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Where do you hold your identity? What defines you as you? When someone talks about you, does he say, “Oh yeah, he’s a great powerlifter.” Or does he say, “Oh yeah, I know him. He invested a lot of time into me and I wouldn’t be here without him.” Which identity describes you?

Humans are naturally wound with a need to positively impact the world around us, whether you realize it or not. It's very possible to be an important figure with your picture plastered in every magazine across the country and feel completely empty, especially in the fitness world. With that said, how you identify yourself in the fitness industry may actually have a huge impact on your overall happiness. Social status and identity highs and lows affect every aspect of your life, and happiness isn't just your job or hobby—it’s you.

Do you post 12 ab selfies a day with a smooching duck face, or do you inspire and motivate someone to lose 50 pounds to compete in his first bodybuilding show? I promise that you can have sweet abs and help people achieve awesome things at the same time. If your looks, strength or body fat percentage all went to the shitter, would you still feel good about yourself? Would you still have a passion for your sport and helping others? If the answer is no, you, my friend, may have an identity crisis.

Are You Climbing the Right Mountain?

Now, I can’t take full credit for this analogy, but I loved it so much and it fits so perfectly with this exact topic. I attend a church in Columbus, Ohio, called One Church, and the pastor there is phenomenal. He’s jacked and tan, so I obviously listen to what he has to say. He used a great analogy to describe specifically our work and hobbies and basically how we spend most of our time.

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As fitness professionals or those striving to be in the fitness industry, we spend a lot of our time ambitiously climbing the mountain of fitness expert status. Everyone’s mountain will look completely different and will be a different experience. One mountain might have snow at the top because it’s so high. One might be softly rounded with grass and flowers, and another might be a mountain of quicksand that you grind through every day. Regardless of what type of mountain you're climbing, you must make sure that you are climbing the right mountain. How agonizing and painful would it be to climb all the way to the top of your mountain to look around at all your success and how far you have come only to want to turn back and start over?

Depending on the height of your mountain, by the time you get to the top, it may be too late to turn back. Is there anything more tragic than a person who spent his entire life scaling a mountain, only to get to the top of the wrong mountain? Something you need to ask yourself on a daily basis is, “Is it worth it?” “What is my purpose?” “Why did I choose this mountain?” You need to define why you are doing what you are doing.

Typically in the fitness industry, being the self-absorbed industry that it is, most people do it for the money (which there isn’t a lot of so remember that) and the identity. The identity part is huge in the world of fitness. The sad truth is most fitness professionals out there are in this field for themselves. They want to be famous, they want to be shredded, they want to be strong and they want to be glorified and noticed. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be great at what you do, but when you put yourself at the center of your world, man, talk about instability.

Relying on yourself for your own motivation and strength as a human being is a recipe for failure. So what happens when you get injured? Get old? Get sick? What happens when you are no longer “great” at what you do? This is a perfect example of making it to the top of your mountain, looking around and going, huh…and chances are, you're alone.

Prioritizing Your Life

Again, like I said, your journey needs to start with you defining why you are doing what you are doing and what is most important in your life. I train and compete because in my growth and learning process, I am able to help others accomplish their goals. I love learning about the sport and giving back to those walking through its doors, although there are a few things that I keep in mind along the way. First of all, I love fitness, but I do not love fitness. I love competing, but I do not love competing. You know what I do love? The relationships I build with people every day, my family and my loved ones.


If I got injured and was never able to compete again, would I be upset? Sure I would. But I assure you that I would get over it. Competing and fitness in general is not my life. I'm completely happy about that because I'm involved in an industry that's superficial and minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I treasure the people in my life and my experiences with them in and outside of the fitness world. If the fitness industry died tomorrow, I would probably shrug my shoulders and go for a walk with my dog. I really wouldn’t be fazed. I know it sounds crazy, right? My career is in fitness and my hobbies are in fitness. But at the end of the day, I don't identify myself in terms of my career or my hobbies. My identity doesn’t equate to how many selfies I take or my highlight reel on Facebook and Instagram. My identity is founded on being great at what I do so that I can help others be great at what they do. I mean that is why I'm writing this very article, right? That is why all of us at elitefts™ share our stories, training, nutrition and battles because we live, learn and pass on. You can live and learn all you want, but if you don't identity yourself with helping others learn and achieve, you are missing the best part of life! It all comes down to your priorities and what you hold most important in your life.

So how do you categorize your priorities in life? I know for me, when I'm at my happiest and most content in life, my hierarchy looks something like this:

  1. Faith
  2. Relationships
  3. Work
  4. Fitness/competing

At my lowest of times, I look back and realize that my hierarchy looked something like this:

  1. Fitness/competing
  2. Work
  3. Relationships
  4. Faith

Completely backward! I'm not telling you that the way I structure my priorities is the way that you should structure them for yourself. All I'm saying is if you take a good, hard look at where your priorities currently lie and where your happiness level is, that will tell you a lot about yourself and the direction you need to take. Everyone’s hierarchy will be a little different, but it is your life and your happiness, so take the time to figure it out!

The strange thing is when my hierarchy has fitness/competing last, I actually do better at that specific priority. Quite honestly, when I focus and put all my effort, time and stress into fitness, I actually start to resent it a little bit. That negative mindset does nothing for my growth and it definitely doesn’t help my clients bring their best package either. I see more success in myself and my clients when I focus on what really matters in my life. I suggest that you do the same.


Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Gifts for Good!

Every human on earth is completely different and we all have a variety of skills. Those skills or aspects of you that you're naturally good at or have worked hard to achieve are gifts. With your life priorities in mind, you have a choice to use your gifts in two ways. You can use them to glorify yourself, or you can use them to make the world a better place. I know that sounds really cliché and corny, but it's the flat out truth.

Ambition and drive to be great are wonderful things, but it is up to you to maximize your gifts and help those around you. If you use your ambition wisely, you have a great opportunity to make an impact in the world. For example, in Joe Schillero’s article "What Are You Doing with Your Gifts?," he explains that “The coaches and lifters that I respect most in this industry have been the ones who don’t hesitate to invest their time and knowledge in others, often without asking for anything in return…No matter what path you are on, there are always opportunities to humbly and passionately invest in your gifts and freely give of yourself to others. These are the kinds of behaviors that set an example for others and live far beyond one single lift or accomplishment.”

In closing, I highly suggest taking a good, hard look at your current situation, priorities and overall happiness. What makes you who you are? When you are going through your day to day life, whether it be in the fitness industry or another, you need to ask yourself if the mountain you are climbing is worth it and if it is the right mountain. If you're holding on for dear life at the edge of your mountain, the top of your mountain had better be worth the climb.