How are you shaping your path? You may have no idea what I’m referring to if you’ve not read the book, Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. You see, you have two brains which the authors represent with the analogy of an elephant and a rider. The rider represents your logical “thinky” brain which typically runs the show and is responsible for most of your daily decisions. On the other hand, the elephant is your more powerful and primal emotional brain that will take over when the rider tires or is threatened.
I often share an example with my clients of an elephant and rider at the circus under the big top with thousands of fans watching in amazement and wonder. Under normal circumstances, the elephant dutifully follows the rider’s every instruction. However, if you set the tent on fire and the tigers escape from their cages, the elephant will cease following the rider and will be looking for the nearest exit in a state of sheer panic.
That’s how it can be to implement change in your life. Of course, you can have the best intentions, but if your environment is working against you, your logical brain will get lost in the chaos. So, what’s the solution? First, you must shape your path and control the influences that impact your life as much as possible.
The four areas of concern are as follows:
1 – Social environment – The people you spend the most time with both at work and at play.
2 – Cultural background – This is a tricky area because you may go up against beliefs that have been in place for many years and quite possibly your entire life.
3 – Intellectual environment – This is the information you take in from all sources including TV, social media, books & magazines, podcast, music, movies, and etc.
4 – Physical environment – This includes your homes, workplace, and places where you gather and socialize with others.
According to my mentor, Darren Hardy, these environments influence your life, yet they don’t shove you in a direction; they merely nudge you. And still, over some time of being just a little off daily, you can wake up one day and find your life completely out of control.
One of my favorite quotes from the late, great Charlie “Tremendous” Jones is as follows:
“You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
Your mothers repeatedly told you to be careful in selecting your friends as children. Charlie and your Mothers were on the same page, and they got it right because your associations will make or break you. So, by all means, choose wisely.
To expand on the first half of his quote, the people you spend time with will influence your thinking, which drives your choices. Therefore, the association of the top 5-10 people you spend the most time with will essentially drive your results in life. To whatever degree this is true, I defer back to the Good Book:
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed!”
Every experience in your life with other people will leave its mark for better or worse. So, be careful with your associations. You will find situations where you have little control over the people you’re surrounded by, such as at your place of work. However, you still have a choice in how you conduct yourself and how much you choose to interact beyond what is professionally required to excel with your job and career.
It will be highly beneficial for many to take a hard look at all your associations and evaluate whether these relationships align with your priorities and goals. You may have some difficult choices to make in either spending less time or potentially cutting ties with various people should you determine that they are not a good influence in your life.
On the flip side, you may determine that you need to add more quality associations with people who already have the knowledge, wisdom, and success that you’re seeking. These expanded associations can make a tremendous and positive impact on your life And with today’s technology and tools such as LinkedIn, building these expanded associations has never been easier.
For the influence of your native culture, I will tread very lightly. All cultures have unique attributes, and some can be challenging to achieve and maintain optimal health and body composition. For example, Italian cuisine is known for its pizza and pasta. In addition, cheese and wine make up a large portion of the cooking with many varieties. These are all calorically dense foods that could make it challenging to maintain a healthy weight without a substantial degree of restraint and self-discipline.
The staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bājra), rice, whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), and a variety of lentils, such as masoor (most often red lentils), tuer (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), and moong (mung beans). Most Indian meals (depending on whether your host is vegetarian or not) are comprised of rice, Chapati (flatbread), meat, vegetable and lentil dishes, salad, yogurt, and pickles.
I have worked with many clients who have followed numerous variations of a plant-based diet, and the most significant challenge always seems to be getting enough protein. Unfortunately, the more they go in the plant-based direction, restricting other foods, the more difficult it becomes in getting enough protein.
Now please, don’t blow up my post; all of you plant-based nutrition followers out there. Plant-based eating can be very healthy when done right. For example, my boss is 5′ 9″, 190 lbs, carries less than 10% body fat, and he’s built like a Mack truck. He gets plenty of protein following a primarily plant-based diet. And based on his impressive results, he is extremely healthy.
My most significant point is that regardless of your culture and its particular traditions around food, you can maintain a very healthy body weight and composition if you know what you’re doing. Regardless of your heritage, eating healthy requires knowledge and discipline.
For your intellectual environment, I’m going to break it down into two parts, “feed” and “protect”.
Information from all sources will affect you for better or worse Every source of media you consume will influence your thinking which drives your decision-making and, ultimately, your life. My mentor Andy Andrews teaches that there’s no such thing as treading water. Every experience in your life moves you closer or takes you further from your goals, and the choice is yours as to how you spend your time.
Due to some early positive and wise influences in my life, I have been a student of personal development since my days in college. I’ve never been in the habit of watching the news any more than the bare minimum required to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, and I’ve always been proactive in feeding my mind with positive growth-oriented information. In today’s world, that’s countercultural to the masses for the most part. By the way, if you want to be successful, look at what the majority is doing and go in the opposite direction.
Brian Tracy teaches a concept called the E to E ratio, which is the ratio of time you spend entertaining yourself versus educating yourself. For example, the highest achievers in the world intentionally invest time in furthering their growth, especially in the areas of their passions and strengths. In contrast, the average person spends far more time entertaining themself, and as a result, they stay a part of the masses achieving far less in life than they could if they only challenged themself to grow.
