What are the things you must do every day to eventually earn a great physique? That’s a simple question. But, if you’ve been pursuing this ambitious goal for any length of time, then you already know the answer is quite complicated. Do you need to train with intensity? Do you need to pay meticulous attention to your eating habits? Is it important to take advantage of the latest developments in sports supplementation? Yes, yes, and yes! If you really want an outstanding physique, you must train, eat properly, and take supplements. Not only will you need to do all those things, you must do them on a consistent basis. And, you must do them consistently over a significant length of time if you are truly committed to reaching your genetic potential of development. When you stack up all the major and minor daily tasks it takes to build your body, it can be terribly overwhelming.
Bodybuilding Is A Lifestyle
Bodybuilding isn’t something you do for an hour or two and then forget about for the rest of the day. The experts emphasize that successful bodybuilding is a lifestyle. Training in the gym is probably the most prominent aspect of bodybuilding. You must train with weights, add cardiovascular training, focus while you’re in the gym, and strive for more knowledge and effort. As you know, building a great body is far more complex than simply training in the gym. Eating is also a very important part of the equation. Preparing your meals, eating those meals on time, and cleaning up the mess afterwards is all part of the process. There is also the complicated area of supplementation. You must choose the right supplements to meet your specific needs, buy them from a reliable company, take them all at various times throughout the day, and always make sure you won’t run out. However, it often seems as though training, nutrition, and supplementation are the easiest aspects of bodybuilding! Even if you structure your lifestyle in a manner that supports these areas of bodybuilding, the toughest challenges are still ahead of you.
The mental aspects of bodybuilding, the ones I focus on in this article, will be your most challenging. And, although some times are easier than others, those mental challenges are constant. Organization, preparation, motivation, consistency, flexibility, persistence, and determination are just a few of the mental characteristics that will differentiate those who become the best they can be from those who fall short of their personal goals. You must exhibit these mental qualities and characteristics on a consistent, day-to-day basis. Did I just say that you must exhibit these mental qualities and characteristics on a day-to-day basis? Man, is that an understatement! With all the things you must do throughout the day to build and outstanding physique, you must exhibit these qualities and characteristics on almost an hourly basis!
Following Through Is Crucial to Your Success
Oftentimes, it’s not a particular strategy that determines what we look like. What has the biggest impact is how we actually apply the strategies that we’ve decided upon. In other words, it’s not what we know, it’s actually doing what we know that determines our level of success. This concept is hard to admit to ourselves at times. We rationalize our lack of follow-through by telling ourselves things like “I’m waiting until I get just a little more knowledge”; “I’ll get on track when I get my life a little more organized”; I’ll get my act together when my buddy starts helping me out.” Sure, we can always learn better methods. If we are honest with ourselves, however, we know that our current level of knowledge is enough for us to get ourselves going now. Our lives can always be a little more organized. Deep down inside, we know that getting ourselves going will get our lives more organized sooner than waiting for everything to get perfectly aligned. If we are lucky enough to have someone help us in our journey, that’s great. But you really know it’s up to you—and only you—to make your own life the way you want it. Following through is crucial to your success!
The Battle with Yourself
I often receive letters from bodybuilders who are struggling with their inability to follow through. The challenge is so common among us that I receive this type of letter on a weekly basis:
“I often struggle to maintain the extreme mental focus required to adhere to my goals and dreams on a daily basis, especially during or after a stressful day at work. My problem is that I all too easily let my diet or training slip a little. I’m full of guilt afterwards, but that does not help me during the time when I let myself down.”
The battle with yourself to control your mental state is never-ending. I don’t care what you did last month or even last week; failure is imminent if you don’t continue doing the same things today that brought you to this point. “Use it or lose it!” and “What have you done for me lately?” are popular sayings that come to mind as I try to drive this point home. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s just the way life is sometimes.
The more often you can get yourself to follow through, the more successful you will eventually become. At the very highest level of most competitive endeavors, the difference between a champion and an also-ran competitor will come down to who has the highest standards for himself or herself—and who has been able to continually strive to meet those standards. You must strive to meet your own high standards every hour, every day, every week, and every month. It’s that type of consistency, year after year, that will create a physique and a lifestyle that you’ll be able to look back on with a tremendous sense of pride.
As I look back over my bodybuilding career, there have been many times when I felt absolutely unstoppable! I ‘m sure you’ve felt that way at times as well. Am I right? Some of those times lasted only for a few hours or for a single day. Some lasted for several days. During those periods, I had an abundance of self-confidence that I could eventually achieve my bodybuilding goals. In that state of mind, I was ready, willing, and able to work even harder. I became a “big thinker” and I was determined to do everything it would take—no matter what obstacles were ahead of me—to become the best I could be. It’s probably no surprise that, during those periods, I followed through consistently and performed my very best.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t share with you the fact that there have been many, many times when I have felt totally inadequate! Can you relate to the state of mind that I’m referring to? I’m sure you can. Just like those times when I was riding high on self-confidence, the downtimes generally lasted for only a few hours or for a single day. Sometimes those feelings lasted for several days, and then achieving the goals that I had set for myself seemed impossible. In that state of mind, I had a difficult time getting myself to do the things I needed to do to become my best. I felt it was pointless to try to overcome the challenges and obstacles that stood in my way.
