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How to build good habits for better health in an unsupportive environment
Episode 2923rd May 2023 • Unshakable Habits • Stephen Box
00:00:00 00:20:45

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Episode Summary

In our previous episode, I interviewed Sean Robinson, a firefighter and electrician, about the pushback he got from his environment when his Dry January Challenge went into March and beyond.

This week, I wanted to dive deeper into this conversation and give you a few practical tips for building good habits for your health when faced with an unsupportive environment.

https://www.unshakablehabits.com/how-to-build-good-habits-for-better-health-in-an-unsupportive-environment

Key Topics

  • Why changing is so hard?
  • The 3 potential outcomes of choosing to make a change within an unsupportive environment.
  • The importance of choosing our identity to make lasting changes and overcoming fears that may arise during the process.
  • How to identify your sphere of control.

Related Episodes

A Sober Transformation: Redefining Masculinity and Shattering Limits with Sean Robinson

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Transcripts

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Hey guys, welcome to the Unshakable Habits podcast.

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Today we're gonna be talking about what happens when you

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are in an environment that has resistance towards positive change.

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So you've probably heard the platitude.

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You are the average of the five people who you spend the most time

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with, and this is problematic for a lot of people who are in professions

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or in environments that maybe they have limited control over who they're around,

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and they have very limited control over what the culture of that environment is.

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So today's episode is going to talk about what to do when you are trying

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to make changes to make your life better, but your environment does

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not exactly embrace those changes.

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I'm gonna give you guys some actionable strategies to deal

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with that right after this intro.

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Are you ready to break free from your old habits and create a better life

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for yourself and those around you?

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If so, welcome to Unshakable Habits, the podcast dedicated to helping

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men be better husbands, fathers, and leaders by prioritizing their

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physical and mental wellbeing.

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Each week we'll look at health from a 360 degree perspective with

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inspiring stories and practical strategies for building Unshakable

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habits that'll transform your life.

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Join Stephen Box, a board certified health and wellness coach, and

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let's change the world together.

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One habit at a time.

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Welcome back.

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This week's episode is going to be a solo podcast, and what I wanted to do is touch

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on this subject about environments because if you caught last week's new episode

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with Sean Robinson, you know, this was really the focus of our conversation.

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If you haven't already checked out that episode, highly recommend you do so.

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I'll go ahead and actually link that in the video here above.

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But if you've already checked it out, then this is just gonna kind of

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be an opportunity for you to get a little bit more insight into this.

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If you haven't watched it yet, feel free to finish watching this video

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first, and then go back and watch it.

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It's not gonna matter which order you watch them in, so you're good either way.

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So let's dive into this thing.

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Let's talk about when you are in environments that

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are not conducive to change.

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This is the situation that Sean found himself in and we

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talked about in his episode.

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Where being a firefighter, being an electrician, he was in

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these very manly professions.

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Now, there are women that work in these professions as well, but they're still

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very manly environments and a lot of the, let's say old school masculine

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mentality type stuff was there.

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Right?

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And some of that stuff isn't necessarily conducive to change.

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And this was the struggle that Sean had when he started doing

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his dry January challenge.

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He met some resistance from his coworkers.

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So we kind of dive into how he dealt with that.

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But I'm gonna give you guys some actionable strategies for that today.

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So first thing is, let's talk about why is it so difficult to actually

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change in these environments, right?

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What does it actually look like?

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Well, most of the time you find yourself wanting to make a change.

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You know that something's not quite right, you wanna get better, but.

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The changes you wanna make a lot of times will go against the norms.

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So I mentioned with Sean, it was a dry January challenge, and he was in an

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environment where alcohol was a regular part of just being part of the group.

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So for him to go and give up alcohol was something that was kind of frowned upon.

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Now, in the beginning, he was able to get away with it, so to speak, because.

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He was doing a challenge, right?

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So it was more acceptable because it was a way to challenge himself.

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But as the months went on and you know, dry January's thing, dry

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February is still kind of a thing.

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But by the time he got to March, It was full on resistance.

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It was full on, dude, what are you doing?

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You're good now you've done it.

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Why would you keep doing this to yourself?

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So his environment was pushing back on him and so he had to

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figure out how to make this change.

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And this is an experience that I think a lot of us find ourselves in is

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society has expectations for us as men.

