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Create Your Successful Mindset

Justin Russ, CPT

I was having a conversation with one of the Fitness Quest 10 athletes the other day and one part in particular stood out to me. He looked me and my colleagues in the eyes and said, “This is why I train the way I do. This is why I become a demon when I train. It’s because I don’t want to be good. I want to be great. I want to be in the hall of fame at the end of my career. When I retire, I want my name to be remembered, my number to be retired, and my legacy to live on forever.” ~Gerald McCoy.

It is not often that we get to have conversations with professional athletes who are in the spotlight, and it was that very small portion of dialogue that particularly struck a chord with me. Why aren’t more people in that mindset? Why do we, as Americans settle into a routine? Where along the way did we as a society lose our desire to become champions with lasting legacies? The answer lies within the mind of the individual.

Here are four habits that you can adopt to create YOUR successful mindset, live the life you’ve imagined, and have a positive impact on others.

1. Have Clear Goals

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”

I can recall like it was yesterday when I first began studying for my certification exam. I sat down at a picnic table in a quiet park, textbook and notebook in hand, ready to go. The first thing I did was make a list of goals on the very first page of the notebook.  My main goals were to pass the exam, get a job at a training facility, then another, and continue to gain experience. I told myself that in a year I would open that notebook once again and have all of those goals crossed off. Did it go as planned? You bet.

My point is this: your goals need to have clarity, or you’re not going to accomplish them. Figure out what it is you want to accomplish, take the steps to get there, and then pursue your goals tenaciously. Whether you’re looking to lose weight to fit into that wedding dress, trying to get six pack abs to impress that girl you’ve been attracted to, or be the world’s best mother/father, make sure your goals have clarity.

Since that day in the park, I’ve adopted goal-setting strategies passed on to me by my mentors. One such strategy is the “Weekly Big 5.” Each Sunday evening, take some quiet time and make a list of 5 things you want to accomplish within the next seven days. They can be anything: don’t miss a workout, spend more time with the kids, eat better, you get the idea. Make your list, put it somewhere you can see it, feel the satisfaction of checking an item off the list, and watch your productivity skyrocket.

2. Find What Motivates You

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”


People often ask me how I stay constantly motivated.

“Why are you always so pumped up?”

“How is it that you manage to exercise every day?”

“Man, I wish I had your level of motivation.”

It’s flattering, it really is. On the same token, I feel that people are a bit misguided by the concept of motivation. Working in the fitness industry has taught me that motivation is a highly individualized concept. What motivates me might not motivate you. That loud, “Hoo-Rah! Let’s Go!” speech might motivate him, but not her. You might be motivated by the desire to help others, or the desire to make your children proud. The bottom line is: in order to become successful, you need to find what motivates you!

I found mine at an early age and have found others as I’ve grown older. Growing up, I was surrounded by people telling me “you can’t.” In grammar school, my peers belittled me, in high school people laughed at my dreams of becoming a successful fitness professional, my dad used to tell me that I’d never make enough money in fitness to provide for a family, and when I first sought a job as a personal trainer, I was told I wasn’t qualified enough. I responded in the only way I knew how: I used this negativity to motivate me and push me to where I am today. Proving doubters wrong motivates me. What motivates you?

Sit down, take some quiet time, and really try to figure out what motivates you. What gets YOU fired up? What fills YOU with a sense of drive and determination? Is it setting positive examples for your children? Is it the quest for material wealth? Is it fitting into that brand new dress you just bought? Is it taking control of your cholesterol and blood pressure so that you can see your grandchildren grow old?

In order to find motivation, you need to read.  Read motivational quotes or books. Each Sunday, I like to sit down and find a different quote to kind of “set the tone” for the upcoming week. In addition, Robin Sharma’s “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” and Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About the Bike” are two of my favorite books. Now you’re fired up and ready to create the life you’ve imagined. Get better every day.

3. Influence Others

“You’ll never be better than yourself if you’re always at center stage.”

–Todd Durkin

I was in seventh grade and it was at the point at the end of the school year where yearbooks were being passed around to be signed by friends and faculty. I handed mine to the principal of my small Catholic grammar school and he wrote something that will stick with me forever: “Justin, have a great summer, and remember to always stay true to yourself. Signed, Mr. Sheffield.”

It humbles me to admit that I have not always taken this precious advice. Too often in my young career I’ve been selfish and hesitant to share the things I’ve learned with others. I was willing to accept praise but not give it. I’d step into front & center, but not share it. This wasn’t how I was brought up, this wasn’t the person I strived to become, and it left me feeling unfulfilled.

I have a challenge for you. This week, inspire someone in your life. Play with your kids, take the time to teach someone a healthy recipe or a workout technique, compliment someone, tell a loved one that you appreciate them and MEAN what you say. Feel how empowering it is to truly impact someone’s life in a positive, constructive manner. This newfound empowerment will then motivate you to continue pursuing your own goals, while making the world a better place at the same time.

I recently wrote the words “Inspire Someone Today” on a post-it and taped it to my computer where I can see it each day. I learned to give more and to go out of my way for others. I share my knowledge and mistakes with others to help them learn from my experiences.  The resulting sense of empowerment energizes me and motivates me to continue creating impact in others’ lives.  Now go out there and impact someone’s life in a positive way.



4. Hard Work

“Hard work…works!”

“The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

-Vince Lombardi


Think back to the goals you wrote down earlier. By now you should have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish within the next seven days, 30 days, 60 days, and year.  You should also have a better idea of things to motivate yourself to achieve these goals. My question to you is: how do you plan on losing the inches needed to fit into that dress? How do you plan on making that career change you’ve been wanting to for the past year? How do you plan on becoming a more positive role model for your children? None of this will happen if you sit around and wait for it. You’re going to have to work for it, and it won’t always be easy.

How did I go about achieving my aforementioned goals? The first quote listed above was taught to me by my older brother at a young age and has stuck with me ever since. I channeled the negativity placed on me by my peers into motivation. When people told me I couldn’t, I did. I worked in a gym when those same people were still working at chain restaurants. When a “fitness manager” told me I wasn’t qualified, I became qualified. I continued to educate myself. To erase my own doubts, I stopped thinking about putting myself out there and did it. I attended conferences, met leaders in the industry, got on YouTube, and started writing. Let me tell you, none of this was easy, and I still have a long way to go, along with countless people to inspire.

Embrace challenges. You know what you want to accomplish, now go get it. It won’t be handed to you. Make the gym a priority if your goal is weight loss. Take the necessary steps toward a career change or greater financial freedom. Set positive examples for your kids by LIVING a positive life. Too often, people are well aware of the steps necessary to accomplishing a goal, and too often, they fail. Recognize that the journey will not always be easy and, rather than groan and complain about it, EMBRACE it. Rise to the challenge. Feel the sense of satisfaction and personal pride that comes with the accomplishment of a goal, while also noticing the positive effects it has on those around you.

I leave you with this.  There is a fine line between mediocrity and greatness.  To me, simply being good, is average, the norm, nothing to remember. But being great? Greatness is another level.  Greatness is creating a higher standard and a lasting legacy. Greatness is inspiring others to make the world a better place and being remembered by those whose lives you’ve impacted positively. When I think of greatness and success, I envision myself on the beach at sunset, arms overhead. What does greatness mean to you? Visualize yourself at the finish line.

Become better each and every day.  Set clear goals, find your motivation, inspire others, and work hard.  Take the necessary steps to accomplishing these goals. Live the life you’ve dreamed of and don’t settle for mediocrity. Strive for greatness in your own walk of life. Become a champion and leave a legacy for future generations.

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