What to Do When Willpower Wilts

Working through the preceding section gives you some pretty good reasons for exercising (ten, in fact!). And hopefully you've found a few types of exercise that just may fit into your life and have tried them out. Your intentions may be good, but what happens when your initial enthusiasm and commitment to do something positive for yourself fade? Or, how do you get started if you haven't found that initial enthusiasm?

Fighting de-motivating thoughts

The problem with finding and maintaining motivation to exercise lies in distorted, de-motivating thinking (see Chapters 5, 6, and 7 for more on distorted thinking). De-motivating thinking keeps you from taking action and puts you in a defeatist frame of mind, where you're doomed to fail. When your thinking is distorted, your mind is full of reasons you can't exercise. It's hard to get moving when demotivating thoughts take control. But we have a strategy for defeating defeatism. The following example gives you an idea of how you can give de-motivating thoughts the one-two punch.

Janine, a busy mother of two, works as a bank teller. She rushes off every morning to drop her kids at day care and tries to fit in her errands during a 45-minute lunch break. By dinnertime, she's usually exhausted. It's no wonder Janine suffers from mild depression. When her doctor suggests she begin exercising to improve her mood and health, Janine laughs and says, "You've got to be kidding; I don't have an extra second in my day."

But fortunately for Janine, she has a copy of the Anxiety & Depression Workbook For Dummies and completes the Defeating De-Motivating Thoughts exercise. Worksheet 10-5 shows what she comes up with, and Worksheet 10-6 has her reflections on the exercise.

Worksheet 10-5 Janine's Defeating De-Motivating Thoughts Exercise

De-Motivating Thoughts

Motivating Thoughts

I don't have time to exercise.

I could cut 30 minutes off my television watching each evening. And it wouldn't be that hard to get up 15 or 20 minutes earlier either: It's a matter of prioritizing what's important, I guess.

I don't have the money to get a baby sitter so I could exercise.

I could get a videotape from the library or take the kids for a walk. They'd love it if I went bike riding with them more often.

I'm too tired all the time to exercise.

Yeah, well as I think about it, exercise usually helps overcome fatigue.

I'm too depressed to exercise.

From what I've read, exercise actually helps defeat depression. Just because I don't feel like exercising doesn't mean I can't do it.

Worksheet 10-6 Janine's Reflections

I guess I can see how my thinking is bogging me down on this exercise thing. Part of the reason I feel so down is because I haven't been able to lose the weight from my last baby What I need to do is stop listening to all these thoughts and just do it. I think I'll ride my bike with the kids down to the library tonight and check out an exercise tape.

Most folks who struggle to work exercise into their lives have thoughts like Janine's. Just because you think something, though, doesn't mean it's true. Therefore, paying attention to the dialogue about exercise that runs through your head is important because you can argue with these thoughts and in turn increase your willingness and motivation to exercise.

To complete your own Defeating De-Motivating Thoughts Exercise,

1. Read the de-motivating thoughts in the left-hand column of Worksheet 10-7, and circle those that are relevant to you. These are the most common thoughts people have that get in the way of exercise.

If you have thoughts that aren't on the list, feel free to add them in the extra spaces provided.

2. For each thought that you circle or that you add, develop a motivating thought that refutes and debunks the de-motivating one. Consider the following points in developing motivating thoughts:

• Is the de-motivating thought exaggerated or illogical in any way?

• Is the thought just an excuse not to exercise?

• Is there a better way to think about this de-motivating thought?

• If a friend of mine told me the thought, would I think it was completely legitimate, or would it sound like an excuse?

• Is the thought helping me?

• What would happen if I simply tried acting as though the thought weren't true?

If you struggle to come up with motivating thoughts, flip back to Chapters 5, 6, and 7 for a myriad of ways to defeat such thinking.

3. Jot down your reactions to this exercise under My Reflections (see Worksheet 10-8).

Worksheet 10-7 My Defeating De-Motivating Thoughts Exercise

De-Motivating Thoughts

Motivating Thoughts

I don't feel like exercising. I'll start doing it when it feels right.

I'm not someone who exercises; it's just not who I am.

It's not worth the trouble to exercise.

Worksheet 10-7 (continued)

De-Motivating Thoughts

Motivating Thoughts

Exercise is a frivolous pursuit.

I don't have the time to exercise.

I'm too tired to exercise.

I'm too old to exercise.

I hate exercise.

I'm too depressed or anxious to exercise; I'll do it when I feel better.

I'm too out of shape to exercise.

I have too much pain to exercise.

Gyms and equipment cost too much; I just don't have enough money to exercise.

Exercise just isn't worth the effort.

My Reflections

Keeping track of your progress

An effective way to boost motivation is to keep an exercise calendar. On this calendar, track the physical activity you do everyday, and write down your reactions to the activity. When you commit yourself to writing something down, you tend to pay more attention to what you do. That's just part of human nature. The following is a brief example of an exercise calendar; read it through before starting your own.

kPLE Randy is a unit secretary at a busy hospital. He feels like his life is out of control: He can't save enough money to go to school, his social life seems flat, and his mood is gloomy. On top of that, he notices his belly is beginning to stick out for the first time. His pants are too tight, and he feels hopeless. Randy talks to a friend who urges him to join a gym to get active again. Randy's therapist agrees with the recommendation, so Randy joins a gym and begins tracking his daily physical activity (see Worksheet 10-9).

Worksheet 10-9

Calendar of Physical Activities

.tflC E


What I Did

How I Felt


I walked up and down the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator as usual.

I was surprisingly out of breath, but it felt like a step in the right direction.


I made it to a kickboxing class.

I stayed in the back and felt sort of foolish. But afterward, I was in a pretty good mood.


Nothing at all. I was a total couch potato.

Guilty, guilty, guilty.


I went for a long walk with the dogs.

I felt really relaxed afterward. And it did my heart good to see how happy the dogs were.


Made it to the gym again.

I'm hopeful I can make this a habit. I feel good. Besides, there are some gorgeous women at this gym!


I went hiking with some friends.

That felt great. It was good to be outside, and I enjoyed the company a lot.


Nothing. Total couch potato.

Hey, it's okay to take a break here and there. Beating myself up won't help.

Use Worksheet 10-10 to track your exercise progress. You'll be surprised at how the act of writing everything down keeps you focused on the goal.

Worksheet 10-10 My Calendar of Physical Activities


What I Did

How I Felt








You can obtain copies of this form at www.dummies.com/go/adwbfd. Download as many as you need for your own use.

Beating yourself up when you don't succeed at the task won't help you stay on track. Just acknowledge that you didn't do what you wanted to and re-commit yourself to get moving.

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