In her book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Michelle Segar, Ph.D. lets us in on a little secret known as the vicious cycle of failure.
- You choose the wrong why
- You view exercise or making healthier nutrition choices as a chore
- You see exercise and healthier nutrition as something you should be doing
- You fail
- You find a new why
- The cycle repeats its self all over again
Exercise and making healthier nutrition choices often has nothing to do with motivation. Today’s article is all about you and a few things you may want to make more important than trying to get motivated.
Warning. I ask you to take part. Play along would ya?
DISCOVER YOUR RIGHT WHY
If you’ve got through the Busy Persons Guide to Health, Fitness, and Life then you’ll be familiar with this exercise.
Craig Weller a PN coach and former Navy Seal likes to refer to finding you why as your “Deep Reason.”
This is gut-check time. A lot of people say they want to get healthy, drop body fat, get stronger, but they don’t really know why. Often, it’s just because they think that’s what they should be doing.
I’ve had clients tell me to my face that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goals. I’ll then ask them to do something like take the creamer out of their coffee and I get a response like this.
“I can’t do that, there’s no way. I must have my creamer.”
Ask yourself right now; do you really want to put in the hard work? Do you really want to consistently workout, make better food choices, and work your ass off?
If you don’t that’s ok. You’re not ready yet. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be ready but as of now, you’re not. If you’re not sure if you’re ready this may help a bit.
The 5 Whys
Here’s an exercise that I’d like you to take part in right now. RIGHT NOW means do not read on – do the dang exercise.
- Step 1: Ask yourself why you want to do this
- Step 2: Whatever your answer in step 1 ask yourself, WHY.
- Step 3: Repeat this process 5 more times.
Example: I want to lose 20 pounds.
1. WHY? Because if I lose 20 pounds I’ll feel better and look better
2. And WHY will I look and feel better? Because I’ll have more energy and feel more confident.
3. And WHY do I want to have more energy and confidence? So that I can run around with my kids and not get exhausted and feel more confident to experience more life.
4. WHY is running around with my kids and experiencing more life important? Because when I’m able to play with my kids more it puts me in a good mood and when I’m experiencing more of life I’m excited about what tomorrow might bring.
5. And WHY do I want to be in a good mood and excited about what tomorrow might bring? Because when I’m in a good mood life feels better and more enjoyable. When I’m excited about tomorrow I feel less stressed in control of my life.
So you see, there’s a lot more behind wanting to lose 20 pounds than just losing 20 pounds. More often than not the real reason you want to drop weight, reduce body fat, or get stronger is because you want to feel more confident, in control, and excited about your life.
When you’re at your healthiest, all aspects of your life are better. You’re relationships, your productivity, your confidence – EVERYTHING.
So what is your “deep reason” for wanting to become the healthiest version of yourself?
- Look better naked
- Get the attention of that special someone
- Feel more confident
- Have more energy
Just be honest – There’s no wrong answer here.
STOP DOING YOUR CHORES
Did you like doing chores when you were a kid?
Me neither. The only reason I did them was that I got 20 bucks at the end of the week to use for anything… ANYTHING that I wanted. So I did them.
Then I got older and stopped doing chores. Instead, I got a job. I didn’t like that much either but they gave me money every 2 weeks that I could use for anything… ANYTHING that I wanted. So I did my job.
No one gives you money to exercise and eat right. If you know someone who does I’d like for you to give me their name and number. I want in on that action. But that’s one of the reasons you don’t do it. There’s not a big enough immediate reward to get you to do it.
We sustain behaviors that are more likely to give us immediate rewards.
So you’ve got two options here:
- Discover ways to give yourself immediate rewards for exercising and making healthier nutritional choices.
- Trick yourself into exercising more and making healthier nutritional choices.
In her book, Michelle covers a concept Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions calls reward substitution.
As a doctoral student, Ariely learned that he had hepatitis C. At that time the best form of treatment was a very uncomfortable shot that Ariely had to often give himself. The shots caused Ariely to become nauseated and often lead to him vomiting for several hours. Needless to say, Ariely regularly avoided giving himself the shots because of the side effects.
What Ariely realized was that it wasn’t just the side effects that caused him to avoid administering the shots. It was also that the reward for administering the shots was to avoid cirrhosis of the liver – an illness that he actually wouldn’t experience for another 30 to 40 years.
To motivate himself to administer the shots – Ariely removed the future reward of not getting cirrhosis of the liver and exchanged it for allowing himself to watch movie marathons. An immediate reward that he could experience right away.
What’s one immediate reward you can give yourself for practicing daily movement or eating a healthier breakfast?
Trick Yourself Into Exercising More
Ok, so this isn’t so much a trick as it is a strategy.
Do you only give yourself credit for exercise if it lasts a certain amount of time? If you burn a specific amount of calories? If you sweat, if it’s hard, if it hurts, if your heart rate gets to a certain level, or if you’re in a gym and using the equipment?
