Happiness interview: Adam Gilbert.
I got to know Adam Gilbert and his site, My Body Tutor, because, like me, he's very interested in the question of how and why people are able to keep resolutions. We've all made resolutions, very sincerely and enthusiastically, but then not kept them. Why not? How can we do better? Adam is focused on helping people stick to their resolutions related to health, fitness, and weight, which are certainly among the top areas for resolutions that people make -- and break.
Figuring out strategies to make progress with these resolutions makes people much happier, and I was eager to hear what Adam had to say about happiness.
Gretchen: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful?
Adam: “The monster is never as scary as it seems!”
Resolutions by nature are action oriented which, of course, means a lot of doing. However, doing is the hard part, right? For example, when it comes to eating right and exercising, we know what we should do, for the most part. It’s just too easy to make excuses and procrastinate. It’s even easier to rationalize and justify our poor eating and a lack of exercise.
I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t take the action we really want to take is because we build this monster up in our head. Whether it’s doing all the laundry that has accumulated, making that difficult phone call or getting back into an exercise routine, 100% of the time when we attack the monster, be it the “laundry monster,” “exercise monster,” or whatever else it might be, it’s never as scary as we think it’ll be.
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I’ve realized (and so have you, Gretchen): when there is disconnect between our desires and our actions, unhappiness ensues.
So many people have these desires yet never act on them. Not taking consistent action on something that we want (as much as our short-term and irrational mind tries to convince us otherwise) doesn’t feel good. It wears on us.
I’ve seen it hundreds of times over with people of all ages: after the first week or so of them eating right and exercising consistently they feel incredible. I think many things are at work here; however, I believe a big part of those positive feelings are because my clients are finally taking action on something that’s so important to them.
Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
I’ve always been a happy person. However, right after college, not too long into working in Corporate America for a “prestigious company,” I found myself walking to work with a stomach ache every day, absolutely miserable.
I think when we’re younger, without any fear or judgment we create this dream vision of ourselves which includes what we’ll do for a living. I realized I was so unhappy because I wasn’t doing anything remotely close to what my idealistic self wanted me to be doing nor was I taking any action to get there.
So, after 2 years, I quit my full time job to pursue my life-long passions of helping people, health and fitness and writing and married them with entrepreneurship to create my dream company.
Since then, I’ve helped hundreds of people get the body they want and it has been the most rewarding, thrilling and challenging decision of my life.
Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Absolutely! I believe happiness is a choice. We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be unhappy. We can choose to focus on the good, or we can choose to focus on the bad. We can choose to read negative stories, blogs and books or we can choose to read positive ones like your blog and book (both of which I absolutely love!) [Awwww, thanks, Adam!].
I choose (more so, try) to focus on what I can control (my attitude, my actions, my habits, etc.) and try really hard to love what is and accept what I can’t control (what’s the alternative?).
By taking action each and every day on what’s important to me, and striving to become the person I want to be, I’m making myself happier.
Albeit I may never reach my exact dream self, the journey of trying makes me happier.
What is a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Every time I find myself feeling unhappy, it’s because I’m caught up in my own head. Thinking about other people or things always makes me happier. The unhappiest people I know are stuck in their own head.
Whether it’s writing, jogging, helping a client, hanging out with friends/family or playing with my little nephew, thinking away from myself is the key.
Since you help people stick to their health and fitness resolutions, do you have any suggestions for helping people keep theirs?
I think it starts with accepting that the monsters will be there. Essentially, life is about attacking one monster after another. Once you’re willing to accept that the monsters will be there, it comes down to the why.
Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to clean out your closets? Why do you want to have more fun? Why do you want to be happier?
When you know the why, I believe the will to make it happen – or at least the will to attack the monsters – appears.
The challenge is to find a motivation that won’t fade so quickly. For example, if your motivation is to look great for an upcoming vacation that might work, for the time being. But what happens after your vacation? The key is to find something more constant.
* I always enjoy Marginal Revolution to see what Tyler Cowen is reading and thinking about.