“Anyone can train to be a gladiator. What marks you out is having the mindset of a champion.” –Manu Bennett
I’d like to begin our very first series (!) with a 4-week mini crash course on perspective.
Complete strength starts in the mind, and the mind is immensely powerful. This is becoming an increasingly large part of the conversation in fitness- an awesome development!- and yet, I find time and again that each of us, when presented with a crisis, forgets how powerful our thoughts are.
Consider it. You’ve heard the cliché phrases all your life: “mind over matter”, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, “where the mind goes, the man follows”, but have you ever stopped to think about how much more goes right when you are absolutely determined to succeed?
Research has proven that our thoughts are transformative. Positive thinkers are full of hope, belief, and expectation. Our brains are plastic, creating new thought patterns all the time.
You’ve experienced this- I’m sure of it, because we all have. You know when you’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed, you get stuck in traffic, you think to yourself, “great, what else can go wrong today?”…and then you find out: that one coworker that drives you insane is on level 5000. You have a surprise meeting. You forget your lunch. You think, “this day is terrible,” about 76 times, then you drive to the gym to prepare to squat. You know how that goes (very likely, not your best performance.). You remember you have chicken and asparagus marinated and ready to grill when you get home, but this day has sucked so hard that all you really want is ChikFilA, so you stop and get a spicy chicken sandwich…and even that only satisfies you for as long as it takes to eat it. You get home, and for some weird reason (;)), your aggressive hello is not met with enthusiasm by your partner, and you go to bed thinking about how much you hate this day.
On the other hand, think about how your day goes when you wake up, and, even if it’s on the wrong side of the bed, you are grateful for another opportunity to go to work. You’re stuck in traffic, but, luckily, you’re listening to a podcast you enjoy or a hilarious morning radio show, so the extra 15 minutes aren’t so bad, and you even learned something new on your drive you would have missed otherwise. Your annoying coworker, you suddenly realize, is bright and cheery, a quality we could all use more of in the morning, and you allow some of that energy to rub off on you. Your energy gets a boost, spurring you to tackle the day ahead. You forgot about the meeting, but now you have an opportunity to hone your adaptability, and you remember that you’re pretty good under pressure. You go to the gym, do some squats that feel like butter, and you feel the rush of adrenaline that comes from the joy of movement. On your way home, you’re super stoked about the dinner you’ve prepared, because all the work is done for you, and asparagus is your favorite vegetable. You arrive home, and your partner enjoys your enthusiastic listening about his day and responds by helping you cook and prep the food for tomorrow. You go to bed looking forward to the next day.
See the difference? Same events, different perspective. You can, quite literally, think yourself out of a bad day/mood/behavior/relationship. Our genes respond to our environments, behaviors, and attitudes- meaning you can think yourself into wellness, in many cases. Many studies have shown that positive attitudes, rather than fatalistic ones, have lowered markers of disease or even healed them completely.
Bonus: while other people’s emotions are separate from yours and not something you should take ownership of yourself (more on that soon!), your good vibes often influence those closest to you, leading to more positive interactions, reframing your perspective and, thus, reshaping your brain to remain in a positive mindset.
A person full of hope and expectation about her future makes decisions in service to herself. THAT, to me, is the game changer.
Once we understand that the mind-body connection is real, we become more at home in our bodies. It’s easy to slip back into the mindset that our bodies are separate from our brains, but once we grasp the reality of this connection, everything changes.
Being at home in our bodies, we begin to make choices that serve this reality.
We see the world as an exciting, rather than scary, place.
Our lives become a series of experiments, constantly learning and growing and doing the best we can.
Our disagreements with other people become not a time to see who’s “good” or “bad”, but opportunities to explore each other’s worlds and learn from one another.
Our “failures” become data points as we understand that each moment contains a choice, and we can always choose leafy greens and lean proteins for dinner even when we chose French fries for lunch.
We make choices in service to our goals, leading us, slowly but surely (and certainly not always in a linear fashion) to our higher selves. Our relationships flow with greater ease, as we’re at home with ourselves, and we create the space for others to do the same. We move better, eat better, sleep better…all with much less mental effort than it took when we were “on a diet”. Our workouts become a time to experiment and get to know ourselves, mind and body. The joy of movement is truly that- joy!- rather than an hour to slave away and pick at our imperfections.
Wouldn’t it be nice to constantly frame your world this way?
YOU HAVE THIS POWER. One step at a time- one choice at a time- you get to be that person who doesn’t let one rough moment faze you and destroy your day.
Our minds are powerful. Doing the internal work to understand ourselves- taking our fingers and pressing on the insecurities or struggles- is worth it to grow into the people we’re meant to be: capable, empowered, and strong.
Your journey to leveling up starts now.