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Future Fear and Finding Time to Exercise



A common, if not the most common, form of "encouragement" to either start a healthy habit or quit a unhealthy habit has always been fear.  If you eat that donut, you will eventually get diabetes and die.  If you smoke that cigarette, you will get lung cancer and die.  This is a phenomenon I call “Future Fear”.  As this article is short, I will cut to the point:  Future Fear does not work.  Fear works when it is immediate.  For example: let’s say we are on a hike together and a bear started down the trail toward us.  That generates fear that causes an immediate healthy response: run.  If I was to tell you a bear would be coming down the trail you are standing on in 30 years, I am certain you would do nothing.  The same goes for quitting the cigarettes, or eating better, or finding time to exercise.  If the negative consequences of your actions where immediate, you would take action immediately.  So why do we continue to use Future Fear as a device to try to change habits or improve lifestyle?  I really do not know the answer; however, I think changing from using Future Fear to Present Reward may be one thing that needs to be looked into.  A drag on a cigarette produces instant reward, so what other activity might we undertake to get a similar instant good feeling?  Is there a gratifying reward we can have immediately after exercise, other than a chocolate shake?  Is there a simple objective measure that could be used following a good healthy meal that would stimulate us to eat healthy again next time?  I can give you some ideas, but I cannot answer these questions for you.  I would encourage you to stop using Future Fear in your own quest for health or in your encouragement of others.  Instead, find the Present Reward that works for you, as it is bound to have a more lasting effect.

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