Have you ever felt you were just going through the motions? Struggling to feel engaged with seemingly mundane aspects of your physique journey? Let me show you the purpose in what we do.
There’s a short story that goes around the corporate innovation and motivational circuits that I find truly inspiring. And told by the right person in the right setting, this story can transform your thinking, elevating your perspective from mundane to momentous.
Moreover, as a bodybuilder, I have found this tale to have deeper meaning in our efforts to transform our physique.
Let’s start with that story.
A traveler came across three masons who were each working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away but frequently looking at his watch. When the traveler asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly,
“I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait until it’s time to go home.”
A second mason, seemingly more interested in her work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that she was doing, answered.
“Well, I’m carving this stone into a brick so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
A third mason was hammering at a block fervently, taking the time to stand back and admire his work. He meticulously chipped off small pieces until he was entirely satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed.
“I am building a cathedral!”
Three masons, three different attitudes. All doing the same job.
What a beautiful story, no?
This narrative talks exquisitely to the power of the mind to visualize an outcome and transform the way we perceive and think about tasks that would otherwise seem mundane. Creating that connection – connecting bricks to the vision of the finished cathedral – gives an entirely different context to the activity.
So how does this analogy talk to our efforts in the gym?
Reps are your bricks
A rep can seem so insignificant.
How many times have you approached a set with the mindset of “I just need to get through this set”. Or worse still, “If I can just get through this workout”. And even when you do feel engaged with your training, how many reps sneak by you? Each indistinct from the other. One. Two. Three…
But what if we were to think of reps as bricks? Every one as a work of art. Each a critical piece of the whole. The only way to construct our cathedral. Brick by brick.
What can help enormously here is mindfulness.
Some call it the mind–muscle connection. Focus. Awareness.
Whatever you call it, it’s about directing your mind inward. Being truly present in the moment and pushing away outside distractions.
Think about what are you doing, the muscles you are training. Focus on working the target muscle, maintaining tension, the intensity of the contraction. Think about your body in space. Where are you feeling it? Where are you not feeling it? Are you tight? Bracing? Are you breathing?
Bringing yourself into the moment. Focusing on the “construction”, the setting of every brick. That’s how a great physique is built.
The power of visualization
For all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physical prowess, he was always adamant that his mind was his greatest gift.
In particular, he routinely cited his talent for visualizing his desired outcome as critical to his success throughout his life and and bodybuilding career.
These excerpts were taken from the transcript of an interview with Arnold at the launch of his autobiography, Total Recall – My Unbelievable True Story.
“I always had the most extraordinary talent for visualizing. I always as a kid had the vision, and the vision was so real that I really felt that I could accomplish and turn those visions into reality. Of course, I recognized quickly that that meant a lot of work – a hell of a lot of work – and I was willing to do that.”
“I saw a photograph of a British bodybuilder called Reg Park and I read that he became Hercules in the movies and about how much he trained and how he won the Mr. Universe three times. To me, this was the road map for me to go and do exactly the same thing – to train five hours a day, to become Mr. Universe – and it took a lot of working out to become Mr. Universe.
“When I trained in the gym and everyone was running around huffing and puffing, I had a smile on my face. I couldn’t wait to do the next squat with 400 pounds, I couldn’t wait to the next 20 chin-ups, I couldn’t wait to do the next 500 sit-ups, because to me, that meant one step closer to achieving that vision and making that vision a reality.”
Take a moment to think about your own physique goals.
Have you been sufficiently specific such that you could actually begin to visualize what you might look like with that physique?
More than that, start to imagine how you’d feel in your new body. How you might think and behave. Perhaps you now exude confidence in your exchanges with others. Perhaps you are calmer, more self-composed… more relaxed.
Learning to channel the power of your mind and visualize your goals can help you achieve even greater success on your journey to a better body.
The joy is in the journey
Another lesson this story can teach us? The joy is in the journey.
If you are always focused solely on outcomes, you are going to struggle to remain motivated on your physique journey.
Our goals and milestones can take many weeks, months and even years to come to fruition. If every workout and healthy meal is just another hurdle in the way of progress, it quickly saps the enjoyment out of life.
Instead, we must learn to see every workout for what it is.
An opportunity to take another step forward. To improve. To learn. To grow.
Another brick laid.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway
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