This past year I’ve been discovering and following amazing people online, mostly through Twitter. One person I admire is Gay Hendricks, author, speaker, and a super inspiring human being. Following his content trail, I’ve been semi-obsessed with his podcast, The Big Leap, where he and Mike Koenigs discuss life’s turning points—the single decisions in life and business that changed everything.
As 2020 came to a close, I could honestly say that Gay’s book, which shares the same name as his podcast, The Big Leap, was the most impactful book I read during the year. 2020 was full of unprecedented challenges, struggles, and drama. But Gay’s outlook on life, and his clarity around the small moments that make big changes, really resonated with me. After an article I wrote about Gay received great feedback from my audience, I reached out to ask Gay if I could meet and interview him to dive deeper into the small moments that helped him take big leaps in his life and business. And he agreed to chat with me!
I couldn’t help but notice that much of his advice and insight fit nicely into the 3 “Es” that I speak about, and that you have great control over your diet, exercise, and engagement.
The one thing I took from our interview is that the difference between stagnation and success lies in the decisions you make in the moments that matter. This article will give you a glimpse into Gay’s path to understanding more about himself, and some of the small decisions that changed his health, eating habits, activities, and overall happiness.
Discovering pure consciousness
Growing up, Gay was diagnosed with a glandular problem that caused him to gain weight. He says he was the only fat kid in a skinny family. He saw various medical specialists but didn’t get to the bottom of his obesity issue until he experienced enlightenment at age 24. By then Gay weighed more than 300 pounds, was in a relationship that wasn’t going very well, and held a job that he didn’t like very much. Everything seemed to be going wrong in his life. He was ready for a big transformation, but just didn’t know it yet.
On a winter’s day in New Hampshire, after a big argument with the woman he lived with, he slipped on the ice and his feet shot out from under him, landing hard on his back and hitting his head. He went into an out-of-body experience. And in that two or three minutes, he went down through all the levels of himself that he never knew existed.
He saw a layer of emotions that he had never recognized, things he was angry about, hurt about, sad about, scared about. There on the ice, it was like he opened up a new dimension where he could see all of these things with great clarity. As his awareness grew, he came to a place in himself, which he described as pure consciousness. He felt like it was a place in his own body that didn’t have any programming. He shared that this pure consciousness was not good or bad, it was just there. At that moment, 50 years ago, he realized who he was. He commited to feeling pure consciousness all the time, wherever he was, whatever he was doing, because it felt so great to be at home in his own body.
From eating fast food to eating fruits and vegetables
In the moments following his big fall, Gay thought, “What will it take for me to have my ideal healthy body?” And that single question inspired him to start eating differently from then on. He didn’t follow any particular diet, he just started eating things that he had never eaten before. The logic was that everything he had eaten before had made him fat, so he decided to try eating fruits and vegetables. Before his big fall and epiphany, he lived on fast food, consuming milkshakes, french fries, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken.
It had never occurred to him to eat healthily. So he created a plant-based diet for himself and lost more than 100 pounds that year. And surprisingly he saw other positive changes in his life: he ended the troubled relationship he was in, changed the job he didn’t like, and decided to go back to school and pursue his master’s in counseling. He ultimately ended up earning his PhD from Stanford University in Counseling Psychology.
Gay describes every day since his big fall as feeling like he has been on vacation because this singular event created a whole new life for him. The universe is very happy to teach us by tickling us with a feather if we’re paying attention, he says. But he also warns that the universe is also quite happy to whack us over the head with a sledgehammer if we’re not paying attention!
Commitment is the glue that keeps your decisions consistent
I pressed Gay on how he was able to stay so committed to the life changes he made. As a speaker who talks about how to change your diet to improve your life and business, I am always interested in how to make healthy decisions and continue them. Gay shared simple and powerful advice when he said, “Without commitment, nothing is possible.” Can it be that simple? According to Gay, yes, it can be.
When it comes to eating healthier, Gay was not following any particular type of diet, he was just committed to avoiding what he was eating before. Hearing about what he ate, like fruits and vegetables, sounds similar to the plant-based diet that I am so passionate about, the Mediterranean diet. But regardless of his diet, he had to make and keep the commitment to eating healthier than he had been, and that commitment needed to be heartfelt and sincere. He explained how he had grown accustomed to eating in an unhealthy way. Changing what he knew and was taught required a real act of commitment to make a change, gain momentum, and stick to the changes. It was exciting to hear him talk about how unbelievable he has felt over the past 50 years since he changed his diet. He admitted that he would have never believed that dietary changes could make that big of a difference in his life.