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Our families have expectations for us as husbands and fathers or

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boyfriends, if you're not married yet.

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Maybe your parents have certain expectations for you.

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Your employer has certain expectations for you.

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Everyone it seems, has expectations, and sometimes it can feel like

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everyone but you is living your life.

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So that's why it can be really challenging, and especially I think for

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us as men, it can be challenging because a lot of what we've been taught by

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society is to kind of put each other down.

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And we're then told, don't be sensitive about it.

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Don't take it personal.

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And here's the reality.

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Even if you've got pretty thick skin, there's only so many times

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that people are going to insult you and say things to you before it's

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gonna kind of start to eat at you.

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You might not recognize it, right?

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You may have convinced yourself that you're not feeling it, but the reality

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is those things do have an impact on you.

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So let's give you a quick example of what this looks like in real life.

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There's a show.

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That I used to watch many, many years ago.

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I think they've changed the format of it.

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I don't even know if it's still on, but it was called Brain Games.

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what they would do is they would put hidden cameras and they would go out

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and do these different experiments.

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So the one experiment they did very interesting was they put

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cameras in a dentist office and everyone in the office was a plant.

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So they were, they were all in on it, except for one person.

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So what happened was this woman goes into the dentist office and every

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single person in there, when they played this chime sound would stand up.

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Now, of course, in the beginning she looks at everyone like they're

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crazy, just like we all would.

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But after a couple times of everyone's standing up, every time this chime

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went off, she started to follow suit.

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Okay, and now here's where things get really crazy.

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So one by one, they start taking the people away and

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it's just her left in the room.

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So now you would think, okay, there's no peer pressure for her to continue

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to conform to this norm that had been established in the office.

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But when the chime went off and she was the only person in there, she stood up.

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Now here's where it gets really crazy.

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They started sending other people into the room.

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Now these people also were not in on it.

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So these were completely unsuspecting people.

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And as they started to come in one by one, she would stand up, they

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would look at her crazy, then they'd start to follow suit until they

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eventually got a whole room full of people now doing the exact same thing.

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So when we look at an example like that, it's hard to think to

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yourself, why would you do that?

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Like, I would never do that.

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That's what we like to think, right?

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But the reality is, as one of my mentors, so elegantly put it, we

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are not rational or irrational.

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We're post rational, meaning we don't actually make decisions that

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make sense or don't make sense.

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We make decisions based on what feels safe, what.

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Maybe makes sense in that moment, because that's one of my other mentors says

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all problems or all behaviors, excuse me, are an attempt to solve a problem.

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So even if it's not the best solution.

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So that's what we're doing.

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We're just trying to solve a problem that we have.

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And in the dentist office, it was discomfort, right?

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It was not being a part of the crowd.

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And that's the situation.

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That a lot of us find ourselves in, where we try to make changes

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in these environments is we want to conform to the crowd, and then what

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we do is we post rationalize the decision that we've already made.

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And that's why a lot of times we think we made a rational decision

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because there was a thought process, but we're not really thinking about

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the fact that we started that process after the decision was already made.

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So that's why there's so much struggle when it actually comes to

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making changes in these environments.

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Now this might all sound like doom and gloom, and you might be thinking

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to yourself, well, great Stephen.

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So basically what you're telling me is if I'm stuck in this

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environment, I am screwed.

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And the good news is you're not because here's the truth.

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Yes, our environment has an impact on us, but when we start to become

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aware of our environment, when we start to become aware of our automatic

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tendencies, when we start to become aware, Of the things that are happening,

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our environment no longer shapes us.

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We shape us.

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That's right.

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You get to decide who you're gonna be, not your environment.

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Your environment does not get to decide ultimately who you're going to be.

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See, I can take this five person analogy, right?

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And I can point out to you that.

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If I were to put someone who drinks occasionally, right?

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Not, not all the time.

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Just occasional drinking is something they enjoy doing, but it's very occasional

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and I put them into an environment where five people who drink all the time.

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That person is likely to start to drink more But if I take someone

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who doesn't drink at all, then that person is gonna go in and they're not

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going to start drinking just because everyone else is, because they don't

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see themselves as a drinker, right?

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But on the other hand, maybe that person goes in and they have that person

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who doesn't drink, goes in, and they have low self-esteem, and it's really

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important to them to fit into the crowd.

