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  • Writer's pictureTom Foxley

4 Counter-Intuitive Secrets To A Better Mindset in 2023

Are the next 12 months going to be more of the same? Another year with great intentions but mediocre results? Or, is this going to be your year? One which counts?

If you’re ready to commit to a new level of athleticism, master your mindset, and build habits which serve you in 2023, this blog is for you.

Yes, you need more balance in 2023 than you had over the past 12 months. But more than that, you need to learn to flex your mindset skills and find adaptability amongst the chaos.

There are four mistakes athletes make when training their mindset. Mistakes that will create performance-crushing levels of self-doubt, fear, and frustration. Especially when you combine that with a demanding career, family life, and a backstory which may be holding you back.

Many athletes end up looking back at their time with disappointment that they didn’t fully commit to their potential. The opportunity to become the person they longed to be…to earn the respect of others… to have made these years valuable…has passed them by.

If you do not change these four things about your mindset, 2023 will be yet another wasted opportunity:

  1. Lose your obsession with the results & replace it with what actually matters

  2. Work for what can never be taken away from you

  3. Forget the obvious skills and train your character

  4. Stress yourself intentionally

Lose Your Results Obsession

With thousands of feet of thin air below him, and nothing to stop his fall, Alex Honnold intentionally unbalanced his weight and kicked sideways toward the foothold that he needed to hit. With the momentum from the kick displacing his centre of gravity, if he missed the kick, he would tumble to his death on the floor of the Yosemite valley.

This was the most treacherous part of his free solo climb of El Cap (no ropes, no harness, nothing but his skill to stop his fall) - a mindblowing 2000ft ascent.

Of course, Honnold didn’t just rock up (pun intended) and climb this on a whim. He meticulously studied the route, he practised it for years with a rope, and he spent untold time visualising every move. He could tell you about every foothold, every hand hold, every grain of the rock’s texture along the way.

He became obsessed with the process. Yes, he had the goal of free soloing El Cap, a phenomenal achievement which sent shockwaves through not just the climbing community, but the rest of the world. Yet he put this to one side, and broke it down to focusing on mastering just one move at a time.

It’s this kind of obsession over the process that will lead you to a far better mindset in 2023. If all you think about is your goals, you magnify the gap between you and them. They become daunting and it will seem like you will definitely fail. This results in a decline in confidence and self-belief, and a million other mindset problems.

Obsess over the incremental improvements to your technique, slight advances in nutrition, the small shifts in your mentality, and you will find yourself motivated, driven, determined, and ultimately successful. Your mindset in 2023 will be exceptional. Think only about game day, and the pressure will sink you.

7 years ago, I found this out the hard way when I was invited to become a Physical Training Instructor in the Royal Marines. My ego was stoked at the invitation, and I only looked at the end result. I stopped training with the enthusiasm, intensity, and dedication that role required. I didn’t study what the course would look like.

I failed the course miserably and it knocked my confidence for years to come. This was all a result of placing my focus on the results, not the process.

Pursue meaning, not goals

Bilbo was just going about his comfortable life when the dwarves knocked on his door and invited themselves into his house. Gandalf, the wizard, turned up and caused more chaos that same night. His perfectly ordered house (and life) quickly became a mess. The purpose of the visit is eventually revealed:

Bilbo’s invited to join an adventure. The adventure of a lifetime. It’s going to be challenging, dangerous, terrifying, and he probably won’t come back alive.

After trying to turn down the call to adventure over and over, Bilbo listens to the part of his heart which whispers “this is your calling,” joins the wizard and dwarves, and embarks to steal a ring from a dragon. The whole journey sits on the precipice of disaster but Bilbo eventually succeeds not only in a goal bigger than he could have ever imagined, but in fulfilling his potential. He became the hobbit he always dreamt of being.

This adventure was not in Bilbo’s plans, but it was meaningful. It lit up a part of his soul and it resonated in his heart: this was the journey for him. It didn’t make sense to the outside world. It wasn’t sensible, but it was what his deepest self truly desired.

It was through a pursuit of meaning, not of attainment, that Bilbo achieved his potential. When we pursue outcomes that we can measure - like a podium or a bodyweight - we often turn down our personal call to adventure. Our focus becomes so narrow that we forget why we started and lose sight of what our brains are attuned to: meaning.

