Great Lessons from Chalene Johnson


Determined athletic woman having gym training with kettle bell in a gym. Her friends are in the background.

Chalene Johnson has a passion for more from life, and it’s contagious.

She is personal development on fire.

Chalene Johnson is a unique blend of entrepreneur, physical fitness expert, choreographer, author, life changer, and motivational speaker.

She walks her talk, keeps things real, and inspires us to be our best.

Taking Fitness to a Whole New Level

She comes from a place of caring and compassion.

Most importantly, Chalene is extreme when it comes to growth and greatness and she is somebody who lives and breathes her passion.

On a daily basis, she helps people learn how to balance their life, reduce stress, improve their self-image, and make the best use of their time to live according to their priorities.

27 Best Lessons from Chalene Johnson

Chalene is both a master and a life-long learner in the art and science of physical fitness, personal development, leadership, productivity, time management, and motivation.

Chalene is authentic, has integrity and takes a holistic approach.   I learned a lot about Chalene’s motivating style, experience, and expertise from working out with her from the comfort of my living room with her ChaLEAN Extreme Workout.

Chalene’s motivational mojo is working, and it just might work on you.

She’s especially good at helping you hold yourself accountable in a compassionate way, make better choices, and lead yourself from the inside out, wile working your mind, body, emotions, spirit, and relationships.

Here is my distillation of  Chalene Johnson’s insights and actions for work and life on personal development, time management, motivation, productivity, leadership, physical fitness, and more …

1. Find your happy.

Do you know what makes you happy from the inside out?  If not, figure it out.  Dig deep to find what makes you genuinely happy and do more of it each day.  Chalene says:

“Find your happy pill. Fitness is MY happy pill! How do you find your “happy” each day?”

2. Lead with your truth.

Be true to you.   Stay authentic.  It’s not about impressing other people.  It’s about impressing yourself.  Lead from the inside out and come from a place of kindness.

Chalene says:

“Lead with your truth.  That’s the past, this is who I am now.  Look what I’ve overcome.  Then you find your calling, then you find your purpose.  Then you become kind, you come from a place of heart.”

3. Be humble.

If you want to be truly awesome, you have to stay humble.  Have an attitude of gratitude and don’t let success go to your head.

Chalene says:

“Work hard and stay humble. Your bank account, body, status, association, house, cars, and clothes don’t make you any more important as a person. Be humble.”

4.  Work your relationships more than your physique.

No matter how buff your bod is, or how big your bankroll is, your relationships make your life richer.

Chalene says:

“I believe you should work much harder on your relationships than you do on your physique. No matter how smoking hot your body is … if your relationships are a hot mess then it’s difficult to find happiness. People make us happy. Relationships are more important than deltoids. Work on your mental wellness, then your relationships, then your physique. Date night is a time to appreciate, enjoy and rediscover each other! Never take each other for granted.”

5. Fixate on your destination.

Chalene challenges us to fixate on our destination — our goal — and see the finish line.   Chalene reminds us that, “Where you look is where you go – it’s ‘destination fixation.’”   If you can hold a picture in your mind of the end results, then it will help you stay on path, or get back on path if you fall off.   You can use your destination to inspire you on a daily basis and to climb the toughest ladders, and to overcome your personal challenges with clarity, confidence, and conviction.

6. Create your own definition of success.

Success is a personal thing.  Your definition of success has to make sense for you and your situation.   Paint a picture of success that inspires you and brings to life the kind of person that you want to be, living the kind of life you want to lead.

Chalene says:

“Look closely at the people whom you consider successful. Don’t just look at accomplishments, money, toys, stature… look at all areas of their life. Look at how they live and the relationships they have. Now, picture YOUR ideal life. Would you be doing the things that you want to do, on your own time, with the people you want to do them with? What does success look like for you?”

7. Success isn’t magic, it’s a method.

Chalene says, “It’s NOT luck — it’s KNOW HOW. There is a formula for everything.”   You have to study the people that have the results that you want.   Learn from their formula.   Study what made them successful.  If you can find the proven practices and the methods that work, you’ll speed up your success, and you’ll avoid the dead-ends.   Finding a formula helps you establish and practices routines that will help you get better and better over time.

