How To Unlock Your Potential
Each of us, no matter who we are, have some goals when it comes to our health. That might be related to aesthetics; losing a bit of fat here and there, or adding some muscle and definition.
Maybe it’s your physical performance; finally running that 5km Park Run, hitting that 100kg bench press or maybe just eliminating daily aches and pains and moving freely. Or it could be your mindset that you feel needs work; increasing your focus, becoming more resilient and feeling less stressed.
Whatever it is that we desire we usually look to others for inspiration. They act as role models for the people we wish to become, or as examples of the traits we wish to possess for ourselves.
But what we are told, and what we see, often belies the real truth in how to achieve those desired outcomes. And this leads us to make assumptions which cause further complications.
It used to be that our insight into what others were doing was fairly limited, with the main sources being books, TV or magazines. However, you could argue that with social media this would no longer be an issue.
And although it is true that we have more access into the lives of others than ever before, does that mean we actually have a deeper insight?
Access is defined as; ‘the means or opportunity to approach or enter.’
Insight is defined as; ‘the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding.’
Yes we do get to see more of what a person does, but in the grand scheme of things these are still snapshots and not the complete picture. It is very hard to get complete transparency because we only allow access on our own terms.
This leaves us with in a self-perpetuating cycle comprised of three factors:
1. What We Are Told
For a long time, certainly long before social media, we have been told that the path to a better body and better performance can be attained through a certain ‘thing’. Maybe ‘sold’ is a better word because that ‘thing’ is usually packaged into a certain diet, supplement or piece of kit.
Social media has just magnified this to an almost comical degree. And whether you realise it or not, this is having an impact on how you view and look for the solutions to your problems. Especially since good marketing taps into human psychology, hitting those nerves that make us want to believe the hype is true.
We all have that little voice that says “maybe this one does work, maybe this is the one that will finally give me those results”. And I guarantee we have all given into that voice at one time or another.
2. What We Assume
This persistent message weaved through marketing that improvement lies in a neat package, has created an anchor for what we now believe. Being told that the solution we need has been engineered in expensive labs suggests that anything less can’t possibly be effective.
Which means that when we see a message from the World Health Organisation about getting in more steps, or sleeping more, it has nowhere near the impact of the latest fat burning product sold by a super toned influencer on Instagram.
3. What We See
And talking of those with influence.
What we are told and what we assume is reinforced when we see the people we aspire to promoting these very same products. If somebody is being paid a lot of money to promote something then it is likely that it will be highlighted as the reason for their success.
This cycle of factors makes it very easy to see why health and fitness is a billion dollar industry, and why it is so difficult for many people to actually get meaningful results. If you are putting all of your hopes for success on a hyped up product then you will be riding the rollercoaster of disappointment for a long time.
When you look at someone who has achieved something that you also want you must understand one thing: The path to that success was not via one single intervention. If somebody had found a true quick fix and managed to bottle it then trust me we’d all know about it.
The truth is that we all have access to making huge improvements because we all share the same DNA which makes us human in the first place. When we look at athletes it can be easy to think that they must be following some incredibly high tech diets and regimes to achieve the results they do.
But as Dr Marc Bubbs points out in his book Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance, athletes need to be human first.
By that he means that in order to unlock your athletic potential, you need to be a healthy person first. BUT before you counter with the very reasonable point that you have no desire to be an athlete the point is this:
In order to unlock potential in ANY area of your life you need to be a healthy person first.
- More energy to enjoy time with your family.
- To hit a personal best time on a run or in the gym.
- Better mental clarity and increased productivity.
- To wake up feeling good each day!
If you want to see better results in how you feel and what you’re capable of then you’ve got to prioritise your health. If you don’t then you simply make life a lot harder for yourself.
And what is it that truly creates great health?
The fundamentals. The basic actions that we can all implement in our own lives. They may not seem as exciting as the things you see in marketing campaigns but they work far more effectively.
As Bubbs points out, ‘over the last decade there has been phenomenal investment in research on athlete health, nutrition, training, recovery, and mindset in an attempt to beat the competition. Multimillion-dollar team complexes, partnerships with universities, the latest advances in technology like sleep pods, GPS, wearable tech; nothing is spared, it seems, in the pursuit of high performance.’
