Deciding is the first step in making a change
It took me 47 years and a medical degree to learn that regular exercise was an important step to a happy life.
When I exercise I feel great. The dopamine and endorphins kick in. My stress goes down. My energy goes up. When I don’t exercise, I feel sluggish, unmotivated and struggle with my weight. So why is it a battle every day to do it?
My brain fights me. Inertia kicks in
My mind ventures to convince me it is easier to do nothing than to do something. I am the king of excuses. One evening after work I went to change into my running clothes. The thought in my head was “I can’t exercise today because I would have to change my shoes.” #badexcuse. In my mind, this was a perfectly rational reason why I should skip exercising. Other common excuses that pop into my mind are:
My first step was simply deciding that “I was someone who runs.”
My wife bought me some running shoes for my birthday. I had not gone jogging in at least 15 years. They sat lonely in the closet untouched for a few months. In January 2019, I heard a podcast that discussed the running app Couch to 5K, and it intrigued me.
That night I opened the app, put on the shoes, and went out to run. I decided I was a person who runs. Period. No more inner monologue debates. No excuses. It was decided. Now, eleven months later I am training for a half marathon.
I just decide “this is what I am going to do.” Once the decision is made then there is no more thinking about it. No more deciding. It is over. Done. When I find myself saying things like “I need to lose weight” or “I should eat better” then I fail in the long run.
The reason I fail is that I have not committed or internalized the decision. I have not truly decided. My coworkers and I discussed this idea one day. Later that week some visitors brought donuts. I overheard my teammate decline the snacks by saying “ I am not someone who eats donuts.” Turning down the delicious delicacy was easy for someone who does not eat donuts.
By Dr. Jeff Livingston