In her latest book, “Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life,” Jillian Michaels, one of the trainers on NBC’s hit competitive reality show “The Biggest Loser” and the author of three best-selling fitness books, writes about transforming your life and living out your dreams. Here’s an excerpt:
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." — Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"(1854)
God that quote pisses me off.
Why? Because it’s true — but it shouldn’t be and doesn’t have to be.
There is absolutely no reason why you can’t live your dreams, no matter what they are; no reason you can’t live the life you’ve always wanted. Look, you have dreams for a reason. Call it your destiny, your karma, your life’s mission, whatever you want, but your dreams are what define your place and purpose. When you live in fear of your own desires and ambitions, you lose sight of your true calling and your true self. Life loses meaning, and inertia sets in. You become depressed, unhappy, and start to wonder: Is this really all there is?
The answer is NO!
Every human being has the capacity to transform suffering or weakness into peace, power, strength, health and abundance. There is no authentic goal you can set for yourself that can’t be reached, no dream that can’t be realized. It’s just a matter of learning HOW to achieve what you want.
That’s what this book is: a how-to for wish fulfillment. Many self-help books tell you what to achieve, but they don’t give you particularly useful tools for how to achieve it. They offer a lot of New Age platitudes and sappy self-help mantras:
Just love yourself.
See the glass as half full.
More in books
Believe it and it will come.
I mean, really. That’s not how it works, and you know it.
A lifetime’s worth of struggle is not overturned in a moment of positive thinking. But if you have the right attitude and skills, you can and will accomplish anything and everything you want. This book gives you both: attitude and action. By its end you’ll have all the tools you need to change your life — no hype, no false promises.
So what are we talking about: Career? Love? Emotional health and physical well-being? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! This book is a manual with only one purpose: to arm you with the strategies you need to achieve anything you desire and become whoever you want to be. Unlimited gives you a step-by-step plan that will enable you to begin a purpose-filled, meaningful life according to your truth and on your terms.
I know what you’re thinking: What’s Jillian Michaels doing writing a self-help book? She’s the fitness guru, right? The fact that people think of me as a fitness guru is hilarious. I imagine a fitness guru as someone who wears spandex, feels the burn and loves an endorphin high, then follows it all up with a shot of wheatgrass. That is so not me! What I do is not about fitness. Exercise is just one of the tools I use to help people rebuild their lives.
If you referred to an architect as a sketch artist, he would look at you like you were an insane person. Architects help people build homes; sketches are just one tool they use to do it. Well, that’s what fitness to me — a tool I use to help you build a life. It’s never been just about the sit-up. Even my fitness best seller, "Making the Cut," is at its roots about striving for excellence in your life, not just at the gym.
So here we are, with a life to build and no exercise routines to suffer through. Don’t panic — we won’t need them. This is about being healthy in all aspects of your life. If getting physically healthy is your focus right now, check out one of my last three books. This book is about everything I do with my contestants behind the scenes that never makes it into the episodes cut for TV (well, maybe some of it on "Losing It"). It’s about the quieter but necessary steps for transformation, the nuts and bolts of what I do to be successful in my own life, and the tools I use to help others get there as well. It isn’t about calorie counting or ab crunching; it’s about self-exploration and discovery.
All you need to begin is courage, conviction and faith, both in yourself and in me as your guide. Sure, at first the faith-in-yourself part is hard, but that’s where I come in. See, I don’t just hope you can do this — I know you can.
Lean on me while you get stronger. And trust me: You have unlimited potential and the ability to fulfill it. We all do — it’s just that some of us know it and some of us don’t.
Now, get ready, because it’s time to stop being quiet and desperate. Screw surviving — it’s time to THRIVE. Unlimited health, wealth and happiness are just waiting for you to claim them.
I can’t promise you it’s going to be easy — think about it, nothing worthwhile ever is, is it? Achievement doesn’t come without risk and sacrifice. But what I can promise you is that I will cut out the crap and tell you what works. Come with me on this journey, and your life will change dramatically, for the better.
So let’s dig deep, get our hands dirty, and do this.
Step One: Imagine
This is one hell of a journey you’re beginning. In fact, it’ll probably be the most important, challenging, and rewarding thing you ever do. But as I’m sure you know, every journey, no matter how huge, begins with a single step. So what is that first step in taking control of your life and beginning to live the way you are meant to live? Simple. (Notice I didn’t say easy.) Your first step is to let your imagination run wild. To live the life of your dreams, you have to know what those dreams are.
