I've always had mixed feelings about that popular self-help expression "fake it till you make it." While I'm sure that approach can help some people, it has always struck me as too trite to be of real value to those who are trying to make big changes in their lives.
But I'm rethinking the matter, particularly as it relates to exercise. A few days ago, while studying my American Council on Exercise personal trainer manual, I came across a variation of that maxim: "It is easier to act yourself into a new way of feeling rather than feel yourself into a new way of acting."
The section of the manual in which this sentence appeared had to do with the principles of behavior change. According to one model of lifestyle change, we go through five distinct stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.
When it comes to regular exercise, a lot of people seem to get to the contemplation stage, but never make it to action. One of the most frequently cited reasons for not working out is lack of time. I've always believed, however, that people will manage to make time for the things they truly want to do.
I also often hear people say — and I've been guilty of it, too — that after a day at work, they're too tired to work out.
But what if you just went and did it anyway, regardless of whether you felt like you had the time or energy? As any veteran exerciser knows, regular exercise is more likely to be a source of energy than fatigue.
So next time you find yourself contemplating exercise, but coming up with a host of reasons why you won't, just get up and go. If you stick with that strategy, you just might, over time, find yourself looking forward to exercise because you know it will make you feel better. Your actions, then, will have changed the way you feel about exercise.
Suddenly you'll have time for exercise, and arriving home from work tired will be a reason to go to the gym or take a walk in the park instead of parking yourself on the sofa.
Well, it's just a thought ...