Success in sports linked to success in business

Success in sports linked to success in business

What Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Branson, and Lee Iacocca can teach you about building a leaner, stronger, healthier body


Arnold Schwarzenegger Richard Branson Sports

The year is 1965.

It's a frosty morning along the old Czechoslovakian Border, just after five am. Two young Austrian soldiers are exercising in the trenches, the steam from their bodies rising into the icy cold air. Both are exhausted from a 15-hour working day. Yet somehow, they are still able to find the time and energy to wake up before their colleagues and train with weights before they start another physically demanding day of maneuvers.

Can you imagine any more difficult circumstances in which to exercise?

Despite these obstacles, Arnold Schwarzenegger describes his time in the Austrian army as a period when he made much of his best early progress. What was it about Arnold that gave him such a passion for exercise? How was he able to achieve so much success, not just in bodybuilding, but as a businessman, actor and (maybe) a politician?

Examine the traits of any successful person, and you'll notice they all share certain qualities. Characteristics such as commitment, courage, honesty, discipline and energy figure highly in the success stories of people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Branson and Lee Iacocca. These characteristics, known as values, are a key driving force in human behavior. Simply becoming aware of your values and how they influence your behaviour is a vital step towards a leaner, stronger, healthier body.

It doesn't matter if you've got the most effective nutrition and training program in the world. Without enough "mental" training, your efforts are guaranteed to end in frustration. The truth is, people who succeed in changing the way they look and feel are able to do so because they place a higher value on changing than people who fail. But more about that later.

First, can I ask you a question?

Did you know that 5 out of every 10 people starting an exercise program give up after six months [5]? It's true!

Most point to a lack of time as the main reason for their inability to maintain a regular exercise routine. Yet studies show that regular exercisers encounter the same barriers -- lack of time, laziness and work commitments -- as those who give up [7]. The difference is that people making a commitment to exercise realise they will never find the time for anything. They have to make it. Their values literally pull them in the direction of their goals.

What are values, and why are they important?
Before I go on, let me explain what I mean by the term value.

A value is an emotional state or feeling you want to experience on a regular basis. When you value something, it means you place a great deal of importance on it. Simply put, values are a set of personal standards.

For example, one of your highest values might be honesty. If, for any reason, you weren't honest with someone (including yourself), you would feel a certain degree of emotional pain. Any time we violate our own set of standards, we experience pain.

Think about it. Haven't you felt even a small amount of emotional "discomfort" when you've promised to go to the gym, and then didn't bother?

Core values and mean values
In essence, there are two different kinds of values -- core values and means values. Core values are the feelings you and I want to experience on a regular basis. Examples of these are happiness, confidence, achievement, discipline or integrity. A means value is just a way to trigger a core value.

For example, you might decide that money is the most important value in your life. But money is not a core value, it's only a means to an end; a way to trigger a series of emotional states that make you feel good. Money might be important because it gives you feelings of security, confidence or freedom -- it's not the end in itself.

Your values continually influence the way you think, feel, and most importantly, the way you behave. They affect every decision you've ever made, and every decision you will ever make -- they're even influencing your decision right now to continue reading! Despite the power our values have, the scary part is that most of us don't even know what they are! I'll tell you exactly how to discover what your values are in just a moment.

First, here's something you probably didn't know.

Among certain populations in the United States, almost 50% of women are clinically obese [4]. Obesity and its related complications contribute 8% of all illness costs (around $60 billion a year) [2]. Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about this obesity epidemic spreading throughout the world. And there's no sign that things are getting any better.

In Britain, the prevalence of serious obesity doubled in the decade between 1980 and 1991 [1]. Attempting to determine why everyone has gained so much weight over recent decades, scientists have argued whether obesity is down to overeating or a lack of physical activity [6]. However, the "gluttony or sloth" debate misses the point. Obesity is a symptom of a problem -- it's not the problem itself. Rather, the problem lies in the values people consider important.

Values play a key role in shaping your nutrition and exercise habits
If you could take a peek at the personal standards of anyone who is overweight, you would find values such as comfort, relaxation or security high on the list. Conversely, people who lose weight and keep it off permanently are more likely to value health, energy and vitality. These radical differences in values explain why different people act in different ways. More important, they also help to explain why we can experience internal conflicts.

For example, you might identify comfort as one of your highest values. And let's face it, we all enjoy feeling comfortable from time to time! But if you place an equally high value on the emotional state of discipline, it's easy to understand how these values can pull you in opposite directions.

Let me explain what I mean.

Imagine sitting in your favorite armchair -- feeling relaxed and comfortable. Problem is, you're supposed to be at the gym. Exercising would allow you to meet your need to feel disciplined, but you also want to feel the emotional state of comfort. The result? You spend the rest of the evening agonizing over what to do, and end up feeling uncomfortable and undisciplined! Do you see how values that are out of alignment can create these kind of internal conflicts?

