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Jillian Michaels reveals how to unlock your ‘Unlimited’ potential

Jillian Michaels works “The Biggest Loser” contestants’ minds as well as their bodies.  |  Phoprovided

Jillian Michaels works on “The Biggest Loser” contestants’ minds as well as their bodies. | Photo provided

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Updated: July 26, 2011 12:21AM

I used one of the lessons I learned in Jillian Michaels’ new book, Unlimited, on well, Jillian Michaels.

I was asked if I’d like to interview Michaels, but during a group teleconference. Well sure, I’d like to talk to Michaels, who many know from her role on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” But, a teleconference? Those are clunky, and I didn’t have much interest in one.

I had just read the part in Unlimited (Crown Publishing, $26) where Michaels talks about the importance of having goals, big and small. I decided a small one for myself would be to talk to Michaels one-on-one. I like her spunkiness, her workout DVDs and now this book of hers. I’d like to talk to her.

But, as Michaels points out in the book, if you’re going to have goals, you must put in the work to make them happen. Basically, do your homework first. So, I mulled the idea awhile and thought, why should Michaels people want to let me have a one-on-one when others cannot? After all, Jillian Michaels is a pretty busy woman.

Then, I remembered how popular she’d been during a visit to Grant Park a few years back and decided I’d use that information to appeal to them. I wrote back to the publicist and said yes, I wanted to talk to Michaels — made my wish known, another tip gleaned from Unlimited; after all, you can’t get what you want if the other party doesn’t know your desires. But, I explained, I wanted a one-on-one. I brought up the Grant Park visit, told of the Sun-Times’ coverage of that visit and said someone so popular with our readers certainly could end up on the cover of our Easy section if I had a solid one-on-one with her.

Well, I can tell you those Unlimited exercises do work. She and I had a nice, 18-minute phone conversation.

In all seriousness, Unlimited is a very candid and thorough book that aims to help people lead more fulfilling lives. I especially like how after each chapter there’s homework to allow the reader self-examination time.

The subtitle to the book is How to Build an Exceptional Life. Why? Because so many of us are leading anything but, particularly after the tough economic times we’ve been through the last few years. We’re persevering and figure that should satisfy us.

Wrong, says Michaels. “Life is about thriving,” according to Michaels, and just surviving is “utter crap.”

“There are people who are living their dreams,” she says. “Why not you?”

For too many people, life has been all about going through the motions. If you really want change, first you have to figure out what your goals are. As Michaels writes in the book, you wouldn’t take a trip without figuring out where you were going, how you were getting there and what you would do once there, would you?

And it’s not enough to pen a goal that says something like “I want to be happy,” Or, “I want to be healthy.” Too vague. Michaels tells readers they have to figure out what those things mean to them specifically.

She also recommends that once that goal is defined, add as many details as possible. What will it feel like? If it’s working at a new career, visualize your workspace, what you’ll wear. Doing all this creates an emotional attachment to your goal and that’s vital, according to Michaels. Then it’s something “worth fighting for.”

Michaels admits that determining and working toward your goal — whether it be ending a bad relationship, losing weight or bettering your career — won’t come easy and must include doing work on yourself, your self-esteem.

And instead of avoiding or ignoring personal fear or painful events of the past, meet them head on, Michaels urges. Toxic people in your life? Move on from them, and realize their bad behavior and putdowns say more about them than you.

Figure our what your fears are and, instead of letting them stand in the way of what you really want, let them work as a motivator, says Michaels.

It’s also important, according to Michaels, to own up to your role in bad choices of your past: “Take responsibility for the state of your life.”

Failure isn’t all bad, either. “Take the lesson” of failure, she says, and learn from it. Michaels talks about auditioning for a VH1 show, “Flab to Fab.” She put her all into nabbing that job, and her celebrity clients went to bat for her. Everyone, including Michaels, thought she was a shoo-in. Despite all her hard work, she didn’t get it.

Was she disappointed? Oh, big time. But then she did something she encourages others to do. She asked why she didn’t get the job. And she really listened to what was said (not always easy). One of the reservations was that TV viewers couldn’t relate to her being a “trainer to the stars.” With that she resolved never to do any media about her celebrity clients. She could see how that could turn off average people.

A year later, when the chance to do “The Biggest Loser” came along, Michaels “used the lesson” of the earlier failure. It was an improved Michaels who applied for it. For testimonials about her skills she rounded up a host of her regular Joe clients.

“Fit to Flab” lasted one season. If she had gotten that job, Michaels would have been under contract with VH1 and wouldn’t have been able to go for the position on “The Biggest Loser,” which has been on the air since 2004. Being on “Loser” was the turning point in her career, one that now includes DVDs, best-selling books and a hugely popular Web site. She is recognized internationally as a health and wellness expert. (While she can’t praise “Biggest Loser” enough, the 37-year-old Michaels will move on from the show after this season and hopes to start a family soon.)

Good thing she didn’t get “Fit to Flab.”

And who knows what learning from your own failures could produce in your life.

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