The goal of the “Living in Your Top 1%” interview series is to break down the qualities of people who excel and to show that you can be successful and achieve personal greatness from any starting point in your life. The interview series looks at people from all different careers and industries. Some names will be familiar and others may not. The purpose is to understand and borrow from the “best practices” of winners to develop a roadmap to YOUR TOP 1%. We will share a new story each month.
This week’s guest is Allison Belger — psychologist, author, mom, fitness coach, and co-owner of four CrossFit affiliate gyms. I’m excited to share that her first book, The Power of Community, is now available. She highlights why it’s important to build communities in our lives in order to thrive and how a strong community can motivate people to push beyond perceived limits. A former division-one collegiate soccer player and five-time marathoner, she understands community and has embraced it to help herself and others to excel and lead fulfilling lives. She graduated from Dartmouth College, earned her Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California.
I’ve known Allison for more than 30 years and it’s a treat to include her in the Living in Your Top 1% interview series…
“When you have a group of people surrounding you, the landscape is limitless and the possibilities endless.” – Allison Belger
Alissa: What’s the most important strength you possess that allows you to excel in your role?
Allison Belger: I have a great ability to focus on a task at hand and crank out the work that needs to be done, regardless of whatever else is going on in my life. I am an extremely efficient worker – comes with being Type A and preferring to get things off of my plate – instead of having them linger on some unwritten to-do list. I think I possess a good combination of high expectations of others and an ability to motivate them to do their best, while also knowing when to let a softer side come through and allow the needs and desires of others to be heard and met when possible.
AF: What does success mean to you?
AB: Success means doing something to which you have chosen to apply yourself in a way that makes you feel good about the outcome. You decide what you take on, and you do it well.
AF: What motivates you on a daily basis to keep going?
AB: My family provides the ultimate motivation to “keep going” in the grand sense of the phrase, but my commitment to myself is what drives me within pursuits I have sought out based on interest and genetic inclination. Pleasing others is not much of a motivation for me, but of course if the end result of my commitment to myself is that I’ve done something others appreciate, then that’s great!
AF: What role do goals play in your life?
AB: I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a list-maker or specific goal-setter. It may be why I struggle with balance in my life (see balance question below). I have always allowed my goals to evolve organically, and thus the effort put toward those goals flows unformed at times, as well. This works for me, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people need, and respond well to, more structure.
AF: Why is community so important?
AB: We are social animals. We are driven to make connections with other people. We usually perform better in groups. Social support allows us to dig deep and access parts of ourselves that would otherwise remain dormant. In the comfort of friends and supporters, we are freer to take risks, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and push beyond the limits of our comfort zone, all of which lead to greater outcomes.
AF: How can we create community in our lives?
AB: Become a volunteer at an organization whose mission jives with your ideals and values. Many non-profits are centered around creating community for populations in need, so there’s the added bonus that while you are becoming part of a community, you are also creating one for others less fortunate.
Go on an outdoor adventure lead by a trusted adventure outfitter. When stripped of the external trappings of everyday life, we learn much about ourselves and experience the critical nature of interpersonal support.
Join some kind of group exercise program. CrossFit is a great one. It is a functional fitness program whose culture is all about community. You’ll experience for yourself why people can do so much more than they ever thought possible, given group support and affiliation.
AF: You now own four CrossFit gyms and have created a powerful community. What are your challenges as a mom, wife, and business owner to keep some form of balance in your life?
AB: Like so many people who wear multiple hats and have many obligations and passions, I often struggle to keep balance in my life. My success at doing so is variable, to be honest! I’m a pretty obsessive person by nature, which means that I have a hard time letting go of projects and leaving behind my work life when I’m in the role of mom. Working out is one form of release and balance for me, but even that has become complicated, since my workouts have become so intertwined with my work life. I recently started doing some mini-meditation exercises throughout the day, and this seems to be helping with that balance quite a bit.
Ultimately, the most effective way to find balance is to look at my kids and remind myself what they need and how little they care about many of the things by which I can become consumed. If you don’t have kids and cannot make use of this perspective, perhaps think of the child in you needing something from the busy, working adult in you.
AF: What are some of your most meaningful accomplishments?
AB: Becoming a wife and mother, becoming a psychologist, and having my first book published. I am also incredibly proud of having helped to create our TJ’s Gym community of over one-thousand members whose lives are getting better, one workout at a time, one interpersonal connection at a time.
AF: What do the top performers do differently to excel?
AB: Top performers care enough to make sacrifices that will allow them to excel. They set realistic but far-reaching goals and know what it takes to achieve them. They surround themselves with people who share their commitment to excellence, and they make meaningful connections with those people as part of their process. They are not afraid to take a few steps backward, working on the foundations despite their public reputation as an expert or top performer. This ability to be vulnerable and to check one’s ego at the door is a huge part of what leads to greatness.
The “Living in Your Top 1%” interview series is presented by Alissa Finerman, an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dress for Success. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook