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Do you exercise or are you an exerciser?

By Darren O'Toole | In Fitness, Health | on May 16, 2020

How you identify is pivotal as to how you will behave. The concept of behavioural change fascinates me, and we all manipulate these factors on a basis more regular than we probably realise. The truth is, we are all currently undergoing behavioural change by staying 2m away from one another.

You can just imagine the discussions when they were trying to work out how to convince us to stay locked down and to socially distance. ‘Stay home, save lives’ was probably etched up on a board. Not quite strong enough. Some will, some won’t. What do the people of Britain cherish? they probably mused. Dogs? No, can’t fit that into the strapline. Alcohol? No, we can’t be seen to promote this at this time. The NHS? Perfect. But let’s play to the paternal and maternal instinct within their human psyche: their protective instinct. And with that: ‘Stay home, save lives’ became: ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’.

It’s clever really. It’s behavioural change. We didn’t need vast numbers of police. We didn’t need the army. We adopted new behaviours through the power of words and words alone.

How do we identify ourselves?

How we identify ourselves can also have a huge impact on our behaviour.

For example:

A study was done in the US, asking two groups of people slightly different questions:

  1. How important is it to you to vote?
  2. How important to you is it to be a voter?

They then tracked each group. Which group do you think had the highest turnout on election day?

It was group number 2.

Simply changing their question so that they viewed themselves as a ‘voter’ meant they identified themselves as someone who will vote.

Exercise or exerciser?

So I put it to you. Do you exercise or are you an exerciser? Do you try to eat healthy or are you a healthy eater?

In a positive sense, you should look to become a noun. Identify in this way and the behaviour subconsciously becomes a part of you.

However, whilst this is a very positive change for behaviours which can be beneficial, you may also need to unpick your negative perceptions in the opposite manner.

If you view yourself as ‘fat’ or a ‘drinker’ or a ‘smoker’, you’ll fall into these behaviours easier and find it harder to break down this connection. For these, you need to reverse the process.

Consider how you view yourself. How easily you find that you may fall into negatively perceiving your actions and how you don’t focus on positively altering your self-identity.

I want you to try one thing:

The one thing you’d like to change, be it, quit or add to your routine. Now re-word the process. If you want to run – you are now a runner. If you are a smoker – you are now a former smoker.

Write down who you are – it may sound cheesy but it’s effective.

Give it a go. Change your identity.

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