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And they just never drank.

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It wasn't really a part of their identity per se.

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It's just something that they haven't actually done.

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That person might actually start drinking.

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So this is where this idea comes from, that these five people have

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an influence on us, but ultimately that influence is dictated by

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the beliefs that we come in with.

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So I hope that makes sense for you guys.

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Now, when we start thinking about making these changes, there's

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three potential outcomes to making changes in these environments.

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Number one is you end up deciding on your own that this environment is not

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for you, that it's not conducive to where you want to go and you decide to leave.

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This was my story when I worked retail management.

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I started losing weight.

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I got to a point where I realized if I wanted to continue getting healthy, if I

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wanted to continue making positive changes in my life, I had to remove myself from

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that environment because I couldn't really change a lot about the environment itself.

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I had made all the changes I could make, and it wasn't conducive to my growth.

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So I made a decision to leave the environment.

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The second possibility that can happen.

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Is that you end up having an impact on your environment and if you go

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back and listen to Sean's episode, this is what happened with him.

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Yes, there was some initial resistance there.

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But over time, his willingness to stick with it and continue making

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these positive changes, and not just one change, but multiple positive

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changes in his life, led other people to start going, Hey, I kind of want

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what Sean has, and he started having a positive impact on his environment.

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The third outcome, and this one is the one that a lot of people

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fear is gonna happen, is that the environment is going to kick you out.

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And for a lot of people, their environment, especially if that

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environment is work related, is a huge part of their identity.

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And that is a big scary thing.

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Right?

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That's why I love Sean's story and I commend him so much

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for what he accomplished.

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Because the reality is Sean loves being a firefighter.

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That's why he is been doing it for 20 years, but, Going into that situation,

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deciding I'm gonna give up alcohol.

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Getting that resistance, getting that pushback from, some people want,

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Hey, why are you still doing this?

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Why aren't you being one of the guys?

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Or, he used the example that one of his friends got married and they really

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wanted him to drink at the wedding, and he's like, I'm not going to drink.

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So realizing that in any of those situations that fear could have kicked in.

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That Sean's gonna lose his friends, he's going to lose his, his

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career, or at the very least, those things are become less enjoyable.

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Right?

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But he was committed to who he wanted to be, and that's what

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allowed him to stick with that.

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So, big ups to Sean on that, but I just wanted to kind of point that out

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to you guys because a lot of times we fear these things and the reality

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is, That initial pushback that we get is just other people kind of being

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afraid to move forward themselves.

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It's them being afraid to let go of what's comfortable for them.

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Cause remember, our brains are hardwired for survival and there's

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nothing to guarantee survival better than predictability.

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So when everything is status quo and our brains know what's gonna happen,

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Everything is good, but when all of a sudden we are being asked to start

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doing new things, when our brain has to learn new patterns, new routines,

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it's kind of scary for our brains.

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So let's talk about what we do to make this actionable.

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Well, number one, and, and I've already kind of given these to you guys, but I'm

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gonna break them down into steps so that you can actually see them more clearly.

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So number one is you have to choose your identity, right?

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So I used this example with Sean of how he decided, you know what?

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These are things I'm gonna do.

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I'm going to stop drinking.

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And by the way, he didn't set out to stop drinking forever.

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He decided in the beginning that it was really just a challenge.

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It was a way to push himself just to see if he could do it.

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But over time, that identity started to develop and the more he became

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entrenched into that identity, the easier the change became for him.

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So that's number one, is you have to change your identity.

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If you continue to see yourself in a certain light is going to be

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difficult to change that thing.

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You have to change the way you see yourself.

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So, for example, in his book, atomic Habits, James Clear uses the example.

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That if someone is giving up smoking and someone offers them a

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cigarette, and that person says, no, thanks, I'm trying to quit.

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Your identity is someone who's trying to quit.

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Trying is hard.

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Trying, basically tells you that you're not there yet, and so you're more likely

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to maybe give in and take that cigarette, but on the other hand, If that person

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responded with no thanks, I don't smoke.

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The temptation is gone because you no longer see yourself as a smoker.

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You see, like I don't see myself as a drinker, so when people

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offer me alcohol, I have zero qualms about saying, no, I'm good.

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And if I get any pushback on it, it doesn't bother me because.

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My identity is someone who doesn't drink, so I'm not gonna let

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someone pressure me into drinking.

