Muscle for life

3 Powerful Ways Working Out Makes You Better at Life

3 Powerful Ways Working Out Makes You Better at Life

Few people argue the many health benefits of regular exercise.

We all know it wards of all kinds of disease, and scientists have shown it’s a great way to fight depression, improve intelligence, and protect against the cognitive decline associated with aging.

Many people don’t realize that the benefits of exercise go far beyond physiological and psychological improvements, however.

That achieving your fitness goals can fundamentally change you as a person. That it can help you overcome your fears and weaknesses, and teach you a lot about how to succeed in all areas of your life.

I believe that if you can create the body of your dreams, you have what it takes to create the life of your dreams as well.

Sounds like a stretch? Well, let me explain.

The First Life Lesson Working Out Teaches You:
There’s No Way Around Hard Work

Sometimes I wonder how much of our current population would survive a thousand years ago.

You know, when you had to chase, fight, and kill to survive. When grueling, physical hardship was a price we paid to remain at top of the food chain.

The social veneer of modern technology and luxuries has made us soft. The basic necessities of survival are a few mouse clicks away. The problems of modern living are laughable–where are we going to vacation this year, what color couch should we get, why is Facebook down, and why did they cancel Firefly.

But there’s one aspect of existence that hasn’t changed, and never will. And that’s the sheer amount of effort it takes to create financial success, recognition, and the satisfaction of self-actualization.

The crucibles of our forebears revolved around how to stay alive. Ours revolve around how to feel alive. A thousand years ago, someone too lazy to “go to work” starved to death. Today, he gets on welfare. But is he really alive? I don’t think so.

It takes effort–focused, persistent, dedicated work toward a goal–to create anything of any value–a good family, a good career, a good social life, whatever.

This is the first life lesson that working out regularly teaches us: he or she who can confront and exert effort reaps the rewards. And the greater the efforts, the greater the rewards.

If you’ve ever squatted until your legs were jello, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever skipped on sleep, hangouts, or precious TV time to get your workout in, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever filled your fridge with tupperware full of carefully weighed meals, you know what I’m talking about.

Despite what fake gurus and pill and powder pushers say, there are no shortcuts in this lifestyle. You either do the work or you don’t. And you either transform your body or you don’t.

The rest of life is the same. I cringe every time I see someone I know hunting for shortcuts to success, secretly obsessed with avoiding effort. Gotta get more for less. Gotta work smarter, not harder. Gotta find an easier way.

It’s bullshit.

I’m all for seizing opportunities and being clever, but no amount of genius allows you to escape this rule of effort.

I’m not the smartest, but I can succeed because I’m willing to out-work whatever I’m lacking intellectually. I don’t care if that means 14-hour workdays and being known as the “boring guy that’s always working.” I don’t care if that means working weekends while my friends are goofing off. I don’t care about the latest TV shows, and I don’t care about “taking it easy.” And that’s why I’ve gone from nothing to over 100,000 books sold in just over a year…as a self-published author.

For me, it’s not about getting rich. It’s not about trying to become famous. It’s much more primal than that. And personal.

It’s why we push ourselves for one more rep on our last set of deadlifts, it’s why we crawl out of bed after legs day, happily crippled, and it’s why we go to the gym to beat the shit out of ourselves, not to chat and take cute selfies.

It’s about knowing deep down that we’re tough sons of bitches. That we’re wired differently than everyone else. That we just can’t be destroyed.

The Second Life Lesson Working Out Teaches You:
Learn to Love the Process

“Are we there yet?” a child will repeat incessantly, sick of staring at the same, rolling pastures, dreaming about arriving at Disney World.

Well, the average person pursuing a goal hasn’t changed much since childhood. They fantasize about where they want to be, and quickly grow bored with the “drudgery” of getting there.

This lesson is similar to the last, but not the same. This one relates to breaking the obsession with instant gratification, which is basically a hallmark of our current society.










Whether it’s weight loss or work, success always comes slower than we want. Even when it’s fast, it’s still too damn slow. If we let them, these feelings of restlessness, frustration, and impatience will derail us in every endeavor.

We must learn to focus on, and enjoy, the process of arriving at the goal. We must disabuse ourselves of the idea that satisfaction only comes from having, not doing.

This the next lesson we learn by working out regularly: we learn to appreciate the process of making slow, steady improvements that, in time, add up to major change.

