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Why Mindset Matters When Trying to Reach Your Goals

Why Mindset Matters When Trying to Reach Your Goals

Kelley Vargo, MPH, MS, CSCS

Over the past 11 years as a personal trainer, health coach and group fitness instructor, I’ve worked with everyone from kids to seniors. From weight loss to speed, changing eating habits, to getting more sleep, the common trait among those who successfully achieve their goals is a positive mindset. It takes work and doesn’t happen overnight, but it can mean the difference between reaching your goals and falling short. When you train your body it gets tired, it needs rest and nourishment. The same is true for our minds—it takes work to train the brain, and if we neglect it, it will become weak. 

Life as a Triangle

How do we shape our mindset, especially when we are not in the “right frame of mind”? Whether we are plagued by self-doubt, self-criticism or fear, how do we find a way to reframe these thoughts and feelings to help reach our goals? Recently, I had a great conversation with a member of the behavioral health team at George Washington University. She summed up the perspective of life as a triangle:

  • Point 1 is thoughts/beliefs
  • Point 2 is feelings/emotions
  • Point 3 is actions  

Often we go through life letting points 1 and 2 determine point 3. This can be dangerous, even self-sabotaging. If we think or believe we can’t do something, we can feel hopeless or have negative emotions, and we most likely will not take action. But what if we start leading with point 3 by taking action ahead of our thoughts and feelings. For example, say you want to go for a run. Prior to the run, you may feel anxious or incapable, but if you can take action despite those feelings, you will be successful and, eventually, your thoughts and feelings will transform to more positive, empowering thoughts about your abilities. Whether you’re registering for a marathon or taking a new job, this pattern holds true. Sometimes it is better to lead with action, and let our thoughts and feelings follow. If not, the comfort zone we have created for ourselves in our own thoughts and feelings can prevent us from reaching our potential or goals. 

"Be Do Have" Model

Another way to think about mindset is the BE DO HAVE model created by Dr. Jade Teta. It’s human nature to fall into the trap of thinking, “If only I had a lot of money, I would hire a personal trainer, and then I would be fit.” Or, “If only I would work out, then I would be in shape, and could have a lot of money.” The problem is, when we think and live this way, we will never be satisfied, nor will we have any inspiration to take action toward our goals. Instead, our mindset should be “I am fit, I do exercise, and I have a lot of money.” We must embrace what we want or who we want to be now, in this moment. Tell yourself you are who you want to be. Once we do this, everything else will start falling into place. 

Once you train your brain, your mindset, to be led by your actions, you will be well on your way to achieving your goals.