January 8, 2020
In 2001, a study was done in England that looked at motivation to exercise. A large group of subjects was divided into three groups. One was the control group, which was told to simply track how often they worked out. Another group was exposed to motivational talks about the benefits of exercise and told to track their exercising. The final group received the same motivational materials, but were instructed to make a plan for working out. Specifically they were to complete the following sentence: “I will exercise for 20 minutes on
With the start of a new year, many folks suddenly find themselves motivated to make changes in their habits and lifestyles. But picking up a new, positive habit is quite difficult and simply being motivated is not enough to make it happen. In fact, the study found that the motivated group was just as likely to exercise as the unmotivated one. Planning made the real difference. This is a useful bit of information for folks who are making resolutions to lose weight or read more or acquire some other positive habit. This is partly because motivation is mainly a feeling, which will come and go as all feelings do. It can be useful at times, but not nearly as useful as being intentional in the implementation of a new behavior. The simple act of designating a time and place to start is far more concrete and effective than waiting until you feel inspired to act. There are other benefits to making simple plans. For starters, knowing when and where a new habit will be performed can help us to plan around potential distractions or obstacles. If your plan is to get up at 5 AM to go for a run, then it makes sense to say no to catching a late movie that will keep you up too late to get up in the morning. A few years ago when I set out to read more books every year, I scheduled reading time in based on when my kids would be sleeping or otherwise occupied. This enabled me to actually concentrate on reading, rather than dealing with the demands that come with having a family. Motivation and imagining a better life that we can create are positive things. They can be exciting and can make us feel good. They can also prompt change. However, the first step to actually following through with that change is making a plan and implementing it.