As I write this post my subconscious is having an Extreme Cage Fighting bout. If my Jim Thorpe contender wins I’ll go for a run. If not my Homer Simpson will probably drink a few more cups of coffee, sit at my computer and post pictures on Pintrest of amazing people running.
All of this bruising, mental-wrangling would not be as painful if I had just taken a moment to make an appointment with myself to go for a run. According to Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, if you want to make sure you get to that five–thirty Vinyassa Flow class, you will need to make an appointments with yourself. Even a mental note will create what’s called ”action triggers”. According to the authors one study showed that by using action triggers the success of achieving “easy” goals goes from 78% to 84%. But “hard’ goals respond even better to action triggers with an astonishing increase in success from 22% to 62%.
According to Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist at New York University the value of action triggers is that they “preload the decision”. By making appointments, actions such as ‘drop off dry cleaning after work’ trigger the next action to “go for a run”. By preloading the decision people “pass control of their behaviors on the environment”. Gollwitzer adds that action triggers “protect goals from tempting distractions, bad habits, or competing goals.”
Does this mean I’ll never have to decide between a workout and a nap again? Probably not. But it may mean that I go running 40% more often and that would bring me 40% closer to Jim Thorpe status. Right?
78.5 years Life expectancy at birth in the United States, which ranks 50th in highest total life expectancy compared to other countries. Source: CIA Factbook (2011).
Maurice Dumit is owner and Physical Therapist at INVIVO Wellness in Milwaukee, WI. He is dedicated to providing a hands-on, balanced and whole-person approach to healing and patient care.