Mike, from Dallas asked:
"Hey Mitch, do you have any advice on regaining mental toughness? Mine's been on a decline lately.
I don't fight through workouts as hard as I used to, I quit my sets early, and I stop my cardio workouts before I'm done.
This all started when I hurt my knee. I softened up.
Now my knee is fully healed, but I'm still struggling to get my mind back to where it was before, and I'm losing progress because of it.
First of all Mike, hats off for being so self aware and honest.
It would be easy to blame your lack of progress on external circumstances. But instead of finding someone or something to blame, you've grabbed your fate by the bean bag and said, "This is on me."
Your self-awareness and personal responsibility will set you up for massive success moving forward.
Now all we've got to do is get your mind right so you can get back to crushing it in the gym.
1) Take Action That Directly Opposes What You're Feeling
Your problem isn't a lack of mental toughness. It's fear.
Every time you pick up speed, some aspect of you slams on the unconscious brakes.
You're driving your car, and everything's cool. You're leaning back in the seat, feeling the breeze on your face, and listening to Africa by Toto.
Until you hit a telephone pole.
Now you drive slower, you grip the wheel tighter, and you lean forward with your face pushed up against the windshield, scanning the landscape for the next telephone pole.
Since your knee injury, you're driving your car (your body) like a scared turtle because you're afraid, consciously or unconsciously, of hurting yourself again.
This is your mind trying to protect you from future injury. It means well, but it's being a little over protective, and it's costing you progress.
How to fix this:
Prove yourself wrong.
The next time you're in the gym, take the intensity up a notch.
Ignore the nagging voice screaming at you to quit during your sets.
Hit your cardio hard and don't stop until you're done.
At first, you'll be uncomfortable. Your mind will scream at you to stop.
"What are you doing, bro!? You're going to get us killed."
But when you're done, stop and ask yourself, "Is this what I was so afraid of?"
You pushed your limits and everything was alright, which is an ever-growing body of evidence in direct opposition to your mind's current belief.
Soon, hitting your workouts hard and making progress will be as natural as it was before your knee injury.
Note: If you feel pain or joint discomfort, stop the exercise. This is about pushing through mental road blocks, not through physical pain.
2) Build Awareness Around The Aspect of You That's Afraid
The goal is to build awareness around the aspect of you that's holding you back. The more awareness you can build, the easier it will be to recognize it, thank it for looking out for you, and proceed with your workout.
The Stick Man Exercise
Draw a stick man on a piece of paper.
This stick man represents the aspect of you that slams on the brakes when things get tough.
First, give it a name, then write down all the ways the stick man is showing up in your life.
We already know it's stopping you from training hard in the gym, but it may be holding you back in other areas of your life as well.
Write them all down, then put it somewhere you can see it.
The Stick Man exercise is an ongoing project, so as you notice new ways it's holding you back, add them to the piece of paper.
This exercise builds awareness around your stick man, so when it shows up you'll recognize it for what it is- just a little bit of fear, and a bullshit story.
Instead of identifying with it, you'll be able to ignore it and take powerful action towards your goals without it holding you back.
Instead of saying, "Man, I'm quitting on myself again."
You'll say, "My stick man is just trying to protect me. Thank you, but I know that's not necessary right now, so let's get this work."
ReIgnite The Fire
Hurting your knee extinguished the fire that burned in your belly. If you're going to build the body you want, you need to get that back.
One of the best ways to set your motivation on fire is to create a new goal.
Goal Setting Tip: Decide what you want, not what you don't want.
Too often, we know exactly what we don't want without having a clue what we do want.
I don't want to be fat.
I don't want to be out of breath when I climb the stairs.
I don't want to feel insecure at the pool.
Pain is a powerful force, which is why deciding what we don't want comes so easily.
But without clearly establishing what you do want, you end up chasing vapor. Running from your current situation without knowing where you're going next.
This leaves you feeling like your training is directionless and without purpose, which makes it damn near impossible to get excited about.
Set a clearly defined goal, and lay out exactly what you want. Place it where you can see it, and let it reignite the fire in your belly as you hunt it down every single day.
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