We’ve been in the new year for a while now. And 2021 has already been around the block! Lately, I have asked many of my customers, colleagues, and friends if they have stuck with any New Year’s resolutions.
I have heard a few yes replies and a few no replies. But what strikes me about the no response is a common add-on phrase uttered by most of the people I talk to: “I tried.” I’ve heard things like, “I tried to lose weight. I’ve tried to quit smoking. I tried to learn this discipline. I tried to break this old habit.”
Well folks, I have a theory about this common no response. You are exhausted. Your brain is so depleted, it can’t even spell the word tired right, and it’s incorrectly substituting tried for tired.
In his Master Class, “The Science of Better Sleep,” Dr. Matthew Walker, a scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, explains that most fitness plans that say diet, exercise, and sleep are equally essential to high performance are wrong. Diet and exercise are pillars but sleep is the foundation on which those pillars are built. And sleep isn’t just the foundation to the pillars of fitness, it’s the bedrock for forming habits and making decisions that help you achieve goals.
When it comes to fitness and weight loss, when Walker explained the importance of sleep I immediately thought of the joust battle from the 1990’s show American Gladiators. Growing up, my little brother and I loved watching the Gladiators on Saturday night! The joust challenge has one a Gladiator on one pillar facing an opponent on the other. Each warrior gets a giant Q-tip to do battle. The first warrior to knock the other person off their platform wins. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s worth a Google or Youtube search for the haircuts alone!
Imagine you are the gladiator and you’re holding that jousting stick in your hands. The left puffy ball is your diet and the right puffy ball is exercise. Beneath you, the platform on which you balance to remain in the game is your sleep. When that opposing gladiator (which represents life) starts swinging their stick at you, how will you use diet and exercise effectively without a solid foundation beneath you?
Keeping your balance is the single most important thing when fighting the joust. And you can’t just take hits. You’re supposed to strike back! In your daily routine, you need to be able to make good nutritional decisions and it is easier to make the right choice when you are well-rested. You need to have energy and drive from a solid sleep schedule to be more likely to choose the gym or your workout routine over the old habit of choosing not to. And sometimes, you need to push your own limits and start using the Q-Tip and make your opponent be the one-off balance!
The moment you don’t have that solid foundation beneath you, the Q-tip is useless and the contestant is thrown from their platform. And there you go! Down onto the mat!
So now, I’m asking you to try again. 2021 is just getting started! Pull yourself up and get back in the fight.
Except this time, you have experience and knowledge from your previous attempt that you can use to help you succeed. Dr. Walker’s Master Class is a wealth of knowledge on how and why sleep gives you this new edge in your life. Sleep helps your brain store and connect short term information to the long term. It becomes “crystallized in amber” as he calls it. Some real Jurassic Park level stuff!
So now, when you set out to achieve your goals, you must include your sleep routine in the plans. And in the first week, each day, put your best effort forward so you crystalize your good intentions and gain some small victories. Do the thing you want to do at an extremely high level of precision. Then reflect each night before bed about how you did it. Focus on how it makes you feel to accomplish that goal. Then get your rest and that short-term experience will link with the long-term ones. The long term will feel these new effects of positivity!
My brother and I always rooted for the contestants on American Gladiator. You imagine seeing yourself up there fighting the good fight against unmerciful odds. Dr. Walker’s Master Class helped me even the playing field against the big bad gladiator called life. On any battlefield, I want every advantage I can get. I have a few battles of my own on the horizon. My next try won’t be a weary attempt. I’m giving it a full 100% effort, superpowers and all!