By Scott Abel from www.scottabelfitness.com
Part of the reasons I like to share articles with Matt at 180DegreeHealth is because he “gets” the expansive notion of health and fitness. “Health” has to be about much more than arguing about whether carbs are good or bad and the rest of the noise that passes for “useful information” on the net. Health must also refer to “being a member in good standing in your own mind.” There are thousands of people out there with million dollar bodies and 5 cent heads. But if you want to achieve a body transformation goal your approach has as much to do with your achievement psychology than it does with mere exercise and diet recipes. So let’s discuss the “psychology of achievement” here at its very starting point!
I’ve been Coaching people to transform their bodies and minds for 4 decades now. And I can tell you one thing for certain. A transformed body without a corresponding transformed mind – it will never last. You end up being what I call “a weight-loss tourist” – arriving for a while but never staying there in the land of weight-loss as a permanent resident. And I’m not talking just about “competitors” here. The truth is “mindset determines behavior” and “quality of mindset determines quality of sustainable behavior.” And there is one essential “ability” required to succeed in the fitness game – whether you call it physique transformation, or long-term sustainable weight-loss goals.
And I will get to this essential “ability” in a minute and explain it to you. But first, what you need to know and ponder are these two realities: First – this is an ability YOU ALL have, there is no doubt about that. Secondly – you need to embrace the truth that “ability” only becomes “talent” when it is regularly and consistently practiced, exercised and exploited. No ability in the world amounts to much of anything worthwhile if the person with the ability is too lazy or too confused to exploit it.
It is said in the athletic world that “great athletes are born, not made.” And this is relatively true. If you look at athlete icons you’ll see most of them began their sport in their childhood – ability became talent from years and years of consistent exercise and practice of their sport. It has also been shown in brain research that childhood participation in certain sports or creative arts have a very specific modeling effect in the brain. The example often used is that gymnasts must begin training as gymnasts as children: An adult’s brain is unlikely to adapt the same way as a child’s brain does, when it comes to what is involved in being good at gymnastics. Not too many adults can take up gymnastics at age 30 and be any good at it or even competent at it. So yes, when it comes to athletic prowess and high-performance athletics the argument can indeed be made that “great athletes are born, not made.”
But here’s the thing: What I absolutely LOVE about the fitness industry and its common goals of physique transformation and/or weight-loss – this above rule regarding inherent “ability” does NOT apply. To achieve your fitness goals requires one and only one starting “ability” that we all have: And that is the beauty of it. If you consistently exercise, practice, and exploit this “ability” you will achieve your fitness goals, I promise you. But most people overlook what this starting level “ability” even is. So let me spell it out for you – because it ALL starts right here!
I am now well into my 4th decade of Coaching people in physique transformation and weight-loss – check that – “permanent and sustainable” physique transformation and weight-loss. And I can tell you emphatically that what separates those who make it from those who do not – is this mental fitness component – an ability called – “availability.” Well what does that mean, you ask? It may seem to be too trite to be relevant when you consider the modern confusing world of online fitness dogma and complicated programs that require graphs and computations, diet-strategies that demand macro-nutrient breakdowns, and formulas for this and formulas for that. But let’s back up from the complications out there for a minute and address the one “ability” that kicks it all off – avail-ability.
I ask my clients who struggle with their fitness goals to ask themselves every day “Am I mentally, emotionally and physically available to meet my goals today?” Most who struggle are not either mentally or emotionally available when the struggle presents itself – whether that struggle be sticking to their diet or training on their program, not by just not missing workouts but getting in there and training with verve, and vitality and expectation. This is what it is like to “exploit” the ability of avail-ability and make it become a talent! And too often trainees are too overly focused on the long-term goal only – and this makes you less “available” to invest in the process of what you need to do and consider today and right now.
Let me give you some history here as an example. Back in 2000 I had a double laminectomy to remove two bulging discs in my lower back – one of which had broken off in to pieces and attached itself to the nerve root. At the time I was quite popular on the seminar circuit and even for guest posing. But at that time the pain and dysfunction was too great to be ignored. The surgeon told me it would likely be about 2 years to a full-recovery – if ever. There were no guarantees. When I was explaining to him my commitment schedule and desire to get back to training – he just calmly cautioned me – “Scott, just keep telling yourself that your body is not currently available for activity.” That sentence stuck with me. It was such a constant reality check and it was true. For the first few months I had to lay on my stomach, eat on my stomach and walk with a cane. It was a constant lesson in humility. Would I ever be able to workout again? There was no way to answer that other than with the reality “I am not available to workout right now.”
But I loved that sentence as a reality check for motivation. I wasn’t available to workout but I was available to follow a diet-strategy, continue my writing and accomplish other things. I kept asking myself “What can I do today and right now to be available for my recovery?” And that is what I followed. All these years later – I wake up every morning and remind myself what a gift I have at this age to practice my “avail-ability” for training and to follow my diet-strategy. I remind myself that today “I get to” workout and I “get to” follow my diet. These are choices and privileges not everyone has. I don’t “have to” do any of it. I practice daily my avail-ability to it all. And that makes me grateful.
