In this post, I will discuss how I used the Unstoppable Goals System to lose 30 pounds, and describe how you can use it to build the habits needed to achieve your dreams.
I’ve struggled with my weight ever since I left SEAL Team. For seven years as a Navy SEAL, I worked out three to four hours a day and could eat pretty much everything I wanted and not gain weight. I developed a “see food” habit—I see it, I eat it—to keep warm while conducting classified mini-submersible operations (coldest I’ve ever been). After I left SEAL Team, I continued to eat the same way, stoking fuel into the furnace that wasn’t burning it off as fast as I could feed it. My body weight ballooned from 210 pounds in the Naval Academy up to 260 pounds in civilian life.
I still need all the energy I can get to start and run businesses, raise four high-energy boys, and help my wife who carries way more than her fair share of the family workload. Life is an athletic event, regardless of who you are and what line of work you’re in—stress is stress, and your heart doesn’t know the difference! But, the habits you develop for one set of challenges may have to change to meet the requirements of different life situations and goals. Habits are hard to change, especially if you aren’t aware of the ones that are holding you back.
Every goal that I’ve ever achieved—from losing 30 pounds to building a $100 million company—has involved three basic actions, which represent the building blocks of the Unstoppable Goals System. Losing weight is not rocket science, but it can be hard and requires taking action consistently (every day). In chapter two of my first book, Be Unstoppable—the 8 Essential Actions to Succeed at Anything, I discuss the actions that compose what I call “3D Planning”—Define it–Divide it–Do it daily. In this post, I will discuss how I used the Unstoppable Goals System to lose 30 pounds, and describe how you can use it to build the habits needed to achieve your dreams.
Action 1: DEFINE IT
To get started on my goal to lose 30 pounds, I first had to define what I wanted and why I wanted it. The “Define it” action is composed of two distinct parts called “Dreams” and “Visions.” My dream or goal was to change my body’s set point (daily natural weight) and maintain a weight of 225 pounds all the time—not like some MMA fighter who aggressively loses weight before weighing-in to an event, only to pack on ten pounds before their fight in the lower weight class. My vision was the part where I defined “why” the goal was important to me, set my intentions and surfaced all my reasons why I was willing to commit my time, talent and energy to make it happen. In my case, I included all the reasons why it was important to me and to others whom I care about, such as my family and my swim buddies (mountain climbing partners). Defining the “what” and the “why” is an essential first step because we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, and our brains need powerful reasons to endure short-term pain (sacrifice) in order to succeed at achieving long-term gains or goals. Once you understand your “why,” you will figure out the “way!”
Action 2: DIVIDE IT
The way to make consistent progress in reaching your goal is to FOCUS on the moment (manageable steps), not the mountain (stress overload). If we let our minds focus on the mountain, we can quickly get overwhelmed, which is not helpful in making decisions, much less being productive. Dividing it ensures that you don’t fall victim to a mountain of unnecessary (and unproductive) stress. I didn’t gain 30 pounds overnight (although at times it surely felt like it!); therefore, I didn’t set unrealistic expectations about losing it. I divided my larger vision into bite-sized chunks (pun intended) and created a detailed goal plan. It does not matter what your dream is—all dreams work the same way—they only work if you do the work! Doing the work starts with creating a detailed plan of action in this part of the Unstoppable Goals System.
After completing my “what and why” in step one, I moved on to the “how and now” of step two in the Unstoppable Goals System. I divided my weight-loss plan into four months with a target of losing 1.5 pounds per week, and included changes in my exercise routine and specific behavioral constraints designed to change a key habit involving the quantity of food I consumed. I used the Unstoppable Journal and Unstoppable Goals of the Week to chart my actions and progress toward my goal. Losing weight is not complicated, it’s just hard because you have to be consistent at reducing your input while increasing your output. In my case, the central theme of my goal plan was fasting two days a week—allowing adjustments for business meals or special occasions—where I ate 500-600 calorie meals consisting of oatmeal, vegetables or Lean Cuisine-type meals. The other part of my goal plan was doing a minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least four days a week—I put my heavy lifting strength training on hold and went to higher repetitions using lighter weights until I hit my target weight. Once your goal plan is defined and divided into actionable months and weeks (using the Unstoppable Journal and Unstoppable Goals of the Week), then the real work begins: Doing it daily.
Action 3: DO IT DAILY
Nothing—and I mean nothing—is ever accomplished without persistent, focused daily action toward your goal. You can have the most clearly defined goal, alongside the most detailed set of reasons why you want to achieve it, and the greatest outline of how you’re going to get it done; but, if you don’t take action—daily—then nothing will happen. The greatest challenge is prioritizing your daily activities and executing on the actions required to accomplish your goal. For me and my quest to lose 30 pounds (and keep it off), that meant scheduling my fasting days, having the correct foods on hand, making time to workout—and then doing it. In SEAL Team, we have a saying, “Plan your dive, Dive your plan.” Steps 1 and 2 are about “planning your dive,” and step 3 is “diving your plan.”
No plan is perfect, and no mission is flawless. I have never perfectly executed on a mission or goal plan because something always happened that forced me to adapt to the situation—that’s life. I also don’t like diets—I love ice cream, pizza, beer, wine, pasta, Swedish fish, licorice, warm chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and deep-fried whole-belly clams on Cape Cod 😊. Who wants to spend the rest of their life depriving themselves of some great foods?—Not me. The key is moderation in our habits, especially as we age (FYI, I am now 52).
I’m now four pounds away from my goal weight of 225 pounds—I’m sharing my struggles to remind you that struggle is a key part of any goal, and it’s what makes achieving something worthwhile. The decision you must make to be successful is to continue to press on—press on, persist, do it daily—using the Unstoppable Goals System and Daily Action Cards. Embrace the struggle and know that I am here to be your swim buddy. Nothing gives me greater joy than helping others achieve their goals—especially if they’re not sure they can do it! You are much more powerful than you give yourself credit for!
Remember: Unstoppable is a Choice.