It finally happened. My forties were fast coming to an end and I faced the transition into my fifties. Actually I felt quite proud about my last 10 years and was looking forward to the opportunities and experiences that the next 10 will bring. As I sat in the summer of last year with an injured ankle and a growing belly, I was also conscious of a promise I had made myself a couple of years earlier...
When I started work back in 1991, having recently graduated from university, I was on an Initial Training Course (ITC) with many lovely people and one particular friend, Roger. Over the years I kept in touch with Roger and many years later we ended up living very close to each other. Roger is a little bit older than me and when he reached his 50th I was blown away by how much fitter and in better shape he was than when I knew him in his mid-20’s! I told myself, and Roger, that this was what I was going to do also…but as I sat on the sunbed, with a non-working ankle I was worried that my dream was slipping away.
Not one to be deterred by extra hurdles, I spoke with a personal trainer I had met a few years earlier. Tom (the PT) now worked with his wife, Jess, a nutritionist, to give a more holistic programme to clients and had a very tailored approach to helping individuals attain their goals. In addition to getting into my “best shape ever” I also needed to get my running back to enable me to complete the 2019 London Marathon in April-19; this seemed miles away when I could hardly walk on my ankle!
So began a programme of 3-4 weight circuits each week together with some dietary direction and rehabilitation therapy on my leg injury. Every week I would have a video-call with Tom and Jess and we would check progress on all fronts and discuss what was working and not, then I would get a revised programme for the following week. And so it continued, week after week.
Finally in December I could take my first steps back running. 3 miles became 6 miles and soon into 2019 I was into 9, 10 and then 13 miles. The ankle was working and, more to the point, the work I had been doing in my home gym had given me strength and conditioning that made the transition back into distant running a relatively painless path. I was delighted, things were falling into place.
But what about my other goal…the “best shape ever”?
Well there had been some great progress but I thought I might follow a concept I heard from Simon Woodroffe once (the creator of Yo! Sushi) to “Make Failure Painful”. I booked myself in for a professional photoshoot to record the shape my body was in the day prior to my 50th. Now there was no turning back and I was focused on my goal. Tom and Jess turned up the dial on my training and nutrition plan and the challenge was simply unreal on some days, but I could see the weights rising, the muscles becoming more defined and my body measurements falling in to line. Let me be honest with you, I did not become a monk in this time! I still drank alcohol on occasion and had a rather “large” day out with some of my best mates just a couple of days before the shoot!
On the day of the photoshoot I was completely overwhelmed by the results. I did not look like me, but it really was me. I hadn’t had photos done like this before and I was delighted to confirm that indeed, if not the “best shape ever”, I was certainly in better shape than before our wedding 25 years ago and this was definitely a massive goal achieved.
So why the blog and where’s the learning?
I think I have always felt that anything is possible when we approach it with an open mind and belief, and I have never been disappointed with this approach personally nor with individuals and teams that I have worked with over the years. With my experience of the last few months this belief has been further enhanced by 4 key steps that I know can help all of us achieve our ambitions and become that person that deep down we have always known is there and that is to P.L.A.N. Let me explain…
P = Proud – a few years back I was taught that we can live life Have-Do-Be or Be-Do-Have. If we live Have–Do–Be then we seek to HAVE things that enable us to DO things that help us BE something (eg proud, happy, excited etc). The problem with this is by the time we get there we are after the next thing, then the next etc. It’s like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When we turn this on its head and realise that how we are BE-ing in the moment is simply a choice, so we assume this state first, then DO the things we need to do to get the things we want to HAVE…then we are far more successful and enjoy the journey, every step. Very early on in my journey I connected to my feeling of being proud of all I have achieved and proud of my body. My goal was not to get into this state, I connected with this every day and then did what I needed to do to get what I wanted to HAVE…the best shape ever.
L = Leadership – there is so much personal leadership and having the right state of mind in this journey but I also got myself a coach (or two!) to lead me with their insights, expertise and daily encouragement. I can honestly say that Tom and Jess kept me on track and motivated to continue through the hard times and the cold winter mornings. They know their stuff, took a huge weight of effort looking into how to do this or that and gave me the information and instruction I needed on a daily basis to just follow and “do” in order to get the results I desired. “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so that you may become what you have always known you can be.” (Tom Landry) Have you got a coach or mentor?
A = Accountability – there is only one person that could do this for me and that was ME! No matter what anyone else said or did, at the end of the day, I had to get on and do it. Accountability was obvious and I knew it. No delegation. No abdication and as my friend, and great coach, Andy Bailey says “there is no try! We either do or we don’t!”
N = Nail it! You see the thing that strikes me is that both winners and losers have the same goals! So what’s the difference and where do the different outcomes come from? In the book “Atomic Habits”, by James Clear, he proposes that the winners are much better at focusing on and carrying out the process to get there. In other words, they stick to the plan. They Nail it! Focus, effort and determination with no excuses.
…and that is what I have “Learned about Leading” from my 50th birthday experience. The key to success with self and other is to PLAN:
P – connect with your “BE”
L – get yourself a coach or mentor (we have some great ones by the way, look here http://its-leadership.co.uk/its-us/)
A – embrace accountability
N – nail it with determination and dedication…
and the result… I thought you’d never ask… but some things we will keep to ourselves for now!! ?
After all, iTS Leadership!