November 13, 2009

Excuses vs. Values; What drives our behaviour?

Good Evening;
I just finished reading a few posts from the students of a university level course I facilitate on-line. I had asked the question relating to physical activity; "Is it as easy as just doing it?" I had some very interesting responses with one commonality. Many students suggested that those that "don't do it" are making excuses for their lack of physical activity. So I sat on this for a while and thought about what excuses really are.
Over the week I have been sitting with clients discussing their physical activity goals and listening to their reasons for not exercising. Most often than not, the people I talk with begin with negative talk about their own behaviour. They refer to themselves as "lazy" and making "excuses" for not going to the gym. I won't get into the "lazy" comment right now, but I would like to suggest another perspective to those people who feel they, too, make "excuses" for not becoming more physically active.
I don't believe we make excuses as much as we value certain experiences over others. The woman who would rather be at home with her children watching a DVD than in a gym or outside running has placed a value on her family over the value of the activity. This is not to say that women who choose to run or go to the gym are choosing that over family.
However, I know what it feels like to be fit and I place a high value on that to the point of finding time at 5am if I have to. Unfortunately, this feeling comes over time. Those that are wanting to get into exercise do not have that experience and overall feeling of "fit" to refer to and, therefore, the values of one activity may override the value placed on a new one, such as exercise.
I strongly suggest that we stopped beating ourselves over the head if we do not exercise and don't allow those that do to "make us feel" less than either. If we are going to choose to sit on the couch with our feet up and a few chocolate chip cookies on our lap we need to "own" this decision and understand that we (or I) value the couch/cookie experience more than I would value sitting on a spin bike for 30 minutes right now.
I hope that makes some sense. It's not about judgement or self flaggelation, but about understanding and patience with ones self. If you REALLY want to get active but the couch has this overpowering influence on you, start slowly (15 minutes of something 2 times per week) and then add a few minutes every week if you are able to continue without breaking stride. Perhaps add another day after a few months and soon you will find yourself looking forward to that walk or activity and the couch will no longer win the tug of war.
Now if you will excuse me, I have a DVD, a couch, and a few choco chip cookies giving me the eye.
Have a healthy nite.

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