You Can Reliably Deliver Results In Uncertain Situations: 7 Steps To Continuous Improvement

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In my late thirties, I was scared healthy as I watched my grandparents die of strokes and heart attacks. As I took my journey to fitness, I’ve become better informed about the links between lifestyle choices, health, and mortality. I’ll use some elements of this journey as a case study for delivering results in uncertain situations. It’s become a model for how I deliver results and continuous improvement in my personal and professional life. It’s a model you can use to deliver results and continuous improvement in any area of your life, too!

1. Challenge Yourself With A Worthy Goal

In the infancy of my adult athleticism, I began exercising regularly by riding my bike. In just a few months, I realized there was no way I would continue cycling 3 or more days a week for the rest of my life. I would die young and overweight if ‘exercising’ or ‘being healthy’ was the only motive. When I added the emphasis of continuous improvement and competition, I set the goal of completing a triathlon, which meant I’d have to become a runner. I was hooked. Key takeaway: I increased the level of difficulty and “exercise” became interesting. I added goal orientation and “exercise” became worthy of continued focus.

Over time, I’ve stayed engaged in the pursuit. I’ve completed several triathlons, 5 marathons, and several obstacle course races where the registration paperwork warns: “YOU MAY DIE”. So much fun!!!

Spartan Race chip envelope. ."YOU MAY DIE".
Spartan Race chip envelope. “YOU MAY DIE”.

2. Make It Interesting

Before middle age, I never liked running, and I certainly never did it. The longest run I recall ever completing was the one mile Presidential Fitness Challenge in 4th grade, which poisoned me as a runner for life. We ran on wet grass, on a cold spring morning, in dress shoes, nice slacks, a button down shirt, and an itchy sweater. I’d never trained for the event or any other running activity. My lungs burned in the cold air, I felt like I was drowning in mucus, I couldn’t finish the full mile running, and I had to return to class in sweaty, wet, uncomfortable, sticky, itchy clothes. Still, decades later I’ve become a runner because I had a big goal behind the simple intention of being healthy and fit. I just had to fake myself out and make it interesting before I’d bother.

3. Get Help

I hired a running coach. I read voraciously. Phil Maffetone recommended I name all the stressors in my life and systematically remove them. That led me to address digestive issues that have plagued me since childhood. Now, I’m regularly and often, surprisingly, complimented for the healthfulness of my whole foods diet. Along the way, because I kept poking and asking questions, I received diagnoses for an autoimmune condition and Vitamin B12 deficiency, both notorious for low energy and fatigue. The scariest thing is, for much of this time I was an athlete and I didn’t identify low energy as a problem. Nonetheless, chronically low levels of this vitamin are known to cause neurological impairment. Now I understand the root causes of my conditions and how to manage them through diet and supplementtion. Eat healthy for better, longer life!

4. Use Data

Some time later, my quest for more data to support athletic performance, led me to a company, InsideTracker (more information below), that measures my blood markers and recommends dietary and lifestyle changes to address any that aren’t optimal. Over four years, I’ve found and resolved low and high conditions of a handful of markers, which has been particularly satisfying at times when I objectively noticed fatigue or other symptoms whose cause and resolution I didn’t initially understand.

5. Take Action And Deliver Results

Using the information and recommendations made by InsideTracker, I’m making an ongoing lifestyle change. I’m taking all available information and building actions and habits that support those recommendations consistently. I’m finding the trick is to focus on one thing at a time and stay with it until it’s easy, it’s a habit, and it naturally fits with everything else. That’s the very basis of lasting continuous improvement.

6. Own The Result

I learned if I’m not committed to my own success, nobody else will be either. I took ownership, did some work, managed what I ate, and paid attention to how it made me feel. As a result, I have better awareness of what I eat, how I feel, and how my body responds, than I ever imagined possible or believed necessary. The direct connection between my food, my lifestyle, and how I feel, is inexplicable, and was formerly invisible to me. I have control over the quality of my life and my perceived experience, that I never before imagined. The process is fun, because it’s become a game where I can create the result I want. When it doesn’t work as expected, I can explain failure and be accountable for it. I’ve seen continuing improvement, received trophies for high achievement, and made amazing friends.

Sujata and I won age group awards at this 5k race in 2015

7. Enjoy The Journey — Continuous Improvement Is A Lifestyle

Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, if you wake up too many days in a row not having fun, it might be time to find something else to do. Stay fresh and enjoy the journey. Continue to renew your resolve and to hone your understanding of the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing. Get and stay inspired. Understand what really motivates you, and stay connected to it.

Consider And Act


Also published on Medium.

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