For better or worse, the mind is a powerful thing. Perception is reality, so the things we tell ourselves over and over eventually become truth in our mind.
We can use this power for good by using positive self-talk to make ourselves for confident. Or we can lie to ourselves to validate our own excuses. Too many of us, myself included, use the second option to make ourselves feel better about our shortcomings.
Fitness success requires a ton of motivation. Conjuring up this motivation within ourselves can be exhausting, so when motivation runs dry, it feels good to adjust our “goals” to coincide with our low motivation levels.
But don’t lie to yourself. You MUST avoid enabling yourself with little white lies that give you a free pass to mediocrity.
I hear a handful of popular lies that people tell themselves every day. I’ve told myself most of these too at one point or another. Are you selling yourself short with these falsehoods?
1. “I DON’T WANT TO GET TOO BIG/TOO STRONG”
Translation: “I’m not willing to put in the work to get bigger/stronger”
This is hands-down the most common statement I hear from people who lift weights, and I believe it was Dave Tate or Jim Wendler who gave the perfect response: “Don’t worry, you won’t.”
Anyone who’s put in significant time under the bar knows that success doesn’t happen overnight. Getting bigger and stronger is such a gruelingly slow process that it’s easy to get frustrated. It’s easier to lower your standards to match your lack of patience than it is to stick it out for the long haul in order to reach loftier goals.
Besides being a convenient excuse for a lack of patience, I firmly believe that most people are lying when they say this because most people would have no problem being the biggest strongest person in the gym, if only it were easier to get there. Nobody I know would be ashamed of having 22-inch arms or a 700 pound deadlift. Nobody I know would say, “Man, I hate being this way,” if they looked like Arnold and lifted like Kazmaier.
2. “I’LL NEVER BE AS STRONG AS…”
Translation: “I’m scared of competition”
Comparing yourself to others is a double-edged sword. It can be motivating or frustrating, depending on how you spin it. But competition breeds success, and if you’re not competing against something, whether it’s yourself or others, complacency is sure to follow.
In fact, we recently reestablished the leaderboard at Cressey Sports Performance, and there was an immediate spike in competitiveness that instantly enhanced the atmosphere in the gym. Competition is an incredibly powerful motivator.
Too often I hear people compare themselves to the best of the best, and it’s unfair. You can’t compare your squat to a world champion powerlifter if they’ve been lifting for 20 years and you’ve been lifting for 2 months. You can’t compare your fastball to a Major League pitcher when you’re still in Little League. You should look up to these people and aspire to reach their level of success, but you can’t get yourself down if you’re not on their level yet.
That word “yet” is so powerful. You can turn any self-deprecating statement into a positive affirmation by adding “yet” at the end.
“I’m not strong enough… yet.”
“I’m not smart enough… yet.”
“I’m not confident enough… yet.”
Those three little letters combine to set the stage for success because they insinuate that the road to success is long and hard, but you’re willing to take that road to get where you want to go. You recognize that you’re not where you want to be, but that the destination is attainable.
3. “I’M JUST GOING LIGHT AND WORKING ON TECHNIQUE”
Translation: “I’m too scared to push myself and see what I’m really made of”
Lifting technique is important. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have a job. But I can’t help but shake my head at the armies of lifters (coaches and trainers especially) who use embarrassingly-light weights and lean on the excuse of “I’m just going light and working on technique,” or “I’m just getting back into it.”
How can you be working on technique if you’ve never broken your technique?
How can get be “getting back into it” if you were never “into it” to begin with?
You can’t truly know what it means to work on technique if your technique has never broken down under heavy weights. You can’t know what your weak points are if you’re just plain weak. And once you realize you won’t die every time your technique isn’t perfect, life gets a lot easier.
Perfect technique will only get you so far. Progressive overload governs everything we do in the weight room. Eventually, perfect reps with the empty bar won’t get you any stronger. You must do what you’ve never done to get what you’ve never had.
Unfortunately, mental and intestinal fortitude are things many of these people have never had and probably won’t ever get.
The truth is that getting stupidly strong is uncomfortable and scary. Lifting heavy weights is risky and you have to have a few screws loose in your head to want to lift heavy things for fun. It’s not something you should do just because everyone else is doing it.
So, if you don’t want to lift heavy things, don’t. There’s too much risk and time investment required to half-ass it.
I’d rather hear someone admit that they don’t like lifting heavy, so that’s why they’re still squatting 135 after training 4 days a week for a year. It’s OK to exercise for reasons other than lifting as heavy as humanly possible, so don’t try to fool us (or yourself) into thinking you’re ever gonna push yourself out of your comfort zone.
NO MORE LIES
You must hold yourself accountable and stop validating your own excuses. Be careful that these phrases don’t slip into your vocabulary. It’s a slippery slope once you allow yourself to accept your shortcomings as permanent.
Get a training partner who won’t stand for your lousy excuses or lie to you. Add “yet” to the end of your critical statements. Compete in something. And never accept less than your best effort.