Why talk about mindset before talking about workouts and fitness? Because scientific research tells us that most of you will quit on day two of your journey back to health. That 70% of you will fail to reach your goals. That only 20% of your success will come down to your workouts, while 100% of it will be a result of your mindset and mental fortitude.
I’m going to repeat that for you. Only 20% of your success will come down to your workouts, but 100% of it will be a result of your mindset and mental fortitude.
The bottom line is that your mind only has one purpose, and that’s to keep you alive. Your mind doesn’t like change, risks, new patterns and different habits. Those are dangerous territories where the unexpected can happen.
Your mind is probably one of the most powerful tools in the universe. Your mind is a genius at keeping you distracted, engrossed in thought, planning, remembering and comparing yourself to the people around you.
All of these devices have roots in our evolution and serve us in different ways. Unfortunately they also tend to trip us up as we’re moving toward goals because – well, it’s just the way it is.
So let’s take a closer look together and break down some of the mental potholes and wheelbreakers that you’ll meet along your way back to health. But first…
We’re on the third part of the Rising from the Ashes series so far. By now we’ve talked about your motivation, and reasons why there is nothing standing between you and health again, except for yourself. That you’re worth the effort, that you can succeed, that if you do the time you WILL see results.
We’ve talked about how the foundation of your eating habits moving forward should be mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, and minimal fat. You’re healing liver will thank you. Most importantly, and if there’s nothing else you change except for this, we talked about the foods you SHOULD BE AVOIDING to allow healing to happen in your body.
If you’ve been ill for a long time, or overweight for a long time (which is the same thing, we talked about how stored fat cells release stress hormones in your body, and hamper your body’s natural functions) then right now you need to hold a space for healing. Your goal shouldn’t be to look like an Adidas model, it should be a strong heart, a healthy gut, excess energy, and a strong motivation toward personal development. We’re creating lifelong habits, processes and systems that will keep us healthy for the rest of our lives. Our targets and goals will always be shifting as our bodies heal, change and grow. If someday you want to set your sites on having the body of a fitness model, then go for it!
In the meantime let’s just check in. How are you doing? Have you changed your eating habits, and are you feeling better?
Just remember to have patience with this journey. It is a guarantee that if you do the time, eat the right food, work out your body, persevere through the dip of enthusiasm you’ll come across as you reach the wide expanse of day-after-day, your body will get there. It will respond. The weight will shift and slide off. Your foundation, your strength, that string of large muscle groups that run up the central axis of your entire body, will be solid, hard and ready for anything. The healing will have started, your body will regain its balance, and you’ll feel good again. Period. Just remember – everything takes longer than you think.
THE RIGHT MINDSET TO BEGIN
The first step toward regaining your health is to acknowledge that you want to change. It’s not a flippant request. Most people are completely happy to exist the way they have for years. There’s a reason there’s an obesity epidemic. People are content, or resigned to the fact that they’re overweight. On the one hand we know the risks and inevitable early death due to being obese. On the other hand, getting out of that situation requires us to make changes. Most people, unfortunately, would rather exist in a negative or detrimental situation than face the discomfort of change. When you’re ready to grow and heal, you’ll know. Just by reading this, it’s a great indicator that you’re there. Start by telling yourself that you know your current situation is a problem, acknowledge truly that you’d like to change, and determine within yourself that you’re willing to do the work to make those changes.
Most people won’t even try, or will give a half-hearted effort. Why? They don’t BELIEVE THEY CAN CHANGE. They chalk it up to genetics, or fate, or God’s will that they’re sick or tired or overweight. I can understand, I was telling myself the same thing for years. “I’ve tried to get into shape, but it never works. My body is just this way. I’m fated to look like this forever. I can’t fight genetics, because it’s their fault I look like this. My body is too sick to heal. It’s too hard to get healthy and in shape. If some people just get to be in shape and don’t have to work on it, I’m not going to bother working on it either, because it’s not fair.”
The truth is that it is your right to have a healthy body, a beautiful body, one that you’re proud of. A fixed mindset is one that says, “It is what it is, and nothing I do can change it. Not really.” A growth mindset says, “It is what it is, so I’m going to work harder and make it what I want it to be instead.”
We’ll talk more about the mindsets shortly, but science has shown that the growth mindset is right. If our weight or our health were determined by fate, or genetics, you wouldn’t see people succeeding at regaining their lives and their health every day. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” wouldn’t exist. But they do exist. It is possible. When you start to feel doubt, just remind yourself that if you do the work, and eat right, your body will change.
