As you learned in the last article “A Simple Hack To Influence Your Genes (and Therefore Your Health)” intent is key. The focus and intention of where you direct your energy play a huge role in your results. Intent is simple in theory, but not necessarily easy to implement.
The reason it’s not easy for most people to implement intent is twofold: first, we may not know the importance of intent (or worse, we may not believe intent matters at all), and second, we are distracted and/or overstimulated.
This article is going to help you understand the importance of intent and arm you with the knowledge to believe and apply focused intent in your own life to maximize your performance.
Belief is something I’ve mentioned a few times in prior articles. Without belief, you won’t allow yourself to focus properly and have the best intention to immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing to improve your health. This is true whether you’re in workout, practicing a nutrition habit, or recovery practice. You need to believe that what you’re doing physically is going to make you better. Belief is the key piece in mindset that allows your intent to play the amplifying role in all change, positive or negative.
In order to believe we need to understand the how, and to understand we need knowledge and proof. Because when we see the proof and are armed with the knowledge of how, we can move past the doubt and believe in the process. For some of us this belief is easier because we are more “suggestible” (more on this later). For others (myself included, due to my engineering background), we may need more proof.
So let’s dive into some studies of how mindset, specifically our intent, can influence our genes and our health.
A study we reviewed last article was about the maids. In 2007 Harvard psychologists Alia Crum, Ph.D. and Ellen Langer, Ph.D. performed a study involving 84 hotel maids.1 An initial survey of the maids showed that 67% didn’t think they exercised enough, and 37% believed they didn’t exercise at all. The researchers took measurements of the maids (weight, body fat percentage, and blood pressure among other things) then split them into two groups. One group worked at one hotel and the second group at a different hotel, a split that kept the control group separate from the test group.
The researchers told the test group that the work they were doing as maids exceeded the Surgeon General’s recommendation for daily exercise (30 minutes). They didn’t tell the control group at the second hotel anything. After a month they remeasured the maids and found surprising results: the maids in the test group who had been told their work was adequate exercise had lost an average of 2 pounds, lost body fat percentage, and saw their blood pressure go down. The control group saw no change.
The study shows that all the maids were already exercising but they were just going through the motions of work. When the test group changed the intent of their daily work and believed it was exercise their bodies reacted and changed.
But you may have already read this and want more proof.
In 1993, 48 young adults in Quebec participated in a study to determine if intent could impact psychological well-being. The group underwent a 10-week aerobic exercise program comprised of three 90-minute exercise sessions each week. At the beginning they were split into a test group and a control group. The test group was told that that the study was designed to improve both aerobic capacity and psychological well-being. The control group was only told of the physical benefits: that it would improve their aerobic capacity.
At the end of the 10 weeks both groups had increased their aerobic capacity but only the test group had significant improvements in self-esteem (an indicator of psychological well-being).
Why? Because they had been told it would happen as a result of the program so they expected it. Their intent shifted from just exercise to both exercise and psychological well-being, they trusted the process, and the results followed.
You can create the same results and improved performance in your own life just by shifting your mindset.
As the Jedi Qi Gon Jin said, “your focus creates your reality.” If you’re distracted during a workout, as you eat your meals, and as you lay in bed before you fall asleep you won’t be cultivating the outcome you want. You’ll be a passive bystander in your own life, overstimulated and entertained instead of engaged. Frustrated you aren’t getting the results you want but unsure why you aren’t achieving them.
If you can focus on the reality that you want to create and decide that your workout is going to create the change you’re working towards, that the meal you’re eating is nourishing your body, and that turning your device off before bedtime will help you get get better sleep, then you will see the results.
Stay present. Keep the intent of your efforts and just know that what you’re doing is bringing you closer to your goal. Because now you understand how that happens.
In the next article we’ll be taking a slant slightly different from this of intangible of belief in change leading to actual change. We’ll discuss neuroscience and how we learn, and how you can take advantage of the fact that the brain can’t always tell what’s real from what’s perceived to enhance your performance.
If you’re interested in applying these learnings to your fitness, career, and life in general but aren’t sure where to start, check out our 8-Week Building Better Humans Mindset Course. You’ll get access to over 60 videos, exercises, 1-on-1 coaching, and interviews with experts in a variety of industries from a Navy Seal to an executive from Proctor and Gamble, CEO’s, mothers, and entrepreneurs as we walk you through a step-by-step process to achieve your full potential.
- Written by The Nate Chambers, co-founder, coach, and positivity guru at Project 13 Gyms