Relying on motivation to achieve your goals is pointless. It is an emotion. It waxes and wanes. It’s high, it’s low. It’s there sometimes. Sometimes it’s not. That is why you need to rely on habits, and not motivation, when trying to pursue health and fitness goals.
You wake up and ask yourself, “Do I want to go to the gym today?” It happens to be day where you have low motivation. You mind says “Heck no! Don’t go. Stay in bed” If you are relying on motivation alone, you won’t end up going. Now, if you made the habit of working out every MWF and today happens to be Wednesday. Well you put on those gym clothes and you go to the gym.
Same applies for nutrition. You look at the fridge; you think “I don’t want oatmeal today. I want a doughnut*” But if you grab that oatmeal, well then, you just said eff you to motivation and relied on a habit.
(*Don’t get me wrong. Doughnuts are great and I don’t believe in bad foods. I am all about moderation, but the problem resides in eating a doughnut (or whatever the food might be) every single time you feel like it. You need to look at how often doughnuts can fit into your diet and still reach your goal. Say once a week? Once a month? As part of my coaching program, we would work together to find a healthy doughnut balance.)
Ever notice how much harder it is to get back on plan after a vacation? It’s like you come back from vacation and all your motivation is in the toilet. You assumed a week off would do you good and you’d come back and be ready to crush it. Instead you can’t drag your butt to the gym and your eating plan is out the window. Or more like all your food is coming though the drive through window. It is because your previously healthy habits are broken.
If you are relying purely on motivation to power you through changing your lifestyle, you are setting yourself up for failure. You need to create the habit, and the lifestyle will follow. First, pick one habit that is easy to implement. Once you’ve mastered that habit (and by mastered I mean hit that bad boy consistently for at least 2 weeks) add in another habit. For example, you are going to ditch the doughnut drive through window on your way to work. Instead you are going to make ahead a bunch of healthy breakfasts on Sunday to get you through the week (like these high protein overnight oats). After 2 weeks of consistently hitting this habit, you can then add in another one.
Maybe you want to make a workout related habit. Try setting an alarm that tells you it’s gym time. Say every MWF at 9 am, (or whatever your day and times might be) the alarm on your phone goes off and it says “gym time!”. After 2 weeks of hitting they gym whenever you hear your alarm, you have now formed a new healthy habit! There is an actual study (1) in the Journal of Health Psychology that showed a direct correlation between an auditory noise and making a new habit stick. Short of it is, those who heard a noise every time they began their new habit (Like an alarm telling them to hit the gym) were more likely to stick to their new habit.
So forget relying on motivation to power you through. Pick a new healthy habit. Follow that bad boy for 2 weeks. Then add in another. Don’t go all gung-ho and add multiple habits at once, stick to one every two weeks. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole new set of heathy habits and will be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle. What are some healthy habits you have successfully implemented into your day? I’d love to hear them! Leave them or any questions below.
(1)Phillips, L. Alison; Gardner, Benjamin “Habitual exercise instigation (vs. execution) predicts healthy adults’ exercise frequency.” Health Psychology, Vol 35(1), Jan 2016, 69-77.