6 Steps to Leading (and Improving) Yourself

healthy-lifeBy Ron Pereira

“You must manage yourself before you can lead someone else.” – Zig Ziglar

We concluded our Culture of Kaizen course with a module on the importance of taking care of yourself since you’re not going to be effective – personally or professionally – if you’re living an unhealthy life.

So, after some thought and self reflection, I’ve decided to make some major changes to my life. Most especially, I’ve committed to making a radical change as it pertains to my diet and exercise.

My children asked me why I was doing this and my answer was simple: Daddy doesn’t want to die until I’m an old man.

Unfortunately, heart disease, cancer, and other serious issues like strokes run in my family on both sides. So,  I know I need to make some changes if I want to buck the trend.  Obviously, nothing in life guarantees good health… but I feel God is calling me to do my very best.

And, yes, I will add the traditional disclaimer that I am not a doctor and definitely encourage you to check with your doctor or physical trainer before making major changes to your lifestyle.

With that said, in a nutshell, here’s what I’m doing… even over the recent Thanksgiving holiday!

  • Cutting out just about all processed sugar.  No candy, soda, etc.
  • No processed foods. Instead I’m eating as many whole foods as possible.
  • Drinking lots of water throughout the day.
  • Cutting out just about all “white foods” such as bread, potatoes, rice, etc.  I do eat sweet potatoes and other veggies.
  • Working out just every day. I’ve started with the basics like push-ups, dumb bell curls, planks, etc. I definitely eased into it and didn’t go all crazy like I did when I did P90X a few years ago.  That wasn’t sustainable long term (at least not for me).
  • Consuming “green veggie/fruit smoothies” just about every day. These are amazing and, made right, taste awesome. I’m happy to share my recipes with anyone interested… email me at ron at gembaacademy dot com.
  • Doing my best to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

I do drink a beer every once in awhile and enjoy a glass of wine from time to time.  But I definitely keep this in moderation.

With this all said… it’s not always easy to make changes like this. So, for the rest of this article I’d like to present 6 practical tips for how you can make a change like this if that’s something you want to do.

1. Know why you’re doing it and realize it’s not a diet or quick fix.

As with anything, it’s incredibly important to understand your why. In other words, why do you want to improve the way you eat and exercise?

For me, I want to live long enough to see my kids grow old. I also want to feel better with tons of energy allowing me to be a better husband, father, and business owner.

So, the question you must answer is why do you want to make a change? I’d also encourage you to share your “why” with your loved ones and colleagues so they can support you along the way.

Additionally, it’s important to realize this isn’t a diet or a “lose weight fast” program.  I compare it to lean (no pun intended) thinking.  You’re never done practicing or implementing lean.  It’s continuous.  The same goes for what I’m proposing here.

Again, this is not a short term diet.  Instead, it’s a lifestyle change.

2. Have a meal and exercise plan

Making a lifestyle change like this is no different than practicing lean. We must PLAN what we hope to do.

So, do what works for you. If you want to start by cutting down on how much soda you drink fantastic! Write it down and make a plan for how you’ll do this.

For me, I do my best to plan what I will do in certain situations.  For example, my Gemba Academy colleagues and I went to Jason’s Deli for lunch today.  In the “old days” I would have grabbed a yummy sandwich of some sort, some chips, and a fountain drink.  But, today I knew before we went I’d be good with a salad, soup, and water.

Additionally, it’s important to have an exercise plan.  Personally, I don’t think you have to run out and join a gym or start intense CrossFit 7 nights a week.  Instead, start with push ups.  Can you do 35 in a row without wanting to curl up in a fetal position?  If not, make that your first goal.  Then move to 100.

3. Track everything you eat and every exercise you do

In our Culture of Kaizen course we talked about the importance of developing strong keystone habits. And, as it turns out, simply tracking things like what you eat and what sorts of exercises you do can make a huge impact… especially when you’re just getting started.

I’m using the MyFitnessPal app to track everything… and I believe Santa Claus may be bringing me a Fitbit watch for Christmas which will allow me to more accurately track my steps.

By the way, I’m “gembaron” in the MyFitnessPal app… so if you start to use it be sure to connect with me.  I have my preferences set so anyone can see what I eat and do.  I’m doing this purposely since I want to hold myself accountable.

To be sure, you can track everything with pencil and paper. You don’t need a fancy app.  In fact, there’s probably some brain science study that says manually tracking with pencil and paper is superior to electronic tracking! No matter what you choose… just be sure to diligently track everything every day of the week.

4. Don’t despair if you mess up

I actually lost weight over the recent Thanksgiving holiday. But, one confession, I did enjoy one piece of my wife’s pumpkin pie!  It was made with all natural ingredients… but it’s not something I would eat on a regular basis.

So, if you do miss on your diet or workout plan from time to time don’t despair and give up. Instead, get back on track and move on.

Furthermore, back in my hard core working out days I knew many professional body builders who swore on the importance of having one cheat meal every tenth day.  They claimed it revved their metabolism back up.

5. Persevere and remember why you’re doing this

Nothing like this is ever easy and you’re going to have some good and bad days. But, like anything in life, the only sure way to fail is to quit.

So, assuming your “why” is worth fighting for just keep it in mind when you’re tempted to eat badly or be lazy!

Just like continuous improvement, this sort of lifestyle change isn’t easy.  But most things worth fighting for (like your health) aren’t easy!

6. Start now. Not tomorrow. Not in the New Year. Now.

Finally, we’re approaching the end of the year… and come January folks will start their new years resolutions. Gyms will be packed and healthy foods will fly off the grocery shelves… but, alas, most of these folks will quit before February even arrives.

So, if you take one piece of advice from me in this article it would be to start now. As in today. As in skip that Big Mac you planned to grab for lunch and grab a salad instead.

Don’t wait until tomorrow or until after the holidays. Start now.

And, if you want to give yourself a kick start… beyond this article… I’d strongly encourage you to check out this audio book that was written, and is narrated, by my good friend Paul Akers.  You can also access the book in various forms on this page.

It was Paul’s words that finally encouraged to me to make a change.  And, for that, I am forever thankful for Paul’s witness and inspiration.

1 Comment

  1. Jon

    December 6, 2015 - 1:54 am

    Way to go Ron

    Start now, start simple, definitely.

    Some years ago I was struggling to keep up my exercise routine being on the road a lot. A friend of mine who is a fitness coach showed me a set of very simple calisthenics that I could do every day for 20 min, as long as I had a 3 ft x 6 ft space. Today, you can find all sorts on YouTube. My friend actually wrote it out for me, how many reps of each exercise. Printed out, placed on a hotel desk or wherever, it was a visual reminder.

    It was enough to remove my excuses and get me back on a minimum daily exercise routine. Once started, it was much easier to go from 20 min per day to a few more min, a few more reps, a few new exercises, etc.