‘Easy decisions – hard life. Hard decisions – easy life.’ That’s the mantra of Jerzy Gregorek, a former alcoholic who went on to become a multiple world weight-lifting champion.
One of the things you’ll notice about a lot of successful people – they’re in good physical shape. It’s not a coincidence. You don’t have to go full Goggins but taking care of your mind and body is critical to success. Because if you take care of your body it will help take care of your mind. And if you take care of your mind it will help take care of your body.
We’re one organism, we’re not a separate mind and body, despite a lot of Western thinking leaning that way.
Looking after yourself does not involve pizza, too much alcohol or drugs, partying through the night and getting up in a grey afternoon. Those are all avoidance techniques they’re not life techniques.
Give me Five
You need five things. They’re not necessarily cool or sexy but they will make you so. They are:
1. Enough sleep. Aim for eight hours, regular
2. Move! Walk, run, lift weights, play, ideally an hour a day
3. Get light, ideally sunlight, early in the day – not easy in England!
4. Eat right. Abandon processed and fast food. Buy it, cook it, eat it, enjoy
5. Good social interactions. With friends and family and everyone. And with yourself.
And you’re thinking – well that sounds like fun. Not. Do you have any idea what it feels like when you’ve been self-disciplined for a long time? When you’ve kept to The Path, when you’ve not given in to temptation too often – hello TikTok, Instagram, YouTube. When you know you’ve given it your focus, your time and your energy to the exclusion of more transient pleasures. And then it starts to work.
And then it starts to work. Like endlessly shoving away at a rock that’s blocking your path. And then, somehow, eventually, it shifts, just a little. But now you know you’re going to soon roll this baby all the way down the mountain out of your way. After all that sweat and effort and lack of movement. It’s a great feeling, of achievement, relief, accomplishment.
Own That Feeling
Start with the small things. Go to sleep and get up at a good time. Eat a decent breakfast - savoury, like eggs, not empty sweet stuff like processed cereals. Get some sunlight before you start work. Workout if you can. I can’t afford a fancy gym membership nor a home gym. But I have a pair of dumbbells and a bar for chin-ups and pull-ups. And some more weights in a pack for rucking. With just those and bodyweight you can do so much, everything from weighted pack walks to bicep curls, weighted squats, press-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips, you name it.
What you do today affects what you do and how you feel tomorrow. Stay up late, drink a bit too much, eat a bit too much fatty, processed food – in other words, have a fun evening by most people’s standards – and the next day you will be loathe to get up and you’ll feel tired and lethargic most of the day. How can you progress, own the day, be optimistic, if you feel like that? Think ahead.
This is where you can separate yourself from a lot of people. Self-discipline is hard, which is why so many never start or abandon it. All you have to do is keep it up, show up, be consistent.
But so much of our mental wellbeing comes down to relationships. We are social creatures and we need social interaction pretty much every day. There are two things here.
One, don’t be dependent on the company of others any more than you should be dependent on the opinion of others. Be a lone wolf where possible, be the cat that walks by himself in the wild woods at night. Don’t be afraid to spend time by yourself. Working on yourself.
In an experiment, students were given the option of spending 15 minutes completely alone, no phone or anything, or face an electric shock. You’d think a no-brainer. But 25% of the women and 67% of the men chose to zap themselves rather than spend time in their own heads. What does that say about our mental resilience?
Two, we need to interact with other people. Family, friends, work colleagues, strangers. Hell, even pets if it comes to it. Or trees. Definitely trees. Every day, invest in your links to the world outside your head, to people, pets and indeed places. A quick call, note, email, visit, whatever, keep those contacts going, grow them, enjoy them.
Invest heavily in yourself, in your mind and in your body. The investment will pay rich dividends in terms of mental and physical health as well as forming the bedrock for your career.
It may seem cool to pull an all-nighter, to work 18-hour days for a week or to look like you’ve just been withdrawn from the front line, but that’s short-term. You, your mind and your body, are here for the long-term, and if you work on that it could be a very happy, very successful and very long term.
Written in partnership with Graham Scott - an award author, publisher and staff writer who has been writing professionally for four decades.
Executives focus so much on their job, their business, their targets. But we need to focus just as much on our mental and physical health.