A little over a month ago, I started working with a personal trainer first thing every Monday morning, and something almost magical happened. Almost overnight, I became a much more active person. I started exercising every morning, including twice-weekly runs, a second strength workout at home, and practicing yoga. I also started going on longer walks and hikes with the dogs, signed up for a 5K, and began being much more intentional in what I ate. None of this was “punishing” myself or only doing it to avoid being yelled at by my trainer (who IS tough, but in a good way) — it felt (and continues to feel) good.
What happened? Working out with a trainer who pushes me first thing on Monday sets the tone for the rest of my week.
It has a lot to do with one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to changing our behavior and our life: our identity. Our identity — who we believe ourselves to be — has a huge impact on our actions. You see, if I’m the type of person who works out with a personal trainer first thing on a Monday morning, I’m also the type of person who runs on Tuesday morning, does a strength workout on Wednesday morning, does mobility work on Thursday morning, runs again on Friday morning, and goes on long hikes and does yoga on the weekend. If I’m the type of person who pushes myself in a workout and challenges myself to get stronger, I’m also the type of person who eats in a way that fuels her body. If I can do a tough workout first thing Monday morning, I can do a tough workout any day.
The simple (but challenging!) act of working out with a trainer first thing Monday morning says to my brain, “I’m an active person who pushes myself outside of my comfort zone, does hard things, and prioritizes my health.” And that’s the mindset I take with me the rest of the week when I’m making decisions about how to spend my time, where to focus my attention, and how much effort to put into a given task. My brain checks each decision to make sure it’s in alignment with who I’ve told it I am.
So how do you intentionally “set the tone” in your life and business? For me, a “tone-setting” activity meets four criteria:
- It’s challenging — If it’s too easy, it sets the bar too low. Part of what we want to do when we “set the tone” is acclimate ourselves to doing hard things and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone — because that’s where the magic happens.
- It’s identity-building — The activity has to tell by brain the type of person I am. Think of the “type” of person you want to be, and ask yourself — what activities would that type of person do?
- It positively influences my behavior in other areas — This is sometimes referred to as a “keystone habit”– a habit that essentially has a domino effect by causing other positive habits to fall into place naturally.
- Built-in accountability from at least one other person — This is THE key. My mind can get pretty creative when coming up with excuses to get out of activities that push me outside of my comfort zone. Making a commitment to someone else that I will show up always overrules that “creativity.”
For personal health, the activity could be working with a personal trainer or joining a weekly running group. For mental and emotional health, it could be attending a group meditation session, signing up for music lessons, or going to therapy. For your business, it could be working with a coach or joining a mastermind group.
You’re already setting the tone in your life one way or another — is it the kind of tone you want to set? If not, now’s the time to get intentional and make two decisions:
- What do you want the tone to be in your life or business?
- How are you going to set that tone?
Once you’ve answered those two questions, the next step is straightforward: take action. Schedule a consultation with the personal trainer or coach. Send a text to a friend asking if they want to be your accountability partner. Sign up for the Monday night trail running group event. Do it immediately — the longer you wait, the less likely you are to follow through.
Decide who you want to be, and then set the tone. You’ve got this.