Fitness Goals: How Your Thoughts May Sabotage Success

I have been a personal trainer for over five years and most of the clients that I see have a strong desire to alter their appearance by losing weight, building muscle, or both.  Over the years, I have observed ways in which clients can achieve their fitness goals, while others fall victim to negative thinking.  

Most clients will see some degree of progress because they show up to their weekly workouts.  However, few accomplish the exact goal that they set out to accomplish, especially when that goal is massive weight loss. 

Why do some struggle to achieve their fitness goals?

Over time, I began to see a very common pattern among these clients.  Most often, clients will express dissatisfaction with their body and dissatisfaction with their progress.  Even when progress is being made, many clients are focused on the idea that they are still not where they want to be.  They are excessively focused on their perceived lack of progress.  These thoughts and behaviors set the stage for not reaching one’s full potential.

These observations led me to the eventual conclusion that no amount of advice and information is guaranteed to lead a client to successfully achieving their goal.  Negative thoughts and negative body image will always lead a person to believe that they are not good enough.  To put this in perspective, let’s say that I have decided that I want to climb over a boulder.  As I am getting ready to climb the boulder, I look down at my body and tell myself that I am way too chubby to haul my body over this boulder.  I tell myself that I am not strong enough, that I have not put in enough time at the gym to accomplish this task.  I am weak.  What is the likelihood that I will attempt to climb the boulder after I tell myself all of this?  I would say that it’s very unlikely.

Even if a client does muster up the willpower to stay on course despite constant self-punishment, will the client be truly satisfied when the goal is met?  To put this thought in perspective, imagine that you have a boss at work who is constantly demanding more work from you.  Your boss resorts to bullying behavior to get you to finish projects faster.   You always finish your projects because you feel an enormous amount of pressure to do so.  You do it to gain approval from your boss.  If, on the other hand, your boss chose to inspire you by reminding you that you are a talented individual, you would still finish your project and you would feel a sense of pride in it.

In the case of setting and achieving fitness goals, you are your boss.  You choose to motivate yourself by punishment or praise. If you choose to motivate yourself by punishment, there are two possible outcomes: 1) You may quit because you do not believe that you are even capable of reaching your goal, or 2) You may make solid progress toward your goal, only to find that you are still deeply dissatisfied because you have been beating yourself down in an effort to gain your own approval.

On the other hand, if you choose to motivate yourself through self-praise, you will likely make the best decisions for yourself and eventually reach your goal.  This is because you acknowledge that it is possible and that you deserve to feel good about your accomplishments. The message that I hope to deliver with this article is that it doesn’t matter how badly you want to achieve your fitness goal.  What DOES matter is how you choose to talk to yourself throughout your fitness journey.  If you motivate yourself through self-praise, you will see only possibilities and progress.