Remember how we were all making New Year’s Resolutions (or themes) just a few short weeks ago? Feels like ancient history, right?
I’m coming back to exercise after nearly a week off due to a horrible throat infection -- and after a couple of months of health issues that have been sapping my energy -- so while I am normally a religious exerciser, I am suddenly feeling a huge dread of working out. It’s so hard to get started and so easy to find excuses after a week off. I mean really, what’s one more day???
I’m proud to say that today I did finally take the plunge and my mood is soooooo much better as a result. That was my driving reason to start – I was just so cross without my daily dose of endorphins. My children, unfortunately, bear the brunt of that. Which isn't fair to them. But feeling grumpy like that isn't really fair to me, either. Not when there's a (relatively) easy solution.
If you are not a frequent exerciser, I get it. The days are so short and so filled already.
I’ve got a couple of life coaching tips for you today to help you over the hurdle to starting: "dread sprints" and “ridiculously easy goals.”
The concept behind dread sprints is that if you know you are going to do something you really don’t want to do, you might as well get it over with first thing so you don’t spend all day dreading it.
(Glennon Doyle calls this “worst thing, first thing.”)
Let’s say you have to go to the post office today to mail a package. This is the sort of task I would totally dread. You could either get it done at 9 am, when the post office opens (and when there’s no line, I might add), and spend your day feeling deliciously accomplished, or you could wait until 5 pm, close to when it closes (and there’s much more of a line), and spend an additional 8 hours dreading the task you have already committed to doing.
That’s an additional 8 hours of unnecessary suffering.
Wouldn’t you rather get the dread over with and enjoy a day of delicious accomplishment? (Credit: Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School.)
The other idea comes from life coach Martha Beck, in a book I read many years ago, called the Four Day Win. Ridiculously easy goals set the barrier to success so easy you can’t justify not achieving them.
For someone who wants to start exercising, a ridiculously easy goal might look like putting on your walking shoes and walking one block. Or some other distance that takes a ridiculously short amount of time. Two to five minutes. An amount of time so short and so easy that you can’t come up with a reasonable excuse to avoid it.
(If you can come up with an excuse to avoid it, make your goal simply putting on your walking shoes. Go step outside onto your front step. Breathe deeply three times. Come back inside. That’s it.)
For one of my clients who wanted to organize her life, we started with her ridiculously easy goal of just clearing off the kitchen table and wiping it down after every meal.
Another client – who wanted to lose weight – made her goal having a clear kitchen counter every night after dinner. This small feeling of accomplishment fueled her energy to attack other, more ambitious, goals.
Beck recommends taking 3 weeks of fulfilling your ridiculously easy goal before making it harder. Personally, I don’t necessarily have a set timeline… I think you just keep achieving your ridiculously easy goal until you feel the desire to make a slightly more ambitious goal. Take it as fast or as slow as you want.
When in doubt, make your goal easier.
As for me, I made my ridiculously easy goal a little different, since I have a decades-long history as a person who exercises. So my goal for right now is 30 minutes a day of exercise BUT at as low of an intensity as is necessary to get me across the finish line while still feeling good. I don’t break a sweat. I barely even breathe hard. But no matter. I am moving my body, and that’s what counts.
If you find that your brain tries to discredit your win, correct that pesky brain immediately. That "perfect is the enemy of good" mindset keeps us from ever trying to reach our goals. Our brains think it's safer to not even try than to try imperfectly. Our brains are dead wrong about this.
And then I record my accomplishment in my exercise spreadsheet, because I am a data nerd and seeing all those little cells filled in with workouts is a lovely dopamine hit to my toddler brain.
If you want help achieving your own (not so ridiculously easy) goals, I can help. No matter what the goal. Schedule a complimentary life coaching session (scroll down past sleep coaching to life coaching) and experience the transformation.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.