So what is stopping you from committing to changes that you know will make you healthy? It might be that you learned certain behaviors. Take Gay’s advice, and acknowledge how powerful simple changes can be when you commit to them and fundamentally change your behaviors.
Eliminating blame and criticism
To dive deeper into what holds us back from making simple and powerful changes in life, not just in your diet, I asked Gay to share what holds people back from making sustainable changes in their behavior. He told me a story about his relationship with his wife in their early years. He explained that they spent a lot of time early on trying to figure out what type of relationship they wanted to create. As a result, they committed to eliminating blame and criticism from their marriage. Admittedly, it took them years to honor that commitment, but when they did, they grew closer than ever before.
Gay shared that when you eliminate blame and criticism, it dissolves a “victim” mentality. With no blame and criticism, you are left with personal responsibility. Whether it is building a relationship, or improving your diet or exercise habits, Gay helped me clearly understand how our instinctual reaction to blame others just shifts the blame from our responsibility. And if you do want to see changes in your life, you have to commit to not blaming yourself or others as you build new habits over time.
You are responsible for your limits and wealth
The conversation about responsibility continued, and landed on what Gay calls, “The upper limit problem,” a topic that he discusses frequently in The Big Leap. The upper limit problem is the tendency to sabotage ourselves when we’ve exceeded our predetermined limit of how much positive energy we can handle, whether it’s love, success, or money. Gay says that at the end of the day it’s all energy. Specifically, he notes that it’s all in the ability to give and receive and energy.
He explained that at the very basis of everything in life, including successful and healthy living, it’s about your capacity to receive and express positive energy. Some examples include:
- How much love can I receive in my relationship?
- How much love can I express in my relationship?
- How much success can I let happen in my career?
- How much money will I allow myself to flow through me and enjoy?
Gay said, “Dr. Shali, to be honest, a lot of people misunderstand wealth. Wealth is not only about how much money you have. It’s how much you can enjoy what you have.” He gave the analogy that you could have a net worth of $100,000 and have a better time than a multimillionaire if you enjoy what you have.
This made me reflect, and see a new connection between giving and receiving energy, when it comes to food choices, making time to work out, and spending time with friends and family. It’s not about being skinny or fat, poor or rich, it’s about finding what makes you happy and healthy! We are all different people who live different lives, and it would make sense that our paths to being happy and healthy will be different. But when you are open to changes, eating healthy, and making commitments without blaming others, it allows you to invest and receive energy in a way that works for you!
There is no such thing as outshining
I shared with Gay that one thing I have been struggling with in addition to breaking my self-imposed limits is knowing how to stay engaged with friends and family in my journey of personal development without making it seem like I am trying to outshine them. Gay acknowledged that many people he works with also have that problem. He elaborated more, sharing how many of us have been trained early in life to shrink back and hide our light and not outshine others, to keep ourselves tucked inside. So when we do start to shine more, it brings up the question of loyalty sometimes. I asked him, “How do I continue to shine and stay loyal to my original family and not be disloyal to the people in my past, and not leave the people in my past behind?”
His solution is to realize that the more you let yourself shine, the more it inspires other people to shine. He encouraged me to leave behind the old mindset that says, “Don’t shine for fear it’ll make other people feel bad because they’re not shining.” Instead, he said, “You have no control over whether other people shine or not. That’s none of your business. Your business is whether you allow yourself to shine.” His words pierced my heart, and he is so right. I can’t let my fear of how others might feel about me limit my progress to the person I want to become. If you are not reaching your full potential for fear of outshining others, you too need to ditch your way of perceiving this as a limitation. Instead, be inspired to take bold big leaps to a better you, and inspire others to do the same through your action, commitment, and complete removal of blame and criticism.
For me, I’ve learned over the past few years that my passion is speaking about how a plant-based diet can be the catalyst to a healthy and happy life. My interview with Gay was just what I needed at the beginning of 2021. He helped to reinforce some of the things that I have taken from his book and podcast. He has truly inspired me to take big leaps and serve my mind, body, and soul. I hope my takeaways from the interview help inspire you to make small decisions in the moments that matter the most so that you can give and receive energy, and inspire others through your words and deeds. Do you have goals that you are struggling to achieve? Do you want to commit to a healthier lifestyle, and aren’t sure where to start? I’d love to hear from you, and help anyway I can, to encourage you to take your big leap! Feel free to start the conversation with a tweet!