Imagine if you could bottle motivation and sell it. The world would beat a path to your door. After all, whether it’s exercise, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, doing homework, or starting that book you always wanted to write, you need the motivation.
Or do you?
According to Dr David D Burns, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University, “Motivation doesn’t come first, action does.”1
Of course, most of us think it’s the other way around.
Dr Burns goes on to suggest that it’s a bit like priming a pump. Once you’ve taken action to prime it, the flow will start.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, a very good book on forming healthier habits simply takes it one step further and talks about momentum. Once you’ve started something, momentum can take over.2,3
In other words, don’t wait for the motivation to get started, get started to get motivated (to continue).
But if you’d like a shortcut to that motivation, the number one rule is to make it easier to do.3 Which brings us to another equally important rule: The 20 second rule.
The 20 second rule was first brought to life by positive psychologist expert Shawn Anchor in his book ‘The Happiness Advantage’4 He suggested that building good habits (like regular exercise) could be achieved by making something easier by shaving 20 seconds off the time required to get started. Shawn made this discovery while trying to motivate himself to learn to play guitar. He struggled to get started. He kept his guitar in a cupboard, in a case. His solution – he removed the guitar from the case and cupboard and stored it within easy reach, saving himself 20 seconds. As an aside, the 20 second rule works in reverse. Make something 20 seconds harder and you can break a bad habit. Make that chocolate harder to get to.
From an exercise point of view, make things easy.
Regular exercisers often use this trick. Simply place your walking/running/swimming/cycling or gym clothes and shoes next to the bed. Wake up, put on the gear and you’re good to go.
Fill your drink bottle the night before and put it next to the door or your place of exercise if you have a home ‘gym’.
Charge your earphones if necessary. And do the same for your wearable exercise tracker. But make sure they’re within easy reach before you hit the road. And if you’re looking for an easy way to listen or track, look no further than the Quantum Fit Health Tracker and Quantum Sonic True Wireless Earphones.
Fitness trackers can also help with motivation. Experts suggest they help by acting as an ‘accountability partner’ – just like having a personal trainer on your wrist.5
To make your motivation stick, schedule it. As James Clear reminds us: “If your workout doesn’t have a time when it usually occurs, then each day you’ll wake up thinking, I hope I feel motivated to exercise today.3
So, the secret to getting motivated to exercise is simply to get started – no matter how small. Remember, action comes before motivation. You’ll feel better and proud that you’ve done something.
And don’t ‘fall off the motivation wagon’ if for some reason life gets in the way of your schedule. Do what you can. Or as someone once said: “the ten minute walk that you did do is still better than the 5km run you didn’t do”.
- Burns M.D., David D. “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.”