9 Actions to Implement Today to Make Sure You Show Up for Life
Showing up, as they say, is often times half the battle. In the game of life, however, sometimes “showing up” is easier said than done. Today I’ll share nine quick tips you can implement starting now, starting with today’s read, to make sure that you are someone others can count on to show up for the big (and the small) stuff of life. No one is perfect, but certainly by implementing some or all of these tips you can mold yourself into someone that consistently and reliably gets the job done. Showing up for life is all about maximizing the performance of brain and body. This list will help you do just that. I want to hire this person. I want them working for my organization. Be this person. Show up for life. In no particular order, for all are important:
- Keep a Detailed Calendar
- Desire Greatness
- Prioritize High-Quality Sleep
- Eat to Fuel the Machine
- Manage Stress Well
- Set Goals
- Commit to a Life of Continuous Improvement
- Become a Person of Action
Keep a Detailed Calendar
Quite literally, show up for life. With myriad tools available and tech gadgetry for days on end, the excuse “I forgot” is one that does not fly in 2017. There are countless digital calendars available for every conceivable mobile and desktop operating system; find an app that works for you, preferably cross-platform, and use it. Use it. Write everything down. Set reminders. Set more reminders. Subscribe to calendars at your place of employment, your school, etc.. Share calendars with friends, your spouse, and so on and so forth. Create habits of Excellence in regards to your personal calendar system. You didn’t forget that meeting, you didn’t forget the due date of that paper...but you did forget to mark the date on your calendar. Plan ahead. Plan well. Plan a bit more. Master a calendar system and make it a habit to use it daily.
I use two different calendar systems, both for iOS, and both have the added benefit of integrating seamlessly with my email. For day to day scheduling, meetings, phone calls, and other appointments, I use Fantastical 2 from flexbits, with a bit of help from Amy Ingram from the tech startup x.ai. This is the best calendar for the iPhone/Apple Watch/iPad I’ve tried, and while not perfect, it certainly gets the job done.
For larger projects, I use 2Do from Beehive Innovations, and this, my friends, is an incredible app. In my humble opinion, 2Do is the single best project management application for iOS, and yes, I do believe it is better than OmniFocus, Things, Nozbe, etc.. I know...I know...the OmniFocus purists are seething as I pen these words, but I do believe 2Do is the better of the many applications, and I’ve tried them all. 2Do is different than a basic calendar in that it is more project management than datekeeper, and while yes, it has a built-in calendar that syncs with Outlook and others, the payoff is in the ability to track a project from start to finish in ways that a calendar cannot.
As one of many examples of real-world application, we are currently building a new pool here at Liberty, and I created a project titled “First Home Meet” to make sure I have my Ts crossed and eyes dotted in regards to making sure the pool was ready to go for our first meet on December 1st of 2017. Lane lines, backstroke flags, pool build schedules, locker rooms, stopwatches, clipboards, Daktronics Timing Systems, Hy-Tek Meet Management software, volunteer timers, record boards, All-American posters, conference championship banners, flags, trophy cases, etc...and the list goes on and on. All need a “holding space” and a timeline for completion; thank God that space is not in my head!
To show up for life, literally, keep a detailed calendar, and if involved in large-scale projects, check out a worthy project management application.
It should go without saying, but I shall say it anyway...you have to want to be that person. You must desire Greatness. You must live with a burning desire inside of you to be that person that shows up for the stuff of life. A wise man once said, “Strong, deeply rooted desire is the starting point of all achievement.” Those words are as true today as they were in 1928 when Napoleon Hill wrote The Law of Success. If you want to show up for life you have to have a strong, deeply rooted desire to...show up for life. The challenge is that in this case...perhaps only in this case...there isn’t “an app for that.” No...you cannot find desire in a calendar system or project management software, and you won’t find it on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or for goodness’ sake, on Tinder. Desire must come from within. Sticks only go so far. Carrots work better, but the glitter of carrots can lose their appeal for even the vainest and most money hungry among us.
As a professional swimming coach, I mull over how to inspire, teach, and “motivate” desire into the lives of those whom I coach...I keep thinking to myself (I’m an optimist) that with enough thought, the right questions, and a plethora of enthusiasm, I’ll one day find the secret to “making them want it.” I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Don’t hold your breath. Until then, you have to find your why if you haven’t already.
To show up for life, you have to want to show up for life. You must have a strong, deeply rooted desire to be that person.
