Shaun T's 7 Exercises That'll Transform Your Life

Let’s invest some time in a backward glance to better wipe your mirror clear and see yourself as you really are today.

October 6, 2017
shaun t
Javier Hernandez

Adapted from Shaun T's new book, T Is for Transformation: A 7-Step Program for Digging Deeper, Feeling Stronger, and Living Smarter

Now it starts, the superpower self-tests. You'll need to take some time with this. It's when the reading stops and the action begins. Transformation means moving from one way of living to a whole new one, and that requires planning, commitment, and sweat. You've been sitting and reading until now. It's time to work for change in your life.

More: 9 Daily Habits to Achieve Prosperity

Let's start with a mirror exercise. Yes, I've spent a lot of time in front of the glass, to examine my warts and blemishes. I also use it as a kind of rearview mirror on my life, so I can check out how the past is influencing my today and my tomorrow. In the first exercise in this book, I'm going to encourage you to do the same. Trust and believe: You won't be able to make any progress on your future unless you've fully examined your past, and then act on that knowledge.

More: 10 Laws for an Extraordinary Life

You carry that history in a lot of different ways: It could be the crick in your neck because of the way you sit at your desk, or the plaque in your heart because of your dietary habits. It could be the friends who stick with you through thick and thin, or the ones who stick to you like leeches. It could be the regrets and resentments that tie you up emotionally, so you're not free to live and love the way you'd like.

Let's invest some time in a backward glance to better wipe your mirror clear and see yourself as you really are today.

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Exercise #1: Get a check-up

Your body is a walking, talking historical record of everything you've been through, and the most common causes of death are tied to long-term health habits. If your stresses are tied to your personal history—and whose aren't?—you need to dig them up and deal. As your doctor examines your health history, she'll also be helping you write and rectify the most troubling elements of your past. If you help her to do so. So, be honest with her, and yourself.

Action Plan: Work with your doctor to develop three concrete steps you'll take. For instance: 1. Lose ten pounds (use these 12 60-Second Weight-Loss Tips), 2. Commit to a sleep schedule (use these 50 Tricks to Sleep Better Tonight), 3. Limit drinking to weekends and even then only one or two glasses. And schedule another appointment to check your progress. 

More: How to Get Your Money's Worth at Your Next Doctor's Checkup

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Exercise #2: Do a fitness test

I threw a killer test at the beginning of my INSANITY workout, which might have scared off as many people as it lured into that program. But I did it for a reason: To know where you're going, you need to know where you are and have a benchmark to help measure your progress. I'm not going to suggest you go there, unless you're already at a pretty high level of fitness. But, if you've laid off for a while, try these five simple fitness tests.

1. Go out to the track at the high school, and see how far you can walk or run in 15 minutes (and use these tips to help you start running).
2. Get down in a plank position—elbows under your shoulders, spine and legs in a straight line, ankles bent at 90 degrees, toes on the floor—and see how long you can hold it.
3. How many push-ups can you do in a minute?
4. How many crunches can you do in a minute?
5. Sit on the floor. Can you move to a standing position without using your hands?

Make a note of your results. If there will be a physical component to your transformation plan, it'll be helpful (and encouraging!) to see just how far you come.

Action Plan: Once you have your fitness baseline, schedule time to really work on improving your numbers. Will this take a commitment? Of course. Buy my book, T Is for Transformation, to get started.

More: A 30-Minute Total-Body Basic Workout to Get Your Heart Pumping

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Exercise #3: Review the relationships

Pull out the photo boxes in mom's attic (and in your Facebook history). This won't be a simple stroll down memory lane. Instead, use the photo record to really think about the relationships in your life. Distant or absent father? Bullying older siblings? Were you a loner? Were you always howling or unhappy as a 3-year-old? Did you hate that sweater your mom made you wear in junior high? Did you have Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop figures who unfailingly brought the love? What made you happiest? When was your best age? And your worst (aside from middle school, that is)? Catalog it all, positive and negative. Think about what made those highlight moments so great, and what about the negative times was so painful. Consider how you're carrying those hurts and helpers into your current world.

Action Plan: In my book, T Is for Transformation, I'll give you complete instructions on gauging the strength of your inner circle. If that exercise hurts, you might need to skip ahead to do that one now. It's that important. 

More: 7 Ways to Build a Powerful Social Support Network

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Exercise #4: Review the disasters

This will hurt. That's why you need to do it, of course. And as you go through the pain of each of them, ask yourself: Have I recovered, or am I still suffering from... my parents' divorce, my dad's death, when I moved across the country during sixth grade. Whatever it was that hurt you most, heal from it, however you need to do that. If you don't, it might hold you back for the rest of your life.

Action Plan: There's only so much guidance I can offer here. It took me six years and two counselors to work through the aftermath of sexual abuse. The more painful this disaster inventory is for you, the more you need to reach for help. Ask friends for referrals on counselors; they're getting help, and you may need it too. 

More: 3 Ways Practicing Forgiveness Can Save Your Life

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Exercise #5: Search out the shame

As an abuse survivor, I know all about shame. I was attacked sexually by an adult, bullied into silence, and made to feel that, somehow, it was all my fault. Shame punishes you for being who you are, not for what you've done. So, it goes to the very core of your identity. Can you see why it's so important to deal with it? A counselor can help; that's how I got past mine.

Action Plan: Some of these tips and strategies come from a psychiatrist, in fact: Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, shared them with Prevention magazine. Check out his book Making Peace with your Past for more ways to heal your personal history.

More: How to Heal Your Heart With Love

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Exercise #6: Release the resentment

Compile a list of the people who held you back, who didn't believe in you, who actively tried to sabotage you. Consider why you let them block you, how they exerted their power, how their influence still affects you today. Print those letters out. Write names on envelopes, and stick the letters in them. And then... this is important... destroy them. Whether you burn them, flush them, rip them into a million pieces and throw them in different trash cans, savor watching those sentiments get completely dismantled and destroyed. Then, put the resentments—however justified—entirely behind you. It takes precious energy to keep resentments alive, and they trap you in the worst moments of your past. They aren't worth it. Send their dirty deeds up in smoke, and never look back.

Action Plan: Open a file on your computer and write letters to the people who hurt you the most.

More: The Most Powerful Way to Overcome Resentments

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Exercise #7: Let go of regrets

I'm totally with fellow Jersey guy Frank Sinatra, who sang "regrets, I've had a few..." But, if you cultivate those in your emotional garden, they can kill every other flower in there. So, forgive yourself for the ones you had a hand in, dismiss the ones others inflicted on you, and then give them up. As my father-in-law, Bill Blokker, says, your windshield should be bigger than your rearview mirror. To keep an eye on the road ahead, with all of its twists, turns, off-ramps, and opportunities, you need to stop regretting the turns you missed or the crashes you suffered. That's behind you now.

Action Plan: Take the time to explore each of your major regrets, understand why they hurt so much, and harvest any lessons you can from what happened. Then use your mental discipline to keep your focus forward from now on. Shrink the rearview, expand your windshield. Now drive.

More: Deathbed Wisdom: How You Can Avoid Painful Regrets

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