Whether you think you can or you think you can't -- you're right. -Henry Ford
Good quote right? Yeah I agree and while I may not agree with all of Henry Ford's values and business practices I can say that he is right on this one.
Beliefs are powerful things. They are the things that shape our mindset and dictate how we approach our lives.
They influence every decision we make from the careers we pursue to the foods we eat, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously but none the less they influence us.
I recently wrote an article about this discussing beliefs in terms of either the growth mindset or the fixed mindset. It's a really great prerequisite read for what follows here.
The thing about beliefs is that they can be both positive and negative.
They can be rational and well founded or they can be false and unsupported.
They can be freeing or they can be limiting.
They can motivating or demoralizing.
This means that we need to make an intentional effort to spend time assessing whether are beliefs are freeing us and moving us forward or if they are demoralizing and holding us back.
I say all this because in truth all long-term and short-term behavior change is founded in a true change in our beliefs. Changing our beliefs allows us to see new possibilities and opportunities that were once hidden from us.
Changing our beliefs allows us to feel empowered and gives us the necessary self-efficacy to take on new challenges and succeed at them.
In short to change our behavior in the short or long-term we have to also change our beliefs.
I use this technique as a way to get a client to take autonomy over their behavior change. It gives me the necessary tools to walk someone through a complete change in their beliefs, mindset, and behaviors in small incremental steps that the client chooses for themselves and believes they can do.
One strategy that I use constantly from motivational interviewing is after a client decides on a behavior that they would like to change or begin I ask them to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident they are in their ability to actually complete the behavior.
It's a simple yet effective way of assessing their belief in their ability to change and their level of self efficacy to complete the necessary tasks involved in the behavior.
This is important because as we talked about before beliefs are what dictate what we think is doable and possible. If you believe something to be impossible you probably will likely never commit to actually trying to do it.
For this reason if someones gives a rating below 9 we either change the behavior or make it even smaller until we find a rating of 9 or 10. In order for the behavior to be successful we need to make sure we have a high level of belief working for us. If we don't believe in our own ability to change likely nothing is going to convince us to attempt the new behavior or stick with it.
Where our beliefs come from is a whole another discussion, but the fact is the beliefs we have regardless of their origin influence the level of success we will have changing our behaviors and successively ourselves.
In fact there is a great example of this in psychological research surrounding the idea of learned helplessness.
In one particular study two groups of rats were placed in two different skinner boxes (specialized devices used in a lot of behaviorism studies). Both skinner boxes' floors were electrically wired to transmit electrical shocks to the rats.
However one of the boxes only had one side of the floor that was actually live and had the ability to deliver a shock. This meant that over time the rats in this skinner box learned that in order to avoid the shocks all they had to do was move to the other side of the skinner box. While in the other box there was nothing the rat could do to avoid being electrocuted.
The interesting part though comes when they switched each group of rats into each other's skinner boxes. What was observed was that the rats which had learned and been conditioned to believe there was nothing they could do to avoid the electrical shock made no attempt to avoid the shock despite only half of the floor being wired to deliver a shock in their new box.
Instead they simply just laid there and took the shock believing as they had been previously conditioned to that any attempt was useless and futile. This is what researchers refer to as learned helplessness, but it also demonstrates the point I was trying to make above.
If we believe something is impossible or unavoidable we are highly unlikely to take any of the necessary steps to accomplish that something or attempt to accomplish it. It's likely we feel it will never happen or we will inevitably fail and look like a dumbass.
This is why motivational interviewing works so well though for creating behavior change. It meets people where they are. It forces them to start with things they believe they can do and accomplish, which is the first and probably most crucial part of the entire change process. It allows them to take ownership of the change and feel in control of where they are going.
But here is where most people mess up.
They say, "yeah okay Stevan I get what you are saying. You are telling me I have to believe that I can lose 100 pounds, I have to believe I can be stronger, and I have to believe that I can be 10% body fat and deadlift 400 pounds if I ever want to accomplish any of those things."
Yes you are right that is what I am telling you, but you missed the most important part.
You have to start small and with what you already believe. You have to prove to yourself that you can be successful and that you were wrong about what you thought your potential was. You have to remake the possible for yourself.
And this begins with small, believable changes.
Did you miss it again? The key is to start with small things that you believe you can change right now.
I was inspired to write this post after having a really great conversation with a client of mine who I have been training for over a year now and has been frustrated with her progress, but is making some serious gains in the last two weeks.
They articulated this whole concept beautifully and how transformative it has been for them. The conversation is below and I really think you need to read my client's words.
They are so impactful because they are coming from a deep place of understanding and growth that they are themselves experiencing and I think that is something those of you who might be struggling with the same thing can connect to way more than a fitness professional just telling you what you need to do.
Profound right?! Yeah I think so.
I think so many of you are stuck on a large, overwhelming goal like losing 100 pounds or doing your first pull-up. And while I applaud your ambition and think it is great to have those large goals you have to be realistic with yourself about how much you really believe you can make it happen.
The cold truth is you probably profess to believe that you can accomplish those things, but in your heart you have some major self-doubt.
Self-doubt that is probably sabotaging you on every level.
It's keeping you from actually ever taking serious action on making these big goals happen because you fear you will inevitably fail or you will waste your time chasing something that is outside of the realm of possibilities.
In other words your true beliefs say you can't do it and since you don't believe you can why would you ever try.
However if you can break this down as I do with clients using motivational interviewing or as my client talked about above into small changes that you can honestly say you whole-heartedly believe as doable you will have so much more success.
By dong this you completely remove any barriers that once stood in your way of taking action.
I mean why wouldn't you try to do something if you already believe you can nail it right off the bat?
Using this strategy your belief sets you free! It motivates you rather than demoralizing you.
It's great to have big goals and even bigger ambition, but the way to accomplishing those big goals is to start with what you believe.
Start with believing small and proving yourself right.
The more success you have with these small changes and the more your believe in yourself the more the big goal will seem possible and obtainable and the more motivation you will have to keep pursuing it.
One more time just in case you missed.
The key is to start with small changes that you believe you can accomplish.
Stop focusing on the far away destination which seems impossible.
Focus on the next meal, the next rep, the next set, and the next hour. It all adds up and the more success you have the stronger your belief will become in reaching that far away destination.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training