A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent an Instagram post of mine with a question:
“Just be real with me, why have I never been able to achieve this?”
It was Oliver’s recent transformation (which you can read about here). Specifically, it was the fact he was a 90+kg guy who was struggling mentally before, who later dropped 20+kg to get a six-pack, whilst unlocking a level of high performance that saw him win the prestigious Property Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2021.
Life-changing stuff for a guy who a year ago, wasn’t a stranger to self-destructive habits like polishing a bottle of wine a night, using food as a crutch, and generally, just living a suboptimal lifestyle.
Something struck a chord with my friend. I love the guy. I’ve known him for over ten years, and I’ve seen him walk through hell and back. He’s still fighting. The thing which has always been his blocker is his physical (and mental) health. For someone as talented, gifted and loving as he is, I just know that if he can crack this, everything will change for him.
So what was my answer?
“Look, no holds barred, but you’ve just gotta pull your finger out and stop trying to constantly figure out what’s going on in your head. Instead, commit to shedding the physical weight, create a ton of accountability to make it happen, and figure out the mental weight along the way. If you spend your time trying to solve the muck before getting in shape, you’ll be stuck in limbo. Get in shape, and you’ll get all your answers along the way, so long as you stay conscious and aware of what’s going on inside.”
It’s been a few weeks and so far so good. He’s booked in a photoshoot, created tons of accountability with his peers, and is just focusing on execution (he’s also joining RNT Pro as part of October’s cohort too, which will 10x everything for him).
The Power Of Identity Transformation
A few days after, I got Steven D’Souza’s new book, Not Being, in the post. I was excited to open it up because Steven had written a chapter titled, The Physical Is The Vehicle, after interviewing me earlier this year for it.
The book’s main theme is about the power of identity transformation, and it’s importance over merely changing our thinking. Building on this, it proposes that to be successful in this world, we all need to become a bigger and bolder vision of who we are.
I couldn’t agree more with this. My big bold vision is to see a world transformed, one life-changing journey at time. I want to see a world that prioritises health and fitness, because the power of identifying (and therefore acting) as a healthy and fit individual transforms people, groups and communities.
When I found the section, Steven opened the section with a quote that really hit home:
“People are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking, than think their way into a new way of acting.” - Richard Pascale, Surfing the Edge of Chaos
I took a picture of it immediately and sent it to my friend. It must have been in the stars. Because it articulated exactly what I was thinking.
The reality is, it gets to the root of why most people aren’t in the shape they want to be in. There’s just very little action.
I wrote a formula for transformation a few years back:
Introspection + Action = Transformation
One of my team, Ed, said to me the other day that it should be reordered to be:
Action + Introspection = Transformation
Trying to introspect your way to a transformation rarely happens. It’s why I think most of the personal development world is a waste of time. Most of it is just perpetuating people’s fears, and letting them dwell more and more into it, whilst creating this idea that if they solve this one thing, it’ll give them all they want.
The reality is, and what I’ve seen work in thousands, is that action needs to be taken. Then you need to remain introspective whilst you’re getting results from your action.
Training hard, doing your steps, eating right, doing your cardio, and all the other bits that go into a body transformation is nothing special alone. Do it right, do it consistently, and stay aware of what’s going on inside during the process, and you’ll shed the skin you so badly want to get rid of.
You have to, and I hate to say it, fake it till you make it. You have to move forward into a new state of being, not continuously try to solve the remnants of the past.
Most personal development is focused on creating big exciting visions, giving yourself mantras to make it happen, whilst discovering what part of your past has caused the pain you’re in. It all makes sense, except you can’t think your way into self-love, self-care and transformation.
You have to live it through action. The best way to practice self-care and self-love is not to think about it, or tell yourself you love yourself. It’s to tangibly demonstrate it. That means eating well, sleeping enough, moving your body, hydrating, and actually treating yourself well.
Something interesting happens if you do this long enough. First of all, you start to put the foundations of a new identity in place. Secondly, you start to figure out what the real muck is. Because now you’re starving yourself of old crutches (like food, or being sedentary), and if you remain aware enough and sit with the muck that bubbles up, you can really deal with it. Now you can start thinking and problem solving.
We can only understand ourselves and see why we behave the way we do when we take away all external influence.
I was telling the same friend all this a few days ago, and he brought up that he’d done all sorts of therapy, but never cracked what the real problem was despite hours and hours of introspection.
Push and Pull Motivation Theory
That segues nicely into something I came across recently too (I tell you, all the stars were lining up for this article!), and that’s push and pull theory.
Psychologist, PJ Eby, has a quote that pertains to this: “what pushes you forward holds you back”.
It links closely with long-term body transformation nicely; if you only do something because you are being pushed to do so, it may not last forever.
Push theory suggests that as you get closer to a goal, motivation wanes because the drive to do it isn’t as high. If you’re only running because a tiger is chasing you, you’ll stop once you’re safe. That’s the essence of this.
That’s why, whilst I am a fan of creating as much external accountability as possible, it must be paired with, and be driven even more so by self accountability.
Pull theory is the opposite of push. It points to motivation increasing as you get closer to a goal. This is when the goal is from within, and revolves around long-term identity change.
For example, you might tell yourself, “This is the kind of person I want to be, and this is the kind of life I want to live.”
Typically, a huge in-your-face trigger moment is required to start a transformation journey. Even something as simple as seeing a post on Instagram, like my friend experienced. It can make you think about your existing situation, and help cultivate a better version of yourself.
There’s no right or wrong with either. In actual fact, for most, the best way to start a journey, and even to get to the point where you make it a way of life, is to combine the two, like so:
“I need to run away from this tiger whilst also making this running a part of my identity”.
That’s powerful. You want some fear of never going back to the old ways, and you want to feel more motivated as you make bigger changes, so you don’t fall into the dreaded comfort zone.
In many cases, the pendulum may (and should) swing from one to another. Starting primarily with pull can be difficult, because moving towards something great can be harder than moving away from something terrible. You’d rather get out of the pain fast.
Which is why, bringing this back to Richard Pascale’s quote, you’re better off acting your way into a new way of thinking, instead of spending hours envisioning a life that may feel overwhelmingly difficult to make a reality at this stage. It probably won’t happen without some good ol’ fashioned hard work, and action. Just start.
Walk the Walk
In a world full of distractions, hype and constant chatter, execution is king. The difference in you a year from now will be the actions you take, not the words you speak. You have to be the change you want to see in yourself.
Ultimately, this all comes down to total ownership and responsibility of your life. Instead of looking outside for things to change and improve, or thinking about it, the power lies in developing the “mental honesty and courage to own your thinking, actions and results.” (I got this line from a fantastic book that’s all about making things happen - The 12 Week Year, which I’d highly recommend for anyone looking to get more done.)
For anyone looking to step change into a new way of thinking, the secret sauce is going to be taking action, every single day. And that may just mean, faking it till you actually become it!