And I see in clients and others who write to me that they are not ready – not mentally and emotionally consistently available for the task at hand. They are always too focused on the end-game and not invested in that one starting ability that sets it all in motion – “avail-ability.” To consistently practice, exercise and exploit your ‘avail-ability’ leads to a cascade of positive effects – and these effects lend to other abilities as well: like to constantly “avail” yourself of the opportunity to invest in the commitment to “showing up.” And to be consistently mentally and emotionally present means to practice “avail-ability” in such a way that you know that the “process is the goal and the goal is the process.” Forget about long-term goals and long-term outcomes and practice your “avail-ability” today for your commitment to YOURSELF; the commitment that you express through diet and training consistency and compliance.
As you regularly and daily “exploit” your “avail-ability” to the process – this ability becomes a “talent” in and of itself. That’s what so many of you just don’t get when it comes to why YOU struggle and others do not. You have to hone the mental fitness talent of “avail-ability” first. It all starts with that reality check! And then let me tell you what that leads to:
As you turn the ability of availability into a talent – it begets other abilities as well:
Responsibility: When you make yourself available to the daily grind of committing to the process of what it takes to reach your goal, other things begin to happen. You reach that point of no return where you have just invested too much of yourself to turn back. Your avail-ability has now become a talent. And now you start to practice “response-ability” as well. And this doesn’t just mean personal ownership of your commitment. It also means you stop “reacting” to obstacles in your way and you intelligently and maturely “respond” to them instead. You can no longer lie to yourself and others that “the dog ate your homework” and more importantly you don’t want to lie anymore. You own this and you “respond” like you do. And this ‘response-ability’ is also an ability that can turn into a talent. And as you can see this is all about mental fitness.
Accountability: When you fully exploit the starting position of full “avail-ability” to your physique transformation or weight-loss goals and you turn that into a talent -> You now have another ability at your disposal as well -> accountability! Accountability is about the ability to ‘account’ for your commitment and the quality of your commitment to your goals – today and this week – and creating momentum from it. “Account-ability” means taking stock in a realistic (not idealistic) way. It’s about checking in on your commitment – not making excuses but making tracks. And if you can’t find accountability for yourself – then hiring A Coach is another way of doing that. I tell people hiring me is a way to be accountable to themselves – not to me. I am just a reflection of that. The Great Coach is not just a guiding light – but also a mirror.
Reliability: As you begin to deepen your exploitation and practice of avail-ability every day; you doubt yourself less. You start to rely on this inner YOU that dictates to you all the good stuff that keeps you going. You no longer assume anyone else plays a role in sabotaging your way to your goal. Avail-ability that becomes a talent gives birth to reliability as well. And you begin to choose more intelligently who you surround yourself with as well when it comes to your goals. There are energy vampires out there, but you will no longer have time for them. In terms of your goals – you rely on yourself yes – but you also realize there are saboteurs as well. People can feel the fire you have for your goals. And they can either fan those flames – or douse them. Self-reliance means you choose who to let in to your world of goal-attainment.
Capability: Once you become someone who fully practices, exercises and exploits your own avail-ability to your cause – in such a way that it becomes a personal talent you possess – well things like fear of success or fear of failure – they no longer “infect” your process. They can no longer contaminate your thinking process. There is little to no more “stinkin thinkin” sabotaging you. Your talent of avail-ability and the other full abilities and capacities it leads to – informs you as you go along that you are “capable” of reaching your goals – no matter what may have been in your way before. You are now in that glorious position most athletes count on from the gut -> conceive it, believe it, achieve it. You now ‘believe’ you are capable and so you just “act naturally” from that premise. There is no more “trying” – there is only “max efforts” expended in the cause and you are fully present – because you’ve turned that inherent STARTING POINT ‘ability’ we all have -> Avail-ability – you’ve turned it into a full-blown talent!
Mental fitness is the starting point for those of you who struggle. Develop that – and the right behavior will follow and your body will follow that. More importantly it all illustrates the higher-echelons of what any fitness goal can and should be about -> CHARACTER-BUILDING!
As usual – some of you will get it – some of you will not.
Oh and what happened to me in the months after my back surgery? Well once I could sit up and walk again – I made a commitment to some contest promoters I knew and 12 weeks later I took to the stage despite still having some training limitations. I just made myself “available” to that commitment and I exploited it. Here is the result to witness for yourself…
And if I can do it – you can do it. Can you practice your “avail-ability?” – well, it all starts there – mentally, emotionally, and physically/behaviorally. Just “show-up” and say to yourself every morning – LET IT BEGIN, WITH ME!
Best of luck in achieving all your fitness goals whatever they may be to you.
About the Author
Scott Abel is a former professional bodybuilder and coach to over 400 fitness and bodybuilding champions at the National level and beyond. Learn more from his broad spectrum of work at www.scottabelfitness.com. You can also hear Scott on the 180D podcast. Enjoy his first Amazon-published book on how to build muscle HERE.