Meaning is the path between chaos and order, it holds your potential and the opportunities you need to uplevel.

The mind pays attention to what is meaningful because meaning is what provides you with the journey your physical and mental attributes are best suited to. Meaning is what kept our ancestors safe from predators, but it’s also what Da Vinci channelled to create the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and what led Tia Toomey to five consecutive CrossFit Games gold medals. It’s meaning that tunes you into the destiny which you’re made for.

Stop chasing quantifiable goals because of the way it looks to others. Start pursuing what is inherently meaningful to you.

One of my clients messaged me the other day. It has been five or more years since we worked together last. When we finished our time together, she had handed in her resignation to the corporate job which crushed her spirit. To do what, who knew? But the message I got last week told me she had committed her life to humanitarian work in Uganda now. She traded the “right” goals for meaning.

She’s never been happier.

Forget the obvious skills and train your character instead

One of CrossFit’s best contributions was defining the 10 physical skills and pointing out that the fittest athlete on earth would train all 10 of them to the highest level. The fittest would not only have exquisite strength and endurance, but power, agility, flexibility, and coordination too.

This checklist gave athletes a series of athletic benchmarks to improve upon. Physically at least, they knew what to target. This provides an athlete with an honest understanding of where they’re at, and also clarity on how to grow.

For some unknown reason - maybe because we’re uncomfortable looking at our character, or for fear of the realisation that we’re not everything we could be - we’ve never defined the character skills constituting mental fitness. Until now:

  • Grit

  • Compassion

  • Patience

  • Assertiveness

  • Focus

  • Confidence

  • Curiosity

  • Acceptance

  • Self-Belief/Self-Trust

  • Courage

  • Emotional Regulation

  • Wisdom

These are the character skills you must develop to train your mindset. They’re the foundation of a better mindset in 2023.

Musashi knew death was closing in for him. 7 days before he died from suspected lung cancer, the greatest swordsman to ever live penned 21 rules a warrior should live by. His philosophy would be immortalised.

The precepts barely touch on the craft of swordsmanship - the thing Musashi was renowned for - but delved into the character needed to become successful.

What Musashi knew is that it’s character we need to train primarily, not technique.

Stress yourself intentionally

My breath catches in my throat and every sinew of my body implores me to STOP. “Just get out now.” The self-talk is strong, but I overcome it.

Two or three times per week, I risk the judgement of my very conservative and ‘proper’ neighbours, and dressed in nothing but my boxers, climb into a wheelie bin of ice cold water. Nextdoor think I’m insane.

This is the perfect opportunity to train my mindset though. Not only am I conquering the narratives which tell me I’m not good enough, and training all kinds of character skills, I’m training my nervous system to respond to stress in a positive way.

If you’re anything like the rest of the population, you spend most of your life highly caffeinated, highly stressed, under recovered, and over stimulated. The dial of your nervous system is probably cranked up to 9/10 for most of the day.

This means your mindset is incredibly difficult to control. The mind and body are not separate entities, with one controlling the other. The mind and the body are two aspects of the same system, and if your body is out of tune, the harmonies of your mindset will be too.

Thoughts will run away from you, berating you with negativity. Emotions will ride a rollercoaster - unpredictable and unhelpful. Behaviours will become non-serving, and you will perform cycles of behaviour which sabotage your success.

If you stress your nervous system at the correct time though, and just as importantly, allow it to recover fully, you will have more control over your mentality. You won’t be at the whim of your body’s craving for peace. You will find all the presence and focus you need.

Beyond the improved regulation of your nervous system, there’s value in doing something difficult merely for the reason of doing something difficult. Voluntary challenge forges a stronger mindset regardless of success.

In 2023, stress yourself intentionally and feel the dramatic shift that occurs in your mindset.

Wrapping Up

2023 can be the best year you’ve ever had, if you…

  1. Fall in love with the process, and spend less time focusing on the results

  2. Pursue what is most meaningful to you, not what it quantifiable

  3. Train your character more than your physical skills

  4. Stress your nervous system intentionally

If you’re reading this before the end of the first week of January 2023, there’s a very small chance there’ll be spaces for a brand new 12 week mindset coaching service I’m offering. It’s 12 weeks to complete self-belief and confidence. If you’re interested, head to my instagram and DM me the word ‘interested’.


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