Conflicts in values aren't just internal. In his book, The Education of a Bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger describes how an external conflict in values led to the breakdown of one of his early relationships,

"Gradually a conflict grew up in our relationship. Basically it came down to this: she was a well balanced woman who wanted an ordinary, solid life, and I was not a well-balanced man and hated the very idea of ordinary life…for me, life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer."

For Arnold, the values of achievement and success were far more important than living an ordinary life. When you look back over Arnold's career so far, you can see how those values have driven him to succeed in so many different fields.

Your decisions are led by your values
Remember, your values control the way you make decisions. They act like powerful magnets, attracting you in the direction of a certain course of action. The problem is, most of us never consciously decide what our values are! Rather, they become established over the course of a lifetime in response to behaviors we were either punished or rewarded for.

If as a child, you were constantly rewarded for being honest, it's likely that you place a high value on the emotional states of honesty and integrity. As a result, honesty is probably high on your list of values. On the other hand, if you've had experiences where you felt like your honesty was punished, then it's probably a value you don't place a great deal of importance on.

Of course, this is not meant to imply that you and I are simply the result of what we were punished or rewarded for. The most important part in shaping our character is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens. But we do need to accept there are a large number of environmental factors that can influence our behavior. If you're not aware of what these factors are and how they affect you, then it's easy to feel like your life is out of control without really understanding why.

We all use general words to describe values -- commitment, honesty, or happiness. These words will mean different things to different people. Simply becoming clear on what your values are can give you a valuable insight into why you behave in a certain way.

But more important, if you want to make any kind of change in your life -- whether it's losing 60lb of fat, building 20lb of muscle, or knocking six minutes off your next race time -- it's vital to understand the specific criteria attached to each value. In other words, you need to know which behaviors lead to which values. These are known as rules.

What are rules, and why are they important?
Rules are a series of criteria attached to a value. Rules describe the behaviors you need to demonstrate in order to experience any emotional state. In short, your rules let you know what you need to do in order to feel a certain way. For instance, if I were to ask if you were committed to an exercise program, your answer would be based upon the rules you have for commitment.

To find out what those rules are, I'd ask, "What has to happen for you to feel committed?" You might reply with, "I'm committed because I work out every day." For somebody else, commitment might involve working out three days each week. The point here is that everybody's rules are different. Needless to say, problems can arise when we have rules that are extremely difficult to meet.

The truth is, few of us have consciously decided what our rules are. As a result, many people find it difficult to consistently experience the emotional states they consider important. Your rules for feeling successful might be that you must exercise seven days each week, you must eat less than forty grams of fat per day, you must have less than eight percent body fat, and you must always begin your workout at precisely seven am. Let's face it -- the chances of meeting those rules on a consistent basis are pretty limited.

Because of these "impossible" rules, you rarely get to feel successful on a regular basis. For example, I recently received a phone call from a friend who was calling me to complain about her "slow" rate of weight loss. "I trained six days last week" she complained, "and I only lost a pound and a half". I explained that losing a pound and a half in a week -- especially when you've been dieting for some time -- is pretty good. Yet my friend still wasn't satisfied with her weight loss.

Why you should ignore the scales
It wasn't until later in the conversation I learned that her "rule" for feeling satisfied with her rate of weight loss was to lose two pounds in weight. Because this rule hadn't been met, she was feeling frustrated.

Here's the problem -- whenever your rules are outside your control, you are delegating responsibility for how you feel to someone or something else. Sure, you could argue that your rate of weight loss is under your control. But there are so many external factors affecting your weight, such as changes in fluid levels, carbohydrate intake -- even the accuracy of the scales. If your rules for success depend on what the scales say, you're setting yourself up to fail.

Rather than focus on the outcome, focus on the process. Instead of thinking about the amount of weight you want to lose, focus on what you need to do to lose the weight. Set up the rules of the game so you can win. Here's an example of some rules that might be a little more appropriate...

"I feel satisfied with my progress when I eat a serving of carbohydrate and protein at each meal, exercise five times each week, and drink at least two liters of water each day."

Assuming that you stick to these rules (even if you lose only one pound in weight) you have still done everything you set out to do -- you have every right to feel satisfied. That's not to say you should lower your standards.

But if you keep beating yourself up mentally, even though you've been doing the things you planned to do, the chances are you're not going to stick with your nutrition and training program very long. Instead, treat every experience as feedback rather than failure -- an opportunity to learn from what you've done, change your approach, and try again.

How are rules formed?
Your rules were formed in much the same way as your values; in response to a system of punishment and reward. When your brain decided on the "right" rules and values, it was the right thing to do at the time. We all make the best decisions we can, given the information and resources available. However, what may have been appropriate in the past might not be so useful in your present circumstances.

