My youngest daughter is an Olympic weightlifter. She has competed nationally, and has trained with the US Olympic Team. In her first national competition, she was privileged to earn a Bronze metal. This girl, with all her physical strength, flawless technique, and dogged determination, has come to learn through all of her competitions, with their ensuing victories and defeats, that there is more to the achievement of her goals than the grueling hours of athletic training. She has realized that the mind, equally as strong and disciplined as her body, is paramount to her success as a lifter.
Like my daughter, each of us needs a strong mind with which to successfully navigate our lives. Thankfully though, we don’t need to be semi-professional athletes to benefit from a fit mind. Whew!
Here are a few ideas to implement that will help exercise your mental self:
1. Identify/Address limiting beliefs. We all have subconscious beliefs that hold us back. They are usually things like “I’m not smart enough”, or “people won’t like me if they get too close”. It’s not hard to see the connection between these false beliefs and the disappointments that are bound to follow. One way to find these beliefs is to write down all the reasons why you can’t get that job promotion, or find that right relationship. As you write, you’ll be surprised to see all the limitations under which you’ve been operating. When you find them, address them – challenge them. As you address false ideas with truth, you will see them dissolve. That’s a huge first step.
2. Circles of Concern. A wise person once taught this to me when I was wrestling with some challenges, and it has become a favorite to share with my clients. It goes like this: take a blank sheet of paper and draw a circle in the middle. It should be big enough in which to make a list. Then around that circle make a bigger one. In the smaller circle list some things that YOU have control over: your actions, words, activities, etc. Then in the larger circle list things you have NO control over, but are concerned with: the actions of friends or loved-ones, broken economy, etc. This bigger circle contains the worries you turn over to a higher power. You give them to God. And then you let it go. Your focus is then only on the things listed in the smaller circle – the struggles within your realm of control. Now that your mental resources and your energy are directed in appropriate ways you’ll be more capable of conquering your challenges.
3. Ask quality questions. Instead of the same old “why me?”, ask yourself “What might make this better?” or “What kind of person will I be on the other side of this problem?” A quality question will change your perception of any challenge, keeping your mind sharp and healthy as it searches for a helpful solution.
4. Visualize the process. If you are required to make a speech and are overcome with fear, envision yourself confidently approaching the podium, successfully giving your well-prepared speech, walking back to your chair afterward, and enjoying the great feeling you have of delivering a fabulous address to a friendly and attentive audience. Seeing your way through something difficult before it happens is an effective way of telling your mind what you’d like to happen. It will bring a confident calm to your brain, since it will have a helpful pattern and direction to follow.
There are many other ways to strengthen your mind, and I’m sure you have ideas and exercises that help you stay fit and healthy, both in your mind and in your body. Do a little something each day that stretches yourself in some way – take a class, try a new route home, taste a different food. Even the smallest of things can change your overall direction. In the words of CS Lewis, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” One of the most important things my daughter learned about successful weightlifting is the practice of mental exercise to go with the physical workout. It has served her well, as it will you and me in all our pursuits, whether we have Olympic dreams or are just trying to keep up with the daily challenges of life.
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