3 core aspects of life (a formula for improvement)

How to improve and optimize your life based on 3 core aspects

Matt Stephens
Matt Stephens, CNS Transformation coach, competitive bodybuilder, certified nutritionist

I once had a friend tell me, “Matt, you’re an intense person. Anything you decide to do, you do it 110%.” He meant it as a compliment, so I graciously accepted it. But a realization kinda struck me when he told me that. I never really considered my intensity level as anything outside of normal. It’s just who I am.

But as I began thinking on it, he was absolutely right.

I even had an ex-girlfriend once tell me, “You’re either all or nothing.”

She was right too. If you’re not about it, then I’m not about it.

Anything I get involved with, gets all of me. All of my relationships, finishing college, bodybuilding, music, etc. I tend to put my heart into things, which has been a strength of mine, as well as a weakness. So, I got to thinking about it the other day…

When I fail at something that I wanted so badly to succeed at, it really gets to me. It becomes something that I have to figure out. I have to know why, how, what was the cause, who can help me, where did I go wrong, and I have to fix it. I’ll read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, talk to people, read forums, and consume whatever information I can so I understand everything about it.

Every year that I compete in a bodybuilding competition, I’m driven to do better than the previous year. Every relationship I’ve had, I’ve been driven to make it better than the last. I do the same with my jobs, interactions with others, dates, and pretty much anything.

I really do think it has a lot to do with when I decided to turn things around in my life. Once I started doing the things I needed to do to improve, I wanted more of the results I was getting. I became addicted to it. As people, we are susceptible to addictions. We can become addicted to anything that provides a stimulus. This only becomes an issue when the addiction is to our detriment. In this case, it was to my benefit.

I consider myself a very introspective person. I’ve spent much of my time alone and to my own thoughts. There were so many things in my life that I had not reflected on and it was something I needed to do in order to get to the root cause of my problems, so I could really fix them. I’ve dug pretty deep into myself, which is an essential requirement to get to know yourself. Too many people try to get to know others without getting to know themselves first. This is backwards. You can’t fully understand others without fully understanding yourself first.

The way I see it, we only have this one life. This is our only shot. So, why not give it our best?

And the trick is, we have to find out what’s best for ourselves, on an individual, or micro level. On a macro, or group level, we are all very much the same. But on a micro level, we all so very different. When you look at your:

  • Interests
  • Motives
  • Skills
  • Political affiliations
  • Beliefs
  • Preferences
  • Abilities
  • Physical characteristics
  • Personality traits

… you could belong to so many different groups. But as a combination of all of those, you are the only you. You are unique.

In order to help you figure yourself out (because that is imperative to enjoying your life to the fullest extent), I’ve broken down the three aspects that make up our being, on a macro level. And I’ll elaborate on each one of them, so you can get a better idea of how to optimize them on your own micro level.

They are the pillars of your life and they all affect each other. It’s much like a tripod; if one leg loses stability, the other two fall with it. Here they are:

1. Mental = Mind

Your mind is a muscle. If you don’t engage it, it will be weak. Knowledge isn’t power unless it’s applied. When it is applied, that power is a power over yourself and your life. Here are a few ways you can engage your mind:


On a macro level, we all need to learn. But on a micro level, we all need to learn about the specific things that pertain to our own situations and interests. You always need to be learning about the things that intrigue you, but also force yourself to learn the things that you know will be good for you. Try to improve your skill level for your career or a hobby. Study the areas you want to grow in, such as nutrition, health, your family history, relationships, personal development, your personality type, religion, etc. But don’t just study them, learn from experience as well. The more you know, the greater chance you have at realizing your potential.


Everyone has some sort of creativity. If you really think about it, everything we do has an artistic aspect to it. The more you create, the better you will become at creating. You could possibly come up with a helpful technique at your job to increase everyone’s efficiency. Or, you could come up with an idea for a project you want to get involved with. Creativity is not limited to things like writing, drawing, painting, or music. Creativity is all around you, in the clothes you wear, the furniture you have in your house, the car you drive, and literally everything else. Before those things were invented, they were a thought that someone brought into reality.

2. Physical = Body

The saying goes:

“True wealth is good health”

Your body is the only one you have. You want to make it last. If you don’t take care of it now, you will pay for it in the future. When your body is healthy, you feel, look, and are able to be your best. Your energy is up. Your mood is improved. You are at your most attractive state. These points are crucial to your health:


Your body uses the essential nutrients you provide it with to repair itself. Make sure you are giving it everything it needs to perform at its most supreme ability: vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates. The best sources for these are from food. Try to minimize the supplements you take. They are called “supplements” because they are supplemental, of course. Only use supplements to make up for deficiencies you cannot cover from your diet.

