Making Plans and Achieving Goals

The Power of The Mind: Elite vs Average

The Power of The Mind: Elite vs Average

About 6 weeks ago, I finished my squat everyday and bench everyday program.  Since then, I have spent some time focusing on my dips.  I have been rotating them in and out with the bench press as one of my main lifts.  Last week, I did 18 reps with a 35lb kettlebell and this week, I was determined to get 19 reps.  I hopped up to the bar and started to grind them out.  17, 18, argh, crazy face, 19.  They weren’t pretty but I got them.  One rep better than last week and I felt good about my incremental progress.  Then, as I was putting the kettlebell back, my brain started working and I realized I had just used the 53lb bell by mistake.  What!?  So I had just done 50% more weight for more reps than I did last week?  How did I do that?  The past few weeks I have struggled to add one rep.  Was I just having a great day?

The Power Of The Mind

The thing that allowed me to do that was my belief that I could.  I 100% believed that I was only lifting 35lbs.  I knew that I had just done that weight for 18 reps, therefore, I knew I could do that again.  If I would have actually been using the 35lb kettlebell, I bet I would have also done 19 reps.  Whenever I see things like this, it always amazes me at how much your mind dictates your results in everything we do.

In fact, I believe that the difference between elite level athletes and average athletes is determined more so by their mind than any other factor.  People who excel in their sport are able to believe in themselves every day.  They are able to harness that 100% belief, that I momentarily captured by accident, in everything they do.  If you ever read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Education of a Bodybuilder, this is one of the best autobiographies about what an extreme mental belief will do for you.

The Research

One study looked at the placebo effect as it relates to taking “steroids”.  Trained lifters were told that whoever could improve their bench press, shoulder press, and squat the most in 7 weeks, would be given legal steroids.  In those 7 weeks, the average improvement was 10lbs on each lift.  During the next 4 weeks, they were given “steroids” and were able to improve almost 40lbs.  After pushing to make maximum progress in the first  7 weeks, they were then able to make 4 times the progress in the next 4 weeks and nothing changed except their belief.  Incredible!

Another study gave trained lifters “fast acting steroids” and they all set personal records of around 5% instantly.  They were then given more “steroids” for another two weeks of training where they continued to make progress.  When they came back to test their maxes, half of the group were told they had been given a placebo.  That group then tested their maxes and had regressed to their “pre-steroid maxes”.  This is unbelievable.  The subjects believed the “steroids” were giving them super strength.  When told it was 100% them and the steroids had nothing to do with it they fell back.  They still believed they couldn’t do it alone.

Both of the studies simply dealt with belief, expectations and the power of the mind.  It shows what a strongly held belief can do for you.

How To Harness This Power

So how can you improve yourself by changing your mindset?  The best way, in my opinion, is to surround yourself with people who are ahead of you.  This actually applies to anything you want to do in life.  Be the small fish in the big pond.  If you are constantly around people who are more successful than you, in any area of your life, it will start to wear off on you.

If you are working out with the best in the world, then it will make you better by chasing them.  Seeing them doing something incredible helps you believe that you could do it too.  This always makes me think of Anthony Hopkins in “The Edge”.

If you can’t actually train with them, follow them on Youtube and watch some of their videos before you train.  Unfortunately, neither of these is nearly as effective as believing you are on the best steroids in the world or believing you are lifting less weight than you actually are.  Just remember, when you aren’t making progress, it might just be between the ears.


14 thoughts on “The Power of The Mind: Elite vs Average”

  • Do you worry about your shoulders for dips? I’ve stopped doing them because they hurt me a little bit (I had some shoulder trouble from playing baseball in HS)

    I completely agree with you on your points on mental capacity. There are some days I go to the gym and I’m not feeling it and I can’t get amped up to get it going. Other days, I’m feeling great and can do 3-4 more reps per exercise!

    Thanks for sharing, I loved reading your story about the 1 extra rep!
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…How Can You Set, Prioritize and Track Financial Goals Like a Pro?My Profile

  • Bravo Grant! The mental game is so powerful. One of my favorite quotes is from Napoleon Hills – “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

    And I love yours too – “Just remember, when you aren’t making progress, it might just be between the ears.”

  • The mind is truly an incredible thing! Though I love blogging about technical personal finance things, my blog posts always seem to wander into how we can hack our psychology because I think that’s the root of our inability to achieve our financial goals.

    I ALWAYS find that without commitment from my mind to a goal, I have so much trouble sticking to it. And similarly with my sport (rock climbing), there are so many problems I find impossible because I let fear cloud my confidence in being able to stick the finish!

    • Yeah once you go beyond the technical details it gets quite interesting but also quite cloudy.

      For me achieving goals is about developing a strong reason WHY and then making a daily commitment to do something that moves me towards that goal.

  • Love the dips example man! Telling principles through real-life stories is the best way most people learn. You’re going to have a successful blog if you keep articles like these coming.

  • Be the small fish in the pond? Check! The mind really is a powerful thing. I find that when I’m in a bad mood and focusing on negatives, I really can’t workout as much as I can when my day’s been going great and I’m feeling positive. In my experience it goes both ways – I have more energy when I’m more positive, but I also feel more positive when I take care of my body and exercise.
    Matt @ Profitable Matters recently posted…Online Surveys: Lucrative Side Hustle Or Waste of Time?My Profile

    • It is amazing that your mood can affect physical strength but it definitely does. I feel like there is just so much we don’t know or understand about the brain. Thanks for sharing Matt.

    • That is a fantastic way to improve and goes with the being the small fish in the big pond. Most of those instructors are quite good at getting people to push beyond their mental limits.

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