Action Over Mindset

     “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

     A person’s mindset is made up of the values, beliefs, habits, and attitudes that drive their daily behavior.

     I’ve had this debate several times. What comes first, action or mindset? Do your actions drive your mindset or does your mindset determine your actions?

     Some will argue that you must have a certain mindset to make a decision that leads to an action. It’s a valid argument. Would you go to church if you didn’t have a belief in God? Would you go to the gym and workout if you didn’t think it would make you fit and strong? Probably not.

     I believe it takes more than a thought to create action. I also think that a mere thought or idea is not the same thing as mindset.

    Thoughts and ideas can only take you so far. You can believe in yourself and an idea but without action the thoughts and ideas are wasted. Also, having the right mindset doesn’t ensure you’ll do the right thing. If you end up doing the right thing, it doesn’t mean you’ll do the right thing enough times for it to matter. Consider the multitude of people who know and understand the value of exercise and proper nutrition and yet 60% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Is there anyone that doesn’t understand that hard work pays off? Yet the laziness of people still never ceases to amaze me.

     Here’s the thing. There is a thing called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change – to adapt and modify through activity or experience, which also includes mental activity – thought.  Through repetition, the brain lays down neural connections becoming more efficient. Eventually whatever is repeated becomes so efficient that it will run automatically without our awareness. This then is called automaticity.

     What I have personally experienced is that action almost always precedes a mindset. Again, mindset is not just a thought or decision. It is a set of beliefs. Do something repeatedly over time and you discover certain things about yourself and the process of repetition and persistence. You may likely learn a great deal more than you ever expected in the process. Take my journey to do my first muscle up for example. I trained nearly 3 years before I completed my first unassisted muscle up. Maybe longer. I trained fiercely almost every day at the gym. I got strong and my pull ups both increased in volume and explosiveness. However, I could not achieve the muscle up. There were other guys in my gym that could do it and I still couldn’t. It was maddening. I could have asked them for some advice, but I didn’t because I felt I didn’t need it. My ego would not let me. So, I kept trying and kept failing. Then, I became friendly with a young guy at the gym. I noticed he was into different types of calisthenics like I was. Later on, I learned that he was an absolute monster with muscle ups. One day I was training, and he gave me some unsolicited advice. I decided to take his advice about hand position, body position, explosiveness, and various drills to work on. Then one day I walked into the gym and did 10 muscle ups in row. They weren’t the prettiest but WOW! He would continue to give me very useful advice and I would continue to improve and reach new goals.

     Through this process I learned a couple of very important lessons that would become guiding principles of mine. One is that there is someone out there that knows better than you and if you seek out their help you can progress faster towards your goals. I also learned that my ego was an impediment to my progress. These lessons changed me in ways I didn’t expect. Whenever I wanted something or had a goal to achieve, I first had to seek the counsel of someone that had already achieved it. I became fully capable of asking for help. I had no problem saying, “I want to do this, but I don’t know how. Can you help me?”

     One other thing I learned was that people feel important when you go to them with humility and ask for their advice and counsel. What you will receive back will be more than anything you expected.

     In January of 2021, three coaches from my team left, all within a short time frame. I had to take over the group training for all 3 and do the job of owning and running a gym. The next 2 weeks was a mind-bending experience that brought me to my knees and wanting to give up. The physical and mental toll was almost unbearable even while I kept myself in great shape. 40 – 50 group exercises sessions per week was a grueling pace. My previous head coach never did more than 20-25 and he was a star. Everyday, every session and every minute was a soul stealing effort just to stay focused.

     Here is the thing. One month into this ordeal, something changed in me. I was physically stronger. My body and my voice were stronger. I was mentally stronger. Most importantly, I didn’t want to quit. I didn’t feel like quitting. I can do this. I wanted to keep going. I saw a light and it was encouraging. Another month went by, and I was stronger still and this time my attitude was completely different. There was no thought of quitting, and my resolve was even stronger. By the end of the 3rd month of this, I had an enlightening conversation with myself. I realized I needed to go through this. It wasn’t adversity. It was training, training for what was to come. It did come again. I happen from time to time when I was left alone all day. Each time it happened, I didn’t even blink. I just did it because I knew I could. Another month later, the business began to explode.

      One last example and possibly the best. Children upon birth have no mindset at all. They don’t speak, walk, have opinions or attitudes. They just exist as an empty vessel to pour your heart into. Their personalities, attitudes, beliefs, self-esteem, and mindset are shaped by the actions of others. If they can see and hear normally, they learn by doing. Very early on, they may not be doing anything physically, but they are learning behavior through observation and absorption of others’ behaviors. The mindset that a person develops in childhood are the most embedded and difficult to change. They are almost injected into the DNA and can be passed on from generation to generation. As adults, changing the mindset just a little takes an incredible amount of effort, action, and repetition.

Action precedes mindset in my opinion. The action for me was training, failing, seeking advice, learning, growing, and changing for the better. The actions produced unexpected results that continue to benefit me in both fitness and business.

     “It’s easier to behave yourself into a new way of thinking than think yourself into a new way of acting.” ~ Robin Sharma

3 thoughts on “Action Over Mindset”

  1. msespresso.cong

    The last example is really the best.
    I ever tried to change the bad mindset developed in my childhood… I felt that my soul was being torn apart…again and again.
    but that’s great to feel the changes happening.

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