Quarterly Insights 2019, Part Three, Instalment II – The Grind: Introspection, Insights, Ideas

Quarterly Insights 2019, Part Three, Instalment II – The Grind: Introspection, Insights, Ideas

It was very fitting that on the day of my recent photoshoot, it marked the end of the specific journal I was writing in. I’d taken the morning off work, and decided to spend some extended time journaling and reflecting on the previous couple of months.

The last page of the journal didn’t indicate the end of the journey. It was the signal to start a new book. A new chapter. It marked a checkpoint in my journey, and the photoshoot for me was simply another way to document this.

While I woke up in great shape on the day, it all felt like an anti-climax. I wasn’t bothered about the pictures. The feeling of accomplishment on the day came in realising just how much I’d levelled up in the previous 3 to 4 months. The physical is the vehicle, and yet again it had taken myself, my relationships and the business to a new level.

Every time I ‘grind’ and take myself to the extreme, I reach a new height. It’s never easy. In fact, the peak of the #VaghelaGrind is absolutely brutal. But it’s necessary. You can only realise the true power of the physical as a vehicle in the depths of the grind.

This year’s photoshoot was no different, and my ‘why’ was to reconnect with this vehicle again. It was to realign focus to myself, gain the introspection I was after, and sharpen the sword again to push myself to the next level across the board. So what did I learn?

Essentialism

If I could sum up what the Process phase of the RNT Transformation Journey teaches you in one word, it’d be essentialism.

When chasing low levels of body fat, two things are for certain: 1) a low calorie intake, and 2) high levels of activity. There’s no other way to get into very lean condition. What this means though is at some point, and typically in the final three to four weeks before you reach your first Transformation checkpoint, you will experience high levels of hunger and fatigue with drastic dips in energy.

This is normal, and it’s what forces you to question everything. It’s what makes you evaluate everything in your life, highlight the essential, and cut out all of the bloat. You begin to ask yourself:

– What should really I spend my time doing?

– What do I want to do with my limited energy?

– Who should I spend my limited time and energy on / with?

When the gas tank is low, you can’t waste your precious resources on anything. Every time I go through this process I’m forced to course correct. I’m forced to prioritise my life harder, and I have to be more strategic with everything. You become ruthless with your time and energy. You become an essentialist in its truest form, and in accordance with your values and priorities. During this particular diet, I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve said no to specific opportunities, requests or tasks because it really wasn’t important to me, and didn’t fit with what I wanted to do or enjoyed. This process is the equivalent of spring cleaning all areas of your life, and I’ve yet to find a better method of doing so.

Identifying Your Flow

In becoming an essentialist, you start debating some of life’s most difficult questions. Specifically, you begin to ask the questions that you’ve been putting off, struggling with, or afraid to know the real answer of. During the depths of my Grind phase, the questions I kept asking myself were:

– What do I really want out of my life, my relationships, my business?

– How do I want to live my day to day?

– Am I willing to make the sacrifices in specific areas of life to push in other areas of life?

– What truly drives me?

– What do I really enjoy doing, and what do I hate?

I spent countless cardio sessions, walks and journaling periods asking myself these questions while diving deep into my inner core, confronting the demons, the fears, the struggles, and asking myself the questions I’d been putting off. Or perhaps more specifically, trying to answer them for the first time. Everyone has escape mechanisms in life. Some turn to drink, drugs and partying. Others find comfort in food. I’ve always been guilty of throwing myself deeper and deeper into work, and more recently, extended periods of travel. Interestingly, what the answers to the above questions have led me to conclude is that my flow state is actually very simple, and so long as I can align my day with this flow, I can maintain a strong balance in my life exactly where I am now.

This perspective shift really came to light when I went to the US after the shoot. Instead of going to bury life’s most important questions, I travelled for the first time in a while as the ‘explorer’, and it felt great. I travelled with the sole intention to explore new cities, connect with friends, and enjoy life. This was a significant shift to my lengthy trip in Asia, where I found myself afraid to dabble in life’s most critical questions, instead seeking new environments to trigger dopamine hits and bury the rest.

That’s what this journey does to you, and while I was having this conversation with one of the RNT team, Puja, she summed it up brilliantly: “There’s no hiding in this process. Everything you need to work on comes up like when you stir in a well. All the dirt at the bottom of the well comes up to the top, and you realise how much you need to clean the water before you drink it.”

This is why the photoshoot was an anti-climax for me. The purpose wasn’t the pictures, or the condition I achieved. The purpose was the journey of self-discovery I needed to embark on. And the reflections I put down on the last page of my journal on the 6th September highlighted just how far I’d come personally.

