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Patrick Henigan: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus

The best and easiest way to develop good habits is to utilize a simple check list. For instance if you are someone who does not drink enough water you need to first write down your goal. Then you need to hold yourself accountable by creating a daily “to do” list centered around your habit. As […]

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The best and easiest way to develop good habits is to utilize a simple check list. For instance if you are someone who does not drink enough water you need to first write down your goal. Then you need to hold yourself accountable by creating a daily “to do” list centered around your habit.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Henigan.

Patrick Henigan is the owner of Jacksonville Fitness Academy in Jacksonville, Fl. He is a certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, Movement coach and Meditation coach. He views and coaches fitness differently than most trainers, because his path to fitness was much different.

From his late teens to mid 20s he was an opiate addict. Through vigorous physical and spiritual discipline he transformed his body, mind and life. He brings these hard learned lessons to all of his clients, whether they be in person or online.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Iwas raised in a pretty blue collar part of Philadelphia. I grew up attending Catholic schools and playing soccer at a very high level. My dad is a very well respected soccer coach, so coaching is in my DNA. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to really high level coaching at a young age that subconsciously shaped me to be a helper.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

When I was in high school and college I developed a crippling addiction to opiates. I decided to get clean when I was 22. I went to rehab, tried 12 Step meetings and all the stuff that you’re supposed to. I saw how many people were lost, confused, full of anxiety and not achieving their full potential. That year long odyssey proved to me that I had to step up, live up to my potential and start helping people as much as possible.

From my own experience I knew that the body and mind work best when they are working in tandem. When you focus on improving the body you automatically improve the mind if you do it correctly. I saw it as a missing piece in so many people’s journeys.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My business coach Steve Krebs has been a great shaper of my voice. Many people in my industry say the same thing in the same way, and he wouldn’t allow that from me. You cannot follow a template if you want to be successful, you need to carve your own path-even if others think it’s crazy.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

If I listed all the mistakes I’ve made this column would be longer than “War and Peace.”

When I was a younger trainer I would try to use complicated anatomy terms and physiological terms to prove to my clients how smart I was. One day I was trainer a professor at Wharton. I explained how to do some movement using big, sciencey sounding words and he looked at me and said “Dude, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

It was at that moment that I realized my clients didn’t care how many heads of the rotator cuff I could name, or which head of the tricep moved their elbow. They just wanted me to explain the exercises to them in a way they could understand so they could perform it better.

The way you speak matters, and people aren’t interested in how smart you are. They’re only interested in how you can help them.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

You need to be disciplined every day. Success is not a short road that you can decide to follow some days, then avoid other days. You need to be in control of your routines, your mindset and your actions every day so you’re always taking one step forward.

It’s very easy to just focus on the highlights in 2020. Social media can be a distraction, as everyone only posts their best side. What you don’t see is the small, important, boring steps that successful people take every day.

Start with your morning. Be in control of your alarm clock, your routine and your mindset as soon as you wake up. The biggest battle you face every day is not external, it’s in your own head. You need to win that battle first thing in the morning or the rest of the day is lost. Never lose a day.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There’s an essay by the French writer Albert Camus called “The Myth of Sisyphus” that I read at least once a year, because I think it’s the most important thing ever written on mindset.

Sisyphus is a figure from ancient Greek mythology. He was a king of Corinth. He was infamous for tricking people and twice cheating Hades, the god of death.

Basically he was a spoiled royal who didn’t abide by anyone’s rules but his own. Something we don’t have any parallels for in 2020. Oh, wait.

Eventually Zeus, the king of all the Greek gods, caught up to Sisyphus and damned him to eternal punishment. Forever he would be at the foot of a mountain with a huge boulder in front of him. Every single day he had to roll the boulder to the peak of the mountain. Whenever he reached the top of the mountain the boulder would roll right back down to the beginning, exactly where it started.

Most of you are probably familiar with this story, it’s a pretty common image in popular culture- the man rolling a giant boulder up a mountain.

The genius of Camus’ essay is that he related Sisyphus’ boulder to the suffering we all must endure simply to live.

It can seem overwhelming, it’s always heavy, and we never really get a break.

If you want to accomplish anything, even something as “simple” as living a healthier life you have to voluntarily push your boulder up the mountain of life.

You have to roll that thing uphill every day. It’s non negotiable.

The most striking part of this essay is that Camus argued that we have to picture Sisyphus as happy.

The beauty of Sisyphus’ story isn’t that he strove and reached the top of the mountain. He never did, and he never will. The beauty is that he began to push the boulder every day, knowing that he would never reach the top. The goal isn’t the top of the mountain, the goal is simply being able to push the boulder.

The joy is in the journey, the humanity is in the suffering. The road is the goal.

The essay concludes with this timeless quote:

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Your battles inspired me — not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.”― James Joyce

The most difficult and important battle each of us face every day is in our own heads. To truly impact the world you need to learn how to win that battle every day, and to teach others to do the same.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’ve been working on creating a comprehensive online training program. I want people to have as much “high contact coaching” as possible, even if they’re far away. I’ve built some systems that allow clients to basically have me in their pocket.

They’ll get access to a private app with their personalized workouts, with video demonstrations. They’ll also have access to a private messaging system so they can ask me any question they have problems with so we can problem solve in real time.

2020 has been uncertain. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable going back to the gym. A lot of people’s fitness and nutrition plans have been thrown out because of this uncertainty. I created a program and a platform that people so people can have a perfect plan and a guide to keep them moving towards their fitness goals every day. Regardless of what life throws in their way.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Good habits are the foundation of a good life. Our habits add up, and stack up to create who we are as people. If your habits make you effective, proactive and action oriented then you will be effective, proactive and action oriented as a person.

