In a rare visit to the gym, I overheard two seemingly fit guys talking about their diets. Carbs, proteins, struggles with meal preparation and temptations to eat junk food.
My first thought was: how refreshing to hear men talking about their diet struggles! Second: how do I keep standing here so that I can hear more? Ok fine, I’ll pick up the dumbells…
The one question that they posed to each other that had me fascinated was, “What are you optimizing for?”
Hmm. Curious. Isn’t everyone optimizing for pretty much the same thing with their diet and exercise? To get (or stay) lean. To increase muscle mass. To improve endurance and performance. Don’t we all want the same things?
Turns out, no. One guy was really focused on building muscle, and didn’t much care about his fat percentage. And the other guy was super focused on his fat percentage and getting to the number he wanted.
Obviously, with these different goals, their diets and their workout routines were completely different.
As I drove home, I couldn’t help but replay that pivotal question in my mind.
What are you optimizing for?
I kept playing with it. And kept coming up with interesting and surprising answers.
Vibrancy. When I think about my go-to exercise of running, I realize that I don’t optimize for strength or weight loss (the two most popular goals), but rather to feel alive and vibrant. I love the fresh air I’m gulping, the music or book or podcast I’m enjoying, the feeling of freedom and movement. And every time I read an article telling me that I should be lifting weights, doing high intensity interval training or something else, I shrug it away. Now I know why. It’s not that I’m a defiant health rebel who doesn’t care about the latest research (I do). It’s just that I want what I want. And I want to feel vibrant right now.
Connection. When I plan things like corporate retreats, strategic planning sessions and workshops, I build in lots of interaction and exercises for participants. Why? Because I’m optimizing for connection. Yes, I want them to learn something new. Yes, I want them to make good business decisions and commit to making them happen. Yes, I want to raise the bar on success. But what I also deeply want for them is connection (which I believe will ensure all the other goals). I want people to really know, like and trust each other.
Love. When I look back on my career, I realize that I’ve optimized for very different things at different points in my life. Money. Status. Growth. Impact. Helping. Each position and dedication of time/energy to that position was driven by very different answers to the “what are you optimizing for?” question. Today, that answer is love. I know, I know… a little bit flowery, but nevertheless true. My current business is not scalable, doesn’t bring in massive income and doesn’t allow me to connect with as many people as I used to connect with every day. But oh man, the ones I do work with? Love. I love them. I love helping them achieve their goals. I love pushing them and their companies to improve. I love sending them emails and texts, and receiving theirs. I love learning and laughing and crying with them.
Truth. When I’m working with my clients, talking with my friends, or even working on myself (much work still left to do!), the one thing I want to optimize for is truth. I want to understand someone’s unique truth so I can help them design their plans accordingly. I want them to know their own unique truth. With all the various messages the world gives us about right and wrong, it’s so hard sometimes to know or say, “this – this is my truth.”
Peace. Like most people, I have a tornado of thoughts and emotions running through me. So I try to optimize for peace. From a quick morning meditation, to my gratitude practice, to running, writing and talking things through, I don’t just leave it to chance any more. Feeling better and thinking better are byproducts of certain habits and behaviors.
Vibrancy. Connection. Love. Truth. Peace. That’s what I’m currently optimizing for.
I wouldn’t have used those words 5 or 10 years ago, and I don’t know that they will be the ones that drive me 5 or 10 years from now. But today, that’s where I am.
How about you? What are you optimizing for?
In your career?
In your meetings?
In your relationships?
In your free time?
In your self-care?
I invite you to play with this question now, as you read this. And again…
- tomorrow when you wake up: “What do I want to optimize for today?”
- before your next phone call: “What do I want to optimize for in this conversation?”
- before you start typing your next email: “What do I want to optimize for in this note?”
- before your next meal: “What do I want to optimize for with my food choice or with my companion(s)?”
- before your next meeting: “What solution, connection or impact do I want to optimize for?”
- before your next business decision: “What do I want to optimize for with this decision?”
- before your next date, vacation or social outing: “What do I want to optimize for during this special time with this special person/people?”
Take it for a whirl and see what you discover. Like me, you might be surprised to find that the things you’re currently optimizing for are quite different than they were in the past. And they’ll probably be different in the future. That’s ok. We’re here to grow, evolve and make a difference.
Here’s to your current version of that!