“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford
How you see yourself has a large impact on what you’ll achieve, although admittedly it’s not the only factor. Talent, ability, and work ethic impact all our endeavors. A pet peeve of mine is when someone shrugs off every failed attempt as “it’s all mental”, but attitude and self image are strong forces in your success, or lack thereof.
So, how do you see yourself? Are you still replaying a script from when you were an overweight, socially awkward, non-athletic adolescent? Do you think successful, fit people possess some innate quality that you don’t? Were you full of confidence until college, when you realized that you were a big fish in a small pond and being successful was actually going to take some work? Maybe you were always pretty good at stuff and still are, so you believe you’ll be good at other stuff, too. To an extent, all of these stories will be true as you believe them to be.
What’s Your Vision?
Viewing and treating yourself as a success takes effort, and to be honest can feel a little silly sometimes. I’m not even talking Stuart Smalley type affirmations, but for some reason many of us assume that we’re not the person who’ll do “the thing” we would like to do the most. We wait on someone else to do it. The role our self image plays in how much effort we put into something cannot be overstated.
Have you noticed that when you feel destined to do something, you seem to work that much harder at it, like you “have” to do it? Destiny isn’t real and there’s no grand screenplay that you have to act out. You make a choice, then you make another choice, and lots more. You can see yourself as someone who makes choices that support your physical health each day, or as someone who “falls off the wagon”, “gives in”, or the real progress killer… “doesn’t have the willpower.” Willpower, my friend, is extremely limited and vastly overrated. You can see yourself as someone who works hard and is a leader, getting the job (whatever it is) done, or as the person who hangs back, waits for things to happen, and doesn’t act. Whichever role you see yourself as playing is likely the one you’ll be cast in.
Let’s place this into fitness terms: If the first time you tried jumping rope since the first Bush administration was last Sunday in your CrossFit intro class, you may have sucked at it. You may say to yourself, “I suck at jump rope! How is that girl so good at it?… I’ll never get it”. You decide that you are simply “bad” at jumping rope, and you’ll likely be successful at meeting that expectation. You’ve moved control of the situation outside of yourself and into the hands of the jump rope gods.
In another scenario, you could say “Man, jumping rope is harder than I remember. This is gonna take some practice for me to get it! I’m gonna spend five minutes practicing single unders before classes.” Here you acknowledge the difficulty of jumping rope- that it will require work on your part to improve, and identify your first step toward changing the situation.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Take steps to bridge the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. That thing about willpower before? You are going to make the decisions that your environment pushes you towards. If you keep snacks within easy reach, you’re much more likely to mindlessly grab a few. If you keep a bowl of fresh fruit out, that’ll be what you grab. When you see that, you can also see that creating an environment that makes healthier decisions easier to make makes sense. Set coffee to brew for the morning and put your gym gear out before bedtime, so it’s easier to get moving in the morning. Disable snooze from your alarm so it’s that much more difficult to stay in bed. These little “tricks” aren’t magic, and alone they won’t change your world, but the compound effects of them and the mindset they create just might.
Tell yourself when you wake up that you’re stoked to go to the gym, even if it’s -3 degrees outside! Putting actions before motivation is key. If everyone waited to be “motivated” to do stuff… well, not much would get done. You can’t wait to be motivated, you have to do the damned thing anyway.
Have you ever not quite felt like working out but managed to get there anyway? Did you feel better once you started moving? You may not have an epic training session when you feel like crap, but I bet you’ll never regret the decision to start. What’s the very next thing, something small that you can do right now, that moves you toward your goal? Do that.
Failing Is Part of the Process
“Every failure is a step to success.” -William Whewell
Positive self talk and tenacity don’t ensure your success in every (or any) endeavor. Develop a mindset that’s okay with failure. Failing means trying, and no one can ever fault you for trying. If they do, get them out of your life. Fear of failure is the number one reason people don’t try. Accept screw ups, detours, and backsliding as part of the process. You didn’t quit trying to walk the first time you fell down. You didn’t stop learning math the first time you messed up long division. Why do we grant kids space for failure that for some reason we don’t give adults? Screw that! Went all in on the punch bowl at the company holiday party and clear cut a forest of desserts? Glad that’s over, now what are you going to do today?
- A formal expression of opinion or intention
- The act of determining upon an action
- A decision or determination
New Year, New You?
New Year’s Resolutions are flimsy and have a short expiration date. The majority of January 1st “resolutions” amount to not much more than expressions of hopes and dreams for outcomes. Have resolve instead. Resolve to believe in yourself and to act in accordance with your values and identity. Try this exercise instead:
- Write down something you’d like to achieve. It’s okay, maybe even better, if it seems crazy. Actually write it out on paper, not a computer.
- Write down, in detail, what it’s like when you achieve your goal. How does your day go? What are you doing? What feels good about having achieved it?
- Write down 3 steps, the smaller the better, you’d have to take to “get there”. They can be in order, but don’t have to be.
- Take the first step.