Mind over Matter, the Most Powerful Tool

The body will never fully respond to your workouts until you understand how to train the mind as well.
— Arnold Swarzenegger

The mind is powerful. A dynamo, a source of vital energy. That energy can be negative and work against you, or it can be positive and blast you through the stratosphere of what you once thought impossible. Whenever we see or hear about someone achieving unbelievable feats - Usain Bolt in track, Tony Robbins during his workshops, Stephen King in his writing - it's due to the power of their minds, not just technical, mechanical skill. And if we want to perform at that level we had better match their inner drive as well as their capabilities. 

People can do great things when they've got a fire burning inside them. They can put themselves through years of tortuous physical training on the path to the National Football League (I know from first hand experience). They can walk across hot coals, climb El Capitan (without a safety rope), sit and write 10,000 or more words every single day. They perform in spite of injury or pain or sickness, no matter the odds or obstacles.

We've all felt the power of the mind at some point in our lives. And there are a number of different ways to harness it:

  1. Vision. Want clear vision? Know exactly where you want to go and what you want to achieve. "Where the mind goes, energy will flow" is a saying I have believed in since my dad passed it on to me one morning while teaching me the fundamentals of weightlifting (a crucial step forward on my journey to the NFL). I have always believed that if you want to be a professional athlete or author or whatever, you have to have a crystal clear vision of you accomplishing these dreams. When your vision is powerful enough, everything else falls into place: your daily habits, the company you keep, the quality of your diet, activities you consider 'fun'. Vision is purpose. And with purpose comes certainty. No more anxiety. No second guessing. Total confidence. 
  2. Visualization. It's not enough, though, to just want to be a successful author, for example. there is much more to writing than that. It's about being brutally honest and creative and relentless and weird. Its a dance with your deepest secrets. Its an art. And you have to have a specific picture in your mind of the impact you want to make in the writing world if you're going to achieve your goals. When you look in the mirror everyday you have to see yourself as you are - and as you want to be as well. You have to see in your mind the books you wrote flying off the shelves, being translated into 30 different languages, changes other peoples lives just because they picked up your story. Focusing on such images opens your mind to possibilities that would not be available otherwise. It gives your subconscious mind a clear direction to gravitate towards.
  3. Role models. Growing up I'd watch my hero, Jerry Rice, every Sunday on tv. He'd make impossible catches, streak down the sidelines for game winning touchdowns, and never take a play off. He was known for his grueling training regimen during the off-season. And I wanted to be just like him. I modeled my work ethic after his and had dreams of playing on the same team as him one day (which ended up actually happening during my time in Denver, interestingly enough). I had pictures of him all over my walls. I collected his football cards and put them in special plastic cases. I kept newspaper articles wherever he was mentioned. I had daily reminders surrounding me of where I wanted to go and who I was going to be. Finding somebody who represents your ideal is such a powerful thing because it makes your goal achievable and keeps your mind focused on the task at hand.
  4. Motivation. The driving force behind any goal. Motivation allows you to develop a single-mindedness of purpose that ultimately gives you the will power to make it to the gym, to sit down and write 500, 1000, or 2000 words every day, to run that extra sprint because you know everyone else is tired. It makes the difference between just going through the motions of a two hour gym workout followed by another hour and a half on the track and really pushing yourself beyond your limits. Motivation creates discipline. And discipline creates powerful habits. Habits that have you looking forward to the goal that you have learned to picture so clearly in your mind.
  5. Training Strategy. This is where everything mentioned above gets put into action. Where you move beyond the visualization of the goal in mind and decide exactly what needs to be done. You've decided where you want to go now we need to figure out how to get there. If your aim is to be a professional athlete what specific exercises and exercise techniques will get you to where you want to go? If you goal is to be a successful author entrepreneur, how many days during the week will you dedicate to getting your butt in the chair and writing? Deciding how to do anything can be a challenge and sometimes overwhelming. What has helped me in the past is choosing three targets I can hit everyday that get me one step closer to my destination. As an author, my daily targets might be to write 500-1000 words, lift weights at the gym (yes this is crucial for my sanity), and publish a new blog post. The beauty with this step is you learn to truly individualize your daily targets, and find out what works best for you. Eventually, when enough time passes, you master what needs o be done to get to where you want to go, always remaining open, always growing. 
  6. Focus. The key to whatever kind of success you want to have is to get your mind on your work, rather than concern yourself on what others are doing or thinking. When your focus is on what others may be doing or thinking, you lose sight of the vision you’ve created for yourself.  You’re no longer in the drivers seat. Instead of trusting in yourself, you’re handing over your power to someone else. You constantly doubt if what you’re doing is right. Doubt kills dreams. And you end up not working to the limits of your true capabilities. For example, throughout my journey to the NFL i would constantly come across really athletic and physically gifted guys - much more so than me - who seemed so confident and were training in a way that I was unfamiliar to me. I could feel myself gravitating toward wanting to change my own training program to match theirs, but ultimately I knew that worked for them and not me. So I stuck to my routine. And 99% if those guys never made it past the college level of play. I stayed focused on the task at hand, day in and out, and developed massive momentum over time that catipulted me into the NFL.