There was the time I decided I was going to start one of those home party businesses.
How could that go wrong? Purses sell themselves. Women love purses.
Well it was a major flop.
I sold a few... literally... but I'm so horrible at selling that I didn't really even try and was grateful when I found out the company was closing the home party business...
Then there's diets. There have been more unsuccessful diets than I can count. So many "I'll start tomorrow, Monday, next week, next year..." So many times I would achieve my weight goal and regain it all back. And so many times, as with selling purses, I'd start enthusiastically and then give up.
But there's also the time I said I was going to get healthy, strong, and in control of my relationship with food and years later I'm still on track. Or write more and start a blog and here it is. Or run a 5k or 10k and did both more than once.
I know you've been there with me, and maybe right now you're wavering on something you thought you really wanted. Hang in there!!! Here are some ways to keep the motivation alive...
1. Tap into the type of learner you are to make it "click."
I'm a visual learner, so I use lots of visual cues to help myself stay focused and motivated throughout the day, every day:
- quotes, pictures and slideshows on my phone, my planner and all the computers I use.
- calendar reminders on my phone. This might've been my most brilliant idea ever. Every few hours of the day, every day, my phone rings a special ringtone and various messages come up that I've written to myself. I change them whenever I start getting immune to something. Typically, these are very personal and they're the most powerful tools for me.
*If you're an auditory learner, try giving yourself those periodic reminders verbally or through listening.
- Self-talk. We all have this. The tapes that play in our head can be destructive, derailing, and depressing... "I can't do this." "This is impossible." "This is too hard." "I'm just not cut out for this." "I'll never be able to change this." Find some positive messages and replace the lies with the truth. I personally do this with scripture.
- Repeat varied motivational quotes or messages to yourself three times when you wake up in the morning, when you're doubting yourself, at lunch time, driving to/from work, and at bedtime... less or more as needed.
- Podcasts, TEDtalks, audiobooks, radio programs. There are thousands of these. Find some that are specific to your goal(s) or needs and play them in the background while you're working, cleaning, driving.
- Find music that gives you energy or focus and will help you want to do what needs to be done.
*If you're a kinesthetic learner, I'd recommend
- Find a friend or a group that relates to what you're trying to accomplish. They will perform the activity with you and provide accountability. I've participated in writers' groups, and they have been tremendously beneficial. Bill runs with a running group about six days a week. It makes all the difference to him to have others to run with for set distances, times, and places.
- Find a class, teacher, coach, or mentor who will take you through the process at a specific time and place. They can be your motivation when you don't have much.
- Use YouTube, DVD's or streaming video to walk you through something you're trying to do. Some of these are available at your local library to defray costs.
- Read or listen to motivational stories or speeches while you're taking a walk, a run, or a bike ride.
2. Your "WHY" and "HOW" make all the difference in the world. And focus on NOW.
When I think about why I didn't follow through with certain dreams, these have been major factors. I was either doing something for the wrong reasons or I was uneducated about how to go about it, so when it didn't work out right away there was nothing left to motivate me.
What are you telling yourself? Is it...
- I think I "should" or "I'm supposed to" (have a degree, save more money, exercise, eat right, volunteer)
- Everyone else is doing it (the Atkins Diet, the Zone Diet, the grapefruit diet, bootcamp, couch to 5K)
- I'm jealous of someone else (the way their life looks like on the outside, so if I do _______ I'll be happy too)
- I want to be skinny, rich, younger-looking
- I have to look good for an upcoming wedding, reunion, etc.
- I'm antsy, bored, overwhelmed, scared and I know I should be doing something with my life
- My doctor, dentist, pastor, mother, husband, or boss says I should
- I think I want ____________ (certain job, career, relationship, trip, dream) but it scares me to death. I can't even picture myself doing it and would probably mess it up.
Those typically aren't sustainable reasons that keep us motivated.
We're ambivalent to begin with. There's a feeling that we should change something but we don't really believe it's absolutely 100% necessary, that we can do it, or that it'll work.
Setting off like that usually means we're not prepared and have no idea how to actually do the hard work and take the zillions of steps to get from where we are to that far off point.
It's also a recipe for fizzling out when our motives come from anything having to do with other people. If/when it gets hard, boring, confusing, extremely difficult, it's not "us" to begin with so of course there's nothing inside driving us toward the unknown. If/when we achieve it and it didn't bring the desired feelings or life changes, of course we'll revert back to pre-achievement normal "us" mode. If we're shamed or pressured by someone else - fahgettaboudit! If we're not quite sure they even know what they're talking about, we're going to be miserable, passive-aggressively sabotaging it, or both.
These are some of the reasons I've had when the magic has happened...
- I was put on this earth to do _____________.
- I'm not being my authentic self. I'm holding ________ back and I absolutely have to do it.
- ____________ is without a shadow of a doubt keeping me from what I want and I'm done with that.
- I'm treating myself (or someone else) like crap and that stops now.
- I refuse to be less than I'm capable of any longer.
- I've wasted x number of years and I'm not wasting another one.