If you’re not currently investing in your personal growth, I encourage you to get started. Most people underestimate the value of small blocks of time. For example, if you commute 20 minutes to and from work every day, that small time investment equates to over four, forty-hour work weeks annually. Now, you can spend this time listening to music or sports talk radio which is bubblegum for your mind, or listening to an educational podcast or audiobook, which can quite literally change your life over some time. The choice is yours.
Look for the small spaces in your day where you can layer in listening to something positive while you’re doing another activity. For example, I listen to a couple of hours’ worth of growth-oriented audio every morning before and after the gym and while getting ready for my workday. My mentor, Darren Hardy, calls this “net time.” You’re already doing the other activity, so make the most of it by feeding your mind wherever it makes sense.
Hostile news media will beat a path to your door in our technologically hyper-connected world. The news machine is in an all-out battle to get and maintain your attention and trust me, it’s not by sharing messages of hope and inspiration, as these will go primarily unnoticed. You respond far more to shock and awe, and the news media knows this. They know you in some cases better than you know yourself, and they are maximizing this knowledge to monetize their message through advertising $’s.
You have to build a fortress to guard your heart and mind. And despite your best efforts, the negative news of the world will find its way in. That’s why it’s so critical to continue flushing your mind with positive information daily.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Where do you do life? Beyond your homes, you work, play, travel, worship, and serve in many different environments. For most, your homes are the one place where you have total control, and I will come back to this in a moment. For the rest, consider the same suggestion I gave above regarding your associations. Be very careful with the different places you “do life.” You may determine that you need to make some changes if you identify an area where you frequent that’s ultimately a negative influence in your life.
And this includes your job Life is too short to spend the bulk of your waking hours doing something that doesn’t make you happy A career change is typically not easy and can seem daunting; however, if you’re not satisfied, be willing to seek a positive difference.
Leadership expert John Maxwell gives some great counsel on making a change in your career path. First, figure out what you want to do and what you need to do to get there. Even if it involves a process like getting further education, determine if the price is worth it and if it is, then getting to work paying the price. Be very careful to dismiss an opportunity because the process takes time. The time is going to pass regardless, and you can look back with a sense of accomplishment or with the dreadful feeling of regret for having been unwilling to change.
Now, once you’ve pruned your life of any harmful environments, you still need to have a game plan for how to thrive in what’s left. For example, if you work in an office where people routinely eat fast food for lunch or indulge in highly processed snacks, you have to be prepared with your own healthy choices. If you go to work each day unprepared, you are all the more likely to be influenced by your associates and join in with their unhealthy practices.
Your gold-standard solution is to meal prep on the weekends so you can always be prepared with healthy meals and snacks throughout the day as needed. If eating out is a part of your routine, then have a game plan for that as well. Your choice of restaurant is the first big decision that can make or break you. The better the restaurant, the easier it will be to make healthy choices. And better does not necessarily mean more expensive. Shoot for a place where you can get a good portion of clean protein, veggies, smart carbs, and healthy fats, and you will be good.
As I mentioned above, there is one environment where you have total control, and you must make the most of it. So, if your home is your castle, be sure to treat it as such. And this includes both the environment in your home and the things you bring into your home, namely food.
Please let me be clear; discipline is to be exhibited at the grocery store, not when you’re staring at the tub of Ben & Jerries in your freezer. Whatever your choice of indulgence, you will eventually eat it if you bring it home. The better your preferences when shopping for groceries, the easier it will be to stay on track once you’re back home.
And please don’t think I’m suggesting that you never have ice cream or any other kind of treat. Instead, I address the idea of treating yourself in depth in “No Cheat Meals Required.” Still, it would help if you were smart about the quality and quantity of “treat” foods you bring into your home. For example, if you struggle with occasionally losing control when eating ice cream, consider only bringing home a pint-sized container rather than a gallon. Another consideration is to opt for lower-calorie options such as Halo Top or make your healthy treats.
You have to understand that food manufacturers know how to combine sugar, fat, and salt in a way that makes some foods almost irresistible Ever taken a bite and found yourself wanting the rest of the tub? That’s how full-sugar and full-fat foods, in particular, impact your brain. So the old saying, “you can’t just eat one,” can be true. In contrast, you can make some amazingly good-tasting healthy treats that will not impact your brain in the same way. To me, this is a much better way to go where you can treat yourself regularly without running so much of a risk of overindulging.
I have one more thought on your home not related to food. If you’re motivated by inspirational sayings and artwork, be sure to take advantage of this and decorate your home accordingly. I constantly teach my clients about the importance of identifying your “why” and then having examples of it strategically posted around your home. It could be as simple as post-it notes on your bathroom mirror, fridge, microwave, pantry, laptop, etc.
Your “why” should be your guiding beacon, and trust me, there will be days when you will need it to stay on track. Remember, if your “why” is big enough, the facts don’t matter. You will never always feel like doing the things necessary to be successful, and that doesn’t matter. Do them anyway because they’re the right things to do, and your “why” is worth it.
In closing, I will ask my opening question again How are you shaping your path? After years of working with clients and doing countless consultations geared around helping people improve their physical and emotional health, the information I’ve shared in this post strikes at the heart of where and why people struggle.
If you’re not happy with where you are in life in any capacity, then be willing to change. You know the definition of insanity, don’t you? It’s doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results. So if you want something to be different in your life, you have to be willing to change.
An excellent method for goal achievement is to determine your ultimate destination, break it down to what you have to do each month, break it down to each week, and then down to what you need to do this very day.
And then act. A journey of a thousand miles truly starts with a single step.
Best of luck in your journey.