In 2019, my husband Chris and I embarked on a journey together through the Optimize program. To share what Optimize does in a sentence would never do it justice, but it’s basically how to be the hero the world needs by studying and applying ancient wisdom with modern science. Be the best version of yourself so you can show up as a radiant exemplar moment to moment to moment. We learned a LOT over the two 300-day programs. As second-year coaches, we were asked to take things to the next level. I plan to go further with this, by posting a class on ZooFit 101- a Hero’s Guide to Saving the Earth. But for now, I want to share the ideas which resonated the most for me over this past year.
Hero’s Guide to Optimize
As you can imagine, a 300-day program covers a lot of ground. So how do I narrow down nine months of wisdom into a Hero’s Guide to Saving the Earth? I poured over the notes for three weeks, pulling my favorite ideas from the Mastery classes, and picked my Top 10 (+1, because heroes do more, and because “we go to eleven”). In this article, we’ll go over the first 4 Big Ideas of how to be a hero, for yourself, your community, and the entire planet.
Big Idea #1- Hero’s Guide to Love- Love 0.0
Here’s our first and probably most important lesson for ZooFit: if you want to save the world, you have to start by taking care of yourself. Look up the etymology of the word “Hero”. It doesn’t mean “killer or slayer of dragons and bad guys.” Hero doesn’t mean “does good deeds” or “savior”. The word hero means “protector”. A hero has strength for two. What that means is the hero looks out for others. But in order to do that, they must first look out for themselves. They have to take care of themselves so they can show up as a hero.
Part of my daily affirmations I repeat each morning is this mantra: “The more I love myself, the more love I have to give to others”. That’s what Love 0.0 means. We are all familiar with the usual version of love, what Brian calls Love 1.0– familial love, romantic love. But what comes before that? Love 0.0. Love yourself first. Take care of yourself and treat yourself with respect, dignity, and compassion. Then you can shine bright as a radiant exemplar, showing the world how to better themselves while having the best impact on the environment.
And that’s what being a ZooFit Hero is all about- doing what we can to make a difference in our lives, our community, and the world. But it starts with us. Love yourself first.
Big Idea #2- WOOP There it is!
Everything else we talk about in this hero’s guide mainly focuses on how to love ourselves a little more, how to BE the best version of ourselves, while creating the most positive impact on the planet. And really, it’s ridiculously simple. Gabriele Oettingen, the author of Rethinking Positive Thinking, shared one of the most powerful exercises I experienced throughout the whole program. (That’s saying a lot because there were just tons of gems throughout the year…) She calls her process WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.
Wanting to change the world is all well and good. But it doesn’t do anything if all we do is wish for it. We need structure to our desires and our visions. WOOP provides this by allowing us to envision what we really want for the day, the month, the year, and even in our lives. But she goes one step further with Outcome, and asks “WHY does this matter do me?” What good, or what is the outcome to getting what we wish for? Understanding this concept helps solidify and motivate us to take action towards our dreams. It becomes meaningful and impactful. So, what will your dream achieve for you?
Visualizing your dreams, even finding your why is helpful, but not the end of it. The biggest difference between those who simply wish for things and those who actually achieve what they want is knowing how to deal with obstacles and challenges. Gabriele explains the last two steps as crucial for success in achieving our goals. We can be optimistic about going for our dreams, but we also need to have a foot in reality. The reality is, things aren’t always going to go perfect. We go for something, experience a setback. Gabriele shows us how to prepare and plan for such events. Think of all the obstacles you may face in your pursuit. What are things that might derail you from your path? And finally, make a plan to help keep you going forward, no matter what the obstacles in your way.
Big Idea #3- How to Make a Pearl
It’s idea #3, but honestly, this one might be my absolute favorite of the bunch. Especially in a year like 2020. Introduced in the module titled Herology, how to make a pearl reflects on seeing obstacles (see above with WOOP) as opportunities. But what I know about oysters and pearls makes this lesson SOO much more powerful. It’s truly the best thing for a ZooFit hero’s guide.
We’ve all heard how a pearl is formed. An “irritant” enters the oyster’s shell, imbeds itself into the mantle, and the oyster produces a nacre to cover the irritant until a pearl is formed. We’re told this irritant is a grain of sand. And that’s not exactly accurate. The grain of sand “irritant” comes from oysters on farms where pearls are cultivated. The grain of sand is intentionally planted. In the wild, that “irritant” that ends up as a pearl is most often a parasite.
Yeah, a parasite. An organism hellbent on draining the life out of its host. Calling a parasite an irritant is like calling cancer an annoyance. But the oyster doesn’t succumb to the parasite. Instead, it turns the parasite into something beautiful.
Using Irritants to Practice for Parasites
Life throws parasites at us all the time. It threw a gigantic parasite at us in 2020, literally. But while most people complained about how horrible 2020 was for them, I found it to be rather…pleasant. I learned a TON this year– how to present virtual workshops and talks, how to edit movies, how to bake without sugar, hosted a fitness challenge, started a YouTube channel. Yes, I miss my family and I wish we could visit, but that’s small fries compared to what I gained this year. I learned how to connect, and I met a ton of new friends with the Optimize Connect meet-ups, which would not have taken off without the precautions from the coronavirus. I turned 2020, a year full of parasites, into a year of opportunities.
But turning parasites into pearls isn’t quite as simple as flipping a switch and suddenly you enjoy challenges. It takes practice. Which brings us back to the cultivated pearls, and the grain of sand. If we want to get good at turning really scary parasites into pearls, we need to practice turning irritants into pearls. We need to intentionally implant little grains of sand into our lives so we can try out how to make them into pearls. Starting an exercise program, cutting out sugar, going to bed early, turning off electronics, starting a meditation practice. These are all small little irritants that we use as opportunities to grow into beautiful pearls. And they help prepare us for the unexpected parasites, like COVID-19, or losing our job. We become anti-fragile, and no obstacle is insurmountable. Because they aren’t obstacles. They are opportunities.
Big Idea #4- Hero’s Guide to Cooking…Salty Hero Bars
Our last section for this particular class is about celebrating. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of celebrating ourselves every step of the way while on our fitness journey. Focus on the positive. But this idea talks about specifically celebrating the not so fun parts of our journey. What? Celebrate our failures? Our setbacks? The challenges?
In Big Idea #2, I introduce the idea of training ourselves to turn parasites into pearls. This idea takes it a bit further, and actually encourages you to celebrate those parasites, those hardships. These setbacks and failures are part of your hero story. No one likes a story where the hero has it easy. And no one is guaranteed a pathway to bliss covered in gold and with rainbows and unicorns along the way. Joseph Campbell said it best- “Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”
There’s always a possibility of fiasco. But there’s also the chance of bliss. Follow your bliss. Even when there is fiasco around every turn. It is the fiasco, the failures, the setbacks, and the challenges that make us truly heroes. So celebrate the “blood, sweat, and tears” you experience. They are the ingredients to your Salty Hero Bars. Eat them every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You need the salty (the hard work and failures) in order to taste the sweetness of success.
The Hero’s Calling
So, the question to ask yourself is this. Do you dare? Do you heed the hero’s calling to be a radiant exemplar? To take care of yourself, not in a selfish act but in a loving gesture towards the world? Will you turn obstacles into opportunities? And celebrate your successes as well as your failures? This is the calling of a hero. The world needs them more than ever. I accepted my calling. Will you join me?