The mental (or psychological) game to achieving success in health and fitness is one of the most overlooked strategies. We hear over and over about what foods we should (and shouldn’t) be eating and the most effective ways to maximize our workouts. What rarely gets discussed is the MENTAL STRATEGIES one must have in place that will launch you toward your goal of health and fitness success, and more importantly, will help keep you there.
In the last 20+ years of working with clients, I have seen clients drop anywhere between 10 to 40 lbs. I have seen them reach their goals. What is rare, in all honesty, is their ability to STAY there. Something — time, stress, distractions, injury — always seems to “pull them back” to where they started out.
I want to share with you the 3 KEYS to hacking your MENTAL SELF that I have seen be effective in those I have personally worked with — those who have achieved success and remained there once they achieved their goals.
HAVE A PLAN OF ATTACK and SPECIFIC STRATEGIES
Each of these successful clients started with a plan of attack. Once we decided what they wanted to achieve (refer to HACK YOURSELF Part 1), we crafted a very specific plan for them using strategies that would move them closer to their goal, and, ultimately, would become a part of their lifestyle.
Here are some examples:
- I am moving at least 10K steps a day
- I weigh _______ and feel energized and focused
- I am going to the gym 3 times a week consistently
- I am avoiding sugar and have stopped eating all junk food.
- I am only drinking alcohol Thursday thru Saturday — the rest of the week I don’t drink.
- I have created a sleep ritual that improves my quality of sleep and gives me more energy during the day.
Note that I prefer to have the clients state their plan of action in a way AS IF they are already doing it. This is a great method of tricking the brain into thinking it’s already being done so that the client then has a mental PICTURE of living that new life. Remember, we create what we want first in our minds, and then life makes it happen.
UNLIMITED OR LIMITED STORY (YOUR MINDSET and BELIEF SYSTEM)
This is the biggest mental hack to achieve and the biggest obstacle to overcome: our story. Our excuses. The reasons why we don’t make the changes in our life we want to make: “I want to lose weight but… “and then comes the story, the excuse, the limiting belief that keeps us where we are. It’s really important to take 5 minutes to acknowledge this “story” (be truthful about what you are telling yourself) in order to put it in context as you think about your goal. You MUST learn to interrupt that story and create a new one. Here are a few examples of the “stories” we typically tell ourselves and a new thought to overcome it:
- “I don’t have time.” vs. “I am going to get up 30 minute earlier everyday and go for a walk.”
- “Diets will work.” vs. “I am going to focus on consistently eating fewer calories all day instead of dieting.”
- “Weight training makes my legs bigger.” vs. “Eating sugar and fat make my legs bigger.”
- “I worked out so I can eat what I want.” vs. “I know I can’t out-exercise a bad diet, so I am going to eat clean so that all my hard work in the gym moves me forward.”
What is the story you tell yourself that’s keeping you stuck right where you are?
CONTROLLING YOUR STATE OF MIND and YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE
This is something that seems so minor, yet has such a huge impact on your entire day. Your STATE. What do I mean by this? Your emotional state (or mood) that you are in most of the time during each day. You have more control over this than you think. Your mental and emotional STATE is the filter through which we perceive everything that comes our way.
Ever been in a really good mood (POSITIVE EMOTIONAL STATE) when something challenging happens? Do you find that you take the challenge in stride? Do you see the lesson in the situation, accept the challenge and just deal with it? What about when you are in a bad mood (NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL STATE)? When you are already feeling down, then everything can look bad. Even good things.
Well, you can change your state at any given time, and changing it depends upon 2 things: what you focus on and what you tell yourself about that challenging moment. I like to focus on things that raise my positive emotional state. Here are a few examples of things to try the next time you are feeling down:
- Listen to a song that really pumps you up or makes you feel good.
- Working out releases endorphins and raises your emotional state.
- Go for a gratitude walk. Get some music playing, get moving and visualize or list all the great things in your life: Being healthy. A great cup of coffee. A spouse. A friend. Even the little things count!
- Help someone else. Give of your time. Reach out and make someone’s day better. It will make your day better too!
You now have a few strategies to HACK your “MENTAL SELF”. You now know the importance of having a clear plan of attack and strategies (actions!) to implement; you see the importance of identifying and changing the story you tell yourself that keeps you from achieving your goals; and now you understand how important it is to control your (emotional) state so that you can begin defining and seeing what happens to you in a more positive way.
Until next time…
Phil Dozois, Owner, Breakthru Fitness