Introduction | Nutrition | Supplements | Mind | Mind/Muscle Link | Tips From The Top
People are always asking me, "What is the key to achieving physical success?" My answer usually is: "you must first have the right mental attitude, one willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve all the bodybuilding goals you set for yourself." In fact, to even get to the goal setting stage you must have the will to win and a determined mindset.
To achieve these goals requires higher-level mind power. All of the great bodybuilding champions, and those in other fields, or simply those wanting to get into their best shape, have one thing in common: exceptional mind control. They are able to channel their mental resources to where they fully immersed in what they are doing while maintaining a positive view of who they are and where they are going.
If you wish to build the body of your dreams you must first have the necessary mental capabilities. The following section details how you can visualize, cultivate a positive mindset, challenge your mind and realize its full potential. Once the process of strengthening your mind is complete, you will hold a major advantage over those who have fewer mental abilities and your physique goals will be achieved so much faster.
Developing your physique is more than simply a process of going to the gym, pounding out a few sets and going home to eat. It must become a complete lifestyle. Those who have succeeded in other areas, business for example, tend to focus more on the mental components needed to excel. Bodybuilders and athletes in general don't seem to do this to the same extent.
To make the shift from being ordinary to being extraordinary you must change your whole mindset and way of life - how
you view the world around you and how you conduct your life on many levels. Strengthening your mind with the advice given in this, and the following section (the mind/muscle link) will allow you to do just this. And then physical success will be yours not only in 12-weeks time, but also for the rest of your life.
To uncover the greatness that lies inside us all we must first clear our mind of all that is negative. Human nature is such that most of us experience moments of uncertainty, periods where we feel unsure of what our purpose in life really is.
And certainly all of us feel a little negative from time to time, although this varies greatly from person to person. But do we need to feel this way? Are we programmed to see the world in negative terms, as if a certain level of cynicism is needed as some kind of survival mechanism? I, for one, do not think so.
Negative thoughts can be debilitating and even small ones can lead to major depressive episodes in those susceptible. Take a good look around. The pessimists among us are increasing by the day.
To live in peace and prosperity, while experiencing limitless success, you cannot be one of them. How can we completely transform our thinking to where it is totally geared toward the positive and, having attained a positive mindset, transform this new way of thinking into real-life results? Read on to find out.
Sure, there are times when we are faced with stressful situations and even periods when, for example, excessive pressure resulting from overwork and other life stressors might provoke negative thoughts.
What I say here in this guide is that if your mind is programmed for success, there is a lower likelihood that you will crumble under life's many pressures. This might sound quite simple but there are many aspects to positively re-programming your mind for success. Let us now explore them one at a time.
Throughout many of my previous bodybuilding.com articles I speak about channeling the mind toward positive outcomes, about priming the body for success in many arenas. One quality that necessarily comes before both of these things is the ability to visualize.
Without an ability to see in your mind's eye exactly what you want to achieve, all the planning in the world may be useless. The real key to realizing your potential is, in fact, having a permanent mental picture of how you wish to live your life, a vision you can draw on when times get hard, and a constant reminder of where you are heading.
Many leaders and high performers use visualization intuitively or are advised to do so by a trained psychologist. Visualization starts with an idea and evolves in line with what we have a burning desire for. The longer you maintain the vision (from which visualization springs) of what you want, the stronger it becomes.
People have used visualization to achieve the seemingly impossible: there have been cases where people have defied physiological laws to survive stressful situations because they had a strong enough vision of what they felt was possible.
Buddhist monks, for example, have been known to subject themselves to extreme temperatures by sleeping out in the cold high up on mountaintops. Researchers said this was impossible. Not when you have a strong purpose of mind.
A strong purpose transferred into a clear vision could be the single most important factor in achieving your bodybuilding/health and fitness goals and indeed the programs outlined in this guide.
By maintaining a vision of health and vitality we can enhance our lifelong wellness. And it all begins with seeing a vivid picture of what we expect from ourselves. The action needed to achieve related outcomes will come almost effortlessly if the outcome is strongly imprinted on our minds.
Visualization can also be used over the short term to achieve a temporary goal: an athlete readying themselves for a momentary display of strength and speed. For example, a sprinter might spend up to an hour visualizing exactly what they need to do, along with the expected outcome.