If you built a raft in order to cross a river, would you then carry that raft with you everywhere you went? Sure, some rules can serve a valuable purpose at certain times in your life. Once their purpose has been met, it's easy to carry them with us, even though they no longer meet the needs of the current situation.

Here's the key -- your values and rules are at the heart of how you think and feel each moment you're alive. Simply becoming aware of what they are makes it far more likely that you will make a success of your nutrition and training program.

Here's what to do...

Step 1
Firstly, establish what your current values are. Ask yourself the question, "What is important to me about life?" I know -- that sounds like a really "heavy" question. But go ahead and answer it anyway. Write down all of the thoughts that come to mind on a piece of paper. Don't judge or edit. Just write it all down.

Remember you are looking for core values rather than means values. Core values will be things like satisfaction, self respect, achievement, courage or discipline. Aim for a list of five words that represent your most important core values. Go it now.

Step 2
Now you can begin to list your values in order of importance. If you had to remove one of these values, which one would it be? Underline that word, and write the number five next to it. Repeat the process for each word until you are left with your single most important value.

You should end up with a list of five values, each with a number next to it. Your completed list is known as a values hierarchy. Once you see what your values are, it becomes a lot easier to understand why you act in the way you do.

Step 3
Now here's where things get really exciting! To really accelerate your progress, simply ask yourself, "What do my values need to be in order to achieve the goals I've set for myself?" What sort of emotional states will you need to experience on a regular basis? Once you've decided on these values, the next step is to rank them in order of importance. In order to build the body you want, what is the most important value you will need to live by? What is the highest personal standard you will need to make a commitment to? Happiness? Discipline? Health? Remember that you are in control. You're making the choices. You have the freedom to arrange your values any way you want.

Step 4
Once you have your new values hierarchy, the next step is to decide on the rules; the specific set of behaviors and actions you will need to demonstrate in order to meet a certain value. Once again, remember that you are in control; you're making the decisions. You might decide that the only rule you need to feel happy is that you have to get out of the bed in the morning! You have the freedom to choose.

Anthony Robbins, in his best-selling book, Awaken the Giant Within, lists three questions to ask yourself when you're setting your rules.

Is it impossible to meet? If your rules are too complex or excessively strict, the chances are slim that you will meet them on a consistent basis.

Is it in your control? Rules must be in your control. If you delegate control of your emotional state to someone or something outside your control, then you are setting yourself up for failure. For example, one of your rules for achievement might be that you need other people to approve of what you do. Unfortunately, a rule of this type is totally out of your control. Instead, you might decide that your new rule for achievement is to simply improve on what you have done before.

Do your rules give you lots of ways to feel good, and only a few ways to feel bad? Make sure your rules make it easy to feel good, and difficult to feel bad.

A good friend of mine used to have a real problem feeling any real sense of satisfaction. In order to feel satisfied with anything he had done, it had to be "the best". He was constantly looking for the "best" way to train, and wasted months trying every new training or nutrition program that came along.

Because he never stayed with one program long enough to make progress, he was never in the kind of shape his efforts deserved. However, once he changed the emphasis of this rule from "best" to "better", he was able to get the results he wanted AND feel satisfied on a far more consistent basis. As long as what he was doing was better than it was before, it didn't matter that things weren't perfect.

By the end of this process, your goal is to have a values hierarchy and a list of criteria for each value. For example, you might decide that courage is a value you'll need to create the kind of body you want. Your set of rules could look something like this

I feel courage whenever

I take action to achieve my goals

I make a decision in harmony with my own standards

I feel anxious about an event or situation, but take action regardless

Once you have this new set of values and rules, make a commitment to living them on a daily basis.

1. Bennett, N., Dodd, T., Flatley, J., Freeth, S., & Bolling, K. (1995). Health survey for England 1993. London: HMSO

2. Colditz, G. (1992). Economic costs of obesity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 55, 503-575

3. Dishman, R.K. (1991). Increasing and maintaining exercise and physical activity. Behaviour Therapy, 22, 345-378

4. Kuczmarski, R.J., Flegal, K.M., Campbell, S.M., & Johnson, C.L. (1994). Increasing prevalence of overweight among US adults: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 1960 to 1991. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272, 205-211

5. Leith, L.M. (1992). Behaviour modification and exercise adherence: a literature review. Journal of Sport Behaviour, 15, 60-74

6. Prentice, A.M., & Jebb, S.A. (1995). Obesity in Britain: gluttony or sloth? British Medical Journal, 311, 437-439

7. Rhodes, R.E., Martin, A.D., Taunton, J.E., Rhodes, E.C., Donnelly, M., & Elliot, J. (1999). Factors associated with exercise adherence among older adults. Sports Medicine, 28, 397-411


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Arnold Schwarzenegger: King of bodybuilding, movies, politics and media, by Greg Tingle