Tues Psych Post ~ Get Started Today!
This week I turned 30 and as with any “milestone” age it seems the norm to get a bit nostalgic.
I feel that looking back on my 20’s, although I’ve made many mistakes, it’s actually the things I failed to do that I regret the most. One of those “regrets” was not sticking to the big basic exercises when designing my workout programs. I feel in essence, from a lifting standpoint, that I wasted my 20’s (up until about 2 years ago).
Looking at the research on this, I’ve found that regret comes in two forms:
1 – There are regrets for things you did, and
2 – There are regrets for things you failed to do.
An example is if you owned a stock and decided to sell the stock. A day after you sold the stock, it jumps up in price leaving you $2,000 less than if you would’ve held onto it. That’s a regret for something you did.
The flip-side of that is if you owned a stock, didn’t sell and the price dropped by $2,000. That’s a regret for something you didn’t do.
Up to 92% of people in certain studies, when looking at this scenario, would say that despite both individuals being down $2,000, the person who sold the stock (took the action) would have more regret.
In psychology, that’s known as Omission Bias. Basically, we tend to downplay the importance of the actions we didn’t take (omission) when we look back at the results of our decisions.
The catch is, it’s not true.
It turns out, in the short-term we may regret things we actually did more than actions we failed to take. In the long-term though we tend to regret things we failed to do more so than the actions we actually took. To quote from Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice:
“When asked about what they regret most in the last six months, people tend to identify actions that didn’t meet expectations. But when asked about what they regret most when they look back on their lives as a whole, people tend to identify failures to act…In the short run, we regret a broken romance, whereas in the long run, we regret a missed romantic opportunity. So it seems that we don’t close the psychological door on the decisions we’ve made, and as time passes, what we’ve failed to do looms larger and larger.”
So what does that mean to you from an exercise or dieting standpoint?
It means that if you’ve been waiting for the “perfect” moment before you start to workout, despite giving those excuses for years, you’re better off starting now. This means if you’re waiting for a the summer to be over, or for your kids to get out of school, you should figure out a way to start now. It means if you’re waiting to start personal training until you had “more time,” you should start now.
The bottom line is that too often, we worry about getting everything perfect before starting to take on new habits. The problem with waiting for the “perfect” time is that life doesn’t fit neatly into your plans.
Now I’m not saying, don’t make plans. I’m saying ditch most of your plans and start taking action. With exercising, you’re not going to get stronger or lose any weight by reading about it. Sure, having a plan may make get stronger or losing weight a bit easier, but it’s not going to do the work for you. You see, when it comes to exercise and fitness, taking action will almost inevitably lead you to a better place than if you wait until you have all the answers.
That was my problem for years – I needed more answers before I would commit to a workout program. Despite “exercising” during those years, I was constantly seeking the “holy grail” of workout programs instead of busting my ass in the gym. I was looking for the ONE program that would give me all the results I wanted – NOW – not tomorrow, but now. I think a lot of people get caught up in thinking this way and it’s why we have so many internet warriors. Although there are definitely better ways of reaching your goals, it’s the person busting their ass on an “alright” program that’s going to see more progress than the person waiting for the “perfect” program.
Don’t get me wrong, taking action won’t be the end-all, be-all solution to your problems if you fail to change your actions when you’re not getting the results you want. Remember you’re going to have to act – make a mistake – adjust (which is act) and cycle through those 3 steps. Failure to adjust can be just as bad as not taking action in the first place. If you make those adjustments though, you will be so far ahead of people who are “waiting for the perfect time.”
The bottom line is we have to stop thinking in All-or-Nothing terms and start thinking that each and every day I’m moving closer to my goals. Not just by thinking those words will they become true though; but by taking the actions that will make that statement true.
Get Started Today!