“Just run for 5 minutes.”
That is what I tell myself every time I go to the gym. When I get there usually I run for about 10-20 minutes, but to get myself there, I tell myself that I am going to ‘just run for 5 minutes’.
For me, the discipline of exercise has always been a challenge. Not being especially athletically minded, I go through invigorating spurts of fitness and then sedentary sloth.
In the past, I’ve tried setting goals around fitness; to weigh a certain amount, or be able to run a certain distance or time. Sometimes I’d make the goal, but then would inevitably slip backwards.
That was until I discovered a mind hack that really works: fooling myself into action.
Basically, what I do is set a pathetically small challenge in front of myself, and that dupes me into doing more.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, I say to myself “Just go to the gym and run for five minutes, and then you can quit”. I get dressed, put on my headphones, go to the gym and then run for five minutes. Then ten minutes. Then sometimes twenty.
I do the same thing with flossing my teeth. I tell myself everyday, “just floss one tooth”. I get out the floss and choose one tooth, and then while I am finishing that tooth, my brain tells me “you may as well do the rest now you’ve started”.
Here’s the funny thing: I know that I am fooling myself. I know that I will do more than the small amount I am suggesting. But the lazy part of my brain gets seduced by the offer, and spurs me into action.
Fooling myself in this way has led me to write hundreds of articles, deliver speeches several times a week, keep my house tidy, read a bookshelf full of books, and stay in touch with friends and family.
I think it works because the start of anything worthwhile is the hardest bit. Once you get yourself going, the momentum suddenly starts to kick in. The other part of your brain – the part that wants to improve – takes over and keeps you going.
Fool yourself into action. Once you get started, you’ll be glad that you did.