Rating of Perceived Effort

Change is simple, but not easy. But approach change correctly and “not easy” can become “easier than it once was” and eventually even “normal effort.”

Jay had fun this winter working with a professional bicycling coach. His goal is to be able to ride hundred mile events (Centuries) with more speed and less fatigue. His coach, a former pro cyclist—Sara Bresnick of Pedal Power Coaching—regularly assigns workouts and Jay sends her digital data from his riding sessions and rates his perceptions of the effort required to do aerobic or strength intervals. There is a standard RPE (Rating of Perceived Effort) scale that he compares his efforts to—from #1=“I’m watching TV and eating bonbons” to # 9=“I’m probably going to die”. Number ten on this scale is “I’m dead.”

Assigning a specific rating number to your effort can help clarify just how hard you are working. It moves the conversation from “This is too much work!” to “This is this much work.” If you want to change your capacity to put out effort, you need to invest in practice that stretches you and challenges your current abilities. This is true whether you want physical endurance, the persistence to keep trying a new behavior or the consistent patience needed to influence other peoples’ habits.

Strength and endurance are built through challenges that ask a bit more than your body, emotions or mind is currently accustomed to. Too big a challenge causes a level of exhaustion that requires a long recovery. In the case of emotional or willpower exhaustion this dramatically increases the likelihood that you will fail to manage your behavior. For example, if you’re trying to remember to ask more questions instead of just giving advice or information, you’re more likely to go back on autopilot and forget to focus on your curiosity. Or if you’re trying to control your irritation, you may blow it.

Too little challenge and the increase in your ability will be so slow that you are more likely to give up or forget to keep trying. In the end, your capacity remains the same. The trick is to challenge yourself at a level of moderate effort—“I’m mostly comfortable, but this is taking some effort and careful thought.” This is the equivalent of physical exercise where you are still able to talk, but are aware you’re breathing harder.

It may help you get a feeling for where you are and what you’re willing to do to move forward, if you compare yourself to a perceived effort rating scale.

Here’s a possibility:

1. I’m cruising along as usual.
2. I’m staying well within my comfort range.
3. I’m comfortable, but I’m pushing myself a bit.
4. I’m mostly comfortable, but this is taking some effort and careful thought. (This is an effort that builds capacity.)
5. I’m outside my comfort zone and feeling some stress. (This begins interval training.)
6. I’m outside my competency zone and feeling moderate stress.
7. I’m tired from all the thinking, planning and remembering it’s taking to stay on track.
8. I’m tired and need a break real soon.
9. I’m working so hard at this that I can’t think about anything else. I feel like I’m going to lose it.
10. I can’t think and feel only confused and frustrated.

Last year Jay rode his bicycle club’s Spring Century for the second year in a row. He was dreading a hill that occurred around mile 85, after almost six hours of riding. The first year he had struggled up this hill in his lowest gear and occasionally wondered if he was going to have to stop. Last year he kept waiting and waiting for the hill to appear. When he was at mile 90 plus he realized that he had gone over the hill and not even recognized it. With practice, a 9 had become a 6.

How much energy are you really investing in your own or your company’s progress? How much are you willing to invest to get the outcomes you want?

We can help you identify changes you are ready to tackle—for you, your business or your team. Then we can design specific steps that will increase your capability and the perception of effort required to reach your goals. Coaching makes it easier than going it alone. Give us a call to discuss next steps.