What's on your mind?
When it comes to fitness success, there seems to be varying opinions about what the most important factor is to reach your fitness goals as an athlete. Some would argue that it's the equipment you are using, others would say that it's the amount of physical work and effort that is put into your workouts and then of course there are those in the nutrition camp, who say "What you put in is what you get out".
It's pretty obvious, if you don't put in the work, you will never see results. If you eat like crap, well then you will feel like crap and then you definitely won't put in the work. And of course having the right tools and equipment for the job is very important as well. You wouldn't ride your road bike through a downhill section at your favorite mountain bike park would you? Hopefully not.
Of course all of these factors are unquestionably extremely important to reaching any goal as an athlete and I am sure I could go on and on about these and many other important factors required for any athlete to attain their fitness goals. I agree that they are all very important for many reasons, but here at Twisted Stone Fitness, we maintain that there is one factor that rises above all of the rest when it comes to becoming the best version of yourself.
Whether your goals are related to health and fitness, finances, your personal relationships or your professional success, we recognize that the most important factor in reaching your goals in any and every aspect of life, is becoming the master of the battle that happens every minute of every day within the 4-6 inches between your ears.
Controlling your thoughts and mastering your mindset is the fastest and most effective path to success, regardless of where you want to be in life. Today we talk about it as it relates to you, your health and fitness and your ability to achieve any goal as an athlete that you set your mind to.
One of my favorite quotes comes from an ancient Chinese proverb that says:
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now".
You may be asking yourself what the hell this has to do with fitness or mindset, but I think it has everything to do with fitness and mindset. Too many people think that it's already too late for them to start working on building a positive mindset. They have spent most of their lives focusing on the bad and ignoring the good... Focusing on what they don't have and feeling angry, instead of focusing on what they do have and feeling grateful...Focusing on the problem, instead of working on a solution.... or focusing on what to avoid instead of focusing on what to reach for..
Yes, maybe if you started 20 years ago and planted the tree back then, there is no doubt that you would have a much larger tree today. The good news though is that if you just start with a seed today, you will still have a tree. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but sure enough, you will have a tree. To the contrary, if you continue to move forward by default, and just letting your mind do it's own thinking, then you will just end up with a garden full of weeds.
Our brains, by default, have evolved as a defense mechanism to keep us safe and away from harm. The most primal instinct of the human brain is the "Fight or flight" mechanism. It is the function of the brain that has developed to keep us alive in any life threatening situation. However, since not many of us have to worry about getting taken down by a saber tooth tiger as we leave our caves anymore, our brains have gotten lazy. Complacent if you will. Our brains have slowly evolved into accepting what we see in our reality as the truth. What your brain accepts to be "the truth" or "reality" has now become your "Comfort Zone". So now the primary function of your default brain, is to keep you within your comfort zone so you don't get hurt or harmed in any way. Any variation of that "truth" or "reality" immediately gets picked up by your brain and it begins to push back to try to reign you in and shove you back into your little safe zone box of comfort.
This is why anytime you try to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or something that you have never done before, you get cold feet. It's your brain's way of saying, "Get back in your box you idiot, before that saber tooth tiger eats you alive". Things like going for a PR lift, or trying to do that 10k run you've never done, or riding that century on your mountain bike, are usually all met with resistance by your brain, because it has set limits for you, unbeknownst to you, based on preconceived beliefs and ideals that you were either raised with or grew into by default. Think about all of the things that you have done in your life, that you thought you would never be able to do. First you thought about it...Then you talked yourself out of it...Then, if it was important enough to you, you said "F this.. I'm going to do it anyway"... Right then and there is when YOU took over your mindset and you stepped outside of your comfort zone to accomplish a goal. That is no easy task, and many people never do that, so you should congratulate and reward yourself for making that happen.
Roger Bannister was a track and field athlete back in the 50's. He was also the first person to have ever broken the four minute mile barrier in recorded history. Prior to Roger breaking the four minute mile, it was a belief, in the medical and in the athletic communities, that breaking a four minute mile was impossible. Not only was it impossible, but it was also strongly suggested that a human being was incapable of running that fast and that it could potentially have some very extreme medical repercussions, including death. Talk about limiting beliefs eh?
Roger broke the four minute mile by 6/10th of a second. The holy grail of athletic achievement had been broken and no one died. Imagine that? That very year, 3 other athletes broke the four minute mile paradigm and thousands of others have since joined him in the "impossible". Currently Hicham El Guerrouj, from Morocco, is the men's record holder with his time of 3:43.13. He did not die either.
So what happened? Did miles get shorter? Did people get faster? Or was there a shift in a mindset that was based on limiting beliefs and preconceived notions? I would argue the latter.
My point is simple. Our limits are set by default and by a belief system that we probably weren't even aware of and it is up to us to take that control back and power through it. Taking that control back is simple. Please note that I said "Simple"... Not easy... Going from "I can't" to "I can", is simple but clearly, not easy. Getting up at 5 am to go the gym, is simple... But not easy... Knowing and choosing to eat a piece of fruit instead of a doughnut is simple, but not always easy.
Understanding how to take control of our mindsets in order to reach our goals, whether they are fitness goals, professional goals or personal goals, takes effort and time... But like I mentioned earlier, all you need is a seed and I am hopeful that this is your seed.
Mastering your mindset, in my opinion, is the most important skill you will ever need to learn. It puts all the control back in your hands. Of course you can never control what life throws your way. Sometimes life does deal you a crappy hand. However, how you respond to that crappy hand is totally and 100% up to you.
