• Psychology of Movement
    Before you bail...shrink the task
  • Before you bail...shrink the task
  • We all experience times where we plan to do some exercise... then suddenly that voice creeps in wondering if we should bail: “I can’t be bothered...I’m a bit tired... I could just do this tomorrow...” But before you completely throw in the towel, try this one step...

    Adjust the goalposts

    See if you can adjust the goalposts first. Stop thinking about completing the entire workout (psychologists would call that ‘the outcome’) and instead promise yourself you will take just one step towards it. For example, commit to just getting changed into your workout gear, just selecting a music playlist or just doing a five minute warm-up. That’s it.

    At the end of the day, if you still really don’t feel like it, you can always go back to bed or skip your exercise. But you aren’t giving yourself a chance if you don’t take at least one step towards your goal.

    Can something so simple be effective?

    It sure can be! But don’t just take our word for it, here’s why...

    When it comes to “motivating” yourself to exercise, an important factor is something psychologists call “self-efficacy”. Self-efficacy means your confidence in your ability to take the necessary steps towards achieving something. The higher your self-efficacy, the more likely you are to want to exercise but also actually go ahead and do the exercise.

    When you have a task coming up that involves considerable effort (like exercise), we tend to look at it as one big task rather than a series of little steps. This can make it seem more daunting - you are essentially imagining doing everything that the session will require of you at once. This therefore makes it seem more effortful and challenging, which reduces your self-efficacy. That’s why you may start to think... I can’t be bothered to do that today!

    Shrink the task

    However, if you shrink the size of the task and break it down into bite-size pieces, it doesn’t seem quite so daunting. You may doubt your ability to motivate yourself to get your workout done, but that doesn’t matter at this point. All that matters is step one. Then you can focus on step two, then step three etc.

    So next time you want to bail – give yourself a chance and see if you can shrink the overall task down and focus just on step one. You’ll often find that you get more done than you think.

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