Only Human Sneak PeekDec 20, 2022
CHAPTER 1 – WHY MENS?
If you were given a process that could take you from where you are now to where you really want to be, would you use it?
In my coaching practice, I train clients through the simple framework, MENS, to move you from feeling average to incredible. This framework is made up of four essential pillars: MINDSET, EXERCISE, NUTRITION and SLEEP.
I developed MENS after training and coaching hundreds of people throughout my career. If one of the four pillars was out of whack, it had a rolling effect on the other which in turn greatly affected the quality of their lives.
- When we pay attention to each of the four pillars, life gets easier.
- When life gets easier, your relationships get stronger.
- When life gets easier, you stop looking externally for happiness.
- When life gets easier, you connect deeply to what matters to you.
- When life gets easier, you have more life to live.
Take Matt, for example. Matt was a client of mine whom I trained back in the early 2000s. On the surface, he was a highly successful businessman with a beautiful family and a large social network. Matt was the owner of a successful international business and his family lived very comfortably. When we met he was clearly exhausted ‘wired’, frenetic almost. Every morning he left the house in the early hours, usually racing out of the door without having eaten and grabbing a coffee on the way to the office. His day would consist of fighting fires, answering emails, closing deals and managing his team, before realising he was late for a dinner appointment, social engagement, school event, or most Monday nights, his training session with me!
When I talked to Matt about the type of life he wanted, he couldn’t articulate ‘what’ exactly, but that he just knew the treadmill he was on wasn’t it. I was personal training Matt at the time and his ‘goal’ was to lose weight. It was evident that beasting him in the gym was not going to work long term. Together, we formulated a game plan to get him focused on the long game. It was imperative to get him in the right headspace. To achieve this, we zoomed out so we could look down at his life and get a clear view of the hamster wheel he was trapped in. Only then was he able to see the negative cycle he had created for himself in the pursuit of success.
When we zoomed out, he noticed what an automatic, habit-driven life he led.
As soon as he opened his eyes, he was in work mode. Like most people, he used his phone as his alarm, which then prompted a habitual pattern of opening his emails before he’d even greeted the day. After a shower (during which he was occupied by work thoughts) he would get dressed and bolt out of the door, ready for his fast-paced corporate day. Having skipped breakfast and relied on caffeine to keep him alert, he would either meet clients for lunch or grab convenience food and eat at his desk before feeling shattered mid-afternoon, then drink more coffee which would keep him going until he burst through the door at 6:30pm.
Like many people his age (mid-40s), he was greeted by the usual chaos of his excitable children, who wanted to spend time with him and his partner (who was ready to hand them over to him so she could have some time to herself) or, as mentioned, race into other evening commitments while apologising for being late. This same pattern, day in, day out, along with other evening commitments, left little, if no, time for Matt to check in with himself. Over time, this way of living wore thin. His capacity for tolerating even low-level stress reduced to the point where he found himself using alcohol to relax in the evenings, often falling asleep on the sofa, having missed important connection time with his partner.
Once we established that this wasn’t what Matt wanted long-term, his mindset shifted, and his energy changed. Suddenly, he could see that his behaviours weren’t reflecting his values (which we will cover in an upcoming chapter) and by making a few conscious choices, his life could be very different.
With his head on the game, we worked on sharpening his mindset. I gave him easy mindfulness exercises to do throughout the day, including noticing his triggers, witnessing his thoughts and actions, creating space between those thoughts and reactions and becoming conscious of his unconscious behaviours.
We agreed on easy habit-changing actions when it came to his exercise, eating and sleeping. We made the changes so simple that he couldn’t skip a day. Over the course of time, he became his own biggest project and the results spoke for themselves. His family said he was more attentive and less grumpy. His work rate was still high and effective and he reached his goal of losing weight.
By following MENS and creating his own formula, to this day, Matt gained and has maintained his newfound energy and zest for life.
Matt is just one example of the many men I have worked with, who become so focused on one important area of their lives (namely work) that they lose sight of the bigger picture. If this resonates with you, then you are going to enjoy diving into the MENS framework. If you follow the process I’m about to set out for you, you will undoubtedly look and feel better. Your outlook on life will be different and you will be able to consistently be at your best.
MENS isn’t about denying or depriving yourself of the things you enjoy.
I’m not going to ask you to shave your head and move to the Himalayas to become a monk, or to become a vegan Crossfitter, who sleeps in a futuristic sleep tank. In fact, I’m not going to tell you how to exercise, what to eat or when to sleep. What I am going to ask you to do is check in with YOUR mind, YOUR body, and get deeply connected to YOUR constitution so that YOU can build a deeply personal ‘WHY’ to bring about YOUR transformation.
M = MINDSET
With over 60,000 thoughts per day, most being the same as yesterday, the week before and the year before that, the majority of us are living on autopilot. Building an aware, resilient and flexible mindset is essential to elevating our day-to-day lives. You are going to learn how your beliefs deeply shape your current reality and how to give yourself an upgrade so you can see your life through fresh eyes.
It helps to know that our brain naturally leans towards the negative, constantly on the hunt for danger, primed to keep us safe. This outdated mechanism in our brain reduces our ability to ‘be positive’ which serves us well when under threat, but severely takes the edge off living a contented life if we rely on it. Becoming aware of this default setting in our mechanics is powerful stuff, as you will find out later.
