I would appear strong on the outside, but inside, I would crumble at the slightest sight of adversity. I had a million dollar body but a $2 dollar mindset.
When it comes to achieving our fitness goals, it’s never really just the training and nutritional program that’s holding us back.
It’s oftentimes the other intangibles of life that are holding us back from our desired fitness goals. One of those big ones is our mental fitness. The sets of squats and deadlifts aren’t the toughest challenges to staying healthy, it’s the random (and sometimes cruel) things of life that can cripple us.
If you aren’t mindful of your thoughts, then irrational thoughts and beliefs can run rampant. If behaviors aren’t in check, you run the risk of causing damage and making bad decisions with your health and well-being. And with our emotions, if we don’t reel them in, then the inverse will happen and they’ll reel us in.
With that said, our mental fitness starts with us replacing and challenging our irrational thoughts with more realistic thoughts. Behaving and acting out of logic despite how dire or tough the situations may be. And finally, being in charge of our emotions so they don’t control us.
Here four ways to improve your mental fitness and overcome adversity when it presents itself.
1. Don’t waste time with self-pity parties
If there was going to be a picture of self-pity in the dictionary, it would have my headshot there with a crown. No matter the situation in life, I had a Captain America shield that deflected blame to everyone but me.
Ran out of money, not my fault, it’s the bank’s fault. My girlfriend breaks up with me, not my fault for ignoring her and not treating her as she should—it’s still her fault.
Tore my pec minor in college trying to show off, not my fault—it’s the gym and benches fault for throwing me off angle. Writing gets rejected, not my fault—it’s the website and editors fault.
Unfortunately, this pops up in fitness a lot of times, it’s easier to find some external excuse in the world to blame for our shortfalls with fitness than to acknowledge and admit to ourselves that we’re the problem.
Here’s the big problem with feeling sorry for yourself?
Feeling sorry for yourself leads you to procrastinate with taking responsibility for the situation. Most importantly, this is stopping you from growing as an individual and learning from your mistakes.
Feeling sorry for yourself and having a self-pity party is self-destructive. This only leads to more problems down the road and more consequences. When you don’t take responsibility for your weight loss shortcomings, you’re neglecting the core reasons that stopped you the last time while your health is still getting worse since you didn’t succeed.
Next time you catch yourself falling into a self-pity party, try this:
Switch out your self-pity for gratitude— I failed on my last diet. Instead, I’m grateful for attempting to improve my health and though I didn’t reach my desired goal, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned and now I can apply it to my next attempt at improving my health.
2. Don’t freely give away your power like it’s a Netflix rental
Far too often, we let other people steal our joy and zap our self-worth away. Maybe it’s a bad relationship or a manipulative figure in your life who knows just the right thing to trigger you.
Maybe it’s your immediate circle of people who aren’t supporting you with your fitness goals. Instead, they tell you a million reasons as to why you can’t do something instead of the very reason why you can do something.
At times, my family and even some of my friends unintentionally zapped my self-worth away. But in actuality, the only time we can give our worth away is when we allow it to happen. Our self-worth card isn’t a Netflix rental that needs to be freely available to everyone in the world.
3. Let go of feeling entitled and like the world owes you something
No matter how crappy life has been, how smart you are, how pretty you are, or anything else—you don’t deserve good fortune more than the next person beside you.
Sounds harsh, but this humility and self-awareness that none of us are special snowflakes make us realize that our issues aren’t unique and therefore are solvable.
If many others have had our problems and persevered, then why can’t we? I see this as the ultimate motivation as to why it’s never good to give up.
Life isn’t meant to be fair. Our problems aren’t unique. Many people have fallen short with their fitness. Many have lost weight only to see it come back in full force (often with extra weight). Many have been rejected by publishers and event planners (talking to myself here).
Many have been rejected by our crushes (talking to myself again). Many have had bad relationships (unfortunately). Many have had low funds in the bank and felt the darkest night of the soul night wondering how to get out of this (talking to myself for the third time).
These situations are tough, there’s no denying that, but they aren’t unique.
What’s unique and left open to the possibilities is how you respond to those disappointments and setbacks. That’s where the mental fitness comes into play. None of us are more deserving than the next person.
Focus on efforts and how you respond, not your perceived importance.
4. Let go of needing immediate results
Living in today’s microwave generation is dangerous to our egos and psyche. Patience is a past time. We overestimate our abilities. We underestimate how long transformations and change takes. This combination leads to prematurely quitting and giving up because we can’t wait—not that we’re not capable.
When you have expectations for immediate results and want everything yesterday, when you don’t get those results, you’re tempted to take shortcuts and cheat your future (hello fad diets and other short-term fitness tactics).
Skewed and unrealistic expectations potentially lead you to deduce the wrong conclusions, negative emotions, low self-worth, and behaviors that set you back even further.
Let go of the need for immediacy.
Commit to the long haul. If it’s worthwhile, then isn’t it going to be worth it down the line (I tell myself this every day)?
Don’t underestimate just how damn difficult it is to change. Be mindful that progress isn’t always easily apparent and linear. Often times, progress shows up in small ways and through the intangibles.
Keep your eye on the prize. Celebrate milestones along your journey (no matter how small they seem—momentum is your best friend).
This post originally appeared on The Art of Fitness & Life where you can find more lessons on mental fitness.
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