Why Motivation is Overrated
I've gotten so many messages over the last few months from people asking me how to find motivation - motivation to lose weight, to go to the gym, to change their lifestyle. Here's the thing, motivation is overrated. Now, don't get me wrong, motivation is an important piece of the puzzle. Motivation is almost always what gets you started, but it's unlikely that motivation will be what keeps you going. Why? Because motivation is fleeting, it comes and goes, and rarely ever remains a constant in our lives.
Yes, there may be some people who wake up motivated every single day of their lives. But I would argue that there are far more of us who struggle with motivation than people who don't. We might have it some days, and other days it's like we've never even heard of the word. I've lost 65 pounds, and guess what? I still struggle to find motivation some days. And that's okay, because I no longer rely solely on motivation - I rely on accountability, discipline, and most importantly habit.
The only person that can change your life is you. It's all up to you. At first that may sound daunting, but it can be a very freeing revelation. You don't have to rely on or depend on anyone else. You don't have to wait around for someone to help you change your life. You get to do it. The power is yours. Here are two affirmations worth repeating, both taken from Louise Hay's book The Power is Within You:
"We are in charge of our lives."
"The only person who is going to make a change in your life is you."
Repeat those to yourself often. Write them down somewhere where you can see them. When you find yourself lacking motivation (as we all do at times), remind yourself that the only person who's going to create change in your life is you. No one is going to lose the weight for you. No one is going to go to the gym for you. No one is going to hand you progress or success. But YOU can create and accomplish those things for yourself. You are in charge.
GET CRYSTAL CLEAR ABOUT YOUR "WHY"
Chances are, you won't always feel motivated to get changed, jump in the car, and head to the gym. It's also unlikely that you'll always feel motivated to eat a healthy meal instead of hitting up the nearest drive-thru. So if you don't feel motivated to workout or eat well, try to find motivation or inspiration in your "why." Why do you want to change your lifestyle? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to eat healthy? Why do you want to change? Is it to look better? To feel better in your own body? To lower your cholesterol? To set a better example for your children? To improve your mental health? To regain your physical health? When in doubt, remind yourself of your "why." Remember that there was once a reason why you wanted to make changes in your life. Don't lose sight of that "why."
Generally speaking, there are probably several people in your life right now that hold you accountable. Your boss holds you accountable to show up to work every day. Your children hold you accountable to pick them up from school, have dinner ready, help them with their homework. Your doctor/dentist/personal trainer/hairdresser holds you accountable to arrive, and on time, to your appointment. These people hold you accountable, and chances are you follow through with their expectations. Holding ourselves accountable, however, is an entirely different ball game. Let's say you have 60 pounds to lose. You don't have a personal trainer or a gym buddy, and it's up to you, and only you, to make sure you get your workouts in. Learning to hold yourself accountable will be one of the major keys to your success.
Get clear about your goals. If your goal is to workout 3 days a week, learn to hold yourself accountable for those 3 workouts. Schedule them in the same way that you would schedule a hair appointment or a doctor's appointment. If you cancel an appointment, you're often charged a "no-show" fee. Treat your appointments with yourself the same exact way. Those workouts aren't optional, they're scheduled appointments that you need to hold yourself accountable to attend. Schedule them, and show up for them. By doing so, you're showing up for yourself, and your future self will thank you for that.
Habit has, without a doubt, been the most important key to my successful lifestyle change. I rely on habit more than I rely on motivation and discipline, it steers the ship. I've heard many times that it takes 21 days to fully form a habit, I don't know if that's a fact or just some random numbers someone threw out there, but regardless: forming a habit will change your life. Working out and eating well (for the most part) has simply become a habit for me. Just as I do other tasks daily - brush my teeth, take my dogs out, eat, blog, shower - working out is no different for me. Each week I wake up knowing that I'm going to workout on 3 to 5 days. On the days that aren't rest days, I wake up knowing that I'm going to workout. I don't think about working out, or whether or not I should, I treat it like any other task in my day. I don't debate brushing my teeth or taking my dogs outside, and I don't debate working out. Does that mean I always feel excited to workout? Lord no. Some days I would rather lay on the couch and watch Netflix. But I workout anyway, out of habit.
How do you form a habit? Do something often. Not sometimes, not on occasion, not only when you feel like it, but often. You won't develop a habit by doing something once or twice a month, but you are likely to develop a habit by doing something daily/weekly. The more that you do it, the more likely you'll be to continue doing it. And in time, it will become a habit for you. Just as we develop bad habits - smoking, biting our nails (I was a chronic nail biter), cursing (I'm still a chronic curser), we can also develop good habits like exercising and eating mindfully. What might begin as a "diet" will become a lifestyle. What might begin as a "12 week bootcamp" will become a lifestyle. It simply takes time and consistency. Do it, do it again, repeat.
Motivation can be a very powerful tool. You may feel motivated after reading this, or you may feel motivated anytime you see a transformation on Instagram. And that's great. Motivation can give us that spark that we need to get started. But motivation can't stand alone. Accountability, discipline, and habit, will take you much further than motivation alone. And more importantly, they'll keep you going, and keep you headed in the direction that you want to go. So which direction would you like to go? The power is yours my friends.