When working with people who are struggling to meet goals, I often hear the statement, “I just don’t have any motivation.” I always provide the same response: that action precedes motivation, not the other way around. Waiting until we are in the mood to do something will often result in our never doing it.
I like to exercise, but I don’t always feel motivated to do it. However, within minutes of getting back on the treadmill (after a month or so of excuses), I will find myself thinking, “I really do enjoy how this makes me feel. What was I waiting for?” That is part of the problem. You would assume that insight translates into action (“I enjoy how exercising feels, therefore I should do it.”), but that is not usually the case.
So, whether you are just trying to get out of bed, start that diet, complete a project or follow through on a bucket list item, remember to avoid the procrastination that comes from waiting for motivation.
A few key points to remember when feeling stuck:
Remember that it is okay (and necessary) to acknowledge and then accept whatever emotions seem to be zapping you of your energy, but do not allow these to stop you from taking actions.
Don’t wait for inspiration before taking action. Taking action first will help to create the inspiration needed to keep moving toward your goal.
There is no need to overwhelm (or sabotage) yourself by insisting on immediate or perfect results. Small steps build motivation more effectively.
Schedule time for activities that you are aware would be beneficial to you without giving into the thought, “but I don’t want to right now.” Remember that you do not have to want to do something to be willing to do it.
Not motivated? Take action. Depressed? Take action. Un-inspired? Take action.
For many of us, summertime is when we generally stick to our healthy habits a bit better. The days are warmer and longer so more people are walking outside for exercise. Fruits and vegetables are in season making them more flavorful and less expensive. However; vacations, social gatherings and even stress can tempt us with too many less-healthy menu items.
Here are a few tips for sticking to your clean eating and exercise habits for making 2014 one of your healthiest summers yet!
• Take a picture of yourself with you when grocery shopping. I actually heard this tip on the radio one day. It sounded a bit kooky, but made total sense. Looking at photographs of yourself can be very motivating. It can help you reminisce on a time where you made healthier choices or it could also provide motivation to march right on past the ice cream aisle.
• Leave yourself positive notes. Put up little sticky notes around the house, in the car, at the office. Sometimes these little messages are all it takes to brighten your mood and help you stay on track with your health goals. Here’s one to get you started, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’”.
• Ask yourself what are the benefits and the consequences of consuming a certain food. If you’re debating on whether to have a certain food or not, it may be beneficial to ask yourself a few questions about consuming that item. Am I going to enjoy it? Will I feel too guilty about myself if I do eat it? Can I stick to a proper portion size? By eating this, will it help me reach my goal faster? Even I do this from time to time. Like a lot us, I tend to crave sweets at night. Sometimes, I indulge and other times I stick to a handful of trail mix or an apple + almond butter to satisfy my sweet tooth. One thing that helps me make the healthier decision is asking myself, “Will this Reese’s help me achieve my strength goals at the gym?”
• Get back on track as quick as possible. It’s happened to all of us; we have a bad weekend or maybe just a bad week of eating. Don’t throw in the towel after little slip-ups like these. They happen and the best approach to follow is to just get back on your healthy eating schedule as quick as possible.
• Monitor calories. Summer time is filled with fun food opportunities. There are fairs, carnivals, drive-in movies and vacations, all which can be accompanied with their share of less healthy food items. It’s not my practice to tell someone they can never enjoy a corn dog at the fair or popcorn at the movies; however, too much indulgence can lead to unwanted weight gain during this festive season. Simply tracking one’s calories can help you find a better balance between small summer indulgences and day-to-day eating. Two great calorie counting resources are www.myfitnesspal.com and www.loseit.com
• Find a buddy. Holding yourself accountable for healthy habits day-to-day can be difficult. Having a buddy to go to the gym with or to make sure you both pack healthy snacks and lunches for work can be very motivating for staying on track with being healthy this summer.
Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.
Specific– A good goal is clear and unambiguous. Instead of stating, “I will eat healthier” try setting a goal of “eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day”.
Measurable– Set a goal that allows you to monitor your progress.
Attainable– Sometimes we set goals that are unrealistic. Do not confuse the term unrealistic with impossible. Everyday people are making the once impossible, possible.
Relevant– Connecting an internal meaning with your goal makes it all that more important and can help you keep focused on the finish line. Setting goals that have little to no value to you typically will not be achieved.
Time Bound– Setting a time-frame to achieve your goal can help fuel motivation and keep you on track towards your healthier habit. Goals without time limits often get brushed aside and swept underneath the carpet.
