"Desire is actuated in the heart but is sustained in the mind."
It's that time of year again when people resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, stop smoking, exercise regularly, etc. The problem is most good intentions don't last much more than three to six weeks.
People look for that perfect diet or training program hoping it will magically move them toward their goal. The fact of the matter is, you can have the best trainer, the best program and the best diet, but if you don't have the right mind-set, and learn how to maintain it, you're doomed.
Without the right mindset, it's not worth the aggravation -- and in some cases the expense -- to initiate a change in your life. You must first exercise your strongest muscle, your mind, and put yourself in the right direction on the right path. How far are you going to get, driving a Porsche 911 Turbo the wrong way down a one-way street? Ultimately, will it matter if you used a Porsche or a Taurus, if you're headed in the wrong direction? Use the following information to not only put yourself in the right mindset for your resolution, but for life in general. Being positive is imperative for a successful outcome to all of life's endeavors.
Make the commitment
You must decide if this is something you truly want, and whether or not you are willing to make a firm commitment to yourself. Achieving goals doesn't happen overnight. You have to be patient and put in the time.
The more time you put in, and the harder you work, the more in tune with your body you become. The more in tune with your body you become, the more progress you'll make. The more progress you make, the more motivated you'll be. The more motivated you become, the longer and harder you'll work.
It's not easy. There is no magic pill. There is no one workout. There is no special herb or chemical to make this an easy task. Anyone who says that a product can make it simple and easy is full of it. If it were easy, everyone would be strong, lean and healthy. Most people will tell you that in the beginning training and dieting is the easy part; it's having the mental determination to keep pressing forward in the long term. Consistency is the name of the game.
The greatest impediment to your goal is the mind. Your body, if the mind leads it, will be able to perform at its maximum or near maximum capability every workout. With the right mental attitude, you'll be able to make consistently good food choices and welcome new eating habits. Staying focused and determined is essential and impossible without the right mental attitude. It is astonishing in any endeavor, what one can accomplish when a strong, positive mind is guiding it.
The level of intensity required to take you to your full potential can facilitate a protective inner voice. "I'm too tired today." "My kids are sucking the energy out of me." "I don't see anyone else in the gym training this way." "I've had a rough day at work." "I've got to get through this so I can get my laundry cleaned." "I just don't have the time." All this negativity needs to go. If you allow negative thoughts to dominate your inner voice, you've already lost before you try.
Your time in the gym should be time busting your butt to reach your goals. If you have truly made a commitment to improve, you'll enter the gym with a purpose. You'll train hard because you have a need to be the best you can be. The commitment you've made to yourself should get you excited for every workout. View each workout as a step toward your goal. If you miss a workout or train with the intensity of a snail, you're only cheating yourself and going backward. You need to be focused on the task at hand. It is the commitment to yourself that ultimately fuels your fire and gets you beyond failure.
When Thomas Edison was asked what it was like failing 2,000 times before finally inventing the light bulb, he said, "I didn't fail 2,000 times. It was a 2,000-step procedure." Talk about commitment -- most would have quit long before he did. This is only one of thousands of examples where people had the courage and determination to trudge forward despite all the obstacles.
Goals, big and small, fuel your motivation.
One day a gentleman came to the gym and asked about personal training. He recently turned 50 and said he was fed up with looking and feeling horrible. I asked him what he would ultimately like to achieve. He said he would like to get to the same shape and size he was when he was 20 years old. He also mentioned he would like to bench press 275 pounds again, but was only able to get to 190 for six reps at this point. I responded that this was a lofty goal, but achievable. I explained that in order to reach his goal, he was going to have to make a long-term commitment and that this was not something that happens overnight. I emphasized that stating his goals was the easy part; the hard part is sustaining this desire for the long haul.