I’m always amazed and, at the same time, somewhat puzzled by the times when I can get myself to do almost anything. I’m equally amazed and stunned by the times I can’t get myself to do the simplest bodybuilding tasks. I sometimes feel totally inadequate—within hours of feeling absolutely unstoppable! Have you felt the same at times? We all have! Why do I ask? If we can figure out why we feel this way from time to time, we have a better opportunity to control our mental state, emotional state, level of motivation, and actions.
The Emotional State That You Are In At A Particular Time Will Determine If You Will Follow Through
If we break it down simply, it is the emotional state we are in at any particular time that will determine the level of motivation and effort we put forth. What I’ve come to realize is my emotional state at a particular time is the biggest factor that determines whether I really go for it or I avoid doing what I should do to become the best bodybuilder I can be. I also realized that it can change from not only month to month, week to week, and day to day; it can change in a matter of hours.
The trick to harnessing the tremendous power of your mind and controlling your emotions is understanding how your own brain works. If you can understand why you do the actions you do, then you have a better chance of doing positive goal-oriented things on a more consistent basis. Just as valuable as that type of self-awareness about your actions, understanding why you don’t do them gives you a better chance of correcting those negative behavioral patterns. To help you achieve your bodybuilding goals, I have always shared my feelings about the challenges I face—without my ego getting in the way or any unnecessary bravado.
Why am I so adamant about being open and honest? I believe that keeping this outlook will accomplish three things:
1. Help you realize that the mental challenges you face are normal. Even champions go through tough times.
2. Help you understand that you have the power within you to overcome your challenges and take control of your own bodybuilding destiny. It isn’t that champions don’t have challenges; it’s what they do when they are faced with those challenges that help them succeed.
3. Provide you with a way of thinking and the successful strategies that have helped me overcome the challenges we all face as bodybuilders.
With those objectives in mind, next I will share what I’ve discovered about myself as I strive for my bodybuilding goals.
My Empowering And Disempowering Habits
Have you ever been complimented for having a great body? The chances are good that you have been complimented many times. How did that make you feel? More importantly, what effect did that compliment have on your level of motivation to train and eat to make your body even better? If I experience a situation that I view as positive (like a compliment), my mind starts searching for references in the past (like other compliments) that support my current beliefs about myself and my situation. And in this state of mind, I can always find a lot of them! I see and feel myself experiencing those positive events over and over again in the future. I compound or stack these emotions from the present, past, and future on top of each other. I talk to myself differently and I carry myself differently. I feel confident that I am capable and can do whatever it takes to continue enjoying and experiencing those feelings in the future—and at a higher level. I believe that all of my hard work and effort in the past have paid off—and will continue to pay off in the future. Life sure is great when you feel this way, isn’t it? Magnifying these positive, empowering emotions helps me believe I am in total control of making life even better. I am more willing than ever to do whatever it takes to make my bodybuilding efforts and my life even better!
Conversely, how has a negative comment about your physique made you feel or affected your level of motivation? If I experience a situation that I view as negative (like an insult), my mind starts searching for references in the past (like other less-than-positive comments) that support my current negative beliefs about myself and my situation. And in this state of mind, I can always find a lot of them! I see and feel myself experiencing those negative events over and over again and also in the future. I compound or stack these emotions from the present, past, and future on top of each other. I talk to myself differently and I carry myself differently. I DO NOT feel very confident about my ability to change the situation. I believe that all of my hard work and effort in the past have not paid off—and may never pay off in the future. Life isn’t that great when you feel this way, is it? Magnifying these negative, disempowering emotions makes me believe that I’m not in control. I am not as willing to do what I must to improve my bodybuilding efforts and my life.
We Are Our Own Spin Doctors
In the political arena, there is a group of creative individuals called “spin doctors.” No matter what a political figure may say or do, the spin doctors can make a convincing argument that the politician’s words or actions were the greatest in the world—or the very worst—depending on which side they are on. In order to control our emotional states and get ourselves to follow through on a consistent basis, we must become our own positive spin doctors. The truth of the matter is we can choose how to perceive any situation in our lives—and especially, choose how pervasive or continual we think this situation will be in our lives in the future. Whether it’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter.
You can take a compliment like “You look great” and get yourself in a funk because your level of development doesn’t meet your expectations or was only good enough for fifth place in your last contest. You can also take an insult like “You have really small arms” and use it as a catalyst to push yourself to a new level. We are in control of our emotional states at all times! Sure, we can wait for something out of our control to happen (like someone going out of their way to cheer us up), but we also have the power to “spin” the situation in any way it serves us best. Whether we choose to engage in empowering patterns of thinking, such as passion, power, gratitude, enthusiasm, motivation; or disempowering patterns of thinking such as frustration, fear, disappointment, or feeling inferiority or overwhelmed, we can control our focus.
I‘ve discovered that my habits in the way I think, whether positive or negative, are basically the same. The habits that I choose to engage in from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year will determine how successful I will be as a bodybuilder—or anything else I choose to do in my life.
Invest the time right now to figure out the way you choose your own emotional states. I hope that sharing the way that my brain operates will give you more insight into the way you think. Gaining control over your emotions and following through on a more consistent basis will lead you to a greater level of bodybuilding success and sense of fulfillment.