8. Can you walk your talk?

Talk is cheap.   Practice what you preach.   Stay authentic throughout the process.   Speak from experience, and live your principles and values.    If you stay true to you, and if you say what you mean and mean what you say, you’ll have integrity and inner-strength that will support you in your journey through life.

9. Character is defined by action.

Actions speak louder than words.   You express your character through your actions.

Chalene says:

“Strength of character is the courage to do what you know to be right, even if there is great personal cost to you. ****Character**** is not determined by what you say you stand for or what you profess to believe.  Character is defined by action, even those actions which you think others will never know. Like a muscle, strength is achieved by challenge – overcoming force.  Character is strengthened when you must over come the temptation to act on emotion, overcome the lure of doing what’s easy, and finding the courage to do what’s right … always, whether others are watching or not.”

10. Seek progress over perfection.

It’s progress, not perfection.   Get a little better every time, and it adds up over time.

Chalene says:

“Progress over perfection. Do your best and forget the rest. It’s not you against the world or some picture of perfection. It’s you working to be better than you were! And never forget that the vast majority of your work should be to strengthen your character, trust, loyalty, integrity, and resolve because when the inside is as well developed as the outside (or maybe even more so) then YOU got it right.”


11. Wake up strong.

For better days, exercise before you start your work day.   If you want to be more productive, and get more done per hour, then make exercise a part of how you start your day.   You’ll move faster.  You’ll think quicker.  You’ll have the extra energy to get on top of things and to deal with any setbacks.

Chalene says:

“You might not be a morning person, but the habit of waking early to exercise will benefit you in all areas of your life. Those who exercise before they start their work they will find that they have more creativity, drive, ambition, energy, patients, confidence, empathy and an overall improved self-image.”

12. Same time, same place, same way.

Chalene says, “Your very best habits are repeated at the same times, often in the same places, and with routine and repetition.”    Build better habits in a routine way.

If you’re going to work out tomorrow, ask yourself, “What time?”   Tomorrow is generic.  7:00 A.M. is specific.  If it’s specific and if it’s on your schedule, then you will make it happen.  Rather than hoping for the time, you make the time, and you protect that time.  It’s your time to invest in yourself, and build a better you, to support you in everything else you do.


From a physical fitness perspective, if there’s on principle that Chalene lives by, it’s that.   Make no bones about it.   When Chalene says, “Muscle burns fat!”, she has conviction from experience.  She learned it through trial and error while exploring all the various ways we can shape our bodies.    It’s her source of truth when it comes to getting in shape.  Now, it’s the backbone of her approach.

Chalene doesn’t depend on diet or aerobics as her main fat burner.   She puts a special focus on building lean muscle to reach her fitness goals.  While she uses nutrition to fuel her body, and aerobics to enhance her flexibility and heart, she uses lean muscle to burn fat, and to support her body on a journey of continuous growth.

14. Go heavy or go home.

Chalene reminds us that we have to push ourselves if we want to get the benefits.  Otherwise, we are just wasting our time.  We get out, what we put in.   We can fool others, but we can’t fool ourselves.

15. It’s not the number, it’s the feeling you get.

Focus on the feeling.   When you’re working out, it’s not about counting the reps.  It’s about feeling the burn.  It’s about feeling the muscle find it’s limits.   If you focus on muscle awareness, you take your workouts to a new level.   You can really work your muscles in a more effective way when you are aware of how they feel when they are really being worked, versus just going along for the ride.   It’s the mind and body relationship in action.

16. Stretch yourself.

Chalene says, “Stretch yourself physically, mentally or spiritually.”   When you really push yourself, you’ll surprise yourself.   You’re often stronger than you are.  Chalene says, “You have no idea what you’re capable of until you take it to the next level.” 

17. Struggle makes you stronger.

Chalene says,. “We learn from our struggles.”  That is, if we use them as a learning and a growth opportunity.    The key is not to see everything as a problem, and don’t be a victim.  Instead, take every opportunity to reframe problems as challenges and to use struggles to make you stronger, whether that’s physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

18. Break it down.

The way to reach your goals is to break them down.   If you feel overwhelmed by your goals, then chop then down to size.   Focus on mini-goals.  Use little milestones as stepping stones on the path to your success.

