Find Purpose and Great Results Through 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 [1], 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 great results. It’s become a model for how I deliver great results and continuous improvement in my personal and professional life. It’s a model you can use to find purpose, and deliver great results and continuous improvement in your life, too!

1. Find Purpose: 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 began to emphasize 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. I’ve completed several triathlons, 5 marathons, and several obstacle course races where the registration paperwork warns: “YOU MAY DIE”. So much fun!!!

Find Purpose. Spartan Race chip envelope.
Spartan Race chip envelope. “YOU MAY DIE”.

A Deeper Dive Into Finding Purpose

Before middle age, I never liked running, and I certainly never did it. The longest run I recall ever completing was the 600 yard Presidential Fitness Test [2] 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.

2. Finding Purpose Enables You to Own Great Results

I learned if I’m not committed to my own success, nobody else will be either.

I took ownership, did the 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 previously believed necessary.

The direct connection between my food, my lifestyle, and how I feel, is inexplicable, and was formerly invisible to me.

Now 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 great results when I want.

When it doesn’t work as expected, I can explain failure and be accountable for it.

I’ve seen continuous improvement, received trophies for high achievement, and made amazing friends.

Great results: Sujata Neidig and Dylan Cornelius won age group awards at Sunshine Run 5k in 2015
Sujata and I won age group awards at Sunshine Run 5k in 2015
 

3. Finding Purpose Enables You to Get Help and Ask Questions

I hired a running coach.

I read voraciously.

Phil Maffetone recommended I name all the stressors in my life and systematically remove them [3]. That led me to address digestive issues that have plagued me since childhood. Now, I’m regularly and surprisingly complimented for the healthfulness of my clean diet.

Along the way, because I kept asking questions.

I received diagnoses for an autoimmune disorder and Vitamin B12 deficiency, both notorious for low energy and fatigue [4] [5].

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 supplementation.

Eat better with a clean diet and change your life!

4. Gather and Use Data

Some time later, my quest for more data to support athletic performance, led me to a company, InsideTracker.

InsideTracker measures my blood markers and recommends dietary and lifestyle changes to address any that aren’t optimal.

Over 4 years, I found and resolved low and high conditions of a handful of markers, which has been satisfying at times when I noticed fatigue or other symptoms I couldn’t explain [6].

InsideTracker has helped me identify root cause and resolution, with certainty, that I wouldn’t have easily or quickly predicted on my own.

5. Take Action And Practice with Purpose

Using the information and recommendations made by InsideTracker, I’m making an ongoing lifestyle change. I’m constantly gathering information and developing skills and habits that support those recommendations consistently.

I’m finding the trick is to focus on one thing at a time and practice until it’s easy. By that time, it quickly becomes a habit. Soon, it naturally fits with everything else.

That’s how to instill lasting continuous improvement.

6. Enjoy The Journey — Continuous Improvement Is A Lifestyle

Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, if I wake up too many days in a row not having fun, it might be time to find something else to do [7].

I’ve committed to stay fresh and enjoy the journey.

I continue to renew my resolve and to hone my understanding of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I’m quicker to identify dissatisfaction, to identify its root cause, to find purpose that serves me better, and to get in action to change my life so it serves me and others.

Get inspired, find purpose, and stay inspired. Understand what really motivates you, and stay focused [8].

7. Easy Questions for Self Development 

  • In what areas of your life are you challenged to deliver great results?
  • Are you measuring and managing results in that area?
  • Are you getting the great results you want?
  • If you could have any result in this area, what would it be?
  • What would be necessary to get this result?
  • Are there areas of your life or work where you’re passionately engaged (truly interested) and already getting great results?
  • What would be required to get passionately engaged in all areas of your life?

More Information

  1. Why I Run: My Journey To Fitness
  2. Presidential Fitness Test
  3. Phil Maffetone recommended I name all the stressors in my life and systematically remove them, in The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing
  4. A humorous story about my diagnosis of autoimmune disorder
  5. A funny account of my diagnosis of B12 deficiency
  6. I found and resolved low and high conditions of a handful of markers
  7. Steve Jobs quote about purpose
  8. How to understand what really motivates you, and stay focused
  9. Examples of how changing diet eases unwanted symptoms
  10. A continuous improvement I’m working on right now: I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon!
  11. Continuous improvement I started when I became a runner

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