Review: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most inspirational books I have read lately. Apart from being one hilarious ride with an adventurous theoretical physicist, this book also reminded me of somewhat forgotten ways of learning, thinking and experimenting in life and academics/career. Feynman comes across as an honest, courageous, fun-filled character who had certain child-like innocence and curiosity in his spirit. The writing will make you laugh, wonder and think. Feynman’s free-spirited nature, his attitude of questioning status-quo, his insatiable curiosity, his will to step out of his comfort zone and try new and often difficult things is inspiring, to the extent that one would want to break their present monotonous life and set out for their own adventure!
This book demands a permanent place in your library and re-reads.

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How To Motivate Yourself To Workout

I talked about getting started with weight loss in my last post. In this one, I want to share my ideas, tips and what worked for me on one of the biggest factors that will keep us going on our journey of health and fitness – Motivation.

We all know that motivation is the key to achieve anything in life. And yet we lose it quite often, especially when it comes to activities that seem hard to us – like working out . We read countless articles on how to motivate yourself to workout or to eat healthy, but all the reading will be of no use if we don’t put it into practice.

Motivation usually wanes away when there isn’t a strong enough reason to pursue something. So before falling into the loop of deciding to exercise, sticking with it for couple of weeks or so and then falling off the wagon and then not getting back to it for a long time, it is of utmost important to take sometime to understand why should you workout or rather why would you want to workout. Each person will have their own reasons to workout and to get in shape. It could be to fight illness or condition, having a family history of heart diseases, obesity, diabetes etc so you want to be careful,  to look good in any kind of clothes or even without, to be able to run around with kids, live longer to enjoy time with grandchildren, to beat your own fitness records etc. Whatever be your reason, find it. Don’t worry even if you feel your reason is shallow. No reason can be shallow if it is motivating you enough to achieve your goals.

It is also necessary to understand that when you lose motivation, why do you lose it? Is it just sheer laziness or something important came up which sidelined your workouts or you are feeling like giving up because you are no longer seeing any progress? Whatever be the reason, it is important to get to the root of the problem and then fix it. And with little thought and interest, we can always find a fix for a problem. For me the major issues in that order are :

1) Procrastination and laziness.

2) Losing focus. Or prioritizing other things over working out.

3) Giving up because of not seeing any positive results for very long.

4) Missing a few days due to some unplanned reasons like business/personal trips, meetings, deadlines etc and then not getting back on track sooner.

5) Sometimes, losing the faith in myself has hindered me. Thinking that I will never be able to achieve what I want. It is hard to shake off such a feeling. That is where I had/have to train myself mentally 😀

6) Feeling a little too satisfied with the results achieved so far (Which hasn’t happened too much though 😀 )

You might resonate with some of the reasons listed above. The key is to identify your reasons and work on them. There are many ways to keep yourselves motivated. They range from writing a flash card with your strongest motivating reason on it to hiring a personal trainer. You need to find something that works for you mentally and then physically. I am listing below the things that worked for me to get back on track and keep going for considerable amount of time. I am still working on making it a lifelong commitment where I don’t lose motivation that often.

1) For me, the whole idea of getting stronger and being able to do something that I thought was impossible two weeks ago helped. Like how many more push-ups can I do today, how much more distance can I run today. How much more strong I am  now than I was say a month ago, an year ago! I think the thought of being so strong that you could out-do your own self, your old average-self, is quite motivating! It required quite a bit of  an effort to change my attitude and outlook. It was slow and gradual but totally worth the effort. I stopped seeing exercise as a painful activity which I am doomed for and started focussing more on the benefits I could derive from it and enjoy it. I realized the importance of being healthy as long as you live and realized to get there, the journey needs to begin now.

2) When it comes to exercise, I would suggest to stop asking the question “Why me? Why can’t I eat whatever I want and still not put on weight?” “Why do some people have it so easy while I have to try so hard?” I got too bogged down with these questions and finally I just made peace with it by accepting that my body is different from the ones who do not put on weight that quickly and so be it. If I am having a hard time in this aspect, maybe I am having it easier than others in some other aspect of my life. I should just take what I have and try to improve it without comparing with others. This one was again a tough thing to do but I just had to do it  to maintain my sanity and to keep going 😀

3) I started small, trying to get in 15 mins everyday. And slowly increased the time per day. Also I picked something that wouldn’t require any gym membership or equipment or going too far away from home. A simple home DVD workout (Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred), that I could do right in my living room with a set of free weights. It was all of 27 mins and I just convinced myself to do at least half of it everyday. And believe me, I finished it every time I started it. Because it is usually always the starting problem. Once you start, it gets easier to finish.

4) Fixed a time of the day that HAS to be the workout time. Cleared away tasks around that time to make sure I don’t get stuck with something else.

5) Mentally preparing myself during the day for the evening workout helped.Mental preparation was important to prevent talking myself out of workout on the pretext of being “exhausted” or having “more important stuff to do”.

6) Read success stories and fitness articles from time to time.

7) Signed up for my first ever 5K which will be in May. And my goal is to finish the entire race running continuously. I find it very motivating because that forces me to try harder and get back on track even if I lose motivation for couple of weeks. And now since the race date is getting closer, I am now gearing up to give it my best.

8) Logged in regularly and tracked progress on MyFitnessPal.

9) Sometimes even looking at the pictures of Victoria’s Secret Angels helps 😉

10) I don’t have a workout buddy now but that had helped me to stay on track in the past. Having a good support group say family members or friends helps.

I still do all these things to keep the habit alive and they seem to work most of the time. I recently discovered another technique to keep the motivation alive – Bet Switch Mechanism. It is simple. You decide on committing to say workout 5 times a week. And for every day you miss working out, you give money to a friend or even your enemy 😀 So team up with a buddy and make it a bet that if you don’t workout you will give $50 to your friend. When it comes down to monetary aspects, I am pretty sure you will get yourselves moving 🙂

I hope this post gives you some good motivation factors. I would definitely love to hear from you in the comments on what motivates you or what hinders you.

Keep the fire alive and you will make it to your goal sooner than you think! 🙂

[I also contributed these motivation factors to be listed on Leo Babauta of Zen Habits’ blog post – The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers.]