Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. These are the four pillars of strength.

When you look your best and feel your best confidence is high. Unfortunately, you can also allow your body to become a gate that holds you back from the things you want to do most. When you let your health decline so too does your self-confidence, zest for life, and willingness to try new things.

Just think back to a time when you were your happiest. It probably was also the same time you were your healthiest.

The good news is you have a say in the matter. You can choose for your health to be a source of strength or you can allow it to become a limiting factor that holds you back.



Strength is more than just a physical element. To truly display strength there must be a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength displayed on a consistent basis. It may take physical strength to squat 300 pounds but it takes mental strength to get up every morning and dedicate the time to it day after day.

The four pillars of strength complement each other and feed off of each other. One without the other is like a broken link in a chain. You may be strong up and down the chain but one tiny crack in a link and eventually that chain will break.

Derek Sivers equates building complete strength to being an elite athlete.

“Professional athletes typically spend about 90 percent of their time training, in order to be able to perform 10 percent of the time. Their entire lives are designed around expanding, sustaining, and renewing the energy they need to compete for short, focused periods of time. At a practical level, they build very precise routines for managing energy in all spheres of their lives – eating and sleeping; working out and resting; summoning the appropriate emotions; mentally preparing and staying focused, and connecting regularly to the mission they have set for themselves.”

The primary markers of physical capacity are strength, endurance, flexibility, and resilience. These are precisely the same markers of capacity for emotional, mental, and spiritual strength as well. (More on this below)

One is not any more important than the other. They go hand in hand, working together to provide us with complete strength in all avenues of our lives.


  • Physical strength: The ability to apply force or resistance during a given task. To lift, move, carry, or pull objects without hurting yourself.
  • Emotional strength: The ability to embrace a wide array of feelings and emotions and to transition from one response to another with full awareness, comfort, and confidence to allow yourself to feel and express them.
  • Mental strength: To be able to focus over an extended period of time, through highs and lows, good and bad. To value your own opinions and respect those of others and formulating your own conclusions to questions based upon the ability and commitment to continued education and learning of the self.
  • Spiritual strength: Is one’s commitment to personal values and virtues and the commitment to displaying them on a day-to-day basis. These virtues should be in the best interest of the self and of others. Respecting your own beliefs and accepting the beliefs of others.

Just like the athlete in Derek Sivers example you too must train yourself in all areas 90% of the time in order to achieve complete strength and perform when that 10% is calling you to do so. The good news is it’s easier than you think.


While studying at the Entheos academy for optimal living I came across a theory called the integrity gap. The integrity gap is the distance between what you are capable of and what you actually do.

WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ——————————————————————————————


WHAT YOU ACTUALLY DO ———————————————————————————————-

The what you are capable of the line represents who, what, and where you desire to be in your life. Your health, your career, your relationships, etc… your optimal life.

The what you actually do line represents who, what, and where you are now. Your health, your career, your relationships. Your life right now.

The gap in-between the two is known as the integrity gap. It could be filled with excuses, broken promises to yourself and to others, and essentially not living the highest version of yourself or not living a life centered around your virtues. Anxiety, stress, depression, poor health, and general discontentment are found here. The bigger the gap the bigger the problems.

The key to keeping your gap from becoming the size of the grand canyon is to pursue living life as your highest self. Your healthiest, your happiest, and by becoming aware of those things that keep you from what you are truly capable of.

Drugs, alcohol, television, unhealthy relationships, a job you hate, poor food choices, a sedentary lifestyle, excuses, poor financial decisions, are some of the ways we fill that gap. Some of these things might take up more space than others. You may have different fillers than your neighbor. The key is to become aware of some of the things that keep you from everything you are capable of. Once you discover what those space fillers are it’s important to play to your strengths. Which we covered here.

Most importantly be honest with yourself. Assess your situation, where you are, and where you want to be. Ask yourself these questions.

Do I want to make the necessary changes to close my gap? Am I capable of making these changes to close my gap?

If you answer YES, keep reading – If you answer NO, you already probably stopped.


When trying to close the gap it is best to take it one step at a time. What area in your life contributes to the gap the most? Or which area would you like to improve? It’s my opinion, and feel free to disagree that if we address our health concerns first other areas of our life start to round out into form as well.

