I’m sure you’ve heard that slogan before, but I’m not using it just for motivation! Well… sort of. In a recent Ted Talk, social psychologist Emily Balcetis discusses how keeping your eyes on the prize or simply viewing an exercise in a different way, can help promote ease and efficiency.
Balcetis explains that when people are in shape, they are more likely to view an exercise as achievable. More important than fitness, however, was individuals’ motivation to exercise. Those who were motivated to exercise saw a finish line as closer, than those who were unmotivated.
In a second study, Balcetis experimented with how changing one’s perspective on an exercise, can help to make it seem more doable. Balcetis presented a finish line at the end of a moderate sized path. Her control group looked around their settings as they normally would, and then estimated how far away the finish line was. The experimental group was instructed to look directly at the finish line and to try to eliminate other objects in their point of view. The results: the group that kept their eyes on the prize estimated the finish line to be thirty percent closer than those in the control group.
Last, Balcetis examined how perspective can help directly improve ease and efficiency. She had subjects try a moderately difficult exercise of walking a fair distance with weights. Again, one group kept their eyes on the finish line, while the other group proceeded normally. Those who focused on the finish line, felt that the exercise was fifteen percent easier than those in the control group. The focused group also moved twenty-three percent faster.
So what do all these findings mean? The way we look at exercise can make a big difference in how hard it feels and how hard we work at it. As Balcetis says, “keeping your eyes on the prize, may be an additional strategy you can use to promote a healthy lifestyle.” Well any strategy that makes exercise seem easier and gets me working harder, is one I’m definitely down for.