The Lessons of Bodybuilding

The Lessons of Bodybuilding

Posted by Nick Jones on 19th Apr 2018

Self-esteem and the discipline to reach your goals

I’ve had a couple of friends recently who have been suffering with depression. I ran into one the other day at the gym and he’s doing well. He’s looking great, he’s given up drinking and he’s excited about his new business. But he was telling me how he admired what I’d done: I’m married to a beautiful lady in Angela, I have three beautiful children and run my own business.

My friend said, “Mate, you’ve just done it all so methodically and planned out — I really admire how you did that so well.” And I said, “What, with no hiccups?” and he said “Well, obviously, you’ve had a few challenges.” I said, “Mate, a few challenges? Let me tell you: I’ve been to the pit. I’ve walked through hell and back. Don’t think you’re the only one who’s struggled with depression.”

There are so many of us who suffer and it’s a daily thing: we’re walking a fine line every day. It’s tough — we have a lot of challenges: financial challenges, relationship challenges, business and work challenges. Giving ourselves every opportunity to not just survive but to thrive is crucial. And this is one thing that bodybuilding has taught me: getting on board with training is so important. Everyone should pump iron. Because everyone should understand that physical stress is what causes growth. That’s it in a nutshell.It’s metaphorical for us: stress causes growth. You just don’t want too much stress day after day through overtraining. Too much stress without the recovery and you’ll burn out, you’ll break down. So too with the amount of stress you can handle mentally and emotionally.

It’s certainly no walk in the park. Almost every day I walk a fine line where I’m doing my best to be a good father, a good husband, a good businessman and run a profitable company that has morals, that has great products, that doesn’t take any shortcuts. I try to train consistently with my Arakan martial arts and I try to train consistently with weights. But to fit all this stuff in, it’s a real challenge.

The key to overcoming these challenges is self-discipline. It’s absolutely crucial to practise self-discipline to build your self-esteem and to get the results that you want to get for yourself and your loved ones. But ultimately, it can’t be sold to you or given to you. You just have to do it.

Self-discipline is simply doing what needs to be done — even when you don’t feel like it.

However, as humans, we are very gifted to be able to project our thoughts forward in time. We can think about how we’re going to feel if we do the thing that needs to be done. So one way I like to think about it that I’ve found helpful is: think about how you’re going to feel if you do the thing that needs to be done; once it’s behind you, how are you going to feel?

Bodybuilding taught me this too. In the early days when I didn’t feel like going to the gym, I would think about how much better I would feel after I’d trained and how I was that little bit closer to my goals. It’s exercising that self-discipline and thinking about how I would feel afterwards.

The way you feel afterwards will build yourself esteem and get you closer to your goals — and you must have goals. You must have financial goals, sporting goals, health goals, goals for your family, goals for your business. Anything you do that gets you closer to your goals is going to build your self-esteem.

But you can’t sit around and procrastinate, or goof off and carry on with your mates, which is what I gave up doing many years ago when I was getting ready for my very first bodybuilding contest. I knew that bodybuilding was too important to me. So, to stay home on the Saturday night, to go do some cardio instead, was more important to me. That’s what started to build my self-belief, self-esteem and my self-confidence.Again, I can’t give it to you. Can’t sell it to you. You’ve got to earn it — that’s why it’s so valuable. We’ve all got the gift to make choices.

I call this the bodybuilding lifestyle — building being the most important word. It’s the bodybuilding lifestyle, it’s the spirit-building lifestyle, it’s the health-building lifestyle, it’s the esteem-building lifestyle. It is a buildinglifestyle if we can consistently exercise to be better, if we eat to fuel our bodies to become better, if we supplement to increase our energy and improve our health to become better.

I learnt everything in the gym. I don’t separate living the bodybuilding lifestyle from overcoming any other struggles. It’s what has taught me these lessons. I bring everything back to bodybuilding — and I’m so grateful for everything I’ve got from bodybuilding.

Nick Jones is a former world champion bodybuilder and the founder of Gen-Tec Nutrition. 

Photo by Matt Knappick