Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash
It is very common that people seek to change their lives significantly – and then they get stuck. This is true for about 70% of all people – once including me: I wanted to get into the shape of my life. Preferably before summer 😉 I’d make a plan, when to do sports and how much I’d eat resulting in x kilograms per week in calculated weight-loss.
As with many other behavioral changes, my plans did not work out. After a day or two I’d lose motivation, crave some sweets, felt too tired to work out, etc. I think you get the picture.
So, how do we actually manage to stay motivated? I collected 5 tips how to keep on track:
Be true to yourself to find your deepest motivation for starting a change. Also, be careful for whom you are changing. Is it to fulfill someone else’s expectation? Or is it about changing your life for the better – for your personal well-being or growth? A personal motivation is often much stronger than the wish to comply with someone else’s vision of you.
A deeply rooted inner motivation will help you find strengths when times get harder. Write down your purpose for change and/or visualize it. You can choose a mantra, a picture, a song or anything else that represents the purpose of your journey. Looking at this or listening to the music will get you re-connected to your vision and give you extra motivation when you need it.
Beginning of 2018 I wanted to live a more wholesome and healthy life. Having prioritized my work over everything else for years had led me feel exhausted and disconnected from myself. I focused on introducing a healthier lifestyle in order to live a healthy and happy life. At this point of time, I had no idea how big this change would become but this was my starting point.
The biggest visions need to start small. Otherwise, you will be thrown off by the huge amount of work ahead. Start with small habits. Make your bed in the morning, if you want to be more organized. Go for a walk of 10 min if you want to increase your fitness level.
The point is to introduce new habits that will automatically lead to other new habits in your life – step by step paying into this vision of yours. Make it as easy for you to succeed as possible.
The moment you successfully established this new routine, add another one e.g. creating your daily to do list after making your bed. Or doing 3 push-ups after you finished your walk.
Making small changes to your life will be much easier than changing all at once. It might feel too small from time to time. If this feeling occurs, look back to what has already changed since you started. You will be surprised how much has happened already.
Following my vision of living a more healthy and balanced life, I started with 2-3 workout sessions a week. The key was the definition of “workout”. For me it was “doing something that feels good for my body for 30 min”. It could mean 30 min running, 30 min stretching, 30 min walking, even 30 min sleeping, if this was, what my body needed. Therefore, it was pretty manageable to achieve my goals.
After a some months, I was more used to take the time to do something for my body. Hence, I increased the challenge. Now it was 30 min running or a high intensity workout. Again, this turned out to work well for me.
Some months later, I aimed for 3-4 workout sessions a week. Now 18 months later, this habit is not only a fixed part in my daily schedule but it also led to further beneficial habits like taking time to recharge, relax and develop a better understanding of my body.
Results don’t come over night. Physical, mental and behavioral changes take time. You need to be consistent to achieve sustainable change.
Our brain is programmed to blend out small changes to what it knows. This helps us deal with all the complexity around but hinders us to recognize small changes. Think of a mother whose child is growing. She will hardly notice the daily growth but when her friends come to visit, they will note how tall the child has gotten.
To become aware of what you already achieved, make sure to document your journey. Take a picture, make an entry in your journal or calendar – whatever helps you document and remember your progress. When you feel demotivated, look at the documentation and see for yourself how far you have already come, how often you already achieved what you wanted, how often you actually showed up.
I took pictures after every workout. I documented the exhausted, red and sweaty but happy face that tried to smile into the camera. I wrote down in my calendar whenever I had done something for my body. Once a month I took a picture of myself to see also physical changes. Only by putting the pictures of one month next to another, I could see how much I had already transformed.
Celebrate yourself and your achievements – also when you f***ed up. The moment you accomplished one of your targets, just celebrate yourself. Be it by telling others about it, printing out that picture, eating a great meal, having that glass of wine, getting a massage anything that aligns with your targets and makes you feel great. By celebrating your successes, you ingrain that positive feeling connected to your new habit. You will be more aware of it and look forward to your next celebration.
There are -naturally – times when you experience setbacks. Growth is not always constant or linear. It is okay to fail some time. Don’t lose faith if you fell back into old patterns once. Setbacks happen, but you are not going back to square one. Be kind to yourself. Smile at yourself. Next day you continue.
My celebration was taking the pictures. In addition, I celebrated my newly gained strength by doing sports with friends who had been too fast/strong for me before. Sharing my successes with my partner was another way for me to celebrate. Of course, there were times when I didn’t make it to my workouts. I learned not to see these targets as all or nothing. In the end, I was doing all of this for my own good. Therefore, starting over the next day was the logical consequence.
There is this nice slogan: Just do it. It is so simple but it is essential. Nothing will happen, if you don’t show up. Count to 5, then get up and do what you wanted to do. A vision without discipline will always remain a vision.
Some people say they need to be motivated to do something. Motivation will not always be there in that very moment. Here is the trick: Think about your motivation to change as mentioned above: Why you wanted to change something in the first place. Why you set your goals. Why you started. THIS is the motivation you need to go through this journey. Discipline will help get you there.
There are always days when going back to old routines feels inviting. This is exactly the moment when you need to show discipline. Think of discipline being the strongest form of self-care. You show up because of YOU. You are consistent with what YOU wanted for YOURSELF. Be kind to yourself and show up. You don’t always have to perform a 100% but show up. Do the best you can do that very moment. Consistency is key in any change. So stay true to your vision and show up.
In my journey, there were also many days -and still are – where I lack motivation to pursue my vision of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I come home from work and feel exhausted. I lack energy to get up and do sports. Unless I actively remind myself why I want to do that. Why not showing up for a workout would mean giving in to over prioritizing work which in turn would endanger my health.
I push myself to show up. Maybe I will run for 15 min only and then see that I am so tired that walking is the better option. Many times starting is the hardest part. Once I am up in my running gear or doing my first squads everything is fine. No matter the performance – showing up, staying consistent is key.
For most people change gets easier when they are not alone. Think about who is there to support you in progressing towards your vision. Who can help you stay on track, give you that pep talk that you need and celebrate every small victory with you.
It might be a spouse, a friend, a coach or a community of people who aim for similar things. You might consider getting a professional on board, be it a nutritionist, a fitness coach, a mentor or a coach.
Besides my partner who is always closely involved in every personal growth endeavor, I involved a close friend of mine. We would go running together, work out together and go for ice cream after the longest run to celebrate.
In addition, I worked with a personal coach. With her I worked on my inner believes that were hindering my growth. To give an example: I was raised to think that after a good and productive working day you had to feel exhausted and too tired to do anything else. That work always has to come first in order to make a career. I had to become aware of these mental models in order to break my patterns and ultimately succeed in my journey.
Leave a reply to share how you find motivation and stay on track!