Alright, you know my feelings about Mondays…they are the perfect days to start something new.
Today, let’s talk about the internal struggle in our brains when we set off on a new workout plan.
“Learned Optimism” vs “Learned Helplessness.”
Learned Optimism – feeling confident that we can complete a task or build a habit.
Learned Helplessness – feeling so pessimistic that we don’t even bother attempting the task or habit.
Here are two examples:
Back when I first started working out, I felt pretty optimistic that I could curl ten pounds in week 1, then 11lbs the following week. And so on.
Over time, I as I trained with slightly heavier weights each week, my brain (and muscles) got progressively stronger.
And more confident that I could curl more.
And why not?
I had proof that I could do it.
That is learned optimism.
On the flip side, I tried and failed the Keto Diet, probably 3 times. So, my brain kept telling me, “I suck at dieting and I’ll never get shredded, so what’s the point?!”
Each time, I felt like a failure, which ultimately caused me to stop trying to change my diet.
That is learned helplessness.
Luckily, I eventually found the right “diet” for me. And got down to my target percent body fat.
Nowadays, when I try something new with my diet, I’ve flipped the script to learned optimism.
(Sidebar: the Keto Diet is wrong for 99% of people.)
So, how do we flip the script and start building optimism?
Let’s take a step back…
This is not a rah rah email that tells you “just believe in yourself.” Or, “you can do it.”
I want you to focus on one word…learned.
The problem is not that you suck at working out. Yeah, all the evidence of your starts and stops confirms that.
But, the reality is that you haven’t found a plan that works for you.
To make the shift from learned helplessness to learned optimism, we have to change our strategy:
- Question the evidence. “What if not being able to stick to lifting weights doesn’t make me a lost cause? Maybe, it’s because I’m uncomfortable going to the gym.”
- Pick a small win that disproves the evidence. “I managed to go to the gym three times this week, even if it was only to walk on the treadmill. Maybe, I AM capable of change if I pick small changes.” Now, you’re starting to poke holes in the “I’m hopeless” narrative.
- Build learned optimism with evidence. Each successful action we take is a vote for optimism. And against helplessness. Even if we’re no perfect (we never will be), we’re starting to make progress.
Before you know it, you’re trying new, uncomfortable workouts every 4-8 weeks.
And your learned optimism is through the roof because, well, you learned it.
Your #1 Fan,
PS – Above, you’ll see something very important…
“Maybe, I AM capable of change if I pick small changes.”
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