The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between
Rule #10 ~ Build Skills Around Your Limitations

Rule #10 ~ Build Skills Around Your Limitations

Many of the “Rules” I’ve listed thus far deal with the physiological aspects of what to do in order to see the results you want from working out and eating right.  You have eating healthier foods, strength training, moving more, drinking more water, sleeping more and taking basic supplements

The bottom line with all of these “rules” is they are simply methods to get you the body you want

They are not the methods which help you incorporate them into your life

This distinction between methods that work and how to incorporate those methods into your life is where many people falter.  Many times we will be gung-ho about change, project ourselves into the future and say “I’ll be good this time.”  We look into the future and see our ideal situation in front of us.  The problem with this picture is that life never plays out that neatly and we end up relying mainly on willpower.  Willpower in and of itself is a poor substitute for willpower plus “willpower skills”. 

You’ll definitely need willpower, but you don’t want it to act as your leg to walk on – you want it there as your crutch.  Willpower should be your assistance when you need it, not your primary support system.

The fallacy of willpower is that we always think that “This time will be different.”  We either think that or the famous, “That won’t happen to me.  I really want to change this time.”  I have no doubt about your desire, but I do have doubts about your ability to actually change if you’re relying solely on willpower.

In other words, if you’ve failed to change in the past and it’s been your “willpower” that’s faltered, you will need more than your “will” to change – you’ll need some skills also.

So how do YOU build up the skills you need?

The first and most important step is accepting yourself and your limitations. 

For example, I absolutely know that if there’s a bag of mini-size Heath bars or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in front of me, I’m going to eat them.  Not only eat them, but eat the whole damn bag – no matter how large the bag.  This will happen even if I’ve just ate a full lunch, if I have other healthy snacks and if I absolutely know that I will feel like crap later on.  In other words, I will eat them all even if I’ve done everything else that should normally prevent me from wanting to. 

So the question is if there’s a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups around, do I try to rely on willpower and say, this time will be different?  Hell NO!

I either remove myself from the situation, give the bag away or simply throw it out – and then remove the garbage from my vicinity.  I’m not even joking.

Now does this mean that this will work for everyone?  No.

What I know and have learned from my previous mistakes is that I can avoid any other food in my presence except those two items.  I can stay stark sober and have a great time with friends in crowded bars.  I can have chips around me, rice and beans, but if my diet for the time being doesn’t include those foods, then I have NO problem not eating those items.  Heath bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups though, not so much.  The only option I have left then is to simply avoid them. 

With this example, I use avoidance as a strategy, as a skill, that is applicable to my situation of needing to avoid something I really don’t need, and truth be told, really don’t want. 

Another strategy is to Re-Frame your story.  Re-framing a story is a good way to focus on that which you want, when talking about something that has both good and bad attributes (which really can be anything).  By reframing an item or story you can take on a vastly different perspective about that item (Politicians do this constantly).  

An example of reframing is when people say going to the gym is “torture.”  I like to reframe that phrase with, “It’s a good time.” 

Why is it a good time?  Because you challenge yourself in making not only your body physically stronger, but mentally stronger as well.  Your push yourself past your normal limits and comfort zone and can do so on a consistent basis.  Where else in your life can you do that in a safe environment, on a normal basis and be accepted?  To me, a good workout requires much more mental fortitude than it does physical aptitdue – and that to me is a “good time.” 

Will Smith has an acceptance speech in which he claims to have the Keys to Life, which he calls “Running and Reading.”   In the speech, he sums up what a tough workout does by reframing it perfectly: 

The Key to Life is Running and Reading…Why Running?  When you’re running and you’re out there and you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you, and that little person says, “Oh, I’m tired. My lungs are going to pop off.  I’m so hurt.  I’m so tired.  There’s no way I can possibly continue.”  And you want to quit, right?  That person, if you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.

That’s reframing at it’s best.  You can look at “running,” or hard workouts in general, as “torture”…Or you can look at it as “learning how to not quit when things get hard in your life.” 

Avoidance and Re-Framing are two of the many strategies which teach you the skills of willpower.  All of us will need to build the skills of willpower after you accept yourself in your current situation.  This means accepting yourself now, in your current situation, and not where you want to be, or hope to be, or wish to be.  This allows you to deal with reality as it is.  When you start to deal with reality as it is, you can finally accept YOUR Limitations and start to learn the strategies and skills needed to overcome them. 

You may need different and varied skills/strategies for each obstacle and temptation you face.  If you focus though on your one or two main “problem-areas,” you’ll learn to figure out ways to stay sane on your diet and keep working out hard while moving towards your Ultimate Physique.

The question then is, are you ready to Accept Yourself?

Are you ready to accept your flaws and strengths in order to figure out what might be holding you back?  If you can stay aware of when you falter without necessarily judging yourself harshly for simply being who you are, you have a greater chance of finally figuring out a strategy that works for YOU.  When you do that, you’ll learn the methods that will help you stay on the path towards your “Ultimate Physique.”  

In the end, this quote by Peter McWilliams sums up this “Rule” succinctly:

“The word discipline comes from two very nice words: discipulus, meaning pupil, and discere, to learn.  Discipline, then, is devotion to learning. 
I like to think of discipline not as forcing yourself to do without (the austerity school), but as keeping your attention focused on what you want.”

Exactly!  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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