Using Negative Experiences to Create Positive Change
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to co-lead our “Refresh and Renew Retreat” with Life Coach (and Breakthrough member) Jennifer Wolfe, and it was truly a refreshing and renewing experience! One of the things we spoke about was being open to receiving signals that something in your life is ready to “shift”, and that sometimes those signals can be things that are not always pleasant.
I experienced a big shift not quite 5 years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Fortunately I was pretty good at that point about listening to signals, and a few seemingly minor health concerns (like blurry vision and extreme cravings for sweets) sent me to the doctor for a check up so that we were able to learn what was going on in the early stages. At first I was angry, and sad and confused: “How could this happen to someone who teaches others about exercise and nutrition? It’s not fair for this to happen when I’ve always prioritized taking care of my health.” Of course Type 1 is an autoimmune condition – my immune system attacked my pancreas for some unknown reason, and now my pancreas no longer produces insulin. Something that training and nutrition could do nothing about.
Once the initial shock and emotions settled, my mantra became “take action!” I took action (along with Caleb’s help) to make the adjustments I needed to make to take care of my health as a diabetic. And just as significantly, Caleb and I realized it was time to take action and make the shift to opening our own gym. We had been talking about it for a couple of years at that point… wondering how we could make it happen… was it the right choice for us… when would the timing be right etc…
My new health diagnosis woke us up to the fact that your life can change overnight, and if there are things you want to do, you need to take action. We knew we wanted to help more people than we could reach training from our home or our clients’ homes. We knew we wanted to create a space that we felt was pretty lacking in the Los Angeles area: a place where people are welcome no matter where they are at in their fitness journey, a community of people who genuinely care about seeing each other succeed, and a place where people can discover how a physical strength practice can inspire greater strength of mind, character and spirit. There would never be a “perfect” time – the time was now!
Did the “universe” give me diabetes so that Caleb and I would open Breakthrough and take that leap of faith? I’m not sure I see it like that. But I made a choice to use that diagnosis as an opportunity to reflect on the things that are truly important to me… as an opportunity to let go of fear and embrace change. I allowed myself to use something negative as rocket fuel to propel me in a positive direction that I had been wanting to go anyway.
A shift doesn’t have to come in the form of something major like starting a business. It could be something much more “simple” like recognizing you’d like to improve the quality of your sleep, or prioritizing spending time on hobbies you find fulfilling. And the good news is that it doesn’t have to take a major health diagnosis to tune into signals that you may be in need of a shift. Getting a cold or minor aches and pains can be an inconvenience, or an opportunity to slow down and ask yourself if you are giving yourself enough recovery or self-care time. Forgetting your phone at home could be a disaster, or a wake up call that you actually got more done that day without it as a distraction. A stressful day at work could spiral into behaviors that don’t support you (like being grouchy with loved ones, eating foods you wouldn’t normally eat and drinking more than you’d like, or staying up too late binge watching TV) or an opportunity to do something positive for yourself (like getting a training session in, cooking a nice meal for your family, and getting a good night’s sleep) so you can be refreshed the next day.
The even better news is that you don’t have to wait for something negative to happen to tune into the potential for positive shifts. Giving yourself downtime that allows you to reflect and reconnect with the things that matter most is a great way to do this. It could be getting outside in nature, journalling, a creative activity you enjoy, meditating or praying… an activity that leaves you feeling revitalized, relaxed and tuned in to the things that matter the most to you. I’d say for most of us that’s a different feeling than we get when watching movies, playing video games, scrolling the ‘gram or other things we do for recreation.
The idea of purposefully allowing downtime is something that our Breakthrough members will start to notice as they do more advanced programs with us. Intelligent programming builds in waves that allow you to build in volume or intensity of training, and then back off again to recover. Just this very week our Tactical Strength Challenge Team had a “wave back” week where they are deliberately doing fewer training sessions than the prior week, before our intensity dials up again for the big Challenge on 10/27. A few members asked about why we had this wave back week, and the answer is simply explained by a principal well known to the StrongFirst community (and other smart coaches): After a peak, there is usually a valley. You can either choose to step down, and be ready to climb the next peak much sooner, or you can keep pushing and fall off the edge of the mountain.
In our physical training, we make progress not just from the training we do, but in how we repair and rebuild in between training sessions so that we can come back even stronger. Just like constant high intensity in training has more likelihood of leading to serious injury or illness than a well periodized program, I would argue that the same is true in other aspects of life as well. The fact is that even if we are eating right, exercising, and have a great work/play balance that includes lots of recovery time, we are still likely to face challenges at one point or another. But we can learn to use these challenges as the opportunity for growth, and we can learn to tune into the signals that a shift is needed so that we are deliberately stepping down, rather than falling down.
Strength & Love,
PS – Save the Date for an event that will do good for you and others! On Saturday November 10th at 11:30am, I will be hosting a Yoga Nidra Meditation Seminar at Breakthrough, which is a wonderfully relaxing form of guided meditation. There is no cost to attend the seminar, we just ask that everyone bring a donation to support the West Valley Food Pantry’s Thanksgiving Food Drive as they are able.