Guest post by Marco Wolfs, founder of Achiefit.com.
After leaving university it took me 6 months to land my first job. Even though I had a masters degree, I couldn’t find work. When I did, I landed a job at a call center. I always pictured myself standing in front of a classroom and making a difference in the life of my students. Instead, I was sitting on a chair behind a laptop with a headset on my head. Every day I talked to 30-40 people a day and I would never hear from them again.
Some days I would feel extremely frustrated because I wanted a more challenging job. I wanted to see the results and help people more.
Just 2 years later I became the team leader of the team I started in. Being the youngest and one of the least experienced employees, this felt like a real victory. My job became challenging and my salary increased more than 20%.
Why did I, the young inexperienced employee, land this promotion? My masters degree was a big advantage, but it was definitely not the decisive factor. I was lucky to have found an awesome starting environment and I am a quick learner, but everyone else worked in that environment too. There was more to my promotion than meets the eye. A lot of my success at work was also thanks to the fact that I was active in a lot of sports. Sounds weird right?
The eye of the tiger: Crushing roadblocks
The “eye of the tiger” is a big reference to the Rocky movies. This may come as a surprise, but there are big similarities between the mindset needed to get noticed at work and to do well at sports. Doing exercise can help you develop this right mindset in a low-risk environment.
Just look at the following list. Can you see how these characteristics apply to both sports AND work?
- Fighter spirit/ Effort and courage
- Standing up one more time than you fell down/ Perseverance
- Getting out of your comfort zone/ Risk taking
- Believing in yourself/ Confidence
I didn’t get noticed by just doing my job, sitting on my chair, and being a lovely employee. No one is going to say, “Hey, you’re a nice person. Here’s a promotion.”
That’s not how it works. I got noticed because of a mindset and because of proving value.
In the first place, I made sure I was a good employee – this is still important. Second and even more important, I wasn’t afraid to take risks. When I applied for the job several of my colleagues already failed. They were really competent and experienced colleagues, but they couldn’t pass certain tests. So there I was: the inexperienced youngest employee, going for a position to become their team leader. Can you imagine what a risk it was?
Putting myself in that spot was far outside my comfort zone. I made sure I was prepared to take the hits of failing as well as the hits of succeeding. No matter what the result would be, it was going to be hard. Failing the test would be disappointing because I wanted the job. Succeeding would be challenging because I would have to prove myself. I also knew not everyone would like me as the team leader. But I was willing and able to take the hits.
By doing exercise, you can actually learn these important lessons in a safe environment. Going for a new personal best is always a risk but if you want to progress you’ll have to take that risk. Exercising is all about leaving your comfort zone. There will be times you don’t feel like training, but you have to push through to get the results you want. It may happen you did everything you should have and you still didn't get the results you wanted.
I got this mindset from cycling and going to the gym. Doing these sports and pushing myself constantly helped me a lot! Next to this mindset shift there’s actually something else that’s important and closely related.
Boost the value of your time and performance: energy management
Do you know that feeling that often occurs at work? Towards the end of the day your concentration declines. You are distracted more easily and you’re tired. Many people I've talked to have this problem.
The most noticeable example is a friend of mine who’s a programmer. He found a job rather quickly, but it wasn’t completely what he wanted. Since he’s an ambitious guy he wants to do something that he loves and that matches his ambition. So after his regular working hours he wanted to do a project for himself. But what happened?
He feels disengaged at his workplace and after a couple of hours he lacks energy. He isn’t performing at work and when he comes home he’s just a couch potato because he’s tired. Notice how this is a vicious cycle. Work drains his energy and because of his drained energy he isn’t able to find another job, work on a project or make a promotion.
Time management is a frequently discussed topic. It’s also a really valuable topic, but without energy, time means nothing. There are a ton of ambitious people out there like my friend and they are stuck. They shouldn’t focus on time management but on energy management.
There’s actually a bestseller book about this called The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr. Guess what the most important factor is to boost energy? Yes, exercise!
Exercise can help you with preventing negative situations like:
- Obesity, an increasing global problem
- Cardiovascular disease
- Back Pain: Half of the American population suffer from back issues every year.
- Avoiding anxiety and depression
It also gives you a lot of positive effects like:
- Improved cognitive control over behavior
- Improved declarative memory
- Improved working memory
- Better blood flow
- Increased endurance
- Better bone density
- Health and wellbeing
So to summarize, with incorporating exercise into your life:
- You will suffer less from all kind of illnesses
- You will feel better, you can do more work faster
- You can even have better cognitive control over your own actions.
It almost sounds like magic! But how can we achieve this?
Breaking free from the vicious circle: using mini-workouts
To decide exercising is good for you is one thing. To actually start working out before you can reap the benefits is another. Starting to workout is among the top New Year's resolutions every year. Nonetheless, it’s hard to get started and there are certain barriers to continuing working out.
The most important barriers are:
- Low energy
- Little time or no big blocks of time
- No knowledge & results
Let me be honest. I'm not perfect either. I also have periods where it's extremely hard to workout. After all I work full-time, work on my blog, learn guitar, workout and want to relax. Obviously it's pretty hard to combine all this things. Sometimes I just can't manage to do all these things so I struggle to workout. However, if I completely stop working out, things go completely wrong since I lose all my energy.
Luckily we can fix all these barriers with just one solution: mini-workouts. Mini-workouts are a way of doing partial workouts in small timeframes. In a way, they take no time to do. Allow me to explain this with an example.
Let’s say you’re at work and every hour you would take a 5-minute break. This could mean you would go to the toilet, the water fountain, etc. In these 5 minutes, you can make sure you get your blood flowing.
Some examples of things you could do:
- Get your water on another floor and do some stairs.
- Do some squats or lunges
- Do some pushups (against the wall)
- Take a walk when you’re sitting for too long
You can do the squats and pushups in a toilet so no one can see you. That way it won’t look weird for people who don’t understand or want to mock it. Same goes for your longer breaks. Why not use them wisely? Again do some pushups or squats in the toilet. Make sure to do some stairs. Go for a walk outside. There are tons of things you can do to increase your blood flow and burn calories.
After work, the same principle applies. Why wouldn’t you do an exercise during the commercial break? Or why wouldn’t you take a small break from your pc every hour to do an exercise? Again it doesn’t cost you any time. You are just using the time that would normally be wasted and you make it useful. At the end of the day, you can spend just as much time watching your TV or surfing on your PC.
To help you with implementing these mini-habits I made a free habit tracker. The habit tracker will visualize your mini-workouts and make sure you keep on track! To optimize the effects, I also provided a free 5-week program that will help you even more. The 5-week program is designed to get started with exercising even more. If you want that increase in energy, health, and mindset, be sure to check it out. You can even use this program to get a flat belly and a visible six-pack.
Wrapping it up
Doing exercise is an unexpected but excellent way to boost your career opportunities. Exercising teaches you a lot about a certain mindset that can help you with building a great career. It will help you set the necessary steps towards your dream job or towards a much-wanted promotion.
Next to the mindset changes, there are also some very important physical benefits. Working out helps you in preventing common diseases. Even more importantly, it also helps with your brain functioning. It becomes easier to control your own behavior and you can do more in less time. Your energy levels also rise. You can get more work done and you have energy after you come home.
To get these positive effects without losing a lot of time. Be sure to check out the habit tracker and the free 5-week program.