The difference between growth and stagnancy starts with your mindset
"Tell yourself you can or you can't, either way you're right."
The above quote has resinated with me for as far back as I can remember. The very concept of self-imposed limitations is both fascinating and absurd. Basically if you think it, you create it. If you don't belive you can lift a bar, you wont. If you don't belive you can swim across a pool underwater, you wont. By allowing self-doubt and uncertainty establish a foothold in our mind, we create the atmospheric conditions that facilitate failure. We give up before trying, simply because we convince ourselves cannot succeed.
Self-imposed limitations ultimately begin in our mind; the little self doubts and insecurities that we have for ourselves become the focal point of our attention. How many of you reading this have plateaued a lift for prolonged period of time? Every time your bar is loaded to the specific weight at which your stuck, right as you begin to lift, your brain questions your capacity to succeed based off of past failures that you've experienced. Thus you never really give the lift your full 100% effort; you wind up with a half-assed extension, the bar barely making it to mid-thigh before drifting off into oblivion as you storm off while mumbling that the bar was "too heavy." The bar wasn't too heavy, you simply didn't believe in your ability to lift it.
Similarly, how many of you have established new or demolished previous Personal Records(PR's) without ever figuring out exactly how much weight is on your bar? You jovially loading it up with a random, hopefully symmetrical, assortment of plates mid conversation and lifted it with ease. Come to find out the bar was ten pounds over your previous best.
Nearly all of us have experienced this at some point throughout our athletic careers. This is because in that moment, anything is possible - you have no idea how much weight is on the bar and you're lifting based off feel and not off thought. More often than not we establish new personal records on days that we're having the most fun training. I accredit this to focus; your mind isn't attuned to doubt, it's attuned to the fun atmosphere primed for success.
Overcoming these imaginary boundaries can prove difficult, but I promise it's possible by implementing any/all of the three following tactics:
Tactic 1: Shift Your Standards
- Don't measure your success based on anyone else's performance. I know, easier said than done; but it's essential that you learn to trust your capabilities and compete against yourself if you ever want to truly thrive. No two athletes are identical, and therefore measuring yourself to someones else's standards will always leave you coming up short. Turn your competitive focus inward, and take the time to appreciate small victories along the road.
Tactic 2: Trick Your Mind
- Mix things up and don't stress the details. If, for example, loading a bar to 185lbs using 45's and 25's you notice it feels heavy and discouraging - change the way it's loaded. Go with 15's and 10's for the same total weight, but convince yourself that it's different somehow. Find ways to trick your brain into turning off so that your body can do it's thing. 9/10 times our mind will give up far before our body does - understanding and mastering this will take your successes to entirely new levels.
Tactic 3: Evaluate Your Atmosphere
- Look around; is your current training environment composed of individuals on the same life path as yourself? Do your peers emotionally and spiritually build you up and support you in times of struggle and strife? Is there a pride of belonging, or is it every man for himself? These questions matter - if you belong to an environment that rarely invests each other emotionally/physically/spiritually then it is doomed to fail. It takes a tribe to survive, and believe it or not the people you see at the gym every day help shift and mold your daily mindset. In some cases we see the people we do at our daily workouts more often than we do our own extended family - be sure to invest in them and they will invest back in you.
Doubt and insecurities are poison, they can quite literally destroy us from within. Learning, acknowledging and owning the elements that limit our potential is paramount if we desire long term success in both fitness and life. Toss self doubt out the window, tell yourself you can, and will accomplish wonders and forget the rest. Train your mind to listen to your body, and not the other way around; once you embrace this way of thining, you will undoubtedly unlock the gate to an entirely new realm of possibilities.