Mindset is the Foundation of Success
The following concepts regarding mindset, once internalized, will allow you to take full control of your training. You’ll avoid regressing to bad habits, being inconsistent, and letting your emotions dictate the quality of your training. Even if you feel like you are on top of your mental game, we all have room for improvement!
Your mindset is the most important factor in determining success in bodybuilding, strength training, sports, or any other type of physical endeavor. Your training program, diet, genetics and coaching are all important, but secondary. If you aren’t prepared mentally, your chances of long-term success are minimal. On the other hand, the right mindset makes success inevitable!
I’ve seen far too many people embark on a new training program full of enthusiasm, only to fizzle out after a few weeks (or less) into their new routine. In fact, those who are the most psyched to train tend to be the first ones to quit. Don’t let that be you! Although I love seeing enthusiasm for training, if you depend on that kind of adrenaline-fueled emotional energy to stay motivated, you will quickly burn out. Intensity without consistency is nothing.
So what is it that is keeping these individuals from long-term success? They are only prepared to work hard when they are feeling energized and the training is exciting and new. Their mindset tells them that the only way they’ll be able to have a good workout is if they feel 100% rested and ready-to-go. The secret to seeing results, though, is doing the hard work even when you feel tired and the training is boring and monotonous. That requires a particular mindset to do consistently.
What is Mindset?
Your mindset is the set of attitudes and beliefs that guide your decision making. It is semi-permanent, yet malleable. It is not an emotional state, which is transient and can change from one moment to the next.
A healthy mindset is like an inner voice playing the role of coach and advisor. It guides you to make better decisions and keeps you from losing sight of your ultimate goal, even when your emotions try to get the best of you. Your mindset is proactive, objective, and semi-permanent, while your emotional state is reactive, subjective, and fleeting. Making a distinction between your mindset and your emotional state is an important step in understanding what it is that needs to be worked on.
Mindset → Decisions → Habits → Results
Your mindset dictates your decision making, and therefore determines your actions. These actions repeated over time form habits, and the habits shape your life. They either bring you closer to or further from your goals. As you can see, it is critical to get your mindset right first, because everything else is downstream.
Is there a “Right” vs “Wrong” mindset?
Yes, assuming you want to see results! There are entire books written on the subject, but the key concept to understand is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Basically, those with a growth mindset believe that they have the potential to change and improve. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their traits and qualities are fixed and cannot be changed. (Read “Mindset” by Carol Dweck for further discussion). Keep in mind that you may have a growth mindset in some areas of your life and a fixed mindset in others.
Why is this important? Those who believe in their potential will search for solutions. Those who doubt their potential will search for excuses. Simple as that.
Now I want to be very clear. I am not saying that reaching your goal is going to be easy. Whether you are trying to bench press 405lbs or you want to get to 6% body fat, you’re going to need more than a positive outlook to be successful. You still need to do the work. The point is that with the right mindset, you’ll commit to the plan instead of bailing on it at the first sign of adversity. Your mindset will persist in the face of doubt, fatigue, fear, or other insecurities.
Be Open to Change
Once you understand what mindset is, the next step is identifying where your weaknesses and limitations are, and what aspects of your mindset need to be re-programmed. Often, this requires taking a step back from your daily routine so that you can observe your habits objectively. You can start by looking at the problems you are currently experiencing, and then working backwards to see how your mindset could be creating those negative outcomes.
For example, if you’ve never been able to consistently eat healthy, what’s your excuse?
- Saying, “I love food too much” (one of my pet peeves!), indicates that you don’t believe that out of the thousands of foods and recipes out there, you won't be able to find a handful of healthy alternatives that satisfy your needs.
- If you say “I can’t cook”, you’re implying that you have no faith in your ability to learn a new skill.
- Saying “I don’t have time to eat healthy” means that you don’t think you’ll ever be able to manage your time better or find another creative solution.
Guys that struggle to put on muscle mass tend to be full of excuses too:
- Saying “I’m a hardgainer” means that you don’t believe that you’ll ever be able to find a diet and exercise combination that works for you
- Using the excuse “I don’t have a big appetite” means that you don’t think it’s possible to find ways to increase the appetite or to eat foods that are more calorie dense and less filling.
With the right mindset, these problems will still be there, but you’d be busy pursuing solutions instead of making excuses.
Think about it this way: If you knew for sure that there is a treasure chest buried in your backyard, you wouldn’t stop digging until you found it! If you failed at first, you would get a metal detector, enlist the help of others, or come up with a better strategy, but you wouldn’t just forget about the treasure and move on! That is the power of believing in something 100%. You’ll do whatever it takes, because if you know success is inevitable, you’d be crazy not to! This is what a mindset change accomplishes.
Mindset Mastery pays Dividends for a Lifetime
Unlike gains in physical strength and endurance that will begin to fade quickly with inactivity, mindset changes will stick with you. If you invest the time now to cultivate the right training mindset, it will begin to permeate other areas of your life, and will benefit you in unexpected ways.
Although the work of changing your mindset can be difficult, it doesn’t need to be a long arduous process. Changes in mindset can happen in an instant once you truly understand its potential to accelerate your results.
Coming in Part 2: Practical Methods for Better Performance and Faster Results
In Part 2, I’ll be discussing some of my mindset tricks and other self-coaching techniques that I use to stay consistent in my training and nutrition. Stay tuned!