Thoughts become things. What you think about, you bring about. Your thoughts will manifest your physical actions. – Brian Cain
This past weekend I drove down to Pennsylvania to coach my good friend Dave through his first powerlifting meet. Dave’s been training hard and kicked ass on the platform, hitting PRs across the board. I was immensely proud, not just because Dave and I go way back (we were partners for our senior thesis in undergrad), but because Dave, a former skinny kid who was about as far from a powerlifting prototype as you could get, took it upon himself to put in the work and compete.
On the drive back, I listened to an EliteFTS podcast with Coach Mark Watts and, to my surprise, Brian Cain. Cain was my high school athletic director and has gone on to become the premier mental conditioning coach in the nation, working with top-level professional and college teams along with champion athletes like Georges St-Pierre. Watts, a former strength coach at little Denison University in Ohio, has written before about Cain’s incredible teachings on mental toughness. The first time I saw Watts mention Cain, I texted Cain right away, saying, “Hey, this awesome coach is singing your praises. Ever heard of him?” Cain replied, “No, I’ll have to look him up.” So it’s incredibly cool to see that they’ve joined forces and kicked out an unbelievably informative podcast, which you can listen to here:
Cain played a huge role in my young athletic career. I was undersized and not that talented, and I can safely say that I never would have had a meaningful college baseball career without Cain’s teachings. He taught me to be unrelentingly positive and to use my thoughts and words to shape my mindset. He taught me that perception is reality. Your self-talk, whether positive or negative, becomes your actions. He taught me that you have to dominate the day or the day dominates you, and to never waste a day because today + today + today = your life.
It’s important to have phrases that you say to yourself every day to keep your mind right. But it’s also important to avoid certain phrases that send you spiraling into negativity, doubt and self-pity. Over the past few years, I’ve weeded out a handful of phrases that kept me from being as successful as I wanted to be. If you cut these four poisonous sayings out of your life for good, I guarantee you’ll be more successful.
1. “I HAVE TO”
“I can’t believe I have to go to work today.”
“I have to study for this test.”
“I wish I didn’t have to take extra batting practice to make the team.”
We hear stuff like this all the time. We think we have to do all kinds of stuff, when in reality, we don’t have to do anything.
A lion has to hunt or it will starve. The gazelle has to run or it gets eaten. Suddenly, you realize all your “have to’s” are a bunch of weak-ass shit.
But simply changing “have to” to “get to” completely changes everything. Your mindset becomes positive. You treat every opportunity as a privilege and your efforts become deep and sincere.
Who has a better chance of making the team – the guy who says, “I get to take batting practice today,” or the guy who says, “I have to take batting practice today”? For one guy it’s an opportunity and for one it’s an obligation. One will seize the chance and one will trudge through it. No doubt the guy who “gets to” will be more successful.
So the next time you’re grumpy about dragging your ass out of bed to go to the gym, or the next time you’d rather not prep your meals ahead of time, think of it this way: you GET to exercise. You GET to eat healthy. You GET to be in complete control of your life.
I cringe every time someone answers a question with “hopefully”. But wait, you say. Isn’t hope great? Aren’t you supposed to be unapologetically positive?
Yes, absolutely. Hope is huge. But there’s extreme danger in putting all your stock in hope. And when you’re constantly saying, “Hopefully I get this” and “Hopefully I do that”, you’re not exuding the confidence necessary to be successful. Remember, thoughts become things, and thoughts form your words, so if your words lack confidence, so will you.
Put it this way: Always have hope, but never rely on it.
What does that mean? That means never despair. No matter how bad an outcome is, recognize that things will get better. But do not blindly lean on hope in lieu of concrete actions. Hope without action is almost always useless.
“I didn’t study for this test so hopefully I don’t fail,” is drastically different than “I studied hard for this test, so I have hope that I’ll do well.”
For a long time, I sat around and said, “I hope I find a strength and conditioning job.” Well, I sat around for two years without taking much action and didn’t find a job. Then I realized I needed to take matters into my own hands. Get out there, meet people, make connections. And finally, I found the next step.
Have hope and take action. Don’t sit back and hope for the best.
I stopped checking Twitter first thing in the morning to avoid all the rage-inducing “Rise and Grind” tweets. Then, I just unfollowed everyone who tweeted anything about “grinding” on a regular basis. Just a heads-up, college kids – you’re not “grinding” if you wake up a 9 a.m.
Yes, we all “grind”, i.e. do things on a daily basis that aren’t fun but are necessary. We get up early, work, exercise, go to class, study, eat food that’s healthy but doesn’t taste the best. We forgo parties, TV, sleeping in and delicious foods that make us fat and sick. We’re all busy, so get over it.
“Grinding” suggests that you dislike the process. But whether you like it or not, success comes from focusing on the process, not the result. So you’d better embrace the process. The more it feels like a grind, the less likely you’ll endure til the end and see things through to a successful result.
And if you’re ever tempted to tell someone that you’re out there grindin’, ask yourself this extremely important question: compared to what?
This is so important that I’ll repeat it in very large letters:
COMPARED TO WHAT?
Cain frequently uses this phrase to keep things in perspective. So you struck out with the bases loaded. So you failed a test. So you slept through you alarm and were late to work. So you’re cripplingly sore from your workout. Those things might seem bad, but compared to what?
Every day that you wake up in a warm bed, open a fridge full of food, crap in a bathroom with running water and walk out a front door that doesn’t lead to a war zone or third world country, YOU ARE NOT GRINDING.
Keep things in perspective. Coupled with “get to vs. have to”, keeping “compared to what” on the tip of your tongue at all times will make even the most difficult of times seem not so bad. And it’s a lot easier to work hard when you appreciate how good you have it.
4. “IT IS WHAT IT IS”
My girlfriend will laugh because she knows how much this phrase grinds my gears. I’m all about controlling what you can control, which Cain taught me at a young age. But there’s no worse phrase of ass-dragging apathy and Eeyore-esque sloth than “it is what it is.”
Some things in life we can’t control. We can’t control the shortstop making a diving catch on the line drive we hit. We can’t control the umpire that made the wrong call. We can’t control the weather, the traffic, the line at the grocery store or tons of other trivial things we get pissed about. But chalking things up to “it is what it is” is giving up before we even determine if something is within our control.
To be happy in life, you must learn to be process-oriented, not outcome-oriented. Before you even think about uttering “it is what it is,” ask yourself, “What was my process to arrive at this result?” If your process wasn’t satisfactory, whether it’s due to a lousy effort or poor planning, you’d better try again and try harder this time. If your process was satisfactory, but the result was not, then don’t fret and control what you can control. But rather than throwing your hands up and saying “it is what it is,” change your perspective. Say, “I’ll do better next time.”
TALK THE TALK, WALK THE WALK
Actions speak louder than words, but words can dictate your actions. Swapping negative or self-doubting phrases for positive and confident ones can completely change your perspective. Step one: eliminate these four useless phrases from your life today. Step two: check out the podcast above for some awesome insight from two of the smartest coaches in sports.