Shift your mindset to value things like fortitude, energy, strength, health and a strong body. When you see someone who’s thinner or healthier than you, don’t envy their body. Appreciate the fact that they value things like energy, strength, fitness and health and be inspired by them. And never compare yourself to them! The most ridiculous mistake you could make when you’re just starting out is comparing yourself to someone else’s ending or middle. You’re just starting out. For now it’s enough that you believe that you can have a body and good health just like everyone else. It’s worth the effort.
CREATING A MULTILANE HIGHWAY TOWARD YOUR HEALTH GOALS
You just read why your mind doesn’t like transformative change. If you’re able, take a multi-pronged approach to improving your health. You want to align your intentions toward health in a myriad of ways, so that if your journey derails temporarily in one lane, you’ve still got other ways to progress. If your goal is to do fasting cardio five days a week, but you miss a workout, you haven’t derailed your entire train. It’s so easy, when we’re starting out, to believe that all-or-nothing myth.
THE ALL OR NOTHING MYTH – The belief that if we miss a workout, or eat a fat meal, or have a lazy day, that we’ve failed our quest to get in shape. The result being that most people quit trying after they make a mistake. The only time you can say you’ve failed is if you’ve quit. Don’t forget this a marathon, not a sprint. That we tally up our successes and failures and aim to be heavier on the side of successes in order to be healthy.
The multi-pronged approach to health may look like – instead of just working out five days a week, you’ve also started a new healthier eating lifestyle, and also are taking a course on mindfulness. So if you can’t workout, and feel the progress that way, you’ll still be pushing the other ways toward renewed health and can still feel those successes.
We aren’t talking about just getting our bodies moving, and getting more physically fit. We’re talking about a whole health approach to leading lives full of vitality and fun. This isn’t just a discussion on what workouts to do to boost your health. This is a shift in the way you see your body, your health, and what you’re worth in this world.
HOW YOU ARE GOING TO SUCCEED, THE MECHANICS
WHY IS PROGRESS IMPORTANT?
A Harvard study determined that the number one factor in predicting a person’s happiness at their job, above literally everything else, was the feeling of progress on a daily basis. A meaningful impact. A pushing forward toward goals, even just a little.
That pushing forward, even just a little bit, every single day is what will define your journey back to health. It is going to get you over that finish line when so many others will fail. How so?
You’re going to illustrate for yourself right now what progress will look like for you. For that, you need some goals.
YOUR GOALS & HOW YOU’RE GOING TO ACHIEVE THEM
It’s time for some reflection, and a little homework project for you. Take a sheet of paper and a pencil, and right down the top five things that you value about being healthy. By value, I mean write down five things that you want, and are willing to fight for.
Some answers might be wanting to lose weight so that you’re no longer prediabetic, or working up to being able to walk around your house three times, or strengthening your core to decrease spinal pain, or improving your gut health. The right answers are the things that are important to you.
Write down the things you value. For each thing you wrote, write down one goal that would help you achieve the thing you valued. If you want to lose weight, your goal could be to only eat one helping at mealtimes, or take a walk every day. If you want to walk around your house, your goal may be 15 steps a day, and then 30. If you want to strengthen your core, your goal may be doing a plank every morning and night, and an ab day on Saturdays. The right answers are the ones that work toward achieving your values.
Now take each goal, imagine what success would look like if you completed it regularly. And next imagine any obstacles you may cross before achieving your goal. Get real with yourself. Are you lazy, do you need someone’s assistance to do the steps? Is it too hard to do a plank on the floor? Find the obstacles.
Now make a resolution with yourself that the goal is worth overcoming the obstacle and come up with an ‘X, then Y’ plan for every obstacle.
If (X) I start to feel lazy and don’t want to work out, then (Y) I’m going to use the 5-4-3-2-1 Method and get on my feet and do it anyways.
If (X) I can’t take 15 steps unassisted, then (Y) I will schedule someone to come help me take them every day.
If (X) I find it too difficult to do a plank on the floor, then (Y) I will try doing wall sits or table leans (or something ab-centric and comparable) every day instead.
Literally, the ONLY obstacle to your success is your mind. Your body can do this, no problem. Your mind is going to try to get in your way every time. Remember, it’s just trying to save your life. You just have to work around it.
The price for the return of your health and wellness? All of your excuses. They were so yesterday. They didn’t serve you, in fact they let you down and helped get your body to the point where it is now. Let them go, and make choice after choice from now until infinity to be a healthier, best version of you that you can be.