Chalene says:

“Set smaller milestones in reaching your goal and reward yourself when you hit them. Celebrate your successes to stay motivated.”

19. Lift others up.

Chalene says, “Teaching is sharing. Come from a place of helping other people.”   Share what you know.  We’re all in this together.   Help people that want to help themselves, and set the example that inspires others to want to help themselves.

20.  People must want to help themselves.

Don’t bring yourself down while trying to help others up.  People have to first want to help themselves.  Set a positive example, and they may follow your lead.

Chalene says:

“People must want to help themselves.  At some point it’s no longer fair to you.  Throw them a lifeline, reach out and offer your hand, but if you jump in with them, you’re both going to drown.  Distance yourself.  If they make it all about them and their problem, it’s a pay off for the negative person.  Redirect them.  What I do is, I share what I learned  — it’s the power of positive thinking.   When things are going well, I’m on a roll.  Try to impart whatever wisdom I’ve learned and the knowledge that has helped change my life.”

21.  Avoid the Debbie Downers. Hang with the Growers.

Avoid the Debbie Downers.  They only bring you down.   If you want more out of life, spend your time with the Growers.  Regarding Debbie Downers, Chalene says, “A dark cloud follows them everywhere. They find a way to turn it back to how everything is wrong and how the world has conspired against them.”

On the other hand, Chalene says that Growers, “are always trying to improve themselves. They want to be better. They realize we all have room for improvement. And they are sharers – they share their knowledge, and share in your joy. They’re going someplace, they’re happy, they’re positive.”

22.  Follow the people that empower us.

Find and follow the people that lift you in life.  Find the people that have a passion for more from life.  Find the people that work hard and play hard.   Find the people that share your values and inspire you to be the best. that you can be.

Chalene says:

“My favorite people to follow are those who offer me a reminder, inspiration, innovation, motivation.”

23. Respond to Negative Nit-Pickers.

You can respond to negativity and naysayers in effective ways.  Chances are, on the road to your success, you’ll encounter negativity, even if people mean well by it.  Practice responding more effectively so that you can stay your course and build your inner-strength so you can carry yourself through thick and thin.

Chalene says:

While many recommend your IGNORE negative nit-pickers, I suggest you try these methods first!

  1. Respond in kindness and love in your heart.  Always keep in mind it is ‘their issue’ and not yours.
  2. Respond with a smile or “thank you” as disputing, or arguing with them only heightens negativity. Remember that your reaction is the one thing you can control.
  3. Decide to ‘let it go.’ Hanging on to their remarks or jabs only gives their negativity more energy.
  4. And when all else fails – ignore it.”

24. Tighten the circle.

If you’ve got negative people in your circle of friends, then Chalene recommends you tighten the circle.  It’s not your responsibility to make them happy, and you can’t take everything personally.

Chalene says:

“Negativity will only detract from your destination! It’s not your responsibility to make another person happy. Negativity comes from those who are unhappy with themselves or their own circumstances. Sometimes negativity is directed at you because YOU have triggered something in them.  In other words … a less successful friend, a spouse in poor health, a co-worker maybe nitpicking you because YOUR success has triggered negative feelings about their own unmet potential “

25. Mind your thoughts.

Chalene says, “Don’t think or say it unless you want it to come true.”   You can train your brain for high-performance thinking.    When we’re under stress, the thoughts in our head can turn negative and everything we learned goes out the door.  High-performance people train their brains to overpower negative thoughts.  Practice finding the positives throughout the day, and focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t want.

26.  Communicate with Confidence.

Communicating with confidence and clarity helps us share what we learn and takes our personal development to the next level.   Chalene has a recipe for communicating with confidence.

  1. Open strong – The first 60 seconds is where you create a connection.  Decide on your purpose – what’s the one thing they need to understand?  Having clarity here will help you calm your nerves and communicate with confidence.
  2. Lay it out — Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  3. Use numerated points – Give people numbers so they know where they are.   This way they can easily see the points you will cover, how many, and follow along.  You can always bring things back to your points, and your key points help reinforce your message.
  4. Use Triangle Teaching – Deliver each message using “My Point,” “Story,” and “Action.”   Start with your point, tell a great example or story of it.  Go back to your point.   Provide an action step – how they can apply it to their own life.   You don’t have to start at your point, you can start at your story.
  5. Recap it — Tell them what you just told them.    Tell them what’s next.

