Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB): Practices in Personal Development

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB): Practices in Personal Development
By Susan Lee, PhD, CPTN-CPT

By Susan Lee, PhD, CPTN-CPT

(Part 4/5)

Personal trainers and fitness professionals need to innovate and diversify their businesses to thrive. Learn the G.R.I.T. framework for success: Growth mindset, Resilience strategies, Inspired P’s, and Taking actions. You can steer your personal training and fitness business to reach more clients by applying these results-oriented strategies. This 5-part series will focus on 1) Resilience for self-care, 2) Resilience for personal development, 3) Resilience strategies for your online fitness business, 4) Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) in Your Personal Development, and 5) DEIB for Your Business. These excerpts are from the new ebook, Online Personal Training: Taking Control of Your Personal Training & Fitness Business   

With images of peaceful protests and concerns for racial injustice in our current climate, we all need to think about who we are and what we stand for as we work in our businesses. In particular, we need to reflect on why the values of equity, diversity and inclusion might be integral to our practices.  We need to consider what these words mean when we reflect upon them. Following our reflections, we can then plan how best to weave these values into our business plans, professional development and daily practices.


If we merely focus on fitness goals for our clients and revenue streams for our businesses, we may be limited in the social impact we can have. We may be missing out on engaging with unique perspectives, different cultures and potential clients.


Social justice means leveling the playing field to ensure that everyone has access to the same programs, resources and opportunities. The key values are diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB). Diversityseeks to connect with under-represented or equity-deserving groups. Equity means treating people fairly, not necessarily the same way. Inclusion aims to welcome individuals and groups to your programs, services and organizations. Belonging is a personal perspective that one is an integral member of a particular community.


DEIB Practices for Your Personal Development


To be better equipped to meet our diverse communities needs, we need to take time for personal development and growth to become more versed and experienced in DEIB. First, you need to begin with self-awareness, followed by planning a personal development and growth journey.


For self-awareness, begin by reflecting on your social identities. What is your gender, age, education, race, sexual orientation, visible/invisible abilities/disabilities, etc. Based on your social identities, you may experience certain privileges and challenges. For example, as a Chinese cis-gender woman educated through the Canadian school system, I am comfortable navigating the programs and policies of public school systems and higher education programs and policies. However, through my formal education, I was not very aware of Indigenous communities in Canada. I had decided a while back to change that gap in my knowledge and experiences of Indigenous communities.


To learn about Canada’s Indigenous peoples, I have committed to learn all I can about their historical experiences and cultural practices. I have been a member of a Council for Aboriginal Initiatives, hired staff who have identified as Indigenous, and co-presented with Indigenous colleagues. I have also hosted Indigenous students for a March break overnight camp, managed a Pow Wow event, attended conferences about Indigeneity, and even attended an immersive four day overnight program to learn Ojibwe teachings from elders. I am grateful to have learned from many Indigenous elders, traditional teachers and knowledge keepers who have shared their teachings from their nations’ teachings. Some of these nations include Oneida of the Thames First Nation, Mohawk Nation at Tyendinaga Territory, Stó:lō Nation in British Columbia, York Factory Cree Nation in Manitoba, Shawnaga First Nation in East Shore Georgian Bay, Haida Nation in British Columbia,  and Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories.


Having been engaged in all of these activities for over ten years, I feel that I am still in the learning stage. I continue expanding my cultural experiences with different Indigenous communities through my travels in Canada and abroad. As I continue to learn, I am in a privileged position as an educator to share my own experiences about Indigenous communities through my professional activities, writing and presentations.


As a DEIB champion, I am careful to speak based on my lived experiences, research findings and as a member of a community with which I identify. When we want to advance EDIB, we need to be mindful to speak only from our own lived experiences, and not on behalf of whole communities. When you can use your privilege to provide space and opportunity for under-represented individuals and communities to speak – to raise their voices, to represent themselves – do so. You are then a true ally.

The personal development journey for DEIB
Figure 13.1 The personal development journey for DEIB (created by S.Lee)

One of the most critical skills to practise when learning about new communities is to listen. By listening to conversations through group discussions, forums, workshops and conferences that these themes have emerged.  Figure 13.1 depicts these strategic practices are also depicted as the personal development journey for DEIB.


The following list offers strategic practices for your personal growth and development in DEIB:

  • Learn – Take the time to learn about communities you are not familiar with through readings, conversations, workshops, conferences, and resources.
  • Listen – Connect with diverse individuals and ask questions to learn more. Aim to listen more than you talk.
  • Engage – Participate or join in community activities to gain lived experiences.
  • Check your biases and assumptions – Do you have a stereotype of a particular community? Take the time to check for the truth. One incident may not necessarily apply to a whole community.
  • Be open-minded – When you learn more from a different community, be ready for change. You may need to re-think how you live personally and practise professionally.
  • Collaborate – Work together in solidarity. When you are being supportive of a community, ask how you can collaborate and work together. Refrain from assuming that you already know how to help a community of which you are not a member.
  • Use your privilege – If you are in the position to mentor or support an individual, do your part to share their talents. If you are in a meeting, provide opportunities for the sharing of diverse perspectives. Allow everyone the time and space to talk.
  • Speak up – Practise how you can speak up against discriminations. Speak up against any micro-aggressions, which are words or actions that can be offensive to individuals or communities. Ask organizers or committees to be accountable for who they represent on speaking panels and promotional materials. Enquire about the absences in representations. Speaking up is one way you can be a supportive ally.


As fitness businesses continue to open and re-open, personal trainers, fitness professionals and business owners can build more diverse, equitable and inclusive environments for their different services. This approach will create a place for clients and members to find community and to find a place to belong. This feeling of belonging can create a growing and returning clientele.

SUSAN LEE, PhD, CPTN-CPT is the president of the Certified Professional Trainers Network (CPTN) Inc. and Synergetics Wellness. She recently launched her new book and ebook Online Personal Training: Taking Control of Your Personal Training & Fitness Business and an initiative for individuals 50+ who are interested in wellness, inclusion, creativity and connections, Wisdom Circle 50+, to support the UN’s Declaration for the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030). She lectures at the college and university levels on leadership, business and social justice; presents at international conferences; and publishes in peer-reviewed journals and educational platforms to share her research, practices and passions.

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