You probably heard someone say that the brain is the largest erogenous zone. This is no joke. Your mind holds the key to your happiness, sexiness, and overall satisfaction. But when you get discouraged and down on yourself, the brain can be your worst enemy.
Did a bad day at work "cause" you to come home and plow through a pint of ice cream? Have a few late nights "made" you snooze through that morning workout? It sure felt that way. It's easy to blame the deterioration of your program on life's circumstances, but deep down, you know those things didn't make the decisions. It's on you.
I'm not here to blame you. If you're like most people, you're already plenty good at that. No, I'm here show you the hidden opportunity hidden inside "It's really on you." Basically, when you believe it, you can't escape the follow-up conclusion that you really do have the power to do whatever you want.
This type of cognitive growth doesn't happen by accident. If you let your mind get weak, it can become an enemy of your muscles. If you treat it like the biggest muscle of them all, and develop it day in and day out by facing and overcoming challenges, then its potential is limitless.
Looking for a place to start? Try these 10 mental challenges. Put them in your program just like any other movement, and repeat them as often as possible. They're not easy, but the best workouts never are.
Challenge 1 Face Failure Head On
Don't let fear of failure leave you stagnant. Apprehension will cause you to hold a steady, creeping pace. This isn't bad in and of itself, but let's be frank: There's a time to be cautious, and a time to let enthusiasm stamp down on the accelerator. Life is a journey, but you don't get there by driving the same speed both in the school zone and on the freeway.
Instead of thinking of your ambitious goal as a guaranteed failure, tackle your challenge by recognizing it as a step toward a stronger you—no matter what comes out of it.
Challenge 2 Don't Let Others Set Your Goals
Looking for advice on the latest music or how your swimsuit looks from behind? By all means, ask a friend. But when it comes to your fitness goals, take other people's opinions for what they are: Something that belongs to someone other than you.
This isn't easy. The closer people are to you, the more they'll feel the need to tell you exactly how much you can accomplish. And you'd better believe they can be convincing. But they're still not you. Don't let them make you settle.
Challenge 3 Silence Self Doubt
Sometimes, no amount of gym music or background noise can drown out that little voice squeaking, "What are you doing trying to lift a 200-pound barbell?" or "You can't land that box jump!"
The only voice that is loud enough to defy the voice of failure is your own. Trade in the self-doubting "Why me?" for the empowering "Why not me?" Say it right now. Say it! Great things begin with those three words. It's time to add your dreams to the list.
Challenge 4 Use Negatives to Fuel Positive Change
Has arm flab got you down? Does lack of muscle tone have you feeling like a failure? Cast a positive light on negativity. When you look at yourself in the mirror, see your potential and how what you have now will help you get where you want to go. Instead of saying "I'm so fat," switch it to, "My solid frame will help me be able to lift a lot." Instead of saying "I look like a skeleton," say, "I've got the perfect structure to fill out with some muscle."
The professional sports we see on television make it look like winning the championship gives training all its meaning, but that's not the case. It's the project of getting there, and relishing in the struggles and triumphs along the way. "Before" and "after" are just arbitrary categories, after all.
Challenge 5 Create Positive Momentum
Sure, gobbling down that Snickers bar won't create a major dent in your diet, but it'll definitely put the brakes on your mental drive. Remember what I said about the power of belief? Giving in just once will weaken your will and let doubt creep in, even if you barely feel it at first. The more slip-ups you allow, the more of a habit they become. Viewed this way, there's little to be gained and a lot to be lost.
Saying "no" is a skill that is developed through commitment and repetition, just like squats or deadlifts. This has been studied many times. This means that while turning down trash food on Day 8 feels like torture, by Day 42 you'll actually enjoy it.
Challenge 6 Enjoy Small Changes
If you believe in where you're going, even tiny positive steps can be immensely satisfying. Maybe you've gone down a pant size, replaced some fat with muscle, seen a new muscle twitching in the mirror, or you just realized that you feel better and have more energy.
Does this mean you should reward yourself for your work? Honestly, the whole idea of earning "rewards" is a bit wimpy. This feeling is your reward. Allow yourself to bask in it for a second. Harness the positive feelings that come with sticking to a plan and watching it unfold. Now get back to work.
Challenge 7 Use Others as Motivation
There's nothing new under the sun. Many have done what you're trying to do. Does this mean that your goals aren't special? That's one way of looking at it. Another is that it means your goals are achievable.
When you struggle to maintain a structured workout schedule, or when you're frustrated with a lack of progress, tap into the experience of your fitness forebears. Their lesson is usually a simple one: Stay the course, and keep yourself pointed toward the destination. Every minute of every workout, you grow stronger.
Challenge 8 Forget Plan B
Dare to put all of your eggs in one basket. To muster enough mental strength to transform your body, you have to have fitness on the brain. The desire to achieve your goals has to be a passion, and yes, an obsession. It must be so strong that no other options exist.
What is your plan B, really? Something you don't want anyway? Then don't even acknowledge it. Aim for where you want to be, and trust that wherever you end up, you'll be better off.
Challenge 9 Verbalize Inner Desires
You are your own best cheerleader, swami, and life coach. Embrace the role. Bolster your inner badass with repeated daily mantras.
When you wake, tell yourself "Every choice I make takes me closer." Say it 10 times—out loud. Then, as you brush your teeth, look into the mirror and say: "Damn, I'm fantastic. I'm smart, I'm tough, and I'm powerful. I'm on my way to be all I can be and then some." It will feel silly at first, but just like you get stronger every time you say "no," you'll get better at believing—and becoming—what you say.
Along the way, harness the power of the pen. Start a journal and keep yourself up-to-date on where you're going and how you're getting there. It may sound silly, but think of all the times in your life where you lost track of a few months and ended up somewhere you didn't want to be. This is a way to slow down your life and make it work for you rather than slip away from you.
Challenge 10 Stay Hungry
Whether you're lifting weights or maxing out on the treadmill, consistency is the key to physical transformation. What's the key to consistency? Determination. That's the catalyst that turns "maybe" into "definitely."
It's easy to stick with something for a day or two, but true determination is a skill actively exercised by doing everything in your power to follow the plan you laid out. You have probably called someone a "flake" in the past, or maybe you've been called one, but no more! Don't define yourself that way or allow anyone else to. You are now someone defined by perseverance and success. End of story.