You’ve set yourself a goal. You spend all your time thinking about how good it’s going to feel when you achieve it. The day comes, you’ve done all the hard work, you think you’re prepared, but something happens. You can hear that voice in your head, the one you didn’t expect. You try to shut it out, but it’s all you can hear. What’s happening?
It’s your mindset. The thing that your PT didn’t help you prepare. All that hard work, all that money and it didn’t happen. Your goal remains…a goal. In the defense of anyone working with you, no-one can be in your head the whole time to support you like you can. Extrinsic motivation is just that. Extrinsic. What you’re needing to achieve those lofty goals is intrinsic motivation. You’ll have to delve into the depths of your mind and figure out the ‘why’ you want to do something. I’m going to give two examples of the mental fortitude required to achieve a goal and how you can constantly surprise yourself with the right mindset.
Let’s pretend your goal is to bench press 100kg. Currently, you’re benching 80kg on a good day. Your PT says, “I can get you there with my 12-week strength program”. You hand over the money and get started the next week. Think about this example and apply it to your own goals, past or present.
For those 12 weeks, on the days you’re benching (possibly twice per week) I would highly encourage you to perform those reps as if you were benching 100kg. In your mind, the bar is loaded with two plates aside. Your setup is perfect. You lower the bar to your chest as if it’s the goal weight, and then bang, you explode the weight to lockout. But really the weight is only 60kg and you’re warming up. Your brain doesn’t know this. You control what your brain is thinking. If it’s 60kg on the bar but you’re visualising it to be 100kg, it’s 100kg.
This is beneficial in two ways. Firstly, you’re going to be performing perfect reps as well as getting that set up happening like it’s second nature. The people who get lazy on lightweights are often the same people who miss big weights because they get complacent or make small errors that cost them the lift. Secondly, after visualising each rep, every set, twice per week for 12 weeks, you’ll be exceptionally prepared for that 100kg lift. Visualisation is fundamental to achieving your goals.
A Growth Mindset
Since Carol Dweck released her research into what she calls ‘Growth and Fixed Mindsets’ over 30 years ago, it has been successfully applied in many fields. It’s not without its critics, many believe it to be false research and without evidence. I’m going to focus on one aspect of the growth mindset research, ‘Yet’. Think about these two statements: “I can’t bench 100kgs” and “I can’t bench 100kgs, yet“.
Notice the difference? The first statement is final and dismissive of their abilities. The second statement is acknowledging they can’t do something, but accepting that they could do it. Your mind is the only factor in how far you can take this. I know I can’t climb to the base camp of Mt Everest right now, but with focussed training I know I could do it. So I would never say I can’t do it. I would say I can’t do it yet. Bringing yourself to acknowledge where you are now, but also acknowledging that you can work toward that goal and achieve it, given the time and effort is the key to your success.
Back to the gym. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do. That one goal, that no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to get there. It could be weight loss, a one rep max lift or even a pull-up. Tell yourself you can’t do it, but add ‘yet’. Keep that ‘yet’ there until you achieve it. Of course, correct goal setting is key here too, but I’ll get to that in a different article!
Mindset. It’s something that needs constant attention throughout the day. It’s inevitable to have a ‘bad day’ or something happens that throws your mindset into an unproductive mode, but bringing yourself back to visualising what you want and having a growth mindset will go a long way to achieving your goals. Building that intrinsic motivation, celebrating successes and being your own advocate will change the way you approach the work required to achieve your goals. Your Personal Trainer can help by simply using cues to bring focus to what you’re doing in the gym. They can remind you why you’re working so hard, some extrinsic motivation is useful, and you’re paying for it after all!