The performance has been pre-programmed, so to speak. They need simply activate their mind through visualization, prior to the event. Actually, so popular has visualization become amongst athletes that sports psychologists have been enlisted at all levels to correctly teach it.
To visualize correctly we first need a strong, vivid picture in our minds of what we want to achieve. We can then approach the visualization process in several ways: I prefer to live my life in the knowledge that my vision is a forgone conclusion and that it will happen at the expected time, a time of my choosing.
Doing this has not failed me once. Another good method is to take time every day, or before a specific event, to sit quietly and run through your vision several times. Think it as if it is happening - be clear about what you want to achieve. You will find that if you visualize your goals regularly, and work to put your vision into action, success will happen.
Discover Your Brain's Full Potential
If you consider the fact that we only use a small fraction of our brainpower, it gives a pretty good indication of the many positive possibilities that exist for us if we were to fully tap into our intellectual abilities. It is widely thought that as humans, and for whatever reason, we use very little of what separates us from lower forms of life - namely, advanced intelligence.
Of our full compliment of one hundred billion brain cells, we use, on average, between just 10 and 20 percent. What about the remaining 80 to 90 percent? Just think of what we could achieve if we could use all of our brain, not just a fraction of it.
Our brain is responsible for all we do, and since our creative abilities depend on well functioning grey-matter, it is important to keep it in good working order (strategies for improving brain function are given in the following section: the mind/muscle link).
What we will now turn our attention to is how we can use the brain to its full potential, how to activate as many of its one hundred billion neurons as possible.
Keeping the brain active and healthy is the first step in creating an environment conducive to the establishment of higher intelligence. This higher intelligence will lead to success in many areas, including the fat loss and muscle building that is the major goals of this guide. But what comes next? How can we use our brain to its greatest potential? Being conscious of what you are thinking and feeling is one of the major facilitators of consistently higher-level thought processes.
Always be aware of what is going on in your life and how you react to life events. Over time this will not only sharpen your mind by teaching it to be more alert and thoughtful, but enable you to learn from all situations what works best. Turn every situation into a learning experience.
Analyze what is happening and why and what your response to it is and why you feel this way. For example, something as routine as listening to the news on the radio could help you to improve your brainpower. As you listen, question in your mind why the reported events are happening (a war could be raging in a foreign land for example).
Think through the political and social reasons why certain events are happening. Then observe your response to these events: are you angry, sad, or happy? Why? It might be hard to do at first but after several attempts it will become much easier to think critically about certain situations.
Being of critical mind need not necessarily mean you are of negative persuasion. In this guide's context it means you are becoming more decisively minded, more skilful in your judgments, qualities that underpin a sharp, ever-alert mind.
The saying "use it or lose it" is very true. Many of us go through life really focusing on only a small portion of it. If we put our mental energies into all that we do, the possibilities are literally endless, as vast as the amazingly complicated network of neurons that govern our every thought. The brain, if used constructively, seldom tires. It is bodily exhaustion that usually causes us to drag as the day progresses.
If we use our brain to develop new ideas, plan exciting ventures, or complete complex tasks it will stay (or become) invigorated. It is negative stress that tires us mentally - another reason to avoid negative thinking.
Keep the brain functioning at a high level with stimulating thoughts often, and it will learn to frequently operate at an advanced level; it will use more of its neurons and become the powerful tool nature intended it to be.
Once you have developed the ability to use a large portion of your brain, the choices you make and your ability to think positively at all times will improve significantly.
Using your brain to its fullest will give you greater confidence to pursue all that you want from life. In fact, the higher reasoning processes that result will allow you to make better decisions, ones that will positively impact your life.
Don't Take The Easy Way Out
As humans we are pleasure-seeking beings by nature. Unfortunately this means when faced with a decision we will often take the easier option, the less painful route. The problem with doing this is it programs the mind to accept what is easiest as being the best, most reliable option. Usually, though, the easiest option is the one that takes less effort.
And, ultimately, the less effort applied, the less significant will be the reward. Any of the following clichÃ©s can be applied here: "no pain, no gain" "nothing great is ever achieved without effort" "what you put in is what you get out" and "effort equals results". As repetitive as they are, these sayings are 100 percent correct. We need to teach the mind to put forth the required effort rather than settle for what is often less painful.
