Happy New Year! How are those New Year’s resolutions treating you? In my previous post, I outlined exactly how to use super ninja vision to create real resolutions that actually matter, actually happen and are — believe it or not — fun to pursue. Want + Like = Engagement. A shocking equation, I know 🙂
But did you know that by January 15, 95% of the people who have made a New Year’s resolution have broken it already? (According to Tony Robbins.) Holy crap, what a pointless charade (pronounced “shaa-raahd” with a British accent.)
According to real statistics, only 8% of people achieve their resolution. Fine. We all suck at setting realistic goals for ourselves.
Already Broken Your Resolution? Perfect!
Join us on this little ninja fitness adventure especially if you’ve already failed; you’ll benefit from this system the most because you’ll learn how to set yourself up for success (instead of self-sabotage).
But what if we chose goals that we’re actually excited to engage with — ones that are actually fun and don’t feel like a burden? That, my friends, is what’s called in ancient Japanese “a total fucking game changer.” The new year can be something to truly celebrate; instead of dreading the silent death of our own commitments.
“Long-term life skills and a rewarding sense of fulfillment—and yes, performance—are more the by-product of play-related activities than forced performance. True mastery over a lifetime comes from one’s internal play compass. When parents and teachers push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feelings of competence and do not create from within their own sense of mastery.” Stuart Brown, M.D., (Ninja Master of Play Research)
And I’m going to go ahead and say that most of us adults are still influenced by those early pressures of childhood… and that causes them to reach for goals that are too big too fast.
If you’re one of the vast majority who’ve already broken your resolution, don’t feel bad about it — read on and learn how to recover from your resolution hangover, ninja-quick. Because “creating your own sense of mastery” is the very foundation of the ninja path.
Speaking of Fun Games…
Some people joke that life is a game, but us ninjas take this metaphor quite literally, as play is one of our core ninja principles. Why can’t getting into shape, mastering your body and getting stronger be a fun game, one that breaks your specific goals into daily actions that earn you points towards you goal with every little move you make?
I’m not talking about using a mobile app and I’m not talking about complicated technology, I’m talking about helping you create your own empowerment-through-movement tracking system: a Ninja Fitness Quest!
To be a ninja master of the universe, you must first master your body-mind. Then the whole universe will conspire to manifest your greatness. Seriously, there’ll be ninja fairy spirits whispering the secrets of life in your ear while tickling your privates. I promise.
Go Analog. Seriously. Use a Fucking Pen and Paper
Creating your own empowerment game system — using the ancient tools of pen and paper — is the best way to BEGIN to achieve all your goals: new year’s resolutions, fitness goals, bucket list items, whatever. And, my oh my, look at you and where you are – at the beginning of a new year about to dive off a massive cliff and into the unknown of 2015!
Don’t worry, I’ll be your parachute, but please take what I give you and make that shit your own, ninja style.
I know, I know, you want a mobile app to do it all for you. But I’ll wager that creating and updating your own system will, if you persevere, help you develop a new level of self-mastery in body, mind and life through movement.
The process of creating your Ninja Fitness Quest is in itself rewarding and enlightening: you’ll get better at getting better, you’ll reach your goals, and, as an added bonus, develop real ninja super powers. There are 5 archetypal ninja super powers and they are all based on a foundation of AWARENESS. Because…
But living longer and more fully with great skill? Well, that’s the ninja holy grail, isn’t it? That’s the reason we wake up each day, our inspiration for training, the jelly on our gluten-free toast! (Even though sometimes gluten-free sucks.)
This is perhaps the trickiest part of the whole process, because it’s easiest to set yourself up for failure (as apparently 95% of us do. Wow. I’m still having trouble digesting that statistic.)
There are many ways we sabotage ourselves, but here are the most common:
- “I must lose 40lbs in a month” (i.e. picking goals that are neither healthy nor realistic)
- “I want to be healthy” (i.e. picking goals that are vague or hard to measure)
- “I have to go to the gym to reach my goals even though I totally hate the gym” (i.e. picking goals that don’t excite you)
- “I’m giving up chocolate… forever!” (i.e. picking goals that are too extreme or absolute or, in my personal opinion, absolutely fucking insane. I think chocolate should be used as currency)
- “I’m too scared to share my goals with friends” (i.e. being a lone wolf and trying to do everything on your own, instead of leveraging the power of your ninja tribe)
If you can pick goals that are healthy, realistic, fun and measurable, you are almost guaranteed success — but there are two other things to consider.
