In 2006, I was drowning in my first year as a teacher. I started a home workout program that same year because I knew I needed to do something to maintain my health and my sanity. That workout program would forever change my life in ways that went far beyond fitness.

The trainer in that program was Chalene Johnson. I was immediately drawn in by her upbeat energy and positivity. You couldn’t help but feel lifted up when you worked out with her. That feeling is what made me keep coming back to her workout programs over the years. And over the years, I soaked up every lesson I could from her as my mentor-from-afar.

Those lessons came during the workouts, but also in her other endeavors that she pursued in her personal and professional life. Whether podcasts or live and virtual training sessions, I followed her journey and felt her message resonate deeply within me.

In particular, her aversion to the word “hustle,” and the feeling of being overwhelmed and out of alignment by trying to do it all. As a busy teacher at the time, I could relate. I had no order in my life. Each day was a whirlwind of tasks, meetings, paperwork, and research. By the time I got home, I had nothing left to give. I had become someone who merely reacted to everything coming at me. I was hustling every single day, and yet I never once felt that I was ahead of anything. The pace was exhausting. So, to hear Chalene talk about going through the same thing as she transformed her life and business was refreshing. And more importantly, what she did to cut out the noise and stay true to her purpose.

I embarked on her virtual 30-day goal-setting program with the hope of gaining the same clarity that she had found. It was the best decision I have ever made, and the principles I learned and applied still guide my daily decisions to this day.

I first learned to identify my top three life priorities. It sounds so simple, but in reality, how often do we stop and think about that? Most of our days are spent tackling the avalanche of to-dos that come our way. We don’t often get to stop and say, “This is what I want for my life.” Once I was able to identify those priorities, it was amazing how quickly the rest just seemed like noise. And it’s no surprise that I chose my own health and wellness as my #1 priority. I knew that without that, none of the other priorities could happen.

The next and most important thing I learned was how to use my priorities as a filter to keep control of my schedule. Whatever new opportunity or decision comes my way, I can quickly run it through my life priorities. If it will support those priorities, it’s a yes. If it doesn’t, it’s a no (or a not right now). This allows me to reserve precious space on my calendar rather than filling it with the priorities of others over my own.

And lastly, I learned in Chalene’s programs how to say “no” when needed. That was an important lesson for a former people pleaser like myself. Being able to unapologetically say no has allowed me to remain in control of my time and sanity so I can honor what truly helps me thrive.

Thanks to these lessons and the guidance of Chalene Johnson as a mentor, I was able to prioritize my health and well-being for the first time in my life. And beyond learning how to set and honor my priorities, just giving myself permission to do this was a powerful gift in a world that often drives us to neglect our health and well-being needs. For that, I am forever grateful.

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