Inspiring others through your passion for health and exercise is a noble pursuit. Many fitness professionals combine teaching group classes with personal training sessions to run a stable business. This is a great way to build a successful short-game. But what’s your long-game? More importantly, what’s your endgame?

Endgame: the final stage of a game or process. Originally from chess, endgame occurs after most pieces have been removed from the board. Defining your endgame early on is essential in physically demanding careers because the body will provide a window of opportunity for maximum performance and eventually that window will shut. Throughout any career, opportunities present themselves, but choices are eventually removed from the board. What’s left is your endgame. How well you play it depends on what you do today.

In my twenties I started a professional dance career teaching private lessons and group classes while competing across the United States. My long-game was to become a US Champion. While my short-game paid the bills, my long-game defined my goal. My choices regarding clients I’d take-on, competitions I’d attend, and coaches and partners I’d work with were all strategically filtered through my intention to run a successful long-game. But careers are organic and improvisational. When the ball is in play, disruptions will occur. We can’t fully control any outcome but each decision made throughout our short-game lays the groundwork for the long-game we play and our final moves on the board.

Ignoring your body’s “shelf life” for intense movement is a career error. My body’s performance level first changed at the age of 27, so I modified my training. When it changed again at 34, I refocused my long-game, and then again at 42, I initiated dance retirement and realized Vertical Method, the studio I now own and operate. I did not become a US Champion but my long-game improved and my endgame strategy became far more lucrative.

It’s well publicized that former athletes make great entrepreneurs. Cross-functional skills from decades of competition allow us to adapt and perform. When an exciting new platform appears, we see opportunity for success. However you don’t need to be a former athlete to plan your short-game and long-game with equal intention for true balance. Adopting the mindset will allow you to succeed in not only the short term, but the long term as well.

What does your short-game create? Yes, you built a business that covers all personal expenses, but what did you create in the process? A class, a product, a system, a brand, even a reputation are all components to substantiate a successful long-game.

When do you shine? That element of your short-game when you feel like you’re at your best is a clear indicator of what’s next. If you’re good at designing classes, then education might be your next step. If you’re excellent at management or mentoring fellow professionals, then a corporate brand might be the right fit. Are you an innovator? Then patent your IP and bring your product to market. Focus is mandatory when planning your long-game. Don’t just do whatever crosses your path. Knowing what you want is essential. If your answer is simply “to pay rent” then your long-game is undefined and your endgame is nowhere in sight.

What do you fear? Failure is essential to success and your short-game is the perfect time to do it! The greatest athletes, artists and inventors failed hard and often. A common defense against failure is not “really” trying. Your worst decisions are fear-based, so learn to identify what scares you and meet it head on because your short-game depends on it. Do you fear technology or what you don’t know? Then develop new skills. Like an athlete, leave your comfort zone and push through the pain to find your stride.

Every day, choose carefully what you accept, reject or participate in as if your long-game depends on it, because it does. Perhaps uploading those iPhone training videos onto Yondo.com will lead to a subscription following and a professional training program. Perhaps quality images on your Instagram account will lead to a unique personal brand and a clothing line. Perhaps that self-published e-book about your theories of movement will lead to presenting at IDEA and a corporate education job. Entrepreneurs, like athletes, factor in the unknown but don’t let it sway their overall intention.

At some point you cannot make a living exercising alongside clients. You can stay in the health and fitness industry as long as you like, but you must plan now. Curious about your endgame? Then define your long-game and play a short-game that makes sense.

Jennifer Davis is the founder of Vertical Method in San Francisco and the inventor of the patent-pending VertiBAR™ Station.

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