First, think about the difference between process and outcome and how these ideas relate to long-term, mid-term and short-term goals. In other words, “I want to lose 6lbs of fat in a month” is an outcome goal, while an example of a process goal would be, “I want to workout 3 times a week for 45 minutes.”
In the beginning, you want to reward the behavior for just showing up — working out 3x/times a week for 45 minutes (or whatever amount you need to reach your goals) is success, regardless of what strength you gain, weight you lose or number of minutes you run. Just reward the behavior. That’s your short-term goal: just showing up and doing the work.
Real Ninja Turtles Move Slow
Yes, this is the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach. On purpose. If you apply the quick fix mentality to something as precious, powerful, dynamic and sensitive as the human body, you are setting yourself up for failure.
“But it will take forever to reach my goals at this speed! Do you know how old I’ll be when I finally achieve them?” Yeah. That same age as you’ll be if you DON’T achieve them. Only that version of reality sucks samurai balls.
Losing six lbs in four to six weeks is a mid-term “outcome” goal and feeling exactly like a million fucking bucks is the long-term goal! (Feeling like a million fucking bucks is also an outcome but perhaps harder to measure.)
Oh Baby, I’m Edging!
The second thing to consider is your “edge.” If you already work out twice a week, then three times per week is just beyond your edge, which is perfect. Make that a habit first, and then go to four times a week. Please don’t jump to six times a week. Extreme changes in behavior are rarely sustainable, the one exception being perhaps when some experience a traumatic or near-death experience.
Extreme changes are the reason why most diets fail. First of all, they’re diets and that just sucks. Why can’t we just love our food and ourselves? But second of all, so many people go right from eating whatever the fuck they want to an extremely restricted diet, which is not sustainable. Swinging violently from one extreme to the opposite extreme leaves us feeling less skillful and masterful, not more. This is not the way of the ninja.
Use your ninja fitness quest to take control of and continually refine your process so you can get better at experience a feeling of increased self-mastery, rather than a feeling of increased self-loathing brought on by continuous disappointment.
Please note: To know where your edge is, you need to be aware of what you’ve been doing. In other words, you may have “workout” scheduled in your Google calendar four times per week, but if you actually only show up for 2.5 of those workouts, you’re only working out 2.5 times per week. Duh. So simple, but everyone fudges a little bit. And hey, I love fudge. But I don’t eat shit and pretend it’s fudge. (Actually, I don’t eat shit at all, I swear. But you get my point. Getting fooled by others isn’t nearly as destructive as fooling ourselves.)
One Stealthy Ninja Step at a Time
You start at level ZERO (everyone does, don’t feel bad about it!) and you go up in levels as you reach your goals by earning points. When you get to level one, not only do you get the intrinsic award of being healthier/fitter and the feeling of accomplishment and internal mastery, but you also get to reward yourself with something special.
You outline as many goals and rewards as you can in advance (more on that below), but as you achieve higher levels, your goals will naturally evolve and the rewards will get bigger. For instance, many people just want to lose five to ten pounds, struggle to do it and then gain it back quickly once they’ve achieved their goal. Your Ninja Fitness Quest will make sure this never happens, because as soon as you hit a goal there is already another fun goal waiting for you — slightly bigger so it’s motivating, but not so big that it seems impossible or overwhelming.
Gradually, you expand your comfort zone by hanging out at the edges of it and through the feedback of the Ninja Fitness Quest points system, you get better and better at setting realistic, cool goals for yourself.
And since the path of the ninja is holistic ‑ as in, looking at the whole picture — I’ll guide you towards outlining other life goals that may seem unrelated to health and fitness but are, in my 15 years of experience, directly related to your ability to realize your physical potential.
Want to learn French? Go for a run. Make more money? Lift that weight. Make out with your crush? Try this yoga pose! It sounds crazy, but suspend your disbelief, remain curious and get moving. The adventure of life is calling you right now. Will you answer that call?
How to Create Your Ninja Fitness Quest
Yes, it helps if you’ve outlined some New Year’s resolutions and are familiar with our core ninja principles, but don’t worry if you haven’t — we can jump right in. No permission needed, just bring your honesty goggles and a little bit of will and determination. You’ve got those, right?
- Step 1: Outline a bunch of long term goals.