If we settle for what is at the time the quick and easy solution to what might be a vastly complex problem, we are depriving ourselves of a valuable learning experience. The mental effort needed to think through a problem and approach it in a more thoughtful manner replicates the very effort required to think positively at all times.
Negative, rather than positive thinking, often comes easier and it seems everyone these days is cynical in his or her outlook. When losing weight, for example, a dieter will often blame their genetics, rather than summon the willpower needed to push through the pain to the intended weight loss outcome. As you undertake the diet plan provided in this guide do not be one of these people.
It is often just easier and more convenient to think in negative terms. But what if we were to program our minds to generate only positive thoughts? For one thing, we would accomplish many more positive outcomes and swath a path to true success. But first, however, we need to accept the harder option more often than not.
Doing this will strengthen the mind and improve our focus to where positive thoughts - which are often disguised by their resemblance to hard work - come naturally. As you become more aware that you have a choice in any matter, you will begin to program your mind to accept only solutions that get the job done in the most effective, not necessarily the fastest, manner possible. Choose wisely.
Control Your Emotions
Our emotions can help or hinder. As the language of our mental state at any given time, our emotions represent the feelings we have and underpin all that we do. We are often influenced by our emotions to do certain things, to perform acts that are perhaps detrimental to our wellbeing and personal growth.
For example, some people, based on feelings on sadness - a strong emotional state - will seek refuge in eating all of the wrong foods - comfort eating as it is commonly called. Rather than working on the feelings they are experiencing with a view to controlling them - not suppressing them - to eventually experience more feelings of happiness, these people are, once again, taking the easy way. Again it comes down to individual choice.
The emotions we experience are tied to the external (social) and internal (physical), and, as such, we can change the feelings that precipitate our emotional state and therefore the actions that result from unstable, or extreme, emotions.
Hate, love, courage, fear, pleasure, and disgust are all emotional states experienced by most of us. And they are completely natural; they serve as important ways to communicate with the world and within ourselves and comprise our personalities, making us who we are.
Though emotions are needed - imagine for a moment a world without love - certain extreme emotions can be problematic and, if left to flourish, may lead to a perpetually negative mindset. Many people experience extreme hate, for example, an emotion that drives them to commit violent acts. But we all have various dislikes - a milder form of hate - that don't appear to cause us any problems. In fact, a healthy skepticism or dislike for certain people or things can be quite beneficial. But to develop a positive outlook extreme emotions of any kind could prove detrimental.
An unstable emotional state will negate any kind of life balance, rendering us disoriented in our focus. To control our emotions, to become more balanced and positive, we need to first gain an awareness of how we respond to certain situations - another instance of the kind of insight discussed at the beginning of this chapter - and use this clarity to transform our feelings.
Usually we become overly emotional at certain times or when faced with certain events. Identify any patterns that show times when our emotions peak and we will be better equipped to deal with them.
When faced with an emotion of jealousy, for example, get some perspective and ask yourself why this is so. Are you insecure? If this is usually the case, work on your self-confidence.
Set achievable goals and build your skills base. Do whatever it takes to push aside those strong emotions, the kind that lead to an imbalance.
Look at the underlying cause of your strong emotional state and response to events. Nothing is inherently wrong with you. It is how you respond to your feelings that might be the root cause of your strong emotions. Address those feelings and your emotions may stabilize.
The interesting thing with emotions is they are not really tied to any voluntary thought, they just happen based on a given situation; they arise spontaneously rather than through any conscious effort. So to control your emotions you will need to be more conscious of what your mind is doing.
Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us by exaggerating the importance of certain events and this influences our emotional state. Those who become fully informed about their situation are usually better able to put that context into perspective and realize the full importance of what is happening.
Another way to combat intense emotions therefore is to gain greater knowledge about the situations we are in. Unfamiliarity is more likely to breed uncertainly and an overreaction. And people who overreact are usually labeled as overly emotional.
Become A Success Magnet
The saying "misery loves company" is true. If you wish to become more positive, it is important to surround yourself with positive people. But if you are perpetually cynical, the kind of person that looks at the glass as being half empty, you will attract very few positive people, which will limit your own chances of success.
To become a "success magnet" you must see the good side of everything and everyone. Sure, everything has both good and bad but by focusing on the good you will positively change your whole outlook. By viewing others in a good light you might also help to change their attitudes for the better because positive thinking does tend to rub off.
