3 Things Exercise Can Teach You About Career Success

The same rules of success apply whether you're building a strong body or a strong career.


As a nation, we are completely obsessed with winning and weight loss. Even more so, it seems, when the winning is the weight loss. Stroll past any magazine rack at any given time, and you will be faced with multiple stories about celebrities—how they got into shape, got out of shape, and got back in shape again. Over and over, all year long.

The editors of these magazines will tell you the "lose weight fast" issues are among their most popular. This shouldn't be surprising. In a country where a whopping one third of the population is considered obese, it's reasonable to assume folks are looking for inspiration to shed a few pounds.

The problem is when we trick ourselves into believing it can happen easily and relatively quickly. Maybe I had been reading too many celeb mags, but this was the story I told myself as I embarked on my own journey to get in shape. Along the way, I learned the same rules of success apply regardless of whether you're building a strong body or a strong career.

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1. You get out what you put in. In other words, if you only give 20 percent effort, you'll only get 20 percent results. This is as true in your job search and career as it is with your workouts—and the best way to increase the intensity is to set goals.

Here's the key: You must get them on paper. If your goals are not written down, you're not serious about them. Period. I've been using written goals for years to drive my career, but up to this point I had never included any in the area of health and wellness.

Proving once again that what gets measured gets done, when I put a focus on creating goals for my fitness (e.g., run four miles in 30 minutes), I finally started to see a noticeable difference.

So the moral of the story is this: You can't delegate your push-ups. If you want the results in life (and the gym), you have to put in the effort.

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2. The disciplined win. The actions we take are a direct result of the thoughts in our head. As such, success ultimately comes down to controlling that wild beast between your ears. When you think "I hate working out" or "I'll never find a job," your brain reads those thoughts as literal. The result? More couch time and no paycheck.

So once you have your goals written down, take time to review them every single day. Visualize yourself in the process of achieving each one and look forward to the opportunity to work on them individually.

Also, don't worry if your goals seem lofty or out of reach. The question is not whether your vision is unrealistic. (Look around—people achieve improbable things all the time.) The real question is whether you're living day to day in a way that makes your dreams possible.

Think about that the next time you're tempted to waste calories with junk food or waste time with junk TV, and have the discipline to sacrifice what you want in the short term for the sake of what you want most in the long term.

This takes practice, obviously, so if you're stuck in negative thought patterns that are undermining your goals, try meditative free writing. Again, the more you can shift your mind to think positively, the more your actions will follow suit.

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3. It doesn't happen overnight. Take all the pills and powder you like, but you still won't wake up four sizes smaller in the morning. Deep down we all know this and yet we continue to look for "quick fixes" and "fast results"—both in shrinking our waistlines and elevating our profiles.

When neither happens on our condensed timeline, we have a tendency to get frustrated, lose focus, or, worse, give up altogether. If this describes you, remember: The only way to achieve success at the finish line is to achieve it in the process.

With all due respect to whoever said it first, there's really no such thing as the end justifying the means. The means is the end—so the only way to achieve success later is to do all the right things now.

This is the biggest lesson I learned on the path to getting fit, and it's the foundation for your own success—be it weight loss or career gain.

exercise and fitness