Let's be honest, who likes going to the gym? I know, there are those out there who talk about endorphins (those little neurotransmitters that make us feel all warm and fuzzy after working out) Others still will talk your ear off about the research on how exercise can be as effective as therapy or antidepressants in treating depression. But, when it comes down to it, who wants to spend their time sweating on the elliptical when you could be on the couch watching 30 Rock?
There are so many things that frustrate me about the gym. First, why is it that no matter which locker you choose, there is always someone who is changing right next to you? And let's be real, how annoying is it when you are on the treadmill and your towel falls down and slides behind you on the floor? Do you get off and pick it up? Then there are the days you forget your clean socks and have to brave the rest of the day without socks!.
Recently I had an experience that changed all that. I was talking to a client about his desire to lose weight and I gave him a suggestion to go to the gym every day. Later when I thought about it, I realized that I don't go to the gym daily. While I don't have the same goals as my client regarding weight loss, it is important to me to get to the gym for my overall health, but what really motivated me was my desire to avoid being the kind of therapist who gives advice that he himself does not follow. This is what Motivational Interviewing calls "developing discrepancy". I saw the conflict between my behavior and my goals and values. Since then, I have been going to the gym much more frequently.
To find the motivation to change and become the person you want to be, it can be helpful to clarify why your goals are important and what is stopping you. Ask yourself: Why do I want to accomplish this goal? What is getting in my way? What is at stake if I don't make this change? As my challenges in getting myself to the gym show, we all have good reasons to avoid doing the things we know we need to do. At times we may even resist changing behaviors that we know are harmful to us because they give us pleasures we are reluctant to go without. As Homer Simpson once said, "To alcohol; the cause of and solution to all of life's problems." By clarifying our obstacles and being aware of our reasons to change, we can begin to recognize our internal motivations for change.
This process can be further enhanced by talking to someone with whom you can explore your desire to change. This person need not be a therapist, but the individual you choose should be a good listener who is nonjudgmental and not confrontational. Some people think you have to hit rock bottom to make major life changes and to reinvent yourself. While having a dramatic life experience can certainly inspire change, you can create the same effect by having a long conversation with yourself or with a trusted individual. This conversation gives you the opportunity to carefully think about and express your own specific, personal, motivations to make this important change. Let me know what you think. In the mean time, I'll be at the gym.