You’ve stated what you value, and illustrated what your goals are. You highlighted potential obstacles and have a plan to get around them. Now what?
1% PUSH EVERY SINGLE DAY
Every single day you’re going to push yourself 1% toward achieving the goals you wrote for yourself. 1%, that’s all. Even just 1% progress, is still progress, and can become the driving force for your continued success.
If you add up the 1% every day, by the end of the year you’ve pushed yourself 365% toward your goals. And progress isn’t cumulative, it’s exponential. That means that the momentum of your progress will pick up speed every single day and suddenly you’re picturing even more, better, and healthier goals for yourself before you’re half way through the year.
If you struggle with moving from the knowing phase (that place where you know something, but don’t know how to make it happen yet) to the doing phase (the long slog in the middle where you’re just doing the work and laying down tracks toward your goals) to the being phase (that place where you’ve reached mastery, have met your goals, and are setting sites on new goals) then pay attention. This is how it’s down.
Find a value, create a goal that will lead you to the becoming the thing that you valued, imagine your success, then imagine potential obstacles, make plans to get around them when they show, and then do it …that’s the motion. That’s the process where success is made.
MENTAL POTHOLES ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS
In order to make the changes you’ll need to succeed you need to better understand some of the psychological processes that could be holding you back.
There are certain ways that your mind works that might sabotage your success before you even get started. Knowing what they are, how they work, and how to avoid them can be immensely helpful.
YOUR MOOD EFFECTS YOUR MOTIVATION
Having a great plan laid out for yourself isn’t a guarantee of success. Your mind is going to step in often, and in different ways, to try to distract and derail you. Your mind would be perfectly content to sit in a jar on the wall for all of eternity and compute.
Your body? Not so much. So step in, with a self-loving mindset, and set to work taking back your health.
Here’s one of the mental potholes to look out for on your way. In a typical happy person, the NORMAL MOTIVATION ACTION would be that they feel motivated to act, and therefore do so. How delightfully convenient.
Unfortunately psychological studies have shown that when your mood is low, the motivation action is actually REVERSED. That means that if you’re feeling tired, sad, or ill, then action HAS to come before the feeling of motivation. If you’re waiting for inspiration to get you on your feet and living a vital life, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
The upside is that now that you know how your brain works in this way, it should be easier to push yourself into action knowing that eventually the feeling of motivation will follow. Waiting for the motivation to strike to get your life back on track just is NOT going to happen.
CONE OF FRUSTRATION
Psychological studies have revealed something called the “Cone of Frustration.” How it works is when you start to feel stressed by things in your life, the typical response is to narrow your focus toward the thing that’s stressing you. This is done by cutting out of your life things that nourish and entertain you. The thinking is that if you cut out the extra stuff and just focus harder on what’s bothering you that you should be able to fix, solve, or resolve it more quickly.
What actually happens is that we cut more and more of the nourishing activities out our lives until all that’s left is the concentrated stress of that one thing bothering us. And studies have shown repeatedly that the more nourishing activities we cut from our lives, the worse we are at fixing, solving, or resolving any issues that arise.
If you feel stress, and start to see yourself avoiding things that make you happy and nourished, knock it off! Make doubly sure that if you’re narrowing the cone and scope of your life that the things that benefit your health are not what you’re getting rid of.
In fact, psychologists will tell you that the more hobbies you have, or activities that are nourishing to your mind, the better able you are to address the myriad of stresses life will throw your way. The natural tendency of the mind to narrow the focus toward our biggest stressors is actually counter-productive.
I think on some level we’re all aware of this feature of the mind. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses” has been a thing forever. I don’t think, however, that many people understand how exactly the mind does this and how hugely detrimental the action is to our wellbeing.
When our minds are referencing the people around us, they are indiscriminate. By that I mean our minds will measure us against anyone around, whether it’s Beyoncé or the Kardashians on the television, or the neighbor next door. What’s worse, the mind has no understanding of the difference. On a conscious level we can say that comparing ourselves to TV personality or musicians is silly. They spend literally millions of dollars just on their looks and the side they show the public is nothing like their real selves. We can say that, but our minds aren’t listening. The mind makes no distinction. Let’s be honest, there is very little chance you’re going to stack up well in your own mind against those people and the façade they pedal.
That’s the crux of social comparisons. Your mind isn’t trying to make you feel better about yourself. Most often the comparisons it’s making only make you feel worse.
Social media is the worst at this. Studies have shown that people who use social media feel worse about themselves consistently after doing so. Our minds are judging our value and worth, without our conscious control or input, against other people’s polished representations of their lives. We’re comparing ourselves internally to other people’s highlight reels.
