I know. Video games and fitness generally don’t go together. But, hear me out…
One of the biggest (and sneakiest) obstacles to fitness is negative self-talk. Sure, there are the usual obstacles and mistakes that undermine your fitness. Having that donut or soda. Skipping that workout. Those are obvious obstacles.
But negative self-talk sabotages you even further, and often without you being aware of it. It creates a narrative with which you define yourself, your actions and your abilities. That negative self-talk takes a mistake and makes it much worse. It takes a slip up like having a donut or soda, skipping a workout or sleeping in, and it turns it into: “You suck.” “You’ll never get fit.” “You’re a failure.” “You can’t do this.” Sound familiar?
It’s hard to have a positive mindset and be able to persevere through setbacks when you’re burying yourself in all of that negativity. When you’re trying to break bad habits (and trying to create new, good ones), it will never be easy. It’s never a straight path. There will be obstacles, setbacks and failures along the way. That doesn’t mean you suck. As long as you’re trying and keep plugging away, you don’t suck.
I recently heard a concept that I think is really eye-opening and useful when trying to create new fitness habits. It’s approaching fitness and nutrition like you’d approach a video game. When I was a kid, I loved video games, and I spent hours (more like days and weeks … okay, months) trying to conquer games like Mike Tyson’s Punchout or Super Mario Bros. (Alright, I realize I might be dating myself here.)
Everytime I played one of these games, it would end in failure. My guy would get knocked out, or killed by a walking mushroom or murderous turtle. (You know. Regular stuff.) When that happened, I didn’t throw the controller down and give up. I didn’t mutter about how much I sucked or was a failure or would never do it. I would simply… play again. Sometimes I’d get a little farther. Sometimes I wouldn’t. But over the long haul I would little-by-little get better at the game, and slowly level-up. I did that until the day I finally slayed the dragon and saved the princess, and the day I finally knocked out Mike Tyson’s punk ass. (Yeah, video game or not, I’m still pretty proud of that one.) I was eventually able to find success, but only after countless failures along the way.
Why can’t we have the same mindset in our regular lives? Sure, your eating habits and fitness level bring with them a lot more emotional baggage than some video game. But what is that emotional baggage? It’s often not nearly as real as you think. Often not real at all. It’s thoughts, narratives you tell yourself. Emotional baggage is a storyline. Change the story. Be aware of the things you are telling yourself. Once you are aware of these things, you can begin questioning and changing them. Are you a failure? No. Did you fail this time? Maybe. But maybe along the way you also had a little more success than you had in the past. Maybe there was something that worked well and you can build on. Maybe next time you’ll go a little longer before having a setback.
You’re trying to do something that is very hard. Failures and setbacks are going to happen. Now it becomes about how you deal with those setbacks. Are you going to tell yourself you suck and just give up and hate yourself for it? Or are you going to hit “Play Again” and see how far you can make it this time?