How Loss Aversion Helped Me to Change My Exercise Routine

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman coined the term loss aversion back in the 1970s. The psychological theory goes that you feel the pain of losing something you already have more than the joy at getting a new thing.

This works in all aspects of life, and you’ll often see it done in marketing or sales processes. The free 100-night trial of Tempur mattresses is a good example – an expensive purchase, but I suspect it’s much harder for people to give up the memory foam magic after getting used to it over such a long period.

That got me thinking – how can I use this principle to get healthier?
Enter LEGO, my arch-enemy and a plan…

Like many business leaders, when things get busy, I can struggle to keep the weight off and make time for exercise. This has been particularly challenging as life has got more hectic – particularly after starting a family.

Drastic action was needed – the Miracle Morning Book had a great line – “make time for exercise now, or make time for illness later”. That resonated with me, and it was time to kick-start the exercise habit.

A lot of people might promise themselves a treat once they hit their exercise milestones. I wanted to flip that around –

  1. Set the target
  2. Buy the treat in advance
  3. Make failure not an option

1. Set the target

This part is simple. My target was to complete 30 exercise sessions in 30 days..

For simplicity, I defined an exercise session as a deliberate act (casual walks don’t count) – it’s got to be a run, gym, swim or power-walk. Anything that gets the blood pumping!

It’s all about getting out and getting used to exercising again.

2. Buy the treat in advance

Around the time I conceived this idea, it was approaching the anniversary of the Moon Landings, an amazing part of human history. I’d seen LEGO had just created an awesome new model of the Apollo Lunar Lander Module, so from there, my Apollo 30 plan was born.

I ordered the LEGO, and the unopened box was left sitting in my office, taunting me to get off my arse and get moving.

3. Make failure not an option

Here’s the twist, something to really give me extra hit of motivation…

If I failed, I had to give the model away to my arch-enemy.

Oh yes, that got my mind focused. Now, I’ve not got many arch-enemies… if fact, just this one person, they wouldn’t even know, and it’s more of a mild dislike than full arch-enemy status. Even so, it’s a great visualisation trick. I could think about meeting them to hand over the LEGO model to them – I could imagine their confused face! The level of pain and regret that I’d feel essentially ruled out failure as an option – it’s just inconceivable.

This feels like a much more powerful way to set tough goals. If you have someone in mind as an ‘arch-enemy’ even better – leverage those thoughts and channel the energy into success… it’s just enough of a boost to get out there on grey rainy days or to jump out of bed a bit earlier for a run.

With all the challenges of keeping up with everything day-to-day, sometimes that little extra nudge can work wonders for getting moving and getting results.

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