I’m in a place now where I know what I want, what truly drives me, and what brings me into flow state. It’s very simple, and boils down to spending time in four key areas regularly:

– Personal health and well-being (eating well & training hard)

– Close relationships (family & friends)

– Building the business (writing & coaching)

– Solitude and introspection (journalling & walking)

In the past year I’ve blasted the business at such a level I’ve neglected the other three, and I paid the price. What I learned is when I give each area the time and energy they deserve in more equal portions, they all improve at a far greater rate than sole individual focus. At the very core of this foundation is personal health and well-being, which circles back to the physical being the vehicle for the greater good.

Building Character, Confidence & Emotional Resilience 

I’ve never been an emotional person, and struggled for a long time with being empathetic to different people and scenarios. During this particular process, the Grind really broke down the walls and forced me to confront my emotions, vulnerabilities, and then expose them in the right situations to the right people. This was new for me, although it’s something I’ve always been aware of from coaching clients. Through becoming an essentialist, and realising who you want to spend time with and be around, you begin to establish deeper connections around the clarity in knowing those relationships are most meaningful to you. It’s interesting how the Grind exposes you to this shift, and it’s one I’ve experienced noticeably in the build up to my latest Transformation Checkpoint.

While the Grind breaks down your emotional barriers and walls, it also builds new ones. It challenges you to be able to build emotional resilience and mental toughness. As you’re depleted, low in body fat, and you know life must go on, you’re forced to answer whether you can master your emotions and challenges that are being thrown at you.

Every time you tick a box, overcome a challenge in your day and/or beat a negative emotion, you develop self confidence. Every time you complete your steps, nail your nutrition and/or finish a workout when life made it hard for you to do so, you build self confidence. The best way to build self confidence is to keep promises to yourself, and ticking the daily boxes in the process of the Grind, where you often feel at your worst, is the ultimate self confidence builder.

When you can master your body, emotions and daily life, you build character, self esteem and a winning mindset. You start to build faith in your ability to do anything. This is why it’s not uncommon for people to have their best period in work during the depths of a transformation. And why people begin to make bold decisions in their career, relationships or life, as they release themselves of the shackles of the past, and have the confidence in themselves to create a better future.

I was commonly asked during the Grind, “are you still working as hard, and are you still able to be productive?” It’s crazy, our best period of RNT history has come during this particular grind. We sold out two intakes, launched a Mastermind, hired four new team members and installed new tech into our backend systems. It was arguably the busiest period we’ve had, but my productivity, creativity and ability to focus was at an all time high. The Grind forced me to create a ruthless filter in my day, and ask myself:

– What should I dump, delegate or automate?

– Who do we need to hire?

– What’s the one thing I can do to help move the needle forward for everyone in the business?

With my limited bandwidth, time and energy, I learnt the true meaning of focus at a time in the business where overwhelm, working hard at the wrong things and burn out could easily have occurred. 

Dieting hard is a first world privilege. It’s self induced ‘suffering’ as you deprive yourself of food and push activity levels high in the pursuit of low body fat, better body composition, and benefits that transcend the physical. This process always brings about a level of gratitude to everything in your life, and through highlighting what’s essential, brings focus to the simple yet often forgotten parts of life.

What’s Next?

The question I struggle with all the time: what’s next? As I reflect back on the 12 weeks of dieting, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve learnt in myself that I find meaning and purpose in self induced ‘suffering’. I thrive on the challenge, and I love seeing how much I can ‘suffer’ and push myself into a specific realm. It allows to me hone in on and work on heading towards one of my greatest values, self mastery.

The goal of this particular Grind was accomplished. I brought myself back to number one again, confronted my biggest internal challenges, and came out the other side a better person. But I’ve not yet arrived. I need to continue to stay sharp, and I know that another challenge that forces introspection and the process of questioning everything is needed.

For me now, it’s about accomplishing a 10 year goal of publishing a book. I know the process of writing a book is a whole different animal compared to an article, and that excites me. It’s a chance to be a beginner again, learn the ropes, and become better. That’s all any of this is. My three favourite ‘personal’ things to do are business, bodybuilding and writing. Each one for me is a vehicle to self mastery, learning more about myself, and understanding how I can help others in the process. While the photoshoot was great, it was there to stand as a checkpoint, and created extra accountability to the process while also being able to document it. The equivalent will be the book launch I plan to do at our 3 year RNT anniversary party in May 2020. While I know it’ll be a special day, the journey getting there is going to be a whole lot more special, and I can’t wait to ride the rollercoaster.

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Akash Vaghela
akash@rntfitness.co.uk

Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.