I’ve been sober for about 10 years, and a I realized early on in my recovery journey that my morning habits would dictate the rest of my day, and therefore the rest of my life. I set about to create an easy, sustainable morning habit that positively impacted my mind, body and stomach for the rest of the day. I’ve been follow my simple morning routine since then and it sets me up for a successful day.

Without good habits and daily discipline I would not be where I am today. I might not even be alive.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

The first habit that helps me create success is to clear my head in the morning and shift my perspective. Every morning I write down 3 things that I’m grateful for in my notebook. Even if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed this simple act brings me back to reality and helps me focus on what’s good in my life, and what I want to strive to protect.

It takes me out of comparison mode, or “why don’t I have that mode” and shifts me into an abundant, growth oriented mindset.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The best and easiest way to develop good habits is to utilize a simple check list. For instance if you are someone who does not drink enough water you need to first write down your goal. Then you need to hold yourself accountable by creating a daily “to do” list centered around your habit.

You get the satisfaction of visually “checking off” your behavior, and when you repeat it enough it becomes automatic.

You can do the same thing for a bad habit. For instance I created a check list of 3 things not to do. They were 3 silly habits that were sapping my productivity.

After about 90 days of following your check list it won’t feel like work at all.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

A simple way to increase your wellness is to find an easy way to infuse more nutrients into your routine. You want it to be easy, and sustainable. The best way I’ve found to do this is to invest in a quality greens powder and take it first thing in the morning.

A good product, my preferred is Warrior Greens, will have almost a full day’s worth of nutrients in a single spoonful. You just mix it with water, stir it up and drink it down. It’s not designed to replace nutrients you would get from a healthy diet, but it’s an added bonus. Getting that many nutrients first thing in the morning is always a good thing. It’s like starting the day on second base.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

With any habit the key is to make it easy, so that it’s easy to do every day. Not even the most disciplined Navy Seal wants to do something they hate every day. For the Greens Powder habit the best thing you can do is leave a cup, the bottle and a spoon next to your kitchen sink the previous night.

That way when you wake up the following morning everything you need is already laid out and ready to go. The only think you have to do is fill it with water, stir and drink it down.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Sometimes the best thing to do is not to add a good habit, but to subtract a bad habit.

The biggest focus and time suck that we have is social media. I always have clients audit their daily time on social media when they say they “don’t have time” or “can’t focus”. The average american spends a little over 2 hours on social media per day. That time added up over the course of a year equals a month of time.

An entire month wasted staring at a screen.

That’s an insanely large amount of time. The best thing you can do to keep focused and therefore increase your performance is to limit social media.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

I advise clients to use the “screentime” feature on their phones to send an alarm after 30 minutes of social media usage. That notification acts as a “bad habit alarm” that forces them to confront their behavior so they can change it.

I also have them write a “to not do” list every morning, with spending time on social media as one of the items they are to not do.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

I have a client who was having a hard time focusing on every aspect of his life. He couldn’t focus at work due to stress at home, and he couldn’t focus on his relationships at home because he was focused on the stress at work.

He was never present in either moment, and those dual stresses compounded and let him to feel distracted, foggy and guilty all the time.

We started a daily meditation practice to help him center himself, focus on his breath and allow him to slowly learn to be present in each moment instead of lost in his head. We simply started with 3 minutes of guided breathing, advising him to focus on each breath and the sensations his body was feeling. We’d focus on inhaling through his nose, feeling his legs press into the ground, then holding the breath and feeling the exhale through his mouth.

3 minutes of meditation is all you need to calm your mind and teach your body to be focused on where it is right now. It centers you enough to pull back the fog of anxiety and focus on where you actually are.

After about 2 weeks of this his focus increased, his stress lowered and his wife told me she’d never been happier with how present he was at home.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

This is another habit that you need to make a part of your daily routine. It’s something that will only work if you actually do it.

There are plenty of great apps for meditation out there. Headspace, The Wim Hof Method and XPT are all great, free tools you can use to learn and practice meditation.

Before you practice it you need to schedule it. If it’s not on your schedule you’re not going to do it as often as you need to, and some days you’ll just convince yourself you don’t have time and skip it.

For a habit to form you need to do it every day.

I have clients text me what time they’re going to meditate and then I follow up with them to make sure they did it. If you don’t have someone to hold you accountable you just need to plug “Meditation Time” onto your daily schedule. Put it on your phone’s calendar, or write it in your planner.

Make it a priority for 90 days and it will become a lifetime habit.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

You need resistance to achieve flow. You won’t achieve it if you are on autopilot and doing things that are easy or require no effort. The best way to achieve “flow” is to find something that is challenging but enjoyable. It cannot be overwhelming. This is going to be different for each person, and it requires you to be very aware of where your skills actually lie.

I achieve flow most when I am writing- whether it be a blog post or even copy for an ad. Communication is the biggest challenge to any business owner, and it’s the perfect amount of resistance for me to achieve a state of flow.

I need to focus on what I’m saying, the message behind it and who I am trying to relay it to. It’s not overwhelmingly difficult but it is a challenge.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Too many people let their emotions and the situations they’re placed in dictate their day, and dictate their productivity.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to have a private conversation with Douglas Murray. He’s a fantastic writer who is not afraid to explore unpopular topics in a highly intelligent way. His work has expanded my thinking on many subjects, and the psychology he explores has made me a better businessman.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I publish a weekly blog at www.jaxfitacademy.com. The topics vary- from mindset to nutrition and exercise. I also post videos daily on Instagram at “jaxfitacademy”. Instagram is the easiest way to keep up with everything I’m doing.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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