In these modern times, society has become OBSESSED with the idea of individual achievement, and in many ways our views of success are based on the idea of STRENGTH vs WEAKNESS. It’s tempting to assume that successful people are strong-willed, and unsuccessful people are weak-willed. But motivation and strength of mind doesn’t have to be something you either have or don't have. It can be something you build. Or...in some cases maybe even something you TRICK yourself into feeling.
The human mind isn’t just a computer—it’s a living thing that can be manipulated and conditioned and “trained” over time. There are a ton of psychological theories out there related to the Secrets of Success. Motivational Theories study both how the brain functions and also how our individual experiences affect that functioning in relation to motivation.
Here is a particularly fun theory, called the Affective-Reflective Theory of Physical Inactivity and Exercise (ART for short). The basic concept is that when we receive a stimulus for an activity, such as a reminder that today is GYM DAY, our brain is triggered with automatic associations for that activity. These auto-associations don’t happen in our conscious thoughts, but somewhere deeper down in our emotions. If your auto response is POSITIVE, then you are more likely to act on the stimulus. If your auto response is NEGATIVE in any way, you are more likely to resist. These automatic, visceral responses serve as the basis for our controlled outward action plans.
It’s easy to say “you are more likely to do things if they are fun than if they are difficult,” but that simple concept has deep roots in actual psychological theory. We can train our brain to respond with ACTION by doing everything in our power to make the action feel like a positive one. Not just focusing on the end goals or the practical reasons why we are exercising—but building a positive practice from the ground up.
So if you are just getting started with a gym routine, or if you are feeling in a rut, maybe don’t focus on the classes or exercises that you think will be toughest or create the quickest results. Instead, focus for a bit on doing the ones you find MOST FUN. Reconnect your brain with its source of motivation, and then the whole fitness world will be your playground. Once you start to build the positive foundation, then there will be more room for the tough stuff, more room for pushing your boundaries, more room for adjusting your goals.
Step 1: find the fun so your stubborn brain stops fighting against you. Step 2: sky’s the limit.