Motivation. That elusive feeling that always seems to be strong in others, but intrinsically weak in ourselves. So often we look around at those who are driven to go to the gym, or are fired by ambition and always ready to go that extra mile in pursuit of their dream, and find ourselves lacking. Most of the time, though we might deny it, deep down we know what is good for us and what is going to cause us harm or sabotage us in our pursuit of achieving success, but in that never ending battle between what you “should” be doing and what you “want” to be doing, why is it “want” so often wins through?
Jealous of the gym bunnies?
You can look enviously at those gym bunnies that seem to make exercise look so easy, or the svelte colleague that never caves into the temptation of the afternoon chocolate bar, and on the surface they look totally in control. But you can never know the Herculean effort it might be taking them to get off the sofa, or to walk past the shop. What you are witnessing are people who have, somewhere along the way, been able to build good habits into their lives. This could be down to upbringing, where habits, good and bad, are formed very early on, or it could be that they have made a conscious decision to be motivated in a way that has a positive effect on their lives. So why them and not me, I hear you cry? Well, I suppose it comes down to the fact that we are all different and our internal mechanisms for building resilience in the face of difficulty may be weaker due to a number of reasons; how we feel about ourselves, how others make us feel and how much we feel we “need” to do something.
Following the path of least resistance
And that’s the most important point about motivation. It’s not that some people just don’t have the capacity for strong motivation, it’s simply that human behaviour will often follow the path of least resistance. That is to say, naturally we often instinctively choose the easy option. At the end of a long day, it’s far easier to flop down in front of the TV than to choose to do some exercise. It’s far easier to reach for the processed ready-made food, than it is to spend time traipsing around the market buying fresh ingredients and making the effort to cook it. The reality is, everything that creates positive results in our lives will be hard to do at first, or we would already be doing it! Strong motivation is like a muscle. When you don’t flex it regularly, when you don’t exercise it, it becomes weak and flabby. Developing strong motivation requires practice and discipline. So do we have a chicken and egg situation going on here? Do you need to be motivated to become motivated?
The short answer is yes. You’ve got to start somewhere. And making that start is easier if you focus on that word “need.” Because when you actually need to do something, because the consequences of not doing it will be detrimental to your life, then you’ve got the right seeds to plant when growing intrinsic motivation. A good example of what I’m talking about, I see in action on a regular basis. Many of my clients come to me because they have been forced to confront a reality about themselves. For some, this reality is the fact that they have been told by their doctor to lose weight or face such health consequences as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or a shortened lifespan. This blast of reality has awakened the need to take action and it is at this point they really want to do something about it. Listing the consequences of not doing something is a powerful way of jolting yourself back to reality. And then just do something. Anything small. Anything that means you’ve made a start. I like to use the analogy of the cluttered room. The one you just shut the door on and ignore, but somewhere in the back of your mind you know you’ve go to sort it out! Just going in and putting one thing away makes a difference. Psychologically, it opens your mind to the possibility of success.
What a feeling
Once you’ve initiated that feeling, the temptation is to go all out, with your new feeling of determination. But don’t. Start off at half speed, because doing too much too soon is overwhelming when you’re trying to develop strong motivation from a position of weakness. Breaking bad habits created over a period of time requires planning and support. I use Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy to build those deep sub-conscious foundations that make change far easier, but there are other strategies you can use too.
Get to know yourself and be honest about where your weak points might lead you into the temptation to revert back. Change the environment that triggers these lapses. For instance if your downfall is that fast food joint that you pass on the way home from work, take another route home!
And find the pleasure among the pain. Yes taking up jogging is might be tough at the start, but there will be new experiences that will bring you joy along the way. Revel in that new body you are slowly but surely creating, enjoy the fact that you no longer get out of breath after one flight of stairs. Identify with those positives as opposed to focusing on the negatives. Change the mindset and the body will follow willingly.
Finally, force yourself to check in with someone. Make a commitment contract that means your supporter knows exactly what you “should” be doing and won’t take no for an answer. Motivation is all about having the confidence to feel you can succeed and for those with low motivation, having gentle extrinsic pressure from the right kind of support is invaluable.
When you make changes, positive results start to come quickly and you begin to create your own motivational momentum. Success breeds success. So make today the day you draw that line in the sand. And remember, the biggest risk of all is doing nothing.Leave a reply →