There’s a saying in personal security: “You Are It.” When it comes to personal safety, one of the most important lessons you can learn is to take responsibility for yourself.
This is equally the case when it comes to your health and wellbeing. Just as you can’t depend on anyone else to save you when you’re in danger, you can’t depend on anyone else for your fitness.
You can’t rely on anyone else to live your life for you. If you let others create your reality, then you live by their rules, their definitions. You live by their leave. At the end of the day, while you can take the advice of others and follow their guidance, you are the one who makes the decision, whether that is to accept the status quo or challenge it. You are the star in your own movie. Don’t focus on other people’s lives – in most people’s lives, you’re just an extra. This is your show.
This first step is one of the most important. This is your declaration of accountability. This is where you decide to live at cause rather than effect, and be the captain of your own ship. You are the only thing that you can control; but when you take control of your thoughts and your actions, you control your reality.
So don’t just jump on everyone else’s bandwagon, following the latest fads. Take the time to learn what works for you and what you enjoy when it comes to cultivating your fitness. Try different things, research alternative techniques, consult professionals. This is the first step, but you’re the only one who can put the guidance into practice.
Good health isn’t caused by external events; you are the only one who can make yourself fit and healthy. So take responsibility and make time for what’s important.
#1 - Permission to Put Yourself First
The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is be selfish. Let me clarify: When I tell you to be selfish, I’m talking about taking care of you first.
It’s only by taking care of yourself that you can help others.
Just think about when you are on a flight and the flight attendants take you through the safety demonstration. If there is a loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down in front of you. And what do the flight attendants always say? They tell you to put the mask over your own face first. They say that by taking care of yourself first, you’ll be better able to help your loved ones next.
But it seems like the more selfish act, right? Why can’t you just slip the mask over the child beside you first – the more “unselfish” thing to do? Isn’t that normally what we do – put the children first?
The thing is, hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) can set in incredibly rapidly. It may come with warning signs: shortness of breath, dizziness, blurry vision and mental confusion. But at higher altitudes, depressurization and unconsciousness can occur within a few seconds. You can’t help anyone else if you pass out in the process. It’s more efficient to take care of your needs first so you can assist children and other passengers with your full faculties intact, however selfish the act of saving yourself first might seem.
Take an example in a broader context. Imagine someone running around here, there and everywhere, so focused on their loved ones and helping everyone else that they lose sight of taking care of themselves in the process.
They wake up early in the morning in order to get the kids ready and get them off to school. They make sure that the kids have breakfast, but they don’t have time to grab something themselves. Then they hit traffic and have to get themselves to work. Work is busy, so they don’t grab more than some coffee and, later, takeout to eat at their desk. They work late, then hit traffic, then make it home.
Their partner’s picked up the kids and sorted them out with dinner, but the kids still need help with their homework. Then a colleague calls, needing a favor or an ear to bend, and they don’t have the heart to say they don’t have time to do what’s asked of them. They don’t eat till late, then only get to watch a little television before bed and the whole cycle starts again.
They make unhealthy food choices, don’t make time for exercise, become overweight, don’t make time for relaxation (that would be selfish), and the list goes on... Life can spiral out of control. Focusing on everything and everyone except yourself, it’s easy to neglect your diet and exercise, sacrifice your sleep and lose touch with your friends and personal interests. You might consider yourself the most selfless person around, but what do you think happens next?
You become stressed. And stress can cause a variety of problems, internal and external, including physical ailments and chronic illness. You turn into the one who needs help, and your ability to help others is forfeited.
Even though you have spent all this time refusing to be selfish, it backfires, because then you require others to be selfless in order to look after you. And you’re in no position to look after them in return.
Being selfish in this context is one of the most important things you can do, not just for your own health and wellbeing but also that of others.
If you go day by day, ignoring opportunities and not investing the time in improving your life because, subconsciously, you think focusing that time and energy on yourself would be selfish, then you have to think again. Do you want the others around you, especially your loved ones, to be happy and healthy? Then be happy and healthy yourself – and see how it rubs off on them! Do you want others around you to achieve their dreams? Then achieve your own – show them it’s possible, that everything is possible. Inspire change by first changing yourself.