The biggest problem I see when people set goals is the lack of thought and time given to the process. People tend to oversimplify the method of goal setting. There are three aspects of goal setting. The first is easy: determining exactly what you want. Whether it is a higher income, a new car, a bigger house, or a leaner, healthier body, one needs a target. Unfortunately, this is where most stop. The second is the more involved, and much more difficult: formulate exactly what you're going to have to do in order to achieve that goal. In other words, what is the "price" you're going to have to pay. And last: decide whether or not you're willing to pay.
The hardest part to attaining goals is pre-payment. The goal is attained only after you've paid the price or done the work. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Attaining a goal requires effort and you get what you put in. The life you lead today is a reflection of the work you put in up to the present. The life you will lead in the future is determined by the work you put in between now and then.
Many people bite off more than they can chew. They set lofty goals (usually while they're caught up in emotion), work hard for a while, don't see big returns, get discouraged and quit. Achieving big goals is a lot of work, and fitness is no different from any other aspect of your life. There is an old saying that if you save your pennies, the dollars take care of themselves. We need to set and achieve smaller goals and gradually we'll realize bigger goals.
To reach a big goal, one must set small goals. Remember, every journey begins with a single step. Simply take your big goals and segment them into smaller, more attainable ones. Look at these smaller goals as rungs on a ladder. Not only does each rung get you one more step toward the top, you must hit each one to safely and effectively reach your destination.
How long will your desire to be 135 pounds last if you are constantly fixated on that number, while weighing 170 pounds? If losing 35 pounds is your big and only goal, and all you value, every workout and diet plan will appear to be a failure. Every time you step on the scale you will feel as though you failed. In order to maintain motivation, you must put more of an emphasis or value on the steps or small goals it will take to get to your goal weight.
Using and attaining your small goals will also be a fantastic motivational tool. Motivation is increased by things we value. Some people value being lean; some value being stronger; some value losing 25 pounds. Whatever the case may be, when we see things we want, which are of value to us, our motivation to attain is increased. You could say motivation, in essence, is then fueled by our desire to attain that which we value.
Motivation induces us to act. It gives us a reason or incentive to move forward toward what we want or value. Motivation is the single biggest determining factor in ones success in any endeavor, more so than the level of education, lineage or intelligence. You can have an IQ of 135, an M.B.A. from Harvard, a business plan and backing by Donald Trump, but without the proper motivation you'd almost assuredly fail.
Visualize your ultimate goal and change your mental picture.
The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said, "The mind is the strongest muscle in our bodies." Your mind can be your greatest ally on the road to success. Once you set your big goal, you need to use your mind to visualize it. You must be able to go as far as imagining how you actually feel once the goal is attained.
Visualization is one of the most powerful tools you can use on the road to success. In fact, I'll go farther and say success is impossible without it. Visualization actually programs your mind to positive outcomes. Unfortunately, many people need to reprogram their minds because of the constant barrage of negative thoughts throughout their lives. By the time some decide to get physically fit they've got a pretty pessimistic view of themselves, and in some cases of life in general. Reoccurring negative thoughts have a profound effect. Dwelling on the negative and repeatedly reliving the feelings will make success in your life impossible.
Visualization is a way to wipe the slate clean and cancel out those negative thoughts. Think of it as downloading a new version of software on your computer. Make no mistake, if you do not reprogram your mind, and continue to repeatedly think in the negative, it will derail your motivation, discourage yourself, and impede your success. You cannot improve any aspect of your life without first improving the mental picture of yourself. Visualization is profoundly powerful and will trigger feelings, thoughts, attitudes, conversations and actions -- chose your pictures wisely.
The concept of visualization may seem odd to some. However, it may surprise you to know that some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and businessmen use visualization to attain their levels of success. For example, Michael Johnson, an Olympic gold medal winner and world record holder, said that he would actually see himself running with perfect form, and then winning the race, before it even began.
Powerlifters see themselves bench-pressing the weight successfully before they have even made the attempt. It's important to note -- the mind must travel there first, so that the body can follow. If the mind is full of negativity, the body will not perform in a positive manner, emotionally or physically. How ridiculous does it sound for a powerlifter to be thinking about how tired and weak he feels before attempting his lift? Are his chances of completing a squat or bench press increased? Likewise, how illogical is it for one to continuously think of themselves as out of shape, fat, tired or unhealthy, if they're working toward changing their lives for the positive? How motivated are you going to be to eat a healthy dinner if you dwell on how you dislike your body?
