How to Use Progressive Overload To Fuel Self-Growth

Progressive Overload

Ready to make your breakthrough? Check out Breakthrough Mastery, a course with our Lead Transformation coach, Jeremy Bellotti, to learn how to get exactly what you want out of life. You can find it here.

There’s a concept in the fitness world that’s extremely popular and has helped many people achieve amazing fitness results.

This concept is called progressive overload.

And you can actually use this concept when it comes to pushing your mind and fueling your self-growth. Before we get into how you can use progressive overload to expand your mental capabilities, let’s take a deeper look at the concept when it comes to fitness.

By understanding what progressive overload is in the fitness world, you’ll be able to better take that concept and transition it to other areas of your life.

What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive Overload

When it comes to fitness, the concept of progressive overload comes down to this:

To grow, you need to continuously increase the demand you place on your muscles.

So, let’s say you can bench press 150 pounds. If you bench press 150 pounds and can do 12 full reps at a time with no problem, you won’t be seeing any growth or progress because it’s not enough weight for you. Your body has become used to that weight, and continuing that way won’t build any more muscle for you or make you stronger.

Instead, to become stronger, you need to start increasing the weight. The idea is to push yourself right outside of your comfort zone. If you go to far, you won’t be able to do the exercise or may even injure yourself. If you don’t go far enough, you’ll be cheating yourself out of growth.

So, maybe you bump yourself up to 160 pounds. At that weight, you can keep doing the exercise but it’s a little bit of a struggle for you. Maybe you can only do 4-6 reps this time, and you’re a little bit sore the next day.

This is a GOOD thing!

By challenging yourself, you’re getting stronger. You’re enabling yourself to adjust to more weight, which in turn increases your overall strength. By progressively adding more weight, you’ll overload yourself slowly until you become stronger. As you become stronger, you can add even more weight to continue your growth!

Eventually, you’ll master that 160 pounds and move to 170 pounds. Then 160 will seem like nothing, and master 170 pounds will be your new goal. When you make it to 250 pounds, you’ll look back in disbelief at how much you accomplished in that time.

(Note: Ready to make your breakthrough? Check out Breakthrough Mastery, a course with our Lead Transformation coach, Jeremy Bellotti, to learn how to get exactly what you want out of life. You can find it here.)

What Does This Have to Do With Your Personal Growth?

Progressive Overload

While that’s a great concept when it comes to lifting weights, you may be wondering just how this can help you to become more successful when it comes to other areas of your life.

Here’s the thing—you can treat your mind in a similar way to your body.

While some people think of the mind as being a fixed entity that can’t be changed, research shows that you can grow the capabilities of your mind with practice. For example, maybe it’s tough for you to memorize a list of 20 words right now. With a bit of training, you can easily train your memory to the point where memorizing 20 words is nothing.

The thing is that you need to challenge yourself intellectually if you want to grow. You can’t just keep doing the same thing that you’ve been doing or you’ll never grow. You should always be challenging yourself and pushing yourself just beyond the limits of what you can do and what you’re able to conceptualize.

This includes:

  • Thinking bigger

  • Learning new skills

  • Challenging your current beliefs

  • Trying new things

  • Growing your knowledge base

  • And so on

For example, consider what you’re reading.

Let’s say you regularly read magazines like Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated. While these may be fun magazines to read, they likely aren’t challenging you too much intellectually. You’ve grown accustomed to the reading comprehension level of these articles—and they really are written for a general audience. You’re likely to understand every word and concept that these magazines throw at you.

To become a better reader, you’ll want to incorporate more complex texts into your life. You want to read books where maybe you don’t understand some of the words or you have to do further research to understand some of the concepts. This will be difficult at first, it will challenge you and you may even find it frustrating.

That’s okay! That’s exactly what you’re looking for.

Just like doing the same weight on the bench press for your entire life won’t make you stronger, reading the same easy stuff every day won’t challenge your mind at all. Just make sure you don’t choose material that’s so far out of your zone of ability that you can’t understand anything you’re learning.

It’s all about finding material that’s just beyond your capabilities but not so far out that it’s impossible.

Quarterly Curriculum of Excellence

Progressive Overload

Growth can be really taxing and trying to push too hard can lead to fatigue. Consider the exercise example from before.

Let’s say you’re trying to make gains in the gym and bench press more and more. If you push yourself too hard for too long, you may end up feeling too fatigued, and you may even injure yourself if you never let yourself recover. There’s a fine line between growth and overdoing it.

You need to make sure that you’re growing to the best of your ability, while still giving yourself the chance to rest and recharge.

One way to continue to grow without burning yourself out is with a concept Jeremy Bellotti, our Lead Transformation Coach, calls the “Quarterly Curriculum of Excellence.” Essentially, this involves challenging yourself for a period of 30, 60 or 90 days, and then giving yourself a rest after this period.

Consider how, in school, you have a curriculum that provides you with organization and structure for a certain period of time before moving on to the next semester with new material. In between those semesters, you typically get a period of rest to give your brain time to recover.

Even if you aren’t in school, you can apply that same concept to the way you approach growth in your own life.

Let’s consider an example.

Let’s say that you want to structure your year in a way that allows you to focus on growing certain skills, with the first quarter being analytical skills. You allow yourself to really focus on growing these skills, and you push yourself to the point where you’re really exhausting your mind but also seeing positive change.

To avoid burnout, though, you also allow yourself to “rest” after the quarter and focus on something else.  

During the growth period, you make sure to schedule time throughout the week to focus on developing whatever skill you are trying to better (for instance, analytical skills). When you aren’t working on those skills during the scheduled time for growth, you’re doing something else.

This allows you to continue your growth in a healthy and controlled way.

How To Use Progressive Overload In Your Own Life

Progressive Overload

There is a happy medium between not growing at all and pushing yourself so hard that you burn out. That happy medium is progressive overload.

Make sure you are always pushing yourself beyond where you were to grow to new levels. Still, set healthy boundaries to allow yourself time to recover so you don’t end up grinding to a halt.

Don’t settle for the status quo!

Continue to work out your brain, and you’ll see new levels of success you never knew were possible.

(Note: Ready to make your breakthrough? Check out Breakthrough Mastery, a course with our Lead Transformation coach, Jeremy Bellotti, to learn how to get exactly what you want out of life. You can find it here.)