Ask yourself, “Are your daily habits reflective of your healthy goals?” Often our actions are communicating the opposite of what our goals are. If your goal is to become more active (which is too broad of a goal to begin with), yet you come home and sit on the couch and watch TV all evening; how are your actions helping you achieve your goal? Remember, there are several dimensions of health, such as emotional, social and the more well-known, physical dimension. Try to set goals that encompass more than one dimension to improve your overall wellness.
Blog about it. No, it does not need to be a formal blog, but research shows that people who share their goals and health journey with others tend to stay more on track . This could be achieved simply by telling a friend or a co-worker about your goals and then providing them with updates along the way. You could keep a personal journal to reflect when you feel you are losing motivation. The social media network has created a perfect foundation for sharing your health journey with others. And since I have a blog myself, I am going to do just that.
My SMART Goals:
1) Consume less diet soda.-I will cut back the amount of diet soda I drink to only a couple during the week and eventually will work on weaning it completely out of my diet.
2) Read more and watch less TV. Any competition that involves food, dancing, sewing or singing typically calls my name, but I have a stack of amazing nutrition books I’ve been meaning to read. I plan on reading 1 new book every 4-8 weeks.
3) Complete a muscle-up, body weight power clean and squat 185 lbs before the end of the year. My current max squat clean is 118 lbs and I can squat 155 lbs. These exercises are a shear test of upper and lower body strength as well as coordination and core stability. My habits to help attain this goal will be going to Crossfit regularly, fueling my body with proper nutrition and hydration and scheduling appropriate rest/recovery phases to allow for muscle growth and hypertrophy.
Check in here on my blog throughout the year as I update my progress with achieving my healthy living goals.
Summary of goal setting.
1) Don’t give up too quickly. Sometimes new habits need as long as a couple of months to become routine-like in our lives.
2) Grab a buddy to help you stay on track with your goal.
3) Set SMART goals, the more specific the goal, the easier it is to monitor and achieve.
4) Document your progress whether it’s a personal journal, telling a friend or family member or using a social media network.
5) Observe your actions and habits and see how they are helping you get closer to achieving your goal.
6) Any day is a great day to start making healthier habits, not just Monday, New Year’s Day or your birthday.
When cleaning out my Mom’s basement, I came across some old arts and crafts that I had made over the years. One particular project caught my eye and immediately brought back some humorous memories of myself. It was my 6th grade New Year’s resolution project. It was a picture of a top hat that read: Amanda Novy, Age 12. New Year’s Resolution: I want a six-pack.
My dedication to my goal lasted about 6 weeks. Three times a week, I would do Denise Austin’s Hit the Spot Abs. Frustrated with my hard work and less than desirable results, I put the videos away where they most likely haven’t been viewed since.
There were several reasons why my resolution did not stick:
1) One cannot spot treat a specific muscle group and expect dramatic results. I used to teach a 30 minute abs class 2x/week in college and even then, did not achieve the desired six-pack. A stronger core is developed by performing a variety of core stabilization and strength exercises that require core activation such as the plank, push-up and squat varieties. Your stomach region is also greatly influenced by diet.
2) My goal was not specific enough. Having too broad of a goal or setting a goal too far away can lead to a quick burnout. For example, it is much better to set a goal of losing 4 pounds every month versus a goal of losing 50 pounds in one year.
3) I threw in the towel too soon. Sometimes, our first method to achieve our goal may not have been the best. One’s current habits can also influence the time frame it takes to achieve a goal. For example, it is much easier for someone who has been sedentary for the past year to lose 5 pounds than it is for the avid 5-day-a-week gym goer.
And I’ll also point out that this was a pretty ridiculous goal for a 12-year-old to have in the first place.
In order to form a good habit or break a bad one, you need to allow enough time to adjust to your new routine. Most habits can stick as a lifestyle when it has been repeated for 21-28 days.
When my husband and I decided that we were going to go to the 6am Crossfit class, it took a little while to get use to that early alarm clock. There were many mornings where I wanted to just snooze my alarm and fall back asleep, but I had my husband there to help me hold myself accountable. After two-three weeks of our early morning routine, my sleep schedule had adjusted quite nicely. Never in a million years did I see both my husband and myself working out side by side before sunrise.
We cheer each other on, witness one another achieve strength gains and personal records and have formed a great health habit that we can do together. Having a partner or a “buddy system” is another great tool one can have when needing help sticking to a healthier lifestyle habit.