Why does it suck so much to struggle? Why do we resist getting out of bed before hitting snooze? Why do we skip breakfast (or lunch) when we know we need to eat to be optimal? Why are we always just 5-10 minutes late? Why do we make excuses to avoid a workout when we know we will feel better, physically and mentally if we just do it?
A fellow gym owner, Craig Hysell, outlines three tactics to CONSISTENT self motivation. He outlines the steps so precisely and simply. (Three just seems like a manageable number. Like Goldilocks, he gets it just right…not too few steps, not too many steps). These are methods we can apply to any area of struggle in our lives. As a fitness trainer, Yoga Teacher, and Dietitian, I speak with clients who are frustrated with their own personal inability to be consistent. Or I also see an all-or-nothing approach; a need to be perfect. Here’s the thing, consistency is the key to success. Now, that does not mean “consistent success.” As a matter of fact, even with consistency we will fail and that’s OK. It’s going to happen, it will happen, and it’s called life. As I tell my nutrition clients, show me your food log, show me your pictures of what you’re having for lunch–not what you should do, figure it out in that moment. Just make your lunch and send me a picture. See, often I get a paragraph with an explanation of why their lunch isn’t “perfect.” I explain, that’s great! I prefer imperfect because we can work with that. We must learn to shift our mindset and see the “failure” as only an obstacle in the path towards our future success. And really, I even see “failure” (really, I don’t consider anything a failure) as a learning and growth opportunity. As Craig says, consistency moves us towards progress, which moves us towards happy. Everyone wants to be happy.
So without further ado, three tactics to consistent self motivation:
Move with discipline. You are a product of your habits, so create good habits. I may not want to get out of bed in the morning (that is a fact for me!), however, if I am working towards creating a habit of starting my day off with a success, I will in fact start day 1 with turning off my alarm, sitting up, and getting out of bed. Don’t overthink this step. Just take action to create the habit. If your Dietitian gives you directions to eat veggies at every meal, move with discipline, create the habit, take the action. It IS that simple. You are what you DO repeatedly. Start out with something small so you can build a base of successes. In other words, let’s look for some bright spots! Small actionable items will lead to habit and consistency moving us in the right direction of our goal! (also notice small is underlined. Majority of everyone shoots for large goals! Let’s start small folks, it’s a guaranteed win or bright spot).
Motivation comes from success not the other way around.
Move with persistence. If you are pointing the finger at someone or something else to define the reasons why you have not been consistent, learn to look at yourself first. If you tell yourself messages like “I just don’t have self-control” or “I don’t know why I sabotage myself” or “it’s just hard for me”, tell yourself a different message. Tell yourself you have GRIT, you have mental toughness. Learn how to lose so you can learn how to win. Even if you don’t believe these messages yet, the persistence of repeating them in your head will send you down a different path. My nutrition clients will recognize this as internal thought. I follow my clients the first week outside of our office session on purpose–to teach, to educate, and also to work on changing the internal dialogue and messages they say to themselves. Persistence is the process with which you keep repeating those positive messages because you know you are what you repeatedly THINK.
Help someone. HERE is the secret to the consistency piece. Doing steps one and two will transform your actions and the way you think. However, this final step is the one that keeps you from getting derailed after three or four days. If you have been consistently building your habit of eating veggies at every meal and persistently rethinking how you talk to yourself, (even if it is just for a few days) helping someone will save you from those times when you would otherwise have lost motivation. It is the solution to those dark moments where you say “screw it” and skip the veggies. Or worse, you skip the veggies and substitute them for something far from your goals like a super sized order of french fries. There is a reason you are feeling this pain. Feel it. Express it by talking to someone, writing in your journal, voice texting in the notes on your phone, deep breathing, or going for a walk. Right after you feel the feeling, reach out and help someone. There are many ways to help someone. It can be something as simple as searching through inspirational quotes and sharing them on social media. Maybe you can go as far as preparing a healthy meal for yourself and then packing up half for a neighbor in need. Heck, send a text to a friend who is going through a hard time. The point is, helping someone releases dopamine which makes you feel good. When you feel good again, repeat step one.
Everyone needs a plan for success. Often motivation will not come first, action must come first. Create the habit, push through with grit, and help someone. Repeat.
I am happy to meet with you to help create a plan for success. You are not alone.