What's your Why? Food for thought from Dr Helen Quirk
This blog was written by Dr Helen Quirk, Psychologist specialising in the promotion of physical activity and exercise.
We sweat together at Trib3, and was lucky enough to hear her talk about this at the club.
This is thought provoking and i am sure you will enjoy it as much as i have done.
Over to you Doc.
DR. Helen Quirk - THE WHY FACTOR
The mind is a powerful force, and just like we train our body to perform at its best, we can train our brain to help us reach our potential. Simply asking yourself ‘why’ you exercise can give you so much insight into your exercise mind-set.
Take a moment think about your answer to the following:
“Most of the time, the main reason I start to exercise regularly is because...”
Looking at your list of reasons, are you more like Wendy or are you more like Shaun?
“It makes me feel good”
“I enjoy it”
“It makes me happy”
“It’s my release after a crappy day at work”
“To lose weight”
“To fit in those jeans”
“The doctor told me to”
“I’ve got a holiday this summer”
Wendy exercises because she wants to. Shaun exercises because he thinks he should do.
In the short-term if you’re a “should-er”, you do pretty well because you’re feeling motivated by the outcome. But what about when:
• You reach your target weight
• You fit in those jeans (or you decide you didn’t like the jeans anyway)
• The doctor gives you the all-clear
• You’ve been on holiday
• The wedding has been and gone
Who is more likely to carry on exercising, Wendy, who exercises for intrinsic reasons (because she enjoys it) or Shaun who exercises for extrinsic reasons (for external rewards or to avoid negative consequences)?
If you think you might be a “should-doer” like Shaun, you might find some of these sound familiar:
• “I should exercise this weekend”
• “I should go to TRIB3 tonight”
• “I should lose some weight before my summer holiday”
• “I should hit my PB tonight”
Simply using the word “should” can create destructive thoughts. You will often feel obliged to exercise (either pressure from themselves or others), think about exercise as a chore, and it tends be something you dread doing.
Now think about how you feel when you don’t succeed?
…Let down? Disappointed? Guilty?
Let’s try something….
In the sentences above, replace the word “should” with “could”:
• “I could exercise this weekend”
• “I could go to TRIB3 tonight”
• “I could lose some weight before xmas”
• “I could hit my PB tonight”
Now how are you going to feel if it doesn’t work out?
The word “should” often evokes a sense of judgement, a command, an ought to do something, it instils a sense of guilt and you’re often left feeling like a failure.
Whereas “could” usually evokes feelings of possibility, hope, option, choice, autonomy, and potential for change.
Should-er: “I should’ve gone to the gym tonight, but I couldn’t be bothered after work and now I feel so guilty – why didn’t I just go? I should definitely go tomorrow night”
Could-er: “I could’ve gone to the gym tonight, but I couldn’t be bothered after work. Ok, I could go tomorrow night instead”
If you think about exercise as something you should be doing, because of pressure you put on yourself, or pressure you feel from others, then you must accept the emotional consequences when you do not reach that level of attainment.
Simply changing one word could change your relationship with exercise.
Like a muscle, developing your mind-set takes time and training. It’s not always easy, but a great place to start is to ask yourself ‘why’. You can then begin to understand your motivations, what’s driving you, and how this is helping or hindering your progress.