You can cry and ask yourself, "Why me?", or you can start working on a solution to, not only solve the problem, but with the right mindset, excel and turn it around to your advantage. Once you start consciously noticing your thought patterns, you can start taking control and responsibility. That's where the magic happens.
Here are a few habits and hacks that you can start working on today that will help plant the seed for you.
1. Clarity first. Do the internal work, know who you are and what you want. Set clear goals and keep the mental focus on successful outcomes.
So many people know what they don't want in their lives but have a hard time defining exactly what is they do want. Be clear about who you are and what you want, and then create a picture in your mind of what your life will look once you accomplish that goal. Try and keep your "comfort zone" thoughts out of it. Don't focus on "how" you're going to get there.. Just focus on being there. Burn that picture into your brain. The "How", will work itself out. Once you burn that thought and picture into your brain, you will start to notice that the "how" will start to take shape and start making itself more obvious to you. Many times it will not be what you thought it was going to be. Trust your instincts and not the naysayers. They will likely talk you out of it.
2. Dress for the role you want, not the role you are in...
This one is a hard one for people to come to grips with. Who you are now is NOT, who will always be, so you have to become the person who already has what you want. Act as if you already have what it is you want.. I'm not talking about "Fake it till you make it"... That is just lying to yourself. Instead what I mean is that you have to visualize what the person who has it would be doing. For example, let's say you want six pack abs... Who doesn't right? Well you're obviously not going to get them by being or doing what you are currently doing. So, what would a person with six pack abs be doing? For one thing, they probably would't be eating that large pizza you are about to gobble down. They would likely have a nutrition plan and a strict ab workout schedule. Do you? In other words, in order to have something you've never had, you have to do things you've never done. Find people who have what you want and do what they do. Again.. simple... but not easy.
3. Your opinion of me is none of my business
This one is probably my favorite, so I will keep it short and sweet. Stop worrying so much about what other people think of you. Most people will likely shoot down your best ideas because they don't want you to get hurt, so they will tell you things like, "that will never work" or "why would you even try that?". To be great at something you will probably need to make a few friend changes anyway, so don't let their opinions get in the way of greatness.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
There is enough negativity in the media, that you don’t need an extra helping from negative friends and family. Depending how close you are to those types of people, you have a choice of cutting them from your circle, or finding ways to influence their thinking and help them change. Like they say, "You can't change the people around you... but you can change the people around you".
Surrounding yourself with positive people is a way of absorbing positive energy into your body. You will feel more alive and want to do the things that will help you succeed. Surrounding yourself with like minded people who have similar interests and a great attitude will help you achieve almost any goal in life.
If you've never heard the story about the crabs in a bucket, you will appreciate the relevance. The story in a nutshell is about how, if you place one crab in a bucket, it will eventually figure out a way to pull itself out of the bucket. However if you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, every time one crab finally crawls it's way to the top of the bucket, all the other crabs drag it back down in an attempt to get out of the bucket themselves. Don't be the crab that gets pulled down by the wrong crowd around you.
5. Have solutions when pointing out problems
Become a problem solver. Become a solutions oriented thinker. Having a solution beforehand, shows you are a positive thinker and can tackle challenges headfirst. Creative critical thinking helps develop your mindset by forcing it to come up with solutions instead of letting every obstacle derail you from your goals.
Make it like a game. Take every challenge as an opportunity to exercise your creative and resourceful mind.
6. Share in other's success
You will likely never be successful at many things as long as you are jealous or spiteful of other people's success. You have to be grateful for other people's success as though it was your own. I am not saying that you can't be competitive, but you have to able to be a good sport and celebrate other people's victories. Be happy when other people achieve greatness and you will soon see that you will follow close behind.
7. Make someone else smile
The law of reciprocity is a beautiful thing. It basically states, that first you must give, to receive. Take the time to make someone else smile or laugh even if you aren't feeling great. Show someone that you care.. Lend someone who you see struggling a helping hand. It can be as simple as giving them a flower or encouraging words. When you make other people smile, the positive vibrations they send off, are reflected back to you.
Your body will absorb this positive vibration and in turn you will smile. Every time you smile, the muscles in your face, trigger a chemical in your body called endorphins. These chemicals race through your bloodstream making you feel happy and positive about your life.
Believe me, this feeling can become addictive and will push you to get out of your comfort zone just to make somebody else smile.
If you are always looking for ways to make other people happy, you will inevitably find new ways of making yourself happy.
8. Focus on the Good
This is your time to focus on the good in life.
A positive mindset, grows on good thoughts, the more the merrier. Your brain is just like any major muscle in your body. It needs to be trained in order to grow.
Training your mind to look for the good and praising the good, will build positive neural networks in your brain. It will become stronger and begin to look for ways to increase all the positive things in your life.
Remember how good you felt the last time you finished a 10k or hit that PR? Focus on that. Remember how that felt and anchor that feeling to your next lift, or your next run. Remember that all failures are just stepping stones to success. Always look for the silver lining or the blessing in disguise. I guarantee, that if you look for it, you will find it.
Start practicing these habits daily and I promise you that you will start to feel better and ultimately start to perform better.
Athletes with positive mindsets are successful athletes because they have been in tough situations many times and found, not only ways to win, but ways to set up future wins with ease. They know from past experience that they have the mental fortitude to conquer issues regardless of how large they seem at the moment. Successful athletes know there are steps to take and when a road block is thrown up, they will simply climb over it.
I'm no expert, but I would venture to say, that if you gave a successful athlete a choice of what made them great, they would likely say that it's the way they think and their positive mindset which drove their success.
Get strong...Be strong... Stay strong