Ten years ago I suffered from crippling anxiety.
One Monday morning, after another weekend of late nights spent chasing girls at big city bars I woke up with a feeling of impending doom. Something was not right in my world.
My chest tightened, my head and fingers began to tingle, my breathing was shallow, and my heart raced. This continued, day and night, for the next six weeks. Twice I went to the emergency room fearing I was having a heart attack — all at the age of 30.
I tried everything to escape it. I stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol. I began weekly Qi Gong classes (a type of standing meditation). I called my friends and asked for help. I even bought a dog, believing that petting my furry little friend would ease my discomfort. None of these actions alone cured me, but together, they allowed me to return to good physical and mental health.
A year later I began holding Body Transformation Contests in my online fitness business. To enter, people had to use my exercise programs for 12 weeks and then submit “Before & After” photos and a 300-word essay detailing their journey.
It was in these essays that I noticed each winner had 5 Pillars in place that guaranteed success. The 5 Pillars helped them make the right decisions in tough times and achieve incredible results. But when one or more of the Pillars was missing, people would struggle and give up.
Since discovering these 5 Pillars, my clients have used them to transform every aspect of their lives, from building wealth to improving health. I’ve used the 5 Pillars to meet girlfriends and to make meditation a daily habit — and it was the 5 Pillars that allowed me to overcome anxiety.
The 5 Pillars are: 1) Better Planning and Preparation; 2) Professional Accountability; 3) Social Support; 4) A Meaningful Incentive; 5) The BIG Deadline. I first introduced you to the 5 Pillars earlier this year, and now I’d like to show you how to use them.
Pillar #1 – Better Planning and Preparation
The winners of my Transformation Contests that lost 30 pounds in 12 weeks always had a meal plan and a professional workout program. More importantly, they planned ahead for the obstacles in their lives, and often had two or more solutions for each.
For example, if they were attending a weekend cookout, they went prepared with bottled water to drink instead of soda or alcohol, they had a “reason why” to explain to others their healthy dietary choices, and they even had “rules” for what they would and would not eat.
When I was overcoming my anxiety, I created a plan that included more rest, less caffeine and alcohol, and relaxation methods such as yoga and Qi Gong.
This advanced level of planning and preparation allows us to make the right decisions, just as this same level of planning will do for you. Whether you are starting a business, writing a book, investigating an investment opportunity, or transforming your health, you must always begin with a thorough plan.
Pillar #2 – Professional Accountability (Your “Coach”)
Research from Stanford University found that being accountable to a professional is more effective for reaching your goals than simply being accountable to a friend. A coach holds you accountable every day, provides expert instruction, and doesn’t accept excuses. They will call you out when you make the wrong choices, and show you how to get back on track.
The men and women in my Transformation Contests had me as their coach. I gave them expert advice on diet and exercise, and if they didn’t send updates on a regular basis, I would follow up with them to make sure they were staying on track.
On my journey to overcome anxiety, I hired the best yoga and Qi Gong instructors in Toronto, and they were worth every penny. I’ve even used a professional matchmaker as my “coach” when making a transformation in my love life.
When making meditation a habit in my life, I recruited Atlas member Matt Smith as my coach. Matt has been meditating for over a decade and gave me the expert advice I needed to get through the difficult early sessions.
If you want to make a change in any area of your life, you must have a coach.
Pillar #3 – Social Support (Your Cheerleaders)
Surrounding yourself with positive people, and sharing your goals with them, helps you stay on track. They won’t have expert advice to share, and they won’t hold you accountable each day, but they will always encourage you through the tough times when you are close to quitting.
This approach is research proven. A Swedish study found that the more often a weight loss client visited an online forum, the better their weight loss results. In another study, people that wanted to lose weight achieved more results when they exercised with someone else that was also losing weight. In my Transformation Contests, clients found social support in our website membership forum where they could interact with others that shared the same goals.
Again, this applies to all areas of life. You may have heard the old saying, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This too is proven by research.
According to a Harvard University study, “When an individual gains weight, it increases the chances that their friends, siblings, and spouses will likewise gain weight.” Likewise, if you spend time with people that smoke and drink, you have a greater risk of taking up those habits.
If you want to stop drinking, stay out of bars. If you want to lose weight, don’t go to lunch with friends who think of Pizza Hut as fine dining. If you want to meditate, associate with people who already have that as a habit in their life.
You must associate with good, positive people that not only are supportive of your new habits, but who also share the desire to make the same changes in their lives.
Pillar #4 – A Meaningful Incentive
We offer a $1000 prize to the winners of our Transformation Contests. This incentive motivates people to get started, but it’s often not meaningful enough to see them through to the finish. Over 60% of people drop out. That’s because they don’t find a meaningful incentive to keep going.
Those that finish the contests — and win — make the switch from an “I’m doing this for the money” mindset to one where they have internalized the benefits. For example, many young fathers mention the desire to have more energy for their children, or to be more attractive for their wife, or stop feeling embarrassed at the beach. It is these meaningful incentives that keep them going.
In January of 2013, I joined in one of our Transformation Contests. Instead of making a physical transformation, I was going to make a mental transformation and take up the game of chess (because that’s what I heard smart people do). However, after watching a few instructional videos on YouTube, I gave up. Why? Learning to play chess was not a meaningful goal to me.
The next day I switched from chess to meditation. This activity was meaningful because I knew meditation fights off anxiety. I recruited Matt as my coach, and received social support from my chiropractor (another meditation practitioner). The first day I began with just one minute. The next day it was two minutes, and so on. I’ve now meditated for over 1,000 days straight for at least five minutes in the morning, all because it is meaningful to me.
No matter what you wish to change in your life, you must have a meaningful reason to support your behavior to help you persevere through the tough times.
Pillar #5 – The BIG Deadline
While all 5 Pillars are essential, the Big Deadline is the most important. It spurs us to action, and to push harder as the finish line gets closer and closer.
Most of us can make it through the first two weeks of New Year’s Resolutions on motivation and willpower alone. But soon after we began to revert to old habits, and not long after that, we give up. However, with a deadline in place, you see the light at the end of the tunnel, giving you the motivation you need to stick to your new behaviors (until they become habits).
For example, each of our Transformation Contests is 12 weeks long. Over a 75-year life span, 12 weeks is only 0.03% of one’s life.
“Surely you can commit less than 1% of your life to making a transformation, can’t you?” I ask my clients. Put that way, it motivates them to stick to the 12-week program.
If you’ve been struggling to achieve a big goal in your life, you must set a hard deadline — with severe consequences for missing it. Deadlines are magical, helping you overcome procrastination, take up good habits, and make big changes — in a short amount of time.
The 5 Pillars of Transformation guarantee success. Take 10 minutes today and apply them to your number one priority in life. Use them to overcome bad habits and make permanent, positive changes to your daily habits.