Whether you realize it or not, there are some pretty massive mindset traps that will kill just about anyone’s motivation. And in this post, I’m going to shed some light on five common mindset traps that can stall your forward progress.
Whether your mission is fat loss, changing your career, exercising, or learning a new hobby, it’s vital to have your head in the right place.
You can have the best laid plans, the right habits, and the top resources, but if your mindset is all wrong, it’s easy to lose motivation.
Mindset Matters…A Ton
In truth, the mindset traps presented here apply to just about goal or anything you’re currently working on in your life…not just fat loss.
But what often happens with my coaching clients is this:
They come to work with me frustrated that their fat loss has stalled…or that they don’t know how to begin.
They’ve tried so many different things, but nothing’s worked.
And they’re desperate for change.
They lay out a detailed list of all the diet and nutrition strategies they’ve tried: low carb, high fat, macros, Zone, paleo, low fat, more probiotics, bone broth, whatever…
…convinced that they’ve missed out on the one key strategy that’s holding them back.
But when we dig into it a little more, what often surfaces isn’t a lack of nutrition strategy or fitness gusto. No, it’s often a mindset issue.
Let me be clear:
If you’re struggling with the same stuff, just like my clients, it’s not your fault.
Sometimes you’re just not aware of the mindset traps that are dampening your motivation.
You can’t even see them. (Yet.)
Here’s the bottom line: When your mindset is wonky, it’s hard to feel motivated, to follow through long term with healthy choices, and to be consistent.
And those are the biggest factors that determine successful fat loss or whatever it is you’re after.
Even after reading this article and becoming aware – or awake as I like to call it – this stuff takes work.
This success graph (lol) from comedian Demetri Martin’s This is a Book says it all.
My point is, don’t expect that reading this list and developing some awareness is going to result in magical smooth sailing upon the seas of success.
You’re going to have to sit in the soup, weather some storms, and do the work.
But eventually, the frequency with which you fall into the same mindset traps will begin to diminish. Promise.
5 Mindset Traps That’ll Kill Your Motivation
Trap #1: Focusing on What Not To Do
This one is so engrained in diet and fitness “culture” that it’s hard to even recognize it sometimes.
“Don’t ever eat sugar.”
“Stop being so lazy.”
“Avoid snacking after 6pm.”
I could go on.
It seems like, if you’re trying to lose fat, the list of things not to do is a mile long.
Heck, even when starting something like a paleo lifestyle, most people are focused on what not to do.
The problem is, being hyperaware of the “not” creates stress, because you’re constantly afraid of messing up. Add to that the issue that your subconscious mind doesn’t understand concepts like “don’t” and “no.”
Ever wonder why, if you’re giving up sugar for a month, all you can do is think of – even dream of – sugar? Why do some things become irresistible as soon as we swear them off? Chew on that one.
Words matter. When I was competing in CrossFit, my teammates and I would cheer each other on. But as soon as someone said, “Don’t stop,” or “Don’t drop the bar,” the first urge I had was to quit.
Instead, keep your attention on what you want to do…
Eat more veggies at every meal. Get 8 hours of sleep. Lift weights 3 times this week.
Whatever your goals, focus on the positive actions you need to take to get there.
Trap #2: Using Fear As Fuel
This mindset trap is huge, and it takes a little digging into to understand fully.
When your motivation is that you’re afraid, you hate something about yourself, or you’re fearful of what will happen if you stop…
…your mind gets cut off to all the possibilities.
Fear puts you into a stressed state of mind. And that narrows your thinking, throttles your creativity, and makes solving problems really hard.
The energy that accompanies using fear as fuel is dark and heavy. It’s like you’ll never measure up or never be good enough.
It feels almost like being dragged.
Can you make progress this way? Probably, for a while. But fear is a terrible way to boost intrinsic motivation, the kind that’ll help you make lasting change.
Instead of using fear as fuel for your lifestyle changes, identify positive reasons for doing them.
Taking some time to get really clear about why you do things can shed some light on the situation…
…and help you avoid this very common mindset trap.
Trap #3: A Case of Comparisonitis
Suffering from a chronic case of comparisonitis?
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It happens when you look around at everyone else and think everyone else is thinner, healthier, more talented, wealthier, and more successful than you.
Keeping up with the Joneses used to require a bit more work, but now it’s as easy as following people on social media.
And while you may initially follow because it gives you “motivation,” be especially aware of the transition into a constant game of comparison.
This mindset trap is quite insidious.
Believing that everyone else is ahead of or better than you brings fear back into the equation…
…and it’s so easy to forget how green your own damn grass is.
It’s not wrong to want more from your life, to have goals and dreams.
But when what you want is rooted in a chronic game of comparison between you and the world, you’ll never, ever be happy with what you have.
The path your life takes is yours alone. It’ll never be the same as anyone else’s.
The more you’re willing to ease into that truth, the more you can be present in this moment instead of living in someone else’s.
Trap #4: Being An Expert Storyteller
“I’ve always struggled with my weight.”
Being married to our stories, the things about us that we believe to have always been true, is something humans just do
And while yes, things happen to you, remember that how you experience them and how your brain makes memories of them isn’t always representative of the facts.
That one can be hard to swallow.
This mindset trap could also be called the self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you believe you’ve always been X so you’ll always struggle with X, then what will you get? More of the same.
Not only that, we love to tell our most painful, tragic stories over and over to anyone who will listen.
That time Uncle Jim was rude at Christmas, the 5th grade bully who punched you, the way your boss is such a turdburger, the weight you still can’t lose. How do you feel when you tell those stories and relive them again and again?
It’s hard to be motivated to move forward when the past is killing all your mojo.
I’m not saying to ignore your past…
…but stay rooted in the present as much as you can. Take action now on the things that are happening now.
Trap #5: Being Success-Phobic
This is a corollary to the previous trap, and it can be a bit tricky to spot unless you know what you’re looking for.
Lots of people use fear of failure kill their motivation to move forward. But fear of success is just as toxic.
It’s so common to self-sabotage especially when you’re getting a foothold or hitting your stride.
If fat loss is your goal, you may have difficulty even envisioning what life would be like if you changed your own narrative.
You might wonder:
- Will I fit in with my peer group anymore?
- What will my family or friends think of me?
- Will people think that I think I’m better than them?
- How will I afford a new wardrobe?
- What if other priorities in my life change, too?
- Will I recognize myself?
For some, the thought of being successful is just as scary as the thought of failing because it’s still unknown.
And our brains are wired to seek the familiar, even when it’s something that’s not serving us anymore…
…like the foods we eat, amount we don’t move, or other lifestyle factors.
The solution, again, is to stay in the present as much as you can. Letting the fear of success crush your motivation is another example of living in the future.
To Sum It Up
Your mindset plays a critical role in your success with any lifestyle change, whether it’s fat loss, exercise, getting more sleep, or reducing your stress.
Readjusting your mindset takes awareness, patience, and practice…
…but in time, you’ll find the way you look at things starts to change.
Remember these five common mindset traps:
- Focusing on the negative. Keep your attention on what you want to do.
- Using fear as your motivation. Fear –> stress which closes off your mind to all the possibilities.
- Too much comparison. Yes, human nature means we like to know where we stand in our social groups. But constantly comparing yourself to others means you’ll miss out on all your own good stuff.
- Reliving your painful stories. Start paying attention to how often you let painful stories of the past create anxiety about the future.
- Being afraid of success. It can be as potent as the fear of failure.