When you’re investing in the stock market, you’re told to wait a minimum of five to ten years before you see any tangible results.
When you’re investing in your body, I’d argue it takes a similar amount of time to master and reap the benefits of the four Investment Accelerators:
- Lifestyle Management
- Performance Indicators
- Health Optimisation
Retraining your previous reasons for failing to stay in the shape of your life, for life, isn’t a three- or six-month solution. You can’t fundamentally rewire your old identity, behaviour or mindset in three to six months after your first Transformation Checkpoint. At the absolute minimum, you’re looking at two years, but I’d lean more towards the two to four-year mark.
That’s where I’ve seen most success in our clients who’ve truly been able to sustain long-term results and build on top of them.
Case in point, Tom, who’s case study here on How To Invest In Your Ultimate Physique shows the power of utilising the topic of this articles: Annual Investment Cycles.
When you’re going through this journey, it’s not enough to simply reach your Transformation Checkpoint and take a safe passage home through the Consolidation Phase. That’s a step in the right direction, but for true transformation – physically and mentally, you have to lean into a long-term Investment phase. You’ll put yourself at too much risk of relapse if you don’t. Or at the very least, complete stagnation.
A Period Of Intangible Gains
This is a period that’s filled with intangible gains. Psychologically, this can be tough to grasp after being programmed to think of visible results coming in 6, 12, 18, 24 weeks. But if you want to derive any real future dividends, and be able to enter the Reward phase, this shift from tangible to intangible needs to happen.
These intangible gains will relate to building your unique long-term lifestyle solution. This could mean anything to you; including:
- High performance in business, work and/or life
- Food and dietary management on a day to day basis
- The strive towards autonomy, self-control and self-mastery
- ‘Fitting’ with social norms
- Improving your self awareness to facilitate better choices that work for you
- Developing your skills, passion and craft
- Having control in all changes to your environments and lifestyle
- Finding yourself in your new identity
- Mastering social events and holidays
These are all the different facets of building your unique lifestyle solution. Whether you’re skewed on the Investment Profile as a ‘Muscle Builder’, or on the left as a ‘Lifestyle Solution’, the path to making a real, long-term change in your mind and body lies in these intangible gains. They’re difficult to track, but over the course of a productive Investment phase, you’ll see a tremendous shift that culminates in creating a new upgraded version of yourself, inside and out.
Minimum Investment Periods
Here are some general guidelines to follow if you want to see the tangible results in your body (via muscle building), and experience the intangible benefits of your new lifestyle solution (as listed above):
6 to 12 months = minuscule return; absolute minimum length required, although not likely to see much difference.
12 to 24 months = good return; solid timeframe to start seeing changes in your physique and your behaviour patterns.
24 to 48 months = big returns; a real-life changing difference in how you look, feel and perform.
These timelines will be a tough pill to swallow for many, and completely against the grain of what you may have expected – it’s certainly not what the media shows!
Embrace it. Don’t panic if you feel frustrated at the lack of progress or if you feel like you’re going backwards, or wasting your time.
The worst thing you can do is throw yourself back into a lengthy dieting phase unnecessarily. This isn’t the time to keep dieting. Sure, mini diets have their place (which I’ll show you in the annual cycles soon), and can be a tool to spark new progress and maintain healthy body composition, but using them means selling yourself short.
In fact, I’d say it’s creating a sense of false progress through the instant gratification of ‘fake tangible gains’. It’s the equivalent of drawing your investment out the market as soon as there’s a small down period. You won’t make any gains this way. While you’ll ‘feel’ like you’re making progress by dieting again, it’s all false, and worse yet, a waste of time.
Working Through 12 Month Cycles
The best Investment gains come in 12-month cycles. That’s the necessary amount of time to experience all the different events and seasons that may occur in life. Through a 12-month cycle, you’ll be able to refine your lifestyle solution during holidays, festivities, birthdays, high and low stress periods of work, and anything ‘life’ throws at you. You’ll be able to understand how you act and behave in these situations, while ensuring you have the right 3 S’s (structure, strategy and systems) in place to deal with each of them. And then each year, you have the opportunity to refine and improve.
