It’s the old familiar story. You know you should do the thing—eating real food, getting to the gym, mobility work, and yet you fall back into old habits, giving it a miss. Again. You tell yourself you just need to become more motivated, more driven. You watch everyone else cracking on and you feel a bit crappy in comparison. Tomorrow; tomorrow you’ll do it.
This is usually the part of a “motivational” article where I tell you that you’ve just got one life, so get out there and live it! Or, I tell you to stand up, clap your hands, stand tall, then give you some vague, unhelpful advice about “finding your why.”
But this isn’t a motivational article. It’s not meant to get your blood pumping, your heckles raised and ready to spit venom. Because frankly, that shit probably won’t work for you. Nor do the “inspirational” videos, where someone who has an incredible story tells it over a moving soundtrack, before telling you to unleash the fire and finishing up with some feel-good tunes and the inevitable “if I can do it, I know you can, too.”
I don’t know about you, but all that feels a bit empty, doesn’t it? I mean, you get it. You know what you’re supposed to feel, but it doesn’t quite kick in the way it should.
Fighting the Subconscious
If you believe you don’t have time to train (whether true or untrue), you aren’t going to train. If you believe you are too tired, you’re not going to train either. And if you believe there’s no hope for you, training’s not going to happen.
If, however, you believe you are on the right path to becoming a better version of you, you’ll have no problem convincing yourself to get to the gym. If you believe change is possible and you have time, and you can still have a good session without motivation, you will find a way to train no matter how you are feeling.
Most of the time, the beliefs dictating your actions are much deeper than many of us are willing to admit, both emotionally and consciously. For example, the belief “I’m destined to be a failure” may have been hindering your for years by now. What’s more, it may be so deeply buried in your subconscious that it will take a lot of digging and observation to find.
The most powerful beliefs live deep in our subconscious mind. Let’s just reiterate what subconscious means: you’re mostly unaware of it. The deeper in our subconscious these beliefs are, the more they dictate our behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and physical state.
What’s more, the subconscious mind is infinitely more powerful than the conscious mind. While the subconscious mind may be able to override the subconscious for a small amount of time, in the long run, the subconscious story will always win.
Motivation Alone Will Never Work
If you analyze any top-level athlete, they do not solely come from a place of motivation. Generally, they are:
- Cool, calm, and confident (This is often mistaken for arrogance, and yes, it’s close call).
- At a sense of ease, even when going through hardship or struggle.
- Not striving, but taking everything in their stride.
In short, they’re not relying on motivation, but mindset. As my brilliant mentor, Dr. Brian Grasso said; “you can’t out-motivate an unsuccessful mindset”.
Have you ever been in a flow state? If so, you will recognize this sense of ease which defines it. This is what it feels like to have your mindset on point. I can guess what some of you are thinking… “so all this is great and all, Tom, but how do I fix it?”
A champ holds four mindset principles at their heart:
How to Build A Champ’s Mindset: 1. Perspective
Perspective is seeing the situation without any biases. This training session, this lift, this week, isn’t the be-all and end-all of your athletic progress. If it doesn’t go so well, so what? You can make the next lift better.
If you’re crushing it, be humble. You don’t know it’s going to carry on like this, so keep working hard and doing the work. You can improve your perspective by creating a long term strategy. Consider who you want to be in 2-3 years. Aim for this. Play the long game.
Most athletes spend too much time focusing on tomorrow’s result instead of how what they’re doing will affect three years from now. This is usually a subconscious narrative of “proving yourself.” It’s time to reflect on a long term goal. This will slowly allow your subconscious to adapt to a more helpful approach.
How to Build A Champ’s Mindset: 2. Awareness
A great athlete will pay attention to not only their own physical performance but other indicators too. They will be observant over what they say to themselves and to others, they will watch their body language, they will listen to their body intently.
Yet a bad athlete does quite the opposite; they ignore everything but the physical outcome and then wonder why it isn’t what they hope it would be.
By being aware of the internal and external environment, we can get further perspective on a situation. In short, we learn to see the signs well before the symptoms arise.
A really useful tool here is to write down any key phrases which come up in your mind when you’re training. You want to hear your self-talk with clarity. Only when we do that, can we begin to change our subconscious narrative.
How to Build A Champ’s Mindset: 3. Consistent Elegance
- Elegance: A surprisingly simple, ingenious, solution to an apparently complex problem.
- Consistent: Adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc. over time.
Most athletes try to overcomplicate their training, nutrition, and mobility. Tony Robbins has a great quote on this: “complexity is the enemy of execution.” The more moving parts we have in play, the more decisions we make, and the more mental fatigue and overwhelm we encounter.
Consider this question: what is the smallest amount you could possibly do and still achieve your 2-3 year goal? If you want to do more after you’ve hit your “elegant” quantity, do more, but chase consistent elegance primarily.
How to Build A Champ’s Mindset: 4. Embrace Hardship
Comfort is not the same thing as fulfillment, so don’t chase it. Conversely, if you chase and embrace hardship, you will improve.
You’re finding this set hard? Good. Embrace the difficulty. Do you want to eat crappy food? Good. Now’s the chance to overcome a habit. You can’t be bothered to turn up to the gym? Good. Do it and become stronger.
There are two types of hardship:
- Intentional hardship: that which you encounter on purpose—the number of reps or sets you have to do or the nutrition plan you chose.
- Incidental hardship: you didn’t mean to encounter it, but you’re in it anyway—you missed out on sleep and now feel tired.
With intentional hardship, remember you have chosen to be encountering it, so remember who you’re on your way to becoming and embrace the hardship.
When it comes to incidental, you’re here anyway, so what are you going to do? Embrace it!
Relying on motivation is outdated and it doesn’t work. We have to change the subconscious story first. To do that, remember PACE: