“Motivation and control…are fragile experiences that need to be worked carefully and attentively.” -Hazel
I hope you don’t mind that I took this quote from CC, Hazel, but I’ve been pondering the true nature of this quote since you posted it last week.
Everyone reading this blog can likely relate to this quote. Sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling pumped, driven, and ready to tackle the day. Other times… well… not so much. What motivates us to act in a certain way? What drives us to complete certain goals? I honestly don’t believe that motivation just comes naturally. It’s something that you have to crave and desire. For me, there are multiple levels of motivation that are all inter-related. I desire to have better self-esteem and a better self-image. This motivates me to shed some pounds and be in the physical condition that I know I’m capable of, which drives me to eat healthier and stay active. I’m not a runner, and trust me, I wouldn’t have run 5k’s on Saturday and Sunday if there wasn’t that driving motivation behind it.
If the motivation is high, control will follow suit. I have certain weight loss goals that I want to achieve, and a defined time with which I want to achieve it. Perhaps it’s the upcoming milestone birthday coming up, but I’ve never been as motivated to reach my goals as I am now. As such, I have a level of control (around food, bad habits, etc.) that I have never had before. That doesn’t mean I avoid all bad foods, but moderation and good eating decisions have become paramount to controlling my diet and exercise to ultimately hit my targets.
That being said, how do you keep motivation high? I’m going to preface my answers to this question by saying that I am not an expert in the topic, but that I have read a lot into it and have tried a few methods that seem to work for me. Also, I’ll be using weight loss examples, but many of these methods can work in other aspects of life as well.
1) Define realistic goals – My past weight loss goals sound like this: “My goal is to lose weight.” The sentiment was good, but the goal was generic and unattainable with no defined end. This is likely the reason that my past weight loss efforts have taken a nose dive after the first few weeks. My goal now is: “Achieve my target weight of 185 pounds by December 31st.” Once this has been achieved, the next goal may be “Maintain 185 every month for the next 6 months.”
2) Maintain flexibility – Unexpected things in life can sometimes interfere with doing what we want to do. If your goal is to save money to buy a new car by the end of the year, and then something unexpected happens where you have to delve into some of that money, don’t think that you failed your goal. Simply update it. Granted, this should only be used for events that are out of your control.
3) Know the external and internal reasons for your goals – On many occasions with weight loss/maintenance, I have often asked myself why I bother. There are a dozen perfectly good brownies out there with my name on it. What stops me is the knowledge of these external and internal drivers. Internally, I’m doing this to boost my self esteem and my self image. Externally, I want to look good for my wife, my family, and the people around me, and I want to be looked at as a role model and a mentor. These reasons are much more important and long-lasting than a dozen brownies.
4) Find creative ways to increase your motivation – Earlier in life, I had a spreadsheet of good things to do, whether it be eating healthy, running errands, being active, and the list goes on. I gave every item a point value and would do things to earn points. For awhile, it worked, but it lacked the accountability, and eventually, I gave up on it. I replaced that with Calorie Count because I was held publicly accountable for my actions and, in addition, it provided a moral support-group type atmosphere with other people going through the same challenges.
5) Make it fun – They say that “nothing good comes easy”, and I guess there is some truth to that. Cutting out a lot of sweets and eating healthier foods isn’t always easy or fun, but making your good habits into a lifestyle will make it easier. Keeping a positive outlook on things will also make it easier. This journey certainly is a lot of work, but the day I started seeing solid results was the day the diet started getting a bit easier for me, and I think a lot of people feel that way as well.
Motivation is fragile, and may not always be 100%. When it’s not, remember what drives you and know that what you are doing is worth it. Keep at it, and don’t take no for an answer. The climb up may be difficult, but the mountain-top will be oh so sweet!