Sink or Swim: How to Exploit Your Fitness Mindset For Success

Sink or Swim- How to Exploit Your Fitness Mindset For Success
Photo Credit: Saad Faruque via Compfight cc

Not everyone has the ability to draw. Not everyone has the ability to play an instrument. Not everyone has the ability to write.

Some of us aren’t meant to be creative. Some of us aren’t meant to be great communicators. Some of us aren’t meant to excel at fitness.

Throughout my childhood and even into adulthood, I had this propensity to believe I was either a natural for the activity or it just wasn’t meant for me.

Many of us have been told we’re not good at something and should go pursue something that comes easier to us.

Many people have quit on fitness by blaming their shortcomings on factors such as genetics, environments, athletic abilities, and other excuses.

In Dr. Carol Dwecks’ book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, she breaks down our mindsets into one of growth and one that is fixed. One mindset leads to an anything is possible attitude while the other places an invisible ceiling on ourselves.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Our mind is power. Our beliefs can be our worst enemy or our greatest asset. Our beliefs shape our behaviors (for better or worse).

Growth mindset– This mindset sees the world in abundance and believes there is enough of the pie for everyone to have. You see your fitness being in your hands and not someone else’s. You see yourself as the captain of your life trajectory. You realize that you and only you can stop yourself from being remarkable.

This person believes that intelligence can be developed and expanded upon.

This person embraces a challenge and doesn’t give up during tough moments. Mastery of their craft is developed through effort and consistency. They’re inspired by others work and successes, not jealous and bitter.

Fixed mindset– You either have it or you don’t. The outlook of the world is scarce. Success is due to being naturally gifted. This person avoids failure and setbacks like the plague to avoid looking weak and incapable.

There’s a glass ceiling on how smart you can become. This person blames genetics for their fitness shortcomings. It’s never their fault, but always someone else’s.

This person fails to take responsibility for their own actions and life. This mindset traps themselves within a box where they are forever stuck in neutral.

How do you see yourself when looking in the mirror

The people who are consistently told they’re naturals at their craft, or geniuses within their work are also the same type of people to fold up when the resistance hits.

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life” states Dr. Dweck. This view of yourself determines if you’ll become the person who owns their goals or if you’ll just become the person who always wishes and stays inside a comfort zone.

Dr. Dweck states “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

Dr. Dweck states, “just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”

Many famous inventors, painters, and professional athletes weren’t born with amazing abilities, but instead put the work in each and everyday to develop their abilities.

Thomas Edison had plenty of assistants (around 30) to assist him on the invention of the light bulb. These assistants weren’t just undergrads or people looking for a simple paycheck, but instead were well trained scientist. Edison was far from a genius, but was an seeker of knowledge and this dedication to his craft became the sum of his inventions.

Many people claim to suck at fitness and blame their shortcomings with various excuses.

Many experts claimed Jackson Pollock lacked talent and potential and judging by his early work—no one would argue with that. However, by showing up daily and putting in the work, he became one of the greatest American painters of the twentieth century.

Your goals, whether fitness, artistic, or whatever else is the result of your dedication to the craft. As Twyla Tharp states in ‘The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life’, “creativity isn’t a magical act of inspiration, but instead it’s the result of hard work and dedication.”

Muhammad Ali wasn’t a natural at boxing. According to boxing analyst he lacked the prototypical metrics that defined a great boxer. However, Ali possessed mental strength that was incomparable to anyone else.

Michael Jordan wasn’t a naturally gifted basketball player. But, he possessed one of the greatest work ethics in the history of sports. He was cut from his high school varsity team, didn’t go to the college of his choice, and he wasn’t even the 1st pick in the NBA draft.

Jordan was a basketball player at one point who had glaring weaknesses in his game. However, displaying the growth mindset, Jordan attacked his weaknesses (his defense, ball handling, and shooting) and turned those into some of his greatest strengths. Even at the peak of his game, Jordan consistently outworked everyone because he was always steadily trying to improve (no wonder everyone wanted to be like Mike).

fitness mindset
The greatest to ever play the game- Photo Credit: efraimb via Compfight cc

Wilma Rudolph, 3 time gold medal winner for sprints and relay in the 1960 Rome Olympics, wasn’t always the fastest woman alive. Born prematurely, consistently sick, and the twentieth of twenty-two children—her outlook wasn’t remarkable. At age 4, she contracted double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio—thus ending up with a paralyzed left leg. Of course, doctors gave her no chance of a normal life, but at age twelve she left the leg brace behind and started to walk normally.

From the examples above, natural talent and instant creativity isn’t a pre-requisite to becoming a master of ones craft.

Are you quick to label yourself and other people into a category? Do you use the excuse that this person is a artist, writer, marketer, or genetically gifted specimen to let yourself off the hook for not trying things or as a built up excuse for when things don’t pan out as expected?

If so, it’s imperative you release these fixed mindset traits and adopt a mindset of growth and abundance to succeed with your fitness mindset.

How to adopt a growth mindset

Our mindsets are just beliefs which will lead us on a path to happiness or misery. As Dr. Dweck states, a “mindset change isn’t about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s abut seeing things in a new way”.

At one point, I had a fixed mindset. I constantly needed to prove myself and if I failed…it meant I wasn’t smart enough, creative enough, or good looking enough. As for fitness, it meant I wasn’t lean enough, strong enough, or fast enough.

Just being aware of these mindsets will allow you to take the first step toward changing them. Once you have awareness, you can think and react in more positive ways.

A growth mindset doesn’t need a tank full of confidence to get started. “Sometimes you plunge into something because you’re not good at it You don’t think you’re already great at something to want to do it and to enjoy it” states Dr. Dweck.

All of us are born with a curious mind that continually seeks knowledge, but a fixed mindset unravels your mind from this state of curiosity and wonder.

Think about something you enjoyed, but then the difficulty rose and you wanted to quit or someone stated you weren’t good enough. For me, it was art and creativity, but the opinions I received as a child and expectations of the status quo took that away for 2 decades. For you, this could be fitness and chasing after your true passions.

However, never quit because the weight isn’t flying off quickly. Fitness is a skill that takes time to master.

Next time you catch the blues and want to quit your fitness goals, quit your book, quit your business, or quit pursuing your dreams—don’t forget the growth mindset.

Don’t forget about the many successes that came before you that implemented this and stayed persistent to become masters of their craft. It won’t happen tomorrow, or even next week, or maybe even in a year, but it’ll eventually happen if you approach the situation with the correct mindset.

Think abut the immense knowledge and experiences you’re accumulating along the process, the challenges you’re tearing down, and the obstacles that are trying to stop you. Let these become a positive burden.

Treat your journey like a folk tale, and tell yourself that you’ll have a great story to share with others years later who will travel down a similar path.