As my life and career continues to unfold and develop in ways I could’ve never imagined, right before my very eyes, I wanted to share with you one simple phrase my Army recruited shared with me as I was boarding the bus to ship off to basic training. While not immediate, this simple phrase changed the way I developed goals and approached challenges and how I and responded to setbacks in my own life forever.
As an overweight and de-conditioned 22-year old man that decided to join the military because I was tired of selling TVs at Best Buy, I was terrified of what the military had in store for me. I was the first in my family to join the Army and had no preconceived notion of what to expect. I did however know that I was overweight, out of shape and scared to death. After I hugged my mom, brother and grandfather goodbye, my recruiter gave me a lingering but firm handshake, looked me right in the eye, and after a seemingly endless amount of time said, “Lean forward PFC Washington.”
IT CAME FROM NOWHERE. AND MADE ZERO SENSE AT THE TIME.
It wasn’t until I faced many of the physical and mental challenges put in front of me during basic training that I finally realized the simplistic beauty and practicality of the advice my recruiter had given me that day. “Lean forward” was his was of saying, keep moving forward, no matter what. Even when things get hard, keep moving forward and things will get better. I was able to carry that advice forward with me through several overseas deployments, personal and professional failures and hardships that the 22-year old me would’ve folded under and threw in the towel.
This concept may sound overly simple to most. And that’s because it is! But just because the advice is SIMPLE doesn’t mean the followthrough is EASY. That’s why so few of us get to pursue our purpose in life, or even get the opportunity to really know ourselves on a fundamental level. The setbacks and challenges of our lives are so overwhelming and if we don’t have the structural support built by simple and actionable steps in our lives to keep moving forward, we can easily let life and opportunities pass us by as we continue to stumble and fail.
COMPLACENCY IS THE DEATH OF DESIRE.
I think most of us OVER value the idea of comfort and settle for complacency which is often disguised as practicality. A setback can derail us and we just give up. Then we create excuses in our heads as to why it wasn’t a good idea in the first place and maybe this is the universe’s way of telling us something else is out there waiting for us. Then we rinse and repeat that same process until we are much older, bitter and dissatisfied where we find ourselves in our own lives. We never truly got to know ourselves, our wants, our aspirations, our goals and deepest desires in life.
So many of us are busy running from place to place, to appointment to appointment and errand to errand that we never really sit with ourselves and gather our thoughts long enough to take a look around ourselves and check in. Instead we allow our dreams to wither, our desires to fade away and our hopes to burnout in the face of challenge and setback while we grow complacent with the “practical” choices we’ve made in our lives. My recruiter’s simple words carried an impact far greater than either of us could’ve realized in that moment. I feel empowered to have received such guidance and direction so early on in my career and it has lead me to my current journey.
WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS AND SIMPLIFY THEM.
If any of this has resonated with you, chances are there is some aspect of your life you wish was better. Don’t worry, that doesn’t make you “flawed” or “selfish”. It makes you human. And part of being human is continued growth. So as we continue to navigate through one of the most challenging times in modern history I would like you to take 10-20 minutes of your own personal time to complete the following exercise:
- Go somewhere quiet and secluded where you can be alone with your thoughts.
- Block out the noise. Whether you like to sit in silence or vibe to your favorite music. Try to isolate your thoughts from the outside noise around you.
- Give yourself several minutes (3-5) to allow your mind to adjust to your new environment and let the thoughts that followed you into the space dissipate.
- Write down at least three goals. These can be fitness-related goals but don’t necessarily have to be.
- Then breakdown each of these goals into actionable processes. For instance, if one of your goals was to lose weight for the summer, some actionable process goals could be; go to the gym 3x a week, drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water daily, and set up a Program Design Session with a coach to discuss nutrition. These processes are simple, entirely within your control and are actionable NOW!
SIMPLE, YET EFFECTIVE.
You may be rolling your eyes at the simplicity of this exercise, but the clarity of direction and purpose it can give you will be a massive step towards actualizing your goals. Simplicity often brings more energy, focus and clarity to my life which allows me to focus my efforts where I know I will get the most return on my investment. We often overcomplicate so much in our lives, that trying something as simple as writing down goals and looking at them daily can yield amazing results if we let them. The power of simple is a very real thing.