How I Overcame Barriers to Exercise: Part Two
Imagine you have been working 12 hour days preparing for a major audit. On the fourth day, you are about to leave for home at 10pm when you get an urgent phone call from the boss. Due to unforeseen circumstances, you will be the one flying to Germany to meet a major partner threatening to pull out of a joint venture, not your colleague as planned.
Which of these two things would be more likely to cross your mind?
- My exercise plan is going to be affected! What can I do or plan to make sure I still get some cardio/ strength training/ stretching in the next two weeks?
- I’d better delegate the audit prep to the right people. I’m going to devote all my available time to preparing for the overseas meeting. Exercise plan? What exercise plan – oh yes I forgot exercise is a part of my life now. Well, that’s going to have to wait till I sort all this out.
If you’re like most people, exercise is a “nice-to-have” option, the first thing that goes out the window when your time gets crunched.
But if you give up your exercise because of ‘emergencies’, you may eventually be headed for another sort of emergency of your own.
To prevent that happening, follow two guiding principles that will keep you living a healthy lifestyle, and you from lapsing back into inactivity and no exercise.
In part 1 of this article, we looked at the first principle: Be Prepared.
In part 2, we’ll look at the second: Keep the End in Mind.
Although I’m using exercise as an example, these ideas apply equally to any type of healthy living behavior, such as sticking to a good nutrition plan.
KEEP THE END IN MIND
During Life’s mini crises, you will be drained mentally and emotionally.
In Part 1, we discussed the need for contingency plans ahead of time, ready to go on autopilot so you won’t have to think what to do when these challenges arise.
However, an important aspect needs to be addressed.
In a crisis, you might not even WANT to exercise.
To many people, exercise is an option, not a lifestyle. It’s something added to the demands of Life and living. It is not an unconditional priority. It’s like dessert… at the end of the meal, you can have it, or you can skip it if you’re full.
Do you struggle when considering:
Should I brush my teeth before going to work?
Should I skip a shower today after coming home from work?
Hopefully, no! Because these things have become habits. Part of your Lifestyle.
So too should it be, for exercise.
Once it is, you will naturally start thinking about where to fit exercise into your schedule, just like you’d decide when to fit in that shower in spite of a busy day.
To do this, you need to keep the END in mind. You need to know WHY you’re doing it. And then you need to HOLD ON to this reason through your crisis so that you WILL carry out the contingency plans you’ve prepared ahead of time.
Here are three steps to do that.
1. Goals Chart to Crystallize Motivation to Action
The start is to have a strong enough WHY. This was discussed in my article on Motivation – The Three Ls.
Knowing your true whys will be like a fuel that keeps you going. But even if you have a very strong motivation to exercise, you need to crystallize it into action.
Remember in school, you did an experiment where you put a small seed crystal in a supersaturated solution, and a large crystal formed?
Well, imagine that:
Your Whys for exercise = the salts floating around in your mind
Your mind = the supersaturated solution
How would you crystallise all these reasons for exercise into a lifestyle: that large crystal?
You need a seed crystal.
Seed crystal = your GOALS CHART
That’s why the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to do one right now.
Here are three things that MUST go into a Goals Chart.
a. Goals and Timeframe
Write your goals and your timeframe. This is a contract with yourself.
The timeframe makes sure you get cracking straightaway in order to meet the dateline. Otherwise the goals chart will be left somewhere to collect dust.
E.g. Lose 5kg in 3 months time
b. Why is this Important to Me?
Many people can write down goals. That’s the fun, fantasy part.
But the next step to that is to create RELEVANCE. Why do you want to lose 5kg in 3 months?
If you don’t have a strong enough WHY to supporting your goal, you aren’t likely to carry through. You need to find REAL reasons. For that you can read my Motivation – The Three Ls article here.
E.g. I’m scared because my overweight brother just had a heart attack.
I want to live to see my daughter get married.
c. What will happen if I don’t do this NOW?
Okay, you’ve established relevance. But here’s the FINAL CRITICAL STEP.
Write down what will happen if you DON’T make these goals a priority RIGHT NOW. This creates URGENCY. In fact, write this part of your goals chart in RED.
e.g. If I don’t start becoming healthy RIGHT NOW, I have a high chance of getting a heart attack. And I might DIE.
If I don’t look more attractive, I won’t be able to attract a girlfriend. I have been lonely too long, and I want a relationship.
2. Read your Goals Chart Every Day at a Set Time
You will remind yourself on a constant basis why you’re exercising, why you’re making right but difficult food choices on a day-to-day basis. You will slowly internalize these things and make them part of your lifestyle.
My personal preference is at the start of the day, and right before you sleep. That will help prep you not to waste time or stray into temptation, and check back on your day for accountability, and areas of improvement.
3. Create Anchors
Anchors are things that immediately link you to your goals. They can be a keyword, an action, or pictures. Anchors are powerful because all you need to do is to say that keyword, do a movement or view a picture, for you to immediately get that motivational rush.
They should be as unique as possible. In other words, special in some way to differentiate them from every usage words or actions, so that they link you immediately to your goals.
Here are some examples clients and friends have used:
Let’s Do This!
I’m Da Man (or Gal)!
Hooyah! Oorah! (if you’re a military fan)
Fist into palm
Double V signs with fingers
Pictures are especially easy to use. I suggest attaching them to your goals sheet and also anywhere you might need an immediately anchor back to your goals, such as on the fridge!
Picture of your daughter celebrating her 3rd birthday: reminds you why you want a healthy lifestyle, to go back to her each day, and set an example for her as she grows up
Picture of a coffin: a sharp warning about where you could end up if you continue to neglect your health and fitness
Picture of a place you’d like to go someday: to remind you that if you don’t get into shape your chances to travel with full freedom might be hampered
Let’s look at some examples to kickstart your own.
A sample goals chart might look like this:
And here is my personal Goals Chart during my divorce:
In my case I didn’t use visual anchors but keywords and actions
Keyword: “Let’s do this G!”
Action: Double punching my left palm and then ending in a clap
Keeping the End in Mind Summary
Here are the steps we’ve learned for Overcoming Obstacles to Exercise: Keep the End in Mind
- Create a Goals Chart
- Read it EVERY DAY without fail
- Add Visual anchors to your chart, and strategic places you’re sure to see it
If you don’t have a firm VISION of what you want to accomplish with exercise and WHY you’re doing it, you won’t even have the will to put your strategies in place. So you need to remember constantly WHY exercise is important in your Life.
And what are some of those strategies? They come off the first guiding principle in Part 1: Be Prepared.
Be Prepared Summary
1. Have ready answers to challenges that crop up and threaten your exercise schedule.
2. Plan when you have the mental reserves and creativity to do so. Come up with strategies you can automatically use in response to each anticipated Life challenge.
Sooner you’ll have challenges that threaten your goals in Life, including health and fitness.
Think about these ideas, and formulate your own plan before they arise.
Best of luck… oh, and get on that GOALS CHART NOW!