Your mind is the real MVP of training. It’s the General taking your physique into battle, strategizing and directing an army built from millions of cells. When you put it that way, your mental fortitude is almost everything. Here are seven tips to developing the stronger mindset you want!
#1 – You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzy
There’s a reason many of us never achieve our true potential. It’s not that we fail to meet the mark, we choose to not try instead.
Understanding that you will always miss the shot not taken is the first step to a stronger mindset. The act of simply taking action is usually enough to form positive habits and connections inside your brain.
Once you learn to at least attempt to rise to the occasion, you become stronger than default. Just by trying, you start to over ride the instant quit mechanism, instead changing it for a new identity. Eventually you will know yourself as the guy or girl that always tries their best, even when the odds are stacked against them.
So, when you’re stuck in a rut, intimidated or demotivated remember this line. You’re always gonna miss the opportunities you don’t take.
#2 Embrace the power of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)
Believe it or not, the way you choose to see the world has a huge impact on mindset. The good part is you can make your mind stronger with it too.
Let’s start for example you are heading to the gym to try for a new PR. Somehow, you’re not quite feeling it and fail to hit the numbers. In your mind you’ve failed, and you’ll carry a grey cloud over your head as you leave. You tell yourself this should have been the day, you suck, your program sucks, and that life isn’t fair.
A week has passed by and you’re still glum. Every time you have trained you’ve been demotivated. When the reps get tough, you feel like quitting. This is where some people slip up when it comes to applying progressive overload.
Okay, so, let’s spin this around. That example is a little extreme but puts the point into context. Now imagine you see the failed attempt as just a bad day in the office. It’s fine, because you know you can keep working to move forward. Eventually you’ll hit this goal and continue to progress. The sky is still blue, your friends still like to hang out with you, and you can hit the gym again after a deserved rest.
Now, when you return you attack every set with iron like determination. You smile and you’re grateful for the opportunity to train. Your positive self-talk fires you up and the people around you notice this too. When you feel like quitting, you don’t, because a positive mental attitude reminds you to keep pushing.
Try it out for size and see how you feel. Start every session by telling yourself what you’re grateful for, how you will improve as an athlete, and what unique traits make you the badass you are. Trust us, you’ll have never felt stronger.
#3 Drop the ego
Ryan Holiday has written an excellent book named ‘Ego is the Enemy’. In its pages he breaks down the lives of many successful, mentally strong achievers and talks about their lack of ego.
Wait, how can you do well without ego? Isn’t that a straight up contradiction?
Well, your ego is a tricky customer. On the one hand it can fuel the fire to help you achieve monumental feats. It helps elite businessmen dominate their fields and sports stars believe in themselves so much they become almost untouchable.
But, on the other hand, there’s a downside… Your ego is a very easily wounded beast indeed.
The egotist refuses to accept fault. When something goes wrong, it’s never down to their actions, as the vain man will only ever hear compliments. Instead, the ego points the finger. No way could someone so perfect, you righteous ever be to blame for their misfortune.
Now, this might seem like an ideal for mental strength. It isn’t though, because it’s unmanageable and usually always ends in a downward decent. Think of how many athletes make the big time only to be knocked off the top spot by some young buck. Their damaged ego doesn’t allow them to bounce back, it fills them with resentment and insecurities. They begin to break mentally, making bad decisions for their career along the way.
If you’re not careful this negative spiral can find its way into your training. Egotists stop training with people who might beat them, egotists stop doing exercises that make them tired or seem weak. Some egotists refuse to hire a specialist trainer for fear of damaging their ‘know it all’ reputation.
In short – egotists often quit early if things aren’t going their way. This can develop a default quit mechanism in their mindset.
Drop your ego and watch your mindset expand tenfold. Not only will you quit less, but you’ll learn more and maybe make better decisions for your development too.
#4. See yourself doing it… Then do it!
Something that sets a lot of champions apart from regular gym joes is visualization. Speak to any sports psychologist and they’ll tell you this is true. But what even is it? And how can you do it for yourself?
Visualization is the act of picturing a process in your mind. You conjure up a mental image or highlight real of your achieving whatever task is at hand. Just by doing this alone you challenge the sympathetic nervous system. You exercise your fight, flight, or freeze mechanism so it’s ready for when it matters the most.
Arnold Schwarzenegger used to think of his biceps as mountains before hitting the weights. MMA pioneer and the greatest ever BJJ practitioner once said; “It’s the most beautiful movie, and every time I relive it I create images and nuances I want to experience.” Here, both athletes are mentally preparing themselves for what they’re about to face.
So, if you find your mind starts to run when it’s crunch time, visualize. Rehearse the process beforehand in your mind and see yourself achieve.
Picture what it will feel like to hold the heavy bar in your hands. How cold will the iron feel? How will you look going into the first round with a calm breathing pattern and clear intentions? Ask yourself these things, see it, then do it!
5. Choose self-excellence over external-excellence
Have you ever noticed that trying to meet the expectations of others is exhausting? Well, for many of us it is. While it can be a great motivator every now and then trying to live up to others becomes old, fast.
One way to make a positive shift in your training mindset is to stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, seek self-excellence. This is an awesome concept I first read in Prof. Steve Peters book ‘The Chimp Paradox’. It’s simple, but you better believe it’s effective.
Striving for self-excellence means that the only person to beat is yourself.
Your only goal out there on the gym floor, in the ring, or on the court is to impress number one. And the only way to do this is by giving it 100%.
But here’s where this will make your mindset tougher. By not comparing yourself to others and seeking self-excellence you’re less likely to want to quit.
It doesn’t matter if the dude next to you is squatting 50 or 300, you’re here for you. You will no longer become disheartened, intimidated, put-off or unmotivated because of what others can do. That workout you want to skip out on because everyone in the room is tough becomes smaller. All of sudden, it’s just another session for you to get better.
Measuring yourself to others can be useful occasionally. But for some people it’s a surefire way to securing a bout of anxiety. So, next time you feel like quitting because you’re ‘not good enough’ remember this… Seek self-excellence and all you have to do is impress yourself. Now watch yourself turn up to the toughest workouts with a smile on your face.
The final word on developing a stronger training mindset
There you have it guys. Five steps to developing a stronger training mindset. Take what you find useful, and reject what you don’t. As always hit up the comments section with any insights of your own.
Mental toughness and strength can be developed. The mind is a muscle that can be torn and rebuilt into a thicker, more dense and resilient body par.
Just like your hands wrapping around that barbell it can be calloused to weather the storm. So, don’t be afraid to take it to the edge every once in a while. Don’t risk your sanity, but get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Good luck Muscle Mindset warriors.