Feeling Motivated is Over-rated

More than 20 years ago I heard what is still my favorite definition of commitment: the ability to carry through with a worthy decision once the emotion of making the decision has passed. Emotion is what we tend to think of as motivation. We think we should “feel” like doing something in order to do it. But is that how you experience it?

For most of us, the answer is no. For instance, I never feel like doing the dishes, but I do them. I’m committed to a clean, cockroach-free kitchen.

Psychology Today defines motivation as “literally the desire to do things.” The desire to do something does not mean you will feel like it. Our human tendency is the path of least resistance (you know, burn as few calories as necessary) and our feelings keep us stuck there. We have to want the outcome enough to overcome our lack of “feeling” motivated.

I saw a recent interview with Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the new book Make Your Bed, in which he shares successful life principles learned during Navy Seal training. The title comes from the habit of making one’s bed first thing in the morning. And when we accomplish one thing, it sets us up to do the next. And the next. We can’t wait to feel like making the bed, we just have to make it.

Considering your health goals, what is one small thing you could do in the morning that would make a difference the rest of the day? For many, I suspect that thing is eating a balanced breakfast. If you regularly skip breakfast, and lunch is the first time food makes it past your lips, then waiting to feel like eating will not work. Your body’s metabolism has adapted by slowing down and you will not feel hungry in the morning.

Our human tendency is the path of least resistance. We have to want the outcome enough to overcome our lack of “feeling” motivated.
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Maybe for you it’s drinking 8oz of water first thing, meditation, prayer, or 10 minutes of stretching. Decide and do it. Then notice how the next step becomes easier. In essence, your initial step helps provide the “feeling” of motivation, the feeling that being successful at one thing can lead to the next.

Our lives are the sum total of mostly small decisions like this. Sure from time to time we make big decisions, but day-in and day-out we are formed by the millions of small choices we make each moment.

This is good news! Instead of thinking we have to take quantum-leap actions, we can focus on small daily habits that produce significant results.

So, what small step would (ultimately) make a huge impact in your life?

5 Questions to Ask if You Struggle to Reach Your Goals

Have you noticed that working towards any goal typically requires more effort than you first expected? For example, you set a goal to lose weight and you think “nutrition and exercise.” You gather all the right information and start doing all the right things. But then you discover that it doesn’t all go according to plan. Eventually, you’re back in your old habits and discouraged that you can’t make it work.
I get it. This happens all the time. When it comes to health and weight loss, we’re not programmed to think holistically. Sure we give it lip service, but it always comes back to monitoring food, counting steps and increasing exercise. It’s not that those things play no role in being healthy, of course they do. But smart people (you!) know these things. So what’s the problem?
The good news is that all your nutrition and exercise efforts can work, if you figure out what’s getting in your way of being consistent. Ask yourself these five questions about your behavior:

Do you ever set out to lose weight, gathering all the information and doing all the right things? But then struggle to reach your goals? What happened?
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  1. What could I stop doing? You know, a couple of years ago I totally stopped playing video games. It was too easy for 15 minutes of downtime to become an hour (or two) throughout the day. Now I read a lot of books each year! Where you could find some time for what you really want to do?
  2. What could I do less of? For some, this is where TV and internet time come into play. Statistics show we spend a startling number of hours in front of the screen. How could less of something enhance your well-being? A few months ago I stopped listening to the news in the car (but still watch/listen at home). This has created much more peace while driving!
  3. What could I keep doing? Recognize the habits you currently have in place that support your goals. Health-enhancing activities like meditation and practicing gratitude are things my clients are often doing when we first meet. What are you doing that you want to make sure to continue?
  4. What could I do more of? Sometimes it’s easier to build on what you’re already doing than it is to stop or start something. What habit is already in place that if you did more of it would move you in the right direction?
  5. What could I start doing? If you don’t already, think about scheduling healthy habits into your calendar. A maintenance client shared with me that she had stopped calendaring her workouts because it had become a habit. But when her schedule became more challenging, exercise dropped off. After a couple of weeks, she decided it had to go back on the calendar. What action or habit calls to you that you’d like to start doing?

And there you have it! Five questions to consider if you want to make health and well-being a priority and actually be successful. Now, go check out my 5 tested strategies to achieve what you really want.

And, if you have a passion for being healthy and losing weight without dieting join the Enjoy Food Love Life Lose Weight group.

If not now, when?

Does this sound familiar? You intend to start any number of healthy habits when life slams you upside the head. You get sick, work turns super stressful, you’re traveling a lot, etc., and you tell yourself the changes will have to wait. Soon, there will be a better time.

But that “better time” is elusive. And the lack of healthy habits and self-care only intensifies daily stress, which fuels the downward turn. We gain more weight. We have less energy. Our patience is strained. Everything suffers.

Everything we do, every day, either takes us closer to or further away from being strong, healthy and energetic.
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The truth is, there is no better time than now.

We are trained to think circumstances have to be “better” but really, that’s the perfectionist trap keeping us stuck in bad habits and poor health. Let’s be clear. You have to want the results of healthy behaviors. Your values and vision need to support your efforts because when they do, change is always possible.

People talk about making up for lost time or exercising off what they just ate. But these are just things we tell ourselves to feel better about poor decisions. Life doesn’t really work that way. Everything we do, every day, either takes us closer to or further away from being strong, healthy and energetic. Our habits either support our body’s ideal weight or move us away from it. And when we’re experiencing particularly stressful circumstances, if we put off good habits, the further away we find ourselves from what we desire. And the harder it is to change later.

Life isn’t static. Our circumstances change which means our behaviors will, too. My argument is not for doing it all no matter what. Rather, aim for excellence. That is, considering your values, goals, and situation, what is the best you can do in the moment? We’re always making choices, but they’re often not conscious or well-thought-out. Poor decisions often sound like “I deserve… another glass of wine, to zone out in front of the TV/internet…” Or the generic “I deserve a break.” Well, I think we all deserve MUCH better than that.

So, if not now, when? Are you ready to stop waiting for the “right time?”

The first step is to ask “What is the next best step I could take towards better health?” When you find yourself excusing poor choices, ask what would be a more nurturing solution. What does excellence look like for you in this moment?

Head over to Facebook, introduce yourself, and share your next best step!

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