Your posture, facial expressions, what you say and do all show to the world what kind of person you are. By improving all of these aspects you will attract more positive people. Actually, negative people tend to be put off by positive people, as their mindset is one of distrust and cynicism.
Sadly these people are likely to achieve very little, until they change their attitude. Remember, positive thinking equates to success. By attracting positive people, greater opportunities will arise and the inspiration you get from such people will further assist your own positive self-expression - a truly winning formula.
Negate The Negative
Many opt for a negative outlook based on their past experiences. We all have moments where doubt prevails. Some of us experience major setbacks - a close one dying, for example. Regardless of what happens in our lives we need to see a negative situation for what it is: an unfortunate event that is nothing more than a momentary setback.
There are those who experience horrendous difficulties in life only to come back better and stronger and those who let every roadblock, however minor, get them down. What separates these people?
Imagine losing your hearing and sight at a young age to be thrown into a frightening world of total seclusion. Helen Keller was one such lady who went on to become a world famous speaker and author.
To many, this would be the worst possible setback, but Helen Keller turned it into an opportunity to teach others - her advocacy for the disabled was one of her biggest achievements and her example an inspiration to the world. She saw her negative situation as an opportunity. In fact, with the right mindset all negative situations can be transformed into positives.
All who have achieved spectacular success have experienced setbacks. Setbacks are inevitable. Think about it for a moment: when we begin learning from a young age, mistakes are an expected part of the process of personal growth and mastery. Why is it that when we reach a certain age we expect to master new ventures at first attempt?
Those who succeed are usually not those who succeed immediately but people who persevere. People who achieve little usually give up during the early stages. By continuing in spite of failure, a strong, positive mindset is built but by quitting after the first setback we develop an attitude of defeat. We should learn from life's achievers: choose to look at problems as learning experiences, not as justification for quitting. By viewing negatives as potential positives we will transform our thinking for the better.
Lead The Way
Another way to build a positive mindset is to work hard to excel to the highest level, as in doing so you will shape the mental abilities needed to exclude negative thoughts. Leaders in various fields have no choice but to think in positive terms. Anything less would result in substandard performances and threaten their position at the top.
Make life a constant challenge and set high standards for yourself. These high standards will help you develop a strengthened mindset, one that accepts nothing but the very best. Negativity will simply have no room to grow in such an environment and positive thoughts will dominate your every waking moment.
The very act of setting high targets for oneself will necessitate a complete shift in thinking. Most who live a mediocre existence with few challenges find it easier to think negatively. Their career outcomes do not hinge to such an extent on an exceptionally positive mindset.
They seem to function on autopilot as they experience yet another day at the office. Becoming a leader in your field, being one who sets a benchmark for others to follow, requires a total commitment to your cause. With such a determined outlook, more optimistic thinking is required and fluctuating emotions are less likely. In fact, a good cause is one of the best ways to develop total life satisfaction, and positive thinking is needed for, and will result from pursuing the worthwhile.
Take Your Chances
You cannot sit around wishing for a miracle if you hope to realize a world of positive experiences to enrich your life and change your thinking for the better. The good things in life will only come to those who seek them so it is important to maintain an awareness of potential opportunities and take as many of these as possible.
Taking chances in the context of this guide does not denote randomly trying everything regardless. Strategically choosing your opportunities is a better way to fill your life with the kind of quality of experience that leads to success. Taking just any opportunity could result in much wasted effort and actually set you back several steps.
Taking your chances with relevant opportunities, however, will lead to a full, productive life in line with your goals. So the key is to identify your goals to find what is relevant for you and to be constantly aware of possible opportunities that will lead to their accomplishment. Keep your eyes open at all times.
If you had a major of goal of wanting to become a famous singing star you would seek advice from those who have excelled in this area and pursue other ways to refine your craft, to push yourself closer to your dream. You would not waste your time learning to the finer points of origami unless of course this in some way supported the achievement of other goals. But remember, it is always best to prioritize your main goals and seek opportunities in line with these.
It is a good idea to view life as one big world of opportunities. Wherever you go, look for any chance to enrich your life and expand your outlook. Doing exactly what you want and picking your own path will lead to the kind of positive outlook that can only really be developed through complete freedom of choice and life satisfaction.
