Psychology of MovementWhat's holding you back?
We are sharing a process to go through if you are struggling to be consistent with exercise. If you are regularly frustrated with your progress, levels of motivation or simply don’t know where to start, it can be helpful to take a step back and explore what might be holding you back.
If this is you, grab a pen and paper and take yourself through the following questions.
Step 1: evaluate your goals
- • What goal(s) are you chasing exactly?
- • What does your goal mean to you?
- • What are the implications of the goal for how you will live and feel about yourself?
- • How might achieving this/these goal(s) positively knock on to other areas of life?
These questions are a great place to start because when you set goals that are specific, measurable and meaningful to you, you are more likely to:
- Experience a greater sense of autonomy - because the goal is driven by your own wants and desires
- Tap into your values - because you are connecting to the kind of person you want to be and the life you want to lead.
- we have shared previously, both autonomy and values feed intrinsic motivation - a higher quality form of motivation than extrinsic motivation.
For example, if you want to increase your fitness but you have no real sense of how or why, it becomes really easy to de-prioritise physical activity for other areas of life. However, asking these questions gives what you are trying to achieve more significance. You start to connect with the wider impact of your goals. As a result, prioritising your fitness is not something you dismiss so easily. When barriers crop up, you have something more substantial to keep you going.
Step 2: what will help you achieve your goal?
- What are the facilitators for your goal? - Take a look at your life as a whole and try to identify all the factors that can be helpful to your exercise goals.
- Of the facilitators, which ones are the easiest to enable?
- What small actions can you take to tip the scale in your favour?
This question taps into whether there are things in your life that can be used to support your exercise journey. It helps you see that you aren’t starting from scratch and you have a foundation to build upon. For example, perhaps you notice in the past you are more likely to be consistent with exercise if you block the time out in your diary, arrange to exercise with a friend, exercise first thing in the morning, pack your gym bag the night before, get 7-8 hours’ sleep, book classes for the week on a Sunday. Facilitators aren’t always obviously related to exercise - for example, reading before bed might enable a better night’s sleep which then provides you with more energy and hence makes exercise easier. Or perhaps getting up 15 minutes earlier than necessary allows you to go about your morning in less of a rush, feel more relaxed as you start the day, approach the day’s tasks with a clearer head, and find yourself in less of a stressed state when it comes to exercise later.
With identifying these facilitators, you are looking to create the path of least resistance for you to exercise. At the same time by recognising that there are factors in your life that contribute to positive health behaviours, it also boosts your self-efficacy (your belief in your ability to achieve your goal).
Step 3: what is holding you back?
- What are the inhibitors for your goal?
- What could get in the way?
- Of these inhibitors, which is the easiest to fix?
- What could be done to tackle the inhibitor that is easiest to fix?
As well as understanding what will help you, it’s useful to be up front with yourself about what gets in the way. For example, perhaps you notice previously factors that get in the way such as being too tired, lack of organisation, too much alcohol…; becoming aware of these factors can help you put in place steps so that these areas don’t catch you off guard. Your exercise journey can start to get smoother.
Step 4: tackle an inhibitor
Once you have listed all your inhibitors ask yourself:
Rather than trying to tackle all your inhibitors at once, organise your efforts. It can be overwhelming to address lots of areas in your life. Instead, fix the small things first. You’ll be more likely to follow through with shifting your habits if you start small, build your self-efficacy and progress on to tackling some of the harder things.