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The Importance of the Correct Mindset & Goal Setting

“The mind is key to everything, whatever you do physically is determined by your mindset” – Dorian Yates, 6x Mr Olympia.

Dorian Yates Training Chest

It’s important however, to have the correct mindset. But how would one know what the correct mindset is? Well, your mindset needs to correlate with your chosen goals, only you can determine that. Only you can choose your goals and where you want to get to. Speaking of goals, this is where people fail.  They set unrealistic goals and have no method of keeping on track of their progress towards their goals. Their laser focused mindset has now fallen apart and they’re back to where they started.

When setting your overall goals, it’s critical to break these down into smaller, achievable goals. This way, you’ll be motivated on each step of your journey. Think of it like this, if you want to climb a mountain, you’re starting from the bottom and you look up, you cannot see the top. The same as your goal, you can’t see the end result because you haven’t achieved it yet, however you can create an image of this in your mind and keep this thought in your head… it’s your goal. So back to the mountain, the only way to get to the top is to start right? Well firstly that’s a mini goal in itself, the beginning of your journey towards your goal. From here it’s about reaching each ledge and then the next, and so on and so on. Celebrating each small goal is crucial, you need to realise that you’re actually making progress and that you’re one step closer to your end goal.

Writing your goals down on paper is powerful too. It’s right there in front of you, almost like a contract that you’ve signed… it’s a commitment that you’ve made. Are you going to stick to your word?

From here, you then need to keep track of your progress, from week to week, month to month and review your progress regularly to ensure you’re on the right track. Whether your overall goal is to achieve a certain look/weight or lift a certain weight.

A tool that Dorian himself always used was his training log. Every workout that Dorian Yates ever did from 1984 – 1997 has been written down, in ink, in a notebook.

Dorian Yates Training Journal Workout from 1985
Dorian Yates Training Journal Workout from 1985

But this training log was not just limited to weights and exercises, Dorian recorded all the relevant parameters so that he was able to measure his progress and compare to the previous weeks, months and even years! In addition to this, he even wrote short summaries of how the session went and with whom he trained with and at which gym. Dorian could go back to a certain date in one of his training logs and would be able to remember the exact workout!

As mentioned earlier about setting smaller goals, Dorian did just this. All these little goals will add up to the big one.

It’s the little things that make the big things happen…

So Dorian would set himself to achieve smaller goals such as the little increments in weight, as in using 1kg plates to progress instead of sticking a 5kg plate on once the previous small goal was achieved.

It is indeed these little increments that will add up over time, one more kilogram of weight, one more rep… over the course of a few weeks you can really make a big difference.

But going back to having the correct mindset, it’s all well and good writing this down in a notebook, but it’s a different beast altogether when you put your mind to this. What we mean here is that in order to gain the maximum benefit from this tool, you need to thoroughly read and analyse your performance numbers. Take 10 minutes before you go to the gym to sit down and apply your mind to your training journal and think about your goals. Think about your exercises, which order are you going to complete them in? Think of how you’ll feel when pushing through your limits and the feeling of success when achieving your mini goals.

This is just what Dorian did, before his workout, he would sit in his office at the gym for roughly 10 minutes and go over his previous performance and visualise how his session would go. He would visualise each aspect, the music that’d be playing (some of favourites being: Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit and for every leg workout was Guns ’n’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction), the clothes he’d be wearing, the feeling of lifting the weight. He’d visualise the whole workout from start to finish, so he’s now already got it all in his mind and the last thing left to do is to replay that tape in real life.

It’s just like Dorian said, “Most people walk into the gym without a goal or plan. They wander around the gym, hopping from exercise to exercise, from machine to machine and then wonder why they aren’t making any progress. Say you’re setting out on a boat and you want to reach a certain location, but you have no map, well how are you going to get to your destination?”

Dorian Yates Preparing for Barbell Rows

Without a plan, you cannot possibly know how you’re going to get to your end goal. This is where the mini goals come into place, where you can reach each of the stepping stones to get to your final goal.

When Dorian trained, this was his time, this was his job. He did not allow for distractions to come into play, he gave it his all and left it all in the gym. To keep himself motivated during his sessions, he’d have the thought of his goals in his mind. When he’d be lifting and going to war, the thought of giving up never crossed his mind, because he knew that this pain that he was going through was only temporary and that his goals are far more important than this temporary pain he was in.

He’d focus on each aspect of the movement too, controlling the weight, stretching the muscle, squeezing the muscle, he’d shut off the outside world and it was just him against this weight that he’d be attacking. He saw his workouts as a form of meditation!

This was his time. This is your time.

No distractions, no joking around.

So that’s Dorian’s advice on how to channel your mind and the importance of goal setting. You only put out what your mind is telling you to put out, so prepare yourself mentally and set yourself to be in a positive tune… you’ll have a better chance to succeed.

Visualise every detail of your end goal and how you’re going to feel when you reach it. The mind controls everything, it can be a great servant or a horrible master if you lose control of it!

Posted by Aaron Johal