You’re not alone. I use to be like that too and it’s hard to get away from that belief. For years we’ve been told very vaguely that we’re supposed to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 days per week or 10 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity 3 days per week.
I’ve had clients who’ve scheduled a workout after work but ended up canceling it because they had to stay 15 minutes late to finish up a last-minute assignment. Upon asking them why they didn’t just get their workout in 15 minutes later – instead of a 30-minute workout why not just 15 minutes? They usually respond with something like this:
“Because it would have only been 15 minutes. Why bother, that doesn’t even count as exercise.”
WTF! Of course, it counts. Something is always better than nothing.
It’s not a lack of exercise that most people struggle with – it’s a lack of movement. We sit more than ever before and according to Marc Hamilton at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, inactivity is a serious health concern as smoking.
Is it really that you don’t have TIME to exercise and eat healthier food or is it that you don’t have the 60, 45, or 30 minutes you’ve defined it takes to do it?
Let’s think of some ways you can move more. Let’s call them SWTM – Sneaky Ways To Move.
- Taking a long way: This is where you will purposefully park further away, take a long walk to work, use the stairs more often, walk or bike versus driving.
- Stand More: At your desk, on the phone, while in conversation. Get creative and stand as often as you can. Or squat!
- Walkie and Talkie: Take walking meetings.
- Active waiting: This is when you decide to stand, walk around, do lunges, or bear crawls while waiting for something. Stand and move around at your kid’s games, do a few squats or stand at the doctor’s office, etc.
- While Cleaning: Dance, do lunges while vacuuming, or 5 burpees every 5 minutes it takes you to clean.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it is to discover ways you can create more movement in your day. Take a look at your schedule and see what you’ve got going on. How can you create more movement within the daily activities of your life?
- Sporting events (kids games)
- The office
- At home
- While running errands
- As opportunities to connect with loved ones
- Stuff that doesn’t feel like exercise (hikes, climbing, crawling, etc.…)
GET A DAILY DOSE OF SELF CARE
Everything and everybody else comes first. Your work/career, the kids, your significant other, your friends, your family… EVERYTHING comes before you do. You’re so busy taking care of everything and everyone else. But let me ask you this.
Who’s taking care of you?
Many of us play a lot of different roles in our lives. Father, Mother, Husband, Wife, Daughter, Son, Employee, Business owner, Student, Flag football captain, PTA member. This list probably goes on and on for some of you.
And if you’re like me, you want to be good, if not great, if not friggin PERFECT in all of those roles.
Doing a great job in the roles that we play feels good and on the surface, it looks good. But you and I both know that trying to be everything to everyone and no one to yourself can lead to burnout, frustration, moodiness, and even anxiety and depression.
- Missing your kid’s practice doesn’t make you a bad parent.
- Not staying late at the office or sleeping with your phone doesn’t make you a terrible employee
- Asking your significant other to prepare dinner this week doesn’t make you an awful person.
- Asking for help with chores, errands, or simply asking for your own time now and then doesn’t mean you’re a shithead.
Chew on this for a second.
Do you think you’d be a better Husband, Wife, Father, Mother, Employee, Student, or whatever your roles are if you were the healthiest, most confident, and energetic version of yourself?
I sure think so.
Take a few minutes today and list the top 5 ways you’d like to feel each day. A few examples:
Also, list the top 3 ways you would not like to feel.
Do you believe regular exercise and better eating habits would help you with these?
Yeah, yeah, yeah – That’s great and all Justin but I just don’t have the time in my crazy-ass schedule to exercise regularly and prepare healthier meals.
- I have this to do…
- That to do…
- Somewhere to be…
There’s not a ton of things in life you have to do outside of eating, sleeping, and drinking water. But for some reason, we like to tell ourselves that there are.
- I have to go to this family reunion or my mother in law will be upset with me
- I need to take my kids to their practice or I’m a bad parent
- I should stay late to work on this project because that’s what a good employee would do
- I have to lose some weight
- I have to…. (Insert your own right here)
Thinking like this creates feelings of resistance. When you feel like you’re being pushed to do something it’s natural to push back a little. This can lead to resentment, procrastination, excuses, and negative self-talk.
When you say you have to do something that you’re really saying is that if you had it your way you’d be doing something else. But because I don’t have a choice I am powerless.
List a couple of things you feel you have to, should be, or need to do and instead change the language to, “I choose to.”
Example: I choose to get up early and take my kids to school.
We’ve talked about perfectionism on this site before. I won’t beat a dead horse – so instead I will leave you with this.
As you know from this article I hate failure. But failing is also something that we as humans do pretty damn well. It’s very easy to beat ourselves down when we screw up. I know many of you that read this blog have great expectations for yourself and when you do fail you take it hard.
But the next time you mess up. You skip a workout. You cheat on your diet. You botch a project. I’d like you to think about this.
How would you treat someone else that made the same mistake? Would you beat them up too?
PS: This article was inspired by the book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, by Michelle Segar, Ph.D
Photo Credit: Patrick Fore
Photo Credit: Lyle Doing Chores