Grow or Decay: Determine Your Sustainable Fitness

Shane Trotter


Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development


“As to methods, there may be a million and then some. But principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Over the past few weeks, I’ve analyzed common reasons that health initiatives fail and sought to pinpoint differences between the many who quit and those who create sustainable improvement. We’ve seen how the healthiest communities build movement into the human experience, how we could all learn from Odysseus to shape an environment that guarantees success, and how by scripting and focusing on specific action cues we are able to cut through the decision paralysis to create actionable change. The thing about all of these suggestions is that they are restricted to methods. They offer effective strategies that will hopefully create momentum, but individually they are not enough.



What will we do when October brings pumpkin spice and the three-month deluge of environmental pulls to indulge? ‘Tis the season. It is easy when the world supports your lifestyle. It is easy in January, but more often than not your goals make you the outsider. How do we respond when we, inevitably, falter?


Furthermore, what do we do when our methods stagnate—when our exercise grows stale, our nutritional approach sparks unforeseen gastrointestinal issues, and the overwhelming 21st-century attention economy hits us with a full-scale assault?


Learning Is a Way of Being

The real secret shared by all who create lifelong health change is a belief that learning is a way of being—that it is the primary inclination of a fulfilled life. While finding purpose and social support is essential, I believe it is a consequence of this belief system.


Those who experience long-term, healthy lifestyle changes are just as successful as those who sustainably thrive in any endeavor. They are people far less concerned with specific outcomes than direction. They’ve far surpassed or even outgrown the goals of five years ago, as they find joy and passion in the pursuit of improvement.


Underlying this mindset is a very real belief that the world and individual abilities are malleable and with that comes a sense of responsibility to solve problems and create solutions. Sure, environment helps put you on the right track.


Sure, some of us start out more or less advantaged. But in the end, that is all negated by your individual mindset and action. Consistency wins the day and it follows a commitment to self-education and growth.


You Are Either Growing or Dying

In a very real sense, every part of us is either growing or dying. When the high-school athlete graduates to a life of parties and all-nighters, his body slowly dispatches with those long-honed abilities for reaction and agility. When the old police chief retires and pursues a solitary life of comfort and ease, the decay of his non-used mental faculties accelerates as the lack of purpose drains his spirit.


The reality is there is no such thing as sustainable change. Nothing is sustained. There are those who decide to learn and grow as the foremost inclination of life. There are those who learn as a way of being and there are those who don’t sustain positive action because they’ve somehow convinced themselves that problem-solving is a nuisance. On the contrary, problem-solving is the essence of life. It is what sustains and energizes us.


Grow as a Way of Life

Theodore Roosevelt represents the epitome of this growth mindset. He was an exceptionally feeble boy—near-sighted and asthmatic to a degree that repeatedly left him on the verge of death. One day, his father told him that he may have the mind, but he didn’t have the body and that “without the help of the body, the mind cannot go as far is it should,” an inspired young Theodore decided to “make his body.” Thus was born one of the most vigorous, passionate, larger-than-life humans to ever grace the earth.



Theodore embraced a life of resistance training, boxing, hiking, rowing, and the pursuit of physical vigor. In addition, he was an insatiable learner who attended Harvard and continued to read enthusiastically throughout his life.


He would eventually become a governor, a rancher, leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, a president who consistently charted middle paths upsetting to both democrats and republicans, and he even helped map an unknown Amazon River tributary before his death.


Regardless of your opinions about his politics, he accomplished more in a year than most people could in a lifetime. It was not a change that took place overnight and it didn’t create an easy path.


He still had asthma into his twenties. He had to overcome the death of his first wife and mother on the same day.However, it was his commitment to “tire out” rather than “rust out”—to grow as a way of life—that made it possible for him to become more than a sickly boy with a bad heart.


Grow or Decay: Determine Your Sustainable Fitness - Fitness, goal setting, mindfulness, physical fitness, physical activity, growth mindset


While you do not have to seek political office or rush into dangerous situations, this example clearly illuminates the mindset that underlies all long-term health change. More than any other factor, a dedication to growth and learning is the primary ingredient of sustainable success and self-actualization.


There is no need to rush to extreme methods in hopes of quickly achieving elite level performance or physique. What’s the rush? You have your entire life and these extremes tend to create burn-out. Still, regardless of the methods employed, the most important factor is your commitment to lifelong growth and education. This approach always holds the key to adaptation and success.


Commitment to Continual Growth

Sustainable health and fitness follow one thing: a commitment to continual growth as the prime directive for your life. In this way, wellness is like any other part of life. So how will you commit to learning? What are you doing to ensure that you are growing and not decaying? What do you invest in? The secret to sustainable health change is to embrace self-education.


In that vein, I’ve created the Foundations of a Healthy Lifestyle. This self-directed course puts you on the path to continual growth in your own health journey. The principle-based focus and experience-oriented approach give you the tools to create a personalized plan that fits your unique needs. So what are you waiting for? Will you wither or sharpen? Will you improve or will you decline?

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