Iron Legacy: What Are Your Priorities?

TAGS: priorities, hapiness, friends, finding balance, end game, life lessons, iron legacy, Mark Dugdale, relationships, balance, strength

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Since the beginning, when God created Adam and directed him to “go cultivate and subdue the earth,” we’ve had a glimpse of how men are wired. It’s this particular calling that compels them to build taller buildings, create faster racecars, grow more powerful companies, set new squat records, and build more massive muscles in the weight room.

Now, I realize that this hard-wiring doesn't include 100 percent of the male population. Some dudes would rather continue living in mom and dad’s house well into their 30s, playing Xbox or finding creative ways to extend their unemployment benefits. But I’m not referring to those guys. I’m speaking to men, not boys. Those men who often struggle with striking a balance while harnessing their God-given passion to build, create, and push the limits. Those guys whose drive, if not kept in check, will burn out and destroy those around them. Guys like me.

I’m no expert, but with running three businesses, competing in the IFBB for nine years, having been successfully married for more than sixteen years, and raising three daughters (two of which are teens), I've gained some insights…although, mostly through trial-and-error. However, a good first step toward striking a balance may include an earnest assessment of the following.

What Are Your Priorities?

A man without priorities is like a ship tossed at sea, being blown aimlessly about. Priorities are the anchor, or better yet, they are the rudder that is guiding future decisions. Write your priorities down, tell your spouse or friends, or get them tattooed on your arm if necessary. What matters most is that they are prevalent and readily available to remind, anchor, and guide you. I tend to pursue too many things at once, thinking that I will be the exception to burn out. Oftentimes, I am the exception, but others can get ground down.

My priorities are as follows: Faith > Family > Business > Bodybuilding. If I mix up this order for an extended period of time, it inevitably leads to a breakdown. Bodybuilding is an all-consuming lifestyle, especially pre-contest. However, if the health of my faith, family, or business suffers long-term irreparable damage because my bodybuilding is occupying the number one spot, then my priorities are misaligned. I’m not telling you how to arrange your priorities; I'm only noting that defining them is vital.

What’s the End Game?

A football player doesn't train to win an Olympic medal in table tennis (and vice-versa). Thus, it’s important to define your end game and then reverse-engineer your life in order to achieve it. Sometimes guys get stuck in their ways and are too focused on what’s most familiar instead of devoting time to those activities that can lead them to the accomplishment of their end game.

I want to leave a legacy of faith to my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This is more important than an Olympia title to me. Therefore, there are lines I’m not willing to cross for a contest win. Knowing your end game helps define these lines.

Who Do You Run With?

In time, a band of fools will corrupt a good man. If you can’t look at the sum total of your friends and say, “If combined, I would want to be like them,” then it’s time to find a new pack in which to run. These are the guys trustworthy enough to share your priorities and end game. They need license to speak into your life when your actions don’t align with your stated priorities and end game. They are the guys who should be willing to wound your pride, if necessary, in order to help you stay the course.

I've given a few guys license to speak into my life. For me, the first man in line is my training partner, in part because he’s the only guy I spend a significant amount of time with either pushing iron or talking about life. He holds the same convictions as I do concerning the “big deal” things in life—faith, family, etc. Choose these men wisely.

Under What Authority Do You Submit Yourself?

A lack of submission to authority is often a problem for highly driven men. At minimum, I hope you submit yourself to the laws of the land...or prison bars may be in your future. However, for many men, a general submission to governmental authority is where it stops. Under this scenario, you become the highest authority in your life. When you’re the only person you answer to, then the people and relationships around you tend to suffer. In my case, I know that without submitting myself to a higher authority, I would be inclined to steamroll over the needs of my wife and children in pursuit of my wants.

Personally, I submit myself to the authority of scripture. It helps to keep me grounded, humble, and on the path that leads to life and joy. Some may consider God’s word a burden, but I consider it a blessing.

Are You Joyful?

How often do you laugh? The answer to this question helps answer whether your life is truly enjoyable. It sounds simple, but a balanced life tends to foster joy, whereas an imbalanced life is a drag. Exhausted people don’t laugh much. If the God of the universe rested, and we are made in his image and likeness, maybe a break now and then would be good for us. Highly motivated, disciplined men [think bodybuilders] would be well served to take a day off now and then. I’ll let you know when I check this one off my list…it’s probably the most difficult for me.

When’s Date Night?

This doesn’t necessarily apply to singles. It also applies to guys like me with a wife. All of us need date nights. Love, pursue, and romance your wife like you are still single. Hard-charging men who are very goal-oriented will find this difficult at times. I know I fail often and am continually striving to up my game in regards to pursuing Christina. Thankfully, I really enjoy her, so if I simply carve out enough time in my day, this is super easy.

A strong friendship and love of life with your bride will spill over as a blessing to your children. Trust me, when mommy and daddy are in harmony, it provides a mountain of security to children. When home-base is a source of refreshment, you will accomplish much more at work. So, if you don’t remember the last time you took your wife on a date, then there’s work to be done!

Over time, answering the aforementioned questions helped me strike a balance in my life whilst running a business, competing in professional bodybuilding, and caring for my family. Your answers may be different than mine, but I hope these questions at least prompted some soul-searching that will aid you in finding balance in your own life.

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