Our discussion of the self in lectures this week really resonated with me because of my choice of hobbies and career. As a CrossFit coach, I watch people face up to a broad variety of challenges with various levels of success, and have their conceptions about their own abilities to complete the task at hand either confirmed or rejected. In my own athletic life, I compete in the sport of weightlifting, where your score is the amount of weight that you lift, measured in kilograms. It’s nice to have the competition amount to one number, but that also presents a pretty bleak picture; if progress stops or regresses, you have numerical proof, and no one to blame but yourself.
One key to continued enjoyment of weightlifting is definitely a growth mindset. Every lifter has their strengths and weaknesses, but your weaknesses as a lifter will always hold back the amount of weight you can lift. This being the case, a good training program will often spend most of its time on the skills a lifter has not yet developed, while a fairly small portion will be devoted to the areas where one is already competent. This is cause for frustration, because people like to do what they’re good at. It can even cause cognitive dissonance. Often you’ll go into a training session thinking, “I’m a good weightlifter,” get slammed with a skill that you lack, and have to reconcile the two conflicting ideas. Here it’s important to realize that just because you lack something, that doesn’t mean you’ll lack it forever. The years of persistent training it takes to become a successful weightlifter will iron out those weaknesses, but you’ll only continue to train if you believe in your ability to improve.
Much of the same mental issues can be found in CrossFit. Although there is a much broader variety of skills to develop, people will still graviate towards that which they’re best at. A 220 pound man might love doing bench press, but hate doing pull-ups for example. Within the community, movements that individuals struggle with are labelled as “goats.” Often times, I’ll be able to predict which individuals show up for class based on the movements found in the workout. However, those individuals who show up regardless of the workouts that day are the ones who consistently make the most progress. Additionally, you’ll hear the phrase, “I suck at x,” or “I can never do y.” This form of self handicapping allows people to lessen the discomfort of being bad at something, but it also creates a self fulfilling prophecy. When people instead say, “I’m working on x,” that’s when they continue to make progress.