Many people find it very hard to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Most of us reflect back on the previous year as the new one begins and contemplate making a resolution to improve our health and fitness. As a veteran personal trainer with 21 years of experience, I’ve seen many people fail to reach their goals. I’ve also witnessed many people achieve their goals! What’s the difference? In my opinion, it’s not whether or not you fail, it’s what you do after your failures and what you learn from them that determines your success!

My dad once told me, “It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it.” I couldn’t agree more! There were many times growing up on our farm where we experienced failure. Things would break, we’d fix them, and they would break again. We’d get things stuck and spend days and weeks getting them out. It was a painful process but we learned how to get through it, make changes, and ultimately see successes from our work. It was always hard work and there were many times all of us felt like giving up.

Here are two pics of a typical failure on the farm. My dad’s excavator is stuck and buried in a heap of mud. You’re not supposed to be able to get an excavator stuck since you “should” be able to pull or push it out using the long arm. It took over 4 weeks and many broken toe ropes to finally get it out. We learned many new things from that experience!

I personally have failed miserably in many areas. I was overweight as a kid. I was a type 1 diabetic starting at age 7. I would go to the Mayo Clinic a minimum of two times a year and have specialists tell me that I needed to eat better and exercise more. I was already eating what I thought was a healthy diet, was very active on our farm, and was involved in every sport I could do. For your entertainment try to pick me out of this 7th grade basketball picture!

I thought I was doing the right things but I still struggled and had to workout like crazy to keep my weight down. In college I would workout for 2-3 hours 6-7 days a week. I spent at least 2 hours in the gym lifting weights and then would run for another hour. I was absolutely stronger but I still carried a good amount of body fat. My diabetic A1c values were OK but not great considering how much I was exercising. I was a personal trainer in college studying Kinesiology and I was failing at my own health and fitness.

It wasn’t until I moved to Denver and moved in with my holistic dietician friend, Heath, that I actually started seeing positive changes. I learned that some of the lessons I was really failing at were about nutrition and exercise, the very things I thought I knew a good deal about. Heath challenged me to change my diet and eating habits. It was extremely difficult. It took many attempts and many failures but within a year I had cut the amount of insulin I was using in half! My A1c levels improved to the point that my doctor said my values looked like a non-diabetic. I learned from each one of those mistakes and today I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.

That’s very similar to how it works with health and fitness goals. You may start a new workout program, a new diet, or fitness goal and you might fail. You might fail numerous times, but after each attempt you will learn and make smarter choices going forward. You’ll learn how to overcome challenges that in the past would have made you quit. It won’t be easy but I feel the results are absolutely worth it.

But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” – Rocky Balboa

Many people say they don’t have the time to workout, eat healthier, prepare nutritious meals, etc. I would argue that we all have the time but instead we choose to spend it on other things. We prioritize other things over our health and fitness. Work, emails, tv shows, games, and electronics can rob you of your time. We only get one body and we need to prioritize our health and fitness.

How uncomfortable are you willing to get in order to achieve your goals? What are you willing to do to get there? How much time are you willing to commit? What are the most difficult things for you to change? How important is it for you to achieve your goals? What will you choose to prioritize this year?

Do the hard things. Challenge yourself. Commit to learning from your mistakes and figuring out what works the best for you!