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You are who you are…. Or are you?!

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In the book Mindset The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, two alternative views regarding self image are laid out.  It turns out that some people have a tendency to see themselves as unchanging and fixed in time. Whereas others see themselves as an ever developing and changing person.  Research shows that the latter viewpoint reflects the truth.  We are always changing, physically, psychologically and emotionally.  But when we adopt what Dweck refers to as the “fixed mindset”, we spend a lot of time paddling upstream.  We are always defending who we think we are and trying to live up to the person we imagine ourselves to be.  This internal battle to “BE” the image you hold of yourself stagnates growth.  And rather than becoming better, we often find ourselves regressing.

For example, imagine being a kid in the 3rd grade.  Maybe your teacher and your parents praise you for doing well on your math homework by saying things like “wow, you’re really good at math”.  And if they say it enough times, you might start identifying as a person that’s “good at math”.  Seems harmless, right?  The problem is that when you are now confronted with a problem that stumps you, rather than accepting the challenge, you might not want to work through it.  Why?  Because your self image is so wrapped up in being “good at math”, that if you can’t solve a tough problem, it makes you feel like you’re not good at math.  That makes you feel like a failure.  And that hits you right at the core of who you imagine yourself to be.  This ultimately results in a tendency to avoid any challenge that might make you feel like you aren’t the person you think you are.  It makes you less adventurous.  And it sucks the fun out of life.

Alternatively, imagine if your teacher and parents praised you by saying things like “wow, you really worked hard to solve those tough problems.  Great work!”.  Now, rather than identifying as a person that’s either good at math or bad at math, you learned to work through challenging problems.  You just became better equipped for the unknowns life with throw at you.

It’s so easy to feel like we are who we are.  But the reality is that we are always changing.  We are influenced by the people around us, our experiences, and our decisions.  Our integrity, our physical prowess, and our talents are either being nurtured and developed or defended and stagnate.

How does all this relate to the gym?  When you come into the gym each day, don’t think of yourself as someone that can or can’t do certain things.  You are an athlete that is always developing and honing your skills, strength, and conditioning.  The person you are today is not the person you will be tomorrow (within or without).  Knowing this, it becomes your responsibility each day to become more like the person you want to be.  Expect to fail when you confront truly difficult things.  Embrace the failure as a step toward mastery.  If you never fail, you can never truly win.