Workplace lessons from my personal trainer: Part 2

Personal TrainerThis is part 2 of a series of 3 posts. Here’s Part 1. After you read this, check out Part 3 (the last part in the series.)

Lessons sometimes get taught in unexpected places. You just have to be aware and willing to learn them. In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about the first three workplace lessons I’ve learned from my personal trainer:

  1. Be productive, not just busy.
  2. Learn to tell when something doesn’t feel right.
  3. Work smart: push yourself but respect a healthy balance.

Here are two more workplace lessons I’ve learned from my personal trainer at the gym.

4. Don’t rest on your laurels.

One of the most fascinating things that Dave, my personal trainer, does is how he counts exercise repetitions. (No, really!) When lifting weights at the gym, Dave has to push me because that’s how I’ll build strength. Typically by the time I reach repetition 8 out of 12 for an exercise, I’m struggling and slowing down. When I hit this point, Dave will say something like “you have 4 opportunities left to work your biceps.”

His counting approach always intrigued me. The focus on the number of exercises remaining versus how many I have finished helps ensure I don’t focus too much on what I’ve done instead of what I have left to do. Furthermore, by phrasing the number of remaining exercises as an opportunity, he drives home the point that this is my chance to hit my strength goals. If he had said, “8 down…good job!” then I’d be tempted to think, “8 is good enough! It’s OK if I can’t get the last 4…at least I got 8 done.” But, by saying, “you have 4 opportunities left,” it causes me to think, “4 more is doable. I want to hit my goal, so I’m going to push myself to do this.”

Al Bundy throwing footballI try to keep this perspective at work as well. I’m proud of accomplishments that I made in the past. But, I try not to dwell on them or give them too much importance. Think about Al Bundy on the old TV show Married with Children. The highlight of his life was scoring 4 touchdowns in a single high school football game. As a middle-aged man, he frequently mentions that achievement decades after it happened.

In your career, if you find yourself regularly speaking of your accomplishments using past tense and in the time period of “years,” then it’s time to think about what opportunities you need to be taking advantage of right now. What I’ve achieved in the past has absolutely helped me grow and helped mold me into the person I am now. But, I still have many opportunities ahead of me that I need to take advantage of. If I can’t speak with excitement about what I’m accomplishing right now or what I’m currently working toward, that’s a red flag. Don’t be like Al Bundy!

5. You have to push yourself to grow. Sometimes you need somebody to push you.

I started working with Dave after I spent way too long trying to hit my strength goals on my own. Part of my problem was that I wasn’t pushing myself enough. To build strength in weightlifting, you must do more over time: you should ultimately be able to lift heavier weights than you did before.

Sometimes, you need others to push you to achieve more. If you don’t have enough internal drive toward a goal, you may not push yourself enough. For me, this is true with weightlifting. I typically push myself when I start a new workout plan. Over time, I find that I tend to take it easy on myself. I don’t push myself to lift heavier weights, and I don’t pay as much attention to my form and whether I’m “cheating” to make it easier to finish a set without working the correct muscles. For me, the solution is to work for a few weeks with my personal trainer about every 2 months. Dave is paid to push and challenge me, and he does. The day after I lift weights with Dave, I typically have sore muscles. Dave takes pride in this. I joke that it’s because he’s sadistic, but the reality is that he knows it means that he pushed me to do more than what I was doing by myself.

If you’re completely comfortable in your day-to-day activities at work, then you’re probably not growing either. Look for projects you can join (or start one!) that will stretch you and let you accomplish new things. If none come to mind, tell your boss you want to grow a bit in your career and ask if she has any ideas on new tasks you can take on to help with that. Keep your boss or mentors updated on how your efforts are going. They can help you when you need it. An outsider’s perspective and encouragement can also help keep you motivated when you hit snags along the way.

Marissa Mayer quoteDon’t be afraid to try! You don’t have to pick a spectacularly huge initiative to grow. Anything that’s above and beyond what you’ve done in the past will give you an opportunity to learn and grow as you work through new experiences and situations. For inspiration, I love this quote from Marissa Mayer, now CEO of Yahoo. “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.”

To Be Continued…

Here are the 5 workplace lessons I’ve mentioned so far that I’ve learned from my personal trainer:

  1. Be productive, not just busy.
  2. Learn to tell when something doesn’t feel right.
  3. Work smart: push yourself but respect a healthy balance.
  4. Don’t rest on your laurels.
  5. You have to push yourself to grow. Sometimes you need somebody to push you.

I’ve learned even more lessons! Check out the last installment in this series, Part 3 of Workplace Lessons from My Personal Trainer.

To Be Continued

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *