This story is very personal to me. This topic is even more personal to me. Over four years ago my father passed away. When that happened my beliefs around health, exercise, and life in general changed. My father, like most of the clients I work with, was a busy guy. He was busy selling all of his time and energy for The American Dream. He spent his weeks working long hours as a truck driver. He spent his weekends either working on his house or working on his side business. His goal was always to work really hard and then peacefully enjoy retirement. Except, that never happened.
My father, like most people, struggled to stay on track with his health and fitness goals. He would exercise for a period of time. Then he would fall off. The cycle would repeat itself a couple times every year or so. Most of the time his stress levels were through the roof. Most of that stress could have been avoided. He also carried a lot of extra weight that effected his health. Growing up watching my fathers example I too made many of these mistakes. I sold my soul to work, lost copious amounts of sleep, and lived a high stress life for a long time. But, when my dad got sick, and later passed it really made me take a look at my own priorities. I think the lesson will resonate with some of you.
I got into my career in the fitness industry at a relatively young age. I was twenty- two when I began coaching. I remember having conversations with my father about taking his health more seriously. Partaking in exercise more often, making different choices with his eating, etc. I remember he would always have a reason why he couldn't do it; I have too much going on, I like eating the way I do now, etc. I really wish he had taken a look at the big picture.
I have been coaching now for over eight years. In my time coaching I've had thousands of these conversations. I see the same patterns in a lot of the people I work with. They sell their souls to work. They invest big money into their homes and cars. Most of them are silently ignoring their gradually rising waistline and blood pressure. If this strikes a chord with you I want to pose a question; what is the fucking point? When your clock expires your job will have your position filled within a months time, maybe less. The nest egg you've been shelling away for retirement will get passed on to the next generation. Now, don't get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with hard work and having nice things. But, not if it comes at the price of your health.
This is where the point of this post comes in, look at the big picture. In the big picture you can replace your career, you can replace your car, you can replace your home, but you cannot replace yourself. Shouldn't investing in yourself be your top priority? You're right there aren't any guarantees, but investing into yourself gives you a greater chance at beating the odds of life. Investing in your health might make other things take a bit longer. Maybe you can't redo your kitchen for another year or so. Perhaps that promotion at work takes a bit longer than you expected. But, if at when it does happen at least you will be healthy enough to enjoy it.
To hit this point home I want to share one last piece of the story. I remember right before my father got sick he built this beautiful deck on the back of the house. He had grand schemes of having all of his friends over and enjoying the summer nights with my mom in front of a nice roaring fire. My parents used that deck a handful of times before my father got too sick to enjoy it. It broke my heart and still does to think about this. So, what's the point? Focus on your health. I'm not just talking about getting active and eating well. Keep your stress levels in check. Take some time for yourself. Don't work yourself to death. If my father had made his health a higher priority it may not have saved his life. But, unfortunately we will never know. I am willing to bet it would have made a difference. Next time you think you're too busy, look at the big picture.
Achieving a big goal can be a daunting thing to think about. The amount of time, effort, and tenacity achieving a big goal takes can seem unappealing. That’s why it is best to break down bigger goals into bite sized chunks. When I first became PN (Precision Nutrition) certified two years ago I was introduced to the GSPA model. This model describes how we can break down bigger goals into smaller, more manageable, daily actions. GSPA stand for goals, skills, practices, and actions. Each tier in this model represents a piece of the puzzle when working towards a big goal. Let’s start from the top and work or way down.
This is the big picture. This is the dream physique. The dream feeling. The waking up every day thriving. This is where it all starts. This piece provides the direction that will guide all decision making during the process. In this step the goal is to create a meaningful picture of what you want and why you want it. For example; feeling better, is not a good big picture goal. However; I want to feel better so that I feel confident at work and feel great in my body every day, is a much clearer and meaningful goal. During this step I want you to think deeply about what you want and the why behind it. Once this is established it’s time to move on.
Skills are the behaviors that allow the big picture goal to be achieved. For example, someone that feels good every day will need some skills to achieve that. There’s a good chance they won’t be stuffing their face with processed food and missing out on sleep on a regular basis. At this stage it is important to determine what types of behaviors are needed to achieve the big goal. Using the example above a few skills I can think of include; eating foods that fuel and nourish the body, moving regularly and often, and getting restful sleep more often than not. These behaviors, practiced regularly should allow for the big goal to be achieved. During this part of the process I have found that determining two to four big skills is a good starting point for most goals.
Practices are the next tier in the GSPA model. Practices are what allow skills to be built. During this stage it is best to think about what smaller actions need to be completed to build a skill. Using the example above of eating foods that fuel the body a few practices that I can think of include; eating regularly throughout the day, eating a lean protein source with every meal, eating some type of vegetable with every meal. Practices give us direction to figure out what actions need to be worked on. In this scenario let’s say this person was only eating protein once per day. In order to achieve the larger goal they will have to up their protein intake. Figuring out clear practices allows the setting of clear and concise daily actions.
This is where the big goal is finally broken down into actionable steps. Using the practices created from the last step we can figure out what daily habits need to be built. Continuing with the example above concerning regular protein intake. If this person struggles with consistent protein intake we first need to determine why that is. Do they not like protein rich foods? Do they not enjoy cooking? Are they crunched for time and in a rush? These details are important when figuring out what actions to work on. Let’s say this person is very busy and doesn’t have the time to cook. This problem could be solved by creating a weekly meal prep routine. Now instead of cooking every day this person can cook once during the week and have food ready for all days.
This is a very crude example of how to use this model, but I hope this has shed some light on the steps necessary to break down a big goal into small manageable pieces. I have used this model to help hundreds of people get results on their schedule. I believe that with the right approach this model can work for everyone. If you have been struggling to reach your goals try using this model to break it down into more manageable pieces.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.