What they are, their impact on our perspectives, how to use them, and when to use them

Progress Is A Matter Of Perspective

Let me ask you a question.  How would you feel if your goal for the next month was to lose four pounds, but at the end of the month you only lost one?  I’m guessing you would say you wouldn’t feel very good.  You might even say you would feel like you failed.  But what if I asked you how you would feel if your goal for the next month was to just not gain any weight and at the end of the month you had actually lost one pound?”  I’m willing to bet you would say you would feel pretty good.

So what explains the fact that in both of these scenarios you lost the exact same amount of weight, but in the first scenario you felt like you failed, and in the second you felt like you succeeded?  The answer is perspective. And what determines our perspectives are our expectations and our approach.

Progress Versus Maintenance

When we work to achieve a fitness goal, there are two ways we can approach our exercise and dietary programs.  The first is with what I call a progress mindset. When we use a progress mindset we dedicate as much time, effort, and energy as we can toward progressing toward our goal. With a progress mindset we push.  We push ourselves to exercise more often, push ourselves to exercise harder, and push ourselves to follow our eating plan as closely as possible.

The second approach is with what I call a maintenance mindset. With a maintenance mindset our goal becomes to invest the minimum amount of time, effort, and energy needed to maintain our current state.  When we are in a maintenance mindset we don’t push ourselves to exercise as often, as hard, nor eat as well as we do when we are in a progress mindset.  We scale back our goals and expectations to match the time and energy we have to exercise and eat healthy.

When To Use Each Mindset

On a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis, what determines whether we should use a progress mindset or a maintenance mindset is our schedule.  We need to start by looking at the next month or two and figuring out the general level of external commitment we can expect.

For instance, if it is January 1st, we should look through the end of February and ask ourselves questions such as, “how busy do I think it will be at work?”  “Will I be traveling a lot?” “How many social events am I committed to where there will be excessive drinking?” “Are the holidays coming up?” “Do I have a vacation planned?” “Will my children’s schedules remain relatively stable?”

If when we’ve answered these questions it looks like our schedule will give us enough time, energy, and control, then it makes sense to adopt the progress mindset and push ourselves toward our goal.  If it looks like our schedule won’t, it is important to adopt the maintenance mindset and prepare to hold the line until our schedule becomes more favorable.

We need to examine each week individually as well as our schedules are always changing.  We may be in a maintenance mindset this month, but find our schedule for the coming week particularly light.  In that case, switch to the progress mindset for the next week.  Then switch right back to just trying to maintain when the week is done.

Become A Master Maintainer

It is unfortunate we overlook maintaining so often.  We get stuck in the mindset that if we are not aggressively working toward our goal, we are failing.  And when we feel like we are failing, we want quit.

But by differentiating between the progress mindset and the maintenance mindset, we give ourselves tools to both aggressively pursue our goals and manage our emotions during the more turbulent times of our training program.

So remember, we need to analyze our monthly and weekly commitments, apply the proper mindset, and stay flexible when, not if, our schedule change.