- I don't know every single thing about achieving __________ but I know the next step. I'm not going to be overwhelmed by the big picture. I'm going to do this next step and stay there until I've mastered it, while learning more about the steps after that. Then I'll move forward again.
- I am absolutely determined to see what I'm made of. How far can I push myself?
- I don't control the outcome ("success"), I only control my efforts (which is actually what success is - making my best effort, whatever the result). So I'm just going to do what I know I was created to do and see where it leads.
When I'm just expressing who I am and taking care of myself, I'm not really worried about this distant (or someone else's!) ideal that may take a long, long, long time to get to.
I'm just focusing on now.
I can control me, now.
I don't really lose motivation because the main long term goal is giving what I can NOW.
If the big future goal (e.g. "I want to be skinny") starts taking so long that I think I'll never actually get there and the interim is so miserable (deprivation), then I'm probably going to start convincing myself it's not worth it and I'm going to bag the idea. But I know that I'll keep making progress toward that thing if I keep moving forward, do the next right thing, and re-start when necessary.
When I'm just expressing who I am and taking care of myself, I'm also not trying to achieve anyone else's goal. It's about being who I'm made to be. It's so easy to lose motivation if I'm striving after something very much un-ME.
Finally - I truly believe that knowledge is power. I went into my little purse-selling adventure with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I've tried writing before with a little bit of natural ability but without studying how to take that and put it into practice.
We make it so much easier on ourselves the more we know about what we're trying to do. Study varying methods, options, opinions. Study others who have done it. Realize how long it takes. Realize there were incredible and repeated setbacks. Find out various ways to achieve it and try them. Look for what works best for you.
3. VARIETY or PREDICTABILITY
I get bored pretty quickly, or as I often put it: "I don't do well with monotony." It's a guarantee that I'll completely lose motivation if I have to eat, listen to, watch, or do the same activity all the time.
But for others (I'm SO jealous of you!), a predictable, non-confusing routine is perfectly pleasant and keeps you on track.
Think about what works for you. If you're getting bored, find ways to keep the activity fresh. If you need a routine, get out your datebook and block off the time you're going to do your thing.
For those of you who might need some ideas for variety for fitness, this is how I've mixed it up and kept it interesting for myself... for a few years I went to 2 - 3 different types of fitness classes a week, plus a Saturday morning in the weight room. Then I started mixing running on the treadmill and outside, with less classes. Then I changed gyms. Now I do the weight room about 2 days/week (once with a trainer) and I run 2 - 3 days a week. Periodically I go to a dance class or bootcamp or another fitness class.
4. Inoculate yourself
Expect - don't be the slightest bit surprised by - low points, restarts, mini-failings, no progress. If you "fell off the wagon," or binged or didn't show up for something you should have, it's not the end.
Did you read that???
It's. Not. The. End.
It's a mistake. Do it tomorrow or next time.
BUT - try to regroup quickly or the bad habits and relapsing will set back in.
I'm constantly restarting my computer and phone because they act funny. Amazing how that always works! It works for us too.
Listen to your self-talk. What are you saying that's making you feel like giving up? What are you believing about yourself? What truths counteract those lies? Writing these down to prepare for the doubting-times is important immunization.
Read, verbalize, talk to someone, or get to a meeting/class ASAP. Do some new research if you need a jolt. Try some different ways.
Express who you are and take great care of yourself in the here and now!
This is one of the major differences between the motivation of "I need to get in shape for so-and-so's wedding or for my reunion" vs. "I'm taking care of myself in this life." You aren't waiting for crunch time to try to look a certain way. You don't really have a deadline. It's not for anyone else. It's not for a certain event and then backsliding.
Besides, we have to redefine "failure" in our self-talk. Write that down. Please.
One time I tried to bring a few new initiatives into a non-profit agency I worked for. It was a major leap of fear. I'd never put my secret dreams out there for anyone else to judge. I also didn't like putting those dreams in anyone else's hands. They could've ruined it, or worse, taken it over. To my gratitude, the people that I talked to liked my ideas and were supportive of helping me move them forward. But when I had to pitch the idea to those at the highest rung of the hierarchy, there were numerous reasons why they never happened: other agency priorities, lack of funding sources, politics, etc. So was I a "failure?" Absolutely not!
Failure would have been keeping the ideas locked up inside, never knowing what would've happened if I tried. Failure would have been not trying.
5. Learn to coexist with the "yuck"
I think this is probably one of the single most disabling hurdles of our day and age. We are so used to comfort that we can't stand being inconvenienced or uncomfortable whatsoever.
I have seat warmers & a steering wheel warmer in my automatic car that I can remote start so the entire thing is preheated. When I get in I can push a button so that the seat automatically moves to exactly the position I like. I have cruise control so I don't have to tire out my poor right foot too much while on a long distance (5 miles) journey to drive to pick up my groceries at the curb, that I ordered online from the comfort of my sofa in my temperature-controlled family room....
OK, all of that is NOT true for me... I don't have or do all those things.... But this is how we live in general.
Is it ANY wonder why we cannot stand minutes, hours, days, weeks, or heaven-forbid longer than that of discomfort???