Our team podcast on episode 109 talks about these cycles in great depth with solid examples:
Utilise Short Term Goals for Long Term Gains
In the Investment phase, it’s easy to lose focus. That’s why I like to break it down into small chunks where you’re focusing on one intangible ‘lifestyle solution’ goal per month, and one tangible ‘performance indicator’ goal per quarter.
For example, for the next quarter you may set a goal to increase your squat by 10kg (performance indicator), while spending time connecting to your new identity (lifestyle management), starting to journal (health optimisation – stress management) and switching electronics off one hour before bed (health optimisation – sleep).
Another example could be aiming to add 5kg to your bench press (performance indicator), while eliminating trigger foods (health optimisation – digestion), chewing your food 20 times with each bite (lifestyle management – meal hygiene) and consolidating all your new practices started so far.
This brings a focus to every quarter. It allows you to stack on new rules, behaviours and achievements into your life that all add up as you work through this phase. This is where the magic of being in the shape of your life, for life, happens!
Annual Investment Cycles
In the table below, you’ll see what three Investment phases may look like depending on your profile. You’ll also notice Process and Consolidation phases inserted twice a year for a month. These are for as and when you need to ‘mini cut’, ‘tidy up extra fluff’ and ‘sharpen the sword’ (i.e. if you’ve gained too much body fat).
A lengthier Process phase is only to mark your entry into the Reward phase, once you’re happy with the muscle and lifestyle solutions you’ve built.
Option #1 – Aggressive Muscle Builder (far right)
Option #2 – Lean Muscle Builder (middle, slightly skewed to right)
Option #3 – The Lifestyle Solution (far left)
The main differentiator between the profiles is the extent to which you change bodyweight. What remains constant is optimising your lifestyle solutions and building your key performance indicators.
This is only a general plan of how you may want to execute the annual cycle. If you’re someone who struggles to build muscle, you may wish to only use the Process and Consolidation phases once in the year.
For those of you who need to spend more time working on one Lifestyle Optimiser may benefit instead from one focus per quarter. It’s entirely individual to you.
Notes on the table:
For performance indicators, ‘build’ refers to making general weekly progression, whereas ‘test’ would mean retesting your maxes you set out at the start of the Investment phase.
“Consolidate work so far” refers to refining the lifestyle solutions you’ve built without adding anything new.
A Need For Objective Accountability
When it’s easy to lose focus and difficult to see tangible results regularly, the chances of falling into a trap of stagnation, or worse yet, reverting to square one, are high.
That’s why this phase needs strong accountability systems, whereby you continue to take pictures, track your bodyweight, review your logbooks and take training videos (so your ‘progressive overload’ isn’t changing every week!) on a regular basis to ensure your progress is optimal.
Those three tracking systems rarely lie, and its combination is the best way to create objective accountability for yourself. They’ll teach you if your strategy is correct, and humble you when you start to veer off track into old bad habits.
Remember, if you expect to stay in shape for life without a focused, strategic and lengthy Investment Phase, you’re setting yourself up for failure in the future.
Lean in, embrace the change, and enjoy the dividends coming your way.
Becoming A New Person
If you’re in a position to be in an Investment phase, you’re a great position. Many people fail after reaching their initial goal of getting into shape. If you’ve walked the murky waters of Consolidation, don’t waste your hard work by being stagnant.
There’s a new challenge here that goes beyond simply staying in shape or building muscle. It’s about utilising a long-term mindset to facilitate the creation of a new challenge, a new identity and a new behaviour system. It’s about becoming a new person.
If the Process phase (in particular, the Grind – read this article here to learn more) teaches you what’s essential in your life, the Investment phase is where you start creating solutions for the problems identified, and begin to invest in the way you want to think, act and perform.
This takes time, patience, coaching, accountability and hard work – happy investing!