Motivation – The force which compels us to take action. So often, we know what we want to do, but we feel we lack the motivation to get it done. My clients will routinely tell me they don’t feel motivated or wish they had more motivation. Here’s the thing, while motivation can be crucial to get you started with a new habit or behaviour, it is extremely limited.
Every morning we wake up with a certain amount of motivation. Imagine, for the sake argument, that your motivation score when you wake up on Monday morning is 100. You use a few points getting up on the first ring of the alarm clock, instead of allowing it to snooze. A couple more go towards leaving the wonderfully warm shower, although you would love to linger. A healthy breakfast might set you back another few. You get to the office and click straight into you Excel spreadsheet instead of social media. Your morning might be off to a great start, but that motivation bank will be dwindling!
As the day goes on, you are faced with more and more decisions, which gradually erode your motivation. So, you can see how sometimes making it to that after hours spin class can seem a bridge too far. Or, how clicking into that Just Eat app can seem a more appealing prospect than the fresh meat and veggies in the fridge!
In order for action happen three things need to be in place.
Intention: You have to make the decision “I am going to go to the gym in the morning.” This is a crucial first step and often where what we think of as motivation comes in. This intention usually comes about after a Eureka moment. When you see things clearly for the first time. It could be that you ran upstairs after you kids and spent 10 minutes on the landing panting afterwards. These moments of clarity can be painful when they occur.
For me, it was coming out of the shower and seeing my jeans laid out on the bed. Until that moment I really didn’t realise how much weight I had put on. It was like a slap and it jolted me into taking action.
Means: Okay great, you’re off to the gym in the morning. But what gym? Are you a member? Do they take walk ins? Do you need to be assessed by a trainer before they will let you workout?
In order for you to kick start your new habit the means have to be in place. This will most likely mean ironing out the logistics and putting some systems in place.
Ability: I can be the most motivated person in the world, but if I don’t know how to swim, I won’t get across the English channel. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Nothing is more likely to drain your motivation than unrealistic expectations. You know the “I’m going to lose 50lbs by next month” ones?
Once these three things are in place you are all set to start your new habit. However, that’s not the end of the story. Even when you have your new routine in place, there will still be little friction points, that will make you not want to do it. Minor irritations, sometimes extremely minor, that can make your new activity seem like too much hard work.
I will give you an example. When I was getting ready to start teaching Zumba, I needed to practice a lot (I still do.) I was in the habit of getting changed into comfy clothes, bra off, when I got home from work. After dinner and housework, I would have a window of time when I should really be practicing. But in order to start, I would have to go upstairs and put a sports bra on.
I knew I needed to work on my routines, the deadline was fast approaching, and to be honest, I enjoyed it anyway. However, the effort involved in getting undressed and dressed again, was a huge barrier, and some nights that barrier did not get crossed. Eventually I figured this out and when I was changing after work, I just put the sports bra on!
If you find yourself in a situation where you are avoiding something that you actually want to be doing, try to figure out what it is about it that’s a pain in the ass. I have a friend that I used to train with. She loved the gym, but she absolutely hated packing her bag the night before. To get around this she would pack a bag over the weekend with all the gym clothes she would need for the whole week. Whatever that sticking point is for you, find it and destroy it. Fighting against it is like walking around with a stone in your shoe.
Another way to save those motivation points is to automate as much as possible. When I was arguably at my fittest, I trained every night after work. I never had to think about whether I wanted to go or not, I just went, because that was my routine. If you have decided to make Tuesday the morning you go swimming before work, don’t allow yourself to think about it! There will always be a million reasons not to go, if you give yourself the opportunity to come up with them.
After a while your new habit becomes a part of how you identify yourself. When I was training every evening, other people in the gym would say things like “wow, you’re here all the time.” To be honest, I got a huge kick out of that. I liked identifying as a fit person, as someone who never missed a session. I found that in itself to be very motivational.
In fact, studies have shown that when people give up smoking those who say “I am not a smoker” when offered a cigarette, have a much higher success rate than those to say “I am trying to quit.” This is because they no longer identify themselves as smokers.
Lastly, try to front load your rewards. The trouble with adopting new health and fitness habits is that often it can take weeks or even months for the fruits of our hard work to show. As well as this, these habits can often feel unpleasant at the start. If you are watching what you eat you might have cravings. If you have started a new fitness regime, you could experience muscle soreness. Try to come up with ways to reward yourself as early and as often as possible.
I love yoga and taking a bikram class used to be my reward after a tough week in the gym. Maybe you might allow yourself a nice, long bubble bath or to binge watch your favourite show at the weekend. Longer term goals and adherence deserve better rewards. Maybe after a month of no missed workouts, you can treat yourself to those new bottoms you have had your eye on. It doesn’t matter what the reward is, as long as you find it motivational. One caveat, don’t reward yourself with food, you are not a dog.
Be well xxx