To help you in the visualization process, I recommend putting pictures of role models up on your bathroom mirror or on the refrigerator. I've gone so far as putting pictures of body parts on my refrigerator. In my days of competing, I would put up pictures of arms and calves of some of the best competitors in the world. I chose those body parts because those are the ones I lacked development in the most. I burned those pictures into my mind, and every time I would train those body parts, I would think of how I was going to improve. Be cautious, however when doing this. Use these pictures as motivation. Admire what they've done and how they look, but do not compare yourself with them.
Comparing yourself with others is a losing battle. I have had many men ask me how they can build a chest like Arnold Schwarzenegger's. I tell them flat out -- you can't. You can use his chest as motivation, but you are born with predetermined genetics that will ultimately dictate the size and shape of your chest. Use Arnold as a visualization tool to motivate you, to think about your chest developing. But do not use his chest as a litmus test for yourself. Compete against yourself. Strive to have better workouts to become the best you can, and always celebrate your successes.
Many women complain about their butt and thighs. If this is your "problem area" and you see a picture of a person with a nice butt and well-shaped thighs, use it. Put it on a piece of poster board. Write quotes or positive statements on it like: "I love life," "I look great," "I'm an achiever," "I am positively changing my life." Take a few minutes every time you see this poster to soak in the positive statements and think of yourself as achieving this goal. The positive statements will bring about a positive attitude, along with a motivational picture.
Remember, the body can only go where the mind goes first. Whenever you feel a negative thought coming on, immediately cancel it out with a positive.
Reading and writing are fundamental
Write your goals on a piece of paper kept in plain sight, so you can constantly be reminded of your goals, especially in your weakest moments. Underneath your goal write a positive statement like, "I love myself" or "I can do it." Put your goals on your bathroom mirror, dashboard and refrigerator. Whenever you see these pieces of paper, state your goals aloud with sincerity. You'll be amazed at how small exercises like this can help in a huge way.
Don't worry about other people seeing these reminders. Announcing your goals is another facet of the visualization process. If you fear others knowing your goals, you are already setting yourself up for failure. The fear of failure is this single biggest impediment to an individual's success. It is the single greatest obstacle that keeps us running to our comfort zones.
A couple of years ago a good friend of mine, a 198-pound world champion powerlifter, made a world record squat of 924 pounds. After the meet, a gentleman came up to him and asked him if he ever fears getting hurt while performing his lifts. My friend responded by saying, "Absolutely not. Why would I think of something like that? As far as I'm concerned it's not in the realm of possibility. If I dwelled on what could possibly go wrong while squatting over 900 pounds, I'd never even attempt it."
How successful do you think a powerlifter would be if he feared injury? How focused would his squat attempts be if he was thinking about blowing his knees out? How focused do you think he would be if he feared missing an attempt or losing his weight class in front of 1,000 people? Failure is accepted as part of the game. But it's the perception of failure that's crucial to your ultimate success.
If your goal is to lose four pounds this month and you only lose 2.5 pounds, technically you failed. However, ultimately you've succeeded. You still lost body fat. You are still on the right path. Congratulate yourself for getting a few steps closer to your goal and take the opportunity to adjust. With every failure comes another, more educated, attempt at success.
If you have never failed, then you've never tried. What most people don't understand is that failure is inevitable. It is impossible to succeed without it. Being successful is a numbers game. The more you try, the higher your chances of succeeding. Most of the richest, most powerful people in the world had many failures before hitting it big. Many of these people will attest that they had positive support around them, like spouses and friends. They also have an uncanny way of remaining positive in lieu of failure.
Set your goal and a course of action; reprogram your mind; celebrate your successes no matter how small; have no fear. Learn from the past, but let it go. The person you become will be the sum of what you do now and in the future.