And yet elite coaches are now prioritising things like a Food First approach to performance nutrition:
“An athlete’s diet should be made up primarily of whole, unprocessed foods such as quality meats (beef, fish, seafood, chicken, and the like), plentiful vegetables (cruciferous, leafy, and everything in between), fresh fruit (all colors of the rainbow), complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats from grass-fed meats and natural oils. Diet can become very nuanced and complex, or it can be very simple. Build your diet around “real” food and limit your intake of processed foods. A healthy diet rooted in whole foods is achievable.”Dr Marc Bubbs
And getting the best sleep possible:
“On a day-to-day basis lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your health. It pummels your immune system, increasing your risk of catching a nasty cold or flu. It worsens your blood sugar control, causing a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows in response to your meals (even healthy options). If you don’t get enough shut-eye, appetite-stimulating hormones such as ghrelin ramp up, causing strong cravings for sugar, sweets, and processed foods while satiety hormones, such as leptin, are blunted. Insufficient sleep impacts your cognition, impairs decision-making, and negatively influences your ability to problem solve and consolidate memories. In short, there is virtually no area of health unscathed by lack of sleep.”Dr Marc Bubbs
Here is the crux of it: The more you can get the basics right the easier it will be to reach whatever it is your goals are. And I would hazard to guess that most of the people you see selling something ‘magical’ got some of their results doing very ordinary things.
Break The Cycle
Here are 3 things you can do to break out of the cycle that keeps you searching for the solution which doesn’t exist:
1. Be Selective
Marketing has created a lot of loud noise but there are also many voices of reason that offer sensible approaches to health and fitness. Seek these out and reduce your exposure to the ‘quick fix’ crowd.
Just because someone has 100,000 followers on social media it does not mean they are giving the best advice. Being able to sell yourself and knowing what you are talking about are not the same thing.
And new is not always better.
The Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia Paperback by John Jesse was published in 1974 and I still refer to it for ideas now and again. Yes, science and technology has enabled us to make great leaps in diet and training, but the basics really haven’t changed that much.
If the person you follow isn’t mentioning the importance of;
- Whole food nutrition & calories
- Structured (& sensible) exercise
- And consistent work in each of those areas
You might want to look elsewhere if you are actually interested in making progress for yourself.
2. Apply The 90/10 Rule
The results you get from consistently applying the basics hasn’t changed either. The more you concentrate on doing the simple things well the faster you will see success.
Right now the cycle of ‘shiny object’ marketing has created an environment where people expound 90% of their effort and resources chasing the things which should instead only take up 10%, at most!
Deciding on what BCAA ratio you need, or whether a tricep extension or dumbbell kickback will give you the most definition is very relevant if you’re a competitive bodybuilder who’s already achieved pro card status.
For everyone else stop fretting over the details and start maximising your potential by doing the things that are going to get you real results. Sleep is a great example of this: As Bubbs points out in his book, ‘sleep is perhaps the ultimate performance enhancer, yet despite the research and increased public awareness, it is not a fully tapped resource.’
Before you buy that bottle of BCAA’s, invest in a blackout blind, and rather than sit up late with your face in your phone watching ‘influencers’, get a night routine in place and reap the benefits of deep sleep.
Put 90% of your energy into the basics and you will get better results than ever before in your life.
3. Build Your Behaviours
Although it may seem like a paradox, if you want better results you should actually forget about your performance in the beginning. If you want to get the foundations in place then you are going to need to be consistent.
To build consistency you need good habits, and those come from gradually making small changes that allows the process to be sustainable. If you push hard from the outset it is more than likely you’ll crash back down.
Instead, reframe your expectations to the knowledge that the results will come, but in the beginning building your behaviours is more important than your performance. No matter what the guru tells you true change takes time.
“The outcome of a system is never produced by one single part; rather, the outcome is produced via the interactions of all the parts.”Dr Marc Bubbs
It is the interrelation of basic disciplines that unlocks our true potential.
No matter what you are told, what you see and what you may assume, increasing mental and physical performance requires each fundamental area of good health to be in place (sleep, nutrition, movement, mindset).
Looking for the best supplement to fix your health problems before you have the basics in place is like trying to ice a cake before it has finished baking, it’s completely pointless.
You cannot escape the basics because they form the core of who we are as humans, it is built into our DNA. If you don’t put this first and make it a priority then you will never unlock your potential.
The Silent Assassin
Stress has become the silent assassin wearing us down day by day without us even realising it: Weakening our immune system, affecting digestive health, destroying sex drive, causing aches and pains and making us tired, unhealthy and unhappy.
When you feel under pressure, overwhelmed, unfocused and low on energy it's really easy to convince yourself that this is just how life is, how everybody is.
But that simply is not true.
Watch this replay of a live chat I ran on stress to discover:
- The battle I had with stress after leaving the military.
- The strategies I used to overcome it.
- What the Limitless 30/30 Challenge is.