In 2004 I realized that the lifestyle I was leading would eventually lead to permanent health problems or even premature death. I was obese and had been for as long as I could remember. With the help of a stack of books on nutrition and exercise and some friends who were in excellent shape, I began a journey to overhaul my health. I set some goals and began the painstaking process of losing weight the healthy way (after trying out the crash diet thing.) Over the course of a few years I lost 85lbs and dropped my body fat to less than 10%. I achieved my goals. I thought I had it all under control. For a few years I thought I was “maintaining,” but in reality, I was slowly packing the pounds back on. I was still working out, but less consistently. I was still eating right…most of the time. By the time I realized what was happening my body fat percentage was peaking over 15% and I had packed on enough fat that I no longer fit in my clothes. What happened to me? The same thing that happens to us all in every area of our lives. I tried to coast on my past efforts. I didn’t have the next goal set. I wasn’t focused on moving forward. As a result I slacked in my effort and in my education on the subject. In the end, I learned a very important lesson:
If you’re not moving forward, you are going backwards.
There is no maintaining. Momentum may carry you forward for a time, but you will inevitably slip backwards. Discipline is not a choice; either we discipline ourselves now or outside forces will discipline us later. If I hadn’t done the hard work of disciplining myself with regards to my health, eventually I would have lost the freedom to eat certain foods and may have been forced to take certain medications. I use the example of my weight loss journey, but the principle is the same in every part of life. It’s my experience that if we aren’t continually focused on the hard work of improving ourselves in the most important facets of our lives, life is eventually going to get much harder.
To live a significant and successful life, I believe there are a handful of areas where it’s valuable to engage in a program to help us continually learn and grow so that we don’t slip backwards:
Relationships (marriage, parenting, and friendship)
Leadership (people skills, conflict resolution, vision, etc)
Freedom (history and economics)
Obviously there are many other areas that you may want to work on, but the areas listed will impact every area of your life. There are many different avenues for getting education in these areas so I’ll highlight some principles and questions which I recommend that you use to weigh the different programs that are available.
1. Do the people that are teaching have the results that you want in the area in which they are teaching?
Anybody can spout theories, but if you want to get better in a certain area, find someone who has results in that area.
2. Are they currently active in the area they are teaching or are they speaking on past results?
This is an important question, especially for areas like leadership and finances. Just because someone did something once a decade ago doesn’t mean that it’s applicable right now and in this economy.
3. Is the information and teaching packaged in a format that makes engaging with it easy?
While a college course or a leadership institute may have fantastic information, usually the format requires large blocks of dedicated time which is a hindrance to most. Look for programs which allow you to plug into the information in the cracks of wasted time that we all have throughout the day: while commuting in the car, working out, cleaning the house, etc. Audio learning is is one of my favorite formats because you can listen to it repeatedly and cement it in your mind. Humans learn best through small bits of information repeated over time.
4. Does the program give you access to one-on-one coaching from someone that has the results you’re looking for?
We are all very good at deceiving ourselves. Having an outside perceptive to lovingly point out blind spots and help us correct our thinking is a non-negotiable if you want to lead a significant life. All the greatest people throughout history had mentors. Even one of the best basketball players ever, Michael Jordan, had a basketball coach.
5. Does the program have a community that you can associate with?
Building relationships with people who are on a similar journey is critical for your success. The encouragement and accountability of a community can be the difference between success and failure in any self-improvement journey.
6. Is it continuous?
One-off seminars and classroom teaching has its place, but neither one will create the consistency needed for changing the habits that are holding us back. Look for a program that is on-going. Most of us have been taught the things we need to do, but we forget easily. We need continuous reminders. On-going training programs should not only teach new information, but remind us of the things we’ve forgotten.
Obviously there are other factors to take into account, but this should narrow the choices considerably. The program that I personally plug into is the one crafted by a company called LIFE. It was founded in 2011 by Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady, Tim Marks, Bill Lewis, George Guzzardo, Claude Hamilton, and Dan Hawkins. Check out some of the LIFE reviews and testimonials.
Making the decision to embark on a good personal development program will change your life. Most people are trying to coast on their knowledge from formal schooling, much like I tried to coast in my health after achieving my goal. We know how that turned out. If you want to stand out from the crowd plug into a program with a specific intent to continue learning and getting better.