If you’ve ever seen a physio, I’m sure you’ve been asked “Have you been doing your exercises?” I have been a physio for 18 years and I must admit, I do still ask this question…but my reasons for asking it have definitely changed!

As a less experienced physio, I would ask this question to check up on people.

  • To make sure they were doing what I told them to do.
  • To remind them that they were responsible for their improvement.
  • And sure, to make myself feel better if they weren’t improving (oh so it’s your fault, not my fault 😉

I still do believe home exercises as part of a physio treatment program are powerful and an essential part of self management. I want people to understand their bodies better and learn what makes it feel better and worse, so that they feel empowered to look after themselves.

But what I understand now that I didn’t understand back then, is that looking after ourselves isn’t just about having the motivation or willpower to do it because motivation and willpower are unreliable. They are impacted by stressful life events, how much sleep we’ve had & even what time of day it is.

As BJ Fogg shares in his book ‘Tiny Habits’, when we want to build a new positive habit or behaviour (eg. physio exercises) we usually need:

  1. Motivation – the desire to do it
  2. Ability – the capacity to do it
  3. Prompt – the cue to do it

Just the desire to do it is not enough. And this is something I’ve experienced myself and seen in others time and time again over many years.

So now when I am treating someone and I ask them “Have you been doing your exercises?”, I am actually checking up on myself.
If someone hasn’t been doing their exercises, it’s usually because:

  1. I haven’t helped them to understand their importance or demonstrated how they improve their symptoms (Motivation)
  2. I’ve given them too many or made them too complicated (Ability)
  3. I haven’t done a good enough job of working with them to plan when and how they’re going to fit the exercises in (Prompt)

This concept can apply to any positive/healthy habit you are trying to build for yourself. Rather than beating yourself up for being unmotivated or lazy, why not check which part of this equation is missing? The motivation, the ability or the prompt?
(Oh and if you can start super small & be kind to yourself by celebrating the little wins too, you will be unstoppable 🙂

Hope this gives you some food for thought. Let me know!