So I’ve got a guy I’ve been training for the last few months. Always eager to tackle any workout I give him for the day, always driven to get better.. but like most people, the guy is terrified of failure. He places mental blocks on himself that limit his abilities to do extraordinary things both in the weight room, on the track, and in life. I remind him all the time that progress is a process of little investments everyday that will eventually lead him to great things. Another way I like to put it is he is putting investments into his own personal jar every day. If he were to cash the jar in the same day he made that investment or sacrifice, he would have very little to show for. As time goes on, those little investments add up and eventually he will be able to cash the jar in and he will have a fortune. A lot of people expect results the day of, the day after, the week of their investment, etc. But what people don’t understand is great things take time. Drastic changes don’t happen instantly. There is no magic pill, trick, exercise, whatever to help you reach your ultimate goals over night.
As the months have gone on, I’ve told him to trust in his training and to believe that his body can do things he thinks are impossible. Initially, he was hesitant and apprehensive to think that I could possibly believe in him and his ability to best his previous performances. He perceived his performances as his absolute best and there was no way in his mind that he would ever be able to beat them without significant struggle. This past week and a half, we have been maxing out in the weight room and testing him on the track. Each day he asks, “What are we doing today?” and when I say “We are maxing out this!”, immediately he goes from a high energy and excited state.. to borderline lethargic and unmotivated. He is scared that he will fail himself. Each time, I remind him to trust me, trust himself, and whatever happens.. put your best self out there and you can never be disappointed.
Day 1: Deadlifts- previous max 405; new max 455. He was so excited and thankful. You could see the belief and confidence in himself light up like a spark. Day 3: Squats - previous max 315; new max 330. He failed at 340 and was utterly disappointed in himself and extremely upset he was “not good enough”. He knew the ability was there, but he just got scared to fail, and failed accordingly. Day 5: Hang cleans - previous max 225; new max 240. Here is where things got interesting. Initially, he failed at 240. I told him to put the weight down, take some good rest, and try again. In that time frame, he convinced himself he could do it, walked around for a few minutes and tried again. He got the rep! He was so excited and so proud of himself. I told him we were done. As I went to take the weights off, he begged me to try 250. He just wanted to try, as he is never satisfied. I let him. His first rep, he fails. I cue him, and on his second rep he ALMOST gets it.. but not quite. As he is walking the weights back, he seemed even more excited that he failed than he was to have got his new max. There was a smile plastered across his face from ear to ear and you could just tell that he was enjoying himself, having fun, and elated to have a new goal to work towards. What is crazy is that a month ago, he was scared of 205. After some talking to, he refocused and he hit 225 for the first time ever. He was then scared of 225, he hit 240. His mentality has changed from an “I can’t do this” attitude, to a “I can do whatever I set my mind to do.”
The take home message here: Mental barriers are very real and can effect and affect your performances in life on a daily basis. The way you perceive yourself, your abilities, and the task at hand can greatly factor into the performance of that task. Lastly, failure isn’t a bad thing. All of the greats before us and today have failed at some point. But instead of tearing themselves down and lowering their self worth based on performance, they use these “failures” as lessons to guide their future preparation and performances. You must respond to your adversities in order to overcome them, otherwise they will continue to make you feel incompetent and inadequate for the rest of your life. We are extemely adaptive creatures, but we cannot adapt if we are too scared to try. We miss 100% of the shots we are too scared to take. Take your shot.. if it doesn’t fall, that’s fine. Change your approach and some day your shot will succeed.