Shona and I work out with weights 4-5 evenings a week. We’re not trying to become Mr & Mrs Universe; we’re just trying to maintain our health and fitness in our fifties.
A month or so ago, we realized that we were finding it harder and harder to actually get going at it, and we realized it was partly the way we were framing the workout. Leading up to it, we’d be sitting on the sofa after supper and one of us would look at the other and say, “I’m afraid we have to workout.” The other would reply, “I suppose so. We might as well get it over with.” Then afterwards while we were gasping on the floor after the warm down we’d be groaning and complaining about how hard it was and how glad we were that it was over for another day.
We eventually realized how draining this kind of talk was. It was creating dread, delay, and discouragement. So we decided to change up the way we were viewing it and describing it. Before exercise I now say to myself, “I now get a chance to strengthen my body and improve my physical/mental/emotional/spiritual health.” Or, “I get to extend my life now.” Afterwards we high-five and celebrate another completed workout and its benefits. We’re now much more motivated, it’s far easier to get started, we work out far harder, and there’s far greater post-exercise satisfaction.
I didn’t know at the time, but having read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I now know that what we did was “reframe our habit.”
“Reframing your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks is a fast and lightweight way to reprogram your mind and make a habit more attractive” (131).
Clear gives examples of how to reframe the painful sacrifice associated with saving — “I get to increase my future purchasing power and financial freedom.” Instead of saying “I am nervous” before a big game or a big presentation, we say, “I am excited and getting an adrenaline rush to help me concentrate.”
How many other spiritual activities could we reframe to make them more attractive?
From “I have to pray,” to “I get to enter the presence of God today and speak to him as my Father!”
From “I have to witness to my neighbor,” to “I get to tell my neighbor how to be eternally happy.”
From “I have to give money to the church,” to “I get to support God’s ambassadors bringing the good news to the world.”
From, “I have to suffer Christ,” to “I rejoice that I am counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s name” (Acts 5:41).
See more Atomic Habits posts here.