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  • Writer's pictureTom Foxley

Mindset is a Skill: Train it Accordingly

Today, I’m going to teach you the right way to view your mindset. And help you stay away from the biggest mistake you could make.

Having the wrong view of your mindset means; frustratingly slow progress; a lack of control over your thoughts and emotions; and your mindset always limiting your potential.

The biggest reason you struggle to transform your mindset is thinking of it as something that goes through huge “shifts”, and not something that you incrementally train.

You will fail to change your mindset if you don’t train it intentionally and daily.

Mindset is a skill. Train it accordingly.

A skill is defined as “a learned power of doing something competently; a developed aptitude or ability”. Mindset is learned and developed, not inherited or instantly flipped.

Here’s what you’ll learn today:

  • Why you need to train your mind like you train your body

  • How the Royal Marines made training my mind simple & how you can use that to your advantage

  • What to do when you have a bad mindset day

  • How a terminal cancer patient will help you train your mindset

Why you need to train your mind like you train your body

If you reached out to me for help with your mindset, we’d jump on a call. At some point, I would ask you about any mindset training you’d experienced before. If you’re anything like everyone who has previously enquired to work with me you’d say something like, “I’ve read a few books, listened to some podcasts, tried journaling for a while, but nothing seems to make long lasting change.”

The most common reason athletes fail to change their mindset is because they don’t put the reps in. You wouldn’t expect your body to get fitter/stronger/more flexible etc. without putting the reps in at the gym. As much as we’d like to “have an ahah moment” and our mindset would shift permanently, that’s not reality.

You have neural circuits in your brain for every potential thought you could have. When you think that thought or feel that emotion, the circuit gets stronger. The thoughts and emotions that you perform most regularly are more likely to occur in the future. That’s your brain getting efficient at performing what it considers most likely to happen next. You need to put the reps into a mindset training program if you are going to create change.

Here’s a study conducted by Dr. Blaslotto at the University of Chicago in 1996 on visualisation.

Dr. Blaslotto’s study was conducted by asking a group of students who had been randomly selected to take a series of free-throws. The percentage of made free throws were tallied. The students were then divided into three groups and asked to perform three separate tasks over a 30 day period.

– The first group was told not to touch a basketball for 30 days, no practising or playing basketball whatsoever.

– The second group was told to practise shooting free throws for a half hour a day for 30 days

– The third group was to come to the gym every day for 30 days and spend a half hour with their eyes closed, simply visualising hitting every free-throw.

After the 30 days all three groups were asked to come back and take the same number of free-throws they had in the beginning of the study.

– The first group of students who did not practise at all showed no improvement

– The second group had practised every day and showed a 24% improvement

– The third group however, the group which had simply visualised successful free-throws, showed a 23% improvement

Notice how the third group put the reps in.

How the Royal Marines made training my mind simple

When I started my journey to become a Royal Marines Commando, I did not possess the character I needed to finish training. I had many misconceptions about what and who a Royal Marine was. Over the years, challenges helped bring out the character I needed (just like your training will help you develop your character), but that wasn’t enough. I was given a cheat sheet of sorts.

That cheat sheet, takes the form of the Values of the Royal Marines (excellence, integrity, self discipline, & humility) and the Ethos of the Royal Marines (courage, determination, cheerfulness in the face of adversity, & unselfishness). In training, if you’re in doubt about how to act, these Ethos and Values are your guides.

When you’re putting the mindset reps in, you need to know who you need to become, not just what you want to achieve. Hope isn’t a good enough strategy - you’ve got to give your mindset a target to attain.

When I work with athletes, we work on building character intentionally. Before each training session, they will know what character skills they will practise and how they can display them. This helps you hone your mindset skill base so you can adapt it to the demands of the situation you’re in.

Below is an example of how one of our athletes chose to train his mindset on this particular day

What to do when your mindset sucks or you have a bad day

I’m writing this 2300 meters above sea level, in Val Thorens, France. I’m about to embark on another day of skiing with a guide, Tom Grant. Tom has been helping me become a better skier in more challenging terrain. He’s been pushing me to learn new skills that are outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been falling, feeling super unbalanced, embarrassed that I can’t develop the skills more quickly, and feeling like an amateur.

Here’s the thing: learning a new skill is messy. It’s uncomfortable and awkward and often pretty abrasive to any sense of ego you have. Same goes for mindset. When you’re training the skill of mindset, you are going to have bad days. You’re going to have days where it feels like you’re never going to improve. And those are the days where you learn the most.

Failure is a good thing: you need to fail as much as you can emotionally and physically tolerate.

The best gymnasts in the world seem to hold an unflinching handstand. Steadfast and rock solid, they never seem to waver from perfect balance. If you’ve learned to handstand, or if you watch closely, you’ll know this isn’t true though. What’s happening is they’re making micro adjustments that aren’t visible to anyone other than themselves. The same happens when you train your mindset.

You have to learn to adjust, and initially the only way you’ll learn when you need to adapt is through failure.

How a terminal cancer patient can help you train your mindset

Roland Griffiths isn’t an athlete, but he’s the epitome of a trained mindset. A psychiatrist by training, Griffiths has played a giant role in the introduction of psychedelics as treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. He’s a highly experienced meditator and in one way or another, has spent a lifetime training his mindset to an exquisite level. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Initially he was overwhelmed by the news. “I felt depression, anger, and rage,” Griffiths said in an interview with Tim Ferriss, “but none of those seemed very skillful.” This was Griffiths’ reminder that he could handle this better. He could cave into those emotions, which are certainly important to acknowledge, or he could aim at skillful deployment of his mental state.

No matter the challenge you encounter with your mindset; a tough training session, the biggest competition of your life, a divorce, or even a terminal diagnosis, remember this; you have the choice to capitulate, or handle it with grace.

The only way you can choose grace is by putting in the reps today.

Mindset is a skill:

  • You need to put the reps into it

  • Aim at character skills

  • You need to fail as much as you can emotionally tolerate

  • Skillfully deploy your mindset


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