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The Trouble With Motivation (Part 1)

Hiking woman jumping high with backpack on and excited

Staying motivated with your diet and exercise… is impossible.

That’s not the end though, otherwise this would be a real bummer of an article.

The question is, how do you stay motivated in a way that lasts more than a couple weeks? And when your motivation does fizzle out, what can you do to keep going anyway?

Now that’s something you can work on.

Being Motivated to Swim to Work?

We tend to think of motivation as a one-dimensional sort of “pep in your step” feeling. But it’s often not that way at all.

For instance, what motivates you to go to work every day?

Is it because you just love your job so much?

For a few people that might be the case. But if you’re like most people, you go because you need the money… so you don’t become homeless… and so you can eat… so you don’t die.

It’s a matter of survival.

Here’s another one:

Why do we learn to swim? Is it so you can go to the Olympics and break the record in the 400m freestyle?

No, we learn how to swim so we don’t drown.

Survival can be very motivating.

Fitness and nutrition are the same way.

Stretching the Metaphor Like Your Sister’s Scrunchie

If you just don’t show up for work one week, you’ll lose your job. But if you don’t workout for even just a few months, it’s not like you lose a limb.

However, if you don’t make diet and exercise a priority for most of your life, you are at a higher risk for things like being confined to a wheelchair for the last decade or more of your life.

If you don’t learn how to swim and you fall into a lake, you drown. Whereas if you get thrown into a gym and don’t know what to do, you’re not going to die.

But if you never learn adequate fitness and nutrition habits, you are at a higher risk of losing your life prematurely.

We know this.

Yet it still doesn’t seem to be quite enough to get us off the couch most days.

It’s hard to be motivated by something that seems so distant, in time and concept.

But it can come into play if we let it. To show how, I suggest…

These 3 Essentials

1. A Short Term Plan

This is something I’ll discuss in depth in Part 2. But the idea here is finding something you can use for motivation immediately. Something that will last more than a few days — more than just saying “I want to lose weight.”

2. Discipline

Discipline is a strong tool. You’re going to need it, but in the proper dosage.

No amount of either motivation or discipline can force you to give 100% when you simply don’t have 100% to give.

But with that long-term survival motivation in the back of your mind, you only need just enough discipline to keep your head above water.

That’s what makes #3 so important.

3. Sustainable Habits

This is what it all boils down to.

When you’re relying on discipline, you need a routine that fits your lifestyle, even on your worst days.

When the only motivation you have is too faint to perceive — you know you should do it, you just don’t feel like it — that’s when you need habits you can fall back on to keep you from drowning.

Not Drowning

There are phases of your life when motivation is high, where you can push yourself. Most of your life will not be spent in that phase.

That’s why it’s critical to learn the basic skills of eating well and staying active, rather than always just taking on some complex diet or exercise program.

Learning those skills isn’t difficult, and they’re easier to keep up when you aren’t motivated.

The catch is that the results take time (think months instead of weeks). The benefit is you actually get results — results that last because you focused on not drowning, as opposed to just jumping in the pool and trying to race.

With our online coaching clients, these are the types of skills we teach. But if you’re not ready for that, we also recently put out two free ebooks to get you started on your own.

Go download them now and start making changes that can outlast your motivation.

That said, for motivation that can last longer than the typical New Year’s resolution, keep an eye out for Part 2.


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