The Habit of Hesitation

How many times have you taken a look at your workout clothes, running shoes, swim goggles, or exercise band for rehab exercises and had every intention of taking care of your body…

…but 5 seconds later you find yourself sitting on the couch, checking Facebook, or taking another sip of coffee?

If you’re human, then I guarantee this has happened to you…and maybe more times than you would like to admit.

The desire to exercise is present in your mind, you know it’s good for you, and the improved fitness, decreased pain, or enhanced body image is an ideal outcome…

…so why, just seconds after our “rush of motivation” do we veer course to something less productive or more distracting (work, food, TV, sleep). 

It can be just maddening to have your “plan” all set the night before only to have a fiery mental battle with yourself in the 5 minutes after you wake up which ends in “settling” for the same old same old routine.

If you’re anything like me, because Heaven knows I have been in these exact situations countless times, you are asking yourself “WHY”…

…Why didn’t I write that webpage…why didn’t I do my hip exercises that will help me recover from knee pain…why didn’t I make that one sales call that could make a HUGE difference in my work and business…

It comes down to something so simple, so easy, that you will think I am making it all up and what I am about to tell you can’t possibly be true.

The reason we avoid the things we really need to do, and the reason we just can’t seem to get the energy to make the first move on a project or goal, and the reason we make up “reasons why” we should do something else besides or goal activity is…


Plain and simple hesitation. 

The key to getting done what you need to get done is ending the habit of hesitation by taking action in the moment.  It comes down to action and movement…that’s it.

Goal Set –> Plan Created –> Action Needed

The first time I heard the idea that hesitation was limiting my ability to achieve what I wanted in my personal and business life came from listening to Mel Robbins and her “5 second rule.”

She utilizes a simple skill to make sure she takes action on her plans and goals.

Whenever she notices feelings of hesitation (doubt, fear, rationalizations) come on when considering a task at hand, she counts 5-4-3-2-1 and then moves into action on the task.

Simple but effective.

What Robbins realized, and what others before her came to understand, is that to achieve anything requires one to physically MOVE.  Yes, motivation is overrated and often it will come AFTER you have started in on the task.  Movement first and motivation second.

Don’t wait for that jolt to come and push you out of your comfort zone…it may never come…unless you provoke it.

When we hesitate to take the first step of action towards our task at hand we let sneaky, yet powerful thoughts enter our stream of consciousness.  Our brain can be our best asset and worst enemy.  The role of your brain can be broken into two parts, the fast brain and slow brain.  As Daniel Kahneman posed in Thinking Fast and Slow, our brain operates on two levels and time plays a big role.

Our “fast brain” is based in emotions and recall of past experiences allowing us to make fast decisions on limited facts.  The “slow brain” is very rational and considers many possibilities taking into account past experiences AND potential future consequences.

So how does this relate to hesitation?  Let’s play out a scenario all too familiar to those going through rehabilitation.

Imagine you have hurt your knee and your physical therapist has given you a set of exercises to do which are necessary to build the strength needed to do things like squat and run.

It’s the day after your evaluation and you have set aside 15 minutes to do your physical therapy “homework” and you even laid out your elastic band and workout clothes right on your dresser so you see them upon rising.

The alarm clock blasts you with the most horrible sound in the world while right in the middle of an awesome dream about running a PR at the Boston Marathon.

On your phone you see the reminder “do you PT exercises”. 

Now comes the battle – the moment of truth.  You have 5 seconds to get up and go, or roll over for 15 more minutes of sleep…

5 seconds is a really small amount of time, so we know the “fast brain” has to be the one to make the call to action.  The struggle here is that the emotional fast brain remembers all the other times you just rolled over in bed and brings this to immediate attention.  It also knows how much you love to run and that doing the exercises gets you to that goal.  Tick…tick…tick….

The longer you wait the more the rational “slow brain” kicks in and begins to weigh the options

…Well, if I do my exercises then I will get sweaty, then I will have to take a shower, then I will not have a relaxed breakfast which will upset my whole day…Although, if I do my exercises I am that much closer to getting back to running the hills at Rancho…

All of a sudden 15 minutes have gone by and you lost the moment in your day to do your exercises.

Don’t let your brain get in way of doing what you know is better in the long run.  “Stop and think” is not a good mantra here, although it is necessary to know your “why” for whatever you have set out to do.

Thinking emotionally-  the big “why” – is what’s going to get you going when it’s decision time.

Instead of seeing your exercise routine as a chore, see it as an opportunity to improve your running or an opportunity to return to the sport you love.

It needs to be said, and I want this to be crystal clear, it will still be HARD to make the decision to start moving.  Exercising, doing rehab, doing the “little things for your job… it’s always going to be challenging to start the journey.  Avoiding hesitation doesn’t make the doing any easier.  It will make you more productive and efficient.  This will in turn create positive results which will breed a stronger desire to continue the action.

Break the habit of hesitation and take action.  Don’t stay “stuck” in your pain or locked in the same loop of frustration.  The moment you start to feel hesitation, count down and on 1 and get going.  You can recover from the pain that is keeping you from living the active life you desire.  You can finally take care of that nagging injury that keeps cropping up during race season.

“Movement is Medicine.”  This what we believe at Competitive EDGE and this is yet another example of how movement can impact your life.  If you are ready to “take action” on whatever is keeping you from your full potential then give us a ring, send an email, stop into our clinic and take the first step.

5…4…3…2…1  MOVE!

By Dr. Kevin Vandi DPT OCS CSCS

Dr. Vandi is the founder of Competitive EDGE Physical Therapy — with his background in physical therapy, orthopedics, and biomechanics, he is a highly educated, compassionate specialist. Using state-of-the-art motion analysis technology and data-driven methodologies, Kevin has assisted a wide range of clients, from post-surgery patients to youth and professional athletes. When he isn’t busy working or reading research, he spends his time with his wife Chrissy and their five wonderful children, often enjoying the outdoors and staying committed to an active lifestyle.

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