“You don’t know if you’re going to be the next Arnold,” 3D Muscle Journey Podcast #185: Are Your Expectations Too High?

The intended audience for the 3DMJ podcast is professional bodybuilders, folks who are looking to go pro, and their trainers, and I don’t always relate to the content. However, I think there’s a lot of important messages in this episode for the rest of us, and a careful listen can help us all develop healthier mindsets around goal setting and motivation.

They approach the topic of expectations from many angles, including the possibility that we are being unrealistic and overly-optimistic in our aspirations, or possibly on the other end of the spectrum, holding ourselves back due to thinking too little of ourselves. They don’t touch on it in the episode, but I believe there is research that may suggest our expectations can color our outcomes, for example, telling someone that they have above-average genetics for a particular skill results in higher levels of achievement. If that is true, then it seems to me that we benefit from a certain level of self-delusion! But I get the point that there are downsides to being overly-rosy or overly-pessimistic about expected outcomes to training.

Eric points out that a downside to having expectations that are too high is an unwillingness (or I would add, inability) to do what would be necessary to achieve at that level. This is my personal perspective about fat loss goals and “cutting.” I want to be lean enough to enjoy my muscles, but not at the expense of my physical or emotional well-being. So there are limits to what I’m willing to put myself through, and therefore, these limits will create some boundaries about what my results will look like. I believe we can achieve a lot more than most people assume using less-risky strategies(1), but I recognize that my philosophy is underrepresented in the bodybuilding world at this time.

One of the recurring messages throughout the episode is around the importance of focusing on the process, not just our desired outcomes. Eric says something along the lines of “it’s not a problem to dream big, but if that is the only thing that motivates you, you are left with nothing if you lose that.” I see this as being true not just to our eventual outcomes but to our day to day outcomes as well. If my “dreaming big” was lifting 5x a week for at least an hour and suddenly all I can fit in is 3x a week for 45 minutes, do I have the mental flexibility to go in and make that time count? Or do I give up because it doesn’t feel worth it? I think it’s a common mental trap, this go big or go home kind of thinking, and ultimately, it holds us back. But if we can focus on the process, making the most of the moment and really enjoying it and seeing it as valuable whatever the ultimate outcomes, we are going to be far less at risk for throwing in the towel, and we come out of our training enriched by the other ways it can enhance our lives.

I enjoyed this episode of the 3DMJ podcast, and I would love to hear what you think of it, too! Leave a comment below, or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook!

(1) Far and away, the bodybuilders and trainers I follow adhere to a tracking-based, externally managed system for cutting and bulking. I understand the seeming advantages to this sort of strategy, including it gives us the welcome illusion of precision. However, we can add or remove food from our eating routines without tracking, and old-school bodybuilders did this with meal planning. More recent strategies, learned from intuitive eating and other skills-based systems, can get results and seem to have far lower risks for compulsion and disordered patterns of eating. I don’t suggest it would work for a contest prep, but for the rest of us, for the rest of the time, using internal cues, portion sizes, mindset work, etc., can and does work for folks willing to learn a new approach.

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