When it comes to the intricacies of one’s mind, using the word “basic” seems like an anomaly. The organ responsible for every waking action, movement, thought, and everything in between influences our entire world. But how can one simplify the role of the mind and utilize “basic”, effective practices to help cultivate success, especially when it comes to achieving health and fitness goals? The purpose of this post will help shed some light on how to “flip the script” and use the mind to one’s advantage instead of their demise. 

Motive, Not Motivation

One of the most common reasons some people perpetually fail at achieving their goals is they believe “they just aren’t motivated”. Motivation only tells half the story, but the truth is, understanding one’s motive behind their motivation can paint a much clearer picture, especially when challenges and obstacles present themselves. 

Motivation can be broken down into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Simply speaking, those with a high level of intrinsic motivation find their behaviors and motive generally strive for an inner need for self fulfillment. This fulfillment can be based on the desire to learn, expand their experiences, or embrace challenges. People with high levels of intrinsic motivation, especially when it comes to health and fitness goals, are typically labelled “the crazy ones”. They are the ones who have no problem finding that motivation or motive to act, carry through, and succeed.

Opposite intrinsic motivated people are those who rely on aspects outside of themselves such as the recognition of achievement, validation, or even avoidance of punishment. It is important to note neither of these types of motivations are “right or wrong”, nor is it uncommon to have both types of motivational drivers depending on the context of the pursuit. The types of motivations are just variables that make each of our operating systems different. Couple this with our “motive” or “why”, the goals one sets forth towards become more real, important, and fulfilling. The research consistently shows, whether it is a fitness/health goal or any other area of one’s life, when a goal is attached to a meaningful “why” or reason, the pursuer has a greater meaning for this pursuit thus increasing the motivation to act and act consistently. 

When we know our “motive” or driving force behind our pursuit and can understand the ways to which we go about carrying out that force, we can build the route that can get us there with the highest probability of success.

It’s Not Balance, It’s Duality 

The word “balance” is used a lot by professionals in the fitness and health arena and admittedly, I’ve been one of them. But when we really think about it, using the term “balance” may not be the best way to describe the most effective approach to a goal. Balance means for every one action we “balance” it with another, which if we are looking at how to describe a fit and healthy lifestyle, yes balance is an excellent way to describe it. However, if we are talking about the PURSUIT of a goal, balance is a misnomer. Balance keeps us in a state of balance or harmony. To change or move toward something, balance doesn’t work, there needs to be some sort of compromise. However, we can’t tip the scale so much that compromise becomes constrictive because the research shows extremes DO NOT work long term. So instead think of taking on a mindset of duality. Duality refers to the opposite aspects of a condition, i.e. light AND dark, good and bad, etc. When we can honor this paradigm we are accepting of both ends of the spectrum and respectful of which end to implement at the appropriate time of this journey.

For example, a dualistic mindset would understand “one could have pizza every day if they wanted to as long as it fit their caloric budget”, but they choose not to as they know small sacrifices day in and day out should be made to achieve one’s goal, but for their birthday meal they choose pizza as it is their favorite meal.  Duality recognizes both ends of the spectrum, but ultimately chooses one. However, at any given point they can “see the other” and integrate it in safely and effectively.

Other examples:

Trains 5 days a week, skips happy hours most week, but knows when to take a break to allow for rest and recovery

Hates doing aerobic conditioning, but integrates 1-2 sessions of HIIT, a manageable form of this type of training to them,  as they understand the value of it

Remain Presently in the Long Game

Humans love to stay anywhere but in the present.  Our environment, culture, and misunderstanding of “the process” doesn’t seem to help this cause. Staying present is a skill, much like anything, but having the awareness to first see and recognize presence is key. However, presence is not enough; a full acceptance of the “long game” must complement this state of being. Being presently in the long game is accepting where one is in the process, but also respecting the nature of the game. Again, a duality of sorts if you will. Keep the end in mind without becoming too attached to it as one would overlook the beauty of the process and state of presence. 

A great way to do this is by counting “wins” often. Measuring progress or success goes beyond the scale, by keeping a running total of every bit of progress made, one can train their brain to continually seek the positivity and growth within. At first, it seems stupid. We (especially if you are a perpetual “high achiever”) like to diminish the seemingly simple wins only to fixate on the attainment of the “grand finale” of wins so to speak. Again, the problem is that it keeps us in a state of longing, fixating on the future instead of celebrating the progress of the presence. So how does this look?

Perhaps one week you bench press 50lbs and realize the ease of this weight in 2 or 3 weeks.

Maybe it is “saying no” to the treats at your nephew’s birthday.

Or it could be coming to a sense of “acceptance” of your physical body, but still honoring the pursuit of improving.

Whatever these “small wins” are for you, identify and celebrate them and do so often. Not only does this help stay “present”, but it cultivates a growth mindset, one primed for the long game.

Final Remarks

Shifting the mindset and perspective around a health or fitness goal is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. It would be ignorant to think such a profound shift can take place after reading an article or two on it. Shifting the mind takes diligent practice, a kind inner-critic, and pursuit just as seriously as the actual health/fitness goal itself. With anything though, consistency and basic practices can help!