Welcome to the second part in my series on examining motivational exercise quotes! If you need a reminder as to what we are doing here, many people look online for a quote before they start a workout or an exercise program to get their blood pumping and their minds ready for the work they are about to undertake.
This can be a great practice as there are so many quotes online to check out. However, I wanted to take a deeper look at what these quotes mean to see if they are definitely something you want to follow or if they contain anything we should be cautious about.
If you want to take a look at Part 1 of the series, check it out here and let me know your thoughts!
Today’s quote is one you have most likely heard: “You are stronger than you think!”
Mind Over Matter – How Much Does It Matter?
When we get to the root of what this quote is about, it boils down to the age-old idea of mind over matter. In essence, this is absolutely true! We all have instances in our lives where we have been met with challenges and either convinced ourselves we could or could not overcome them.
Whether we succeed or not is largely based on what we THINK we can or cannot do.
For example, if I keep thinking to myself, “I’m never going to be able to write this article”, chances are I will convince myself and end up not writing a sentence. However, if I think positively, looking back on my past successful experiences of writing, I most likely will be able to overcome any hesitation and move forward until completion!
This brings up a very important point. Notice how I talked about drawing on past experiences? If I just stay in the moment and how I feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing, I can’t move forward. That’s why in order for this quote to mean anything to me, I have to base my thinking more on what I know than what I feel!
This is effective for all aspects of life, not just exercise!
Overcoming Depression – My Personal Experience
Let’s face it. There will be times when our feelings are so strong that we can’t reach back to what we know is true.
After my son was born, I fell into a deep depression during a time that should have been joyful. Our son was a high risk for coming very early, so it had been a hard pregnancy. My wife had to be on bed rest for the last three months. This brought on a lot of stress for me, as I was always wondering if I was going to get a phone call at work telling me to rush to the hospital.
I also took on a lot of the responsibility at home that we normally would have divided up, including caring for our three-year old daughter. Every day seemed like there were just too many things to do and I was always in go-go-go mode.
When my son finally came (going full-term, thank God) I made it my goal to help my wife as much as possible since she had experienced postpartum depression with our first child. I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to prevent that from happening again at the detriment to my own health. I stopped taking care of myself and eventually just crashed.
During the early days of the depression, what I knew to be true became clouded by what I felt to be true. I was nowhere near stronger than I thought! As I went to counseling, I was taught how to keep a mood journal. In this, I would write down whenever I had a negative thought or feeling, record how strong it was, and write what the truth was.
This forced me to think deeply about the feelings I was having and calling them out for the lies they were. Through this practice, I learned to trust more in what was true than what I was feeling. Eventually, I didn’t have to write anything down anymore, because I could recognize the negative thoughts and correct them in the moment. However, I never would have gotten to that point if I hadn’t started with the written portion!
The Strongman – Pushing Past Your Perceived Limits
While on the topic of being stronger than you think you are, I work at a school, and recently we had an assembly in which a professional strongman/motivational speaker came. As he gave his story, it began to resonate with me more than any of the feats of strength he performed (including rolling up a frying pan and bending a piece of rebar over the bridge of his nose, which were amazing!).
He spoke of how when he was born, he was allergic to everything. He had a hard time getting the nutrition and sleep he needed to grow well. He dealt with ADD in school, was teased by his peers, and struggled because of his lack of focus. He was called lazy.
Do you think he would be where he is today if he spent all his time thinking about what he couldn’t do?
He eventually became interested in martial arts, weightlifting, and after some time decided to become a professional strongman after gaining an interest in the subject! Feel free to check him out here!
There was one example he gave that really stuck with me after the presentation was over. There were several times he met failure and became dejected. He was not stronger than he thought or even hoped he was. However, instead of quitting and proving those from his childhood right, he pushed forward.
Through a combination of knowing the different feats he had accomplished before and receiving constructive encouragement from his coach, he was able to overcome! In fact, he has become a world-record holding strongman.
When he didn’t feel strong, he drew on what he knew and the encouragement of trusted others to help him accomplish his goals.
So What? How To Effectively Apply This Concept
Why do I give you these personal stories and what do they have to do with the quote?
My hope is to drive the point home that while this quote is true, you can’t just take it at face-value. Telling someone they are stronger than they think they are will only help them if they have the tools to overcome how they are currently feeling! The mind must supersede the emotion.
For exercise or life in general, this is why I recommend (and use for myself) some sort of journal to track your progress. This will give you a concrete place on which to look back and see evidence of your accomplishments that can bust through your feelings of failure.
In my opinion, the only way to truly be stronger than you think you are is if your thinking is informed by what is true. You don’t have to believe the lies you tell yourself. Instead, give yourself the tools to counteract them and prove to yourself that success has been possible in the past and can be again in the future!
Even if you overcome your negative thinking, try to accomplish your goal, and fail, don’t get discouraged! Be realistic (see my article on setting SMART goals for help), challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail. Many times, when you fail, you are only one or two steps away from succeeding. If you give up, you’ll never know what could have been!
With Knowledge Comes Strength
I hope this article has been an informative look at this popular fitness quote and has given you some practical advice on how to make it work in your life. We absolutely are stronger than we think, but only if that thinking is informed by evidence more than current feelings. The best way I know how to stay informed is to keep a record of your progress and successes!
Let me know if this has been helpful to you. What is your opinion of the quote? What is your own experience with tracking your progress? Have you had times when your “in the moment” feelings got the best of you? How did you overcome them? Let me know in the comments and thanks so much for reading! As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Be strong in body and mind, everyone!