Fitness Goals + Mindset Do Matter

When it comes to setting fitness goals, having the right mindset matters in helping you see through to success.

Image by Elda Negrete

Begin with evaluating your first thought about setting a fitness goal. Ask yourself questions like:

“What prompted me to set this goal?” or “Why do I want to…exercise, eat better, etc.?

Improving health, being stronger, running faster, reducing back/body pain, reducing stress, and increasing feel-good hormones are all great answers. There is nothing wrong with answers like reducing body weight or body fat or increasing muscle to change body composition as long as you are in a good state of mind. Coming from a good state of mind means that you have been managing stress, getting at least 7 hours of sleep consistently, feeling well mentally, and eating well. When we have been on yo-yo diets, chronically dieting (intentionally or not), under a lot of stress, and not sleeping well, starting a new fitness goal may not be a good idea. Bringing attention to these other issues first will be ideal. We want to come from a healthy mind and a body that isn’t under stress.

Next is to have the right kind of mindset. First, what is Mindset? Here are a few of my favorite definitions:

  • the established set of attitudes held by someone
  • a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself
  • a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations
  • a person’s way of thinking and their opinions

If you Google “How many mindsets are there?” You will find well over fifteen fully defined options! For health and fitness, I resonate with Positive over Negative, Growth over Fixed, and Abundance over Scarcity.  

Here’s the breakdown:

Positive over Negative Mindset

Having a positive mindset about setting a new fitness goal brings optimism, agreeableness to trying something new, and openness to enjoying the process. A negative attitude will make the process challenging, promote stress, and prolong the process unnecessarily.

Positive attitudes pay more attention to the good rather than the negative in situations, people, events, etc. Positive attitudes are rewarded, which encourages to do more good in the future. In contrast, negative attitudes are punished to discourage the behavior in the future. Thinking positive produces joy, love, gratitude, peace, and hope. Thinking negative produces anger, disappointment, irritation, envy, and shame.

Growth over Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset means you believe intelligence, talent, and other qualities are innate and unchangeable. For example, if you’re not good at something, you’ll think you’ll never be good at it. Some people may avoid hard work, taking risks, and challenges, therefore not improving. In a growth mindset, you believe talent, intelligence, and other qualities can be developed and achieved with practice and effort. Keywords here are ‘with practice’ and ‘effort.’ Think about the people in your life or people you find influential that exhibit these traits. I see these traits in children, athletes, entrepreneurs, travelers, volunteers, and multi-lingual people.

Abundance over Scarcity

An abundance mentality allows you to find a way to create more opportunities. You are more likely to expand solutions to be inclusive of your ideas as well as others. You assume plentiful space and resources than what you might see. You essentially see the limitless potential in life and intentionally drive yourself toward creating the life you want. As defined by WebMD, a scarcity mindset is when you are so obsessed with a lack of something that you can’t seem to focus on anything else, no matter how hard you try. When you operate from a scarcity mentality, the problem is you get defensive or offensive and find yourself competing unnecessarily. While you can spend your energy competing, you can also create more alternatives, expand opportunities, and find abundance.

I want to revisit my point about not being in a good place when starting a new fitness goal. This may be due to a negative, fixed, or scarcity mindset, and if so, guess what? It is possible to shift into a more productive mindset.  

Image produced by Elda Negrete

How To Shift Your Mindset

There are a few ways to make the shift:

  • Acceptance. Accept that your thinking needs adjusting.  
  • Identify. Be aware of any counter-mindsets. Mindsets are formed through prior experiences and emotional milestones. Counter-mindsets are the frame of mind that isn’t producing the results you want.  Examples are self-doubt, limiting beliefs, and any other negative thoughts that get in your way. They are also known as “Automatic Negative Thoughts” (ANTs).  
  • Make the switch. When you have identified an ANT, switch from negative to positive. Use the “if/then” approach. Once you identify when an ANT shows up, apply a thought process that allows you to think yourself past them. For example: Say you plan to go for a walk after dinner to get more exercise, but when dinner is over, your ANT shows up.  If you start to hear the voice in your head that says you’re too tired or too full, then walk to the closet immediately and put on your walking shoes.
  • Go back to your “why.” Already formed habits aren’t easy to break. Many of our most harmful habits and counter-mindsets were established when we were young, and we’ve been doing things the same way ever since—understanding your “why” is about starting fresh. An essential part of building motivation is writing your “why” on paper, not typing.
  • Don’t rely on motivation and willpower. This push can be hard to maintain, no matter how important your goal may be. Recent research reveals that willpower is like a gas tank. You start with a full tank, but you deplete your supply each time you use it. Depleting willpower can look like restraining from extra dessert or going to workout after a long day at work. We end up relying on whatever is left in our gas tank to power through similar situations. Achieving your goals isn’t always about white-knuckling your way through. There is a time and place for that, but it’s not in daily grinds. It’s just not sustainable and is mentally exhausting. Realizing this may leave you emotionally freer to try again tomorrow.
  • Failure – be okay with it. Making a mindset change will be hard work. Don’t stop trying. Doing so will be the only thing keeping you from your goals. Prepare for failure mentally, seek feedback, and adjust to get back in the game.
  • Begin small to finish big. Decide on a small minimum goal and that you can do more if you feel up to it—for example, a 10-minute walk, one push-up, or a 5-minute mediation. You will probably do more and feel great about overachieving most of the time. It’s not pointless to start so small. Think what small will add to over time; new mindset habits.

Have feedback, thoughts, or want to share how exercise affects your mental health, let me know in the comments below!

Per this blog’s disclaimer, statements made here are not for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All the information contained in this blog is for educational and informational use only.

Published by coachelda

Hi, I’m Elda! Personal Trainer, Powerlifting Coach, Full-Time Psychology Student...when my head is not in books, I will use this blog to share my love of exercise, exploring positive mental health practices, and other favorites with you.

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