Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome.

Dead-Hang Pull-up IM_No Text

In early November 2015 licensed psychologist Dr. Lisa Lewis co-presented with me at I Am Not Afraid To Lift Boston to speak more deeply on the subject of mindset in athletic and training performance.

Two simple yet significant concepts that I took away from her presentation were:

  1. Focus on the process, not the outcome; and
  2. The importance and various levels of Arousal Regulation.

Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome.

When it comes to accomplishing a task or completing a lift in training, often times we focus too much on the outcome. For example, “I have to complete three sets of five pull-ups today…”

As a result we focus on the outcome, the number, the end state, the five pull-ups.

When we focus on the outcome, on the five pull-ups, more often than not it will cause us great anxiety, which will include negative thoughts, a subsequent physiological response, and as a result potentially cause us to fail, to not be able to complete those three sets of five pull-ups, or maybe not even one set of five pull-ups.

Focusing on that number, on those FIVE pull-ups can lead to a crescendo of other counterproductive thoughts such as,

“I wonder if I will be able to complete all five pull-ups today?”

“Did I eat enough yesterday?”

“Did I get enough sleep last night?”

“Will anyone be watching me as I try to complete my sets?”


This is just an example, but I think you understand my point.

As a result, focusing on the outcome rather than the process can prevent us from accomplishing our goal that day and our goals in general.

So how do we focus on the process rather than the outcome? The process is the steps that you have to take to complete one pull-up, then a second pull-up, then a third pull-up, all the way to the full set of five pull-ups.

Your steps may look something like this,

“Grab the bar, right hand, left hand, hang, hollow, GO!”

Or the example that Lisa gave at I Am Not Afraid To Lift Boston was one of the cues that I gave when I was teaching pull-ups, “Get tight to get light, and GO!”

Or like that time at I Am Not Afraid To Lift Boston 2014 before Kelly Coffey of Strong Coffey Personal Training was about to do her first ever weighted pull-up with 10lbs I said to her, “Grab, hang, and go!”

To which she replied, “It’s like an Egg McMuffin!!!”

Hilarious. I love it.

Focus on the steps that you have to successfully complete in order to accomplish the outcome, not the outcome itself. Whatever gets you to focus on the process, egg mcmuffins and all.

Arousal Regulation.

As defined by Williams, J. & Harris, D. (2006). Relaxation and energizing techniques for regulation of arousal. In Williams, J.M. (Ed.), Applied Sport Psychology: Personal Growth to Peak Performance. “Arousal regulation refers to entering into and maintaining an optimal level of cognitive and physiological activation in order to maximize performance.”

What does it take for you to get “pumped up”, or mentally primed in order for you to perform at your best in sport, training, or competition?

At I Am Not Afraid To Lift I talk about mindset and how you should approach your lifts. The example I give is to attack your lifts the way Xena attacks deadlifts in this picture,

Xena Deadlifts

However, Lisa had a really great point to make at the workshop when she saw this slide and that was, “This sort of excitement to get pumped up for a lift may work for Artemis and some of you, but it may not work for others.”

Lisa went on to explain that on a scale of one to ten Xena is an eight or a nine. She needs to yell, cheer, get pumped up before she deadlifts.

Whereas someone else, lets say Snow White, might be more of a four on a scale of one to ten in that before she approaches her lifts she calmly says to herself, “I’m going to do the best that I can.”

Some of us need the stimulation that Xena demonstrates in the above picture, but for others that might be too much stimulation and it could cause stress and take away from performance.

Conversely, Xena may not get enough stimulation if she prepares herself the way Snow White does and that lack of stimulation, that lack of arousal, could adversely affect her performance.

We each need an optimal level of stimulation in order to perform our best in sport, training, or competition. For some of us that may be an eight or nine like Xena, for others that may be a three or four, like Snow White or Eeyore.



To this point, in preparation for the a push/pull meet that I am going to do on December 13, 2015 with the Cressey Sports Performance women’s powerlifting group, this past Tuesday I had to deadlift three single repetitions at 97% of my max, which is 265lbs (max is 275lbs), and bench press three single repetitions at 97% of my max, which is 125lbs (max is 130lbs).

I had strict instructions from my Coach Tony Bonvechio of “NO FAILED REPS.”

I had never deadlifted over 245lbs by myself before so this was a big test to see if I could motivate myself, stay focused, and get it done.

