Practice Three: Optimize Health
When people are unhealthy, it’s not because they don’t know how to be healthy. We all know what to do to increase our physical energy, because by now it’s common sense: Exercise – work out more. Nutrition – eat healthier food. Sleep – aim for seven to eight hours. Nothing to argue about there, right?
Unfortunately, plenty of people do argue. They say a lot of nonsensical things that justify poor behavior in these areas. Too often, achievers blame their low physical energy on “how I’m built” or on the time demands of their industry, company culture, or personal obligations.
“Everyone in my industry works this hard, so I have to cut out something somewhere”
“Well, I’ve become successful sleeping only five hours, so sleep isn’t a factor for me.”
“I’ll focus on my health and happiness again in ninety days. I’m just busy now.”
“I’m just built this way.”
“I don’t have time for X.”
Get Fit Now
If you’re being honest, you know that the research is conclusive: You need to exercise. A lot. Especially if you care about your mental performance. … This is a huge point that too many people miss: Exercise improves learning. Exercise also decreases stress.
Because it increases your energy, exercise also enables you to perform general tasks faster and more efficiently. It boosts your working memory, elevates your mood, increases your attention span, and make you more alert, all of which increase your performance.
So if the demands of your job or life require you to learn fast, deal with stress, be alert, pay attention, remember important things, and keep a positive mood, then you must take exercise more seriously.
Once you get your workout routines in order, start improving your diet.
Beware of using meals as a way to push down negative emotions. If you feel bad, move. Go for a walk and change your emotional state before eating.
Where to Start
When I work with executives, I draw a hard line: If the organization you spend your week serving doesn’t promote well-being, then either you start an internal initiative that gets well-being on the map or you start looking for a new place to work. That is, if you care about working with high performers and becoming one yourself.
At my seminars, I challenge people to use the next twelve months to get in the best shape of their lives. It’s astounding how many people have never truly committed to doing that. If you’re willing, here are few things you can do to begin:
- Start doing what you already know you should be doing to optimize your health. You already know whether you should start exercising more, eating more plant-based foods, or getting more sleep. If you’re honest, you probably know exactly what to do. Now it’s just a matter of commitment and habit.
- You should know every possible health measure about your body available. Visit your primary care doctor and request a complete health diagnostic. Tell them you want to get in the best health of your life during the next twelve moths and that you want every reasonable screening she or he has that will help you assess your health.
- In addition to a full assessment by your primary care doctor, I suggest you seek out the best sports medicine doctor in your hometown. Find someone who works with the pro athletes. Sports med doctors often have an entirely different approach to optimizing health.
- If you don’t know what to do for nutrition, find the best nutritionist in town to help you put together a customized meal plan. Make sure you test for food allergies and leave with a clear understanding of what you should eat, how much, and when. One visit to a great nutritionist can change your life forever.
- Start training yourself to sleep eight hours a night. I say “training” because most people can’t sleep a full night – not because of biology but from lack of conditioning for sleep. Try this: Don’t look at any screens an hour before bed; drop the temperature in your home to sixty-eight degrees at night; black out the room from all light and sound. if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get up and don’t check your phone. Condition your body to just lie there. Start teaching your body that it has to lie in bed for eight hours no matter what. For tother sleep tricks, read The Sleep Revolution by my good friend Arianna Huffington.
- Get a personal trainer. If you’ve made optimal fitness a primary goal in your life, under no circumstances should you try to optimize your physical health without a trainer. Yes, you can watch workout videos at home, but accountability to a trainer will make you better. If you simply can’t afford a trainer, then find a friend who is in phenomenal shape and ask them if you can start working out with them. Don’t let your ego get in the way – just because you can’t keep up doesn’t mean you can’t show up. Get on a regular workout routine and make it social.
- If you want a simple start plan, and your doctor approves, I recommend you start doing two-by-two’s. That’s two twenty-minute weight-lifting-based workouts per week, and two twenty minute cardio-based workout routines per week. In all the sessions, give about 75 percent of your full effort – meaning, be more intense than casual during your workouts. That’s just four sessions of intense exercise per week. On the other three days, you can walk briskly outside for twenty to forty-five minutes. Again, consult your doctor to see if this is a routine that is optimal for you. And work up to it. Don’t jump in at 75 percent effort if you’re coming off the couch. Otherwise, you may hurt yourself or get so sore you decide that exercise just isn’t for you. And that would be a terrible outcome.
- Finally, stretch way, way more. Just five to ten minutes of light stretching or yoga every morning and night will help you gain greater flexibility and mobility. It will loosen up your body so you’re not carrying so much tension.
- I want to get as physically healthy as I can at this stage in my life because …
- If I was going to get in the best shape of my life, the first three things I would stop doing would be …
- The things I would start doing include …
- A weekly schedule that I could use to get healthier and actually stick to would be …
Make the Commitment
Energy is critical to high performance. You can have all the other habits up and running in your life, but without mastering this one, you won’t feel good. No one wants to feel mentally foggy, drowned in negative emotions, or physically exhausted, Happily, though, these states are usually the results of bad decisions, not bad genetics. you can optimize your overall energy quotient in your life if you choose to.