There's one important lesson you can learn from my worst client: that the use of external tools, note taking, and ritualization can enable you to take a bird's eye view of your self-improvement efforts and be more objective about what you need to do next.
I have one particularly demanding client who I have to go through a lot of work for.
He doesn’t follow his programs half the time, and he’s always causing delays in his training. He’s lazy with his diet, and skimps on the cardio. He needs really careful and specialized programming, and he doesn’t progress much. He’s always wanting to try the “next big thing” even though he knows full well that there’s no powder or pill that will solve all his problems. He’s not the smartest on the topic of training, but he thinks he knows best, and always wants to second guess me. He goes off plan and does exercises he’s not supposed to. He demanding, and constantly wants more attention and time. He’s always second-guessing himself, and never thinks that he’s strong or jacked enough no matter how much I reassure him.
Worst of all? He doesn’t pay me.
Why do I put up with him?
Because I’m him. My worst client is myself.
As a coach, it’s easy to assume things about your clients. It’s easy to say “oh, you should be able to get this much work done this week, you should be able to stick to this diet plan”, etc. But the reality is that everyone struggles with motivation and adherence, even some of the best in the world at what they do. As a trainer or coach, you ultimately only get to spend a limited amount of time with your clients - and there's a lot more hours in the week for stuff to get in their way.
Even coaches need coaches. This is a well-known fact. It's very difficult to take an objective eye when coaching yourself, when your own emotions and results are on the line. Like everyone, coaches have dips in their motivation and sometimes need a bit of extra encouragement to keep on top of everything. The fact of the matter is that the trick of adherence isn’t something you can fake - even the best exercisers in the world can benefit from a bit of external support, guidance, and reassurance, and that’s what coaching is.
One way that I’ve learned to “fake” being my own coach is by treating myself like a client, with everything that comes with it. I’ve set up a client folder for myself, next to all my other client folders, and inside it I’ve filled out sheets of notes and a spreadsheet with my workout program - exactly the same as I’ve set up for all my other clients. Each week, when I do client work, I go through and create for myself a new week’s worth of workouts in the same way that I do for all my clients.
This ritual has helped me to internalize the process of coaching myself. I leave myself little notes, and I’m much harsher than with my other clients (“those were supposed to be pause squats, asshole”) because I know I can take it. By externalizing this ritual within the sheet, I can encourage myself to really feel like I am being coached, even though I’m not really training any differently.
This makes it easier for me to listen to myself, and easier to take an objective look at my training and what I need to change. By taking a bird's eye view, I can force myself to listen to... myself.
You can use hacks like this in your everyday life. If you’re using the right rituals and externalization, you can apply the same thing to stuff like:
- Scheduling your day
- Finishing your work
- Encouraging yourself to finish that personal development project you wanted to complete
- Learning a new language
- Painting a painting
- Picking up a new skill
- And a lot more
Your “coach” can be located in a journal, on a whiteboard, in a spreadsheet, or in a personal planner - it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have that system in place, enforce it, and use that ritual to plan your work. Rituals and external tools like this enable you to more effectively coach yourself.
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