I did something recently that is terribly annoying. I started exercising. Again. My inability to consistently exercise is a source of great frustration to me. I’m the classic example of a yo-yo exerciser. I do it, feel amazing, get lazy, slowly fade out, and then gain 25 pounds and feel miserable. Then I repeat the process. Sound familiar?
When I find myself at the place of starting over again, I feel trapped. I find myself wanting to get healthy but comparing my current condition with those at the top of the physical pinnacle. I look at friends who do Cross Fit or those posting about their “incredible 40-mile bike ride” and then find myself not wanting to even move from the couch at all. Let’s be honest. I get winded walking up the stairs! So how in the world will I ever get back in shape in like those superheroes I see all around me!?
The problem, of course, is my aiming point. I have raised the standard so high that it keeps me from ever starting where I am. Exercising seems so impossible in these moments and I feel anything but optimistic in the beginning. But optimism is exactly what we need to start and win. (I wrote about why that’s true here).
So how can we keep ourselves from this self-sabotaging trap and get started exercising again even when we don’t feel like it? Here’s what I suggest.
Lower the Bar
Self-sabotaging happens at an early age. I see it happen with my children when we watch the show, Little Big Shots, as a family. While it is amazing to watch these young people be world-class in some of their endeavors at such a young age, it causes our girls to consistently say things like, “I’d never be able to do something like that!”
The trap is so subtle.
When we look at people who have worked incredibly hard to get where they’re at we can incorrectly assume that they’ve always been there or that they somehow started out that way on day one.
But it’s just not true.
People who are at the top (in most cases) got there through a lot of sweat, hard work, and perseverance. They have raised the standard. But they didn’t raise it on day one.
This is the exciting and encouraging news for you and me today.
Just as those who we emulate and aspire to be like didn’t get there overnight, neither will we. But, like them, we can make it to the top and reach our goals if we’ll free ourselves from the self-sabotaging trap and simply start where we are.
Here’s what I suggest you do if you want to start exercising again but simply don’t feel like it. This may be, in fact, the #1 key to your success:
Lower the Bar!
When you are first starting out on your health journey, you have to make success achievable. We hear things like this all of the time:
“Shoot for the moon!”
“The sky is the limit!”
“What’s your big, hairy, audacious goal?”
There’s a place for that. But that bar is set so high that many people never take the first step towards achieving it. In fact, when it comes to exercising, they don’t take any steps at all! And that is the point.
Don’t misunderstand. These statements will be absolutely correct for some people. Some personality types need that to get moving. But I believe that these statements (and ones just like it) can actually prevent many people from ever starting at all.
Instead, I contend that some of us need to make our first goal ultra-achievable. Lower the bar so far that it causes you to say, “Gosh, I know I could that!” It is this lowering of the bar that actually helps many people raise their standards and see more results.
How I Got Exercising Again
Let me give a quick example in my own life.
I told you earlier that I started exercising again. I had options.
I could sign up for a marathon. I could join a Cross Fit gym. I could buy a 3-month membership at our local fitness spot. Or I could do what I chose to do: walk 10 minutes, do 10 push-ups, and do 10 sit-ups.
Guess which option I chose?
You got it! The lowest bar possible. But guess what I immediately felt:
Ambitious to do more.
Isn’t that interesting? In years past, I may have raised the bar so high that I wouldn’t have felt any of those things. Instead, I’d feel frustrated, weak, defeated, etc. By lowering the bar, however, I effectively raised my results and I will eventually choose to (and feel like I want to) do more.