September 17, 2018
Since I started training and working with people in a fitness environment about four years ago, I have learned a lot about the mental side of exercise and the influence that belief has on being successful. When I was in college, my baseball coach would punish us for saying “I can’t.” I think at the time, I understood why but didn’t totally buy in to the power that those words have.
Looking back now, I can completely understand why he didn’t allow those words to be uttered by his players. Whether you’re a basketball player at the free throw line, a golfer on the tee box, a power lifter attempting a PR, or a swimmer on the starting block, the keys to success start between your ears. Belief in yourself and confidence that you can do it go a long way towards physical success.
I think a very important lesson for people to learn is that failure is okay and, in some aspects of life, it is a necessity to achieve success. The possibility of failure should not be met with fear, but rather, it should be treated as an opportunity and a challenge. Failure is always an opportunity to learn. Now, to be fair, this may seem simple, but for someone who gets put outside their comfort zone, fear of failure is real and it is powerful.
It’s always important to have those moments that can move you closer towards the mindset of an athlete or a client that I might be working with. It is easy to lose focus and forget that for some, the gym is an incredibly intimidating and scary place, especially when, to me, the gym is one of the most comfortable places in my life. I bring this up because, last weekend, I was up at Moosehead Lake, and I was challenged to swim to a buoy, no more than 100 yards off shore. Now, I’m no swimmer. I’ve had almost no formal swimming instruction and because of that, my immediate reaction was to say “I can’t.” I really didn’t even hear myself say it. Long story short, it wasn’t pretty, but I made it around the buoy and back to shore.
I think there are two major takeaways from this story. Number 1: when faced with a new challenge in an unfamiliar environment, people’s first reaction is often times self-doubt (I can’t) and they may not even totally realize that they’re saying it. It is the job of the coach to instill enough confidence to get them over that barrier and get them to attempt it. Takeaway number 2: You are capable of so much more than you think you are and it is so important to always remember that. Humans are capable of doing truly amazing things and if you can get yourself away from thinking negatively, and start to embrace new challenges without a fear of failure, your ceiling will rise to levels that you may never thought possible.
By no means am I saying that swimming 200 yards is an amazing achievement, but it was a powerful reminder that self-doubt may be a subconscious reaction to a challenge, but belief and self-confidence go a tremendously long way towards success. So never doubt yourself, and always remember that failure is nothing more than an opportunity to grow and become and even better version of yourself.
– Kevin Wilson, OA Performance Coach