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Overcoming the "Joy Gap"

Jan 29, 2020

I recently heard Dr. Kelly McGonigal talking about something called “the Joy Gap.”

She said that, as humans, we dramatically underestimate how good it will feel to move our bodies. If you ask people to predict how they will feel after they exercise, they usually predict:

It’ll make me tired.
It’ll be exhausting.
It’ll be boring.
It’ll be uncomfortable and unpleasant.

But in reality, after exercise, most people report:

I feel better.
I feel optimistic.
I feel like I can take on the world.
I have more energy not less.

This is the “Joy Gap”—when we think the work will be hard or painful or exhausting, and the result is actually the opposite.

The “Joy Gap” occurs because of the brain’s built-in, survival instinct to conserve energy. It’s a part of being human. We vastly underestimate the pleasure we will get from doing hard things.

I think this “Joy Gap” exists when we pursue any goal, not just exercise. When I go to read my scriptures, or create a podcast outline, or save my money, my brain automatically overestimates the discomfort involved, underestimates the pleasure and joy I will get from doing this work, and tries to prevent me from spending energy on it.

Which is just so good to know!

When you feel yourself reluctant to do what you said you were going to do, or take action towards any of your goals, just know that you are operating from the “Joy Gap.”

And then do it anyway.

I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Because all that joy is waiting for you on the other side of action.



P.S. Your brain and it’s energy-conserving thoughts are the only thing standing between you and your goals. If you want to understand how your own thoughts are getting in your way and how to overcome them, sign up for a free coaching session and I’ll show you how to be the boss of your brain.

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