So in Step One, I will teach you how to get a firm grip, mentally and emotionally — and yes, even spiritually — on what it is you want out of life. This is the fun part. This is where you get to kick aside any ideas that may have taken root about your life being set in stone on its current path, or about your not being worthy of a truly great life. The title of this step really says it all — this is where you get to imagine everything you have ever wanted your life to be.
Chapter One: Identify Your Passion (Or What the Hell Do You Want to Do with Your Life?)
If you’ve picked up this book, chances are you’re looking for a change. You may feel like something is missing from your life, but you don’t know what it is. Or you may be stuck in a rut, waking up every morning wondering how you’re going to make it through another day.
If this is you, I’m so glad you’ve come to me, so I can tell you, in as many ways as I know how, that that is not what your life is supposed to be! We were all born with the desire and the right to be happy. But somewhere along the way many of us got trained — by family, friends, religion, society at large, whoever — to believe that the human condition is predominantly one of suffering. And if we’re not happy, it’s just because “that’s the way things are.” That is the greatest lie ever told.
We’re taught to settle, and we’re made to feel guilty if we single-mindedly go after something we want. We go on to believe that our desires are selfish. That our self-love is arrogant and pompous. All our joy and innocence are stripped away as we’re programmed like androids to live lives of servitude and “responsibility.” Too many of us buy into the idea that there are rules to how this life works, and dues that must be paid.
We grow up being told that if we behave and play by the rules, the good life will happen for us in some vaguely defined future. Parents preach this in the home. Teachers preach it in the classroom. Bosses preach it in the workplace. This belief is handed from generation to generation to generation. But for most of us happiness never comes. That’s because society is built on the repression of individual desires. In the distant past it would have been impossible to maintain any kind of social order unless people thought they had to take on the jobs and responsibilities that the society required. You know what I mean. Someone has to do all the crap jobs that no one wants.
Socialization is the transformation of the human organism into a person who functions in a social system. And the most effective method of socializing people is to make them identify so thoroughly with the social order that they can no longer imagine themselves breaking any of its rules. History has shown us that that’s super scary, right? In the past, socialization was enforced through rewards and punishments based on basic human needs for survival. Step out of line, and we’ll kill you. Speak against the government or religion, and we’ll take away your livelihood so you can’t feed your family anymore. These are extreme scenarios that, while unfortunately still playing out in many parts of the world, are far from our reality here. Times have changed, and most countries are democracies. So if you want to stop working at some sh---y job, or accepting some sh---y life, luckily no one is going to come kill you or take all your dough.
You might be thinking, But if we all upped and started doing whatever we wanted, it would be anarchy! Not true. Society would continue to function — it would just be forced to evolve. Let’s take a very basic example. Hypothetically say that all the train conductors in the country decided to quit their jobs and follow their dreams to open their own businesses. The economy would be just fine, and eventually so would the trains. Each of the new businesses would generate jobs and local income, and if we’re savvy enough to put a man on the moon, I think we’re savvy enough to develop technology to run trains without conductors.
WAKE UP and think about it: Society tells us it is okay to want things, but only within reason and at a price. We are allowed to want comfort, but in due time and within limits. A happy marriage with 2.5 kids and a picket fence is cool, but a sprawling estate on the California coastline, being married to the person of your dreams, doing what you love as a career? Who the hell do you think you are?
Imagine a college student saying, “I want to be a billionaire by the time I graduate.” You and I both know that most people would call that student an upstart and say that was an outrageous, arrogant statement. People would smack that kid down! The attitude, from parents, teachers, and society, would be “Who are you? That’s not how life works. You have to pay your dues like the rest of us.” And maybe the student would let it affect him or her — or maybe not. Clearly the founders of YouTube — Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim — chose not to let anyone smack them down, and they ended up selling their company to Google for a cool $1.65 billion. (And the founders of Facebook, MySpace and Google wouldn’t be smacked down either.)
Let’s be clear, I’m not saying money buys happiness, but these successful innovators are not just people with money. They are people who made money doing what they love.
Ask yourself this: how much deprivation, how much self-effacement must you suffer before you act on your desire for meaning and fulfillment, before you thrive in your life instead of barely surviving it?
Now, don’t get me wrong. You can’t skip the process of learning. You do have to go to medical school before you can practice medicine. But there’s no rule saying you can’t be the best brain surgeon in the entire world upon graduation. The truth is, there are no rules. Period. Anything is possible if you have the knowledge and do the work. In fact, not only is it possible, it’s critical!
Excerpted from “Unlimited” by Jillian Michaels. Copyright © 2011 by Jillian Michaels. Excerpted by permission of Crown Archetype, a division of Crown Publishing. All rights reserved.