When I was a kid I signed up for just about any team I possibly could. I’ve participated in dance, cheerleading, soccer, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, cross country, and tennis. If it was available I thought I could do it.
I believe kids have the privilege of living in a somewhat magical world. This is a world where anything is possible and limitations do not exist. We try new things simply because we have blind faith in ourselves. Nevertheless, at some point we all grow up. The magic fades and the “we can be anything we want” mentality starts to fade as well.
As I got older, I started signing up for things less and less. I became someone who stayed comfortable perfecting what I already knew I was good at doing. “There is no way I can do that” became a staple in my life. The magic was gone- the simple childlike belief in myself had been erased. Until one day after years of feeling stuck and incapable, I woke up realizing how small my world was.
Years later here I am, running marathons and half marathons for fun, teaching indoor cycling classes 5+ times a week, and running my own successful therapy practice. However, if you would have told me this would be my life 10 years ago I would have laughed in your face.
I wish it was a simple shift from being stuck to finding my power, but it was not a graceful transition. When I decided that I wanted to stretch outside of my comfort zone I did what I knew to do- I Googled everything. With that, I became increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of trends, information, and options offered to the public that promised goal oriented results.
Just ask Google yourself, in 2017 some of the most highly searched health and fitness trends were: Murph Crossfit, apple cider vinegar diet, tabata workout, plant based diet, Tom Brady diet, and the Ketogenic diet. Which one do I pick? When I started, I picked everything. If there was a product that told me I’d be better with it- I bought it. However, one problem with relying solely on trends to reach your goals is that next year, there will be a different list. Thus, my route to success became quite exhausting and self-defeating. I was hungry for something long term. After a lot of failure I started seeing a licensed therapist who helped me realize that my growth had to be about something bigger than a trend I found online.
This is when I recognized that I internally held everything I needed to reach my goals. Insert PMA.
The human mind possesses the capability to create something that is more powerful than any fad diet or new workout plan can ever offer. Thousands of studies have shown that a key (and possibly the key) component of success is attitude. More specifically, Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), in regards to goals and capabilities. Meaning, you control your attitude, therefore, you control your success. Your future is literally in the hands of your own mind.
So, what is PMA exactly? By definition, is the philosophy that having an optimistic outlook on any situation in life attracts positive changes and increases achievement. PMA is considered an internal focus of control that influences external factors. In other words – You control the outside matter through your internal resolve. PMA is basically the childlike magic we lose from years of repeating negative thoughts. In its simplest term, it is optimistic disposition.
There has been a lot of dialogue around the power of PMA. By no means is it a replacement for hard work, nor does it promise that thinking positively will make you a professional athlete overnight. This philosophy is more than positive thinking – it is creating meaning out of our circumstances. PMA would say that we are not in control of the cards we are dealt in life. We are in control of how we play them. Sometimes it comes down to the stories we choose to tell ourselves.
In Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he points out a commonality in those who lived through the Holocaust. Survivors were not necessarily the strongest or smartest, but created meaning out of their experience. Their mental strength carried them through their cumstances and the physical and emotional trauma. Similar to marathon runners saying the race is 80% mental, athletes that participate in high intensity activities believe that physical ability is not the entire battle. Focusing on why we do what we do and believing in one’s self often perpetuates achievement.
Finding your personal PMA is like growing a muscle. It takes effort, attention, and habit. People don’t generally wake up one day deciding to be optimistic and then, poof, they see the silver lining in everything. You, yourself, can start developing the PMA muscle with these six tips.
6 Tips for developing PMA:
- Be intentional about your goals AND make sure they are YOUR goals. It is hard to stay positive through trials when you are working towards something you don’t actually care about. Find YOUR purpose. If identifying purpose is overwhelming for you speaking with licensed therapist can help you gain clarity on your own desires.
- Be nice to yourself. Recent studies have shown that participants who affirmed themselves through a workout compared to a group who said negative things to themselves rated the workout as easier and performed at higher levels. Remind yourself you are doing a great job, and do this often.
- Turn your foresight into hindsight. Entrepreneur, Aubrey Marcus, speaks confidently on the power of finding gratitude before you see the outcome. He explains, in hindsight we are more clearly able to see purpose in failure and disappointment. In hindsight we are almost always grateful. So, why not start with the gratitude? If we are able to settle into the realization that in time we will be grateful for our perceived misfortune we are able to bypass a lot of the anxiety that keeps us stuck.
- “Focus on your elbows,” my uncle, a personal trainer and avid long distance runner, says. He gave me this advice when I was training for my first full marathon. I’ve realized, what he meant was to remind me I’ve never thought my elbows were weak. PMA is about focusing on what you do have and not what you don’t. Maintaining a positive attitude requires us to put more value in our strengths than our weaknesses. Just think, you’ll always have strong elbows.
- Replace the idea of needing motivation with whether or not something is important to you. I will never be motivated to deep clean my bathroom. However, it is important to me to not have roaches in my shower. The same goes for fitness goals. There are days when I don’t feel like doing one more rep- but it is important to me to challenge myself. There are days when I don’t have motivation to cook dinner- but it is important to me to fuel my body well. Motivation tends to become an excuse that whispers you aren’t worth it at your most vulnerable moments. Well, you are.
- Change up the questions you are asking. Your goals, your longings and your desires—whether in the gym, on the field, at home or in work—can be obtained. This is not a question of: can you or can you not? If we put our minds to something and create a belief around our own ability that supports our goal, we can do almost anything we want. Rather than “can you?”, the question you should be asking is “will you?” Will you choose to keep going when the mud gets thick? Will you find meaning in the set back? Will you continue to believe you can when someone or something out there says you can’t?
Remember, we each have the power to collectively change our mindset. And mindset is everything. It’s how we wake up in the morning. It’s how we go about our day – deciding what foods to eat and what things to say. It is the community we choose. It is our scattered thoughts and self talk. Positivity is magic. Magic can be reintroduced into adulthood. The majority of magic is simply believing! And believing in ourselves renders a positive attitude. We create our own mentality and hold the power to change it at any time.