When I get up in the morning, I know that I should exercise, but I often really don’t want to do it. I usually have a checklist of other things I need to do, so I’ll use that as an excuse. Some days, I’ll find some minor physical reason not to do it (“I have a tiny blister on my toe” or “I think I have a cold coming on” or “My knee hurts”). Other days, I’ll not even think about it. The easiest path often seems to be the one that doesn’t involve exercise.
When I was trying to get my financial life in order, my entire social network was full of cues to spend money. The television programs I watched depicted affluent and interesting people who just happened to have things that were compelling to me in some way. I felt like my family expected me to buy nice gifts and treat them to meals when they came to visit. The easiest path seemed to be the one that involved spending more money.
When I’m trying to adopt any life change, there are always a lot of reasons not to do it. Usually, it’s much easier to just keep doing things the way I’m doing things. It’s comfortable. I understand it. I know it’s not going to hurt to stick with the status quo, at least not in the short term. My family hints that this change might not be the best idea.
Our enemy is resistance, and we shall defeat it.
Here are our weapons in this battle.
Forge a new path of least resistance. Fighting to overcome the munchies? Toss all of the unhealthy munchies out of your home (take them to a food pantry, for example). That way, the easiest path to getting your snack fix involves eating something healthy. Fighting to exercise more? Reserve a parking spot as far from your workplace as possible, or put your jogging shoes right in front of your door so that you have to actively move them to avoid them.
Use some motivation. Why are you really making this change? Hold that motivator front and center. For a long time, I kept my credit cards wrapped in a photograph of my children. I’ve started using a picture of me at my heaviest (although that’s about fifty pounds heavier than I am now) in several places to encourage exercise.
Make simple milestones. There’s a reason so many of my friends have found success with the “Couch to 5k” running program. It sets up simple little milestones that can easily be achieved, but they’re still enough to fill you with accomplishment each step of the way. If you’re working towards something new, set up little milestones for yourself.
Track your progress – but not too much. Tracking your financial situation too frequently will give you a false sense of failing because of the short-term impact of bills and the like. Similarly, tracking your weight too frequently will give you a false sense of failure because of short-term weight fluctuations. Check it once a month and be proud of what you’ve achieved. Make that checking day important – mark it on your calendar and give it some psychological weight, so that you’re looking forward to it throughout the month.
Use social pressure. Find someone to share in your goal, either face-to-face or on the internet. Share your progress extensively and cheer the successes of the others involved in the goal. A community of people all striving toward the same individual goals can be a very powerful method for minimizing resistance to change.
These are your tools. Use them wisely.