Prioritize High-Quality Sleep
Motivation and desire are fantastic; they will take you far. They alone can propel you to be someone who shows up for life, albeit in the short term. Proper sleep is an ally that bolsters the longevity of desire and multiplies its effects. Without sleeping well, you will not maximize your impact, you will not maximize your potential. To “show up” physically for life you need to sleep well. To “show up” cognitively you need to sleep well. To be the best version of yourself you need to sleep. High-quality sleep is perhaps the single most important factor in determining elite-level performance in life, and those who prioritize sleep have a definite and measurable advantage over those who do not. Whether a student, athlete, student-athlete, parent, employee, leader, etc., sleep heals all and benefits all. In the case of students, memory is strengthened during sleep. You need to sleep to remember. Are you up late every night studying? Good luck remembering that information for the test. Are you making mistakes at work? Forgetting things? Irritable and crass to coworkers and so forth? Sleep. Do you find yourself unable to manage stress and snap at your kids? You are far more likely to do so when sleep deprived. To show up for life and be the best version of yourself, your brain must be “on,” and on all the time. You must prioritize high-quality sleep.
Quick sleep tips:
- No caffeine after 2:00 PM
- No blue light from screens or otherwise before bed
- No large meals before bed
- No exercise before bed
- Have a bedtime routine - wind down, relax, meditate, etc.
- Track your sleep - experiment to find what works and what does not
- Sleep in a “cold” room - try 60-65 or so
- Consistency is key - try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, every day
- No lights in your bedroom at night - nightlights or otherwise - use a sleep mask and blackout curtains
- Breathing strips help keep airways clear and promote deeper sleep
To show up for life, you must keep your brain and body humming at peak performance and maximum velocity. You must value high-quality sleep. It must be non-negotiable.
Eat to Fuel the Machine
Similar to high-quality sleep, what you eat affects your day to day performance and ability to show up for life, both cognitively and physically. As many reading this are retired from the realm of athletics, let me focus on the brain...but understand that science is proving (daily it seems) that the brain and body are really one and the same. We tend to think of poor food choices affecting our waistlines and waistlines only...understand and accept the scientific fact that those poor food choices affect your brain and how it performs as well.
Everything you eat and drink will either have a positive effect on your cognitive function or a negative one, there is no middle ground. Sugar impairs learning and memory. Blueberries, avocados, omega-3 fatty acids, and dark green leafy vegetables improve cognitive performance. And the list goes on and on. Think of your brain/body combination as though a high-performance sports car. You need to fuel the machine with the absolute best food you can possibly eat in order to maximize your performance and ability to show up in life. Irritable? It could be poor sleep quality or it could be something you ate. No really. What you eat affects your mood, energy, serotonin levels, etc..
There are myriad diets out there form which to choose. Every guru and expert touts their way as the best way. While my goal is not to delve into different diets and what you should an should not eat to maximize physical and cognitive performance, let me share with you what works for me. Before I eat or drink anything, I ask myself one simple question:
Will this improve or decrease my cognitive performance?
Put another way...is this good for my brain or not? And boom, my diet is that simple. As previously mentioned, sugar is bad for the brain, to put it lightly, thus I don’t eat or drink anything with added sugar. Blueberries and dark green leafy vegetables are good for the brain, thus, I include them in my diet. As a “knowledge worker,” my brain is my tool. It is how I earn a living and it is how I improve the lives of others. Simply put, the performance of my brain, in the myriad ways that the brain affects the performance of a coach, is the only thing that matters in regards to my professional success. Emotional intelligence, creativity, memory, processing speed, etc. and so and so forth...all the ways that coaches can be “good” or “bad” are all affected by diet.
The following is hard-hitting, but true...Any coach (or knowledge worker in general) who is not actively seeking to improve brain performance through diet is saying “I don’t want to be the best I can be...I don’t want to reach my highest potential...I don’t want to Excel at my job.” One cannot eat poorly and say they want to be a great coach. One cannot eat poorly and say they want to show up as the best version of themselves for life.
Eat to fuel the machine, and specifically the brain. You will show up for life, and gain quite the competitive advantage over your opponents in the process.
To be the best version of yourself and show up for life, you must exercise. I won’t spend a lot of time here as we all know this to be true. The benefits of regular exercise for both physical and cognitive performance are well documented, and anyone who disagrees is...simply put...wrong. But of course, we all know this. The question is not...should I exercise...the question is...when/where/how will I exercise today?
Aerobic exercise is great for the brain, promoting neurogenesis specifically, and strength training provides a boost for BDNF, also crucial for promoting neurogenesis. The literature points to a mix of aerobic and strength training to have the biggest impact on the brain; you should incorporate the two into any exercise routine. As for specifics, I swim or walk briskly for my aerobic workouts, and love trap bar deadlifts for strength training. In fact, I believe the trap bar deadlift to be the single best strength training exercise; it is safer than conventional barbell deadlifting and I believe it has more carryover to “life” movements as well.