There’s something special about this state. It’s almost zen-like. When we stop counting on miracles or quick fixes, when we stop weighing and measuring ourselves every day wondering if we’re there yet, and just embrace the process instead, we fall into a calm, confident rhythm. We learn to confront time, and minor setbacks lose their power over our emotions. Progress is no longer a matter of hope. In the process we trust, and it never betrays.

So it is in the gym, it is in work and life.

For me, the completion of a work project or the fulfillment of a goal is a bittersweet moment. I’m happy to have arrived, but always find myself reminiscing about the journey, almost nostalgically. There’s something comforting about the process. Knowing that I’m spending my time going somewhere. And I quickly stop caring about what I’ve achieved, and long to start on something new.

When you’re addicted to the process of arriving, not having arrived, you’ve learned this lesson well, and your life will change for the better.

The Third Life Lesson Working Out Teaches You:
You Can Do More Than You Think

We all have forces within us that want us to fail. That tell us we’re too dumb, too lazy, too clumsy. That genuinely resent anything creative or constructive that we try to do. They can be incredibly persuasive, and work tirelessly to squash us.

Some people call them Resistance. Others refer to them as demons.

Well, regardless of what you call these ethereal enemies, if you want to see how effective they are, just take a good, honest look at the people around you. How many are truly confident in their abilities? How many can calmly deal with criticism, or even banter? How many refrain from talking themselves up and others down?

I think it’s clear that many of us are suffering from varying degrees of crises of confidence. And they hold us back in every area our lives. They convince us that it’s safer to stay small, to not even try. If we let them, they make cowards of us all.

We tell ourselves otherwise, of course. We need to believe we’re in control. That we choose to be this way. But we’re just afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of what others will think. Afraid of what we’ll think.

Well, when you work out regularly, you learn to tune out the voices. You learn to believe in yourself, and in your ability to make shit happen.

Most people think that the only boost of self confidence that comes with exercise relates to losing weight or building muscle–to looking better. But that’s not the whole picture.

When you start lifting weights, you’re a weakling. You feel like Gumby, and the voices mock and ridicule you. But you keep going, and you get better. You learn to stop making excuses. You learn that you can be in control simply by stepping foot in the gym despite any head trash that tries to stop you. And by doing that, you sap it of its power.

This is an ability you gain, and it’s good for a lot more than just getting a pretty physique.

Half of any battle you face in life is just showing up every day despite how you feel. That’s what makes a real pro. He doesn’t wait for inspiration to get to work. He doesn’t bargain with himself. He puts his ass in the chair every day like he knows he should, and by doing this, learns to master his emotions. As you learn in the gym, once you get going on something constructive, you always feel better.

When you realize that you can create your emotions through your behavior, and when you’re confident enough to keep taking the right actions, you create a powerful engine for change in any area of your life.


What do you think about these lessons? Have something to add? Let me know in the comments below!


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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Maria

    Very well written. And I love the part about Firefly being canceled 😉

  • Shay

    I just loved this article. Period. It is very encouraging, I have read your book Bigger, Leaner, and Stronger and have become a big fan. I changed my workout plan and exercises following the plan you have laid out in the book. It’s just been about a month and a half (6 weeks) and I have already started noticing a significant improvement in my body. I look forward to hitting the gym everyday and defy laziness. I follow all your articles and recommendations. I have to apologize though for not commenting on any of the previous articles. This is my first comment. Please know that there are many like me who follow your posts but rarely comment, so please keep writing. You are very encouraging and inspiring. I consider you as my mentor.

    • Thanks so much Shay! I’m really glad you like the article and I appreciate your support.

      That’s awesome you’re on the program and noticing improvements! Keep it up–lots more to come. 🙂

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Jess

    Best article I’ve read in a long time! Motivational. No b.s. Love your approach, Mike! Thanks for all that you do.

  • and only a person who has truly experienced it can understand this: “When we stop counting on miracles or quick fixes, when we stop weighing and measuring ourselves every day wondering if we’re there yet, and just embrace the process instead, we fall into a calm, confident rhythm.”

  • Graeme

    Great article Mike. I think the process of getting in shape provides the perfect template for achieving any goal. There are no shortcuts and at any stage just take a look in the mirror, you’ll know if you’re ‘doing the work’!

