Vail Veterans Program, Human Performance Institute helps vets embrace life after the military |

Vail Veterans Program, Human Performance Institute helps vets embrace life after the military

Session focuses on changing lives for the better

To help

The Vail Veterans Program is supported by donors, corporate sponsors, and volunteers. That allows all programs to be free for veterans and their families. For more information about the Vail Veterans Program, including how to donate and/or volunteer, visit or call 970-476-4906.

VAIL — Changing your life is not complicated — it’s just work.

And what’s true now about you does not have to be true forever, not if you don’t want it to be. That’s the message Chris Diaz delivered to a Vail Veterans Program group in town for a three-day session with the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.

The vets are learning to transition from the military and into the rest of their lives while finding a purpose, a noble goal for us all, Diaz said.

Diaz successfully made that transition. He served six years as a Navy corpsman. Now he’s a performance coach. In addition to working with the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, Diaz co-founded and heads Action Tank, which harnesses the experiences and skills of service-minded people to help them improve themselves and their communities.

What, not why

Diaz and the two dozen vets in town talk about “perpetual transition,” and how one’s transition from the military — or anything else — is continuous, not a one-time event.

Support Local Journalism

“Your old story is the mindset that has prevented personal growth, made you a victim of your circumstances and has blocked you from achieving your training mission. What’s in your way?” Diaz asked the group.

Your old story is usually negative with stuff added to make it tougher to toss out.

“Is that really the voice you want leading you into the most important areas of your life?” Diaz asked.

Your new story tends to be positive and needs repetition and frequency to get buy-in, first from yourself and then from others.

After identifying what’s holding them back — their personal shackles — Diaz leads vets to understand that change is a one-step-at-a-time process and to think in terms they understand. In the vets’ case, a 90-day mission.

Diaz points out that the question, then, is, “What’s in your way?” Not, “Why is it there?”

“It is not necessary to understand ‘why” to make a change,” Diaz said.

Work/life balance

Dr. Jim Loehr originally designed the program to help groups as disparate as the military, the FBI, hostage negotiators, and Fortune 100 executives find balance in their work and lives.

At its heart, the three-day session deals with how your current behaviors are impacting your life, and how to change them — if they need to change.

It includes attitude and mindset, exercise, and nutrition. Tara Collingwood works with nutrition and exercise. Diaz handles almost everything else.

Mid-afternoon coffee break? Not these people. When the rest of us are looking for caffeine or a nap, they were in the Grand Hyatt gym, working out, sweating and shouting encouragement to one another. “Look at that!” Leo and Joe are crushing it!” they shout.

‘Your brain is kinda lazy’

To change your behavior, your mindset must change, which means your brain must change. That can be complicated, but it doesn’t need to be.

“Your brain is kinda lazy,” Diaz tells the group. “It looks for a reason not to do something differently because that requires expending extra energy.”

To illustrate his point, Diaz asks the vets to cross their arms, which they do the same way they’ve always done, generally right arm over left folded across their chests. He asks them to do it the other way — left over right. That requires most of the vets to make a conscious effort to it differently.

Doing something differently takes that kind of conscious effort for a sustained period of time, Diaz said. He tells the vets to think in terms they understand, a 90-day deployment.

“Think of one part of your life that needs to change. That’s your 90-day mission,” Diaz said.

Most of the vets turn their attention to something beyond and bigger than themselves — family, volunteer work, professional growth. That’s great, but it’s also OK to be engaged with yourself once in a while, Diaz said.

After all, you either get to, or are forced to live with yourself.

Support Local Journalism