What You Should Really Think About During Exercise

I have always hated goal setting. It is like this looming shadow of potential failure, and no one wants to be a failure. Just because you made this mental commitment now everything is supposed to work out?  And there is nothing enjoyable about the reality check of not reaching the goal. I know this is the point where the older successful person in the room tells you to suck it up and try again “that’s life kid”. I get that, but why should your mental promise be the key to success? Is it really that important? Anyone who has competed on an athletic level knows how important visualizing your goals are to success. Sure it may work for some, but for the majority of the world there may be an alternative option.

The Sports Gene by David Epstein offers convincing explanations as to why some of us can compete in the Olympics and why most of us will forever exist in the minor leagues, where the weekly softball game is definitely a social gathering and not a competition. Most  importantly Epstein explains how goals may not be the end all be all in terms of athletic success. Us minor leaguers are thrilled to learn that freak athletic superiority is not strictly due to super human genetics, which reads: there is still hope to turn those big dreams of (insert pro athlete career here) into a reality. Epstein discusses goals in depth and presents studies that show a large percentage of success falls under the realm of positive perception, and sheer will to achieve. In other words how you are able to see the world shapes your ability to self motivate and ultimately reach goals. In the continued quest to understand fitness motivation this is a pretty exciting possibility.


With perception comes a better understanding of true motivation. The aspects that really drive an individual to stick with it, to make a real and lasting lifestyle change. Instead of practicing tennis three times a week and feeling frustrated by lack of immediate results, practice every day and revel in the positive experience of daily exposure. Will anyone become Serena Williams over night? Of course not!

The foundations of perception are built on commitment and a strong sense of why. Having a why in life can be a lot more motivating than having the simple goal of ‘I will stop eating a sleeve of Oreos after dinner every night in order to improve my health.’

The alternative: Why do I want to stop eating Oreos every night? Because all my pants have ripped open which has left me reduced to elastic waist bands, embarrassingly tight yoga pants, and the fear of not being able to see my toes.

Epstein explains that unless you can get a grip on perception and build a strong mental foundation of purpose, the lack of results will continue (aka Oreos will continue being consumed). Finding a stronger sense of how you see the world, how you mentally handle the discomfort of challenging workouts, or why you chose to go to the gym at the crack of dawn is the real secret to attaining results.

Goals are always a good idea, but we think setting a half hearted prayer is what it will take to reach the finish line. Fortunately for everyone, achievement runs much deeper than that. Without your why, you will probably find that you aren’t accomplishing much of anything.


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