Do you ever wake up wondering, “Do I matter? Am I making a difference? Is all this toil and sweat getting me anywhere? Moreover, does anyone really care?”

Once in a blue moon, when life circumstances become challenging, I ponder those things and am warmly reminded of the old television classic It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart. In the movie, Stewart’s character, George Bailey, is suddenly faced with financial calamity. His desperation causes him to seriously question his existence and his ability to care for the family he loves. After Clarence the angel takes George on a journey to see what the lives of the people he loves would have been like without him, he sees indeed what a difference his life has made. Not only does he impact individual lives, but his presence and character make a difference in the entire community in which he lives.

As you journey through life and work, it is easy to become overwhelmed. You want to make a difference but aren’t sure how. You want to create a great business and life legacy, but looking years down the road can be daunting. You realize that things change and people come and go, so the future can be unsure and scary. We all struggle to be significant in our businesses and personal lives.

Ease your fears and concerns by addressing these universal questions that affect your impact in the health and wellness field: Do I know enough? Am I doing enough? Can I make it last?

Do I Know Enough?

Over the years I have witnessed trainer after trainer spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on one workshop and certification after another. I went through that same cycle myself until I realized that I do know what I need to be a good trainer. The problem is that I need to put new knowledge into practice immediately instead of stuffing it on a shelf or in a notebook and forgetting about it.

If you find yourself in that never-ending cycle of workshop after workshop, stop and examine what you already know and have the resources for. You will never know everything, so determine what knowledge you need to do your job well today.

1. Identify Your Weak Areas. Think through what you need to have knowledge of to be a great trainer and coach in today’s world—motivational interviewing, assessments, program design, flexibility, strength training, teaching, planning, organization, communication, behavioral goal setting and so on. Make a list of what you need to learn. Create a 12-month plan to acquire that learning through reading, online courses or workshops.

2. Peruse Your Articles and Manuals. Before you invest money in more training, go through the manuals and articles you have on hand to see if you already possess the resources you need. As you
go through your materials, take notes
on information that is relevant to your clients, and flag other sections you need to read.

3. Practice What You Know. Once you have done steps 1 and 2, create a simple weekly plan to start implementing new things. Most of my clients prefer gradual change, so I ease them into it, implementing just one or two new things per week. You can make a note in your weekly planner as to what new things you want to explore each week. This simple practice will keep you from burning out and prevent your clients from getting bored. Make a master checklist of all the new skills or activities you would like to introduce to your clients over the next 6 months. Check them off and date them as you implement them.

Am I Doing Enough?

This is a great question to ask yourself at least once per quarter. We often think we aren’t doing enough when in fact we are giving our clients exactly what they need . . . and isn’t that the whole idea?

1. Meet Their Needs. With each new training or coaching client, the first questions you ask are, “What do you need? What do you want?” That is the easy part. The hard part is delivering what they need in a safe, gradual, reasonable manner. If a client wants to lose 20 pounds in a month, you know that is impossible to achieve safely. What do you do? Educate the client on the reality and sacrifice of weight loss and renegotiate a new goal.

What I find more challenging is to remember to ask those I’ve been training for years what they need. At least every quarter, ask each of your clients what they need and what more you could do to help them be successful and healthy. I reassess long-term clients every 6 months, which gives me a perfect opportunity to ask those questions—and I recommend posing the question between assessments as well.

2. Add What You Know They Need. We all know that part of our job is to incorporate what our clients need, even when they don’t ask for it. Years ago, one of my clients started training and wanted to strength train only the upper body. In keeping with that request, I designed an upper-body program, but as the months progressed, I slowly began adding a leg exercise here and there. If you gradually incorporate the additional elements clients need, they can become converts to the current research recommendations. The key is to add things slowly so that clients have time to adapt both mentally and physically.

3. Anticipate the Future. On top of meeting your clients’ current needs and wants, you must have some ability to anticipate their future needs. For example, I know from the research that as my personal training clients age, they need more strength training to maintain age-related muscle loss. Knowing that, it makes sense to add more flexibility exercises and cut back on cardio a bit as they incorporate more strength training. Anticipate your clients’ future needs and implement changes when the time is right.

Can I Make It Last?

I have been blessed with owning my own business for 20 years, offering personal training, coaching and Pilates. I am astounded that all that time has passed. For now, I think I will probably want to continue working in this field another 16 years. Can I make it last that much longer? I believe I can if I continue to take life a year at a time. I plan my specific personal and business goals for 1 year and work toward those goals month after month. As my life changes, so do some of my goals, so I adjust them accordingly as the year progresses. I do have general goals set for the next 6 years, based on where I want to be personally, as a spouse and as a business owner.

I know from experience that you can make your business last. Maximize the present by taking the daily actions that keep your business running efficiently and your clients happy and progressing. By making each year the best you can, you will look back someday, as I have, and realize you are still hanging in there after 20 years.

A Wonderful Life

In your struggle for significance, it will be in hindsight that you see that you did indeed make a difference. In everyday, mundane activities, you discover some of life’s most simple but precious memories. So take life a day at a time, making each session the best you can, meeting people’s needs and carving out time for your own personal goals. In the end you will have lived a wonderful life because you knew enough, did enough and were dedicated enough to make it last. n