I generally shun disclaimers — they tend to serve the writer more than the reader — but in this case it feels necessary. This has been an article long overdue. The value of my Fitness First Ritual to my life is hard to articulate. Words flow through my mind but don’t land on the page in the same way. There is more than I can say here. Weeks more. This is just a small snippet, my thoughts on the 5th anniversary of something I never dreamed was possible.
How It All Began
It started with a commitment to stop snoozing on my life. I would wake up with my phone in my hand, and before I could even open my eyes, I’d dive in to email and social media.
Because: what if I missed something? A new lead. A status update. A birthday. The latest news.
From the moment I got up, I felt behind my day. Many times, I got stuck standing in my foyer, gym clothes on, bag by the door only a few steps away.
Hours would pass while I was in the black hole of reacting to the outside world.
Suddenly: NO TIME. I’ll workout LATER. Famous last words. By the time “later” came, I had no energy left for me.
I was settling for scraps in my own life. But there were no scraps left.
And even though I had chosen this path of service, and I desire to serve others, I was resentful of everyone who stole my time. Even worse, all that reacting wasn’t serving my business. It was just driving me into the ground.
What I (Eventually) Learned
Here’s what I know (now): true service cannot come at a cost of self-sacrifice. You can’t serve others from the hospital or the cemetery.
Also, in trying to avoid the fear of missing out, I WAS missing: out on my life. I knew — know — I had the capacity and potential for so much more. But I couldn’t clear space to find it or create it. I didn’t have the energetic resources available to me.
I kept putting my life on hold to serve others. That’s not service or leadership, and it’s definitely not servant leadership; it’s slavery.
I was a slave to the ping — both external and internal.
My Struggle to Change
I tried many approaches to change. I worked with the best coaches. Nothing stuck. People talk about needing better habits. But that’s not what I needed.
My habits were the problem. I needed to break the habits: of waking up to my phone, of taking orders from my inbox, of allowing social media to drive my thoughts, of snoozing on my life.
I decided to make a radical change.
My Moment of Resolve
I resolved to say YES to myself first. No more snooze (literally or figuratively), and no more email or social media before doing at least one constructive thing for myself.
On August 26, 2013, I challenged myself to get outside as quickly as possible after waking up. By the end of that week, I realized that I had started my day with fitness every day for a week. And it felt great. On September 1, 2013, I named this practice Fitness First and decided to start “officially” counting. I wasn’t sure how long it would last. My goal was simply to do it again tomorrow.
And here we are.
The 5-Year Milestone
5 years, later, and I’m still going strong.
The surface benefits are obvious.
But this ritual is about so much more than the surface looks, or even my physical health, which has dramatically improved from my 20s and early 30s, when I was often sick.
Fitness First fuels my day. It boosts my productivity and enhances my creativity. It is how I create the conditions for peak performance and sustainable health. This ritual helps me counter the effects of ADHD and anxiety. It’s transformed my once rocky relationship with my body into one of care and respect. At times, it has literally kept me alive.
It was an act of RADICAL SELF-CARE and SELF-WORTH. I took a stand for my worth, for my work, for what I know is possible in my life. It was self-love in action.
Fitness First is about setting boundaries that respect and honor what I need to sustain service at the highest level.
Most of all, it’s been about holding myself to a standard that says
I refuse to settle for scraps in my own life.
Showing Up For Myself
As leaders, healers, coaches, parents, and friends we show up for others every day. But you cannot truly show up for others if you can’t show up for yourself.
Fitness First is how I show up for myself in the way that I’ve always shown up for others.
It is all these things and more. And here is what it is not: a habit. Even after 5 years, this is not automatic. Some days it’s hard. Life still tries to get in the way.
Fitness First is a commitment I made to myself. Each day, I consciously choose to reaffirm that commitment. I choose not to allow life to interfere.
As a result, I show up with more presence, greater attention, and an expanded capacity to serve.
My goal remains the same as it was 5 years ago: do it again tomorrow.
Learn more by joining my movement: The Ritual Revolution.