“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
I recently polled fans on the KPxFitness Facebook page about their biggest fitness questions.
James wanted to learn about getting through mental blocks when starting a fitness routine and dealing with failure along the way. Thanks for your question, James! I hope you find this helpful.
Look, getting in shape is hard! That’s why a lot of people give up. But the hardest part is getting started. Once you build momentum, it’s much easier to keep going.
I want to address the two main mental blocks people have when it comes to simply starting their fitness journey. I’m not talking the little stuff, like feeling lazy, being tired, or not having enough time. I’m talking big, huge, underlying mental blocks: the fear of failure and fear of success.
The two often coincide, as strange as that may sound. Let me explain.
When we first decide to get back in shape because we’re not happy with how much weight we’ve gained or how hard it is to walk up and down the stairs, that’s our catalyst for action.
But the drive underlying those goals is the confidence that comes with looking and feeling like a capable, healthy individual (aka, sexy muthafucka).
We want to look and feel better, so we attach a number to what we think that feeling will be. “I want to lose ten pounds.” Or “I want to run a mile without stopping to walk.” Cool, now we have a goal.
So we hit the gym – yay!
But that first workout is hard, and it sucks. We don’t change how we look or feel overnight, and start to wonder if it’s worth it, if we’ll ever reap the rewards for our efforts, if we can handle the pain and soreness and deprivation from ice cream.
That’s when our “logical” brain kicks in and reasons that it’s too much. It’s not worth the pain and suffering. Time to give up and return to the comfort of the couch.
This seems logical to us at the time, but what’s really going on is our fear response is kicking in. We’ve evolved a strong response to fear because it kept us alive as cavemen and cave ladies, but these days, we just use that fear to justify staying the same because it’s comfortable.
As I mentioned, those two, somewhat contradictory, fears are the fear of success and the fear of failure.
Fear of success goes something like this:
- What if I lose those ten pounds, and my friends don’t like me anymore because I can’t go out to dinner at our favorite hangout that serves delicious, unhealthy fried food?
- What if I lose those ten pounds, and I’m still not happy with how I look?
- What if I can run a mile, and then two or three… should I sign up for a half marathon? That’s scary, I don’t want to do that.
Ironically, we start to worry about all the challenges and things that could go wrong once we achieve success! It’s crazy! But don’t worry, it’s natural. And I’ll talk all about how to overcome the fear of success in just a minute.
First, let’s talk about the fear of failure. This one seems more intuitive – who isn’t afraid of failure? The problem is, the fear alone holds us back from starting a new routine, or from sticking with one we’ve just begun. And it’s completely irrational!
To think, “I might as well give up because I don’t know if this will work” is ludicrous. OF COURSE it won’t work if you give up! The only way to know for sure is to try, and see what happens. But to let the fear of failure itself hold you back is a massive handicap you’ll have to overcome if you ever want to improve anything in your life – your weight, your mile time, your career, your relationships, your finances, your general health, etc.
Both of these fears are rooted in “future thinking” – projecting your thoughts about what “might” happen onto your current situation.
If you are going to succeed, but not be happy with what that success brings, what’s the point of starting? If you are just going to fail, what’s the point?
Well, you don’t know either of those things are true. The only thing you know is that you are not happy with your life as it currently stands, and you want to make it better.
The problem is, knowing that you’re afraid to succeed and afraid to fail isn’t enough. You have to have strategies in place to conquer those fears.
HOW TO OVERCOME THE TWIN FEARS OF SUCCESS AND FEAR OF FAILURE
1) Remember that these fears are all in your head
The fear of success/failure are rooted in your projection about what the future “might” hold – none of those things are real. It’s literally all in your head. We humans are very bad at imagining the future, so focus on the present.
Does working out make you feel better today? Good. Go to the gym!
2) Don’t be attached to the outcome.
People talk about “SMART” goals all the time. Your goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. This is great, in theory.
But what if your goal is to go to the Olympics? There are a million other factors at play – you might get sick or injured, you might face stiff competition from other athletes, your plane might get delayed and keep you from a qualifying event. You can’t control any of those things!
Instead of being attached to the outcome, focus on what you can control.
3) Take small, daily action steps that build to your goal.
You can control your actions. Use the things you can control to your advantage.
If you want to lose weight, you need to exercise 3-4 times per week and eat healthy. Your action steps could be to plan your workouts ahead of time, pack your gym bag the night before, and make a grocery list so you can prepare healthy meals. Now, you have no excuses to skip the gym or eat takeout; you have your gym clothes and a healthy snack packed and ready to go.
4) When the going gets tough… remember your “why.”
Why did you start this fitness journey in the first place? What uncomfortable place were you in that catalyzed you into action? Do you really want to go back to that place? Remembering why you got started is the best way to push through those moments that may seem like a failure.
5) Keep a visual reminder of your goals and your action steps.
Building momentum is hard when you’re starting out, and it’s easy to slip back into old habits. Keeping notes and visual reminders of your new habits can help you stick to them.
A sticky note by the door to “grab your gym bag” will help you avoid being that awkward guy in dress shoes on the treadmill. Keeping a grocery list on your phone means you’ll always know what to buy without having to remember the list. Hanging a picture of your next beach vacation destination on the fridge can prevent late-night snacking and sabotaging yourself.
6) Reframe your failures. All failure is just feedback.
Thomas Edison is credited with saying that he didn’t fail 1,000 times when inventing the lightbulb, he had merely found 1,000 ways that didn’t work.
We can’t know what we’re doing will work until we try it and see.
Note: I will add, this is not an excuse to jump from workout plan to workout plan, or Paleo diet or Keto diet to Mediterranean or vegan. You have to stick with something long enough to see if it works for you (usually 6-8 weeks, minimum). But, if you find that it’s not working, you haven’t failed – you’ve merely found one way that doesn’t work.
7) This may be the most important step, so I saved the best for last. Create accountability!
Tell a friend that you want to make a healthy change. Ask them for their support. Post about it on social media, and ask people to check in on you.
Get your roommate or significant other on board with your meal prep plans. Make it fun – a night of staying in to cook dinner (plus lots of leftovers).
Find a workout buddy at your gym. Or hire a personal trainer or a nutrition coach to make a plan for you and keep you accountable along the way.
Accountability can be ANYTHING!
You don’t have to start your journey alone, and you shouldn’t have to go through it that way, either. Find social support of any kind and lean on it when you need to. Because getting in shape is HARD, but you can do it.
Struggling with your fitness journey and need support to reach your goals?
Apply for your FREE strategy call today.
We’ll discuss your fitness goals, figure out what’s holding you back,
and come up with a plan of action to overcome those obstacles!