27. Work smart, so you can play hard.

Rather than finding ways to work harder, find ways to work smarter.   This will amplify your efforts in everything you do.   And, if you’re efficient and effective, you can nail your priorities and create more play time.

Top 10 Chalene Johnson Quotes

Here are my top 10 favorite quotes by Chalene Johnson:

  1. “After a few months of talking with people and observing them, I realized that the traits of the successful fitness enthusiasts had everything in common with those of the high achievers I had spent years studying in business.”
  2. “Every one of us is born with a special gift. What’s yours? Don’t downplay it or minimize it. Say it, claim it, own it, share it!”
  3. “If you want it bad enough, you have to be willing to fight for it.”
  4. “If you’re seeking your best life, you have to give yourself permission to do so. One of the ways we do that is to establish our personal do’s and do nots. Holding firm to putting our love, time, and energy, into the people places and things that uplift us, helps us hold fast to our big goals.”
  5. “Only exercise on the days you want to improve your mood.”
  6. “Positive energy is your priceless life force. Protect it. Don’t allow people to draw from your reserves; select friends who recharge your energies.”
  7. “Resolve to do the things you find to be difficult. That’s what confident people do. They tackle those things that are scary and they get addicted to doing it.”
  8. “Successful people do what others know they should do but will not. To become a success, or just be more successful, you will do what average, less-motivated people will not.”
  9. “The vital difference between dreamers and achievers boils down to some very basic, simple habits. People with clear, written-out goals who consistently honor their defined priorities tend to get results faster than others, and enjoy a greater level of happiness and long-term success in all areas of life. Yet most of us have never been formally taught a system of goal-setting and mastery that can be applied to health and fitness.”
  10. “Treat yourself like a fat person with aches and pains and a suitcase full of excuses, and good luck–you’ll stay exactly where you are. Train like an athlete and, though you may not look like one now, you will become one.”

Chalene Johnson’s Book and Exercise Videos

Here is a roundup of Chalene Johnson’s book and workout programs:

Chalene Johnson Resources at a Glance

Here are more places you can find out more about Chalene Johnson:

If you have a favorite lessons or insight from Chalene Johnson, or a story of how she has helped change your life in some way, please feel free to share it in the comments.

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  1. So much of this resonates with me! Having recently completed Insanity, a product marketed by a company that also markets her ChaLEAN Extreme Workout, I’ve seen Chalene’s promos. Her methods are inspiring, they make sense, & they click. I thought it might be only a matter of time before I purchased the product. Now that I’ve learned more about her & what makes her tick, I want to rush out right now & get it! I want to comment on numerous items, but I’ll stick to three:
    Lesson #5. Fixate on your destination: I’ve heard of “knowing what success looks like” & “keeping your eyes on the prize”. This elevates the concept to new heights–& I’m going to use it!
    Lesson #11. Wake up strong: The extent to which this is true is amazing. So many days I started out with good intentions, yet one thing after another would happen & wouldn’t you know it but suddenly it would be past my bedtime & I’d managed, again, not to have worked out. One of the essential ingredients to my formula for success is not only arising early (& no, I’m not a morning person), but also building in some buffer.
    Lesson #20. People must want to help themselves: You can lead a horse to water…, etc. Don’t take it personally when the people you love make serial bad decisions–even in spite of your good example.

    Bless her big heart, Chalene Johnson is my new heroine!

    • Great feedback.

      Chalene is phenomenal, and her precision, focus, and drive are impressive.

      I’m amazed by how much the Wake Up Strong makes a difference. I would think we could just make up for it throughout the day, but there is something about getting a jump on the day and building momentum. It’s among my most important productivity practices.

      There’s something to be said about being ready to take on the world.

    • She’s incredibly driven.

      And yet, she has that great balance where she can just as quickly kick-back. I’ve seen some people that lack that balance, or can’t turn it off.

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