I'm currently working on a project right now that's about achievement, psychology, and about how to reach any goal, and how to understand what gets in your way if you ever find yourself coming up short. The following — mindfulness — is an important aspect of it.
Put simply, there is a lot more to “a psychology of achievement” than just being able to reach “a” goal.
For example, you need to be able to sustain that goal (for example, losing weight and keeping it off).
You should also be able to build from the accomplishment of each and every goal you attain.
“Someone who gets things done and accomplishes all that they set out to do” — this should become part of who you are in any true psychology of achievement. Many people achieve a single goal but at the expense of so many other things. That is hardly a worthy trade-off. One achievement should be the foundation for the next, and then the next, and the next.
As the title of my current project states: it's about “How to achieve any goal, and build from it.” Building on an achievement so that the “achievement-mindset” becomes ingrained in you… this is high-level mental fitness.
At the very very highest echelons of mental fitness is what I (and many others) call “mindfulness.” I want to integrate the discussion of mindfulness and mental fitness. Proper mindfulness can lead to many things – but mostly it leads to a sense of contentment and resolve in the process of achieving any goal. A worthy accomplishment is diminished significantly if the process of getting you there is filled with anguish, stress, anxiety and worry. Mindfulness therefore is the qualitative difference in the achievement-mindset.
I work mostly in the physique-transformation arena and life-Coaching. I consider the two to go hand in hand.
As an example of what I said above, I have witnessed over and over again in my four+ decades of Coaching clients who cannot reach or sustain a goal because their process of getting there is tainted with heavy detracting emotions like worry, stress, anxiety, doubt and fear.
Mindfulness means being present, and the more present you are, the less these types of sabotaging emotions can actually sabotage you.
But mindfulness, though incredibly important, is only one component of high-level mental fitness, and it works with other components of mental fitness, so we need to outline mental fitness in a broader sense as well.
One of the things that I have trouble comprehending is that I seem to have to explain to people over and over again why “mental fitness” is important. Shouldn’t that term speak for itself as to why it is important?
If you want to build from one accomplishment to the next, then mental fitness is imperative, especially if you don’t want to be a “one and done” one-time achievement story.
I can also tell you that mental fitness is something that builds in you as you go from one accomplishment to another, and then another. Make no mistake “mental fitness” is a core-component of the achievement-mindset.
I can tell you from my own whole life experience, from winning academic scholarships at university, to winning bodybuilding shows, to becoming an expert in the fitness and nutrition arena, to a writer, I can tell you categorically that once you reach a certain level of competency in whatever you do, your mental fitness becomes the most important element of separating yourself out from everyone else.
It remains amazing to me that so few people explore their own mental fitness or assess it in any constructive way. That is what we will be doing here. Since I work so much in the physique transformation/weight-loss arena, I will use that as an example below where appropriate.
After an assessment of the initial information package new clients send me, one of the things I tell many people who come to me and become clients looking for weight-loss and better health is that the most important part of your body to focus on – and to make lean and fit – is the part of the body above the neck! I am speaking of course directly to why so many people who come to me have failed over and over again in their physique-transformation goals.
Mental preparation goes hand in hand with goal-setting and the hard-work ethic and agenda required of the achievement-mindset. In life, natural talent and ability only gets you so far, and eventually you reach a point where everyone else is just as talented and able in your field as you are. Then what? Well… here is something to consider: what if you trained and exercised your mind as deliberately as you train and exercise your body? What if you connected these two together like partners in a dance? You would be unstoppable.
Mindful thinking is higher-awareness. Higher awareness is mental fitness. Think of mindfulness as mental management. Can you see how not thinking about “mental management” can keep you from your goal? Mental management is about knowing and accepting a mature approach to the process of achievement. Mental management and mindfulness are about knowing that where the mind goes, behavior follows. It's not the other way around as you have been led to believe. Furthermore, mental management is about embracing one of my favourite quotes: “quality of mindset determines quality of behavior.”
What you do and do not control
The mistakes most people make, especially in the arena of diet and weight-loss and physique transformation, is that they focus too much and only on the desired long-term outcome, like losing so much weight, so many weeks from now. When you do this, it becomes easy to lose site of the present and of right-now. That isn’t being “mindful.” The more you focus on a long-term desired outcome of some kind, at the expense of the present moment, the more likely you tend to create stress and anxiety within yourself. Of course this only tarnishes and stains the quality of your presence in the present moment. It also lowers your chances of achieving your goal as well. So when you find yourself overly focused on the desired “someday” result you are after, then you need to rethink and regroup and get yourself back into being invested in the process that gets you there.
For example, for me to earn my degree way back when, when I first thought about four years of study, it seemed daunting and overwhelming. Luckily I stopped thinking that way. All I could do in the “right now” was attend classes, study for each course, and each assignment and each exam. As I focused on what I could do “right now” within the process of achieving the goal, I stayed present. I stopped thinking about the distant end-game of earning a degree. In the process and through the process, I developed effective and efficient study habits, and there was less and less tension or anxiety about whether I could achieve the goal. I just didn’t think about it. I targeted instead the quality of my day to day “preparation” for achieving the goal. That kept me “present.” I did the same in bodybuilding. Looking back now, I know I was able to succeed at both concurrently only because I stayed present.
The point is that in terms of mindfulness and mental fitness, what you control is your commitment to the process that takes you to your goal. You have no immediate control over the goal itself, or when and how you will arrive there. You can only prepare well “today-in-the-now” for that future accomplishment.
When you commit to “right now” you are committing to the process that leads you to your goal. That is the smart thinking – “the process is the goal, and the goal is the process.” To live this way is to live mindfully and to practice mental fitness. And the more you practice the agenda of mental fitness, then the more adept you become at it.
The fact is, some goals have no guaranteed outcomes. As I studied harder and got myself on top of things at university, I stopped really having any doubts I would earn my degree, and earn it with distinction. But the same was not true when it came to my bodybuilding aspirations. I had no control over whether or not another competitor would look better than me on contest-day. They could be more developed, more mature, and bring a better body. That was always out of my hands. But what was well within my control was that I could “prepare like a champion.” That became my operating mantra day in and day out.
Having a refresh
To achieve any worthy long-term goal, when the going gets tough – and it will – you need to remind yourself exactly why you are doing this. This can help you re-commit to your daily ritual and train your mind for seeing it through. Sometimes you can lose your purpose along the way of pursuing your long-term goal.
That is normal.
Life pulls us in all kinds of directions. It helps every so often to hit “refresh” in your mind so you can get about getting after the goal again with renewed vigor and vitality.
But as you can see, “hitting refresh” isn’t about focusing on the outcome, it’s a reminder of the “purpose” behind your goal, and that reminder helps keep you “mindful” and focused on right now and in the present.
Let’s say you have a long-term weight-loss goal. The day to day drudgery of doing what it takes to get there can sometime lull you into complacency. It may help at that point to make a list and write down the reasons why this goal is important to you, the “purpose” behind it.
You could write things down like “I need to be in better health.” “I want to have more energy.” “I want to want to play with my kids after a long-day.” When you do things like this, you are hitting “refresh” in your mind. That helps keep you present for the task at hand “today and right now” in terms of the process of reaching your goal.
There is of course more to putting mental fitness into practice, but that is for another day.