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Blog Post

The Big Power of Small Changes

Guest Post

This is a guest post by MJST Success Coach, John Sanow. It was originally published in the #thrivetoday mobile app, which you can download from the App Store or Google Play!

I’ll never forget the moment back in mid-July when I woke up and found myself really unhappy with what I found in the mirror. I saw a big old “dad gut” and heard a voice that asked, “Do you want to die, like your dad, of congestive heart failure? Do you want to walk your daughter down the aisle? Do you want to see Lily, Sam and Eli graduate from college?” I knew I had to make changes but was frozen by the stress I was feeling at work [with a different organization] – the stress I used as an excuse to avoid exercise, eat poorly, drink almost every night and justify my chewing tobacco addiction.

As fate would have it, I attended my first Thriving Leader event a couple weeks later. As I sat on the same side of the table that many of you have during an MJST event, I’ll never forget several things Mark said that resonated with me:

  1. “You can only serve others to level of your own capacity.” This simple sentence struck me right between the eyes. I was giving everything I had at work, but only giving a half-assed effort at home to my wife and children (after all, there was only so much of me to go around). That needed to change.
  2. “Feed the King/Queen.” By this, he meant you should always take time for yourself to spend on improvement. In the past, I always felt guilty working out because I believed it took away time from my family. Notice the counter-intuitiveness of this statement? I felt guilty taking time away from them to invest in myself, yet – when I did spend time with them – I was too tired to play with my kids or be present to talk with my wife.
  3. Kaizen – an approach that creates continuous improvement through small, ongoing, positive changes that reap major improvements.

As I absorbed these concepts and statements, I found myself reflecting: Could I truly change my story around my health? I decided to set a health goal on the second day of the live event to lose my “dad gut.” How would I do this? By working out four times a week (this was way up from zero), make healthier choices in my diet, cut back my drinking drastically and STOP CHEWING.

By the beginning of August, I had joined Orangetheory Fitness, stopped chewing and cut my drinking down significantly. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Every day, though, I worked hard to keep my promises to myself. I focused on my goals and the ‘why’ tied to each – to be around for my kids and wife for a very long time.

It has been almost five months and my dad gut is all but gone. The new me LOVES to work out five times a week! I don’t need alcohol anymore and my chewing days are in my past — this after battling the addiction since I was 18 years old. I’m 49 now and feel I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ll be 50 in May and my new goal is to be sporting a six-pack, along with 10 pounds of lean muscle, by then!


So why do I share this with you? Because my before-and-after pictures aren’t the result of a magic pill or quick fix. There were days I questioned whether I wanted to continue – where all I wanted was a drink and/or a chew. Days where I was sore and didn’t want to go to the gym. Days where that voice in my head said, “Why do you think you deserve this?”

The same will most likely be true for you, too, on your journey to reach your goals. In my experience, though, there are key mindset shifts that help:

  1. Know your ‘why.’ What is the thing that drives you to keep pushing, even when things get hard and you want to give up? What matters more to you than the fear, pain and frustration that comes with making big changes? Keep that at the forefront of your mind and refer back to it when you get deterred or distracted.
  2. What are the small kaizen habits that will add up to big change? Losing weight, quitting an addictive behavior, feeling a greater sense of joy – those are big shifts and they don’t happen overnight. But there are things you can do daily or weekly to move the needle forward. Go to the gym. Choose the nutritional meal. Have one or two fewer cigarettes. Listen to a motivational podcast. When you commit to doing these small things, the big things become less overwhelming.
  3. What help do you need? I probably wouldn’t have made the progress I did if I was working out at home on my own. Signing up for an Orangetheory Fitness membership gave me the support I needed to work out regularly. I also benefitted from MJST coaching and getting nutrition tips from my wife, who works in that industry. You don’t have to figure out everything on your own – tap into resources that can help you along the way.

With my ‘why’ front-and-center, I reminded myself over and over again that I was worth these changes. A healthier me is the result and proof that you, too, can change your story at any point in your life – you just have to make the choice! 


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