During the 30 years that I was building my company, I became increasingly tired and stressed. I was so physically drained that I took cabs to go three short blocks to client meetings. There were plenty of gyms near me, but I regarded them as sweat factories where people rode bikes that went nowhere. It was only after I sold my company that I made a dramatic discovery, that many before me had already made: joining a gym can turn your life around. Enrolling in a gym turned me into an energized, inspired fitness fanatic. I’ve discovered the power of my body and the beauty of a more aligned and confident physical presence.
If you want to make 2019 a transformational year for yourself, here are the five steps I took:
1. Stop spending your life sitting
For starters, realize life can’t be lived on a couch–or in a chair. If you’re running a business or working hard for your boss, it’s easy to justify sitting in an office chair all day. Similarly, if you have a home office, it’s easy to get “stuck” in that chair. Indeed, people who work at home tend to work longer hours than those who commute to work.
The less we move around, the less energy we have. Studies show that if you take time to exercise, you’ll have more energy to give to your work (and other things). So get up and get out of that office.
2. Take the first step
Next, find the courage to walk inside a gym. It happened quite by accident in my case. Our house in Toronto was being renovated, and my husband and I moved to a street that was a few blocks from an Equinox. My husband decided to join, so I thought, “I’ll meet him there and we can have coffee.” If you walk into a place that’s clean, bright, welcoming, and full of friendly people–as this gym was–it’s hard to walk out without at least taking a registration form (which I did).
Inside the gym you’ll also see–as I did–great-looking people of all ages. These individuals exuded vitality and a wholesome beauty. I looked around and began to feel I could be like them. I’d put on serious pounds over the years–I had 168 pounds on my 5’6″ frame. I’d been to every diet doctor in Toronto–one that stuck a needle in me twice a week, another that was so tough that her patients called her “The General.” But nothing worked. Exercising seemed worth a try.
3. Get someone to help
Don’t think of going solo on this journey. My biggest piece of advice is to get a personal trainer–someone who believes in you and is pulling for you. If I had simply joined a gym I would have gotten discouraged and never come back. Climbing the stairs to the gym was an effort for me. So imagine how I would have felt if I had to do one-hour workouts on my own.
My salvation came in the form of a personal trainer named Roddy who pushed me to my limit but treated me with respect, sensitivity, and support. The key to picking a trainer is great chemistry. You want an individual with the emotional intelligence to respond to your particular needs. My trainer makes me laugh, praises me for small accomplishments, and makes me feel terrific about myself. His devotion to my success is contagious. Over the two years I’ve been working with him, I’ve gained such physical confidence and strength that I am motivated to do more.
He even designs programs for me when I am on holiday–including a three-month program when I was vacationing in Mexico. That program involved videotaping myself every other day doing eight different exercises and he reviewed them and gave me feedback on every one of them. “Great job,” he’d write, or “Wow, you’ve never done that J-Curl so well,” or “You’re becoming an expert at planking.”
4. Don’t let yourself off the hook
Besides having a great coach, you’ll want to be self-motivated. This means several things. It means showing up on time for your sessions and giving your all. That’s not always easy. I often come to the gym scared that I won’t be able to do some new exercise: for example, deadlifting 95 pounds, or planking on alternating hands. But I try, and when I succeed that’s a great feeling.
Outside the gym, you’ll want to practice the exercises your trainer gives you and lead a healthy life: walking more, eating better, and getting proper sleep. If you want a good primer on how to do this, see Greg Wells’s book, The Ripple Effect: Sleep Better, Eat Better, Move Better, Think Better. It’s a great guide for mastering everyday fitness, and suggests incremental steps in all these areas.
5. Get ready for compliments
Once you’ve done all this, prepare yourself for compliments. I’ve lost 40 pounds, and my sons who are fitness buffs themselves say I look better than ever. My husband has encouraged me to buy a whole new wardrobe. Most of all, I feel great when I look in the mirror, and see a healthier, more energized me.
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It’s a tradition to set New Year’s resolutions, and for many people, these goals involve improving things in their personal lives, like health and wealth. Consider how much time you spend on your career, however, and you’ll see it makes sense to set some resolutions relating to the workplace, too.
Try some of the following ideas to more deeply engage with your work life this year, and chances are your boss will recognize the investment.
1. Create a culture of mentorship
Every workplace is filled with people who have vast experience, but don’t get an opportunity to put all their knowledge to work. Take a poll around your office to see what talents and skills people have and would be willing to share with others. You may find that people who are whizzes at building complex spreadsheets would welcome the chance to pass that knowledge on to others. A mentorship can make them feel good and improve productivity and confidence among those learning new skills.
Don’t limit people to skills directly tied to work, either. The boss’s executive assistant might have a black belt in karate, and teaching a self-defense class or two could let them apply those talents and make a real difference in someone’s life.
2. Stay on track
A good leader works with their employees to create annual performance goals. If those objectives aren’t revisited until the middle or end of the year, it could be too late to catch up. Start the New Year by scheduling a monthly meeting with yourself to review your progress. If you aren’t getting to tasks that are critical to your career, sit down with your supervisor. You might need to adjust some goals, or your boss may have to curtail outside requests that are taking you away from the strategic goals you built together.
3. Pair complaints with solutions
Bosses are used to having employees complain to them, but no one wants to be known as the employee who does nothing but complain. You’ll be more respected and feel more empowered if you can suggest a couple of ways to fix what’s frustrating you.
“When you identify a problem, instead of coming to me to report the problem, try to come with the problem and your proposed solution,” says Paul McHardy, Technology Specialist at USDISH. “Nothing makes a boss’s job easier than when their people are proactive in providing solutions to issues. It helps the decision-making process of what to do much easier, and you earn major bonus points for being the one to solve it.”
4. Be the brand
The company you work for has invested a lot of resources into building a strong brand, and you represent that brand whenever you’re in the public eye.
“Any time you attend a conference, business dinner, trade show, association meeting or social event, make sure you are representing both yourself and your company in the best ways possible,” says Jessie West, MEd, of West Coaching and Consulting. “Share your expertise on LinkedIn, speak to a business group about your company’s products and services and maintain your professional reputation when using social media.”
5. Work smarter, not harder
If you aren’t already looking for ways to be more efficient at work, make this resolution a key part of your career goals this year. Believe it or not, innovators aren’t just people like Steve Jobs who change the course of an entire industry. Innovators can be people like the director of a national nonprofit who implemented the use of a shared document to keep check-in meetings with their team on track.
“If you have an organizational or another idea that would help things run more smoothly in the office, let your boss know! They will likely appreciate it . . . and implementing it could make everyone’s jobs a lot easier,” says Valerie Streif, senior adviser with Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization for job seekers.
In the example above, creating a place where the leader and their employees could note things they needed to talk about during the week allowed for a level of preparation that made sure the check-in was efficient and effective.
Resolutions have a way of failing before January even ends. Commit to making things different with these career resolutions, and you’ll be happier with your work, your professional relationships, and your outlook.
This article originally appeared on Glassdoor and is reprinted with permission.