(From Office Space, one of the funniest movies ever) 🙂
I find the topic of motivation fascinating. Motivation, or lack thereof, comes up a lot in nutrition counseling sessions. “I know what I need to do but I can’t seem to find the motivation.” Does this sound like you? You want to make healthy changes but you’re not feeling motivated to do anything about it and you’re stuck.
There’s an interesting twist to this dilemma and it involves altering your thought process rather than wishing you could drum up more motivation.
Motivation boils down to “the desire to do things.” As in, I’m super motivated to be healthier! Meaning, I really want to do what it takes to be the healthy person I want to be– so the motivation is there but that’s where it typically ends. Having the motivation is only part of the story. Is motivation really the issue when the wish to change is present, but the changes aren’t happening? Your lack of making changes has little to do with motivation and this explains why you can’t seem to find it.
I see a new approach to the sticky problem of motivation. What if you stopped looking for it, asking others for it or waiting around for it to show its face? It’s likely not going to happen that way. Either you have it or you don’t. It comes and it goes. Motivation can be unpredictable like that. You just can’t rely on it alone to catapult you into action. So, what can you do? If you’re not able to make healthier food choices, eat more mindfully or get moving because of a perceived lack of motivation, then what is it that you need?
The short answer: Conscious Decision.
What if you shifted your line of thinking from this being an issue of motivation to an issue of needing to make a conscious decision?
First, find out if you really want what you think you want: Here’s where you have to be honest with yourself. Ask: Is *insert desired change* something you are willing to work hard for? If you’ve been trying and failing for years, then your approach is clearly not working. Acknowledge this and play around with the idea that perhaps you truly don’t want to make the changes you think you need to make and that is okay. Sometimes realizing that you’ve been stressing about something that you actually need to let go of can be a huge relief.
Knowing what is important to you will be crucial for making this decision. If you ponder the changes you want to make and decide that they definitely are what you want to do, you must make the decision to take the necessary actions. You have to look at this as an intentional, conscious decision to do something and not with thoughts of “I’ll do it if I’m in the mood or feeling motivated.” If making a specific habit change is meaningful to you, reflect on why you are doing it and be prepared for your brain to try to interfere by creating excuses for not doing it. You have to really be clear that it is something that you want to do. If not, let if go for now. Here is where you end the back and forth and go with your decision, whatever that may be.
So, you’ve decided you really do want a change. Now you need to think about what specifically you want to change. Saying you want to be healthier or lose weight is all good, but you need a plan as to how you are going to get there. Determine what you are currently doing that’s not healthy. Say you want to quit going to Wendy’s for a burger and fries every night. You just can’t hope that when 5 pm rolls around that you are going to be motivated to do something else. Instead, you are going to need an alternate plan and develop it in a way that is going to be realistic for you to accomplish. Once you have your action plan in place, you won’t need to look for motivation– you’ll go with your conscious decision.
Running is a perfect example of my own struggle with this topic. I have my days where I can procrastinate for hours waiting for the “motivation” to run. My mind will be thinking: “I don’t feel motivated!” I have been known to clean my entire house top to bottom dressed in my running gear to delay going out the front door. (I’ve debunked the theory that putting on your workout clothes invokes motivation for working out.) Waiting for this thing called motivation to get me moving doesn’t work with running. The motivation is there– I want to run– but it doesn’t happen when I rely solely on feeling the urge to do it. What works is consciously deciding to do it and then doing it. It’s about a decision rather than a debate.
Another thing is, you have to really know your WHY. There’s got to be a darn good reason for doing the thing you are trying to accomplish. This is where a clear understanding of the importance and meaning of taking the action comes in. For my running, it’s because it makes me happy, boosts my self-confidence, makes me feel stronger and the whole challenge of it is extremely empowering. I like how it makes me feel so it’s something I want in my life right now. But….it’s still hard.
I’ve been through this enough to know that once I take action, the motivation miraculously emerges! Often the hardest things are the most worthwhile.
I have learned that if I want to do something, really do something, I need to stop the excuses and mind-chatter and decide on a clear-cut plan like: “OK, I am putting on my sneakers at 10am and heading out around my neighborhood for 20 minutes.” For many people, writing it down in a day planner like an actual appointment works. You wouldn’t just blow off a doctor appointment because you weren’t motivated to go, right? It may not always be easy, but once you look at it from this perspective, you can begin to better understand your behavior.
The next time you’re feeling in a slump and telling yourself you have no motivation, take a moment to make a conscious decision to do what you need to do. And then you owe it to yourself to do it. The unexpected outcome is you’ll find the motivation and inspiration to keep up the good habit comes after the action. Stop waiting for motivation and decide to do it. Repeat after me: “I can do this!”