Knowing that this is how the mind works, and that it’s not doing this to make you feel better about yourself, try to catch your mind in the act next time to make it stop. This is where self-compassion can go a long way. If your mind throws up a thought about how you’ll never be as healthy or as beautiful as that celebrity on TV, have an ‘aha!’ moment and call that thought out for what it really is. It’s a social comparison and it is NOT TRUE.
I AM GRATEFUL FOR…
Gratitude stops your social comparison in its tracks. It’s kryptonite to social comparisons. Gratitude is a killer of envy. If you’re experiencing gratitude for your life and your stuff, you don’t have time to make social comparison. You don’t have enough attentional bandwidth to do it.
BE CONSCIOUS OF WHAT KINDS OF SOCIAL COMPARISONS YOU’RE LETTING IN
The people you surround yourself with, online and in real life, are rarely happenstance. You are choosing who and what to allow into your consciousness. You can change your feed around. Don’t look at the Victoria Secret model campaigns when you can be looking at the Dove Real Body campaign. Support campaigns that are trying to put out body images that are healthier for all of us. What are the reference points you’re letting in all of the time? Are you only looking at data and photos that are going to make you feel bad in comparison? Or are you looking at things that are more representative of real people, real salaries, real bodies, and real everything? Once something gets into your awareness, you have no chances for stopping the comparisons, but you have total control over what kind of images and data you let get in.
Hedonic adaptation is what muscles our resiliency. Resiliency, physical and mental, are great measuring posts for good health. Hedonic adaptation is that part of our mind that normalizes new things into just ‘meh’ things for us. We adapt away the newness of objects, experiences and circumstances into just the being our new norm.
How is this useful? For circumstances you perceive as bad, you want to hedonically adapt to them quickly. If you have something negative or bad you have to do (like if you don’t enjoy working out), don’t break it up throughout your day. Squish all of the negative things you need to do for the day together and get them done quickly. By doing this you will hedonically adapt quickly and get over the grumpy feelings. Instead, if you break your workouts or errands up over the course of the day every time you go back to it, it will feel bad. You’ve just expanded how long you needed to feel bad that day.
OVERPRIDICT HOW BAD THE BAD IS GOING TO BE
Our minds continuously predict things are going to be a lot worse than they actually are. Every single time, regardless of past experiences, if you allow your mind to overthink a task you need to complete, it’s going to over predict just how bad it’s going to be. You mind doesn’t learn, through experience, that things like a workout aren’t going to be so bad next time. It will continuously predict they’re going to be more bad than they actually turn out to be.
HAVE A LOVE OF THE JOURNEY, NOT THE OUTCOME
The second you start working out or changing how you eat in order to reach a certain number on your scale, you’re going to love the journey to get there less. Instead of your days being successful and expansive, you narrow your focus down to the one point of the day where you’re weighing yourself. Regardless of how many great choices you made that day, if the needle on the scale hasn’t moved, you’ll reflect back on your day poorly. Which is heartbreaking. You deserve and have earned your wins, so protect them. If you’re working just for the goals, you’ve stripped away your love of learning new insights into how your body works. You’ve stripped away the enjoyment from the journey, and of new healthy foods and have lost sight of why you started this journey. If you’re worried only about how much weight you’ve lose, or if you’ve met your goals or not, you’re missing the hundreds of other types of measurements of your success. You’re missing every opportunity to feel the wins, the progress. You’re stripping away your enjoyment of the activity in the first place.
Remember that the things we do to make us happier are going to be effortful. They will require work. At first they’ll be hard because we’ll have to make ourselves do them. But once you’re started and habits are created, you’ll just feel happier overall.
GROWTH VS FIXED MINDSET
If you have a FIXED MINDSET then you probably believe that you’re born with a certain set of skills, a certain level of intelligence, a certain type of job you’re best suited for and you’re working within those set parameters to better your life. If a task is too hard, it means you weren’t meant for that type of work, and you’ll move onto something else. If there’s a math task that’s too hard, you believe you’re just not good enough at math, and will move on to something else. You’re a finite mind and mindset.
If you have a GROWTH MINDSET then you probably believe the sky is the limit. That there is no such thing as a set limit on intelligence, skills or the kinds of things you could be good at. If a task is too hard, it means you were meant to work harder to achieve and eventually master it. If a math task is too hard, then you need to study harder. You’re an accepting and expansive mind and mindset.
