What if someone told you you were amazing? What would you think? How would you react?
Would you immediately downplay the thought? Would you start to list all the reasons you know you are not? Would you say, “Thanks” but inwardly assume that the person was at best wrong and at worst insincere? Maybe you’d honestly be appreciative but not effectively convinced.
Now for a second, imagine your 5 years old again. I tell you the same thing, “You’re amazing!” What’s your response now? This time more likely than not you’re happy, pleased at the praise, content to be appreciated, and convinced you are indeed special.
Ok, now you’re old again… oh wait, that’s me. You’re still young but back to your current age. 😉
So what gives? What’s happened between then and now that can make it so difficult to agree or be convinced?
Well there may not be one simple answer there, but it presents some interesting food for thought, doesn’t it? And it sets us up to talk about something that is super important – but so often and so easily overlooked in our training and really our everyday lives.
Not only are we working daily to develop a physical framework that sets us up for success but our mental framework is just as important as they physical. In fact, many wiser than I assert that it is the most important since it will carry over into our actions.
A negative mindset can not only affect how we feel about ourselves and our abilities, it can stop us from taking heathy risks and cause an inappropriate fear of failure. We might doubt our accomplishments or dwell on what we think others think.
Conversely a positive mindset can do wonders for us – our willingness to do hard things, or to try new things – even if we can’t do it yet (the only real failure is if we don’t try). It helps us see the progress and potential, not the shortcomings. We find more motivation than we knew we had. We are willing to put forth the consistent effort that brings results. We’re ok when people see us struggle. And that’s ok, cause guess what? The struggle is real. In fact, it must be real! Our progress depends on it.
But most of us haven’t given much attention or spent time intentionally developing a positive mental framework. Even if things currently seem ok, we may be at risk to collapse under difficulty…
What happens when you get put in a compromising situation? Or under a heavy load? This is when we need the strength – be it mental or physical.
I love how CrossFit prepares us for the variability of life. And guess what? It also inherently promotes a strong mental framework – as we support each other and do hard things.
Just as effective muscle strength is built on proper body organization and technique, mental and emotional strength need a foundation of realization and knowledge on which to work.
Let’s start by identifying several common self-defeating thought patterns[i]. If we can recognize them, we can work to overcome and avoid them.
- Extreme thinking
- There is no middle ground. “If I don’t do it perfectly, I am a complete failure.”
- Imminent Disaster
- Disaster is lurking everywhere, and is expected. “See? Now my wrist hurts – I knew I’d never get that handstand pushup.”
- Magnification of the Negative
- Good things don’t count nearly as much as the bad. “Never mind that I am leaps and bounds along from where I started; I still can’t do that movement Rx.”
- Overemphasis on “should” statements
- “Everyone should be able to do this, and I can’t, so I guess I just suck.”
- Boxing in
- Irrational acceptance of all the blame. Excessive personal culpability
- “Despite uncontrollable external factors, it’s all my fault.”
- “It would have been better if it wasn’t for me.”
- Difficulty accepting compliments
- “You thought that was good? I thought it was terrible.” “Well, no it wasn’t… I’m still so much worse than Joe.”
- “I can’t help it. That’s the way I am.”
Any of these feel slightly familiar to some extent? Remember, development takes time. Improvement takes effort. It takes dedication. And it takes time. (Oh, did I say that one already? J)
Just like the workouts we do every day, we put forth a concerted effort. Sometimes we do better. Sometimes we feel like we struggled more. Sometimes it feels like progress is slow or maybe non-existent. But when we look back, we see the change, the improvement. And that’s ok. Consistency leads the way.
That’s part of the positive mental framework we are developing.
We have others around us that encourage us and cheer us on to keep trying our hardest. They celebrate our accomplishments and support us when we feel down. They don’t judge us, they don’t see our weaknesses as shortcomings but as goals and milestones to surpass and overcome. They are a type of family – all different but all in the same boat.
I love being a part of this community. Thank you for being a part of it too.
It doesn’t take a lot; it doesn’t have to be overt, but the little things you do – even sometimes just being there – make a difference for those of us around you. Thank you – you are awesome!
[i] Dale Carnegie Digital pg. 3