Better Working Brains And Bodies: Inspiration From Fitness Entrepreneur James Hanley

I am addicted to self-development. I honestly believe that no matter what we are doing, how well we’re performing and what our lives are like, we can always find ways to improve. This applies to our minds, bodies and spirits. It’s therefore no surprise that I’m an opportunist when it comes to anything that appears even remotely related.

Sometimes, I stumble upon cool people and events that are actually more than I bargained for.


Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to attend a seminar by James Hanley of ‘Revolution Fitness’ in Dublin. The wonderfully entitled ‘ Why our brains hate us and want us to fail’ instantly got my attention and made me drag my ass to the Skylon on my Saturday morning to listen to what he had to say.

James Hanley isn’t just a speaker or a personal trainer, he’s also an entrepreneur. He owns two successful gyms (and probably more to come) and has made an impact on hundreds of inspired (and now, healthier) men and women across Dublin.

Interestingly, James studied accountancy and worked for 4 years in one of those big finance companies in Dublin 1 before deciding to change his life and leave his job to get fit and strong and inspiring. Once he’d figured it all out and gotten big and strong and inspirational enough, he decided to help more people do the same. He now does tons of research in the form of trips to Bali and other far-flung lands so he can become even smarter and bestow his knowledge on the likes of myself and others who want to lap up his experience.

As James highlighted during his entertaining and informative talk, “our brains like comfort, don’t want change and will indeed self-sabotage”. When we make a decision to improve in a certain area of our life, our brains find ways to prevent this progression as a form of protection. In other words, our bodies and minds want to stay inside their comfort zones. When pushed into the unknown, we start to feel under-threat, we procrastinate and inevitably (for the most part), fail. This is why setting up strategies and understanding our minds is imperative. Once again, I highlight the fact that, knowledge is power and if we can understand our brains then surely we can make them work in our favor? That’s what I’m hoping for, at least.


Over the course of the seminar, certain points stood out more than others (this is mainly due to my lack of weights knowledge). I have never done a bench-press in my life and so, I sort of used the moment James was explaining a weights’ technique to take stalker paparazzi pictures of the room and crowd for my blog. I also used the time to jot down the greatest take-aways for my little old spongey brain on the day. These are outlined below.

1) Give meaning to your environment. We are indeed products of our environments. As children, we were influenced by what was going on around us whether that was calm or chaotic. This too, has had an effect on our minds as adults. If your head goes into overdrive when your desk is a mess in work, clean it. If you need a thousand candles lit while you wind down in the evening, light them. Need your bedclothes changed three times per week, do it. Whatever it takes to make you feel at your optimum, ensure you do it as environment is key.

2) As we change, those around us resist. One interesting factor James highlighted is that, as we make changes in our lives, we too change and so, this affects our interactions and relationships with those around us. This can be daunting and scary but it’s a natural progression. We want to surround ourselves with those who support our growth. We can move from being a follower to a leader or a student to teacher, depending on what’s going on at a given time.

Go with it, James says.

3) Do what makes you happy. It’s human nature to look around us and consider what we ‘should’ be doing. We base our decisions off what those around us are seeking and what we think is right. This is a recipe for disaster as, lack of contentment will lead to failure. We need to analyse an idea, judge for ourselves and go for what will lead to the most successful outcome. For example, I have zero interest in running a 10K this Summer. It’s been suggested to me and it would be a lovely thing to do but I have no interest so I won’t fool myself. Instead, I’m going surfing because it will be fun and I’m more likely to succeed for this reason. As James put it “if you’re not comfortable doing it, don’t. We’re here for a good time, not a long time.”

4) Don’t try to do it all at once. Please. The ‘all or nothing’ mentality can be a huge hindrance. We need to be clear in terms of what we can do and negotiate with ourselves rather than trying to do everything and fail. One method of doing this is, instead of working out 7 days a week, work out 4. Or instead of trying to cut out chocolate 100% of the time, take a day off and eat 1 bar. Compromises make sense so allow them for yourself.

5) Gratitude is key. James mentioned the importance of keeping a gratitude journal which immediately gave me pangs of guilt ( I have one and need to use it more). Our brain believes what we tell it. If we have a million euros and our brain tells us we need more then we’re going to believe and as a result, will probably be quite negative. On the other hand, we might have only a little and show gratitude towards it.

6) Take baby steps. Sarah of ‘The Better Life Project’ was also present on the day. Sarah is a life coach and general advocate (as you can guess) of leading a better life. James used Sarah’s mapping technique for goals as a guideline during the seminar. This basically shows that throughout the process of reaching for a goal or making progress in an area of our lives, we need to mark baby milestones so as to encourage ourselves. This might be a celebration of one month into your one year target of your business plan or being able to run 5K as you train for a full marathon. Celebrate your triumphs and you’ll feel more motivated to push forward.

James runs regular seminars related to fitness and leading a positive life. Be sure to visit his site and sign up to his newsletter to learn more.