Lately, I've been studying the concept up "creating conditions" that organically facilitate optimal performance. Today, I applied a few mental tweaks to my workout based on what I've learned.

Here's how and why it works:

Set a Difficult Goal

My particular goal for my workout this morning was to increase my max weight on bench press by 5 pounds.

Provide Yourself an Intrinsically Motivating Reward

If I achieved my goal, I'd allow myself to get my favorite post workout shake (filled with ice-cream and tons of other amazing things).

It's hard to say what I actually want more, the milkshake or to have an amazing workout. It doesn't really matter, because I want both.

Up the Ante

I also decided that if I achieved my goal, I'd write about it. This was a further incentive, since I always feel great on days I've published my ideas and thoughts.

Let it Sink in and Visualize the FEELING of Your Reward

Before even going to the gym, I set myself up to experience a highly virtuous cycle.

First, I'd experience an incredible workout, pushing myself beyond my current limits.

I'd push myself because I wanted to earn the rewards of:

  1. Having an amazing workout and experiencing growth
  2. Drinking my milkshake after a victory workout
  3. Writing about it

In order to change your psychology, you need to change the meanings behind your current behavior. We all get trapped in behavioral cycles because of the underlying meanings we associate with our behaviors.

I convinced myself I needed to exceed my bench press max today. Not only did I create enormous emotional incentives if I succeeded, but I also convinced myself that success was "do or die."

A powerful principle to live by is to Live like you could lose everything, because you no there really isn't anything to lose. Life is an abundant gift. It's all a gift. We came into this world with nothing and we're leaving with nothing. Everything we experience here is an unearned bonus. Yet, the natural order of the universe is to continuously give. As people, we too thrive when we are in a state of giving and helping others succeed.

Track Behavior

In order to actually exceed your current threshold, in whatever sphere you're trying to improve, you need to quantify where you currently are.

If you want to earn more money, you need to know down to the penny how much you earn and spend.

If you want to write more, you need to know how many words you write per week.

If you want to life more weight, you need to know you're absolute max.

If you want to be more productive with your time, you need to know how much time you lose on frivolous activities.

Be Patient and Don't Cheat Yourself

If you create a mental scenario before some form of performance and you don't meet your goal, don't indulge yourself on the benefits you didn't earn. If you do, you'll lose self-trust and self-respect.

Learn patience.

Reward yourself when you earn.