The Secret to Getting Fit, Writing a Novel, and Achieving All Your Life’s Goals … FAST!

Recently, a client of mine grew frustrated. Her novel writing wasn’t moving along as swiftly as she would have liked.

She’s a mom with a full-time job who just moved into a new home. She’s currently focusing on getting fit and healthy in addition to writing a novel, prepping a short story for a competition submission, and participating in some regular online role-playing-based writing activities.

Her desire to get fit while simultaneously being a good employee, great parent, and successful author is a desire I totally understand. Indeed, I share those same desires.

For example, several years ago I went from being moderately over-weight to getting into amazing shape. I lost 70 lbs of fat, built muscle, and felt amazing.

I achieved this level of fitness by eating a strict paleo diet six days a week (with one day a week reserved as a cheat day) and exercising intensely five days a week. When I wasn’t working out or prepping healthy meals, I educated myself further on these topics. When I listened to podcasts, it was nutrition and fitness podcasts. When I read books, it was nutrition and fitness books. Each morning, my first thoughts were of my nutrition program and my exercise schedule for the day ahead.

Fitness and nutrition were top priorities in my life and the results were palpable. I looked and felt great. I made incredible progress. I achieved many of the goals I set for myself in both body composition and athletic ability.

It was a transformative experience that imbued in me a confidence that ultimately led to the writing and publishing of my first book. I figured, if I could transform my body so successfully, how difficult could publishing really be?

In the years that followed, I wrote and published six more books, as well as built an author coaching business, while also working a full-time job and raising my three young children. Similar to my fitness obsession, I achieved much success as a result of these publishing related endeavors.

But I also gained back all 70 lbs.

In fact, as I type these words, I’m currently as out-of-shape as I’ve ever been.

I wish I could tell you there is a secret formula to achieving everything you want to achieve all at once and super-fast to boot. But from my experience, the secret formula just doesn’t exist. The success I’ve achieved in my life – be it in fitness, the business realm, or the world of publishing – has come from a deep, focused, and concerted effort on a small number of activities over a prolonged period of time.

No quick fixes. No easy buttons.

Just intense focus and hard work.

Author Cal Newport addresses this topic in his fantastic book, Deep Work. Newport defines deep work as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. The process of writing a novel undoubtedly requires the use of deep work.

Newport argues the application of deep work allows people to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. My own experiences support Newport’s arguments. I got in great shape when I made getting in shape my singular focus. When I shifted my focus elsewhere to publishing and coaching, my fitness suffered horrendously.

It’s an unfortunate reality of life: you simply can’t do everything, all at once, and make significant and fast progress on all fronts.

Like Cal Newport, author Greg McKeown also emphasizes the need to let go of the nonessential in favour of focused efforts. In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, McKeown writes, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

As a complex person with varied interests hoping to operate at a high point of contribution, you need to make a decision. Are you going to:

  1. focus on a small number of things and achieve swifter progress towards your goals as a result; or
  2. try to do everything all at once and make significantly slower progress across the board.

Those are the two options.

That’s it.

The secret to getting fit, writing a novel, and achieving all your other goals fast . . . is that it’s just not possible.

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1 Comment

  • Bill Valley

    Reply Reply October 11, 2017

    Howdy. It’s the middle of October and I finally got back to my computer which had 276 posts. I deleted most of them and kept my Kevin T Johns and a few important posts and decided to read and write on this one. Yes, it is important to look at a few top priorities and to do them intensely. Thanks for this very informative post!!!
    Things are going well in regards to an active summer working in construction for spending money. Now that fall is here, teaching a class and helping in the community on several activities.
    Have not been writing per se, but reading several of the greats. Jane Aston is too awful, but Thomas Hardy is great–then I ran smack dab into Flannery O”Connor!!! She tests my faith and can one actually write like she writes and get away with it in public and before God?! I am not being funny here. Still reading Flannery, miss being apart of the writing community and touching base with you.
    A QUICK note from you for encouragement would be great. Keep up the tremendous amount of things that you do and post–and know that someone is out their rating for you as well as looking up to you as you grow in your writing craft.

    As always, I remain,
    Bill Valley

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