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Mental tricks to help you stay motivated.

Thursday, August 3, 2006 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Probably the one question I’ve been asked the most often over the past few years is, “How do you stay so disciplined/dedicated.” That question is addressed in my FAQ, but I admit that the FAQ answer to that all-important query is fairly pithy and is probably not very helpful to most people. I mean, how could it be? How do you “bottle” something like that? While I may not be able to package whatever it is that makes me tick into a neat little pill, what I can do is share some of the little mental “tricks” I’ve employed that have helped me to stay on-target when I felt like giving up.

The first thing you have to realize is that your mind is going to make or break you as you progress towards your goal. There’s a constant battle between the side of you that wants instant gratification and the side that wants to lose fat, gain muscle and/or get healthy. When the vast majority of us are first starting off on our fitness quest, the part of us that wants to improve is very weak. We’re used to instant gratification: it’s comfortable, familiar and easy. On the other hand, getting up early to do cardio is hard; lifting weights after a long day at work is hard; learning to eat right and making most of your meals in advance each day is hard. All of these changes are difficult – but only at first! It takes time to adapt to a new lifestyle, especially one that, on the surface, seems to demand so much of us. It takes time to reap the rewards. Those first couple of months when we are at our weakest are where most of us fail. I’m not saying that once you get past the first month or two you’ll always feel like working out, but mentally you will be far better equipped to deal with those occasions when you don’t.

I’m babbling. So, back to my mental tricks. The one I used most often when I first started out may seem a bit shallow, but it doesn’t matter because it worked.

Hopefully everyone has some people around them who are supportive of their fitness goals. I was very lucky in that regard. Still, there are always people in your life who want to see you fail. Misery loves company. The people I’m talking about are the ones who make light of what you are doing. They try to convince you to eat junk food with them. They roll their eyes when you talk about your fitness program. Some of these kinds of people are more subtle than that, and some are more outspoken, but you always know exactly who they are. Maybe some of them are your friends, and perhaps some of them are people you have to put up with at your office or in your neighborhood. What I suggest you do is use their negative energy to your advantage. Anytime I felt like skipping a workout or giving in to my junk food cravings, I would picture the look on their faces after I reached my goals. For example, I have some neighbors I really dislike. They would smirk as I struggled to cut the lawn in heavy jeans and a T-shirt in a sad effort to hide my fat body. During the Winter of 2003 when I was first losing weight, I would picture myself outside mowing the lawn and washing the car with a 6-pack, and the look on my neighbors’ faces. I would keep this image in my head at all times. Nothing was going to keep me from reaching this goal. I know this all sounds fairly shallow, but remember that we’re just playing a mental game. Your thoughts are your own (heh, well, I guess mine are not any more!) Ultimately mental tricks like these are nothing more than tools designed to help you fight through the desire to give up. I never missed a workout that winter, and in the summer of 2003 I stepped outside to mow the lawn 55 pounds lighter, sans-shirt and plus a six-pack. It was even better than I’d imagined, because I really did it and was no longer dreaming.

Keep in mind that you are basically at war with your own mind, and you must do what you have to do in order to get the job done. Each time you’re faced with a workout or a food temptation you’ll either do the right thing or you’ll allow your mind to convince you that you have a good reason not to. Ultimately excuses don’t matter one bit – excuses never get you any closer to your goals, so always remember that.

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