Reverse-engineer your happiness

— By Ken de Jong

When it came to motivating myself to get out there and have a better life, the direct approach just didn’t seem to work. I could pick a decent challenge, or I choose a weight loss goal and meet it, but I couldn’t sustain the change in lifestyle that I was truly after.

I therefore decided to reverse-engineer the process. That is, to put all the pieces in place –- but work from the end product backwards to where I would be starting.  Here’s how I did it:

  • End product? I wanted to be fit, get out and do an activity every day, eat a healthier diet, get better sleep and lower my stress
  • Next, I picked a sport that I enjoyed (or hoped I would enjoy). I chose triathlon because I liked to change things up and didn’t want to get bored with one activity
  • Next, I chose a big enough event to be my motivator. I started with a half Ironman. It seemed daunting, but I knew I could do it if I trained properly. The added motivators were the registration fee (not cheap and non-refundable) and announcing my goal on social media (this makes you accountable and you tend to get more spiritual support when your friends know you are attempting something difficult).
  • Next, was finding a training program. This is not easy because it has to suit your personality and your life. Mine was out of a book (Ironfit) and I liked it because it sent you running and biking for a time period, not a distance (swimming was by distance). If I needed to walk a bit, that was ok – as long as I put in the time.

The result? I committed to each day’s assigned training and trusted that it would see me finish the half Ironman (which it did).  I was out there every day (actually there is one rest day a week), which got me the fresh air that helped me lower my stress.  I improved my diet because I now saw food as a “fuel” and wanted the best quality.  I naturally started sleeping better because of the increase in activity and fresh air (although my shift work lifestyle still wreaks havoc on my sleep from time to time).

The best part is that two or three years later, I now have the “change in lifestyle” that I was seeking. I don’t view my training as “training” – I view it as a chance to get out and enjoy the world and reset myself.  Many people still quiz me about my races that are coming up – but the truth is, the races and the ribbons are not the true prize – the new life is!