday, when they asked me to chase them, I chased them. And yes, even went down the slides 5 times (which meant climbing about three floors each time)
- Parking farther away from places
- Using our office treadmill (I bought it for our team and have never used it personally) — to avoid the monotony of it and not reading email, someone mentioned they listen to audiobooks or watching NetFlix series to keep me inspired (or occupied!)
- My brother Travis and another friend mentioned boxing too … getting a bag in my garage and doing it every morning like he’s done.
Right now I’m just using my iPhone “Health” app, but I need to find my FitBit and dust it off.
To get around the obstacle of hating routine, mundane workouts … I’ve realized I need to get into team sports. That’s much more interesting to me.
In college, I found my favorite sport on earth: volleyball. Last spring, at the urging and support of Lindsey, I returned to this love and played a season (despite being out of shape and practice for around 10 years). And I LOVED it and am watching for the next leagues.
Here are a couple of other ideas I’m exploring:
- Indoor soccer — honestly I’m not a fan of soccer (although I always root for the Portuguese team!) and have always made the joke that I don’t run unless I’m being chased. However, two things interest me about this: 1. Lindsey wants to try it and we can do it together (quality time FTW). 2. I’ve never intentionally, beyond a class in college, learned the sport.
- Pickleball — a friend has done this and it really interests me, plus leagues are playing near our house — something we can do together as well.
- Softball — early on in our relationship, Lindsey and I played softball. I joked before our first game that it wouldn’t be much exercise, but holy cow, was I wrong!
6. Scheduled a physical.
When I visited my doctor about my sleep study, she asked about scheduling a physical. I’m looking forward to getting my baselines in a couple weeks at that appointment (something a friend urged me to do) and to start regularly monitoring and documenting them.
7. Eat the Elephant, Cory.
Another strategy that’s help me in business and in life is remembering to eat the elephant … one bite at a time.
I’m trying very hard not to tackle too many things at one time. To overwhelm myself. To not slowly learn and integrate habits into my life that will be sustainable for the rest of my life.
I’m focusing on key things in the smallest, doable and most essential way. And then I’m layering in things gradually.
There are plenty of other areas of focus that I want to work on at some point, but for now, I’m trying to focus on a little in order to accomplish a lot.
8. I’m not alone. I’m not doing this alone.
Another business value we talk about at iThemes is Go Far Together.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” — African Proverb
I’ve written about her all throughout this post … but without the incredible support and encouragement of my wife, Lindsey, who has longed for me to do this for as long as I can remember in the most gentle, supportive and encouraging way, I would not be on this journey.
When I finally came to the realization I must get serious about all of this, in what Dan Sullivan calls “Rugged Individualism,” I thought I’d simply do this by myself.
Sadly, I defaulted to what I always do and thought I’d go it alone.
But Lindsey was the first to pledge her full support with not just her voice, but her actions (we really did look like geeks scanning foods). And I’m so thankful. She’s been on this journey for a couple of years ago, doing 5:30 a.m. bootcamps and training and running half-marathons for the past couple of years.
If I’m truly honest … I’ll tell you, she was THE inspiration for all of this. She’s raised my awareness and has shared her welath of Fact Finder research about all of the above with me, teaching and mentoring me … she’s the ultimate partner. (Thank you so much, honey!)
Additionally, the support and encouragement I’ve gotten simply by saying I was doing of these things on Twitter and Facebook has been surprising and encouraging.
OK, whew, 2800+ words later. That’s my update.