On a macro level, we all need them. On a micro level, everyone needs different amounts of everything. Even though the nutrition label may say “Vitamin C 100%”, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100% for you. It could only be 20%, because your body requires more.

Do not overindulge. Especially with sugar, but a treat every now and then is fine. Eat enough to be satisfied. Fat storage happens when you are full too often, because that’s an indicator that you are in a caloric surplus. It’s okay, and actually good for you, to be hungry every now and then. Also, avoid vegetable oils like the plague. They create inflammation in your body, which is the cause for various diseases, such as cancer.

If you need help in this area, it’s my expertise and I still have available slots open for those who are serious about getting the results they want. Click the link, provide the details, and I will contact you to answer any questions you may have.


This one pretty much speaks for itself. Your body was meant to be used. We were meant to move. If you have a desk job, it is paramount that you involve yourself in some type of exercise. Train at least 3 times per week. If you can do more, that’s even better. Just get yourself moving and push yourself to your limits. Make yourself get a good sweat. You will feel incredible afterwards, I promise.


This may be the most important one, because it is the most unnoticeably neglected and compromised aspect of your health. I cannot stress this enough. Do not compromise your sleep. Your body has a whole host of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other bodily chemicals, that control every single function in the body. They are regulated when you sleep. Lack of sleep can cause so many issues for you:

  • Depression
  • Lack of focus
  • Mood swings
  • Shortened lifespan
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lowered testosterone

Just to name a few. Your body repairs itself when you sleep. Imagine taking your car to the mechanic for a tune-up and then leaving before he can even finish fixing your car. That’s exactly what you’re doing to your body when you don’t get enough sleep. On a macro level, we all need it. But on a micro level, everyone needs a different amount. However, only a small percentage of the population can get away with just 6 hours of sleep. Do not take the chance that you are one of them. By the time you realize you were wrong, it may be too late. Always shoot for 8 hours, but 7 hours is the bare minimum. Personally, I found my sweet spot to be around 7.5-8.5 hours.

3. Emotional = Soul

Do the things in life that align with your heart and your deepest desires:

  • Spend quality time with family
  • Celebrate with friends when something good happens
  • Do work that is fulfilling and rewarding to you
  • Help others
  • Brighten someone’s day
  • Accomplish goals
  • Make love to your significant other
  • Make the most out of the new things that you experience
  • See the places you want to see

You give your life meaning. You determine what means something to you. To not live by that meaning is to not live out your soul’s purpose. On a macro level, everyone needs this. On a micro level, everyone’s desires and meanings are different.

You are a human being, meaning you are a being of emotion. Learn to get in tune with yourself, emotionally. It will improve your well-being and your relationships with others. We’re social creatures. Relationships are such an essential part of our lives and we could always contribute more to improving them.

If you listen to the deepest of your emotions, they can help guide you through your life. However, if you let your immediate emotions take control of your actions, they can get the best of you. Also, know that bad emotions are good for you sometimes. The things in life worth having are not easy to attain. It can be uncomfortable, or painful, when you try to achieve something. These emotions are emotional growing pains. Sometimes, the bad emotions can tell you you’re on the right path, just as much as the good emotions can. Learn to distinguish between the two. A question that will help you accomplish this:

In the long run, is this helping me or hurting me?

If continuing to push through it will help you achieve a meaningful goal, then it may be well worth the effort. Pushing through that stress and pressure will help you become the person you’ll need to be to get you to your desired destination. Your actions have to align with what it takes to achieve that goal, however tough it may be. If you can’t handle it, then maybe you need to reevaluate how much it’s really worth to you. If it’s worth more than you are, you will not get it. That’s just the reality of it and that’s okay sometimes.

If you’re working a job that is not fulfilling to you, it can suck the soul out of you. Your deepest emotions may tell you, “You need to get the hell out of here.” If you’ve been working too much, your deepest emotions may tell you, “It’s time to take a vacation.” If you’re in a relationship that is not helping you bring out the best in yourself, your deepest emotions may tell you, “It’s time to move on.”

Everything that comes into your life will provide you with some sort of emotion. Many are not easy to deal with. You need to be able to tell which ones are worth it. It’s not common that someone will be able to relate to every situation you have in your life. You’re going to have to rely on experience much more than the advice of others. But that’s important, because it’s the best, but also the hardest, way to learn how to feel yourself out.


Many of your goals should revolve around these core areas. If you do not take care of these needs, you will suffer unnecessary and painful consequences. However, just knowing this gives you the advantage of preventing those consequences. You aren’t going to get it right the first time. We are all continual works-in-progress. Do the best you can by pushing your limits daily. Those stretched limits will improve your abilities, which will improve your life.

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    Written by

    Matt Stephens

    I’m a competitive bodybuilder, nutritionist, and professional coach.

    I help men and women look and feel good using evidence-based bodybuilding methods applied sustainably to everyday life.