There used to be the belief, like that of the person with a Fixed Mindset, that we were set parameters. People were born a certain way, and just had to succeed within that box. Fortunately the science of Psychology is starting to prove just how wrong we are.
The truth? There are no limits. You can do better, learn more, and excel at anything you set your mind to. Intelligence and talent can be trained and most abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Believe in yourself, that anything you choose to conquer you can do, that you are NOT limited in any respect by who you were born as or who you’ve chosen to live as until this point.
POTENTIAL NEW LANES TO ADD TO YOUR SUPER HIGHWAY TO HEALTH
You know that nutrition and avoiding inflammatory foods is one lane you’re taking back to your health. You know that fitness and moving your body are another lane you’ll be taking. Here are some other lanes to consider.
Find a well-being or mindfulness book or program to start working on, and work on it along side of the physical activities and changes you’re going to bring into your life. In doing so you may find extra inspiration, motivation and compassion for yourself and the changes you’re hoping to make.
The truth is that learning how and why your mind works the way it does, and learning how to work with it, will always be a great use of your time. Mindfulness is a great place to start learning.
Mindfulness is a shift from servitude of to the mastery over the mind. It’s a remarkable program designed by professional psychologists out of some of the best universities in the world. It’s based on meditative practices, and developing, and understanding a sense of the Self beyond the narrow picture our mind has painted of who we are.
Honestly it’s one of those things that’s hard to describe unless you’ve tried it yourself. I followed the mindfulness program in “Mindfulness: An 8-Week Program for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. I cannot encourage everyone enough to read and follow this program. It was enlightening, and changed my entire mindset and perspective.
The benefits to a mindfulness program like this are that you’ll be able to recognize those bullying, self-sabotaging thoughts as they happen, recognize them for what they are, and release them free from pain.
We’re looking for a whole-health solution to our health problems. That has to include the mind. If we’re going to include the mind then I can’t pass up the opportunity to suggest mindfulness and this book. Seriously. Get it.
THE SCIENCE OF WELL-BEING
Another place I’ve turned to for insight on how our minds work, and how to find genuine well-being is through a course offered by Yale University free of charge via Coursera.com. I know they’re continuing to offer different sessions, and would suggest you look into it.
The course is called the SCIENCE of Well-Being, and the professor does an excellent job of backing all of her assertions with a variety of psychological studies.
It’s amazing the things we think will make us happy, that don’t. And the places we never think to look, but hold so much happiness and well-being for us there.
If you’re looking to be healthy, don’t think that shouldn’t include your emotional and mental wellbeing. You are a whole being, and should treat yourself as thus. Mindfulness programs and courses from Yale are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many places you can turn to for information that will expand and clarify how your mind works, and how to achieve a higher level of happiness in your life.
The point I’m trying to make is that you need to make the shift from not caring about bettering yourself in those ways to actually seeking them out and gobbling them up. You’re a work of art, inside and out. Never lose your curiosity, or self-seeking behaviors.
“EVERYONE IS ON A PATH TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN. THE ONLY ONE WASTING THEIR TIME IS THE ONE RUNNING BACK AND FORTH ACROSS THE MOUNTAIN TELLING EVERYONE ELSE THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG.” HINDU PROVERB
Your spiritual health is as personal to you, and as integral to your whole health as are possible. I have no recommendations on how to improve your well-being in this area, just mention it here because it’s important and warrants your attention.
Yoga has its roots as a spiritual practice but has bloomed into one of the most marvelous fitness approaches in existence. Exploring yoga takes you more deeply into both your physical well-being and also your spiritual and mental. It’s integral for many people to their physical and mental health. I will cover it extensively with Rising from the Ashes: Part 4: Fitness. It’s mentioned here because if you’re looking for ways to improve your whole health, Yoga would never be a mistake.
Living a healthy life IS self-care. Eating healthy meals IS self-care. Exercising is self-care. Meditating is self-care. Self-care is the foundation of your wellness and journey forward back to health. It can be massage, painting your nails, getting a haircut, quietly reading a book. Find ways, daily, to enhance and expand your self-care practices for better whole health. You’re worth it, and deserve it!
Next week we’ll finally get into ways to move your body. Ideas for exercise, how often and what kind. We’ll talk about how to be gentle with yourself while you rebuild your strength. We’ll take our bodies away from the sedentary and unhappy lifestyles we’ve been living back into strong, whole, evolutionary machines they were meant to be. You can look forward to the hum of a strong worked muscle, and the many stages of progress you’ll reach along the way.
As always, thank you for your time. Our time and attention are our greatest treasures to give. Many thanks to you for sharing yours with me.