How to create the motivation to achieve your goals
With the recent lockdown, some people have developed bad-habits (pre-dinner drink anyone?), but some took the advantage to establish new positive habits; they started working out more, cooking more, spending more time with the kids, etc… The question is, how to continue those good habits when life starts back up again. And, if you are on the bad habits side, how can you change your behaviour?
It all lies within you!
As Tony Robbins said: “Decision is the ultimate power”.
Why? Because if we never made any decisions, we would never do anything in life. In that sense, decisions shape our destiny. But, where do decisions come from?
The answer is, your mind! Anything that you do in your life originates from a decision of some sorts.
That’s great news in itself! It means that we can choose to reinvent ourselves at any time in our life, we just need to make the decision. It seems easy enough, no?
Oh, but wait, there’s some fine prints, you must transform those decisions into actions. Remember your New Year’s resolutions (eating better, working out more…), well each year, about 60 percent of us make them however only 8 percent end up achieving them.
So why is so hard to create a new habit?
Why is it that sometimes we are ready to take on the world, we feel motivated, fuelled by this powerful excitement, and that sometimes we just end up sitting on the sofa instead of going on that run we had told ourselves we would go on?
How does this all work? How do we create that motivation as to achieve more?
Knowing what is good for us isn’t enough, for example, we all know we should have a healthier diet, yet we don’t always healthily or we know that we should exercise more often, but we don’t end up going to the gym or even we know we should cut back on screen time yet we still find ourselves looking at our phones every 10 minutes. I mean, you get the point!
Even threats don’t seem to be motivating. For example, if you are a smoker, you should know that smoking is bad for you. Every time you buy a pack, you see picture of the devastating effects smoking has on your health, yet you keep smoking anyways. In the most common cases, your mind is rationalising (or at least trying to) and thinking that because your Uncle Bob smoked his entire life and died at 99, you should be safe.
Even if we know what is best for us, we don’t change our behaviour. Why’s that? Well, we don’t change our behaviour because it takes too much effort. And our brains will favour pleasure over pain.
Steven Pressfield, has a great definition of motivation: “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it”. So once we reached that stage, how can we make sure that we will then follow through?
We all have been inspired by watching a motivational video or reading an inspiring book. I personally went on my first run in far too long last week after being motivated by watching a film about running. So we know that motivation inspires actions and we should definitely use it.
What is less known is that inspiration also follows actions. Sometimes motivation is the result of action and not the cause of it. By starting even in very small ways, you can create momentum, which will increase your motivation and consistency on a project. (This is true for me, when it comes to running the hardest part is starting to run, but once I am actually running I love it and want to continue).
So how can you make it easier to get past that starting line?
-Don’t try to do everything at once:
Creating change is hard enough, so focus on one thing at a time. Once you have established the habit (it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for someone to make a habit, with the average being 66 days), you can move on to another project. The most common mistake we tend to make is to want to re-invent ourselves all at once.
Imagine you are January 1st ( or may be 2nd depending what time you went to bed), you are setting your resolutions, saying that this year you want to save more money, start exercising daily, enrol in that writing class, spend more quality time with the kids every day, etc… Just the thought of all of those projects is overwhelming for you and your brain. You have to focus on one goal at a time so that it can in fact be achievable.
Also just changing one thing can have a great impact on your life, with the domino effect, where one event leads up to another, and yet another. For example, if your goal is to reduce your alcohol intake, multiple other benefits than just accomplishing your goal will roll in such as having better sleep, having more energy, being in a better mood, having more time to do things, having better skin etc…
–Start small (even smaller than you want)
– Another common error is to start too big. Let’s say our goal is to exercise more. Typically, we try to change from doing absolutely zero exercise to working out 1 hour a day. You will most probably give up after a few days because this sudden change is too overwhelming. What you want to do is start small, get it going slowly to activate the momentum and focus on your consistency. That way it will be easier to fit into your schedule and you won’t require as much of an effort.And with time you will naturally increase the length of your exercise.
-Get a little help from your friends.
Science shows that committing publicly to the change you are trying to make gives you more chances of achieving it. It was proven that if you have 6 or more people that are helping you achieve your goal, you are 40% more likely to be successful in changing your behaviour and creating that habit.
How to stay motivated?
–Don’t leave any room for decision. Schedule your activity in your day to create a routine. Book time for it and stick to it. You don’t’ want to put yourself in the position where you need to think about it. Because if you leave it to feeling like doing it, well it will never happen.
It also works if you are trying to give something up. I actually experienced this when I did “Dry January” earlier on in the year. Knowing that I could not drink alcohol made it very easy compared to my previous attempts during which I allowed myself to have a drink for time to time. If you just know you can’t drink alcohol- -it doesn’t leave any room for debating within your mind about whether or not you should do it.
–Immediate Rewards: In her TedX talk, Tali Sharot shares that we attach a greater value to rewards we get immediately compared to rewards we would get later on. This shows that our brain prefers immediate rewards to later gains, it’s like our previous example about the smoker, the attractiveness of being able to have a cigarette is greater than the later idea of future health benefits.
The idea is to associate whatever you need to do, to an attractive reward. If for example you are on a diet, a way to keep going is to reward yourself every time you reach a target (a reasonable target, not 20kg in one go) The point of this method is to start taking pleasure in eating in a healthier way instead of seeing it as deprivation (you must create healthy habits and not restrictions) . Focus on what good it brings; more energy, better skin; looser clothes, etc…
-See your progress, make it visible. The fact of seeing and tracking your progress helps your brain understand that you are in total control (and the mind loves being in control). If you want to lose weight, track the kilos or pounds you are losing (you can even make a chart!). Seeing your progress on the daily will help you stay motivated and feel good about yourself. Remember also that every step forward is progress, even if small.
-Visualisation: We are motivated by emotions, when you visualise, you also feel the emotions that you would in the situation, by visualizing what your life will be when you reach your goals, you can motivate yourself tremendously. Make sure to also visualise how good you feel when you make progress. When you make progress or achieve one of the steps towards your goals, remember the feeling, as it will help you at times of struggle. You can also creation a vision board to help maintaining focus on your goal. Seeing it daily, should definitely help.
-What if I fail?
I have to be honest here, you will feel un motivated at times- in that case, it can help to think about the goal and how amazing you will feel once it is accomplished, but also know that you do not have to be perfect. It is ok to fail once in a while. This will not impact your long-term habits. Tomorrow is a new page. Be gentle on yourself.
The little cheat might even help you gain an extra motivation. If you are trying to lose weight and you ate that pizza last night, and you don’t feel so great about it- bingo! Ready to start again! Think about this as an experiment rather than a failure: You did it, it did not feel great, move on.
These tips can be applied to life changing decisions or small daily changes to become a better version of ourselves. The most important thing to remember is why you started and what you want to achieve.
Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow. So whatever change you want to bring to your life, today is a good day to start!