What is motivation? Why do we feel like it is fleeting when we are trying to accomplish our goals? You can probably find shelves full of books just on this topic. It is something we all would like to understand a little more about so that we can harness it and get to where we want to be on a smooth ride.
To begin with the road to change will rarely ever be smooth and the ups and downs of behaviour change are very normal and expected. If you find yourself one week bouncing out of bed to go for a run and feeling completely on top of things, to the next week wanting to sleep another 2 hours every day. You are experiencing something that comes with the change process.
Your motivation is impacted by a number of things, internal and external. It comes from your drivers, why you want to change, it comes from your peers, are they aiming for the same things you are? It comes from being so fed up with your current situation that you have decided that something must change. It also comes from your values, your self-esteem and self-image. It comes from what you believe to be possible for yourself and from lifelong messages that you have internalized about yourself.
So how can you harness it? First, understand what are your bigger motivators, what is really pushing you? Then make those stronger, really feel into why you want the change. don't be afraid to feel the discomfort of where you are right now. The more you realise that where you are is not your ideal and something else needs to happen, the more you are motivated to change.
What are the values around what you want to change? What else is it going to bring to you? What kind of person are you going to become? How will it ultimately benefit your life? One key is having majority of your motivators as internal. Meaning, they benefit you and the things you can control. In some instances, they give you instant gratification so you feel the benefits right away. You may start on external motivators, which is completely normal and where most of us begin. But if you do not make this more about how you will benefit on the inside and in your immediate life, you may not have that everyday push to keep going.
Your motivation will go up and down, so in preparation for the days when it is lower, it is really important to have tools ready to get you back on track. How can you keep your head up when you are having a rough day? How can you make your tasks as easy as possible so when that motivation is low, you cannot use the excuse of it is going to take too much work to even get started?
For an example, you are trying to exercise more, you have been going really well for the last few weeks but this week you are just not feeling it. First, check in with yourself, are you pushing yourself too hard? Are you just unmotivated, or are you exhausted? The path to improving your health should not be putting yourself at risk for burnout. If it is just a case of you're not feeling it because it seems like too much work, to prepare yourself, put your shoes at the door already, have your workout clothes folded in an easy too access location, remove as many obstacles as you can to be prepared.
Make that new health habit about something that is going to benefit you today as well as in the long run. If you are trying to eat a more nutrient dense diet as example, your thoughts may be; you do not know if you can be motivated to cook up a lunch you know your stomach would prefer and an instant meal sounds a lot easy. If you cook up something with lots of veggies, something fresh and light, you will feel satisfied, well nourished and you will have an energy boost, all instant gratification. In the long run you will create a habit out of this and bring about a lot of health benefits for yourself. As opposed to eating something quick that you know your body doesn’t agree with, resulting in you feeling heavy, lethargic, unmotivated to go for that walk later on. It all depends on the situation, what’s the best decision in the moment and what is going to benefit you in that time.
Sometimes when our motivation drops, we beat ourselves up that we aren't trying hard enough and we should be able to do better. This negative self-talk then reduces your motivation even more because it creates a loop of your thinking and you end up telling yourself that you're wasting your time anyway and it was never going to work. All because on one morning you didn't feel like engaging with your new health habit. It is important to be aware of how you are talking to yourself. Are you creating your own loop of negative self-talk? Beating yourself up?
If you feel unmotivated in something because you hardly see it possible to accomplish, it’s time for you to start doing some research. Who do you know that has already achieved this goal? Who do you know that was in your position once before and now they are doing really well? What are your social media feeds full of? Are they evidence that what you want is possible or impossible? What you consume on a regular basis is shaping how you view the world and what is possible.
Playing devils advocate for what you fill your social media with though, are the people you follow motivating? Or do they make you feel guilty and shameful for where you are right now? There is a fine line here, take notice of how these posts make you feel and if they are sending you into a spiral of self-hatred, it might be time to start following different people.
So what can you do to improve your motivation this week? What obstacles can you remove before they even pop up to make sure you stick to your goals? Do you have people who inspire you and are already doing what you want to be? Most of all, what is your motivation connected to and how can you make it more personal and even stronger of an emotion?