Remember when we were kids and the adults in our lives were super encouraging to us in sports or arts or music or whatever we were interested in pursuing? Remember when every new challenge was an adventure…and they seemed to happen all the time?
It was easy to stay motivated then because we were excited about doing and learning new things.
It was easier to form habits then because we were in our formative years: things came easily to us, and they stuck. Some good, some bad: many continued to build over time.
Building new habits, though, is really hard, especially when it means changing old ones to do so. How to manage this effectively? Here are some thoughts to noodle on:
Ride the motivational wave. BJ Fogg, a behavioral psychologist whose lifelong career explores exactly what motivates humans to get things done, change habits, etc. has noted the importance of “riding the motivational wave”. That’s to say when you get that rush of motivation don’t dismiss it: go with it! That motivation burst will be fairly short-lived, but whether it’s minutes, hours or days, you can get a lot accomplished during the time you feel really dedicated to what you’re doing.
One person, for example wanted to drink more tea. So during one of his highly motivated periods, he set up a tea station in his kitchen so that everything: kettle, selection of teas, sweeteners, etc. were immediately available and within his range of sight and access. That way, when he wasn’t as motivated, he would still drink more tea because it was simple to prepare and everything he needed was right there. Also, having it within visual range constantly reinforced his motivation.
Riding the motivational wave isn’t difficult to do, and in doing so, you can actually lengthen the motivational wave to stick around for longer than it usually does, by taking advantage of your success triggers and reducing or cutting out entirely your failure triggers.
It works, it really does: if you have your goals aligned properly. I wanted to start losing weight: it was getting harder and harder for me to rock-climb, which is one of my favorite activities, at the weight I was at currently. The greatest problem was really the weight: hauling my body up climbs was becoming exhausting and painful. To that end: I cut out sugary sodas for zero-calorie flavored seltzer water or, if I was feeling fancy, La Croix sparkling waters. I made a vegan salad with a recipe that creates a huge amount of the salad and keep it in the front of my fridge so that I reached for that when I was hungry. I made healthy snacks to take to work, and drank nutrition shakes for breakfast daily.
Then I jumped on the scale to find, to my dismay, that my weight hadn’t budged after two weeks of this. The explanation was really quite simple: I was adding to my muscle mass while depleting my fat masses. My body was changing, but it didn’t reflect in my weight. In the looseness of my clothing and sudden drop in pants size, it did. Seeing the numbers on the scale, though, infuriated me.
I took action, and reframed how my changes in my dietary habits and workout affected me. I decided to forget the scale and continue to take care of myself, work out, eat well, and NOT go back to drinking sugary beverages. I knew my weight would go down with time, but in not attaching myself to the scale anymore, I was free to pursue my goal of having a strong and healthy body.
This has worked for me. When I get big motivational waves within this framework I use them to push further: find more recipes for healthy foods and snacks, redo calorie counts for my days, drink more water, etc. Truly, for the first time in my life, dieting isn’t horrible and miserable and easy to cheat. Food is no longer the enemy. And I make choices based on how I am feeling and how what I put into my body makes me feel instead of watching numbers on a scale.
If I can do it, you can. I promise.
Find anything helpful in this article? Absolutely disagree with me entirely? Feel kind of blah about what I’ve said here? Let me know!! I’d love to see your comments below!