I listened to a fantastic episode of Nia Shanks’ Lift Like A Girl podcast the other day where she interviewed Carrie Campbell, a counselor and personal trainer with the Mindset Performance Institute (MPI) about how importance mindset is when it comes to changing habits.
The thing I’ve struggled most with as a newbie personal trainer is how to get clients to follow their programs. Even though you can create the best exercise program designed to fit into a busy schedule and can provide simple nutrition guidelines that include foods the client enjoys eating and meals that are easy to prepare, it can still be hard to achieve compliance. And it’s not the fault of the client, by any means.
Think about it: How many of us already KNOW what we need to do to lose weight or get fit? I’d say most people know they need to eat more vegetables, drink more water, eat less sugary processed food, get more sleep, and exercise regularly. I’d also say most of us even know HOW to do it – stock your fridge with veggies, cook more meals at home, carry a water bottle around with you and set a timer on your phone to remind you to drink, turn off your electronics an hour before bed, and go to the gym three times a week on your way home from work.
So why do we struggle to follow through?
According to Campbell, it’s because we’re not doing the pre-work we need to do to get to that point of adapting to a new habit. We need to change our mindset first before we can change our habits. And to change our mindset, we need to understand why we do the things we do.
“Your subconscious knows six seconds before you do what’s going to happen,” Campbell explains. “You need to understand the why behind that… you need to train the subconscious mind and find out the drivers behind it – you need to go inside before you’re able to go outside – and understand why you’re doing the things you do.”
I’ve often said finding out your why is the first step in any fitness and health journey, and that some pre-work needs to be done before any exercise program will be truly effective. The problem is, I’m not a counselor, and I can’t make my clients complete a mindset-training program before they sign up for personal training with me (though I’m looking more into how I can combine and provide BOTH so I can truly help people).
So why don’t more people seek out this kind of internal help before starting out on a fitness journey? Aside from not being aware that their subconscious is controlling most of their actions, Campbell says, “nobody wants to fail – we want to feel good, and we settle for less because we don’t know how to go about getting it.”
So how do you get started with mindset training?
In the podcast, Campbell discusses something she calls the four A’s of mindset – Acceptance, Awareness, Accountability and Adaptation. She says the problem is we jump to the last part all the time – we adapt before we’re ready, without the understanding of why we do the things we do and the stories we tell ourselves that may be holding us back. I can totally see how this is a hindrance to a client’s ability to follow an exercise program. Personal training is the Adaption part of changing a habit – no wonder most people have a hard time sticking to their programs.
So what are the first steps you need to take before you can adapt?
Here are the four A’s Campbell discusses in the podcast (which you should really listen to, by the way) that are a part of their mindset training program at MPI:
Acceptance – According to Campbell, acceptance “is really embracing the fact that it’s all a matter of perspective; it’s all a story. Everything in our life is a story. We can choose to release from our stories by saying this doesn’t have to be my life, I don’t have to have low self-esteem based on a story I’m telling myself. We don’t need to discredit our past, but [we need to] know that it’s the past and not who we are. [We need to] accept that it does not have to be real, that we can go through the process of saying ‘I can change this and go after what I want in life because what I thought was true no longer is’.”
Awareness – Campbell says awareness is the “process of bringing the subconscious up to the conscious level [and to recognize] the negative energy, feelings and thoughts that are not serving you in life. All [of these thoughts and feelings] are a product of the stories that have been gifted to you and don’t serve you. Do your thoughts always go to fear? Do you ever think, ‘What if I drop the weight or look stupid? What if I can’t do it? I won’t be happy anyway, so why bother?’ All of these negative cycles of thoughts have been conditioned in us and we think that that’s just life. But we can change our behavioral patterns with the awareness of those negative thoughts and recognize them as just that. You can’t truly be accountable or adapt without understanding what’s really going on. [Thanks to society] this can be hard to do, because when we talk about our emotions people think we’re broken – there’s a lot of vulnerability with [opening up about] what’s going inside. But remember, that’s just a story. [Even though it’s] difficult for people to do, you will become a better version of yourself when you peel away the wall around you.”
Accountability – According to Campbell, accountability is “recognizing that you’re not a victim of your circumstances, and that no matter what you experience you always have a choice of what you want to feel and the perspective you carry – as soon as you blame others, go outside yourself or look for reasons to validate how you’re a victim, it keeps you stuck. The only way to create change is to bring it inward. Take full accountability to make change. The only thing you can control is yourself.”
Adaptation – Campbell explains adaptation as “a process of implementing the tools”, such as using positive affirmations or mantras to interrupt negative thoughts. For example, Campbell uses “this doesn’t serve me” when she finds herself in a negative thought cycle to help her snap out of it and shift her perspective. According to Campbell, adaptation is “not a one day event. Your stories didn’t happen to you overnight, so of course they’re going to take a long time to unprogram. Consistency is key – consistently keep your mindset top of mind. Take care of the foundation for what is the driver for everything in your life.”
As Campbell points out, we seem to have no problem bettering our bodies, but what about our minds? I think that mindset is the key to achieving your health and fitness goals and is a huge component in wellness that is often overlooked. I hope that more programs like the ones MPI offers are considered as part of what it means to truly get fit.
What are your thoughts on mindset? Have you ever tried mindset training or use techniques like mantras or affirmations to break negative thought cycles? What is your biggest fear or shame trigger? What usually ‘derails’ you from a training program?
Thanks Amanda for the link-up!