Commit to Growth

(By Impact Actual founder, Rob DuBois)

When I was arrested for drunk and criminal behavior back in May of 1991, I thought my life was over. I’d been in and out of jail, destroyed every relationship, ruined my health, and lost almost every job. This time it wasn’t the local cops in California, Texas, or Florida who locked me up: it was the Navy itself. My career was definitely on the chopping block this time.

I was hauled in for my Captain’s Mast hearing in front of our CO, Commander Delorey, who by the grace of God and his own good wisdom saw some flicker of redeemable quality in me and warned that he’d take a personal hit on his own career if I blew this chance…because he was making a judgment call to let me stay in.

That was my “bottom,” and the beginning of what has added up to 30 years clean and sober because of a willingness to do whatever it takes to stay healthy. Along the way I became a dad, a SEAL, and a business owner, and I’ve enjoyed countless other blessings which I never could have known were possible. 

Another example of dramatic growth: when I set out on the path of traditional Japanese jujutsu twenty years ago, I was told my eventual quest for black belt would require me to manage Ki – energy flow…that to pass my black belt test I would get kicked in the nuts three times and have to remain standing. I jokingly declared early on that I would be content to only ever become a very, very senior brown belt.

The fateful day eventually came anyway, and I was prepared. I had forgotten to bring an athletic supporter for that black belt test…so everything God gave me was completely unprotected inside my gi pants. It didn’t matter. I had done the work, and I had become open to the possibility of the impossible being possible, and I passed with flying colors – even better than my instructor had done on his test years earlier, when he had apparently collapsed, vomited, and had to then get up and keep going. 

If you know much about me or my career or the SEAL Teams in general, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve done a lot of things some would assume to be impossible. I have learned that it’s only through a firm commitment to myself, and a belief that I can be better than I am today, that make anything possible. That’s why the very first task of our 12 Tasks in the High Impact System is “Commit to Growth.”

A lot of us hold ourselves back – we sabotage. We may be moving three steps forward, but put an obstacle in our way and stumble over it to fall back. This commitment requires an understanding that it’s okay to keep winning. It’s okay to keep moving forward. You have to believe it’s possible. This means that even if a goal is hard to completely buy into, you can always move a little farther than you are, and you can always become a little better for tomorrow than you are today. It’s critical to muster up this willingness to believe. Then once you’ve committed, you have to stay open to it and keep advancing. There are going to be good days, and bad days where it seems impossible to move forward, but if you just don’t quit you will advance.

Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.

My dear friend Michael Ostrolenk is a living embodiment of this commitment to growth, exploring super “hacks” like the relationship between post-conventional living, transformational leadership, optimizing health, and regenerative paradigms. 

Today many of us water down our life with XBox, lattes, fluorescent lights, and inactivity. Through this process of watering down, we lose the real, visceral sense of life itself. I don’t advocate living as an adrenaline junkie – that comes with its own consequences – and we don’t have to endanger our lives to grow, but we must push ourselves beyond comfort to truly live.

Even worse, the unhealthy pattern of low-quality rest, nutrition, and activity spills over to affect every aspect of your life. Not using energy leads to having less of it. Being inactive and consuming poor quality food leads to cravings for more low-quality food. The cycle continues.

How should you start turning it around when you feel limited by exhaustion? This is both simple and challenging. I may not want to change my ways or break my unproductive and ineffective habits. We can always start with an easy process I call UNhabiting. To unhabit is to deliberately let go of a behavior so that you can in-habit a more desirable new one…or so you can re-in-habit something you used to do and should do again.

Think of a sport you enjoyed, or a musical instrument you used to play, and just begin slowly. The replacement of unhealthy with healthy builds its own momentum, creating an enthusiasm for unhabiting more and living more.

Destroying self-limiting beliefs and behaviors is the foundation of our work at Impact Actual.

And how can you follow through on a commitment to growth when you’re living in a deficit of sleep? “In just 24-48 hours of poor sleep, you’re already showing cognitive decline and within less than a week, you’re having immunological deficits,” Michael says. He suggests we “start creating sleep rituals: ask what you need in terms of environment to induce better quality sleep.” In other words, if you don’t take care of your Body (appropriate rest), it inevitably results in diminished judgment and mood – your Mind and Heart can’t function as well without the well-maintained physical life they depend on. Making bad decisions and feeling bad spiral into further negative effects on your physical health.

This is the key to growth; the ideal is where we’re headed, but we can’t get there today. I like to set an ideal as being my goal, and this encompasses a range of desirable improved conditions across the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual-ethical parts of life – across Body, Mind, Heart and Soul.

At Impact Actual we talk about the “SEAT” of your physical life: this acronym stands for “Sleep, Eat, And Train.” And it not only encapsulates all you need for physical wellness, but as mentioned above it expands into your mental and emotional functionality – and each of these has a heavy influence on your Soul, or ethical life. You’ll more often do what’s “right” when you have the self-respect that comes from doing what’s right for you.

Michael Ostrolenk offers an additional hack for changing behavior or creating new habits: “’Environments of excellence.’ Look at your environment – including your home, office, and car – and ask yourself if those three places support better habits or detract from them.” If they don’t help move you toward your goals, make some changes.

All of this is not about good or bad, winning or losing, succeeding or failing – it’s about effectiveness. It’s about individual responsibility, individual accountability, individual choices toward excellence. Working toward goals and growth. When we’re on the right track in our own lives, we don’t have the desire to be nasty to other people. If our focus is on our own personal growth, we recognize that others are on their own timeline of growth as well. Michael says, “It’s important to have your eyes on yourself and your personal development – but you also have to have your eyes off yourself, because it can become a narcissistic trap of me, me, me.”

The unspoken extension of this is that personal development, known at Impact Actual as “whole person development,” is in fact “all about you” – but the purpose of it is to help you become more useful to yourself and others, better able to contribute. This satisfies your inherent need to make a difference, and that in turn leads to your increased sense of satisfaction and yes…happiness.

Our choices lead to our outcomes. Whether you make effective choices or less-than-effective choices, you are creating 99% of the outcomes in your life.

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Rob DuBois