Living your life in line with your dreams - the way you want to live it - has been one of the key themes of this section. And if you truly want to attain success in life there can be no room for complacency, no time for irrelevant choices and non-productive pursuits.
There are many people in this world who go through life with no clear purpose. They stay in the same meaningless job for years, do what others suggest is best for them (all the time, not just when it is warranted) and get up the next day to do it all over again.
What is the point? If it is a totally productive life we want, one filled with enriching experiences, the kind of existence that leads to true happiness, we need to do what is entirely meaningful and enjoyable for us. This could mean different things to different people but the key is to find something that suits your lifestyle and is directly consequential to your goals. And if you want a successful life, your goals will be spectacular and in no way associated with the routine, mundane existence many live.
Positive thinking demands firm action and an existence built on purpose. If you are stuck in a boring job that is going nowhere, take action now. Review or plan specific goals and look for an occupation that holds meaning for you. The saying "work to live, not live to work" is, for the purposes of this guide, inaccurate.
It implies that we should spend our working hours doing whatever it takes with a view to maximizing our leisure time. But given we spend much of our time working, would it not make sense to hold an occupation that, in itself, is enjoyable and liberating. Do not just save enjoyment for your leisure time, experience life's riches always.
The positive among us view their vocation as a passion, a hobby. On the flipside, those who work in purposeless jobs have no vested interest in what they are doing other then their weekly pay check and, as such, experience fewer intrinsic rewards, the kind of inner satisfaction that will form the very essence of who we become (ideally a more positive person).
In fact, being stuck in a rut will actually drain your energy resources, making leisure time less enjoyable compared to if you were working in a job you loved, which by its nature would be energy giving. Indeed, changing your occupation could be the single biggest step you can take in changing your life for the better.
If you have a dream, never lose sight of it. Always look for ways to make it happen and remember to keep your eyes open to new opportunities that will help turn it into reality. And above all, avoid ruts.
Change Your Environment
While changing your job can positively change your life, other aspects of your life may need to be reviewed to continue your positive-change transition. When we talk about environment we mean anything that comprises an area of your life. It could be the books you read, the people with whom you associate your home life, living conditions, geographical location, and more.
I mentioned the need to have a totally positive outlook. If the tiniest amount of negativity is allowed to manifest, positive thought could be harmfully diluted to the point where positive outcomes are negated. Same thing applies to your environment. Having several positive areas in your life will definitely bring rewards, but if they are offset by as many negative ones you may experience little progress in personal growth.
It is clear that in order to succeed we must have a definitive plan. Anything that negatively impacts that plan will offset our progress. Similarly, and directly relational to our goals, is our total environment, all of our life's contexts'. It only takes one faulty battery to affect the performance of an electrical device in much the same way as it only takes one negative life context to impact all that is positive in our lives.
The successful among us exercise total control over their environments. If something is not conducive to the achievement of their goals they will quickly remove it from the equation. Many reading this guide may be wise to take note and do the same.
But do not be fooled. Changing your whole life to ensure all of your environments are positive is no easy task. It takes a great deal of self-awareness and hard work. But remember that anything worthwhile in life takes effort. Remember also that once you have changed your life for the better, your new approach will, over time, become routine and an established part of who you are.
Accepting negativity seems to be becoming a national pastime. Why is this so? It may stem from the fact that the easiest option is often the one that leads to a substandard existence and people often will take the less-painful way out. Take, for example, nutrition (and this includes the plan featured in this guide), one environment that governs all we do.
Yes, eating and the rituals associated with it comprise a major life environment for everyone. But how many people are willing to change the way they eat, should their current nutrition plan be harmful? I would guess not many. Why? Because it is often easier and more convenient to eat the kinds of foods that rob us of our vitality and lead to disease rather than apply the effort needed to skillfully plan a healthy diet.
By maintaining unhealthy eating habits we negatively impact all other areas of our life as the wrong foods are energy draining, and we need complete focus and awareness to plan for the future and be at our best. So changing this environment will lead to positive outcomes.
But there are many environments from which we are impacted. What we read and watch on television, for example, can negatively program our minds. If we read about and watch negative events every day we are likely to develop a pessimistic outlook.
After all, just how much doom and gloom can a person take? The key is to develop an awareness of all that we do and make changes that support the attainment of your goals so we can eventually transform our environments into factories for positive thought.