Focus on The Process

Welcome to another edition of the PT Fitness Blog. When we first started our conversation, I invited you to go get some ice-cream. Right now, I want you to get some water. Refill your water bottle, buy a bottle, grab a glass, just get some water. I’ll wait.

I’ll assume you’ve followed my instruction and gotten that glass of water. If so, congratulations. That is something to celebrate. I hope you’ve been thinking about your Why as we talked about last time. As we examine the meaning behind Heart, Focus, Power, we’ve established that we start with Heart because knowing Why you’re doing something, increases your likelihood of success.  I encouraged you to spend more effort on Why than on How. Today, as we examine Focus, it’s time to put on your Thinking Cap.

When I decided to take my first steps toward a healthier lifestyle, my trainer used to get on to me about one element of my process that I didn’t seem to embrace. I was eating healthier foods and I approached my workouts with determination. So, what was missing? I wouldn’t write down my food intake. She’d say, “What did you eat last week?” I’d tell her about my grilled chicken and veggies, my healthy shakes, and whatever else I remembered eating. She’d say, “Great, show me.” I’d stubbornly say, “I just told you, why do I have to show you?” This went on for a while until she finally convinced me to make an honest account of the food I was consuming throughout the day. What do you think I discovered? I found that among all of my healthy choices were microtransactions for which I wasn’t accounting.  Along with omitting the snacks and nibbles, my mental journal was leaving out the impact of the macronutrients I was consuming.  It blew my mind. I realized that for all the minutes I’d spent in the gym, I was working against myself by not taking stock – honest stock – of the amount of fuel I was putting in the tank. That’s how the idea of Focus entered into my world.

In the context of PT Fitness, Focus is your approach you might take to plan your wedding.  You’re going to find a venue, meet with a florist, research photographers, find the perfect dress and so on.  You can have a wedding without taking all of those steps.  However, it may not look like the wedding you were hoping for.  Similarly, if you’re not getting the desired results from diet and exercise, it may be because, while you’ve embraced your Heart, your Focus still needs developing.

Let’s go back to my article about taking a road trip. Think about all of the preparations you (hopefully) make before embarking on a long drive. You fill the tank, check the air pressure in your tires, make a playlist, etc.… Now imagine you start the car only to discover that your fuel gauge has been removed. Can you still take your trip? Yes. Will you drive efficiently? Maybe, but that’s going to depend on luck. What’s more likely is that you’ll stop more frequently than is necessary, or run out of gas. Both of those circumstances are avoidable through the use of a simple fuel gauge. So, how does your lifestyle fuel gauge work?

A fuel gauge demonstrates two aspects of your journey: what you have and what you’ve used. Your lifestyle fuel gauge should work in a similar fashion. Start by planning your meals and scheduling time to move.  Doing so will put your gauge firmly on F. Then, as you exercise and eat throughout the day, your gauge will move accordingly. Just as a no one with a working vehicle should be surprised when they run out of gas, we should not be surprised by the results of our decisions.

Once you’ve got your Approach mapped out, you may need a little encouragement. While being Focused will keep your head in the game, you’ll need to check in with your Heart to begin the process. I love what Henry Ford said about motivation, “Whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re right.” Belief in your approach is self-replicating. We’ll talk about Power soon, but here’s a little taste: Believe in your motivations (Heart), Focus on the correct system, give Power to Focus, and watch your belief pay off. If that seems a little too convenient, don’t worry, here’s a practical example of that process:

1: Desire to walk/run a 5k with your co-workers. It’s okay that you’re not sure you can get there from your starting point. We’re going to give you confidence in yourself and the system you put in place.

2: Set a more reasonable immediate goal. Walk/run 1 mile, three times a week. Increase that amount by quarter of a mile each week until it’s time for the 5k.

3: Show up, walk with you co-workers. Go have some ice-cream.

See how your Heart’s belief that you could walk/run the 5k lead to you applying your Focus? Then, you developed your Focus by going out and executing the plan. The final outcome is not only your success in completing the race, but also the confirmation that we were correct all along. You believed you could do it, so you did.  You must embrace your Heart, but develop your Focus.

Developing your Focus helps you understand the necessary steps in achieving the desired outcome, great or small.  To understand how our limitations work in our favor let’s change the example above from participating in a 5k to completing a Triathlon.   What if the 1 mile starting point were replaced with a 10 mile starting point? You’d stop reading, call me crazy, and vow to never work out again. It’s so important that we recognize our approach. An aggressive approach may make us feel incapable because we set out to do too much. Focus means applying a reasonable amount of effort to achieving your goals. It’s also important to use a system that matches you. You wouldn’t put a motorcycle fuel gauge in a school bus, would you? Think about the opportunity cost of working out so hard on Day 1 that you are incapable of showing up for Days 2, 3, and 4. That’s why it’s so important to plan your work and work your plan with the correct expectations and tools.

Speaking of opportunity cost, let’s look at your eating habits. How many times have you planned a get together a week advance with an exact menu in mind, only to have no plan for the very next meal?  How often do we decide what we’re having for lunch while we’re in the parking lot? Why don’t we apply the same principals that drive our occupations, our finances, and our relationships to our meal planning? By letting the principle of Focus into your meal schedule, I promise you’ll be pleased with the benefits.

How’s that water I asked you to grab when I started this article? Have you finished it yet? Have you figured out why I told you to drink it? It’s important that I leave you with some real-life, immediate steps you can take to prove that you are in control, that success is in reach, and that there are reasons to celebrate waiting for you. Go walk a flight of stairs. Don’t have stairs at work? No problem! Walk to your car and back. When you get back to your desk, finish that water and get some more. Final step: Celebrate. Give it a fist pump, high-five someone – it’s okay if they think you’re insane. Invite them along next time. Write down on your desk calendar, “Today, I made steps in the right direction.” If a voice in your head speaks up and says, “Big deal, so what?” Silence that voice by Focusing on the good thing you’ve done and the good thing you can do next.

These cycles of success can be measured by the hour, the day, the week, and your lifetime. With Henry Ford echoing in our head, we can walk a flight of stairs and drink more water. We can train for a 5k fun run. We will lower our cholesterol. We will be successful because we believed we could be successful.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for celebrating what you can do right now, we can start planning more reasons to celebrate. When I meet with clients for the first time, I ask them how many times a week they feel up to working out. It’s common for them to say they can commit to five sessions. I encourage them to plan for three. If you aim for five and hit three, you’re going to have a hard time celebrating. If you aim for three and hit five, all we can do is celebrate. Overthinking your Focus can set you back, but reasonable planning will provide a path to looking ahead at all times. At PT Fitness, we don’t mourn our mistakes, we enjoy our success.

I get passionate when I address your Focus because it made such an impact in my life. When I ended each week having worked my plan, I felt like celebrating. I felt like doing it again. The results served as affirmation that I was moving in the right direction. Focus is meant to excite you. It’s the scoreboard in the playoffs, the race clock on the last lap, and the pitch count in the 9th inning.  Focus runs the 5k, takes the stairs, and finishes that glass water.

We’d love to hear about your Focus. Follow us on Twitter @ptfitness, share #MyFocus so we can encourage and celebrate with you. See you soon!