As an added benefit, deadlifting of any kind provides a boost to HGH and Testosterone levels, and if you want to show up for life, optimizing testosterone levels will take you far. Male, female, or otherwise, one simply cannot become the best version of themselves with less than optimal Testosterone levels! Not feeling motivated? When is the last time you tasted a heavy bar in your hands? When is the last time you pulled heavy weight? A good deadlift session is like medicine for the motivational soul. Try it, you will thank me after the fact.
Manage Stress Well
Stress is the silent killer, in myriad ways, and poor stress management will thwart any chance you have of showing up fully for life. Whole-life optimization requires resiliency, self-control, optimal hormone levels, a clear mind, strong body, and high levels of emotional intelligence. Managing stress well provides an immediate boost and benefit to the aforementioned, and we simply MUST manage stress well to perform at optimal levels.
Life is stressful, this much is true, and this fact of life will not change. How we manage and deal with stress is a choice, and in this choice, we have much control. My BIG FOUR for managing stress well:
- Optimize Sleep
- A Daily Gratitude Practice
These four work wonders for me, and I incorporate them daily into my routines. Find something that works for you (ideally something that does not violate any of the 9 actions), and be diligent in your implementation thereof. The benefits of proper stress management are numerous; among the most prominent for showing up for life are optimal hormone levels (lower cortisol and higher Testosterone), and a better-performing brain.
Where are you going? How will you get there? Is your direction in life more like a shot in the dark, going any way the wind blows, or are your plans concrete, well thought out, measurable, attainable, and with a time stamp for completion? Goal setting is of high importance for anyone looking to show up for life, and to show up fully you should be one who sets goals. If you recognized the concept of SMART goals in my words above you are already well on your way. Keep going; goal setting is a worthy endeavor, and one that you should practice rigorously.
Whether you embrace the concept of SMART goals, stretch goals, written goals or otherwise, pick something that works for you and stick with it. To show up fully for life one needs direction, and goals provide a map for Excellence in said life. Set goals. Achieve goals. Show up for life. While the concept is simple, many simple fail to set goals, plan, and have a general direction for life. Don’t be that person. Have a plan, work the plan, show up for life.
For me personally, I enjoy a mixture of SMART goals, stretch goals, and “someday/maybe” goals made famous by David Allen in his legendary Getting Things Done system of personal productivity. I break bigger goals into smaller, more manageable “mini goals,” and go as small as day to day “to do” list items. I have five+ year long-term goals, three to six-month goals, monthly goals, and go all the way down to the aforementioned week to week and day to day goals. They keep me grounded, humble, and hungry.
Stretch goals or “moonshots” are an interesting concept, and I believe everyone should have some type of “side hustle” that incorporates a stretch goal or two (or three). I don’t mean a side business, per se, but something that is big, audacious, and that perhaps scares you a bit...the aforementioned moonshot, if you will. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is a good thing, and a stretch goal provides a worthy outlet to realize your cognitive potential. Whether making a movie, painting a great work, or writing a book, have something that pushes you outside of the mundane day to day. The Power Tower Book was one such stretch goal for me, as I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure if I would have the time or energy to get it done. A stretch goal while coaching full-time and raising a family it certainly was. But I wrote anyway, and now 70,000 words and 242 pages later, the Power Tower Book is an example of a stretch goal that became a reality. Have fun with a stretch goal...make it big, bigger even, and don’t be upset if it doesn’t come to fruition right away. The stretch is part of the fun, and part of the growth. To fail at a stretch goal should be celebrated, for a stretch goal is more about the “try” than the actual completion. And speaking of growth...
Commit to a Life of Continuous Improvement
To show up fully for life, one must be in the business of continual self-improvement. There is always more and always better. Seek it, yearn for it, then go about doing it. Be a person of action, specifically in areas of growth and learning. Start now, start with the simple low-hanging fruit. Small, consistent 1% gains add up, and with daily diligence, you can be light years ahead of your former self (and competition) as your improvements compound over time. Are you better now than you were 10 years ago? If not, you should be, and you have no one to blame but yourself. Always more and always better. Expect and demand more from yourself, and always keep watch for ways to improve. Commit to becoming a master of your craft. Commit to a life of growth, learning, and continuous improvement.
The “self-help” section of the bookstore tends to invoke a negative image; call it self-improvement instead, and frequent this section often. It is 2017, we need not reinvent the wheel. People of great intellect throughout time immemorial speak to us still to this day. They walked in your shoes. They stood where you now stand. Listen to them. Their words can and will help you, though you must seek to find. Technology changes, the challenges of the human experience do not. Some of our oldest works provide the best path to improvement. Commit to a life of rigorous self-examination and study.
Become a Person of Action
Nine actions to implement...every section title contained an action...this was not for redundancy, instead, emphasis. The aforementioned actions to implement today to make sure you show up for life are meaningless unless...one takes action. AIDA. Action is the last step, and it is through directed action that we achieve desired results. Action. Go and do likewise!