Without a doubt, when I really dig deep, I find that people don’t just want to excel on the work front, but also on the health and relationship fronts.
Without a doubt, when I really dig deep, I find that people don’t just want to excel on the work front, but also on the health and relationship fronts. Deep down they don’t just want to be high performing entrepreneurs and leaders, they also want to be fit and healthy, and great spouses and parents.
And when it comes to peak performance, taking a holistic view is absolutely necessary. In sports for example, you don’t achieve peak performance by just looking at what you do “ON” the field. You also have to look at what you’re doing “OFF” the field.
But we don’t have to change ourselves. We can choose our identities and step into being our best, moment to moment, every single day, right now. We don’t need to wait 3, 5, or 10 years to arrive. In fact, we have already arrived. We simply need to define what best looks like, step into it, and own it. And when? Right now!
In my book, The 3 Alarms, I share the 3 simple phone alarms I use to segment my day. Every day these alarms go off. Each segment is powered by a “best-self” identity that means something to me, and gives me something to both shoot for, and actually measure my behaviour against. Sometimes that self-management happens just before or in the moment, and I’m able to course-correct, sometimes it happens after the moment, and it prompts me to reflect.
At 6:30am the first alarm goes off. World Fitness Champion it says. Not that I’m a World Fitness Champion, or ever will be – but the phrase means something to me. That’s who shows up at the gym in the morning. Especially on the mornings I don’t feel like going. Powered by this identity I’m a Pro not an Amateur. In fact one of the best ways I like to describe professionals versus amateurs, is that a professional takes action whether they feel like it or not. Amateurs need to “feel like it” in order to take action. This identity also changes the way I work out. There will be that moment when I’m not sure I’ll get past the 8th rep on an exercise, and suddenly this little voice goes off in my head that says “And watch what Eric’s about to do next – this is what separates champions from all the rest.” And I power through, hitting the 9th and 10th rep, before busting out the 11th and 12th for good measure.
At 9:00am the next alarm goes off. It says World’s Best Coach, so that I consider how that version of me shows up in the world. How insightful, inspiring, and reliable I’ll be for others. How I’ll step into discomfort and not shy away from it, boldly asking the questions nobody else dares to. And how I’ll lend a hand where needed to help turn dreams into reality.
And at 6:30pm the most important alarm of all goes off. World’s Best Husband & Father, to prompt the question, “How would the World’s Best Husband & Father walk through that door right now?” This was a complete game-changer for me. Before setting this alarm home life was quite different. I might get home after a long day of work. My wife might ask for some help or want to talk about something, but I’d want to push it to some other time. Is that how the World’s Greatest Husband would respond? The kids would want to play but I’d not take the time, choosing to work instead. Is that how the World’s Greatest Father would respond?
Defining what my best looked like and setting a reminder at the appropriate time helped me bring more intentionality into my home life, and also caused me to reflect when I acted less than my best. Over time I've significantly improved across the health, work, and relationship fronts. Not perfect, but significantly better, and ever-improving.
By constantly reminding myself what the best version of me looks like, I can narrow the gap between my current and best self.
Making a New Identity Stick
While the alarms are great reminders there’s another very powerful layer you can add to this. I call them “Champion Proofs”. Once you've defined what your best-self looks like in each of the three areas, you can also choose one action or behavior for each identity that "proves" you're the "champion" you aspire to be, in the context of that day.
So for example:
- You might decide to burn 500 calories on the stationary bike, or perhaps complete a specific strength-training routine, in order to prove your health identity on any given day. Or you might choose to rest, since we must pair stress with recovery to avoid overtraining. The point is that you're making a very conscious decision to prove how your best-self, the champion within, will evidence your health identity - on that very day.
- One the workfront you might decide to complete a presentation you've been working on, or perhaps complete an 80% version of a new project plan. You might focus on how actively you'll participate in an important meeting that day. Once again you're making a very conscious decision to choose the one thing, rather than everything, which would evidence or prove your work identity on that day.
- On the relationship front you might decide to play a particular game with your children, tell someone how much you appreciate them, or perhaps send a loving message to your partner.
And the more you repeat a behavior the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. Which creates a virtuous circle. Define your identity to prompt a desired behavior, each repetition of the behavior reinforces the identity.
So why exactly is all of this so impactful? Because the desire to improve is ingrained in our psychology. As Abraham Maslow pointed out with his Hierarchy of Needs, once our more basic needs are met, the path to deepest fulfillment is reaching our full potential. And by using both the 3 Alarms and the Champion Proofs you can more consistently close the gap between who you are and who you’re capable of being.
When Things Don't Go to Plan
There will always be things throughout the day that come up and get in your way. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” But when you have taken the time to define what your best looks like, even when your day gets derailed, you’re much more likely to course correct and make better decisions.
You might get in an argument with your spouse and say something you regret, but then quickly apologize. Maybe you’ll lose your cool with your children, but regain your composure. At work, you may be tempted to quit early on a project or put something off, but then remind yourself to be reliable for others. These course corrections are far more likely if you’ve defined what best looks like. Suddenly, when you’re off target, it becomes painfully obvious.
Over time, you’ll notice that you’re not falling as hard, or you’ll catch yourself in the moment. You will more consistently live up to the best version of you.
Most people aspire to become their best selves some time in the future, but peak performers define what “best” looks like right now and start behaving from that identity today. Closing the gap between your current self and best self is about continually getting better, little by little, and bouncing back more quickly from your mistakes.
If you enjoyed the above you'll probably enjoy my new book The 3 Alarms. You can grab a free digital copy of the book at www.ericpartaker.com