I write a lot about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, with exercise as its cornerstone. I talk about the physical benefits and suggest how you might be able to integrate it into your busy lives. I touch on some of the mental benefits and suggest a couple of mental frameworks for achieving success.
One thing I haven’t really written about is mindset. Time to correct that.
I remember, back when I was a rock climber, seeing a motivational poster on the wall of the climbing gym which said, “Attitude, more than aptitude, determines your altitude.” That one has stuck with me for 15 years. Why?
I can tell you to “Just show up, and you’ll receive the benefits,” and I know that it’s true. But just showing up doesn’t mean you’ll receive the maximum benefits and the reason goes back to that quote on the climbing gym wall. If you show up with a poor mindset, you’re setting yourself up for a poorer workout. I you show up with a positive mindset, you’re setting yourself up for a better workout.
In his book Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini wrote about how your working conditions dramatically affect your outcomes. He gave an example from his own work. When he was editing his work he noticed that some of his writing was quite scholarly, and some of it was very down to earth, more relatable to the common man. When he dug into how this difference came about he noticed that the scholarly writing was done in his office at the university, and the every day writing was done at his office at home.
When surrounded by the trappings of academia (the university office in the faculty building, filled with textbooks and scholarly works) he produced academic work. When surrounded by mundane, every day life, he produced work with mass appeal, and the difference in outcome was completely subconscious: he never set out to write this way, the tone of the output was set by the conditions he was writing in.
The great thing, Cialdini discovered, is that it doesn’t have to be sub-conscious at all; you can create the conditions for maximum success to improve your results, and you can do this both physically and mentally.
Physically, lower the barriers. Make working out convenient and make it a part of your routine. Decide today that you’re going to exercise tomorrow, and put your workout gear with your keys so you pick them up together on your way out. Wear your favourite clothes, listen to your favourite music. Pre-suade yourself you’re going to work out, and work out hard.
Then, “Attitude, more than aptitude.” Go to the gym with a positive attitude. Don’t let a bad day get you down, smile and push on. Feeling lousy? Don’t care, tell yourself you can do it, and go. Having a bad workout? Tap into your beast mode and push through. Over time you’ll discover that the days you go in feeling the worst often turn out to be the best workouts of all.
Psychology and physiology are intertwined; your mental state informs your physical state and your physical state informs your mental state. When one is low, use the other to boost it. Remember the good, release the bad. If you have a bad workout, give yourself a break. You’re human, forgive yourself and move on.
Every time, attack your workout like it’s going to be the best one ever. It won’t be the best one every time, but it will be the best you can get that day. And above all, remember this; if you say you can, or say you cannot, either way you’re telling the truth.