Hi, Carolyn: I broke my shoulder six weeks ago and yesterday started physiotherapy. I have to do several exercises, several times a day, or I’ll permanently lose my shoulder mobility.

The problem is that they are really painful, and I have a low pain threshold. I can’t use the excuse of time, because at the moment I have plenty of it. How can I motivate myself to do my exercises? Previous experience indicates that just willing myself to do them isn’t terribly successful. Thank you.

— Unmotivated

Unmotivated: Put something “behind” your exercises that you care about. So, say, your favorite show is X, and you can watch X only after you’ve done your exercises.

All of it will be a trick of the mind, so if you refuse mind tricks, then you will lose shoulder mobility. Your call. But I’ve found the better mind tricks are the ones with rewards.

I should say, immediate rewards, such as watching a good show — not abstract rewards, such as shoulder mobility several years from now.

Here’s a bonus suggestion from Nick the Cartoonist:

“Something that’s helped me and, recently, a previously A-student teenage relative who struggled during the pandemic: I told him I don’t believe in motivation. There’s too much trying to trick yourself, which you’re aware of, and it’s too easy to tell yourself you’ll start anew tomorrow.

“So instead, admit you don’t want to do the thing because it’s inconvenient and unpleasant, whether cleaning your room or studying for exams or doing your therapy. Don’t BS yourself. But also note that it has to be done. ‘I’m going to do this terribly unpleasant thing and I’m not going to paint a smiley face on it. Maybe I’ll smile after it’s done, because the awfulness is behind me, but right now this sucks, there’s no way around that, and I’m going to get it out of the way.’ So what you’re cultivating is discipline, which is more permanent and carries over to many other things. By acknowledging the unpleasantness of the thing, you realize it won’t be easier/better to do it later, so you start, get momentum and finish it.”

Me again. This is the last bit of writing I have to do to finish for the day, so I can attest to the utility of, “It needs to be done, so now I will do it.”

Readers' thoughts:

· I had to do physiotherapy twice a day following a horse accident and serious knee surgery after three months of knee immobilization. I had to work really hard to regain my mobility, but I did it. Twenty years later, it’s one of the best things I ever did for myself because it got me in my body. Now, at age 68, I exercise every day and am no doubt extending my life as well as my bone density. As hard as this is to believe, this challenge is a gift. Be open to the silver linings. All the best to you.

· Is there any reason the broken shoulder person can’t watch TV while doing the exercises? That would be the best motivator for me.

· You might also bring this up with your physical therapist. I’m sure you’re not the first client they’ve had who has trouble getting motivated. [And feels such pain. CH].