The single most important part of my own personal journey for career reinvention has been integrating an obsession with exercise and diet into the work of transforming from corporate executive to a successful executive and career coach and speaker. The benefits from my obsession with physical transformation are measurable in medical terms and priceless in psychic terms. While the work of career reinvention is mostly brain work, the physical regimen is a game-changer for the mental work.
The Physical Starting Point for My Career Reinvention:
Like many corporate and road warriors who wake-up in their late 40’s or early 50’s, I found myself with 30 extra pounds and as it turns out, according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic Executive Health Center, a baker’s dozen or so of health warning signs. Years of sitting at a desk or in meetings, flying weekly, and spending way too much time in restaurants had all taken their toll. I had reached critical mass in more ways than one with my health.
That was four years ago. I returned just this past week to run through what I describe as the medical carnival ride from hell, and after 18 appointments (including several health education courses), my primary Mayo doc looked at me and said, “You get an A+ for your transformation.”
While it was good to hear someone with real data and science offer a perspective on my health, I knew the outcome going into this physical fun house. I long ago donated my entire wardrobe of clothes in favor of newer, slimmer selections. And without trying to sound like one of those late night supplement infomercials, I’m stronger, faster, and in all-around better shape today than I was 30 years ago. I say that not in bragging, but rather in sheer amazement.
My oldest son (a human muscle) offered his own perspective to one of his friends when he thought I was out of earshot: “Yeah, my Dad is oddly strong.” Ha!
It’s a Commitment and Process
As I embarked on my professional reinvention four years ago, I committed to working on my whole person: mind, body, and career. I knew intuitively they were all linked, I just wasn’t certain how to connect them.
I hired a great trainer. I integrated a working routine with a workout routine that was inviolable.
When traveling to speak or run a workshop, I started selecting hotels based on their fitness facilities. I dropped other less productive activities in my life in favor of working out.
And I adopted the habit of logging everything I put in my mouth in a fabulous app on my tablet (MyNetDiary) that taught me how weak I really am when it comes to food. It’s my food accountability partner.
The physical benefits of a rigorous, regular (and trainer supported) routine are palpable. However, the mental benefits are priceless.
Creating an Endless Store of Resilience
I’m convinced the physical regimen creates a cascading set of benefits, including dramatically improved sleep, a sharper mind, and importantly, increased resilience for navigating life’s challenges.
It’s this last one, resilience, that may be the most critical for career reinventors.
Resilience, grit, fortitude, whatever you call it, is that essential element required to beat back self-doubt, kick imposter syndrome out of the way, and keep moving when it’s so much easier to quit.
Resilience born of physical and mental health will carry you forward as you fight resistance on the road to writing that book, creating that speech or, announcing to the world you are doing something new and completely different. And then doing it!
An effective physical regimen incorporates an endless series of micro-goals, which as you achieve them, feeds your self-confidence and boosts your resiliency quotient. It grooves pathways in your brain that connect hard-work, strain, and sweat with success.
And when things don’t work out as planned on paper—which they rarely do—the regimen offers the stress relief and a renewed sense of stubbornness that translates into finding your way forward regardless of the obstacles.
Career transformation and physical transformation are both challenging, evolutionary processes. Combining the two not only makes sense, it makes the entire experience of discovery and work exhilarating. And a labor of love beats a labor of compliance or drudgery any day of the week. Take a look at yourself (literally) and then start moving. If you’re not disciplined, hire a trainer. And then do the hard work. You might just wake up one day and be amazed at what you have accomplished.
Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.