- Step 2: Start with the 2 or 3 goals that excite you the most.
- Step 3: Break down those exciting goals into mid-term sub-goals.
- Step 4: Break down those mid-term sub-goals into short term process goals; a weekly or daily action that moves you 1 small step closer toward each goal.
- Step 5: Create your points system — award each daily action a certain number of points (more on how to do this later.)
- Step 6: Outline how many points you need to reach each progressive level.
- Step 7: Write down a few behaviors you want to avoid and giving them a negative point value. What are the obstacles that have historically prevented you from reaching your goals?
- Step 8: Write out all the wild ways you’d love to reward yourself! The things you’ll do for yourself to really take care of yourself and love yourself without feeling guilty.
- Step 9: Get a small pocket notebook and carry that shit around with you everywhere you go. It’s your constant reminder that you’re on a quest: don’t get distracted, see the bigger picture, your actions matter.
Example: Ninja Fitness Weight Loss Quest
Yes, “lose weight” is the #1 most popular New Year’s resolution, so let’s use that as an example.
- Step 1: Lose 15lbs. Be able to do a pull-up. Enjoy movement. Stop eating foods that make me feel sick.
- Step 2: Lose 15lbs and doing a pull-up are the most exciting goals.
- Step 3: Mid-term goal – lose 5lbs in 8 weeks or less.
- Step 4: Short-term goals –
- Workout forty-five minutes four times per week.
- Eat 1 more serving of high fiber vegetables per day.
- Reduce the amount of processed food I eat by 1 serving per day.
- Step 5:
- Each forty-five minute workout = 10 points.
- Each additional serving of veggies = 5 points.
- Each processed food I replace with real food = 5 points.
- Step 6: To get to level 1, I need to get 90 points per week (or more) for 3 weeks in a row.
- Step 7: Avoid emotional eating and soda! Negative 5 points for each guilty incursion.
- Step 8: Take a long weekend trip. Get a massage. Go to New Zealand for a week. Etc.
- Step 9: I vow to use my pocket notebook every day IMMEDIATELY after taking an action that adds or subtracts points. Instant feedback is crucial to a successful quest. In fact, just updating your journal every day should be worth 5 points.
Other Helpful Ninja Guidelines
Three week increments are good to work with, it’s not so far in advance that it seems impossible, yet 3 solid weeks of empowered decision making can really generate momentum and prepare you for the next round of increasingly difficult challenges.
Eating a healthy meal might be worth 3 points, but having double dessert probably shouldn’t be worth negative 15 points. Balance. I get it. Some of us are more motivated by punishment than rewards, but keep it balanced. Don’t use the system to beat yourself up, use it to become more aware of your current relationship to food, movement and life.
The process of awarding points for behaviors is enlightening in itself (and weird, but trust the weirdness for now.)
Organize your rewards. So let’s say you’ve got: a two-week vacation to New Zealand, getting a massage, taking off a Friday to go on a long weekend adventure and treating yourself to a fun cooking class.
You might make the cooking class a reward for level 1, getting a massage your level 2 reward, taking off a Friday to go on a fun adventure your level 3 reward, and visiting Bilbo Baggins in the Shire your level 4 reward. These are just examples.
Pick rewards that truly excite and empower you!
Ok. Fine. In Addition to Pen and Paper…
Use my Ninja Fitness Quest Tracker. I know, spreadsheets are not the sexiest thing ever, but this one will make setting up and attaining your goals really simple. Don’t get me wrong, I still think you should get a small pocket notebook (I like this one) to take with you everywhere you go and jot down your points in real time as you gain (or lose) them. But then, you can upload each day when you get home to this spread sheet and it will tabulate your progress for you.
The little notebook serves as a constant, immediate reminder of your larger goals and the spread sheet makes it easier to see your long term success. Used together, you’ll be unstoppable!
3 Keys to a Successful Quest
- Outlining and writing out goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based).
- Having fun and enjoying the process.
- Regularly engaging with other like-minded ninjas to hold you accountable and inspire you.
A Huge Secret About Using Sacrifice to Achieve Success on Your Quest…
There is a tremendous emphasis on hard work in our culture; anything worthwhile must be brutally hard. Many suffer from this destructive and incomplete perspective — that opposites are separate and absolute. But they aren’t. That’s what this ancient symbol is all about.
