When we were born, we didn’t get a lot of shit from our parents because we needed food, sleep, and attention.
“Ugh you’re soooooo needy” was something they never said.
We were lavished with everything we could have ever wanted or needed in life.
Then we grew up.
Something insidious happened as we became “responsible adults.” We learned that in order to be responsible, we had to pretend that we didn’t have needs of our own, at least not ones that mattered more than others’. Ours were at the very bottom of the list.
We were taught to sacrifice joy and work hard to attain success and happiness later down the road.
We were taught to put others before us – our significant others, our kids, our coworkers, and our friends. If someone needed us, it was our moral obligation to come through for them.
We applied this work ethic to gym ownership, continuing to show up for those who need us at the gym – our staff and our members. No matter the time of day or the day of the week. Someone else’s emergency suddenly became our own.
Then one day, we woke up and realized things kinda sucked.
Life was no longer fun, no longer free, no longer rewarding. We were barely holding it together, just running from one obligation to another, doing everything we could to just enjoy a few beers or glasses of wine at the end of the night in front of our favorite TV show.
But this is what being an adult is all about right? It’s what we’ve been taught.
Lee and I have run our gym for the last three years. Some days we couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and some days we calculated how much our gym would be worth if we sold it.
It’s all part of the ride.
It’s all part of figuring out how to do this crazy thing called life.
The biggest lesson I kept re-learning is: if you don’t find a way to make the gym work for you, you’re not going to work for the gym.
Sure you’re still working for the gym today… but what about a year from now? Three years?
You can’t give, without end, and accept so little in return.
What’s messed up is that I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before.
We all know this, right? Conceptually we understand that we should enjoy what we do. We should be making enough money to make it worth it for ourselves. We should take time for ourselves. But for some reason,
“I just have to suck it up until _______.” Fill in the blank. Until June. Until my kid goes to college. Until we get a new coach. Until we pay the annual affiliate fee. Until we find a reason to de-affiliate. #whereiscrossfithqnow?
We suck it up for a little bit, finding nobility in the sacrifices we make, but what happens is that it never stops. Weeks turn into months and months turn into years.
It never stops because our mindset of sacrifice never changes. June is here. Our kid is in his senior year of college now. We have 3 new coaches. We can afford the affiliate fee.
But nothing changes because we don’t change.
So inevitably, we find ourselves ready to throw in the towel. We wake up one day and decide we have had enough.
OF COURSE WE’RE READY TO GIVE UP. LIFE, AS WE KNOW IT, SUCKS.
How did even we get here??
We got here because we thought we could postpone living. But the truth is: how we choose to show up and enjoy our lives today matters more than anything because the NOW is all we have.
And I don’t say that from my high horse.
… It’s more of a midget horse.
Because I’ve been there before. I feel so strongly about this because I’ve lost enough of my time, life, and joy to this screwed up notion.
You don’t have to be an unsuccessful, burned out gym owner to relate to this message. Because we all have periods of our lives where we lose our way, even if just for a moment.
In our situation, Lee and I eventually got to a point where we were fed up accepting less for ourselves while expecting more from ourselves. We weren’t showing up for each other, for others, and most especially, for the gym.
The best way to show up for your gym is to show up for yourself first.
But to do that, there are three things that may be getting in your way.
1. You’re Stuck in a Rut
You don’t know what you really want. You’re stuck in a rut where nothing is really exciting right now. You think about things that used to excite you (i.e. photography… trekking… traveling… dancing…) and you feel dead inside. What’s excitement again?
What to do about it: Life feels pretty stagnant when we’re in this space. We know that life is always about growth and change of some sort. So if you’re not feeling movement internally, create movement elsewhere. Learn a challenging, new skill, or simply try something new and challenging. Here are some ideas: try rock climbing, go on a trip to a place you’ve never been before and have no concept about, jump out of a plane (safely), go scuba diving, take cooking classes, learn a new language. The idea here is that movement in a different part of your life will shake things up, infusing you with the fresh air of inspiration and excitement you’ve been missing.
2. You’re in Your Way
Fear and doubt prevent us from tapping in to the excitement that accompanies the thing we want. This is what it looks like, “I think I’d like to travel more–” and our subconscious chimes in, “Oh yeah that’s realistic. You’re just going to leave your gym and travel? How selfish. Who’s going to take care of things while you’re gone? No one knows how to do barbell maintenance. If you leave, you know half the barbells are going to be a mess when you get back. Don’t even get me started about sales…”
What to do about it: Get a handle on your subconscious. THIS is what it means to be a responsible adult, truly. You can’t get rid of your subconscious mind. It is there to protect you in the only way it knows how. It is up to you to acknowledge it, fully understand how these thoughts make you feel physically and emotionally, and tell it to keep it moving.
“Got it. I’m going to travel anyway! Booking my flight to Colombia right now. Kthx.”
3. You’re “Should-ing” All Over Yourself
You’re living your life based on “shoulds.” When we’re beating ourselves up because we can’t seem to keep up with all our obligations, there’s something fundamentally wrong with this situation. But it’s not your lack of willpower. What’s wrong is that because your life is driven by “shoulds,” you forgot what it even feels like to “want” anymore. Of course you don’t know what you want!! You’re out of practice.
What to do about it: This solution is two-fold. Number one, get rid of the belief that if you stop “shoulding” yourself, you’ll suddenly become a lazy sloth who watches Netflix and binges on ice cream 24/7. It’s NOT going to happen. Number two, practice doing what you want. Start small, no need to go crazy with it. Always wanted to take a day off? Find coverage for your responsibilities for a day and take that day off. Always wanted to summit a mountain? Schedule it, train for it, and go. Just like a kid that learns to stop asking for something if you keep saying “no,” train yourself to say “yes” to yourself. With enough practice, what you “want” to do will become much louder than what you “should” do.
Here’s what comes next:
You recognize your needs and desires.
You realize what you truly want out of life. (Is it income? Lifestyle? Impact?)
You figure out how to get the gym to help you attain what you want.
Finally, you rediscover your passion and hunger for growing your gym again. Because now, you’re not only helping your members and your staff, but you’re also helping yourself just as much, if not more.
This is called win-win situation.
And that’s something you can get excited about.
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