My next door neighbor and I have helped each other out in more than typical neighborly ways, especially in improving our health and fitness. He was always driven to achieve a lot of whatever he was doing.
I thought I was doing fine, just coasting along, putting on my five or ten pounds every year, losing muscle because I wasn’t using it. The growing old edition of the American dream.
What You Do When No One Is Watching
When we first moved into our house, there were no other houses on the road. In fact, there wasn’t even a road on the road. I would walk my dog when I was dressed in nothing more than my pajamas, or in my underwear, weather permitting. So if the dog decided to go pee, so would I. There was no one around.
Then other people started building houses and moving in, and things started to change. I had to actually mow my lawn.
Atilla the Gardner
Tom moved next door, and the guy was constantly moving. He was building walls, moving trees, planting flowers and shrubs. He was like a five-foot-nine dwarf, whistling while he worked. He would mow the lawn once, twice, three times a week if needed, and then water and fertilize it so that it would grow some more.
I, on the other hand, hadn’t edged in years, and there were bare patches all across my sod. It was a mess.
I was compelled to improve my lawn just from the energy I saw expended next door.
The Coincidence of Epiphany
Tom has described his epiphany of being related to his near-death experience. It motivated him to improve his health even more than he had.
My epiphany came of its own, and was the culmination of three decades of struggling with my weight, my fitness, and yo-yo dieting. I tried every gimmick out there, but couldn’t make any of them last more than a couple of months.
Tom took his workouts seriously, and as we shared notes, I became more focused in my training just from the energy I saw expended next door. Being around someone with a positive, enthused approach to exercise helped me sustain my habits.
(NOTE: Tom had attached greater meaning to his habits, and I did as well. That’s what allowed the lasting change, but habits are tricky and complicated, and sharing energy and positive feedback make them stick.)
Tom tried to bring me up to his intensity level, but I have a lot of other passions. Exercise was not my main passion, so I couldn’t catch on to it like he did.
Then Tom took it to another level with his even bigger goal of becoming a body-builder. I exercised with him a few times during that phase, but it just wasn’t for me.
The point for him is that he used a big goal to help him improve many aspects of his health, and attached greater meaning to his efforts. The point for me was that I had my own goal — different from his — but took inspiration from him, and used the greater meaning (for me) to motivate myself.
I don’t exercise and eat right just because I want to exercise and eat right — I do it because doing that helps me work towards what is truly meaningful in my life, and that makes me happy.