Sure enough I got all three reps done at 265lbs, no failed reps, and as Tony B. pointed out, BELT-LESS, which I didn’t even think about because we don’t have a belt at Iron Body Studios. Realizing that I completed these lifts without a using belt and knowing that I didn’t even think about that I might need a belt was definitely a confidence booster. I wasn’t relying on other people or accessories to help me get the job done.

I was completely alone in the gym that day and as I watched the videos of my three lifts after I completed them I watched my body language, and listened to what I was saying to myself and it reminded me of the concepts that Lisa spoke to at I Am Not Afraid To Lift Boston in November 2015,

  1. Focus on the process.
  2. My optimal level of arousal/stimulation as it pertains to arousal regulation in sport, training, or competition.

For the process I knew I was thinking about what I needed to do to maintain tension and to move the heavy weight off the floor as quickly as possible.

The mantra I kept repeating to myself out loud was “Three singles, no failed reps.”

You’ll see as you watch the videos of the lifts, for the motivation and stimulation I needed in order to get the task done I noticed that I used the music, I like to dance and clap, and say to myself “Let’s do this!”

I am very much like Xena in the deadlift picture.

The other thing that I did before I deadlifted my goal weight of 265lbs, was that I made sure that I warmed up properly by deadlifting light to heavy, higher reps to lower reps until I reached 265lbs.

One key thing that I did was to deadlift 255lbs first to give myself a little confidence for the reps with 265lbs.

255lbs Deadlift

I knew if 255lbs was successful and felt good then I would have the mindset to complete 265lbs.

From there I went to on to deadlift 265lbs for one single,

A second single,

And then finally, a third single,

I am showing you all of the footage because I think it’s interesting to see how I motivate myself and get this task done.

One last thing that was interesting to me was that I noticed that in these videos in my training when I am alone I am very animated and vocal, but when I am in a true competition setting surrounded by people, like my kung fu black belt test or the Iron Maiden Challenge I approach the task in a more subdued manner. I don’t sing, dance, and clap. I focus and DO.

Nanquan Kung Fu Form, Kung Fu Black Belt Test 2009

Iron Maiden Challenge July 25, 2014

Or even when I deadlifted 275lbs for the first time, you’ll notice I was calm and focused while my coach and training team cheered me on,

My thoughts on this are that when I am alone I need to generate energy to get myself to that eight or a nine that I need to be at in order to perform my best, but when I am surrounded by people in a competition setting, those people and their cheering and encouragement do this for me so I do not need to add to that excitement.

When you attempt a challenging lift in training do you focus on the process or do you focus on the outcome?

If you focus on the outcome, is it holding you back from performing optimally or reaching your goal(s)?

When it comes to Arousal Regulation, on a scale of one to ten are you Xena or are you Snow White? Do you know what level of stimulus you need in order to perform your best?

These are simple, yet critical concepts that will help you to perform optimally in training, sport, or competition. The more you are aware of your mental scripts, and the level of arousal that you need in order to complete a task, the more successful you will be at reaching your goal(s).

The more awareness and practice you put into these concepts, the more intuitive they become and the better you will perform in training, sport, or competition, and the more easily you will reach your goal(s).

Just like everything else in life, practice helps to improve this process and to make it flow more organically.



If you want to learn more about mindset and about how to improve your practice of mindset in training, sport, and competition, then I hope you will join Dr. Lisa Lewis and I for I Am Not Afraid To Lift, The Power of Mindset Edition in Severna Park, Maryland (8 miles from Annapolis and 20 miles from Baltimore) on April 2, 2016 at Dauntless Fitness & Health, and in Miami, Florida at Primal Fit Miami on a 2016 date TBA.

Registration is NOW OPEN for I Am Not Afraid To Lift Maryland 2016. There are only 10 spots available at the early bird rate. You can register HERE under EVENTS.

Lift_Power of Mindset Edition

Learn more about and from Dr. Lisa Lewis in her guest blog “Find Your Flow With Metacognition” HERE.

Registration is also NOW OPEN for I Am Not Afraid To Lift Monroe-Woodbury, New York 2016 at Results Drive Fitness Systems on April 17, 2016. You can register HERE under EVENTS.

Registration is also NOW OPEN for both I Am Not Afraid To Lift and Keep It Simple Australia 2016 on February 13-14, 2016 at Queensland Kettlebells in Brisbane. You can register for Lift Australia 2016 HERE.

Malaysia at Fitmosphere Asia on a May 2016 date TBA.

Read the full current 2016 Lift workshop schedule HERE.

This workshop is truly a do not miss event. It will impact how you train and how you approach strength training and LIFE in ways that you never imagined.

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