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But if someone else has low self-esteem or they see themselves as someone

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who does enjoy alcohol, even if they don't want to do it all the time, it's

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easier for them to get pulled into that environment because their identity isn't

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that As someone who doesn't drink right.

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Now if that person has a strong identity as someone who only drinks sometimes,

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then maybe they at least control the intake in those environments.

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But do you see how it really doesn't matter what the other

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person's doing, it's all about you.

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I wanna kind of point out to you guys here real quick too, that this

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goes back to what I always talk about about connected health, right?

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So if you're not familiar with the concept of connected health, it looks at health

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from six different perspectives, physical.

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Mental, emotional, relational, environmental, and then existential.

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So when you look at this, mental is our thoughts and beliefs, right?

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So in this instance we're talking about alcohol.

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Your belief is I'm not a drinker, or I'm a social drinker, or, Whatever, right?

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Like you have your thought, your belief around that emotional health

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is our internal or external reaction to our thoughts and beliefs, right?

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So when you say those things, it creates an emotion in your body.

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And so for me, you know, if someone gets really pushy about

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wanting me to drink something that might cause anger to bubble up.

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Or frustration to bubble up, or it might make me want to just leave

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the environment because it is so strong against my identity, right?

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Whereas someone who is considers themselves a social drinker, Maybe

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they're more inclined to say, I'll have a drink because I'm in a social

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environment and I am a social drinker.

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So hopefully that makes sense for you guys in terms of understanding the identity.

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And guess what?

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You get to choose your identity.

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So that's why I said ultimately you get to choose.

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Not your environment.

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All right.

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So the second thing is you have to look at your sphere of control.

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The reality for a lot of us is we are going to be in situations

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where we may not have a lot of control over the environment itself.

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We can't change things around, we can't change policies, we can't

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change the people that we're around.

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We're stuck with them.

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But what we can change is things about ourself, right?

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So kind of switching gears to use a different example here.

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Let's say that we're talking about eating.

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Healthier foods.

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I can make a choice about what food I bring.

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I can make a choice about what foods I eat.

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I can't control if there's a 10 minute wait at the microwave, right?

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I can't control that.

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But what I can control is bringing my food, maybe having a backup plan.

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I can do that, that I can have control over.

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So start looking at your sphere of control and look at this

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from the concept of layers.

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So let's think about like starting with what's on your physical body.

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What's in your immediate vicinity?

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What's in the room around you?

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What's in the building?

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What keep going out like that, right?

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Like start thinking about these different layers of your environment

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and think about what within each of those layers, do you have control?

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Do you have full control?

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Which ones do you have some level of control?

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And which ones do you have no control at all?

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Right?

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And now the things that we have full control over, we can make changes

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to things we have some control over.

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We can make changes within our.

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Individual ability to make change and the things that we don't have any control

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over, we have to learn to let go of.

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then the final thing in this kind of touches on that, idea of letting go

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is you have to set boundaries, right?

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And, and this was something that Sean talked a lot about in his episode of

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how he went about setting boundaries.

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So, I really encourage you guys to go listen to the episode and see what it was

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that Sean actually did to, to set those boundaries and see how he really started

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creating this identity for himself.

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And he really started to take accountability for what he could and

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could not actually control and how that ultimately led to him having a

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positive impact on his environment.

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hopefully that helps you guys.

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And, you know, gives you something to think about in terms of are you in the

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situation where the best thing for you to do is just leave your environment, create

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a whole new environment for yourself?

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Or are you at a point where maybe you love the environment?

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But you just don't love who you are in it, and that's what you need to change.

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there is no right or wrong, either one is completely fine.

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You get to decide for yourself which one is right for you.

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And I just hope that this video today is kind of helping you take

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some steps towards doing that.

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So again, if you guys want more information on this, if you want some

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more examples, if you wanna see this really kind of played out full in

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real life, go back, listen to Sean Robinson's episode and if you wanna

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check out any other episodes of the podcast, there'll be a link at the

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end of the video to those as well.

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So as always, guys, Stephen Box reminding you that we are not all born Unshakable,

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but we can all become Unshakable.

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Thank you for listening to the Unshakable Habits podcast with Coach Stephen Box.

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Be sure to hit the subscribe button and help us spread the word by

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sharing the podcast with other men.

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