Positive Self-Deception

One of the tasks I avoid the most in my life is exercising.

Maybe it’s because I am in reasonable shape and not in any physical pain. I just take my good health for granted.

During the past year, as I am eking closer to 40 years old, I have made a more concerted effort to exercise and stay in better shape.

However, one thing I have noticed is that whenever it is time to exercise, my mind starts to work overtime to make excuses for why I shouldn’t do it today. It agrees with me that I should exercise and be healthy, but just not today.

This is a form of self-deception. It’s when the lazy, homeostatic part of me starts to override the ambitious, disciplined part of me.

Usually, when this happens, I have to fight against my own excuses just to get to the gym. But recently I realized that I can actually use this self-deceptive ability against my laziness.

All I do is trick myself.

When I start to think about getting ready to go to the gym, I start hearing my lazy excuses such as ‘not today’ or ‘you already went the last two days’. Sometimes they use a different angle and tell me ‘you don’t want to be tired tomorrow’ or ‘you might actually injure yourself if you workout too much’.

When I start to hear these thoughts, I now just agree with them. I tell them they are correct, and that I don’t need to go today. Then I tell myself I’ll just go for five minutes. I tell myself I will get dressed, and go to the gym for five minutes, and then, once five minutes is up, I can quit for the day.

My lazy side, for some reason, actually believes me. It knows that I am tricking it into going to the gym, but somehow I can get past the excuses my using this positive self-deception.

Of course, when I am actually in the gym, and start exercising for five minutes, I overcome the inertia of my laziness and start wanting to do more. Also, I know I’ll look like a fool in front of everyone there if I leave after 5 minutes, so I end up staying for 30 minutes.

This positive self-deception is something I’ve realized has helped me in a lot of ways.

With saving money, I learned years ago to remove an amount of money for savings immediately after I got paid. That way I felt like I had less to spend for the month, and my savings started to grow.

I’ve also done the same thing with eating healthier. I tell myself I can eat some snacks after I have eaten something healthy. My mind falls for this trick, and usually, once I have eaten something healthy, my craving for the unhealthy snacks is gone anyhow.

The more I think about it, this tactic of positive self-deception is exactly what we are doing when we set new goals. We tell ourselves we are going to do or be someone different than we are now. Of course, the current reality is that this goal is a total fiction, but over time if we continue to tell ourselves the same story, we begin to change.

It’s interesting to me how the same ability to hold yourself back can be used to propel you forward.

You can trick yourself into health, a large savings account, or any new achievement you want. You just have to find ways to overcome the present excuses and inertia and keep deceiving yourself until you achieve what you want.


2 thoughts on “Positive Self-Deception

  1. I’ve used similar techniques myself. Some of my best days when I was a kid were when I went to my karate classes even though I didn’t feel like it. Same has been true as an adult going to the gym. Not only did I get physically stronger, but mentally as well since I pushed myself against a natural inclination to take a day off.

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