Put yourself first, even if the idea seems selfish. Put the mask on yourself before doing anything else. You are a VIP – there is nothing wrong with admitting your worth to yourself. Embracing being selfish is the same as rejecting feeling guilty.
Feeling guilty for investing in yourself and achieving for yourself gains you nothing. The thing to grasp now is that part of the preparation for performing at your peak is accepting that you need to take care of yourself first. It doesn’t take that much time and, with minimal investment, you get a huge reward. You protect what’s most valuable – you!
#2 - Become Accountable
Napoleon Hill presents a list of alibis – excuses for not achieving what you say you desire. There are lots and lots of them and they all begin:
IF I had money...
IF only conditions around me were different...
IF I didn’t have so many worries...
These are excuses! These alibis shift the blame for not achieving success to factors outside yourself. They comfort you as you continue to exist in a state of homeostasis, perceiving yourself as trapped in the status quo. But this is a prison you yourself have created – it only exists in your mind!
These same excuses apply when we’re talking about achieving optimum health and fitness. People think they need more money to get the newest equipment or a gym membership or a personal trainer (when, in fact, you don’t really need any of those things to get started).
They think they’d be able to keep on top of their exercise regimen if they only had more time or less stress (when, in fact, creating the time to exercise would have a beneficial effect on their stress levels!). They think they’d go running if only there were a park right across the road (when, in fact, if there were a park right across the road, they’d only find another reason not to run in it).
Hill quotes Elbert Hubbard:
“It has always been a mystery to me why people spend so much time deliberately fooling themselves by creating alibis to cover their weaknesses. If used differently, this same time would be sufficient to cure the weakness, then no alibis would be needed.”
Becoming accountable is about recognizing that this choice is in your hands – again, it is in your mind! The fact that you have picked up this book means that you want to make a change. You have given yourself permission to think greater than your current circumstances. This very act means that greatness is within your reach.
People aren’t always conscious that their first instinct is to deny or shift responsibility. But there’s nothing stopping
you from being conscious of it, and choosing to take responsibility for what unfolds. You just need to find the motivation.
#3 - Find Your Spark
So how do you find the motivation? In my other books, I refer to your reason to prevail, your why, as your spark. It’s really what lies at the root of everything you can work on, whether it’s your personal safety, personal development or personal performance.
The first step is to really think about why you are addressing your wellbeing. You need to know why because this will keep you going. This is your motivation, your inspiration, your spark. This is what ignites the jet fuel and lights a fire under your butt. This is what makes everything worthwhile.
This burning question – why – will continue to crop up whenever anything becomes an effort, or takes up your time, or demands your energy, especially when things are hard, and you perceive they’re not going your way. You’ll need to stop, pause and think: Why am I doing this? What is the point?
For me, it’s the thought of my children – what I want for them – their safety, wellbeing and the possibility of a limitless future. When things are at their toughest, they are the sparks that keep me fighting. When I think about why I want to perform at my peak, it’s because I want to be a role model for them. I want to show them what’s possible when you are your best self, every day.
Others don’t have children and it might be their boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife. It might be the work they are doing in the world or the legacy they won’t get a chance to leave if they don’t achieve their potential. It is their passion.
Before we go any further, I want you to dedicate some serious thought to this. It might not take much digging at all to find your underlying motivation, but the more you think about it, the more it will become entrenched in your brain, ready to give you a kick of inspiration and motivation whenever you need it most.
These are the considerations when you are trying to identify your spark:
- It must be personal.
- It will be something or someone you are passionate about.
- It has to be important to you NOW – something in the present, not something from the past.
- It is what makes you tick. Deep down, it makes you who you are.
- It is a trigger. The thought of losing it is what will get you fired up enough to fight for your vision.
- It isn’t logical; it’s emotional – something that rips you at your core, deep in your heart and soul.
You need to take some time to uncover this part of yourself. It might be a very simple answer, but, again, you need to really think about it and engage your emotions at the same time. When the going gets tough, you want your brain to be programmed to immediately spark your resistance.
This is the first step because, while you might think physical activity or nutrition to be the most important element in a health and wellbeing regimen, it’s really your mindset. Holding yourself accountable, putting yourself first, and finding that spark are what will drive you to achieve in every arena. It’s what will set you up to succeed in every step that follows.