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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Smith

Mindset, Part I

As a fitness trainer, I spend most of my time teaching people how to eat and workout in order to get the best results, and understandably so — most people come to the gym to lose weight, feel better, be healthy, and (whether they know it or not) extend their lives. Diet and exercise directly improve these metrics more than anything else. but there’s more to health than just the physical aspect. One of my favorite coaches, Ben Bergeron (CrossFit New England), recognizes 5 distinct but related factors that affect overall health & wellness: nutrition, sleep, training, mindset, and relationships. In this post, I want to discuss what is probably the most overlooked or undervalued of these factors: mindset.

What exactly is mindset? Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as “a person’s way of thinking and their opinions,” while Lexico says it is “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” But my favorite definition comes from Webster’s Online Dictionary, which states it is “a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations.” I know what you might think — mindset has little to no effect on someone's physical state. Sure, it might be important at a political debate or in a science lab, but why would it matter to your health? First, research has shown that your thoughts CAN have a significant impact on your physical well-being — for example, just look at this article HERE — but even more importantly, your attitude directly affects your choices, and your choices determine your future. Lao Tzu said it far better than I can:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes destiny.”

With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my best advice for having a productive mindset that can lead to physical AND emotional health, as well as fulfillment in whatever you choose to do. We’ll save the rest for another time, but today we are going to discuss priorities and focus.


Whether you know it or not, you prioritize your activities every day. When you rise out of bed, you choose what to do first — eat breakfast, brush your teeth, read the paper, watch the news, feed the dog, wake the kids. While your routine may be second nature by now, at some point you decided (perhaps unconsciously) what needed to be done immediately, and what could wait. But are these habits productive? Will they lead to your goals? What ARE your goals? If you have a goal you want to achieve, but you spend all your time and energy on other things, you cannot advance towards that goal. There’s nothing wrong with climbing the ladder of success… just make sure it’s the ladder you WANT to climb.

I challenge you to make your “to-do” list, and order it according to what is most important. Notice I didn’t say what is urgent (there is a difference), but rather what is important. Address those tasks first. Understanding the distinction between being busy and being productive is one of the keys to progress.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower wisely said,”I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Focus A focused mindset goes hand-in-hand with identifying your priorities, and while most people are aware they have room to improve in this area, they still struggle. Especially in today’s culture of shiny objects and short attention spans, it can be difficult to concentrate on the important things. This is where you should CHOOSE to be different. Own Your Attention First, you know that television, online streaming, and social media are designed to grab and keep your attention, so don’t let them! Own your thoughts. This can be the dividing line between success and mediocrity. It’s easy to waste hours being distracted by mindless entertainment (I know I’m guilty of this from time-to-time), and while there is nothing wrong with relaxing, when it’s time to work, you’ll be exponentially more productive if you can direct all your energy into the task at hand. Circle of Control Another important quality of a focused mind is identifying what you can and cannot control. There are aspects of life that are outside of your realm of influence — the weather, whether your regular lunch spot is out of your favorite meal today, or what time every day you have to arrive to class or your job — but knowing what you cannot control will also tell you what you CAN control. Once you realize what’s within your power to change, you can direct your focus on those choices, such as bundling up for cold weather or rain, trying a different dish or maybe packing your own lunch, and even rearranging your class schedule or searching for a job with a more suitable schedule. This may sound extreme, but understanding this distinction and concentrating on your own actions rather than the circumstances will help you to become proactive (as opposed to reactive). One of the “secrets" of productive and successful people is to focus on what you can control and what deserves your attention, and IGNORE THE REST. In the words of Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.”

Check back in a few days for the next part in this series.

Spencer Smith

Owner & Head Coach

CrossFit Donelson

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