“Would you get your dog up in the morning, and give him a cup of coffee, a cigarette, and a doughnut? [interviewer laughs] Why are you laughing? You’d kill the dog! And look at how many Americans got up this morning with a cup of coffee, a cigarette, and a doughnut.”
– Jack LaLanne
Jack Lalanne pulled 70 boats in the water for 1.5 miles in Long Beach, California. Oh, and his hands and feet were tied. And one more thing—he was 70 years old! That’s ridiculous. But when he was a sugarholic teenager, he had pimples and boils all over his face and was 30 pounds underweight.
After he saw a lecture about healthy living, to say he came away inspired would be a gross understatement. He was ready to change. He said he prayed to God for the willpower to “refrain from eating these foods that are killing me,” began eating a vegetarian diet, and joined the Berkley, California YMCA. Here’s what he said afterwards:
“Within two weeks, my headaches left. My energy doubled. I was born again!”
Behind this man—who has gained fame for his fitness, ideologies, and positive influence on the world—is a great mind. And in the video below, he said something that really stood out to me: “your body is a slave.” He says that if you treat your body like a slave, and force it to exercise and eat the right foods, it will then serve you.
Why Jack LaLanne Is Exceptional, And Why Change Is Harder For Most Of Us
Jack’s desire to change was great; his natural passion for healthy living was great. The immediate impact of that event was enough momentum to carry him over the hump; once you get over the hump and start seeing great results, it becomes difficult to stop. This is partly due to habit, partly due to endorphins, and partly due to seeing positive changes in your life. But until a person reaches that point, exercise will seem like a big struggle with minimal (i.e. delayed) results.
Jack LaLanne’s overnight transformation was a paradigm shift, a revelation, an epiphany. For most of us, that isn’t going to happen, and it’s not a reliable way to change. It either happens or it doesn’t. Most people today who are stuck in a rut of poor diet and sedentary lifestyle know everything they need to know, and they’ve tried to change repeatedly, but haven’t succeeded with it.
Know Your Reason For Change
One thing we can learn from Jack is to know our reason for changing. Jack’s reason was that he wasn’t happy because he wasn’t healthy. When he saw that changing his diet and exercise habits could improve his life, something clicked and he couldn’t resist. Because of this, he developed great discipline and mastered his body. Studies show that discipline is a broad attribute that affects many things you do, so Jack likely benefitted in nearly every area of his life because of his discipline in health and fitness.
If anything shows the extent of LaLanne’s out-of-this-ionosphere discipline, it’s what he did the day before he died.
Jack died in 2011 from pneumonia at age 96, and he reportedly did his typical two hour exercise routine the day before he died. He was NINETY SIX with pneumonia and still working out! That has to be some kind of willpower world record. How motivated do you think you’d be to exercise at 96 years old with pneumonia?
Jack LaLanne believed that he really could change his life after that lecture, he was ready for change, and he went out and did it. Since most of us aren’t going to have that paradigm shift until we see ourselves changing (a “prove it first” mentality), this is what we need to do to reach that point.
The Three Basic Requirements For Making Your Body Your Slave
Who wouldn’t love to have complete control of themselves? What if, with a quick decision, you could get yourself to do anything? In this scenario, life would be like one of those God-mode video games where things appear with the click of the mouse.
“Hmm…I’ll add upper body strength. And eat healthier. After that, I’ll learn to program in C++.”
Sounds ideal, right? The crazy thing is that it’s possible. Here’s what it requires.
1. Either strong willpower OR “inexpensive demands.”
This is an either/or requirement because there are two moving variables involved. First, your willpower determines how much and for how long you can force yourself to do things. Second, the size of different demands determines the willpower “cost.” So if you have weak willpower, then you’ll definitely need small tasks to get yourself moving (this is the basis of Mini Habits).
I’m always in favor of small demands to start with because they work equally well for high and low willpower situations. People shy away from small steps when they’re ready to run up a mountain, but thinking in small steps never has to hold you back. If your ultimate goal is to run 100 miles or 100 feet, both start with a single step forward. The difference is that 100 feet isn’t intimidating. Many will hesitate to take the first step of a 100 mile race because of the burden of committing to such a long distance; it’s the person who aims smallest who often does the most.
2. An underlying desire to change.
Every change has upside and downside. When LaLanne decided to reclaim his health, the change was probably 85% upside, and the downside was that he had to work hard and watch what he ate. Of course, once he habitualized the lifestyle, then it was virtually all upside. But some others have learned to love being sedentary because it’s easy, so this downside could seem more severe and unsweeten the idea of change to them.
To make your body a slave first requires that you “get” the benefits of it and desire those above what you’ll lose. At first, it’s very difficult to control your body rather than to submit to it. But the harder path comes with a significant rewards of better health, more confidence, self-control, and the ability to be the person you want to be. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
3. Belief that you can change and that it will make a positive difference (internal inspiration).
A common problem I think people have is that they don’t believe that they can make a difference in their lives or others. It’s hard to believe in something that’s never happened for you. Until you prove it, there will be doubt, but it’s not like a switch either: as you begin to prove it, your doubt will weaken.
The power of a healthy diet and exercise have been documented and proven for thousands of years, but because people don’t see results on day one or even day 10, they will unknowingly doubt that it really matters if they eat at McDonalds or a salad bar. Alternatively, if a person desires change and they know that certain behaviors will produce the change, they have a good chance of changing based on their belief. If you have strong doubt, you probably won’t do anything.
Recap: In order to make your body your slave, you need to want it, believe you can do it, and have the strategy that makes it possible (e.g., using Mini Habits to reliably strengthen your willpower).
The subscriber-only message on 4/22/14 expands upon this post! Join Deep Existence to read the rest.