Hi, I'm Gabriel. I recognize that people don't usually introduce themselves in posts on here, but this is my first one, and it's gonna be a pretty personal one, so I might as well be a bit personable.
You might have seen me on the University of Bayes discord or the unofficial LessWrong telegram channels. On the latter a discussion around exercise appeared, and some people wanted to hear how I "fixed" exercise for myself. I was recommended to post this on here, so this post is an adapted version of what I said then.
I didn't exercise much growing up, and this resulted in an unhealthy relationship to exercise as an adult. I was starting this journey with a lot of shame and frustration around trying over and over to start something stable, and always failing once passion stopped. I had a huge huge Ugh Field around exercise, which made everything harder. So a lot of the journey was incrementally going from "I try to exercise, but I keep failing" to "Exercise generally works for me. Sometimes I stop, due to being sick, stressed or forgetful, but it's no big deal, and it's easy to resume it". I now have the identity of "someone who exercises", regardless if I do at that moment. This is the superpower, because this means the Ugh Fields are dissolved and there's no shame or frustration in the way. Without psychological barriers, deciding to exercise and actually exercising follow each other tightly.This took me one a and half years of having exercise as a primary focus in my life. I had been trying to create an exercise habit before that, but that was mostly doing the same thing over and over, so I'm discounting that. One and a half years might be the time it takes, or it may be possible to do in less time.
So here's a bullet point list of the things that would have shortened my journey to exercise. All advice is bad, all journeys are different, but parts of your journey may be similar to mine, and may be made easier from hearing about mine.
That's the core. I probably forgot some things. I also probably wrote way too much, but this was fun. Besides, I was asked for the long version, and that's what you got. Questions are welcome, but I'll answer later, because all this typing made me feel like moving my body.
So I'm gonna go for a run.
Find a way to prove to yourself that you can do the exercise thing. For me, I managed to exercise about 6 days each week for about three months. At that point, I felt that it wasn't hard anymore, and freely chose to let exercise fall to the background to focus on sleep instead, as per the previous bullet point. This was basically when my brain shifted, and when I "won exercise". Getting there is the hard part.
This caught my attention. My dentist told me to get my act together and floss daily. So I've been putting special effort not to miss a single day. Intuitively, it felt important, and now I have a way to articulate it. I'm still working on seeing myself as "the kind of person who flosses." I haven't gotten there yet. If I stop, it feels like I'll lose a certain motivation, or accumulating identity, that can't simply be restored by picking up with flossing the next day.
Part of me says that this mentality is irrational, and that I should work to fix it. But maybe this is one of those times where the rational thing to do is identify how your irrational brain works, and then learn to work with it rather than against it.
Fwiw my dentist told me to floss as well. I tried and noticed obvious improvements on the next appt (so about 3 months). I did it for a year and it was good. Then I stopped and sure enough next appt the gums were sore and bleeding during the test. I didn’t floss for a year. As soon as I started again, the improvement came back.
I guess now for me this is one of those things that has been so thoroughly proven and validated by my own experience that it’s easy to do.
Oh and also I hate all floss devices except this: Listerine UltraClean Access Flosser WITH Refill Pack (Pack Of 1) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QSNP80U/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_797DS9JJAS3VJJJ55E8X?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
I also see this as one of those things where "you shouldn't stop yourself from doing the small good just because the big good wasn't available". Sure, it'd be better to just have a rational mentality, but if you can't have that, then it's better to just be rational about how your irrationality works. (And in the best case, we'll find that it's a stepping stone to a rational mentality.)
Oh yeah. This reminds me about a 'habit-building-trick' I've read somewhere else, basically: “You don't just want to do it, you want to become a person who does it, and then you can focus on something else”.
So yeah, rapidly adapting your identity might be a superpower after all. With all the downsides it entails.
Great post, I especially liked the "triggers to pick up the habit again" section.
I too had all sorts of ideas about working out, and I basically threw (almost all of) them out once I discovered VR
Hi from our mutual friend Shira :)