    Thanks for help so far Mike, your book is great and I’m seeing excellent results. Also the effort you put in by responding to every tweet / email / book review is fast becoming a source of inspiration – so much easier to buy into someone’s words when you can see how much they are putting into it!

    • Thanks Graeme! I totally agree. And awesome on your gains! Keep up the good work. I appreciate your support and definitely keep me posted on how it goes!

  • Javi Alvarez

    Brilliant. I like the way you write and and I love the sentence “It’s about knowing deep down that we are tough sons of bitches” Damn, agree!!!

  • Nikki

    Great great article…I loved it all. Empowering, confidence boosting and makes me feel good to know IM DOING IT! Surrounded by many friends who get bored, can’t commit and want instant gratification, my frustrations are echoed in all of this. Have your books 🙂 keep it up x

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Nikki! Really glad you liked it. Keep up the good work and maybe your friends will follow your example one day. 🙂 Thanks for reading my books as well. I appreciate your support!

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  • Christie

    So completely true. Ive been following your program for about 7 months now and it has changed my life forever. Not only am I in the best shape of my life, but I’m in a place emotionally where I feel so inspired and confident in my ability to do anything. Those hard months in the gym, being the only girl in the weight room and feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing, actually taught me a lot about perseverance and not caring what anyone else thought. As the months went on I found out that the guys who worked out at my gym and all the trainers actually really respected me for the hard work I was doing and were impressed at my dedication. I was there every single day. I met people that pushed me to do more than I ever thought I could do, and I realized that the only limit in my life was myself. Anything is possible when you apply yourself to a goal or dream, and work your ass off to get there. And the rewards….. unimaginable 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Damn this is awesome Christie. Thanks a lot for sharing and keep up the good work.

  • ArlynGdR

    Amazing article!!! I absolutely love it Mike! I feel like I’m arriving at this state of mind now that I’m 30 and have had two children and am actually BACK in school to pursue and better career! I am loving my life because its full of journeys! Raising my beautiful girls, developing my skills for my future career, enjoying the camaraderie that goes with it, and building on my body and it’s strength (I started about 9 months ago doing circuit training but just started lifting about a month ago). I agree with everything you said 100%!!!! You’re pretty cool my friend!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much and wow, that’s so cool! Keep up the good work and lemme know if I can answer any questions!

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  • Edison

    Came across your article while googling motivation and goal setting, well said Mike, well said.

    • Michael Matthews


  • Kayla

    Love this!! I’m finding this to be true of myself. I am glad I found your site and am looking forward to starting the meal plan you created for me. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kayla! Let’s get you going on the meal plan soon! 🙂

  • halevi

    Agreed. For the first time, I’ve stuck with a program religiously for more than a month (for the last 4 months) and I’m seeing the results. Not only that, but I’ve gained a ton of confidence and will gain more, G-d willing. G-d made us appear in a certain way in order to give an impression to others. We also have an ability to change our looks within a certain range. The fact is that we ARE judged by our appearance and G-d did intend that to an extent. Also, practicing discipline improves your ability to be disciplined in other areas of your life.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! I’m really glad to hear it! Keep up the good work.

  • Allen

    Awesome article, Mike. I loved the section about hard work. I’m constantly seeing people who are looking for a hack or trick to lose weight and gain muscle.

    It took me a long time to realize there was no “one weird trick” to anything. It’s not about putting butter in your coffee, or eating like a cave man, or taking that pill, or eating only grapefruit. It seems like a lot of folks just spin their wheels looking for easy answers, which ends up costing them more time and energy than if they just went to the gym every day.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yup, there are just a few simple things you do right (proper deficit & macros, proper exercise routine) and you then patiently enjoy the process.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Dustin

    That was awsome man. I used to be that person, now time to sit my ass back down in that chair taking it one day at a time having a happy fulfilling life physically aswell as mentality. Thanks

  • Ethan

    Great article Mike. Especially the point that you have made “the greater the efforts, the greater the rewards”. Totally agree with this. Seen people who will believe in buying “products” for “instant results”. They should read your article.

  • Davena

    The old story about getting your butt to the gym – even if you don’t feel like it works. Once you’re there, the physical response to the noise, smells and sounds of the place gets your blood pumping.

    “The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do.” Love that mantra.

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