Sports and fitness have always been a part of my life. I began to play organized sports when I was twelve years old, and I have been a coach and personal trainer since 1993. The lessons I have learned from athletics have been priceless.
For me, the most valuable lesson has been discipline. Learning how to clear the mind and prepare for anything is truly a gift, and one that keeps giving in all areas of life. I believe that getting the mind set for action is like cleaning out the attic, clearing away the cobwebs and getting rid of stuff you didn’t need anyway.
I use four guidelines to get my mind set; these guidelines are useful for any task, from running a marathon to solving a problem at work.
- SIMPLIFY. Get rid of what doesn’t work. I mean this literally as well as figuratively. Old clothes that you haven’t worn in years, old habits that don’t contribute anything to your life. I know of people who will not go to a workout unless the hair, makeup, outfit is just right. I see two problems here. First, most people are not really watching you; they are more worried about their own appearance or their own workout. Second, if you have done your workout correctly, you will need to shower after the workout anyway! By hanging onto inefficient habits and unfounded beliefs, not only have you wasted your own time, but you have also caused yoursel unnecessary stress.
- BECOME MINDFUL. I encourage everyone to develop a strong kinesthetic sense and to realize that the body is not separate from the mind. Being more aware of yourself can literally turn up the volume on your senses. By paying attention, by thinking about what you are doing, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you see, hear, taste, or feel. You might even find that what you thought was a lack of coordination was really just an undeveloped sense of your body.
- BECOME ACTIVE. Put the emphasis on you. You are an active participant in your life, not a passive victim. Raise the standards for yourself and constantly strive to outdo them. Robert Browning once wrote, ” a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Let this be your guiding principal in all your endeavors.
- VISUALIZE. Visualization techniques are not just for Olympic athletes. You can use them to perform better and conquer any challenge in life. First, quiet your mind by breathing deeply a few times. Then visualize yourself accomplishing your goal as though a camera is filming from the perspective of your eyes, not as though you are taping yourself from the outside. This is important. By mentally viewing the scene as if you are DOING IT, not as if you are WATCHING IT, you will have greater success.
Be patient with yourself as you develop your new mindset. Remember that you may have spent years NOT paying attention. And remember that mistakes are not failures. Rather they are opportunities to learn more about yourself. Conquer the mental chatter that is trying to talk you out of success, embrace the challenge, and always keep learning.