I can’t – the words none of us like to utter, especially when the general ethos of a group is to break through the unbreakable, face our fears and stand up to any challenge so that we conquer it.
But sometimes, deep down within all of us, the concept of ‘I can’t’ creeps into the decisions we make, and the attitudes we take when putting those decisions into action.
Now, you might be thinking “but those words aren’t in my vocabulary. They never feature in the way I operate, the way I approach my training, the way I approach my life”. Well, I’d like to propose a couple of scenarios where the concept of “I can’t” might have creeped into your mind without you consciously knowing, before looking at why that is likely to be the case, and invite you to consider approaching things slightly differently.
Imagine a focus of your training at the moment is to drop your body fat percentage, and you are two weeks into the eating plan you have gained complete confidence is going to help you achieve that goal. You receive notification from your boss that you need to be away for 5 days the following week with a client, and you then immediately think “well there goes my diet for the following week”.
On another occasion, you might be taking part in an AMRAP session, and you look at the exercise list your coach has set including a ball-park expectation of the number of reps you get in, and think “there is no way I’m going to be able to do that”.
If they do then these responses, or something very similar, are forms of “I can’t” responses – responses that have the potential to limit your capacity to achieve more or the goals that you set yourself, despite the best intent of your subconscious brain to tell your conscious brain that this is the right thing to do.
I have two brains??
No, you only have one, but there are two parts that generally operate within it – the conscious brain (what we think about, the bit we ‘hear’ when we think) and the subconscious brain (the bit we don’t ‘hear’, but is still working).
Our subconscious brain works to inform the conscious decisions we take. We can only consciously consider about 7 things at once (for women it’s believed to be 7.5 to 8 from neuroscience, hence the jokes around differing capabilities between the sexes…I digress…). “I can’t” is your conscious brains’ response to your subconscious brains’ assessment of the situation and task you are about to undertake, in which the subconscious perceives you are about to be put under stress – something the body as much as possible chooses to avoid (stress makes us unhealthy, unhappy and uncomfortable right???).
So in the travel scenario above, your subconscious brain is trying to avoid the stress of learning and working under a new routine in order to maintain the healthy eating plan you have put in place (a plan and routine to execute that plan that was already placing your brain under stress because it was different to the previous routine) and encourages you to go back to a default way of being – eat off the menu, order room service, pick up the healthy eating plan when I get back from my travels.
With the AMRAP scenario, your subconscious brain makes an assessment of the level of effort required to hit that number, recalls your past experiences and how uncomfortable that experience was, notes your perceived level of capability versus the others taking part in the session. The subconscious brain kicks in to protect you from working too hard, not repeating that stressful experience again, or saving face in front of your peers.
Now, it is very difficult to control the subconscious brain without outside assistance. However, you have one tool on your person at all times, and you can use to shape what your subconscious thinks and does in any situation where you might be put under stress – the Mindset you choose to adapt towards the challenge ahead.
You mean I can control my subconscious brain????
At that point where you initially think “I can’t” or some form of protecting yourself, you have the opportunity to flip that right on its head and say “I can…”, focusing on what you can do with excellence, positive attitude and a commitment because you know it will benefit you in achieving your ultimate goal.
In the travel scenario, this “I can” attitude may focus on understanding the nutritional components of your healthy eating plan a little better and staying committed to your overall goal.
So your healthy eating might be aligned to Coach Joe’s Lean Reboot, which includes small carbs before and larger carbs after your workout, with green veg and protein small and often throughout the rest of the day.
With this in mind plan your meals for what’s available on the hotel menu and when you are likely to train. There is usually an option of eggs and smoked salmon available if you just ask the waitress for breakfast. If the lunch is a self-serve option, cut out the carbs, negotiate an extra chicken breast and take an extra scoop of green veg instead.
The rest beyond the menu you could make up with what you pack to take with you. Packing a ziplock bag full of protein powder and storing that in your shaker shouldn’t take up too much extra space in your suitcase. Having a scoop for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks will keep you on track with the small and often intake of the essential food components.
With the AMRAP, choose to concentrate on what you can do, like “I can commit to executing each exercise as comfortably quick as I can”, concentrating on executing the technique prescribed by your Coach. You can also say to yourself “between each set I’m going to take three deep breaths to compose myself and start again with 100% commitment”.
The key thing is you have a choice on the attitude you take. Taking the positive option, the one that focuses on what you can do, with confidence, with determination when that defensive thought comes into your head, suppresses the protective part of your subconscious brain and enables you to unlock your potential further, and break through to new PR’s.
When about to be placed under physical or mental stress, your brain can act to protect you in some way. Recognise that moment, choose to take a more positive action that you can do, and help yourself stay committed to achieving your overall goals.