This relates directly to your quest. You will need to give up certain habits, tendencies, behaviors and comforts to achieve your quest, but the things you sacrifice SHOULD NOT be the things you truly love and enjoy.
When we sacrifice one thing for another, we make the thing we choose sacred. Give up the things that you are addicted to and dependent on but don’t make you feel great in the long term: working too hard, zoning out to the TV, being obsessive about checking email, tweeting until your eyes ache, binging on Netflix or fast food or porn. Whatever it is, admit it, face it, recognize that you are getting some benefit out of it and then choose to do something that will give you an even greater benefit.
If you really love chocolate, don’t give that up! But maybe it’s time to stop eating microwaveable dinners because it’s convenient.
You may say “Well, I love junk food, so I’m not giving it up.” But if you’re honest with yourself, perhaps you’ll recognize that junk food doesn’t fulfill your highest good — it gives you a temporary boost of morale followed by a much larger crash.
How does your body really feel after you’ve gobbled one of those down? Sit and feel the feedback from your stomach; you’re tummy is talking, but will you listen?
Giving up junk food isn’t really giving up something you truly love, it’s giving up something you rely on to make you feel better even though it hurts you in the long run.
And if you’re not ready to give up the things that truly don’t serve you, well, that is actually okay, too, as long as you recognize it! Sometimes you have to live a lie to its fullest before you’re actually ready to let it go.
Love Is the Ultimate Ninja Power
Don’t sacrifice things that truly make you happy. If painting makes you happy, then do that shit. And if you need to lose weight, paint with a 6×10-foot wall with a huge brush and a shit ton of energy. There, your workout is done for the day.
And perhaps the first thing we all need to sacrifice is the idea that work has to be hard and no fun. Many of us are addicted to pain, suffering and struggle. Perhaps this is one of the first things you can consider sacrificing?
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinctionbetween his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” ~ Lawrence Pearsall Jacks
Most Common Quests
- Fat loss Ninja Fitness Quest: you want to get lean, or at least get rid of that extra 5 to 15 pounds? Choose this adventure. Key points: It’s simple — just move a little more and eat a little healthier. So set a goal with daily points for each of these goals. Healthy weight loss occurs at about one pound per week; any quicker is usually unsustainable. Make one of your daily actions reading for five minutes per day about the science of healthy weight loss. Engagement creates clarity. A great place to start looking for quality info is Greatist.com.
- Strength Gain Fitness Quest: You want to feel strong and powerful in your body? Awesome. That’s a basic human right, in my opinion. Choose this quest. How will you measure your strength? Pick a few weight-training exercises that excite you (pushups, pull-ups, bench press, etc) and start keeping track of how many sets and reps you can do of them. Every day, spend five minutes learning about strength training, just read one article that seems cool or interesting.
- Epic Ninja Fitness Quest: You’ve already attained a high level of self-mastery, know what your purpose in life is and are ready to achieve every single goal and item on your bucket list of life? Awesome, choose this quest. But… I’ll be outlining how to do it in a future blog post. This is the core practice of the Ninja Mastermind Group.
As always, consider how you can play your way to success. Meditate on the question “How can I have fun while lose weight (or getting stronger/happier/healthier etc)?”
Hint: What did you love playing when you were little? There’s your first clue.
Be Flexible, My Ninjas! Because…
“Goals are good, but overly rigid pursuit of those goals can inhibit growth and understanding.” Stuart Brown
And that is what we are after — true self-mastery comes from a strong foundation of understanding about ourselves, the world, how our body works and how the birds and the bees self-replicate.
It’s great to read this post (of course), but it’s that first step that really counts, where everything changes and you begin to generate some momentum. Go ahead and take a first step by posting your top 3 health and fitness goals in the comments below! Be bold, my ninjas, be bold!
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare: it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” ~ Seneca
As always, TrainDeep,
P.S. I’ll be launching the Ninja Fitness Academy on Feb. 9th, where I’ll personally be helping a small group of ninjas outline their goals, develop a points system, create some amazing rewards and setting up an online tracking system for them. Additionally, we’ll meet online once a week for a live-coaching call to create built-in accountability. Plus, I’ll give each ninja special ninja missions — specific to our goals — so they can earn bonus points! Because I’ll be doing some of the heavy lifting, I’ll be charging a small fee for my leadership and guidance. Applications are due by Feb. 3rd, email me at MyNinja@TrainDeep.com with any questions.
Photo: Julieta Cervantes