Barbell Basics – Sasquatch Self-discipline and Mental Toughness

Recently we have been presented with questions such as “how do I become a better lifter” or “how do it become a competitive athlete”? These questions and many others all related to some degree. We realized the easiest (and hardest) answer to all of these is the same, self-discipline and mental toughness. We’ll start our answer with a story.

Once upon a time around 2009-ish, I was competing in Marine Corps powerlifting competitions, fighting as a heavy-weight, and training for Arizona’s World Strongest Man. I was helping a lot of people with their general fitness but could never maintain a consistent training partner. The gym opened at 5 am so I made sure to be there at 4:45 daily. This was the only time I could fit in strength training. My evenings were tied up with Muay Thai and my work schedule at the time did not allow for wiggle room. During this time I was a shift supervisor for the mechanic shop of a helicopter squadron and required to have tool accountability before a 7 am maintenance meeting each morning. This meant arriving before 6:30 am and sometimes not leaving until 8 pm.

Often times Marines would ask to come work out with me, my first question being, “can you be at the gym before 4:45 am?”. My next, “do you floss your teeth?”. This question benefit me because as a Marine messing with people is second nature, so I found it entertaining but more importantly I would ask them to floss their teeth for one month (since most if not all answered no). Long story short, before the end of the month I was always looking for a new training partner and no one had better dental hygiene. Unfortunately, it was not their oral health that I was concerned with, I cared about their ability to create habits.

Contrary to popular belief, self-discipline is not about turning ourselves into a robot, or a ninja or brainless Nazi, its about taking control of our actions and emotions. Its about giving up instant gratification for long term success. Its about accepting and understanding the responsibility of the actions we choose to take. Self-discipline is about freedom. Freedom from your procrastination, from expectations of others, from weakness, fear, and doubt. It is ultimately the greatest tool for success in any of our endeavors. Self-discipline is the door that leads to a better stronger, healthier and most importantly more mindful version of ourselves.

A lack of this trait is the main reason people fall short of their goals. Its not just about the weight room, a lack of self-discipline in time often leads to larger issues such as obesity, acceptance of failure, spoiled relationships, and addictions. It is OK to fail, but if it is important enough, we should always find a way to get back up without accepting defeat. Self-control is about ACKNOWLEDGING your undisciplined habits, CHOOSING your own values and morals, and taking the extra second to ensure our choices align with those intentions.

Developing self-discipline takes a degree of mental toughness but we don’t have to conquer the world in a day.

  • Start Small
    1. Wake up 15 minutes early
      1. Do sometime constructive with your newly acquired time
        • Write down your goal(s) for the day
        • Read a few pages in a book
        • Floss (etc.)
      2. Walk 5,000 steps
        1. Or just something that is more active than you would normally do in an average day
      3. Drink 1 less soda each day

The point is the actions don’t have to be earth-shattering. What is important is the intention.

  • Think Before You Act.
    1. Try to work through old habits
    2. Ensure your actions alight with your intended morals and values
    3. Take responsibility for the consequences of your actions
  • Don’t complain
    1. Shit happens, mistakes happen, failure happens. These are just simple facts of life
    2. Rather than complain, refocus your perspective and readjust your effort to create the most optimal outcome of a situation
  • Celebrate your success
    1. More importantly, celebrate the success of those around you, your friends, mentors, even your mentees!
    2. … just not too long.
  • Be Grateful
      1. Understand the blessing in getting to make mistakes.
      2. Remember we have Oreos in the kitchen to snack on… there could be much worse situations to be in. We are blessed.

We are going to mess up but that’s OK, its all part of the process!

Successful people are just regular people with successful habits. We become what we regularly do.