A couple of weekends ago, I had the most awesome Sunday roast dinner. I over-indulged, and that was fine – I felt great and I’d earned it.

But, things could have been very different. Let’s rewind back a few hours…

I was pacing the house, with a major self talk situation going on. I had a workout ahead of me, which I knew was going to be hard and feel horrible.

At this point, I hadn’t put my gym gear on yet.

‘Don’t bother’ said my shitty mindset. ‘It’s Sunday, and you’ve had a long, hard week. You deserve a rest. Go lay on the sofa and relax. Maybe even take a nap? Then, hit a workout tomorrow instead. You’ll be fresher and will do even better’

It was so tempting to jump on the sofa. But, instead, I jumped to a different type of self talk:

‘How will I feel at the end of the day, if I skip the workout?’

Pretty crap about myself. I’ll feel like I chose to stagnate, or go a step backwards. I will almost certainly feel guilty about eating a big Sunday roast dinner. I’ll know I took the easy route and let myself down. Also, I know from experience – this feeling will carry through into next week.

‘How will I feel at the end of the day, if I do the workout?’

I will feel disciplined and proud of myself. I’ll feel positive and will have more energy. I’ll feel like I took a decent step forward. And I’ll be able to sit down and enjoy the Sunday roast dinner, without an ounce of guilt.

That was enough for me. Before Mr Shitty mindset could convince me otherwise, on went the shorts and gym shoes. I quickly walked over to the garage (I have a home gym thing going on).

1–nil to me.

OK, So, here’s the plan:

10 rounds (every 2 minutes, on the minute).

  • 10 air squats
  • 10 push ups
  • 5 burpees

Followed by:

5 x 5 minute rounds on the Rogue Echo bike (5 mins rest between each round)

Each 5 minute round, is done in intervals of:

  • 45 secs (moderate pace)
  • 15 secs (fast pace)

In total, just over an hour of hard conditioning work. I know it will feel horrible. I tell myself ‘Just put your head down and push through it – get it done.’

I kick off with the 10 rounds of squats, push ups and burpees. By the time I complete the 10 rounds (total of 20 mins), I’m on the floor breathing super hard.

On cue, Mr Shitty mindset shows up again.

‘Now, that was a great workout. You pushed really hard. You can feel proud of that effort. Look, it’s perfectly fine to stop there. I mean, imagine how horrible the bike is going to feel – especially with how you’re feeling now? Sometimes you do that bike workout as a workout of its own! So, it’s completely justified to stop here, and still feel good about what you did. Don’t over do it. Don’t put yourself through another 45 mins of really hard work. It’s going to feel horrible – you know it is.’

Again, another compelling argument. That’s the frustrating thing about Mr Shitty mindset – he can make a good case. I really do hate the feeling of that goddamn bike. I’m so close to wrapping up the workout and calling it a day there.

But, then I think about….

‘How will I feel at the end of the day, if I skip the bike workout and finish here?

I’ll kick myself later, because I will know I stopped short of what I was capable of. I’ll feel like I choose to tread water, rather than take a step forward. And, the fact that I lacked the grit to push through the full workout – it will eat away at me for the next few days. Oh, and I won’t enjoy that Sunday dinner as much!

‘How will I feel at the end of the day, if I do the bike workout?’

It’ll be a hell of a workout. It’s quite a bit more volume than I usually do. I’ll feel like I tapped into an extra reserve and completed what I’m truly capable of – instead of stopping at the first point of feeling uncomfortable. It’s what David Goggins would do.

Before I could think much more about it, I put on Still Dre, and jumped on the bike for the first round.

Phew. 2–nil to me.

I’m on my third round on the bike. This is feeling both horrible and good. If you’ve ever used an air assault bike, you’ll know what I mean.

Oh, Hi, Mr Shitty mindset. I figure you’re going to try and talk me out of rounds 4 and 5 right?

‘Come on, you know I make sense… Look, you ignored me and did the bike anyway. Fine. But, 3 rounds is enough. Let’s stop this nonsense. Why are you putting yourself through this? Feels horrible right? Trust me, rounds 4 and 5 are going to be far worse. Remember when you used to do only 3 rounds of the bike for a whole workout? Now, you’ve done it after the 10 rounds of squats, push ups and burpees. That’s more than enough. You don’t need to do more. You can stop here, and still feel great. Imagine not having to feeling horrible again on that bike?

I was so close to stopping after round 3 on the bike. At some point during round 3, I actually made the decision to stop after the third round. But, I quickly got focused on….

‘How will I feel at the end of the day, if I stop the bike after 3 rounds?

I’ll feel like I quit just before the end. I overcame Mr Shitty mindset talking me out of working out in the first place, and chipping away at getting me to do as little as possible throughout. But, then I will let myself be beaten by him in the last stretch??

‘How will I feel at the end of the day, if I finished 5 rounds of the bike?

On top of the WORLD. I know exactly what it feels to have a super hard workout under my belt, knowing it’s banked. I love that feeling. I’ll have set a new benchmark for what I’m capable of pushing through. And, I’ll be able to relax for the rest of the day and smash that Sunday lunch – guilt free. It’s only 15 mins away. You got this.

And with that, I jump back on the bike for round 4.

3–nil to me.

Mr Shitty mindset doesn’t even try and talk me out of rounds 4 and 5. He knows there’s no point – I have the finish line in sight.

I jump off the bike after round 5, and lay on the floor for a good 5 minutes. What a feeling. I hate working out, but I love working out!

I walk back in the house, shower, and put on some fresh clothes. I feel proud, relaxed and super happy. Next up – get making that Sunday dinner!

As I sit here writing this, it sinks in just how big a part of my life Mr Shitty mindset is. I have multiple conversations with him every day. But, it doesn’t always play out like it did above. He’s pretty good at what he does.

I suspect I’m not alone in this, and that most of us struggle with this type of self talk.

Here are four ways I’ve found useful to beat Mr Shitty mindset:

1. Be conscious that it’s happening

I would guess that at least half the time, this self talk plays a big role in causing us to procrastinate, or take the easy way out.

Half the battle is consciously noticing when this self talk is happening. When you do that, you can choose to take a step back and address it. There’s no special tricks to this. All you have to do is be more mindful and self aware when in these situations.

2. Give it a name

I think of this self talk as being a persona called ‘Mr Shitty mindset’. If you give it a name, it feels like more of a real thing to deal with. It also helps you notice when it shows up.

3. Disrupt the pattern

Sometimes it can be as simple as disrupting what’s going on. Now and again, I’ll find My Shitty mindset shows up and starts questioning my values or goals. This is no exaggeration…. Literally, within a few minutes I can find myself questioning what the point of my job is. Or, why I even bother working out. Or, starting to convince myself that a personal project I’m working on is useless, silly and insignificant etc.

When this happens, I find it useful to disrupt what’s going on. I find something completely different to focus my attention on. Sometimes, all it takes is striking up a conversation with someone. Or, jumping into a task. Whatever it takes to get out of your own head, and focused on something else.

4. Use the two questions

When Mr Shitty mindset shows up, and you notice him, the two questions above really help.

I imagine how I will feel at the end of the day if I give into him, and choose to procrastinate or take the easy way out. And then I think about how I will feel if instead, I choose to do the right ( often hard) thing.

The trick is to then act immediately towards doing the right thing. If you hesitate, he has his hooks into you again. Once you take the first step, you’ve usually won.

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