And that typically leads to the self-medicating, overeating, over drinking, drug-inducing, overworking, stressed out, mess that causes us to get off track and need to set some of our goals in the first place.
I've started making myself be less comfortable all the time. I don't constantly make myself warmer or cooler. I force myself to wait longer for something. I don't run to the kitchen or to a bottle when I'm upset or scared or bored.
I've learned that I don't have to (try to) make the yuck go away. We can't make every type of problem go away anyhow.
Sometimes there's just yuck in life and that is OK. Instead of trying to make it go away (which is only temporary anyway, the problem is still going to be there after I've eaten the entire carton of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food), I can sit with the yuck. Talk to myself or someone about how it's making me feel, what the next step might be - just that one. Pray. Go do that one thing. Or cry and take care of myself by just resting or reading or working out if there's nothing I can do about the problem directly.
But medicating it with something addictive or harmful to myself isn't taking care of myself.
Derailing my ultimate goals for myself because something is bothering me (big or small) isn't going to make me feel better.
6. Set small goals that lead to your ultimate goal
One time when I was working with a teenaged girl who was in foster care, she wanted to get her driver's license but was feeling overwhelmed. No one in her birth family drove but she was living in more of a rural area in the foster home and really wanted to be able to drive to see friends and get a job. She just couldn't envision the process at all.
I brought a worksheet that had a graphic of a ladder on it. At the top she wrote the ultimate goal - "get my driver's license." There were about 8 rungs on the ladder. I had her think of what step would come right before getting her driver's license and write that on the rung below the top. She wrote "pass the driver's test." Then I had her think of the step before that and write it on the rung below. She wrote "learn to drive." We continued down the rungs of the ladder from there, until at the bottom was where she was currently. She had to problem solve each step - and figured this out beautifully on her own - and then it became a check list for her. She started from the bottom of the list, got the booklet to study for her permit, and went on from there until she did get her license.
This can work well with many goals. When we know the ultimate outcome (such as "buy a house" or "get a Master's Degree"), we can break the steps down so the goal isn't so overwhelming but also so that we can see our progress and reward ourselves along the way.
I would be happy to work on this with you if you have trouble seeing how to break down your goal. I've also incorporated this concept in the Planners I sell. Please feel free to contact me through the blog email or Etsy!
7. Pray and have others pray for you
I've experienced the power of prayer many times. One example is when I felt so helpless and overwhelmed and exhausted from wanting to get my relationship with food under control but having absolutely no willpower. Day after day after day.
Then I prayed one day that I would view junky food the same way I view cigarettes or drugs: I just don't go near them because I see them as completely not an option. They're hurtful and I wouldn't let anyone else hurt me so why would I purposefully harm myself?
I can't say that it was immediate, because I don't remember anymore, but I do know that that's exactly how I view processed, chemically-jacked up, refined food now. Sure there are temptations every once in awhile but the uncontrollable feeling of it is so very rare (couple times a year instead of multiple times a day).
Sometimes I just eat the thing because I know it's not going to kill me. Usually I end up seeing that I don't even like the taste anymore. On Valentine's Day I picked up some cute little red, pink, and white M & M's (that I literally used to binge entire bags of) and they honestly tasted like plastic to me. To the point where I thought something must've been wrong with them so I asked Bill if they tasted normal to him. He said they tasted like every other M & M.
I've also had times where I suddenly feel extremely focused and empowered and I have no idea why. I haven't read or heard anything new. It's not a new season of the year (aka summer, when I'm usually most energetic). It's just some Thursday afternoon in January and everything's clicking. So many times someone will tell me they've been praying for me. It's amazing. Thank you!! You know who you are!!! <3
8. Nourish your brain and body
I often tell the story of how I had stopped eating cereal (after fighting that idea vigorously) for a few months, and one Saturday morning I thought it would be a wonderful time to have a bowl of Grape-Nuts before going to a kickbox class. I ate the cereal, hung out, got ready for the class, and when I got there and was waiting for it to start, this wave of depression came over me. I didn't want to be there. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to lie down on my couch and watch TV. I didn't think I could possibly do the exercises (which was ridiculous because by this point I had been working out regularly for a few years and had been to this class many times).
That was a major object lesson. And one of the reasons I now look at processed foods the same way I look at cigarettes. They truly do have an effect on our thoughts, feelings, and motivation.
The more I read about how our bodies process food, what they specifically need in terms of a rich variety of nutrients and vitamins, how those are each specifically used, and what a steady diet of "unnatural" food does to us, the more I realize how fundamental our nutrition is to every other part of our lives.
Like I said in my intro: nutrition and fitness aren't my life, but they enable me to live it to the fullest.
I think this is one of the other unfortunate realities of our day and time. Our culture has made appearances the ultimate goal. Those of us who agree with that often end up beating ourselves and others up for falling short of "perfection." And those of us who disagree with it just disregard how powerful self-care is.
So, now I'd love to hear from you! Do you have other motivational tips that work? Did you try any of these and find them helpful?
Please let me know if you'd like some coaching and/or accountability for your goals!