There’s a line in a song I listen to quite a bit and it goes a little something like this:
“Hello, my name is defeat.
I’m sure you recognize me.
Just when you think you can win,
I drag you right back down again,
‘til you’ve lost all belief.”
Negative self-talk is a thing. I mean, A THING. Sometimes, it can actually be encouraging: Come on self, you know you can do better than that. I’d like to offer a good old-fashioned butt-slap “good game” to those who are able to effectively achieve that, but I am not one of those people. In fact, I was blessed with the ability to absolutely beat the shit out of myself until my ego is lying in the fetal position sucking its thumb.
I’ve come up with (and mastered) a seven-step process to turn your typical training day into a complete disaster. I’m using training as the situation but remember that this process doesn’t have to be used only for training. It can be applied to many areas of your life, such as career performance, relationships, nutrition, addiction, etc. So here we go:
- Set an expectation that today, you’ll magically have perfect technique on all of your lifts and be able to lift substantially more than you ever have before.
- Start the negative self-talk in your warm-up but keep it upbeat: Wow, I don’t feel as strong as I thought I would today. That’s ok, do your best, even though your best is pretty average right now. Remember that it’s a process.
- At the start of your training session, focus more on the things you got wrong instead of the things you got right.
- Serve yourself some big, delicious negative sandwiches. You’ve heard of the positive sandwich, right? Constructive criticism sandwiched between two positive things. Do the opposite of that: That lift sucked real bad but it’s ok because you have a great personality but you’re worthless when it comes to lifting.
- For the remainder of the training session, completely neglect your ability to brush things off. You know that round of golf (or every round of golf) where your short game is terrible but each tee box offers a new opportunity to turn this ship around? That’s golf. This is lifting. And you suck at lifting.
- Keep reminding yourself how much you suck at lifting to create a downward spiral that just never ends. Use key phrases that are customized by you and for you, just to hit your own buttons: You’re five feet tall. Strength will never be your thing. Why do you even own a gym? Just stick to endless burpees… that can be your thing.
- Finally, find a way to end your training session on a bad note. Make giant red X’s in your training log for anything you missed and maybe even add notes about just how bad the experience was so you’ll remember it when you start the next session.
You. Are. Welcome.
Normally when I write a blog post, it’s meant to be authoritative, to offer direction, to motivate. This one is simply therapy because you just never know who else might be in the same (beat up, never-good-enough) boat. If that’s you, then hey, grab an oar and let’s see where this adventure takes us.
So as fun as it is to feel these levels of soul-crushing defeat, let’s work on it, shall we? I wish it were as easy as deciding, committing and succeeding. Like most things, there has to be a plan with a goal and achievable steps to get there.
Step one: Set your goal.
Here’s mine: Get stronger and enjoy the journey. Stop being a dick to yourself.
Step two: Define what that goal looks like.
For me: Embrace the fact that strength is a journey. Work on your weaknesses while not sacrificing your strengths. Do whatever it takes to enjoy the process. Have fun.
Step three: Admit that all of this is easier said than done.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
Step four: Choose three (or more) achievable steps to get you from here to there. Start today.
- I will turn my negative sandwiches into positive ones.
- As soon as the negative self-talk nerd appears in my mind, I will visualize kicking him in the dick and then reminding myself that I am capable.
- I will find quotes (“progress adds up,” “you know what you’re capable of,” “get mad or get better”) or motivating thoughts (picturing where I was a year ago) to replace of negative self-talk during my training sessions.
For me, this is not one of those “oh, that’s all I have to do, is it?” posts. Even as I write it, I realize the magnitude of overcoming this hurdle in my life. I mean, I say some REALLY unbelievable shit to myself, guys. Things I wouldn’t say to someone I don’t like, let alone someone I care about.
One little step at a time (because that’s the only way it’s possible), I’m going to learn to appreciate the process, my ability and all the things that come along with those things. I’m starting today and you should too. Because despite what our minds are telling us, WE CAN.