As we get healthy we tend to have more energy, more confidence, more happiness, and are willing to try new things, take risks, and challenge life.

I suggest starting there.

Step 1: Concentrate all your effort into that task 

If you are trying to improve your health then try to improve your health. Forget another area you may want to improve as well. Totally commit to taking your health and well-being to the next level. Forget about looking for a new job, or saving for a rainy day. Put everything you have into becoming the healthiest person you can be.  It’s hard to spread yourself out over different avenues and truly commit all of yourself to it.

Imagine getting married, having a baby, starting your own business, starting an exercise and nutrition program, buying your first house, all at the same time. Talk about stress! Concentrate on one thing at a time. Get it to where you want it to be and then move to your next challenge.

Step 2: Don’t exercise – TRAIN! 

Now I’m taking this right from Shawn Phillips’s book “Strength For Life.” I loved the concept so much that I had to share it. Athletes don’t exercise, they train. But what’s the difference?

  • Exercise: Shawn calls it to exercise without purpose. I can’t argue with that. Exercise is done because you think you should be doing it. It usually lacks intensity, goals, and more often than not is done because you feel that you NEED to do it rather than wanting to do it. It’s usually not a lot of fun either.
  • Training: Has a distinct purpose. You usually want to do it, see value in it, you have goals, it is measurable, and often produces a state of flow.

The biggest difference between the two is the focus and purpose you have when training as opposed to exercising. Whether at home, in the gym, or running some hills you are focused and have a purpose for why you are there doing it. You want specific results from your training.

When you are training you should have a plan and no exactly why you are doing what you are doing.

Step 3: Focus, Focus, Focus 

This piggybacks off of the exercise versus training step. But this extends to all avenues of your life. A lot of us do a really good job talking the talk but when it comes down to it we don’t walk the walk. Going to the gym, buying healthy groceries, prepping for the week, and saying all the right things is all good and well but when it comes down to application can you handle it?

When you get to the gym do you have a plan and can you attack it with relentless intensity?

After you go grocery shopping for healthy foods can you commit to eating only those foods and not letting them go to waste while all the ice cream and peanut butter get demolished?

Step 4: Know your limits 

Whoa, dude… I thought this was a website about living without limits… that we are all limitless? What gives?

We all have an upper limit but that doesn’t mean the bar can’t be raised. Remember the first mile you ever ran in grade school? It probably wasn’t all that great of an experience and your time probably sucked. For those of you that Crossfit, remember your first experience? It probably was miserable. And for those of you that have kids… were you a natural parent at first? I’m pretty sure the first time I tried to put a diaper on my nephew it ended up on his head.

The point is we get better. As we commit ourselves and give our full focus and attention and are dedicated to improving and learning… we will.

When jumping into a new exercise program or nutrition plan we tend to get a little excited and want to jump all-in and do everything at once. It’s best to just slow down. Start with one thing at a time and just focus on getting better in that area.

If nutrition is a weak point check to see if you are drinking calories. If you are, make it a goal to just drink water (or lemon water) for a week. If you accomplish that feat then move on to your next challenge. Making one small improvement at a time.

If you haven’t exercised in a few years and are just getting back into it take easy. Doing six sets of everything and knocking out 100 push-ups isn’t going to do you a ton of good. You’ll be sore as all get-up and might not be interested in feeling that way too often so who knows if you ever go back to it.

Step 5: Don’t’ change yourself but instead transform 

Again, this is right from Shawn’s book. I loved it so much that I had to include it as well.

Change is usually temporary while a transformation is permanent.

I hate to ask but how many of you have been in a relationship where someone has “changed.” Yeah, they probably “changed” a few times and I’m guessing you’re not with them anymore.

A diet is an example of a temporary change. The word diet in itself suggests a quick fix, short-term, and something you don’t anticipate doing for very long. But transforming your lifestyle is a life-long investment that you are dedicated to and know can do over the long-haul. A transformation is permanent, healthy, play to your strengths.

So maybe we are wrong when we ask ourselves what we want to change… maybe we should ask ourselves what we want to transform.


When it comes down to it there is no outside source that will provide you with the pillars of strength to achieve all of the things you want to achieve.

It comes down to you. 


PS: Of the 4 pillars of strength where do you struggle most?

Photo Credit

Photo Credit