The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between

You Must Own It – pt. 5

In my 2nd post in this series, I listed my “9 Steps to Ownership.”  I believe within those 9 Steps contain both the logical, emotional and “chaotic” view of behavior change and desire for mastery over your body.

I’ll quickly give a quick description over those 9 Steps.

The first step is some sort of external motivation.  I would say in most changes, including those of a planned and logical reasoning or epiphany and intuitive-inspired reasoning, the origin for that motivation is usually an external source or reason for change.

The second step to “Ownership” is feedback, accountability and at times a “forced change.”  This can be from parents who “force” their kids to go to practice, take piano lessons or play on a team sport.  The kids may not want to go to practice, just like if you have a workout partner, you may not “feel” like going to the gym on a particular day.  By having that social support and accountability, you are held to higher standards than your “feelings” in any given moment.  By over-riding those feelings you are able to continue to gain momentum and motivation to continue your new habit and lifestyle.

The third step in continuing toward mastery and the breaking through of inevitable plateaus is the “Right Mindset.” The Growth Mindset versus the Fixed Mindset allows you to understand and know that “failures” and setbacks are inevitable on the road to learning and success.  To think that your abilities are fixed and that your ability to learn something new is fixed, will hinder most individuals from taking on and exploring activities in which you are not familiar and therefore have a low amount of self-efficacy with.

The fourth step on the road to Mastery is the backing up of extrinsic motivation with activities that promote intrinsic motivation.  For example, having personal, “constructive, nonthreatening and work-focused rather than person focused” feedback helped increase a person’s odds of doing what he or she felt compelled to do.  This type of feedback could be said to help enhance a person’s competency, (which I discussed in part 3), and therefore, enhance or help to set up a person’s intrinsic motivation.

The fifth step is the shift from mainly external reasons, such as, “to lose weight” or “lower blood pressure,” to an intrinsic reason, “I miss the gym if I don’t go.”  This is a change that I believe happens in a spontaneous fashion and one in which I think two shifts occur.

One is that there is a mental shift.  The person’s mindset goes from seeing only the possible and logical benefits, to one where one sees the emotional benefits of “feeling good” and “having control” over your life.  This shift is mainly based upon the person’s perception of their self-efficacy (person’s perception of effectiveness with a given task) when it comes to exercise.  The second shift and related to self-efficacy, is the shift in the perceived exertion or affective state of the exercise itself.  The person starts to see the exercise as something that is inherently enjoyable as opposed to something slightly masochistic.  They actually start to enjoy the feeling of exercise as opposed to feeling like it’s nothing but hard work.

The sixth step is an environmental spur.  With the inklings of intrinsic motivation at hand, you start to view the gym and working out in a new light.  Instead of feeling like a failure for not losing weight as quickly as you thought you would, you start to see the gym as a place where you can push yourself past where your body and mind wants you to go.

You discover a new realm of personal control that is intoxicating.  It is at this point, that either in talking with someone or seeing something on TV, amongst other possible sources of environmental spurs, you get inspired to take on a new direction.  For example, you decide that you want to run a marathon.  Not because you have something to prove to someone else, but want to know what YOU are made of.  You want to see how far you can get, how far you can go.  It’s no longer about external rewards and the shift is completely intrinsic and personal.  It’s selfish and yours.  This is the first of many environmental spurs.

The next step that typically occurs is the “Multiplier Effect” enhances your desire even more.  The Multiplier Effect basically states that “A very small advantage in some field can spark a series of events that produce far larger advantages.”  An example of this would be compound interest.  If you invested $1000 per month and someone else invested $950 per month for 30 years at a return on investment (ROI) of 10% per year, that difference of $50 per month would yield a difference of over $110,000.

This Multiplier Effect has serious implications, since individuals rarely compare themselves to the best in the world, but instead only those in their immediate environment.  Therefore, if you start working out with a small group of people and you have a small advantage over them, it will typically push you to see how far you can actually go. With the running a marathon example, you could have hired a professional coach to help you design your running programs.  By doing so, you have a small enough advantage over other, possibly more experienced, runners in your local environment.  By doing so, you have moved along on your path of mastery.  Typically you’ll have additional motivation and a deep desire to see how far you can go, on top of your underlying intrinsic motivation (Step 5).

This is the beginning of Step 8, which is the recycling of Step 5 (Intrinsic Motivation), Step 6 (Environmental Spur) and Step 7 (Multiplier Effect).  Thus, you get to the race and realize that there are more people who are more experienced and faster.  With the competitive spirit alive in you, you want to see how much quicker you can go.  The races themselves just serve as a way to let you see how much further you can improve.  This is a repeat of Step 6’s environmental spur.

At this point, you decide to start running with a more advanced group and hire a nutritionist to help you with your meal plans for the races, which adds to the Multiplier Effect (Step 7).

This cycles a number of times, and all the while you are building to the point of “Mastery” and the Desire to Be Your Best.

Step 9, or Mastery and the Desire to Be Your Best, is the inevitable result.  To continue with the example, you decide that you want to run the Boston Marathon, which has one of the toughest qualifying times to even enter the race.  This is now your domain – To compete against the best – and since you’ve put in so much time and effort into getting to this point, you feel that you have earned it.

As I have previously stated, not everyone needs to go through all of these 9 Steps.  Some people may start out with a deep desire to be physically active, have the right mindset, feel autonomous in their decisions, feel competent in what they’re doing and feel a sense of relatedness with it.  Every step they take, then adds to those feelings.  The best real life example I could think of would be Arnold Schwarzenegger who started with great genetics, a tireless work ethic and a great environment to keep giving him those environmental spurs.

From your end though, if you want to go from being “A-Motivational,” meaning having no motivation, and try to “Master” a particular aspect of exercise, these are the steps that you would have to go through.  Missing or skipping of any of these steps, would probably derail the whole process.  This does not mean that everyone will try and “Master” exercise, which is an aspect that many personal trainers fail to realize when prescribing diet and workout plans.  Many people are happy staying at Step 4, having some social aspect, some intrinsic motivation from external resources and having a growth mindset.  And although they may never enjoy working out, they know that by doing so, they will improve their lives.

In the upcoming posts I will be discussing these individual aspects in more detail.  Until next Monday, look for some Quotes of the Day with attached links that show the mindset of those that “Own It.”  Enjoy!

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