The most important part of my philosophy is that the psychological is more important than the physical. I believe that the most important muscle that can be trained is the one that resides in your skull. If your mind is strong the work in the gym becomes easy. You are able to handle stress, cope with suffering, and you are able to push through your limitations.
There are many people who simply show up to the gym and thoughtlessly lift weight. There is never a challenge, never a push, they never face a crucible or stress that causes them to change for the better.
There are also people who go to the gym who are looking for more. They want to test themselves and unlock their potential but they don’t know how. I am regularly asked how I put myself in the proper mental place in order to be successful. Here are a four simple strategies I employ to help put me in a positive mental state and therefore achieve my goals.
Strategy One: Green Light Thoughts.
We all doubt ourselves at times. We think the worst and we lack faith in our abilities. We question our fitness, our strength, our resolve. These thoughts are called ‘Red Light Thoughts’. They can include thoughts like: “I am not able to do this”, “I don’t have good genetics”, “A friend who was more fit than me failed”, “I don’t have enough time to devote to this”, etc. These are the thoughts that shut us down. We need to overwrite all this negative self talk and programming by thinking ‘Green Light Thoughts’. These are positive thoughts that lead to success. Essentially it is constant positive self-talk. When I fought in the UFC my sport psychologist Brian Cain recommended I get a roll of round green stickers from an office supply store and put the stickers around my house, on my steering wheel, in my locker at the gym, etc. Every time I saw a sticker I needed to immediately think of a ‘Green Light Thought’. These ‘Green Light Thoughts’ were reasons that I would be successful. They should relate to your goal and be positive. “I am a fit person”, “I am dedicated and have put in the time to be successful”, “There are numerous other people who have succeeded so why can’t I”
Strategy Two: Make A List
Sometimes you just need to convince yourself that you will be successful. This is in reality another example of flooding your conscience with positive self talk. After you have set your goal or challenge wake up every morning leading to the challenge and write down five reason that you will be successful. They could be the same reasons every day or they could be different reasons, just write five down. Brainwash yourself into believing that your goal is possible. When you finally get to the day of the challenge you will believe in yourself a lot more than if you hadn’t done this and the belief in oneself is a very powerful training tool.
Strategy Three: Visualization
Some of the best athletes in the world take time to do psychological practice and visualize themselves in a position of success. Take five minutes at the end of every day and think through every aspect of your goal and challenge. The more you can actually visualize and put yourself in the challenge the more successful you will be. Think of yourself doing the challenge and think of the emotions you will go through. Try to feel what you will feel during the challenge. What you will see, how your legs will feel, how your breathing will be. Prepare yourself to deal with the thoughts and emotions you will face during the challenge. Prepare yourself mentally by visualizing what you will face. Sometimes familiarity with a task is all you need to be successful. The more you can mentally practice the better you will do.
Strategy Four: Success Through Music
Music has the ability to inspire us, motivate us, or invigorate us. Often times emotions and feelings become paired with songs. When certain songs come on the radio you are immediately reminded of a person, thing or place. When you are training and practicing for your challenge listen to a particular training song. You will begin to form an association between the song and the effort in your mind. On the day of the challenge immediately before you do it (or during) listen to the song and there will be a cognitive pairing between the effort you have put in and successes in training and it will carry over to the effort on the day. The more you pair the song with success in training the greater the effect on the actual day. Another strategy in to pair the song with the visualization technique in strategy three where you visual success while listening to the song. You could also look over a list of personal bests or other good achievements while listening to a song to increase the song’s emotional effect on the day and make a strong pairing with success.
Practicing these four strategies won’t automatically guarantee you success. You actually have to do the work, train hard, and put in the right amount of effort but if you are able to practice these strategies chances are you will be more successful than not. They may seem silly at first but they work and are used by some of the best athletes in the world. Training is a lot more than just picking things up and putting them, training is about developing your will power and your mental strength. After all, the mind is primary.