My Top Five Secrets to Motivation

Have you ever started something with a TON of motivation and drive then to find yourself having quit said thing a couple of days, weeks, or months later?  This also goes for stopping something, like a bad habit.  Ever said “I will NEVER do (insert bad thing here) again”, only to find yourself doing that very same thing again?  I’ve done both probably a thousand times with a thousand different behaviors.  Every Monday for YEARS,  I was starting a new diet, or stopping a bad habit.  By Thursday of the same week I was usually back to my old behavior.  I was in this cycle for years, perhaps even decades.  And I see others in this viscous cycle as well.  So, how do you get out of the old behavior and into the new for real this time?  Here are my 5 tips on how to stay motivated and moving toward your goals, even when the mood has passed.

The best way to eat an elephant

So you’ve been eating fast food a few times a week, haven’t worked out in a few years, and haven’t had a quiet moment to yourself in the last decade.  Starting Monday, you vow to eat 100% clean, work out six days a week, and meditate one hour per day.  I know this example may sound a bit extreme, but I’ve seen it first hand.  We finally get the motivation to change because the pain has gotten great enough, so we want to change everything all in one day.  I would be willing to bet that 95% of the time, this method doesn’t work long term.  

Too much change too quickly sets us up for failure because we don’t have the tools in our proverbial toolkit to face the obstacles that will eventually come.  And, behaviors that we’ve been practicing for a long time are not easy to change overnight.  Have you ever heard someone ask “what’s the best way to eat an elephant?” when faced with a large undertaking or project?  The answer is one bite at a time.  Meaning that in order to reach a big goal or change a behavior you’ve been practicing for a long time, take small bites or steps to get there.  For instance, from the extreme example from earlier, perhaps your first goal could be cutting down your fast food consumption to once a week.  Or, working out 2-3 times a week at first.  Meditating 5-10 minutes per day at least twice a week.  Then, once you’ve got some momentum behind you and you’re succeeding with these smaller goals, you can always readjust and increase the frequency or intensity.  Tip #1: Take small bites

I want it now!

There’s no denying that we live in a world where instant gratification is king.  We want it, and we want it now!  So there’s no surprise that when we are a few days into a new way of doing something and we haven’t seen drastic changes, we aren’t happy about it.  We want to know that all of the hard work and sacrifice is working!  And if it’s working, we should see results now!

The example that comes to mind for me is when I first started attempting to meditate.  I saw and read about people who were so serene and peaceful from meditation and I wanted that!  So, I made it a goal to start meditating everyday.  I thought I was starting small, and set the timer for ten minutes. 

I’m not even kidding when I say I almost went insane in the first two minutes.  My brain would NOT shut up.  If the average person has one thought per second, I was having ten during those few minutes where I thought I was supposed to have a CLEAR head!  I persevered for the first few days and made myself try.  Surely it would get easier.  But after a week, I found myself skipping my practice time, and pretty shortly thereafter I quit altogether because I hadn’t become a guru in my first few attempts at this new to me behavior.  I’ve done this with fitness and nutrition goals as well.  We change the behavior, we should see results.  Results mean what you’re doing is working.  The results are happening everyday, but they’re just so small that sometimes we can’t see them.  If you add up those tiny results every day, eventually they become BIG results.  We like big results.  And I promise they will happen if you stick with it.  Tip #2: Don’t quit before the miracle happens

This is Good Enough

Why is the number one question.  What is your why?  Why did you start on this journey?  Why are you changing something about your life?  Why do you want to attain or obtain your goal?  Determining the why is important in many aspects of life, but I would dare to say one of the most important in keeping motivation.  

It’s just natural that after a bit of time, your motivation and adrenaline will subside and you’ll find yourself asking why you’re doing this in the first place.  Or what’s the point in continuing?  “This is good enough” your mind will say.  Stop right here.  I’m here to tell you don’t stop!  Those moments when we want to stop are super important because this is where the real change starts! 

We’ve all heard the adage, change is on the other side of your comfort zone.  This is why it’s really important to nail down early on your “why”.  Because when things start to get super uncomfortable, you need to be able to clearly remember WHY you’re doing this in the first place.    Remember that feeling you had when you started this thing, and keep moving forward.  Chances are pretty good that if you keep moving forward, you’re regain some energy and this feeling of wanting to quit will pass.  But, you can’t keep moving forward if you quit your journey and go home.  Tip #3: Just do it.  And keep just doing it.

 

I Got This

How hard can it be?  You’ve seen other people do it.  Hell, you’ve done it before.  But here you are again.  Facing the same dilemma or tacking the same problem that you “fixed” last year.  Or, maybe you’re tackling a new issue and you don’t know where to start.  Of course you could Google it, and maybe that’ll get you started.  But, will Google be there to listen to your experience and help guide you through the tough times to get you through to the other side?  Maybe Alexa or Siri will have that capability in the future, but for now, human interaction and communication is a great way to help you stay motivated and on the path to success.  

Add the human interaction with the aforementioned technological aspect and you’ve got access to hundreds, even thousands of resources.  There are groups for everything on Facebook these days.  From addiction to zoo trips made easy with a toddler, you can definitely find people with similar woes or solutions to those woes to seek help.  If you need a more professional or credible source for help, ask around in those groups for recommendations.  Or, if someone you know does this thing you’re trying to improve upon particularly well, ask them for some advice.  I promise they’ll be flattered and probably more than happy to help point you in the right direction.

The main point I’m trying to make is don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not the first person to struggle with this issue, and you don’t have to be ashamed of it.  Asking for help is courageous.  Tip #4: Ask for Help

 

I’ll start on Monday

I’ll start as soon as things slow down at work.  I’ll start the Monday after my Birthday.  I’ll start when we get back from vacation.  I’ll start January 1st.  I’ll start when the kids get out for school.  I’ll just wait until summer is over.  I’ll just wait until….you know the rest.

How many times have you put off doing something you could’ve started today?  Why did you put it off?  Were you waiting for things to be “right” before you could start?  Were you trying to prepare and learn everything about whatever you were starting before you actually started?

I fell victim to putting off my goals A LOT.  And still do A LOT.  I’m always waiting for the perfect timing.  Or I’m too scared to pull the trigger on something before I’m an expert because I’m afraid of what others might think.  What I’ve learned is there is never a perfect time.  There will always be something about right now you can tell yourself isn’t “right” about starting that new job, or starting that new project, or starting your health journey.  You just need to wait until after vacation to cut back on drinking, or after your birthday to cut out the sugar.  This is not a dress rehearsal y’all.  This is real life.  Time is of the essence, but it will never be perfect.  But guess what?  That’s the beauty of life.  It will never be perfect, but we sure can learn a lot along the way.  Learn as you go.  Fake it till you make it.  The key is just get started!  You’ll figure the rest out later as long as you don’t stop (refer back to Tips #2 and #3).  

Don’t put off tomorrow what you could’ve done today.  The time will pass either way, so you might as well make it work in your favor!  Tip #5: The timing will never be perfect.  Start now.

Jessica Hauser