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By Carien Grobler

Deputy Digital Editor


Get Moving: Unleash your inner motivation for exercise success!

If you automatically start looking for your pack of cigarettes when you wake up in the morning, it is a habit. However, it is also a habit if you put on your running shoes and go for a jog.


If you struggle to stick to an exercise program, you’re probably sabotaging yourself by focusing on your failures, says Dr Marcia Reynolds, international expert on emotional intelligence and author of the book Outsmart your brain. How to make success feel easy.

Your brain needs evidence of success if you want to turn your new behavior into a habit,” says Reynolds. “The paths in your brain are like a rubber band. You can stretch it, but it will bounce back if you don’t give yourself the confirmation that what you want is indeed attainable.”

According to Reynolds, this especially applies to changes that are difficult to make. “Since the brain’s primary function is to protect you, it will work hard to prevent you from failing. Your emotional brain works together with your logical brain to avoid the discomfort of change. Life then returns to normal even if it is unhealthy.”

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See your successes

Habit formation is the process by which new behavior turns into automatic behavior. If you automatically start looking for your pack of cigarettes when you wake up in the morning, it is a habit. However, it is also a habit if you put on your running shoes and go for a jog.

“Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form,” says Reynolds. “The reason for this is that the behavioral patterns that a person repeats the most are etched in the pathways in your brain. The good news is that through enough repetition, you can form new habits.”

She explains that you can overcome your brain’s love for the status quo if you receive enough positive feedback about your input.

Reynolds believes it is important to be emotionally connected to the positive feedback.

“Instead of putting pressure on yourself to exercise more, remind yourself how much fun it would be to dance at your grandchild’s wedding or enjoy your vacation to the fullest. Connect your success to the things you enjoy and value – this will help you stay motivated.”

Also remember to use the right words when describing your goals. Think about what you want to achieve rather than what you no longer want to do.

“Your brain does not understand the word ‘don’t’,” says Reynolds. “If you tell yourself not to eat a snack before bedtime, you are reminding yourself of the fact that you will feel like something to eat.”

Do it like this

Keep your goals small

If you break your goals down into achievable parts, you’ll have more frequent successes to celebrate.

Write about your successes

Journal about it when you achieve success so that it becomes tangible and you can read it again when you feel discouraged.

Talk about your victories

Choose someone who will be excited about your victories and celebrate them with you.

Reward yourself

Determine in advance how you will reward yourself for each milestone on the way to your goal.

Be patient with yourself

Don’t criticise yourself and drown in blame, regret and self-hatred when you fail. Be kind and patient with yourself.

Try these tips to make achieving your goals easier

Trust yourself more

Identify your talents and look at everything you have achieved so far – give yourself the evidence that you will be successful even if you make mistakes along the way.

Identify your resources

Determine how you can access the resources that can help you succeed.

Be ready to take risks

“If you are willing to move forward without the guarantee that you will be successful, you have the chance to experience the exceptional joy of success,” says Reynolds. “You may feel disappointed, embarrassed and frustrated when you stumble, but you can get up with the wisdom and perspective of what you’ve learned from your efforts.”

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