It’s really hard to stay motivated and focussed isn’t it. I find I’m on about a 3 or 4 week cycle with many things like exercise and nutrition. I have maybe 2 to 3 weeks of intense focussed helpful activity and then into the third week things slide and then in the fourth week things have morphed into disaster. No run and lots of crisps. Familiar?
There is a huge disconnect in our psychology somewhere that means we know exactly what we need to do but often don’t do it. I know what to eat, I know that exercise is good for me but doing it routinely day in day out takes huge effort!
I’ve always thought, and still do, that change has to come from within. We have to want to do something different. As Daniel Pink says in his book ‘When’, keep engaging in the same habits you’ll get the same results. Different habits, different results. We’re approaching the new year, a time of resolutions and ‘this is my year’ talk. The reality is that starting to change on January 1st is no better a time than May 18th, or October 7th. The days are all the same. I’d argue that January isn’t a good time to try and change anything particularly around nutrition (there will still be left over festive goodies) or exercise (it’s cold out there, and dark!) When we start to do something like this and don’t continue we feel guilt and revert back to old behaviours because they are comfortable.
If what you are doing isn’t working maybe it’s time to try something different.
What’s interesting is that there is a view that effort begets motivation. Now, I’ve always thought that I should do things to prepare myself to stimulate motivation and then get on with the task at hand. This turns that around and says that actually by just doing something, however small, you will generate motivation.
There’s the story of the man that did one press-up. I’m not sure if this is a true story or an allegorical tale but either way (I found it online) the man in question wasn’t getting anywhere with his exercise routine and wasn’t feeling motivated so asked himself the question, ‘what could I do to get started’. One press-up. So he got up the next day got on the floor and did one press-up and fuelled by this success he thought – well now I’m down here I might as well do another and another. The success of the small effort led to a motivation fuelling loop.
This has a name and it’s called ‘The Power of Small Wins’. When we do something, however small, we feel good and we get a little dopamine rush. Dopamine is our feel-good hormone. Feeling good motivates us on to do something else. Effort begets motivation.
It’s the same when we feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. Overwhelm is very demotivating – I don’t know what to do so I’ll procrastinate and do nothing. We have a predilection for the easy. So when overwhelmed do something, however small, and this has a snowball effect. You will gather pace, enthusiasm, and motivation.