We’ve all seen those superhumans that always seem to have it all together… they meal prep beautiful, healthy food each day; they find time to work out each morning before work; they look so well-slept and vibrant all the time, and they’re simply buzzing with energy. “How do you do it?” we find ourselves enviously asking them, all the while thinking to ourselves, “I wish I had the motivation to do that day in and day out”, “I just don’t have the time right now”, “I want to start exercising but my life is just too busy”… Sound familiar?
Whilst we are constantly summoning these self-sabotaging excuses to justify our absence of action, we often find ourselves blaming a lack of ‘motivation’. But what is motivation? How do we summon it? More importantly, how do we maintain it?!
In essence, motivation is a positive, uplifting feeling. It stems from your heart and often aligns with your deep values and desires of wanting to achieve something that may be missing in your life. Take a good diet and regular exercise, for example. Those who are not in a routine of these two pivotal elements of a healthy lifestyle, but truly wish they were, may have experienced a strong urge of motivation to get kick-started on their health journey. Has this ever happened to you?
It’s January 1st and you have ‘had enough’ and ‘want to change’ so you make grand plans for the year ahead. Then, all of a sudden, life gets in the way – an unexpected morning meeting arises; a friend wants you to come over for burgers and beers; you stayed up a little too late watching your favourite show on Netflix; your excuses start crawling back… it all becomes overwhelming… the motivation dwindles… and nothing happens. The stars did not align, the perfect storm never reached your busy life, and all becomes forgotten… Until a few weeks or months later, when you feel another surge of motivation and desire to change… and the cycle continues.
Motivation is fleeting and comes and goes in cycles. When we get motivated, especially at the very start of a new journey, or health goal, we often find that we plan too much. We excitedly talk about it, research it, write down our grand plans, only to find small excuses getting in the way from you actually starting… “I’ll just start next month because I’ve got a party next weekend”… “It’s my birthday soon so I’ll plan to get started after that”… “I need to find the perfect gym before I can commence any exercise”… something is not quite aligning… something is not perfect.
The more we sink deeper into this hole, the more fear we create. The more fear we create, the more we disconnect from our true ‘why’ – our reason for wanting to do this in the first place. This not only decreases our fleeting feeling of motivation but it allows the fear and the unknown take hold and the sooner we forget about our grand plans.
Don’t get me wrong, motivation is a great start and it can get us into that mindset of wanting to do something but as for the actual doing part? It’s hard to magically conjure up motivation to get up early and go to the gym when you haven’t managed to get to bed before 1am…
Unlike motivation, momentum is not a feeling, but an action. Think about it this way, when we take action (however small), we create a sense of momentum. When we create momentum, we make progress. When we make progress, we step one inch closer to our goals. When we progress closer to our goals, we feel a sense of achievement and this in turn creates motivation. And so, although we are not solely seeking motivation, we are inherently creating it through action and momentum.
We build habits through constantly creating momentum. When we continuously take action and build momentum, we are then able to start forming rituals, or habits. When we do something over and over – work out each morning before work; meal prep our lunch the evening before; cook extra dinner so we resist the urge for takeaway later in the week… all of these small, continual efforts eventually form daily habits.
Yes, at the beginning, it takes more conscious effort, more action, more momentum to put these small daily activities into place. But by the nature of our human psyche, if we do them regularly enough, these activities will sooner or later turn into our daily habits which become part of our subconscious routine… it will become “just what we do”!
Three focuses when aiming for momentum/action (rather than motivation)…
- Recognise your true reason. What is your true ‘why’, your inner drive to make the changes you are trying to make? Move more… eat healthier…? When you explore your true reason for change, recognise your inner-most desires, and constantly bring them to the forefront of your mind, you will better be able to make decisions that align with them and bring these actions to life.
- Don’t go too hard. How many times have you made grand plans for change… joining a gym and committing to 10 sessions a week… trialling the latest fad diet that leaves you feeling restricted, confused and starving… promised to cut out all sugar, alcohol and caffeine for the next 6 months… only to find yourself overwhelmed and fail within a week or two? We need to make sure our changes are both achievable and sustainable. Rule of thumb? If you can’t see yourself doing this for the next 5-10 years, it’s neither achievable, realistic or sustainable. Baby steps, people!
- Celebrate your small wins EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Small wins are simply a mindful recognition that you have made a decision or taken an action that aligns with your ultimate health goals. For example, say you said to yourself you were going to hit the gym 3 times this week. You only went twice and felt really sore on tired on the 3rd You decided instead of sleeping in and forgetting about gym, you would get up anyway and go for a leisurely walk. Is this a failure because you didn’t achieve your ‘goal’ of 3 sessions a week? Of course not! This is progress! You took action, you created momentum, and you took one step closer to your health goal of being more active. That’s a win in my eyes and should be in yours, too!
The take home..
The next time you find yourself beating yourself up because you “never feel motivated”, instead of waiting for the motivation to come to you, instead of waiting for the perfect storm, instead of waiting for the stars to align, why not simply make it happen? Why not simply take one small step to create an action that will have a flow on effect for the better? Why not simply put your runners on and step outside, or get your veggies out of the fridge and put them on your kitchen bench? Chances are, when you take this small action, you will then go for a short walk in the sun, or start prepping something healthy to eat rather than ordering UBER eats…
If you take away one thing from this article, it is this… Whenever you are making a decision relating to your health, or you want to change but you’re feeling demotivated, ask yourself:
“What is one action I can put into place right now that will progress me one step closer to my health goal?”
It’s simple, but this snippet of mindfulness in your busy day may mean the difference between consistent momentum and progress, and temptation, fear and lack of action.
Article written by our in-house dietitian,
Jordan Kain (BExSpSc, MND, APD)