Saying Yes to Your Own Story

Shonda Rhimes is responsible for my career in fitness.

No, seriously, she is. Over two years ago, I was burnt out from working so many hours in my then-executive role and decided I needed a new challenge. So, I decided to commit to start working out, which I hadn’t done in over 3 years, to get a break from work…and I hated it. Ironically though, one of the classes that challenged me the most sent out an email for instructor auditions and even though I disliked working out in general, I was also reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and had committed to doing what Shonda had done: saying yes to things that scared me. I said to myself if Shonda can commit to a Year of Yes, so I can I. I said yes to the audition, they said yes to me, and I have said yes to leading over 500 classes and training numerous new instructors….also while finding a new love for my executive role too. Now, I love teaching and working out…who knew Shonda could get me to discover a second career and still simultaneously emotionally drain me after every episode of Grey’s Anatomy?! Thanks Shonda.

That’s my story…but what’s yours? We are constantly surrounded by pushes to ‘build our personal brand’, to figure out the buzzwords and one-sentence statements that our brand represents, to make sure we are sharing our most authentic brand on Instagram, Facebook, etc. in order to be relevant to our clients but so many times, we are told this without even being told what this actually means. The truth is your personal brand is not necessarily about the words you use; instead, your brand is best built with your own personal story and your willingness to dig a level deeper and share the stories that truly have shaped who you are, the stories that the average person would never know at first glance. It’s about recognizing that your story doesn’t have to have a certain level of achievement or drama to resonate with others. Why? Because it’s YOUR story and above all else, our clients may be initially motivated by the external outcomes you can provide them (healthier habits, weight loss, etc.) but long-term, they will be sustained by the internal emotions and connection you can provoke in them through a connection to your story. When our clients understand us as individuals, they find that deeper layer to connect to because we are no longer just their instructor; we are human just like them.

But the question still remains: what stories about myself should I tell? How do I even figure out what these stories are? Three exercises to will help you re-discover and share who YOU are:

  • Share Stories that Name Your Values: Take time to write down the 5-10 values that you hold as non-negotiables for yourself and then for each value, write down 3 short, real-life stories that answer the question, “ Why is this one of your values?”. For example, if you value honesty, what are 3 stories you have personally experienced that confirm how important honesty is to you? These stories will help your clients get to know you, your own core values, and what they can experience in knowing you.

  • Share Stories that Shape Your Teaching: Instead of the initial story that may show up in a quick bio (I was a dancer and now I teach), take yourself a level deeper and think about the stories that reflect the journey you have taken that inspired you to move from the back of the room to the front of the room to teach. Was there a client, or class, or other series of moments where something shifted for you and made you think “ And THIS is why I teach!”? (like me and my Shonda moment). If I asked you why yoga vs. strength training vs. cycling, could you tell me why this particular form of exercise evokes a certain emotion out of you? Or even better, are there clients who could tell you why they keep coming to your classes? These stories will help remind you of your own why and allow you for you to go a level deeper in your sharing your personal story.

  • Share Stories that Showcase Your Evolution: I am a firm believer that we never really stop learning and as a fitness leader, I know so many instructors are constantly looking for ways to transform their class, their own practice, and results for their clients. There are stories to tell about this too. Tell your clients what you just learned that is transforming how you teach, share your own struggles and wins with teaching, and most important, tell them why you continue teaching every single day. Each class teaches us something new and we are so many trying to figure out which stories of the past we should tell that we forget about the stories that are being told in front of our eyes every single day.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: Other ways you are learning to share your personal story to build your personal brand? Share them below!!! If you take away nothing else though, remember YOU are already a incredible story. Don’t be afraid to share yourself; the world wants to connect with you just as YOU are.