The longer I work with people who are trying to better their health and fitness, the more I am convinced our success hinges on our beliefs about ourselves. You know, that whole, “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” stuff.
So, how does one make sure they are their own best cheerleader? We need to emphasize the good in ourselves, right?
I remember being told to choose some positive affirmations and repeat them daily. If you’ve ever tried to recite enthusiastic statements in an attempt to change a negative mindset, you are probably well acquainted with the equally loud voice in your head pointing out how ridiculous it sounds.
“I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to.” “Suuuure. Even though you’ve never stuck to regular exercise for more than a couple weeks!”
“I believe my body is healthy and my mind is strong.” “Yeah, but PIZZA.”
And so it goes. Exercises like positive affirmations, are great but they are missing a key component to actually succeeding in changing our beliefs about ourselves. Feeling them. We can recite, write, wish and hope all day long, but if we are removed from any emotion surrounding what we want to achieve, it can be a frustrating and defeating proposition.
I help my clients in this process of self discovery by working through some simple steps. First, they pinpoint what they want to achieve. It’s important to get as specific as possible, because general goals will not take us anywhere we want to go.
Second, my clients picture themselves as if they have already achieved what they stated in step one. This one requires some imagination and fun. I encourage them to stop, close their eyes and really visualize everything as though it were a reality now- how they look, how they feel, what they can do differently and particular ways life has changed. The point is to stir up a little excitement within us.
We go through a couple more steps to work through possible ways they could self-sabatoge and how to prevent it, but the crucial part has been done. The reason steps one and two are so important is because every action is driven by emotion, whether its conscious or subconscious.
In going through the process of envisioning life the way they want it to be (and themselves the way they want to be) they begin to kindle the emotions needed to believe they can actually be exactly that.
Darren Hardy tells a story in his book, The Compound Effect, about a large steel beam. If it was laying on the floor and he offered you $20 to walk across it, you would. Zero risk and easy money. Why not, right? But what if he raised that same beam up thousands of feet between two skyscrapers and then asked you to cross it for $20. Most of us would then say no.
Now, take that same beam again, same thousands of feet in the air between the same buildings. But now your child is on one building and you are on the other, and the building your child is on is on fire. Yes, we would cross that bean to save our child, no $20 needed!
The reason, of course, is that our emotions would be so strong that they would drown out any limiting belief about our ability. We would simple act. Obviously we cannot constantly recreate that level of emotion, nor would we want to, and yet the story serves to illustrate how strongly our feelings drive our beliefs about what we’re capable of.
If you’re struggling with any area, take some time today to come up with some clear, distinct goals. Then start to explore developing some good, strong emotions surrounding what it would feel like to have those goals be a reality right now. Have some fun with it. Get excited and engage all the senses. Then enjoy the process of changing your beliefs. Your thoughts and actions will change right along with them.