Without a healthy mindset, you aren’t going to get far in reaching your definition of happiness. It requires a shift in state and dedication to creating positive energy that aligns with your values and goals for life. It’s about having an awareness of self that can be firm yet compassionate, focused yet vulnerable.
This awareness can be learned through mindfulness. Being mindful is a vital tool to develop because it gives you ultimate power. In the sweet spot between stimulus and response, quite literally, lies the capacity to change your life.
When we move away from stress and towards our values, life gets easier. Learning the importance of values and identifying what matters most in your life will give you freedom. They will help you navigate through life in an authentic and powerful way, and work as an anchor for when you’re pulled in different directions. With this clarity, you can set meaningful goals and take positive, intentional action to bring about the change you desire.
Improving mental fitness not only deepens your connection with yourself, but it also frees people from the confines of their mind, strengthens relationships and creates connection and purpose within your partnerships instead of becoming distant and incompatible over time.
In 2020, 103,592 divorces were granted in England and Wales, 7,707 in New Zealand and 49,510 in Australia. Although each couple no doubt had their own reasons, I am willing to put money on the fact that the demise of the couples’ relationships started with a lack of communication and instead, plenty of miscommunication, which led to a change in behaviour over a period of time, resulting in divorce.
It is my strong belief that we can reduce divorce rates by focusing on strengthening our mental fitness and taking good care of ourselves so we can create a solid foundation for relationships to thrive. By being the change we want to see, we can protect our relationships whilst honouring our own identity.
E = EXERCISE
For far too long, Western culture has led us to believe that our body and mind are separate entities, but when one isn’t performing, it’s hard for the other to be at its best. The most successful athletes work on their mindset and the most brilliant minds move their body, in some way, shape or form, during their working week. Exercise doesn’t mean thrashing yourself in the gym or becoming the next iron man contender – it simply means moving your body consciously every day. I have met too many guys who have dropped out of sport when they became busy at work and had a family to return to in the evening. Not only did they lose the fitness component, but they also lost the social aspect, which are both vital for wellbeing. It's important to find a suitable replacement activity to keep the body active whilst maintaining social interaction that plays a key part in health and overall wellbeing.
Be honest with yourself: How much time do you spend outdoors in the fresh air moving your body? Many of my male clients leave the house early on their commute to work, go from the car or train straight into the office, then from the office back into the car, back home, dinner, couch and bed.
Research suggests that being outside for 20 minutes, three times a week helps to boost cognition and memory as well as improving your overall sense of wellbeing. Personally, I get a lot of my inspiration for writing when I’m outside. In the exercise chapter, we will cover how to integrate more outdoor time and movement and dial down on how to link it to your values, so that the time you schedule for movement doesn’t get bumped off when something ‘more important’ (like a work call or email) comes up.
N = NUTRITION
Have you have ever tucked into a takeaway after feeling ‘starving’, then proceeding to inhale the food without giving it enough time to touch the sides only to feel absolutely ‘stuffed’ half an hour later? Your sides probably felt like they were going to explode, and you might have felt tired and lethargic for some time afterwards. Or perhaps you’re like Matt – too busy to eat, so you eat on the run, in the car, at your desk or snack on cheese, crackers and a wine in that dead time before dinner is ready.
In this chapter, we will prioritise your eating habits over exactly what you are eating. Identifying habits that don’t align with fuelling your body will play an important role in creating long- term, sustainable change. Not only that, but you will also find that you can still eat and drink the foods you love and reach your health-related goals.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar by All Blacks’ strength and conditioning coach Nic Gill, who talked about optimising performance in sport a few years back. He discussed the key areas of an athlete’s life that needed to be addressed for the players to show up at their best on game day. Sleep, he said, was the top priority. Getting good quality sleep, consistently, will dramatically improve the way you show up to yourself and others.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about getting eight hours; it’s about taking positive steps from the moment you wake up to ensure the quality of your sleep is optimum. It’s about making choices that align with sleeping well. By resetting your circadian rhythm, you are creating a pathway that guarantees a good night’s rest. In this book, you will be equipped with well-researched tools you can incorporate into your daily routine that will have you sleeping like a baby and waking up with energy and optimism for your new day.
You can see that my simple MENS formula empowers you to take easy, proactive steps that over time create a compound effect resulting in a powerful and purposeful life. This process is perfect if you’re feeling stuck, in a negative cycle and are ready to step up and change.
Below are two circles. The one to the left is where you’re at currently. The one to the right is to use to mark your positive progress in 12 weeks’ time.
In the first circle, shade in the areas where you currently sit for each of the MENS. Be completely honest about how much time you spend getting these fundamentals right on the daily. If you have let any of the areas slip down the list of priorities, you aren’t alone. Simply colour in the proportion of time you currently spend taking care of each element. In an ideal world, all four areas would be completely shaded. There’s no need for excuses or blame, simply notice where you’re at.
Use the following chapters to build your knowledge, relate to the stories I share and inspire you to step up, take control and reshape your life.
- Your life is your responsibility.
- You hold the key to change your life.
- Simple changes make a huge impact. Start small and build over time.
- Make time every day to work on your MENS.
- Complete the companion workbook
- Complete the first MENS circle to get your benchmark.
- Write down the habits you intend to STOP, START and CONTINUE (you can add to these as you continue through the chapters)
Want to read more?
This is only the beginning and introduction of the book 'Only Human', the book that was born out of my years of working with and around humans who wanted more from themselves. Not from a materialistic perspective, but from a deep knowing that they had more in the tank.