You Just Keep Telling Yourself That
Let me start by listing all the VERY GOOD excuses for not exercising regularly over the years. Single mom. BAM! Running a multi-million dollar company. Yup. Extensive travel. You bettcha. And as a bonus, an undiagnosed allergy that led to years of coughing and exhaustion. All good enough excuses on their own but added together, who could blame me for hitting the snooze button and skipping the gym after work?
Still, I wanted to be healthy, and the most efficient and only option for me was to figure out how to become a “runner.” Yes, one of “those people.” Running is something you can do practically anywhere, at any time, and cram the maximum calorie burn into 30 minutes. First, let’s be clear: I HATE running. But four years ago I set out on my journey to overcome this major mental barrier and embrace this awful activity. Sure, I was out of shape, but no more than the average former athlete. I didn’t need to lose 50 pounds, I just needed to drop a few, tone up, and improve my stamina and overall health.
So, I used all the tricks I usually employ when I’m trying to form a new habit. I put placeholders on my calendar. I bought the right gear. I created playlists to inspire me. I visualized how I would feel when I had accomplished my goal of running 30 minutes, 4 times a week. I created rewards that I would earn when I reached my goal. Then, off I went.
The plan was to be out for 30 minutes, and run as far and as often as I could, pushing myself each time until I could run the whole time. The first year, I found myself repeating a chant in my head with each step as I ran. It’s catchy and goes like this: “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.” And boy, did I hate it. I hated seeing the reminder on my calendar. I hated the sight of my running shoes. I hated all the oblivious people with their stupid, long dog leashes and bikers who flew by me so closely. I hated the humidity in the summer and the slippery sidewalks in the winter. And I really hated that all the effort was barely having any visible impact and that I still couldn’t run the whole 30 minutes.
About a year and a half into my self-imposed torture, I was chatting with someone about working out and I told him that I run. “Oh, you’re a runner?” No! I’m not a runner! I hate running. And then it hit me. The reason I was struggling so hard to get comfortable with this activity was that my brain had told itself, literally, thousands of times, that I hate running. Therefore, being a runner was inconsistent with who I believed myself to be. Your mind controls your body and my body was not responding positively.
So, I changed my chant. It sounded like a load of crap for a few runs, but when “I hate this” changed to “I am a runner. I love this,” a remarkable and almost immediate thing happened: I was able to run for 30 minutes with minimal effort.
There are dozens of sayings and quotes that summarize the concept of telling yourself something enough times until you eventually believe it. So many of these sayings come from a negative slant. But the real power is the positive impact of telling yourself that YOU ARE what you desire to become. Telling our brains “I AM” is one of the most effective ways to change, grow and improve who we are as people.
So, who are YOU? Ask your brain and it will tell you exactly what you told it. Then ask yourself if that’s good enough for you. If not, it’s time to have a long conversation with your brain and start telling a more desirable, and as a result, very attainable new story to yourself.