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July 22, 2011, 12:00AM PT in Fitnovatives Blog  |  0 Comments

The PERMA Path to Becoming an Unequalled Personal Trainer

Take the PERMA PathAre you aware of the Harvard study that looked at people holding a 5-lb. weight and found that people who decided to give money to charity outlasted those who pocketed the money by an average of 10 seconds? The implications for creating “raving fans” – those clients who are entirely devoted to you and your training – are profound and draw on an interesting and very contemporary area of psychology.

The “father of positive psychology,” Martin Seligman, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater), has a new book out, his first in ten years, he calls “Flourish.” He relates this to what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia (call me to get the pronunciation), which approximates “well-being” or “flourishing” in simple English, and relates specifically to a feeling of accomplishment.

This is where truly outstanding and distinguished personal trainers stand out. They act on an understanding that physical training, fitness, and well-being—happinesss—are intimately entwined, closely related and have a direct link. They bring current thinking on mind and body enhancement and expansion into every interaction with their clients whether in the gym, boot camp, group ex, home training, goal setting, and relationship development collaboration.

Want to create an enviable personal brand as a notable, unmatched, unsurpassed trainer? Want to create “raving fans” instead of “satisfied clients”? Let’s hope so.

How? The simple answer comes from a book I wrote in 1988, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: PS It’s All Small Stuff.” Well, not exactly. That may have worked for personal well-being in 1988 but to build a dynamo training business in 2011, I believe it’s exactly the opposite: SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.

You see, to build a supreme personal brand, to have people leave your training session feeling elated, joy-filled and raving about their interaction with you, you need to deliver unrivalled and unequalled training. It means bringing true well-being, the mind-body connection to every training session. Research suggests that people who are happiest are healthier and live nine years longer than those who are most unhappy. Happier people exercise more. Understanding and acting on this recognition means your training sessions will be unique.

Seligman offers a wonderfully easy way to remember what every training session and communication ought to include: PERMA. It’s contemporary psychology’s most up-to-date insight to ingredients of well-being, happiness, joy and ultimately good health.

P – positive emotions. Pick up on your client’s positive emotions. Emphasize how well they feel, use the words of positive emotion (“feeling great,” “exuberant,” “joyous,” “bursting with energy,” “feeling wonderful,” etc.). Positive emotions are associated with a stronger immune system. Ignore this discussion and all you have left are bigger muscles. So do other trainers. Don’t you want an inspirational, legendary reputation?

E – engagement. Think of “flow” here with your clients. Talk about how engaged they are, how they experience physical “flow,” in challenging physical activity. Talk about how they are fully engaged in their work, how they bring all of their senses to bear in an activity they enjoy. Help them find dedicated time and space for full engagement.

R – positive relationships. Talk with your clients about the positive relationships they have with people in the gym, family, friends, intimate partners, work colleagues. Research suggests that people need physical contact and healthy intimate relationships. Psychological and physical aspects of relationships are critically important to the well-being of your clients so bring this into your fitness training by appropriately commenting, whenever possible, on the value of creating friendships with others in their lives. If your client has no friends in the gym, it’s unlikely they will feel good about continuing to work out there.

M – meaning. This does not mean religion, necessarily. Do you talk with your clients about the meaning, the greater cause, of their desire for fitness? If you don’t, someone else who wants to create “raving fans” and reads this, will. Meaninglessness can lead to depression. No purpose, very possibly, no life. Do your clients make meaning in their role as a spouse, parent, volunteer? Talk with them about the value of making meaning in everything they do, especially in terms of their health, physical capabilities and the goals they have in life that training helps.

A – accomplishment. This is Seligman’s most recent addition to the concept of well-being. Talk with your clients about accomplishment, not only in terms of their growing functional health and fitness goals, but what their toned, healthy bodies help them achieve in life. What do your clients feel good about accomplishing week to week outside of training?

This is why Harvard researchers found those who give to charity can lift 5-lbs. longer than those who keep money for themselves. They have PERMA. Insure you bring PERMA to your clients and you will be adding something no other trainer does—a genuine understanding of what clients really want from fitness enhancement—to feel better, to look better, to increase well-being, and most importantly to add happier and healthy years to their lives.

By Michael Mantell
Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, here he wrote his thesis on obesity. He’s served as the Chief Psychologist of Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego and the Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He provides breakthrough strategies to help business leaders, athletes, individuals and families create healthy, fit and happy trajectories in life. He is the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for ACE, an international behavior science fitness presenter, an Advisor to numerous companies and fitness organizations, on the Sports Medicine team of The Sporting Club of San Diego and is featured in many international media outlets. He is listed in the greatest.com 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”